Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bolivia: The Crime of Indigenous Insubordination

The Crime of Indigenous Insubordination

by Jubenal Quispe

Bolivia today lives under the most cruel and appalling xenophobic dictatorship of masters whose demented pride has been wounded. If you haven't already seen it, watch this video.

It happened on the 24th of May, in Sucre, the capital of Bolivia and crucible of the failed attempt at Bolivian mestizaje.

Those who believed that ignorant racism was a bitter memory in Bolivia were wrong. White Bolivia, created and ruled by masters, was and is essentially anti-Indian. In 1825, the masters founded the Republic of Bolivia in the House of Liberty in the city of Sucre, excluding and subordinating indigenous peoples. Almost two centuries later, last week in front of the same mythical House, before TV cameras, they flogged insubordinate indigenous brothers. It was a macabre act that symbolizes the ethnophagic essence of official white Bolivia.

Given this situation, several questions arise. Where is the state, the monopoly of legitimate force? Will it be completely weakened in Bolivia? And if that's the case, what is the government of Compañero Evo Morales to do if there is no longer a state to manage? Or could it be that xenophobic violence of masters today is tolerated by the state so that its opponents would defeat themselves? These are questions that the government must answer. But the urgent question is: Why does white Bolivia hate Indians so much? There are many answers to this question.

They hate us because we are the mirror that reflects their failure and their historic defeat. They had nearly two centuries since the founding of Bolivia to build a "modern" and mestizo Bolivian nation, according to their interests and aspirations, but they failed morally and intellectually. Today, Bolivia is not "modern," nor is it mestizo. In two centuries of governing, they created only a kleptomaniac bureaucracy that squandered the country.

They copied educational reforms and compulsory military services and used the state to promote public policy to destroy our cultures, but they failed even in this. Now, as never before, Bolivian diversity bewilders them even in their bedrooms. Our presence pains them for it reminds them of their almost innate sterility, their impotence to achieve their aspirations.

They suffer from chronic anomie (lack of identity) in the face of multiple and dynamic indigenous identities that are affirming themselves everywhere. They suffer from profound existential insecurity because they can no longer affirm themselves by negating and annihilating the different, the Other. This pathological insecurity unleashes xenophobic behaviors in them. But with these attitudes the only thing they gain is national and international repudiation. Thus they are caught in the maelstrom of solitude.

They flog our brothers in public squares, as they flogged our fathers and grandfathers to death, because our presence reminds them of their schizophrenic reality. They dream of being Western, but indigenous genes run in their blood. They long to practice liberal morality, but their weak will pushes them to the vices of Indians whom they hate so much. They suffer from profound cultural schizophrenia: always hating what they are and dreaming about what they are not. They are unhappy wretches who don't even know who they are, much less have a clear vision of Bolivia as a country, nor have they ever had one. It pains them to go down in the history of Bolivia as vile moral and intellectual failures. It pains them that from now on criminals will no longer pass for national heroes in history.

It is demonstrated that the indigenous people are what they could not be: the bastion of the Bolivian identity in the making. We have defended and recovered the natural resources and dignity of the people against multinational corporations, monsters to whom the masters of white Bolivia prostituted themselves. Our achievements for Bolivia pain them because they demonstrate their fateful failure. So they humiliated our brothers in front of their House of Liberty.

The flogging that our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters endure pains our soul, but it's a productive pain because it keeps and will keep alive our fruitful and subversive historical memory. Together with our unburied dead who roam the fertile Bolivian lands demanding justice, we will fight till we restore dignity to the life without dignity to which they condemned us. We were not born only to die trying, nor have we risen only to surrender at dawn.

Jubenal Quispe is a lawyer, theologian, and writer in Spanish and Quechua. He is a university lecturer and researcher at the Maryknoll Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The original article in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 30 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Obama: "We're the Saudi Arabia of Coal"

Barack Obama says, "We're the Saudi Arabia of coal," and Hillary Rodham Clinton agrees: "I support developing the country's coal resources in a responsible way that lessens our dependence on foreign oil" (Dan Testa, "Exclusive: Obama, Clinton Make Closing Arguments as Montana Primary Looms," Flathead Beacon, 29 May 2008).

I bet that underinvestment in oil, combined with a foolish ideology that says we must lesson "our dependence on foreign oil," will make climate change worse, pace environmentalists who are hoping that the current oil supply crunch will give them leverage necessary to push for actions to diminish emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Louise Michel

28 May 1871 was the last day of the "semaine sanglante," which put an end to the Paris Commune. Tens of thousands of Communards were summarily executed or imprisoned, and about 4,000 were deported to New Caledonia, a penal colony of France.

In New Caledonia, the exiled Communards encountered the Kanaks, the indigenous people of the islands, who were also oppressed by the same ruling class that had crushed the Commune. When the Kanaks rose up in rebellion in 1878, however, most of the Commundards "rallied to the French state," with a few exceptions such as Louise Michel, who wrote: "The Kanaks were seeking the same liberty we had sought in the Commune."

Can the rebels of the North side with the rebels of the South? The history of the metropolitan Left in imperialism gives an ambiguous answer to this question.

Sadr Calls for Weekly Protests against US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement

This just in: "Militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called Tuesday for followers to hold weekly protests against a U.S.-Iraqi security deal under negotiation that could lead to a long-term American troop presence" (Qassim Abdul-Zahra, "Militant Cleric Urges Protests on US-Iraq Deal," Associated Press, 27 May 2008). It should be clear to the Iranians which Iraqi Shi'i faction is their best friend.


If you spend it (money), you'll find it (oil), pace peak oil theorists. Take Petrobras, "the third biggest company in the Americas by market value, surpassing American outfit Microsoft, and the world’s sixth biggest based on the same criterion":
. . . Petrobras is ramping up its deep-water drilling capacity at a furious pace. This week, the company, which has already leased about 80% of the world fleet of vessels capable of drilling in deep water, announced plans to lease 40 more drilling vessels and semi-submersible oil platforms starting in 2017. Petrobras also has announced that it will hire 14,000 more workers and set up a new management division for drilling through salt. (John Lyons and David Luhnow, "New Find Fuels Speculation Brazil Will Be a Power in Oil," Wall Street Journal, 23 May 2008, B1)
If maximizing oil investment and future oil output were the goal, a pro-capitalist1 state enterprise of a nation whose economy is not dependent on oil export, like Petrobras (32% state-owned), combining the advantages of state and capital, would likely find it easier to achieve it than both oil majors (which would rather spend profits on stock buybacks than exploration and development) and the national oil companies of such populist oil states as Iran and Venezuela (which tend to massively subsidize domestic energy consumption and often employ more workers than strict business calculations would allow).

If the US power elite were motivated by the fear of oil demand outstripping oil supply, one of the smart capitalist things to do would be to create their own national oil company on the model of Petrobras, rather than engaging in the imperialism of fools that is their Middle East policy.

1 Excited by a spate of big oil finds, Brazil, too, may be soon following the path of resource nationalism, however: Bernd Radowitz, "Oil Finds Reportedly Prompt Brazil to Consider Changing Energy-sector Rules," MarketWatch, 18 April 2008.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Russia Cuts Taxes for Oil Companies

The beginning of the end of resource nationalism, defeated by capital's refusal to invest and the resulting production decline?
But where is the guarantee that the money saved through tax cuts will actually go to investment into oil production?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ecuador's Struggle over Oil

All populist leaders of oil states in the South face this dilemma: how to increase investment in oil and acquire the latest production technology while fighting with private oil companies over control of oil and share of oil profit.

Ecuador is a case in point: Alonso Soto, "Ecuador Offers Oil Firms Tax Cut to Keep Output Up," Reuters, 16 May 2008; "Ecuador Offers to Buy Out Oil Companies," Associated Press, 17 May 2008; "Ecuador's State Oil Company President Resigns," Associated Press, 20 May 2008; Alexandra Valencia, Saul Hudson, and Matthew Lewis, "Ecuador Names Admiral to Head State Oil Company," Reuters 22 May 2008; "OPEC to Support Ecuador Oil Industry," 26 May 2008.

"Peak oil" theory distracts us from this political problem by getting us to think that any decline in production is a matter of natural limits.

US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement

The fate of the proposed US-Iraq status of forces agreement will be a test of the degree of influence of hard-liners on Iran's foreign policy and on Shia factions in Iraq:

This just in: "Militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called Tuesday for followers to hold weekly protests against a U.S.-Iraqi security deal under negotiation that could lead to a long-term American troop presence" (Qassim Abdul-Zahra, "Militant Cleric Urges Protests on US-Iraq Deal," Associated Press, 27 May 2008). It should be clear to the Iranians which Iraqi Shia faction is their best friend.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Criminalizing Immigrants, Administratively

Criminalization of unauthorized immigration is one of the few right-wing legislative initiatives in the United States that massive demonstrations, major wildcat strikes, and lobbying, by capitalists as well as trade unions, managed to block in 2006, but the White House is achieving administratively what the Right couldn't get legislatively:
In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration's crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported. (Julia Preston, "270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push," New York Times, 24 May 2008)
The 2006 demos came at the height of the housing bubble in the US, whose construction boom had significantly boosted undocumented immigrants' economic bargaining power and bolstered their political confidence. Now, after the burst of the bubble, it would be very difficult to mount the same level of action for immigrant rights: Eduardo Porter, "Housing Slump Takes a Toll on Illegal Immigrants" (New York Times, 17 April 2007).

For the ruling class, immigrant workers are the most disposable part of the reserve army of labor, who are also useful as scapegoats on whom they can blame economic troubles. The spontaneous consciousness of workers is more often shaped by experience of competition for private-sector jobs and public-sector programs than solidarity, especially in the context where the frequency of industrial actions has so declined that most workers have never had a chance to experience working together to win. That makes it very difficult -- but also urgent -- to create a political culture that can withstand the divide and conquer strategy of the Right.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Higher oil prices appear to be driving US politicians, especially Democrats, crazy, making them do foolish things like passing a bill to sue OPEC (324 to 84 in the House): "House Passes Bill to Sue OPEC over Oil Prices" (Tom Doggett, Reuters, 20 May 2008). But, you know what, invading Iraq or suing OPEC doesn't bring more oil fields online or bring down oil prices -- only investment on the supply side and conservation on the demand side can (or else higher oil prices will help bring about far-reaching recessions and bring down demand and prices . . . painfully and temporarily).

Energy GapStrangely, however, not only current higher oil prices but even an increasing fear of a failure to produce enough oil in time to meet the growing world demand for it (due to rising energy consumption in the South) doesn't appear to motivate them to do rational things at all, such as lifting sanctions on major oil producer nations, like my dear Islamic Republic of Iran (which is forced to rely more and more upon itself: Nasser Karimi, Iran Looks to Tap Key Oil Field with Homegrown Crews," Associated Press, 11 May 2008).

The capitalist relations of production and consumption -- especially an insatiable greed for geopolitical power to which they give rise in the minds of the US power elite whose military force exists to defend them -- are clearly serving as fetters on the ability of humanity to develop a more intelligent mode of production and consumption of energy, but this integument is not automatically burst asunder, nor are there forces that are seeking to do so.


In memory of the liberation of Khorramshahr (the third of Khordad of 1361, 23 May 1982) during the Iran-Iraq War, listen to a song dedicated to Mohammad Jahan Ara and other martyrs of Iran.

In defense of Iran, women, too, made their sacrifices, though, as in any military aspect of national history, they are more often included in the iconography of the nation as wives, mothers, and daughters of fallen heroes than in their own right: "و زنانی که پابه پای مردان ایستادند."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Lebanon, the Spectre of Peace

In Lebanon, the Spectre of Peace
by Alain Campiotti

Hezbollah is the big winner in the accord on Lebanon signed in Doha, Qatar. But everyone -- including Washington -- is welcoming this asymmetrical compromise. Why? Hard bargaining is underway. . . .

In the Middle East, neither the worst nor the best is ever certain. But what happened in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Wednesday, at 3 o'clock in the morning, is a historic event. The accord putting an end -- for now -- to the political crisis that tore Lebanon for the past eighteen months (and many more in fact) contains a tough lesson for the West: its weakened friends in Beirut had to bend themselves to the force of Hezbollah and its allies Amal, another Shi'i party, and the Christians led by Michel Aoun. The Party of God will enter the government without laying down its arms, as a minority with veto power.

A peculiar defeat, however: it is welcomed everywhere, except in Israel, which exhausted itself in a war against Hezbollah less than two years ago. Iran under Imam Khamenei, whose politico-religious tutelage the leadership of the Lebanese Islamist party accepts, and its ally Syria welcomed the Doha accord. But France has also applauded, and US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch has endorsed "this necessary and positive step." At the same time, George Bush has continued (last week in Jerusalem again) to denounce Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization"! But the stubborn Texan is on the way out.

If the rivals in Beirut have accepted a compromise whose terms were dictated by the opposition months ago, it's because their guardians (Tehran and Damascus on one hand and Washington, and Paris in its shadow, on the other hand) have given their green light. Why this sort of unanimity?

Rami Khouri, a Palestinian professor at the American University of Beirut and one of the best analysts in the region, advances this hypothesis: this extraordinary development perhaps means the emergence of "the first unspoken US-Iranian condominium in the Arab world."

After the "Cedar Revolution" of 2005, the United States and its friends wanted, through the United Nations, to disarm Hezbollah. An impossible task, save surrender. And ten days ago, the Islamist party demonstrated that it could, by force, impose its will on the government that intended to deprive it of its independent telephone network.

But the Shi'i militants used their weapons. There have been roughly 80 deaths. The inter-communal tensions instantly heightened to a dangerous level. The leaders of Hezbollah are no fools. They know they cannot impose their control on Lebanon against more than a half of its population. They have therefore accepted an accord, which is very favorable, with the opponents who are in a state of weakness. A two-sided government will be established, with each side supported by the leading powers of the region: America and the Gulf states on one side, Iran and Syria on the other.

In the immediate future, the Doha arrangement will allow the election, on Sunday without doubt, of General Michel Suleiman, head of the army, who remained neutral in the recent incidents to the Presidency of the Republic. He is a Maronite Christian, he was appointed to his post when the Syrians dominated Lebanon, he gets on quite well with everyone. The general was the compromise candidate on whom all parties agreed at the end of last year. But the opposition, dominated by Hezbollah, put down a condition: before the vote of the assembly, the Party of God wanted assurances that it would control one third of ministerial portfolios, which would allow it to veto the decisions of the government that displeased it. The party laid down this demand after withdrawing its ministers in November 2006: it wanted then -- like Syria -- to oppose the formation of an international tribunal to try the assassins of former Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And it wanted to protect its weapons.

Given the balance of power in Beirut, Arab mediators, led by Qatar, accepted Hezbollah's conditions. The current majority will have sixteen ministers, the opposition will get eleven, and the new president will appoint three. The Party of God obtains the veto power it wanted. It also demanded, in view of the elections next year, a new electoral law in an attempt to expand its representation. Fierce discussions lasted until early morning yesterday: Saad Hariri, pallid son of the assassinated head of state, wanted to save a maximum of 19 seats in the parliament in Beirut, all of which he controls today.

Is it a coincidence that the Qatar arrangement fell on the same day when Ehud Olmert announced that "indirect" negotiations with Syria (but two delegations are in Ankara) started through the good offices of Turkey? This new approach has been strongly encouraged by the United States. At the same time, serious negotiations continue in Cairo to try to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, and discreet contacts with Hamas are multiplying.

Naturally, everything can turn upside down again in a clash of arms. But hard bargaining, crisscross, is underway. And in the United States, Barack Obama (who is not the candidate of Hamas!) said, without spelling it out, while thinking hard, that all diplomatic avenues must be followed to take the edge off the game in the Middle East . . . and to exit Iraq.

The original article in French was published in Le Temps on 22 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam was born in Nishapur, on 18 May 1048.
ای صاحب فتوی ز تو پر کارتریم
با این همه مستی ز تو هُشیار تریم
تو خون کسان خوری و ما خون رزان
انصاف بـده کـدام خونخوار تریم؟

O City Mufti, you go more astray
Than I do, though to wine I do give way;
I drink the blood of grapes, you that of men:
Which of us is the more bloodthirsty, pray?
          -- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,
          Trans. Edward Henry Whinfield, 1883
Answers to many of the questions in the Islamic tradition today will be found in the Islamic tradition itself if Muslims seek them there.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Picture Phones and Honor Killings

The Washington Consensus + the Project for the New American Century --> one state after another falls in the South --> more freedom for the worst men to combine the worst of feudalism and the worst of capitalism against women in a Hobbesian state of anarchy --> more grisly grist for humanitarian imperialism. Neoliberal capitalism sets this sequence of horror in an endless loop.

Here's an example reported by Patrick Cockburn in The Independent:
The United Nations estimates that at least 255 women died in honour-related killings in Kurdistan, home to one fifth of Iraqis, in the first six months of 2007 alone.

The murder of women who are deemed to have disobeyed traditional codes of morality is even more common in the rest of Iraq where government authority has broken down since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A surprising reason explaining the massive increase in the number of honour killings is the availability of cheap mobile phones able to take pictures. Men photograph themselves making love to their girlfriends and pass the pictures to their friends. This often turns out to be a lethal act of bravado in a society where premarital or extra-marital sex justifies killing.

The first known case of sex recorded on a mobile leading to murder was in 2004. Film of a boy making love with a 17-year-old girl circulated in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. Two days later she was killed by her family and a week later he was murdered by his.

Since then there has been a sharp increase in the number of women suffering violence -- it is almost always the women rather than the men who suffer retribution -- as a result of some aspect of their love life being pictured on mobile phones.

In 2007, at least 350 women, double the figure for the previous year, suffered violence as a result of mobile phone "evidence", according to Amanj Khalil of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, citing figures compiled by women's organisations and the police directorate in Sulaymaniyah. ("How Picture Phones Have Fuelled Frenzy of Honour Killing in Iraq," 17 May 2008)
Some men, freed from patriarchal1 family obligations, reduce women to always available sexual objects through whose free exchange, now made more efficient by the latest technology, they bond. In response, other men seek to re-impose patriarchal control of sex, but mainly on women, unlike under the old patriarchy which regulated not just women's but also men's sexual behavior.

This is no clash of civilizations propagandized by Samuel P. Huntington. It is, in truth, a clash of civilization and its other, and it is the empire that is the other of civilization, the destroyer of modernity.

What is to be done on the front line of the clash between civilization and its other? Democratic centralism is the tried and true means to defend modernity on that front line, for it takes discipline to defeat the enemy outside and to check the worst inside. Whether the democratic centralists on the front line call themselves Muslims or Maoists is immaterial.

1 Many use the terms "sexism" and "patriarchy" interchangeably. Against this imprecise usage, I'd propose the following definitions:

Patriarchy subordinates not only women but also younger men to the patriarch of an extended family, in a society where the relation of hierarchical dependency and obligation is the norm.

Sexism, in contrast to patriarchy, justifies subordination of women to men -- often rationalizing it as biologically or culturally grounded exception to the rule of independent individuals with equal rights -- but not younger men to older men, and it is found in a society where kinship has contracted greatly.

Clarified thus, these terms should help us grasp the North-South sexual gap. In the global South, patriarchy tends to predominate; in the global North, sexism tends to prevail.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Politics of Disasters

A cyclone devastates Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, and an earthquake strikes China's Sichuan Province, and the empire smells blood, itching to send "aid at the point of a gun," urging the United Nations to invoke the "responsibility to protect": "France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has spoken of the possibility of an armed humanitarian intervention, and there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta."1 Why such an unseemly display of arms? Because a natural disaster can turn into a legitimation crisis, giving foreign powers a shot at regime change.
[N]othing terrifies a repressive regime quite like a natural disaster. Authoritarian states rule by fear and by projecting an aura of total control. When they suddenly seem short-staffed, absent or disorganized, their subjects can become dangerously emboldened. It's something to keep in mind as two of the most repressive regimes on the planet -- China and Burma -- struggle to respond to devastating disasters: the Sichuan earthquake and Cyclone Nargis. In both cases, the disasters have exposed grave political weaknesses within the regimes -- and both crises have the potential to ignite levels of public rage that would be difficult to control.2
A regime's failure to respond promptly and effectively to suffering caused by a natural disaster, the failure that the opposition can exploit, can indeed become a factor in its downfall. Such was the case with the Shah's regime and the earthquake of 1978 that wiped out Tabas and damaged forty other villages in Iran.

Michel Foucault reported in Corriere della sera on 28 September 1978:
Who will rebuild Tabas today? Who will rebuild Iran after the earthquake of Friday, September 8 [Black Friday, when the army massacred hundreds of protesters in Djaleh Square of Tehran], right under the treads of the tanks? The fragile political edifice has not yet fallen to the ground, but it is irreparably cracked from top to bottom.

In the torrid heat, under the only palm trees still standing, the last survivors of Tabas work away at the rubble. The dead are still stretching their arms to hold up walls that no longer exist. Men, their faces turned toward the ground, curse the Shah. The bulldozers have arrived, accompanied by the empress; she was ill received. However, mullahs rush in from the entire region; and young people in Tehran go discreetly from one friendly house to another, collecting funds before leaving for Tabas. "Help your brothers, but nothing through the government, nothing for it," is the call that Ayatollah Khomeini has just issued from exile in Iraq.3
Neither Islamic nor Marxist nor liberal revolutionaries of Iran, however, called upon the West to claim its "right to protect" and send its armies to save them from the Shah. They overthrew the Shah's regime on their own, and Iran's Islamic Revolution has grown into a republic that can survive natural disasters, such as the earthquake of 2003 that destroyed Bam, killing more than 20,000 and injuring many more.

One of the casualties of the Bam earthquake was an American man, Tobb Dell'Oro, who was vacationing with his fiancée Adele Freedman in the city. Freedman, who credits the "kindness of the Iranian people" for her survival,4 became the subject of an important documentary film, Bam 6.6: Humanity Has No Borders (Dir. Jahangir Golestan-Parast, 2007), which shows Iranians' solicitude for her wellbeing and gracious hospitality to her parents who initially thought Iran would be a terrible place for Jewish Americans like them to visit but have changed their minds about the Iranian people.

The Bam earthquake also moved many of the normally fractious Iranian diaspora, as well as the populace of Iran, to solidarity, holding benefits and raising funds for their countrymen and women in need back home.

Artists did their part, too. Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the finest musician in Iran, held a concert "همنوا با بم" [In Harmony with Bam] with Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor, and Homayoun Shajarian in remembrance of the victims of the earthquake.

Iran's Islamic government, by the way, did not reject international, including American, offers of assistance -- unlike the Bush White House who didn't let Cuba or Iran help Americans after Hurricane Katrina -- and welcomed international NGOs as well, even though well-intentioned outsiders can create as many hindrances as aids they bring:
In a recent lessons-learned meeting on the Bam earthquake in Iran, a polite and respectful colleague from the Iranian Ministry of Health related his frustration at international NGO coordination in the early days of the emergency. He said that, at the same time as he was desperately trying to set up field hospitals and bury the dead, representatives from over 100 international NGOs had individually requested meetings with him. He appreciated their help, he said, but some organisations wanted to ask him about the siting of rural clinics when he was still trying to arrange emergency medical evacuations. Was there no way, he asked, that these agencies could organise themselves better in the early days of a disaster?5
But Iran's government, even under President Khatami, would not have accepted international relief if it had been imposed upon it by a show of force.

1 Robert D. Kaplan, "Aid at the Point of a Gun," New York Times, 14 May 2008.

2 Naomi Klein, "Regime-Quakes in Burma and China," The Nation, 15 May 2008.

3 Michel Foucault, "The Army -- When the Earth Quakes," in Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, U of Chicago P, 2005, p. 190. An endnote omitted from the quotation and replaced by a parenthetical editorial clarification.

4 Corey Kilgannon, "For One Earthquake Survivor, Joy Is Tempered by Sorrow," New York Times, 10 January 2004.

5 Jenty Wood, "Improving NGO Coordination: Lessons from the Bam Earthquake," Humanitarian Practice Network, 2003.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Maliki & Co. Offer US Forces "A Permanent Home on Our Doorsteps"

General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran ("widely described as a charismatic yet modest leader who never abuses his authority," according to McClatchy Newspapers), is right:
On Monday, the hard-line Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-e-Eslami accused al-Maliki of lacking backbone in alks with Washington, which include the long-range status of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The daily, which is considered close to Iran's ruling clerics, claimed Washington wants a "full-fledged colony" in Iraq.

It was a rare public jab at al-Maliki, a Shiite. But it was mild compared with the closed-door recriminations during the high-level Iraqi visit, according to accounts by Shiite politicians close to Iraq's prime minister.

The five-member delegation sought to pressure and cajole the Iranians into cutting suspected support for Shiite militias that have battled U.S. and Iraqi forces. But the Iraqis mostly received a scolding, the politicians said.

"The Iranians were very tough and even angry with us," said one of the delegates in the Tehran talks. "They accused us of being ungrateful to what Iran has done for the Shiites during Saddam's rule and of siding with the Americans against Iran."

The Iraqi politicians, five in all, spoke to the AP in separate interviews on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Two of them took part in the talks with the Iranians. The rest were briefed on the meetings.

At one point, a key leader within Iran's Revolutionary Guards accused the Iraqi delegation and their leaders of being tools of Washington and showing ingratitude for years of Iranian support to Iraqi's majority Shiites, who suffered attacks and persecution under Saddam, the politicians said.

Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force unit of the Guards, accused the Iraqis of offering U.S. forces "a permanent home on our doorsteps," the politicians told the AP. (Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, "'Angry' Iran Sharpens Tone with Baghdad's Leaders," Associated Press, 15 May 2008)
Yes, Maliki & Co. are offering the empire "a permanent home" on Iran's doorsteps, against the interests of Iran1 -- unlike Sadr, who "pledged to come to the defense of neighboring Iran if it were attacked."2

Common people of Iran, already preferring Sadr to Maliki by a substantial margin,3 would side with the general on his assessment of the dominant Shi'i factions in the "Iraqi government."

Now the general ought to build elite consensus on this fact and help the Leader, et al. effect a nuanced shift in Iran's policy toward the Shi'i factions in Iraq.

1 See Hussein Shariatmadari, "Iraq on the Edge," Kayhan International, 11 May 2008; Manal Lutfi, "Iranian Official Accuses al-Maliki of Surrendering to the US," Asharq Al-Awsat, 13 May 2008; and Shadha al-Jubori, "Strategic Agreement with US Is in the Interest of Iraq -- Official," Asharq Al-Awsat, 14 May 2008. Note that so-called hard-liners are far more vigilant on defense of Iran from the empire than reformists, Rafsanjanists, and technocratic neo-conservatives, which is the reason why the Western media promote the latter against the former.

2 Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki, "Iraqi Shiite Cleric Pledges to Defend Iran: Sadr, With Powerful Militia, Vows to Respond to Attack by West on Neighbor," Washington Post, 24 January 2006, A13.

3 Sadr is "viewed favorably by 56 percent [of Iranians] and unfavorably by just 12 percent" whereas "45 percent [of Iranians] have a favorable view of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while 22 percent have an unfavorable view"(, "Public Opinion in Iran: With Comparisons to American Public Opinion," 7 April 2008, p. 29).

A Victory for Hezbollah

Washington leaned on "Lebanon's governing coalition" to disarm Hizballah, just as it pushed the "Iraqi government" to disarm the Mahdi Army. Both moves failed to achieve their goals -- more spectacularly in the case of Lebanon:
Lebanon’s governing coalition on Wednesday night formally reversed two decisions that had provoked the militant group Hezbollah, bringing the country a step closer to resolving the week-old political crisis that set off the worst factional violence since the nation's 15-year civil war.

The announcement was made after a day of intensive meetings between Lebanese leaders and an Arab diplomatic delegation led by the foreign minister of Qatar. Rescinding the decisions was a victory for Hezbollah, the Shiite group backed by Syria and Iran that has been trying to wrest more political power from the government. After it was announced, shortly after 11 p.m., loud bursts of celebratory gunfire echoed across the city for almost an hour from Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hezbollah’s stronghold.

Lebanon’s information minister, Ghazi Aridi, said the cabinet reversed the two decisions -- which challenged the militant group’s private telephone network and the job of a Hezbollah ally who directs airport security -- "in view of the higher national interest." (Robert F. Worth, Lebanon Reverses Decisions That Prompted Violence," New York Times, 15 May 2008)
Washington has trouble winning in the so-called Shia crescent, as well as in Latin America, because the nature of its imperial project compels it to ally only with the pro-American, upper-class factions against organizations based in lower classes.

Politics is more ambiguous in Brazil, India, Turkey, and South Africa, the key nations in their respective regions, whose popular classes have hitherto backed the parties that have played both sides of the game. These are the key swing votes determining the fate of socialists in Latin America and Islamo-Leninists in the Shia crescent.

Fairuz Sings Palestine

Listen to two songs by Fairuz to commemorate the Nakba of 1948.

First, زهرة المداين, "The Flower of Cities," a song about Jerusalem.

Then, سنرجع يوماً, "We Shall Return."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Beijing Consensus

What is the Beijing Consensus? There is little consensus on the Beijing Consensus yet. Arif Dirlik put it this way: "I would like to suggest that the term derives its meaning and appeal not from some coherent economic or political position but from its suggestion of a pole in the global political economy which can serve as a gathering place for those who are opposed to Washington imperialism" ("Beijing Consensus: Beijing 'Gongshi': Who Recognizes Whom and to What End?" 17 January 2006, p. 2).

Whether China can be such a pole remains to be seen, but in contrast to Washington -- which seeks to aggressively remake other countries' political economies to conform to its vision of capitalism and to redraw the political geography of the world according to its geopolitical doctrine, by force if necessary -- Beijing mostly bases its international relations on more or less business calculations alone, leaving the internal affairs of other nations to themselves. Note the absence of "conditionality" in China's relation with Africa, for instance:
Just like other Western powers, China has used aid strategically to support its commercial and investment interventions in Africa. Aid has taken the form of financial investments in key infrastructural development projects, training programs, debt relief, technical assistance, and a program of tariff exemptions for selected products from Africa, not dissimilar to the agreements that Africa has had with Europe, the US, and other Western economies. China's aid is attractive to African governments not only because it offers favorable terms, but in particular because it doesn't come with the conditionality that has so constrained, and many would argue undermined, the development that would have the potential for bringing about social progress. (Firoze Manji, "China Still a Small Player in Africa," MRZine, 28 April 2008)
Thus Beijing deals with the West, it deals with Latin socialists, it deals with everyone with whom it pays to play. That is better than the economic Washington Consensus whose military corollary is the Project for the New American Century.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


A Persian poet Sa'di wrote in Golestan: "Strike the head of a serpent with the hand of a foe because one of two advantages will result. If the enemy succeeds thou hast killed the snake and if the latter, thou hast been delivered from a foe." These must be among the lines that Iran's power elite have all learned by heart, making them smarter than both Ba'athists and imperialists.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Mahdi Army Survives Undisarmed

A new truce between the "Iraqi government" and the Mahdi Army. Citing AFP and Al-Hayat, Juan Cole sums up the key points of the agreement between them:
The al-Maliki government and the Sadrists pulled back from the brink in Sadr City on Saturday. PM Nuri al-Maliki had demanded that the Mahdi Army militia that serves as the Sadrist paramilitary give up its arms and dissolve itself. The compromise simply states that the Iraqi security forces would be allowed in to Sadr City to search for suspected medium and heavy weapons. The implication is that the Mahdi Army may continue to exist and may keep its light weapons (e.g. AK-47s), though it has to pledge not to walk with them in public.

The siege of Sadr City is to be lifted and the major roads in and out of it are to be unblocked, according to the agreement.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the agreement stipulates that the government should have a court order to come into Sadr City. Arrests of rogue commanders had to to be based on warrants and not just 'indiscriminate.' There is nothing in the agreement about the Mahdi Army disarming altogether, as Nuri Al-Maliki initially demanded. ("Maliki-Sadr Agreement on Sadr City; Al-Maliki Heads to Mosul," Informed Comment, 11 May 2008)
The truce is said to have been brokered by Tehran -- again.

While Washington has two enemies -- not just Sunni insurgents but also Shi'i Sadrists -- whom it can neither conquer nor coopt, Tehran has no determined enemy among the Iraqi Shia and has influence over all major factions of them. Ironically, it's Washington's desire to create "an anti-Iranian Iraq," as well as a front of Arab client states against the so-called Shia crescent stretching from Iran to large swathes of Iraq, Lebanon, and even the Gulf states,1 that has augmented Tehran's influence:
It was the U.S. attempt to create an anti-Iranian Iraq that was to play into Iranian hands and produce the very situation that Washington was trying to avoid.

The more Washington threatened air strikes on Iran because of its nuclear program, the more the Iranians sought to make sure that it had the potential to strike back at American forces in Iraq. Before he was executed, Sadr I believed that he had been let down by Iran; Sadr II had bad relations with Tehran; and at first Muqtada denounced his Shia opponents in SCIRI and the Marji'iyyah as being Iranian stooges. But American pressure meant that the Sadrists had to look to Iran for help, and in a military confrontation the Mehdi Army saw Iran as an essential source of weapons and military expertise. (Patrick Cockburn, "Riding the Tiger: Muqtada al-Sadr and the American Dilemma in Iraq," Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, Scribner, 2008)
Thus Tehran alone can help bring stability to at least the areas of Iraq predominantly inhabited by the Shia; and, together with Damascus, which has a certain level of influence over some factions of Sunni insurgents, it may eventually -- in sha' allah -- be able to help broker a government of national unity of sorts in Iraq2 if and when Washington ends its occupation of the ruined nation. That's the point that Western leftists should emphasize to counter Washington's propaganda against Iran and Syria. It's the empire, not Iran and Syria, that is the force that perpetuates chaos in Iraq and ends up spreading it everywhere it goes.

1 Washington has, however, failed to move the hearts and minds of Arabs against Iran in particular or the Shia in general. The most admired world leaders among Arabs are Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Al-Assad, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (in that order), according to Shibley Telhami's "2008 Annual Arab Public Opinion Poll."

2 In any such post-occupation government of national unity in Iraq, Sadrists will play a central role. The Iranian people, a majority of whom prefer Sadr to Maliki, correctly understand it:
A plurality [of Iranians] sees the government in Iraq as legitimate -- down from a modest majority in 2006. Asked whether "the current government is . . . the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people," 45 percent said that it is, while 33 percent said that it is not. This is down from December 2006, when 54 percent thought it was legitimate (31% thought it was not).

Similarly, 45 percent have a favorable view of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while 22 percent have an unfavorable view. This too has drifted down slightly from 2006, when 48 percent had a favorable view.

More popular is Shi'a opposition figure Muqtada al-Sadr, who was viewed favorably by 56 percent and unfavorably by just 12 percent. Similarly, in 2006 58 percent had a favorable view and 12 percent were unfavorable. (, "Public Opinion in Iran: With Comparisons to American Public Opinion," 7 April 2008, p. 29)

Khosrow Roozbeh

On 11 May 1958, Khosrow Roozbeh, the leader of the intelligence branch of the Military Organization of the Tudeh Party, was executed by a firing squad of the Shah, who had established dictatorship through the CIA-backed 28 Mordad coup d'état against the Mossadegh government in 1953.

Khosrow Roozbeh
خسرو روزبه -- قهرمان ملی ایران

Refusing to be blindfolded, Roozbeh shouted to the firing squad: "Long Live the Tudeh Party of Iran! Long Live Communism! Fire!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008


«آفساید» (جعفر پناهی ۲۰۰۶) فیلمی دربارهٔ زنان و فوتبال ایران است. پناهی، یکی از کارگردانان فمینیست ایرانی، تبعیض‌های قانونی و اجتماعی بین زنان و مردان را نشان می‌دهد. مثلا زنان ایرانی اجازهٔ ورود به ورزشگاه و تماشای فوتبال را ندرند. ولی زنان ایران قربانیان بیچاره نیستند. چنانکه تماشاگر «آفساید» می‌بیند، زنان ایران، باهوش و باتدبیر، می‌دانند چطور بر موانع چیره شوند. برای دیدن فوتبال، زنان با لباسی مبدّل دزدانه وارد می‌شدند. با این کار خیلی از زنان طرفدار فوتبال بر قانونی بیمعنی پیروز می‌شوند.

اما همهٔ زنان موفق نمیشوند و داستان «آفساید» به دنبال شش دختری می‌رود که دستگیر می‌شوند. با داستان آن شش دختر، پناهی چند نقطه را تایید می‌کند.

۱. قانون مربوط به زنان متناقض است. زنان ایران می‌توانند با مردان در سینما فیلم تماشا کنند یا سوار مترو و تاکسی شوند، ولی آنها از ورود به ورزشگاه و تماشای بازی فوتبال منع می‌شوند. اما زنان خارجی، مانند زنان ژاپنی و بحرینی، که طرفدار حریف تیم ملی ایران هستند، و روزنامه‌نگاران زن خارجی اجازهٔ ورود به ورزشگاه دارند. قانون غیر منطقی نه فقط غیر منصفانه است بلکه خود مایهٔ خنده است.

۲. برخی از زنان فمینیست فکر می‌کنند که همهٔ مردان بر زنان بی‌داد می‌کنند و برخی از غربیان باور می‌کنند که سیاست تبعیض فقط مانع پیشرفت زنان است. اما واقعیت پیچیده‌ تر از آن است. در «آفساید»، خیلی از مردان که با آن شش دختر روبرو می‌شوند -- حتی سربازانی که نگهبان ورزشگاه هستند -- با آنها همدردی میکنند. از طرف دیگر، مانع آزادی و برابری فقط قانون تبعیض نیست. یکی از شخصيتهای «آفساید» پیرمردی است که دختر او-- یک از آن شش دختر -- دستگیر می‌شود. این مرد محافظه كار است و می‌خواهد دخترش را تنبیه کند. برای انیکه زنان آزادی و برابری بدست بیاورند، سنت مردم باید عوض شود.

آن شش دختر دانشجوی تهرانی هستند. ولی سربازانی که آنها را دستگیر می‌کنند پسران کشاورز، ساده و روستایی، هستند. توسعه اقتصادی ایران زندگی زنان تحصیل کرده را بهتر از پیش کرده است. ولی زنان و خواهران آن سربازان و زنان که فقیر هستند و نمیتوانند به دانشگاه بروند؟ درباره آنها، آین فیلم هیچی نمیگوید.

یوشی فوروهشی

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Opposition Takes Beirut

The Opposition Takes Beirut
by Nadine Acoury

A few hours after yesterday's press conference of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, opposition fighters occupied the offices of the pro-government Future Movement of Hariri in Beirut, and battles focused on the Koraytem palace (Saad Hariri residence), which was hit by rockets, the Sérail (seat of the Siniora government), and the home of Walid Jumblatt (pro-government Druze party leader).

Hariri's media -- Future TV, the Al-Mustakbal daily, and Radio Orient -- have ceased all activity.

Appeals to Support the Leaders of "the Majority"

The pro-government circles are traumatized by the rapid defeat. Confirming their debacle on the ground, Jumblatt and Hariri (who have always boasted of "holding the heart of Beirut," leaving the "Shiite suburb" -- of the poor, workers, especially day laborers and low-income workers, artisans, and Palestinian refugee camps -- to Hezbollah) asked Nabih Berri (leader of Amal, another Shi'i party, and president of the National Assembly) to ensure their safety and that of their followers in Beirut.

The Army Content to Clean Up after the Opposition

Note the position of the Lebanese Army who did not oppose the advance of the opposition and settled for entering the occupied offices to evacuate the staff.

Michel Aoun

General Michel Aoun, leader of the (pro-opposition Christian) Rally for Lebanon, quickly expressed his continuing support for the resistance.

The "Red Lines" of the Opposition

In his speech of yesterday afternoon, Hassan Nasrallah was very clear: the country has entered a "new era" since the "decisions taken by the government of Walid Jumblatt" (in a clear allusion to the ultra pro-US Druze leader's takeover of the Lebanese executive power) concerning the resistance and its weapons, especially the telecommunications network of the resistance, and the dismissal of the head of the internal security of the international airport Wafik Shoukeir.

Nasrallah said the government should rescind its two decisions before resuming the national dialogue:
  1. decision to dismantle the telecommunications network of the resistance (which has existed for 20 years) because the network is an essential weapon of the resistance and its dismantling would allow the Zionist enemy to penetrate the heart of the resistance and assassinate its leaders and militants (as it does in Palestine)

  2. decision to dismiss the head of the internal security of the international airport (an official long known for his impeccablly patriotic and anti-Zionist administration) and to replace him by a puppet who would help the airport fall into the hands of pro-government militias allied with the United States and Israel and who would allow spies and weapons to be smuggled into Lebanon.
The Rest of the Country

Outside Beirut, in the mountains of the north and the south, the fighters of the government "majority" re-opened the national and international (Beirut-Damascus) routes that they had blocked yesterday.

Favorable International Context

As Israel sinks into a standstill due to the impending resignation of Olmert and his replacement, and the United States struggles to convince even its allies to follow its colonial war in the last year of the Bush presidency, the Lebanese resistance scores a major, decisive victory: do not touch the weapons of the resistance, resolve the political problem through national dialogue, and take the real majority of the country into account.

Social Demands

The general strike and demonstration of the General Confederation of Workers had been planned for months for the sixth of May, on the basis of demands such as:
  • raise the minimum wage (untouched since 1996 despite a price increase of over 140%)

  • increase wages of both private- and public-sector workers

  • extend social security to all workers (it currently covers less than 40% of workers).
The workers' demands were taken hostage by the government, which launched the provocation of the dismantling of the telecommunications network of the resistance and the dismissal of the head of the internal security of the airport five days before the strike, with a clear, unmistakable goal: liquidate the social demands of a majority of people of Lebanon who are suffering growing impoverishment, on the pretext that the strike blames the "majority" in the government and plays into the hands of the opposition.

French Sites and Blog

Arabic News Sites

The original article in French was published on the Web site of ISM France on 9 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

La Résistance contrôle une grande partie de Beyrouth

The Lebanese government attacked workers and Hizballah at the same time, triggering a general strike supported by the Party of God. Hizballah and its allies have decisively won this battle, and even the Saudis are said to be advising pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to step down: "La Résistance contrôle une grande partie de Beyrouth," Al-Oufok, 9 May 2008; Nada Bakri and Graham Bowley, "Shiite Militias Seize Beirut Neighborhoods," New York Times, 10 May 2008; and "Hezbollah 'Seizes West Beirut'," Al Jazeera, 9 May 2008.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Evo Appeals for Dialogue and the Opposition Challenges Him to Win His Mandate at a Recall Referendum

Evo Appeals for Dialogue and the Opposition Challenges Him to Win His Mandate at a Recall Referendum
by Bolpress

Abruptly, and at record speed, the Senate passed a law to hold a recall referendum.

President Evo Morales invited the opposition governors of the "Media Luna" (the half-moon-shaped region composed of the Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija departments) to resume dialogue on Monday afternoon with an agenda for open discussion and offered guarantees for autonomy within limits of law. The opposition forces responded to the president's appeal by passing, at record speed, a law to hold a recall referendum on the mandates of the president, the vice president, and governors.

Trying to pave a path to a pact, President Morales said he was willing to accept any kind of international mediators and observers. Vice President Álvaro García Linera, hopeful that the opposition governors would respond positively to the appeal, suggested this morning that they reach a consensus on a "package of decisions" to exit the political crisis, including a recall referendum.

But the opposition in the Senate responded to the executive branch's invitation by approving at record speed a law to plan a referendum on whether to recall the highest national and departmental authorities that was introduced by the president himself and that has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies .

The opposition lawmakers, who have a majority in the Senate, passed the recall plan by a large majority, rapidly approved all terms of each of its articles, established its rules, and sent it to the executive branch for enactment. They argue that the time has come for the people to decide whose position is right in the current political crisis -- the government or the opposition.

If the president does not sign or veto the law within 10 days, the vice president and the Congress could give the green light to the referendum. If Morales does not sign the law, he would leave an impression of great political weakness.

MAS Senator Félix Rojas said that the congressional caucus who supports the executive branch is in agreement with the law for a recall referendum but does not consider it sensible or appropriate to support it at a moment when efforts are being made to bring the government and the opposition to an agreement. Now the country is calling for resumption of dialogue, but if this referendum plan is authorized, it will harm the chance of any political rapprochement, he said.

Senator Antonio Peredo (MAS) said that the opposition is seeking to put the president "off balance" vis-à-vis what is happening in the country. "Given the illegal fashion in which the referendums are held in the departments, they want to give the president a hot potato; they are seeking an open confrontation between the central government and the governors," he said.

According to the rules established by the Senate this Wednesday, to recall the president and the vice president, more than 53.7% of voters must vote against them at the referendum. If both authorities lost the mandate, general elections would be held immediately.

The opposition maneuver is intended to block any attempt on the part of the government supporters to adopt laws for constitutional referenda, to ratify the Constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly, and to put an end to controversy and set a ceiling on land ownership (5,000 or 10,000 hectares).

Before the "head start" of the opposition, García Linera announced in the morning that the central government will respect the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs, expressed his full support for all democratically elected authorities in Bolivia, and called for dialogue. After meeting with Vice President García Linera, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg suggested that the OAS, friendly countries, the Catholic Church, or another institution chosen by the parties in conflict could mediate the dialogue.

The original article in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 8 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Food and Imperialism

The latest stage of imperialism, which has globalized neoliberal capitalism, has made it very difficult for people in the South to rebel against imperialism, for if they do so, imperialism can deny them an increasing variety of essential goods for survival for which they have come to depend on world markets -- especially food, much of whose production and distribution it controls.
Perhaps it's in part because of the radical development of dependency that the most significant attempts to challenge US hegemony in recent years have come from resource nationalists, for those who control strategic commodities -- oil and gas, mainly oil, which is more fungible than gas -- are less vulnerable to international capitalist boycotts, though they are still subject to the capital strike and flight of domestic capitalists.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Evo's Dilemmas

Evo's Dilemmas
by Néstor Kohan

The Right respects legality only when legality favors it. The history of our America has shown that a thousand times. The confrontation that is convulsing Bolivia today is no exception.

The Santa Cruz autonomy referendum is just the tip of the iceberg. To limit the debate to a question of legal pettifoggery would be a very serious error. It is an open secret that the bourgeoisie of the "Media Luna" (the half-moon-shaped region composed of the Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija departments), white and racist, lumpen and dependent, are planning to overthrow Evo Morales. That's not all. They are advised and directed by US Ambassador Philip Goldberg (who worked in Kosovo between 1994 and 1996. . .).

The CIA is implementing a predictable plan in Bolivia. Combine a Kosovo-style secessionism, psychological warfare, and incitement to internal counterrevolution as it did yesterday in the Chile of Salvador Allende and is doing today in the Venezuela of Chávez. Goldberg is following a textbook scheme. Use foundations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other agencies to transfer money to "independent" NGOs and rightist groups, just like in Venezuela. Since 2005, the USAID has given $120 million a year to the supposedly "democratic" opposition.

The central plaza of Santa Cruz is full of young Mormons -- blue-eyed blonds in white shirts -- who barely speak Spanish and warn against "the devil." . . . To suggest that Evo Morales in this context sit down and dialogue meekly with this warrior bourgeoisie funded by the United States is not only unrealistic and hardly pragmatic. It is simply suicidal.

As Morales himself acknowledged in an interview that he gave in La Paz in March 2008 (see <>), the MAS has arrived at the government, but it has no power. That is precisely the problem. If we wish to transform Bolivian society from the bottom up, we cannot avoid the problem of power at risk of losing everything.

The current dilemma of Evo and the MAS is whether it is possible to restrain the Right by making concessions or preferable to confront it and advance the process. The answer is complex because the Bolivian government is not homogeneous. It is pulled between two poles: the option of its moderate advisers (where some officials of the old political class turned progressives today and some academic fellow travelers of the process are ensconced) and the option of its most radical activists and social bases. The latter propose to radically push the process of reforms to the point of breaking the implicit pact that ties the hands of the government and will slowly weaken it. If this option ends up prevailing, Evo must not only intensify the confrontation with the "Media Luna." He should also impose price controls to curb inflation (the slogan that, as we have been able to hear firsthand, his own bases have cried out to him in some demonstrations) and accelerate the process to regain the full -- not just partial -- control of natural resources.

There is little time left to choose between these two alternatives. History is cruel and does not forgive indecisions. The people left behind, humiliated and exploited, are waiting. Bolivia is in its decisive hour. The outcome will affect the entire region, from Venezuela to Argentina.

Néstor Kohan is a teacher at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) and coordinator of the Colectivo Amauta-Cátedra Che Guevara. The original essay in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 5 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Language Reform and National Identity

During the period spanning the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, many a nation reformed its written language, (the timing and nature of the reform depending on each nation's history), to make it come closer to spoken language, so common people could understand it better.1 The reform was also inspired by a Romantic ideology which went like this: the renaissance of the nation is to come from the vitality of its roots preserved in common people's manly speech, veiled by the literary language of the effeminate elite who, dependent on foreign influences, have let the nation decline. It was a step in the development of the national-popular consciousness, as well as in the process of standardization that comes with capitalism, thus a step in the formation of modernity as we know it.

At the same time, such reforms often weakened both synchronic bonds with neighboring languages and diachronic ones with the most recent past. The Turkish language reform, for instance, made the modern Turkish language possess much fewer Arabic and Persian words and rules than its immediate literary predecessor, Ottoman Turkish, did, becoming an "odd man out" following a "West European" script in the region whose cultures are deeply inscribed in Arabic, an ironic fact considering that Turkish is a more "Eastern" language (the westernmost member of the Altaic language family) than Arabic (a Semitic language belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family) or Persian (which has kept its modified Arabic script but is an Indo-European language2).

But the purge couldn't be complete.

Here's an example: the "National Library" is

Millî Kütüphane
in Turkish

دار الكتب الوطنية
Dar al-Kutub al-wataniya
in Arabic

كتابخانه ملي
Ketabkhane-ye Melli
in Persian.

That means that the Turks have kept "kütüp" (books, the plural of "kitap") from the Arabic plural of "kitab" (book), "kutub"; "millî" from the Persian adjective "melli" (national) which derived from the Arabic "millah" (confessional community); and "hane" from the Persian "khane" (house). ("Dar" in Arabic is "house," which is one of its several meanings in Persian; and "watan" in Arabic and "vatan" in Persian and Turkish are "homeland, motherland, patria.") The only thing Turkish in the Turkish name of the National Library of Turkey is where the adjective is placed: before, not after, the noun it modifies, unlike Arabic and Persian. Amazing that the Kemalists let this happen!

1 The historical process that eventually led to such reforms had began with the Reformation, the rejection of Latin in favor of vernacular languages. Muslims, by and large, have rejected this option to this day, preferring to study Arabic. Therefore Islam, uniquely among the Abrahamic religions, provides a powerful ideological resource that can be employed against nationalism. By the same token, secular nationalists of such nations as Iran and Turkey tend to conflate their hostility toward Islam with their dislike of Arabic: e.g., "Our Turkish is not what it used to be. It has become a heavy language filled with superfluous Arabic words and Koranic expressions. . . . A general aura of Islam is invading the language" (emphasis added, Mehmet Ali Birand, "The Gradual Islamization of Our Daily Lives," Turkish Daily News, 13 March 2008).

2 It's also ironic that the people speaking this most "Western" language in the region and following a Jacobin political script have somehow ended up with an "Islamic Republic."

Evo: Half of Cruceños Do Not Want Separatists' Autonomy

Evo: Half of Cruceños Do Not Want Separatists' Autonomy
by Bolpress

This is no autonomist victory nor is it a "democratic fiesta" -- it's a violent, failed opinion poll whose rate of abstention is three times the usual rate, says the President.

The illegal and unconstitutional referendum resoundingly failed to adopt the statute of autonomy for Santa Cruz, said President Evo Morales, as the poll showed that at least half of Cruceño citizens do not support the model of autonomy pushed by some clans.

Leading politicians and businessmen from the Santa Cruz department swear that more than 80 percent of voters approved their statute.  "Today we say to the world that we are already autonomous, viva Santa Cruz," declared the chairman of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee Branco Marinkovic in a triumphant speech at the 24th of September Plaza in the capital of Santa Cruz, as soon as the initial results of the referendum were made public.

Morales saluted the people of Santa Cruz for organizing themselves and resisting the separatist statute of oligarchies on Sunday, the fourth of May, and said that he was impressed by the wisdom and consciousness of people.

In his opinion, the Santa Cruz poll failed because it was not a "democratic fiesta" that autonomists were hoping for but a violent process plagued by irregularities, allegations of fraud, and aggressions of young Cruceño shock troops reinforced by citizens from the interior of the country.

According to the President, the autonomists cannot declare themselves winners who received more than 80 percent of the votes without considering the high rate of citizen abstention which was three times the levels of abstention in recent elections.

The average abstention rate at the national level ranges between 20 and 22 percent.  In the Constituent Assembly election, abstention in Santa Cruz amounted to 19 percent.  The media estimate that 39 percent of registered voters abstained from voting this Sunday.

The data presented by some media, many of which sympathize with and support the illegal referendum, should worry those who gambled on it, said Morales, because the percentage of abstention plus those of no votes and null votes conclusively shows that at least 50 percent of Cruceños do not support the capitalists' autonomy.

"To tell the truth, I am sure that far more than 50 percent said no to autonomy. . . , that more data will be found behind the media. . .  .  Leaders and authorities ought to tell the truth," emphasized the head of state.

Morales regretted that the referendum had further divided Santa Cruz and set families living in that department at odds with one another.

He appreciated the wisdom and consciousness of people and social movements who today, despite assault and humiliation, rebelled against minority groups who tried forcibly to ratify a model of autonomy that fractures the country.

Morales was referring not only to acts of social repudiation in the city and provinces of Santa Cruz, but especially to multitudinous mobilizations in El Alto, Cochabamba, and La Paz this Sunday "against the Cruceño landowners' statute."  In Cochabamba, they called for the resignation of Governor Manfred Reyes Villa, and in El Alto they threw stones at the television station of Governor José Luis Paredes.  Both Reyes Villa and Paredes are allies of Cruceño autonomists.

The President said that the people were not mobilized by economic resources or perks and assured that his government did not finance any of these mobilizations.  "Hence my admiration for these spontaneous demonstrations in defense of legality and equality among Bolivians."

Morales called upon all opposition governors to work from tomorrow for a genuine autonomy for indigenous peoples, departments, and regions, based on the new Constitution of Bolivia.  He hoped that his appeal "will be heard by the governors to ensure autonomy for communities, not for cliques."

The original article in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 4 May 2008.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Iran, Islam, Immigration, and Israel

In the recent elections in both Italy and the United Kingdom, the Right, both soft and hard, won a dramatic victory, and all currents of the Left lost: Elisabetta Povoledo, "Immigrant Issue Key in Italy's Elections" (International Herald Tribune, 25 April 2008); Lidia Cirillo, "Right Victorious: Italian Elections -- A First Response" (International Viewpoint, May 2008); and Richard Seymour, "London Meltdown" (Lenin's Tomb, 3 May 2008). A neo-fascist gets a seat on the London Assembly, and Rome now has a neo-fascist mayor, apparently supported by not only fascists but also the "leaders" of the Jewish community: "Sandro Di Castro, president of the Jewish community's Bene Berith association, says the present sense of danger posed to Israel by Islamists and Iran outweighs memories of the more distant and tragic past of the mass deportations from Rome by the Nazis and Mussolini's anti-Jewish race laws" (Guy Dinmore, "Fascists and Jews United for Rome Mayor," Financial Times, 4 May 2008).

The Left of the global North has yet to come up with a principled and yet popular program on the intertwined national and international questions of Iran, Islam, immigration, and Israel, and the lack of it doesn't bode well especially when economic anxiety is on the rise. The Right has a simple tool it applies to the first three: demonize and criminalize them as much as possible. The defense of Israel serves many purposes at the same time: whitewashing the Right, distancing it from anti-Semitism of fascism of the twentieth century; anti-Semite-baiting leftists for criticizing Israel; and re-branding the Right as "the defender of the Western Civilization from a new fascist menace," the Islamic Republic of Iran, or a specter of a new Caliphate re-conquering Al-Andalus and imposing Sharia on Europeans, or both. The Center Left panders to, and sometimes runs to the right of, the Right on all these issues. The Far Left is better than the Center Left on Israel and immigration, but opinions on the Far Left are very much divided when it comes to Iran and Islam.

The British and Italian elections, therefore, may very well be harbingers of worse things to come.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Indian Left on Energy and Sovereignty

The Left in India has gotten great political mileage out of the question of energy and sovereignty -- the India-US nuclear deal and the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline deal -- making the most of its veto power:
Ahead of the joint meeting on the India-US civil nuclear deal next week, the Left has said that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline's fate will prove how independent India's foreign policy is under the present dispensation.

"If the pipeline deal goes through, then we will know we have an independent foreign policy," Communist Party of India leader A B Bardhan said.

"If the pipeline deal does not go through, it would mean the American pressure has won," Bardhan declared, while alluding to American opposition to the three-nation gas pipeline. ("After N-deal, Left Puts Government to Iran Pipeline Test," Times of India, 4 May 2008)

The Complexities of Zimbabwe

Chido Makunike's commentary, "The Complexities of Zimbabwe," was published in Pambazuka News (1 May 2008) before the official presidential elections results of 47.9% for Morgan Tsvangirai and 43.2% for Robert Mugabe was announced. But it is still worth reading.

The reason why Mugabe has been able to hang onto power for so long, despite naked repression and economic meltdown, long after the exhaustion of his brand of nationalism, is that the politics of the opposition leadership has genuinely been underwhelming:
To say many and probably most Zimbabweans want Mugabe to step aside is not the same as saying his ideas have been largely rejected by them. For example, most would want his flawed land reform effort to be fixed to work, not for it to be reversed. The MDC was slow to understand this and other nuances of Mugabe's complex legacy, losing it precious time and early support in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. (Makunike, 1 May 2008)
If Mugabe had faced a better opposition, he would have been gone a long time ago.

The emphasis of the argument that leftists should be making in the case of Zimbabwe and others like it is not that there is a nascent left within the opposition despite the Western backing of the MDC (which is the point often made by leftists regarding Zimbabwe) but that the Western backing delays, rather than hastens, the much needed transition and moreover worsens the quality of the outcome of the transition, as well as obstructs the development of democracy in the West itself. That's the crucial nuance found in Makunike's article.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Adolph Reed, Jr., a Clinton Supporter

Adolph Reed, Jr. turns out to be a Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, mainly on the basis of electability.
And, as many Progressive readers may know, I'm hardly a Clinton fan. I'm on record in last November's issue as saying that I'd rather sit out the election entirely than vote for either her or Obama. At this point, though, I've decided that she's the lesser evil in the Democratic race, for the following reasons: 1) Obama's empty claims to being a candidate of progressive change and to embodying a "movement" that exists only as a brand will dissolve into disillusionment in either a failed campaign against McCain or an Obama Presidency that continues the politics he's practiced his entire career; 2) his horribly opportunistic approach to the issues bearing on inequality -- in which he tosses behaviorist rhetoric to the right and little more than calls to celebrate his success to blacks -- stands to pollute debate about racial injustice whether he wins or loses the Presidency; 3) he can't beat McCain in November.

Frankly, I suspect that Clinton can't beat him either, but there's no way that Obama will carry most of the states in November that he's won in the primaries and caucuses. ("Obama No," The Progressive, May 2008)
That just about negates almost all valid points of his Obama criticism (now marred by his citation of other Clinton supporters like Paul Krugman and Sean Wilentz), for what Obama does HRC does also, except she isn't Black, so she can't celebrate her success as "Black success" (but that's not a point in her favor, is it, since this difference is a matter of social identity -- she celebrates her success as "female," even "feminist," success). Reed should have stuck to his earlier declaration that he would be "sitting this one out."