Friday, February 22, 2008

Desperately Seeking a Really Cold War

Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison say we should be afraid, very afraid, of "a new Cold War between the United States and Russia":
The planned 'missile defense' system in the Czech Republic and Poland will, if implemented, further increase the danger to human and all other forms of life that nuclear weapons pose, significantly expand U.S. military power, and contribute to a new Cold War between the United States and Russia. But it can be stopped. Its dangers are obvious and easy to demonstrate, and it is deeply unpopular among the citizens of the 'host' countries. Stopping it will, however, require action by American peace organizations, to strengthen our friends in the Czech Republic and Poland, to pressure our elected representatives, and to educate public opinion in this country. ("Pushing Missile Defense in Europe," Foreign Policy in Focus, 22 February 2008)
Any thinking person who cares about the Iranian people, however, should welcome a really cold war between Russia and the USA. It is Moscow's distrust of the US intentions, as well as the Chinese need for Iranian oil for its industrialization project, that has so far helped mitigate US-led efforts to economically sanction Iran and helped protect Iranians from the worst military threat from the US-EU-Japan axis of evil.

What can doom Iran is a warm friendship between Russia and the USA.

The silly US attempt to install a "missile defense" system (which, by the way, doesn't work and is just a big waste of money) in Eastern Europe, as well as its support for the independence of Kosovo, "color revolutions" in Russia's periphery, and media propaganda against Russia itself, is a godsend as far as Iranians are concerned, for it prevents Russia from becoming a partner in the US-led multinational empire.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Interview with Shahla Lahiji on Women's Presence in the Labor Market: No Vocation Must Be Prohibited for Women

Interview with Shahla Lahiji on Women's Presence in the Labor Market:
No Vocation Must Be Prohibited for Women

by Hajir Palaschi

Shahla Lahiji is the first Iranian woman who succeeded in getting a publisher's license registered in her own name. She founded Roshangaran and Women's Studies, a publishing house, 23 years ago. Lahiji sees herself in a kind of living history on the question of women's labor, for her mother was the fifth woman who entered government service.

Let's begin the conversation with a question that probably you have been asked many times, but I cannot but ask this question again, because in my view it provides a fitting entry into discussion.

When, as the first woman publisher, you entered the thitherto masculine space of publishing, what reactions did you encounter?

My being a woman provoked surprise, but nothing else. Even in the Ministry of Culture, I did not encounter any negative reaction to my face. At that time, we were at war, and restrictions back then were applied to all. What made them wonder more about was why in that unpromising environment I wanted to become a publisher first of all, then why a publisher of women, and why I was struggling to make it happen. To be fair, I should say that there was no unwelcome attitude toward me as a woman. By the way, the first book that I published was a book titled Woman in Search of Liberation concerning women's labor. To obtain 34 reams of paper in order to publish this book, I was forced to change the introduction four times -- perhaps the subject matter I had chosen and the book's title were the reason why they made it difficult in the case of that book. In the introduction, I had written: there are those who support women's labor, and there are those who oppose it -- both sides think, in their imagination, they are speaking in the interest of women.

In this book I defended women's labor, and the opposition was based on some people's opinion that it is advisable for women that household management should be their responsibility. For that reason, and due to economic limitations and paper shortage, I waited nearly for a year to receive paper. However, none of these problems had anything to do with my being a woman. But I myself didn't realize what an important job I had accomplished as a woman publisher. Only later did I understand that I had opened the door for other women's entry into the publishing market. Let me say also that in reality I was the first female publisher who got a publishing license issued in her name.

Before me, there was at least Sima Kuban, who did publishing work for Damavand Publishing, but after 1967 the licensing of publishing began, and I, as a woman who entered into the profession of publishing in 1962, was the first woman who was able to get a publishing license registered in her own name.

Ms. Lahiji, it seems that the presence of women in high positions, in terms of gender-based proportions, faces obstacles. In your opinion, why is this the case?

I think that, to answer this question, we must look at the question of women's employment on the global level. In the aforementioned book Woman in Search of Liberation, I addressed this topic. In the rest of the world, too, women haven't found it easy to enter into the labor market. When a proposal for women's entry into the labor market as factory workers was made, even far-leftist Lassallists in Germany were completely opposed to it. Instead, it was the liberal capitalist current that believed that women ought to be educated and must enter the labor market.

Lassallists believed that women's entrance into the labor market would cause a decline in workers' rights and their living standard. In other words, even their thought was that women's duty was to make safe havens suitable for their husbands.

It's interesting that they made the wage question a secondary concern and said that this would cause family disintegration and bring down wages. In contrast, a Frankfurt capitalist said: no longer is it possible to keep women from the labor market, since men alone shall not be responsible for labor due to the development of industries. Because of this experience, we know we are not far from the rest of the world -- only it's a matter of time. It's our turn -- the problem that has already been solved in other parts of the world is just coming under consideration in our country. That, of course, is connected to society's culture. For example, in Anglo-Saxon culture women went into the labor market much more easily than in other cultures, for the historical records of democracy, struggle, and women's presence in several industries like textile existed in that culture.

In this respect, the women of England became pioneers on this basis, and by the time when there was a debate on whether women should or shouldn't work in Germany, in England women had gone into the labor market and organized women's labor unions.

Labor unions for women workers only?

Yes, labor unions of women that were attached to workers' unions. The wage question, too, had been solved. You should study the progress of women's labor in Iran. I may be said to be a part of a living history of women's labor, since my mother was the fifth woman who entered government service. In fact, when I was born, my mother had a business, and I saw that a woman had a very difficult job of managing household work and somehow accomplishing her own job outside home at the same time in order to get promoted.

I think that we must study the question of women's labor in Iran with due attention to culture, customs, law, possibilities, and the future. If we keep the beginning of the movement in mind, we'll see that Iran's intellectual currents have never been able to find a progressive model for women's labor. For example, in Germany, Rosa Luxemburg, a radical leftist, said in defiance of Lassallists: women, go into the labor market, do not seek any permission, it is important that you enter the labor market. Don't desire excessive children or wages or holidays. That is the price of self-sacrifice that you must pay for the sake of your participation in the sphere of labor and economic independence. After your presence in the labor market is stabilized and your ability to achieve things free from gender roles is proven, then you can demand more rights.

As we witnessed in Germany, in the era of World War 1, men went to the frontlines of war, and 20 million women managed German industrial labor, but the condition for that didn't always exist in that country. For example, just after the end of the war, when men came back from the front, they told women to go back to their homes. I remember that, under the previous regime, one of the publications, a publication that was published abroad and that I think was called Persian Letters, wrote that women's entry into the labor market was due to the fact that the Shah, a dog of imperialism, wanted to exploit women, too, side by side with male workers. I wrote a letter asking if the author of this article had read theoretical articles in Iran. In principle the Shah is a dog of imperialism, but is the entry of women into the labor market in itself progressive or reactionary? Of course, these questions always, like now, went unanswered, for there was no theory behind it. For this reason, our society's problems have always remained unresolved, since we couldn't come to a conclusion about whether women's labor is progressive or reactionary.

Incidentally, now profit-driven capitalism in Iran also would like to see women enter the labor market, because we Iranians, especially women, totally lack the culture of protest due to our history of despotism and masculine culture. Capitalism profits from this situation, and even small factories are firing their male workers and bringing women in, because they could get away with giving women fewer rights and exploit them more, no?

First, let's not talk capitalist talk at all. I would like to know if you see symptoms of capitalism other than money exchange. Together with capitalism, have labor unions been forged? Yes, it is possible to super-exploit women's simple, unskilled labor.

Their labor power, according to Marx's opinion, is not labor power, because labor power means productive labor power. We, however, do not have productive labor. Production with losses, production without competition, government production isn't capitalist production proper. 4,000 state factories can, with their labor, accomplish any work that needs to be done. That's not capitalism.

I see that our constitutional law says that there should be possibilities for the development, growth, and blossoming of women for the sake of the triumph of society. Explain this to me. If we try to interpret this clause, we must say that no lowly work should be forbidden for women on account of their being women. I don't believe that all women should become bus drivers, but I believe that, if a woman wants to become a bus driver, she should be able to. However, all these things will remain a wish, a dream, a phantom, if our society doesn't enter a productive future. As long as we have oil, we, fundamentally, will not have a need for production. Because of that, we will remain dependent on the government, but the government will not be dependent on our taxes. In this way, of course, the government can do whatever it wants, since it gives us our bread and is our employer.

See, Ms. Lahiji, in any case, it is undeniable that all factories, small or flawed or even failing ones, are recruiting women, because they can more easily exploit them. Larger factories, too, usually make use of women as strike-breakers, and this aggravates society's negative view of women's labor.

It's because labor unions do not exist and class interests have not been clarified that such things are happening. In England, during the Thatcher era, when workers at a state factory went on strike, the English government, too, sent the soldiers of its military to the factory to make them do the work of striking workers. This has no connection to gender. Of course, I don't know how it is possible to replace men's skilled labor by women's unskilled labor.

Not if they substitute women's unskilled labor for men's unskilled labor.

In any case, let's see this side of the debate: women, too, enter the labor market for financial reasons, for reasons of poverty. But that is indisputable. See how much our society's media show women in the labor market? How many women at work do our textbooks show? Have you seen even one woman behind a draftsman's desk in our textbooks?

Even vocational textbooks for middle-school students are divided by gender. . . .

Yes, for women, sewing, cooking, and at most nursing and so-called women's jobs are being taught. 82% of the illustrations in textbooks are about men, and the rest show women doing housework, nursing, and taking care of children. Then, that's a cultural policy.

Now they may employ women as simple, unskilled workers, but their aim is neither to foster production nor to help women workers. Unless we establish these foundations in our country and until we begin using our national wealth for capital investment, I think that these debates remain up in the air. However, I believe that our women have found a path and, very much pragmatically, are now traveling this path. Working women are working without having heard of any feminist theory.

As long as employment opportunities in this society are limited, whatever we say about women's labor will be useless.

I think that there is another obstacle against women's employment: traditional family structures.

We cannot settle for the status quo even regarding this issue. Take a woman who has worked for 20 years and is bringing income to her family. If she gets divorced from her husband, there is no right for those 20 years of labor applicable to her. All these issues are related. Cultural problems must be legally clarified and then socially understood. Of course, fortunately, a majority of the new, young generation aren't this way, but, traditionally, when you enter a house, you see the man plop himself on the sofa and the woman dash to the kitchen, and it seems that's the pattern. But why? Because women's employment rights are nowhere well codified in law, of course women are not required to support their families by bringing income, but the consequence of that has not been discussed in terms of rights. Many times, it is said to women in family courts: you don't want to do what you are not obligated to do. Or the whole premise is that the father is the breadwinner. Now, sometimes it is men who are the breadwinners, sometimes it is both men and women who are the breadwinners. Then, we should have a new interpretation. Take the statistics about female heads of household -- let's see how many of them there are. How many women are supporting their unemployed or disabled husbands and securing their livelihoods? Do we even have statistics? Have we tried to explain them? If not, then, we cannot settle the question of these family structures.

The original interview in Persian was published in Etemaad (No. 1449) on 1 Mordad 1386 (23 July 2007). Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Walking Paradox

La paradoja andante
por Eduardo Galeano

Cada día, leyendo los diarios, asisto a una clase de historia.

Los diarios me enseñan por lo que dicen y por lo que callan.

La historia es una paradoja andante.  La contradicción le mueve las piernas.  Quizá por eso sus silencios dicen más que sus palabras y con frecuencia sus palabras revelan, mintiendo, la verdad.

De aquí a poco se publicará un libro mío que se llama Espejos.  Es algo así como una historia universal, y perdón por el atrevimiento.  “Yo puedo resistir todo, menos la tentación”, decía Oscar Wilde, y confieso que he sucumbido a la tentación de contar algunos episodios de la aventura humana en el mundo, desde el punto de vista de los que no han salido en la foto.

Por decirlo de alguna manera, se trata de hechos no muy conocidos.

Aquí resumo algunos, algunitos nomás.

- - -

Cuando fueron desalojados del Paraíso, Adán y Eva se mudaron al Africa, no a París.

Algún tiempo después, cuando ya sus hijos se habían lanzado a los caminos del mundo, se inventó la escritura.  En Irak, no en Texas.

También el álgebra se inventó en Irak.  La fundó Mohamed al Jwarizmi, hace mil doscientos años, y las palabras algoritmo y guarismo derivan de su nombre.

Los nombres suelen no coincidir con lo que nombran.  En el British Museum, pongamos por caso, las esculturas del Partenón se llaman “mármoles de Elgin”, pero son mármoles de Fidias.  Elgin se llamaba el inglés que las vendió al museo.

Las tres novedades que hicieron posible el Renacimiento europeo, la brújula, la pólvora y la imprenta, habían sido inventadas por los chinos, que también inventaron casi todo lo que Europa reinventó.

Los hindúes habían sabido antes que nadie que la Tierra era redonda y los mayas habían creado el calendario más exacto de todos los tiempos.

- - -

En 1493, el Vaticano regaló América a España y obsequió el Africa negra a Portugal, “para que las naciones bárbaras sean reducidas a la fe católica”.  Por entonces, América tenía quince veces más habitantes que España y el Africa negra cien veces más que Portugal.

Tal como había mandado el Papa, las naciones bárbaras fueron reducidas. Y muy.

- - -

Tenochtitlán, el centro del imperio azteca, era de agua.  Hernán Cortés demolió la ciudad, piedra por piedra, y con los escombros tapó los canales por donde navegaban doscientas mil canoas.  Esta fue la primera guerra del agua en América. Ahora Tenochtitlán se llama México DF.  Por donde corría el agua, corren los autos.

- - -

El monumento más alto de la Argentina se ha erigido en homenaje al general Roca, que en el siglo diecinueve exterminó a los indios de la Patagonia.

La avenida más larga del Uruguay lleva el nombre del general Rivera, que en el siglo diecinueve exterminó a los últimos indios charrúas.

- - -

John Locke, el filósofo de la libertad, era accionista de la Royal Africa Company, que compraba y vendía esclavos.

Mientras nacía el siglo dieciocho, el primero de los borbones, Felipe V, estrenó su trono firmando un contrato con su primo, el rey de Francia, para que la Compagnie de Guinée vendiera negros en América.  Cada monarca llevaba un 25 por ciento de las ganancias.

Nombres de algunos navíos negreros: Voltaire, Rousseau, Jesús, Esperanza, Igualdad, Amistad.

Dos de los Padres Fundadores de los Estados Unidos se desvanecieron en la niebla de la historia oficial.  Nadie recuerda a Robert Carter ni a Gouverner Morris.  La amnesia recompensó sus actos.  Carter fue el único prócer de la independencia que liberó a sus esclavos.  Morris, redactor de la Constitución, se opuso a la cláusula que estableció que un esclavo equivalía a las tres quintas partes de una persona.

“El nacimiento de una nación”, la primera superproducción de Hollywood, se estrenó en 1915, en la Casa Blanca.  El presidente, Woodrow Wilson, la aplaudió de pie.  El era el autor de los textos de la película, un himno racista de alabanza al Ku Klux Klan.

- - -

Algunas fechas:

Desde el año 1234, y durante los siete siglos siguientes, la Iglesia Católica prohibió que las mujeres cantaran en los templos.  Eran impuras sus voces, por aquel asunto de Eva y el pecado original.

En el año 1783, el rey de España decretó que no eran deshonrosos los trabajos manuales, los llamados “oficios viles”, que hasta entonces implicaban la pérdida de la hidalguía.

Hasta el año 1986, fue legal el castigo de los niños en las escuelas de Inglaterra, con correas, varas y cachiporras.

- - -

En nombre de la libertad, la igualdad y la fraternidad, la Revolución Francesa proclamó en 1793 la Declaración de los Derechos del Hombre y del Ciudadano.  Entonces, la militante revolucionaria Olympia de Gouges propuso la Declaración de los Derechos de la Mujer y de la Ciudadana.  La guillotina le cortó la cabeza.

Medio siglo después, otro gobierno revolucionario, durante la Primera Comuna de París, proclamó el sufragio universal.  Al mismo tiempo, negó el derecho de voto a las mujeres, por unanimidad menos uno: 899 votos en contra, uno a favor.

- - -

La emperatriz cristiana Teodora nunca dijo ser revolucionaria, ni cosa por el estilo.  Pero hace mil quinientos años el imperio bizantino fue, gracias a ella, el primer lugar del mundo donde el aborto y el divorcio fueron derechos de las mujeres.

- - -

El general Ulises Grant, vencedor en la guerra del norte industrial contra el sur esclavista, fue luego presidente de los Estados Unidos.

En 1875, respondiendo a las presiones británicas, contestó:

-- Dentro de doscientos años, cuando hayamos obtenido del proteccionismo todo lo que nos puede ofrecer, también nosotros adoptaremos la libertad de comercio.

Así pues, en el año 2075, la nación más proteccionista del mundo adoptará la libertad de comercio.

- - -

Lootie, “Botincito”, fue el primer perro pequinés que llegó a Europa.

Viajó a Londres en 1860.  Los ingleses lo bautizaron así porque era parte del botín arrancado a China, al cabo de las dos largas guerras del opio.

Victoria, la reina narcotraficante, había impuesto el opio a cañonazos.  China fue convertida en una nación de drogadictos, en nombre de la libertad, la libertad de comercio.

En nombre de la libertad, la libertad de comercio, Paraguay fue aniquilado en 1870.  Al cabo de una guerra de cinco años, este país, el único país de las Américas que no debía un centavo a nadie, inauguró su deuda externa.  A sus ruinas humeantes llegó, desde Londres, el primer préstamo.  Fue destinado a pagar una enorme indemnización a Brasil, Argentina y Uruguay.  El país asesinado pagó a los países asesinos, por el trabajo que se habían tomado asesinándolo.

- - -

Haití también pagó una enorme indemnización.  Desde que en 1804 conquistó su independencia, la nueva nación arrasada tuvo que pagar a Francia una fortuna, durante un siglo y medio, para expiar el pecado de su libertad.

- - -

Las grandes empresas tienen derechos humanos en los Estados Unidos.  En 1886, la Suprema Corte de Justicia extendió los derechos humanos a las corporaciones privadas, y así sigue siendo.

Pocos años después, en defensa de los derechos humanos de sus empresas, los Estados Unidos invadieron diez países, en diversos mares del mundo.

Entonces Mark Twain, dirigente de la Liga Antiimperialista, propuso una nueva bandera, con calaveritas en lugar de estrellas, y otro escritor, Ambrose Bierce, comprobó:

-- La guerra es el camino que Dios ha elegido para enseñarnos geografía.

- - -

Los campos de concentración nacieron en Africa.  Los ingleses iniciaron el experimento, y los alemanes lo desarrollaron.  Después Hermann Göring aplicó, en Alemania, el modelo que su papá había ensayado, en 1904, en Namibia.  Los maestros de Joseph Mengele habían estudiado, en el campo de concentración de Namibia, la anatomía de las razas inferiores.  Los cobayos eran todos negros.

- - -

En 1936, el Comité Olímpico Internacional no toleraba insolencias.  En las Olimpíadas de 1936, organizadas por Hitler, la selección de fútbol de Perú derrotó 4 a 2 a la selección de Austria, el país natal del Führer.  El Comité Olímpico anuló el partido.

- - -

A Hitler no le faltaron amigos.  La Rockefeller Foundation financió investigaciones raciales y racistas de la medicina nazi.  La Coca-Cola inventó la Fanta, en plena guerra, para el mercado alemán.  La IBM hizo posible la identificación y clasificación de los judíos, y ésa fue la primera hazaña en gran escala del sistema de tarjetas perforadas.

- - -

En 1953, estalló la protesta obrera en la Alemania comunista.

Los trabajadores se lanzaron a las calles y los tanques soviéticos se ocuparon de callarles la boca.  Entonces Bertolt Brecht propuso: ¿No sería más fácil que el gobierno disuelva al pueblo y elija otro?

- - -

Operaciones de marketing.  La opinión pública es el target.  Las guerras se venden mintiendo, como se venden los autos.

En 1964, los Estados Unidos invadieron Vietnam, porque Vietnam había atacado dos buques de los Estados Unidos en el golfo de Tonkin.  Cuando ya la guerra había destripado a una multitud de vietnamitas, el ministro de Defensa, Robert McNamara, reconoció que el ataque de Tonkin no había existido.

Cuarenta años después, la historia se repitió en Irak.

- - -

Miles de años antes de que la invasión norteamericana llevara la civilización a Irak, en esa tierra bárbara había nacido el primer poema de amor de la historia universal.  En lengua sumeria, escrito en el barro, el poema narró el encuentro de una diosa y un pastor.  Inanna, la diosa, amó esa noche como si fuera mortal. Dumuzi, el pastor, fue inmortal mientras duró esa noche.

- - -

Paradojas andantes, paradojas estimulantes:

El Aleijadinho, el hombre más feo del Brasil, creó las más hermosas esculturas de la era colonial americana.

El libro de viajes de Marco Polo, aventura de la libertad, fue escrito en la cárcel de Génova.

Don Quijote de La Mancha, otra aventura de la libertad, nació en la cárcel de Sevilla.

Fueron nietos de esclavos los negros que generaron el jazz, la más libre de las músicas.

Uno de los mejores guitarristas de jazz, el gitano Django Reinhardt, tenía no más que dos dedos en su mano izquierda.

No tenía manos Grimod de la Reynière, el gran maestro de la cocina francesa.  Con garfios escribía, cocinaba y comía.

The Walking Paradox
by Eduardo Galeano

Every day, reading newspapers, I attend a history class.

Newspapers teach me by what they say and by what they don't say.

History is a walking paradox.  Contradiction moves its legs.  Perhaps for that reason its silences say more than its words and its words reveal the truth frequently through lying.

Soon a book of mine will be published, titled Espejos [Mirrors].  It's just like a universal history -- pardon my audacity.  "I can resist everything except the temptation," Oscar Wilde said, and I confess that I have succumbed to the temptation to recount some episodes of human adventure in the world, from the point of view of those who have not appeared in the picture.

In other words, it's about little known facts.

Here I sum up some of them, just a few.

- - -

When they were expelled from Paradise, Adam and Eve moved to Africa, not to Paris.

Some time later, after their children had already embarked upon the ways of the world, writing was invented.  In Iraq, not in Texas.

Algebra, too, was invented in Iraq.  It was founded by Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi, one thousand two hundred years ago, and the words algorithm and guarismo [numeral] derive from his name.

Names usually do not correspond to what they name.  In the British Museum, for example, the sculptures of the Parthenon are called "Elgin marbles," but they are marbles of Phidias.  Elgin was the name of the Englishman who sold them to the museum.

The three novelties that made the European Renaissance possible, the compass, gunpowder, and the printing press, had been invented by the Chinese, who also invented just about everything that Europe reinvented.

The Hindus had known before everybody that the Earth was round and the Mayans had created the most exact calendar of all times.

- - -

In 1493, the Vatican gave America to Spain and granted Africa to Portugal, "so that barbarous nations be reduced to the Catholic faith."  At that time, America had fifteen times more inhabitants than Spain, and Black Africa one hundred times more than Portugal.

Just as the Pope had commanded, barbarous nations were reduced.  Very much.

- - -

Water made Tenochtitlán, the center of the Aztec Empire.  Hernán Cortés demolished the city, stone by stone, and with its rubble he filled the canals where two hundred thousand canoes sailed.  This was the first water war in America.  Now Tenochtitlán is called Mexico City.  Where water once ran, now run cars.

- - -

The highest monument of Argentina has been erected in tribute to General Roca, who in the nineteenth century exterminated the Indians of Patagonia.

The longest avenue of Uruguay takes the name of General Rivera, who in the nineteenth century exterminated the last Charrúa Indians.

- - -

John Locke, the philosopher of freedom, was a shareholder of the Royal African Company, which bought and sold slaves.

When the eighteenth century was born, the first of the Bourbons, Felipe V, abdicated his throne signing a contract with his cousin, the King of France, that the French Guinea Company would sell Blacks in America.  Each monarch took 25 percent of the profits.

Names of some slave ships: Voltaire, Rousseau, Jesus, Hope, Equality, Friendship.

Two of the Founding Fathers of the United States vanished in the fog of official history.  Nobody remembers Robert Carter or Gouverneur Morris.  Amnesia was the reward of their deeds.  Carter was the only independence leader who emancipated his slaves.  Morris, drafter of the Constitution, objected to the clause that established that a slave was equal to three fifths of a person.

The Birth of a Nation, the first Hollywood blockbuster, was released in 1915, at the White House.  President Woodrow Wilson gave it a standing ovation.  The film quotes Wilson's words singing a racist hymn to the Ku Klux Klan.

- - -

Some dates:

From 1234, and for the following seven centuries, the Catholic Church prohibited women from singing in temples.  Their voices were impure, on account of Eve and the original sin.

In 1783, the King of Spain decreed that manual labor was not dishonorable, "vile offices" which thitherto entailed the loss of nobility.

Until 1986, in the schools of England, it was legal to punish children with belts, sticks, and clubs.

- - -

In the name of freedom, equality, and fraternity, the French Revolution proclaimed in 1793 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.  Then, the revolutionary militant Olympe de Gouges proposed the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Citizen.  Her head was cut off by the guillotine.

Half a century later, another revolutionary government, during the First Commune of Paris, proclaimed universal suffrage.  At the same time, it denied women the right to vote, unanimously except one dissent: 899 nays, one yea.

- - -

The Christian Empress Theodora never claimed to be revolutionary, nothing of the sort.  But one thousand five hundred years ago, the Byzantine Empire became, thanks to her, the first place in the world where abortion and divorce were the rights of women.

- - -

General Ulysses Grant, victorious in the war of the industrial North against the slave South, next became President of the United States.

In 1875, in response to British pressures, he answered back:

-- Within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade.

So, in 2075, the most protectionist nation in the world will adopt free trade.

- - -

Lootie, "Little Booty," was the first Pekinese dog to arrive in Europe.

The dog traveled to London in 1860.  The English named it "Lootie" because it was part of the booty snatched from China, at the end of the two long opium wars.

Victoria, the narco-trafficking queen, imposed opium by cannons.  China was turned into a nation of drug addicts, in the name of freedom, free trade.

In the name of freedom, free trade, Paraguay was annihilated in 1870.  After a war of five years, this country, the only country in the Americas that did not owe a cent to anybody, incurred its first foreign debt.  At its smoking ruins arrived, from London, the first loan.  It was destined to pay an enormous indemnification to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.  The murdered country paid the murdering countries for the work of murdering it.

- - -

Haiti also paid an enormous indemnification.  Ever since 1804, when it won its independence, the new nation, devastated, had to pay a fortune to France, for a century and a half, to expiate the sin of its freedom.

- - -

Great corporations enjoy human rights in the United States.  In 1886, the Supreme Court extended human rights to private corporations, and thus stands it to this day.

A few years later, in defense of human rights of its corporations, the United States invaded ten countries, in diverse parts of the world.

Then, Mark Twain, a leader of the Anti-Imperialist League, proposed a new flag, with skulls instead of stars, and another writer, Ambrose Bierce, confirmed:

-- War is God's way of teaching us geography.

- - -

Concentration camps were born in Africa.  The English initiated the experiment, and the Germans developed it.  Later, Hermann Göring applied in Germany the model that his papa had tried in 1904 in Namibia.  The teachers of Joseph Mengele had studied, in the concentration camp of Namibia, the anatomy of the inferior races.  The guinea pigs were all Blacks.

- - -

In 1936, the International Olympic Committee did not tolerate insolences.  In the 1936 Olympics, organized by Hitler, the soccer team of Peru defeated, 4 to 2, the team of Austria, the native country of the Führer.  The Olympic Committee annulled the match.

- - -

Hitler did not lack friends.  The Rockefeller Foundation financed Nazi medicine's racial and racist research.  Coca-Cola invented Fanta, in the middle of the war, for the German market.  IBM made the identification and classification of Jews possible -- the first large-scale exploit of the punch card system.

- - -

In 1953, workers' protest exploded in Communist Germany.

Workers took to the streets and the Soviet tanks took care to shut down their mouths.  Then, Bertolt Brecht proposed: Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?

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Marketing operations.  The public opinion is their target.  Wars, like cars, are sold by lies.

In 1964, the United States invaded Viet Nam, because Viet Nam had attacked two US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.  After the war had already disemboweled a multitude of Vietnamese, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara acknowledged that there had been no Tonkin attack.

Forty years later, history repeated itself in Iraq.

- - -

Thousands of years before the North American invasion brought civilization to Iraq, in that barbarous land was born the first poem of love in universal history.  In the Sumerian language, inscribed in clay, the poem narrated the encounter of a goddess and a shepherd.  Inanna, the goddess, loved that night as if she were mortal.  Dumuzi, the shepherd, was immortal while the night lasted.

- - -

Walking paradoxes, stirring paradoxes:

El Aleijadinho [The Cripple], the ugliest man in Brazil, created the most beautiful sculptures of the colonial American era.

The book of travels of Marco Polo, adventure of freedom, was written in a prison of Genoa.

Don Quixote de la Mancha, another adventure of freedom, was born in a prison of Seville.

It was descendants of slaves, Blacks, who created jazz, the freest music there is.

One of the best jazz guitarists, the gypsy Django Reinhardt, had only two fingers on his left hand.

Grimod de la Reynière, the great master of French cuisine, did not  have hands.  With hooks he wrote, cooked, and ate.

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan writer, is the author of Open Veins of Latin America, Days and Nights of Love and War, and Memories of Fire among other publications.  This essay was first published in Página/12 on 30 December 2007.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Postcards from Iran

Here's a slide show of everyday life in Iran, made by Make Films Not War.

Aren't Iranians lovely? Let's not let Washington kill them or hurt them in any way.

US-led Sanctions and Privatization in Iran

US-led sanctions have contradictory impacts on Iran: on one hand, the sanctions give Iran's power elite an added motivation to privatize more and faster, so as not to get Iran cut off from international economy; on the other hand, the sanctions raise politico-economic costs and risks of business for both Iran's capitalists and international investors, leading to "the lack of progress in privatisation" in the words of a business consultant in Iran. These two Financial Times articles allow us to see both aspects: Anna Fifield, "Iran Banks Seek to Sidestep US Curbs," 10 February 2008; and Anna Fifield, "Tehran Makes Slow Progress in Assets Sale," 10 February 2008.

How slow is the pace of privatization? Iraj Seyf, a university lecturer in economics in the UK, estimated a while ago: "if you were to take the annual average value of assets sold off in the period between 1991-2006 to the private sector" and project it forward, "the completion of this project would take 535 years!" ("'Privatisation' in Iran!" Views from the South, 12 July 2006). There is something to be said for conservatism of Iran's power elite sometimes: their conservative privatization program -- one of the reasons for the slow pace is that "portfolio investors are likely to be put off by the requirement to lock in an investment for three years, while strategic buyers could be deterred by the 10 per cent limit on foreign stakes in each company, putting management control beyond reach," says Fifield in the latter of the aforementioned articles -- gives the working class time to fight back.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Aharon Shabtai, born in 1939 in Tel Aviv, is one of the most acclaimed Israeli poets and the foremost Hebrew translator of Greek drama. This poem was published in his book J'Accuse (Trans., Peter Cole, New Directions Publishing, 2003) on p. 14.
by Aharon Shabtai

The mark of Cain won't sprout
from a soldier who shoots
at the head of a child
on a knoll by the fence
around a refugee camp --
for beneath his helmet,
conceptually speaking,
his head is made of cardboard.
On the other hand,
the officer has read The Rebel;
his head is enlightened,
and so he does not believe
in the mark of Cain.
He's spent time in museums,
and when he aims
his rifle at a boy
as an ambassador of Culture,
he updates and recycles
Goya's etchings
and Guernica.
Shabtai refused to participate in the Fifth International Poetry Festival in Jerusalem in 2006, living by his conviction that "even poets were not allowed in the past, and not in the present, to ignore persecutions and discriminations on a racial or national basis," and will be boycotting the Turin Book Fair (8-12 May 2008) and the Salon du Livre de Paris (14-18 March 2008) where Israel will be the "guest of honor."

Pirate Jenny

Today's Bertolt Brecht's birthday, so listen to "Seeräuber-Jenny" [Pirate Jenny], sung by Hildegard Knef.

Here are the full German text and English translations (one literal and the other by Marc Blitzstein) of the song's lyrics. A great proletarian feminist song, isn't it?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hardly Stimulating

What did the US Congress's "economic stimulus" package exclude?
The Senate's 81-16 vote capped more than a week of political maneuvering. The logjam broke when majority Democrats dropped their demand that rescue proposal offer jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and tax breaks for the home building and energy industries. (Andrew Taylor and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Congress Sends Economic Aid Plan to Bush," Associated Press, 7 February 2008)
In other words, the item most likely to mitigate recession is the very one eliminated from the package:
According to estimates several years ago by Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's, the measures that produced the biggest "bang for the buck" were increases in unemployment benefits, which produced about $1.73 in additional demand for every dollar spent. Tax rebates to all citizens generated about $1.19 for every dollar spent, while reductions in tax rates produced only 59 cents per dollar. (Edmund L. Andrews, "Fed Chief's Reassurance Fails to Halt Stock Plunge," New York Times, 18 January 2008)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Subprime Military

Iraq has been hurting military recruitment in the United States:
The DoD classifies military recruits according to educational attainment in 'tiers.' Tier 1 recruits are those with at least a regular high school diploma. The proportion of active-duty Army recruits in tier 1 has dropped from 83.5 percent in 2005 to 70.7 percent in 2007. While the benchmark of 90 percent was also missed in 2005, the percentages have not been this low for at least 20 years. (National Priorities Project, "Military Recruiting 2007: Army Misses Benchmarks by Greater Margin")
Black military recruitment went down first, but the rest of America has by now also wised up, forcing the armed forces to increasingly turn to subprime recruits.

That is good news for people in the Third World, but unfortunately subprime recruits are renewable resources, given the way the American class system is set up to fail children at education.