Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Protests and Protest Singers

Interesting article by protest singer David Rovics on the sad state of the antiwar/protest movement and the need for music and culture to be brought front and centre:


Talk to anyone who lived through the 60’s -- who remembers any but the most eloquent of the speeches by the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Mario Savio? But millions remember the songs. Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Brown, Aretha Franklin were the soundtrack to the struggle. Open any magazine or newspaper in this country to this day and you will find somewhere in the pages an unaccredited reference to a line in a Bob Dylan song....

Knowing the essential power of music, the very industry that sells us music mass-produced in Nashville and LA has done their best to kill music. For decades, the few multi-billion-dollar corporations that control the music business and the commercial airwaves have done their best to teach us all that music is something to have in the background to comfort you as you try to get through another mind-numbing day of meaningless labor in some office building or department store. It’s something to help you seduce someone perhaps, or to help you get over a breakup. It is not something to inspire thought, action, or feelings of compassion for humanity (other than for your girlfriend or boyfriend)....

Radical culture needs to be fostered and promoted, front and center, not sidelined as people are gathering, or when the radio stations are doing station ID's. Because if the point is to inspire people to action, a song is worth a hundred speeches. If the point is to educate people, a three-minute ballad is easily equal to any book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

MidEast Proconsul Fallon Out

Centcom Commander Admiral William Fallon has "resigned", after less than a year in the job.

Fallon was responsible for the rather remarkable comments last year that

an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch”.

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, “You know what choices I have. I’m a professional.” Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.”

One would think that such statements would greatly anger Bush and especially Cheney and it's a wonder he lasted as long as he did. After all, he doesn't really have the option of crossing the Rubicon, does he?

A recent interview with Esquire magazine seems to have sealed his fate, or, according to another version, was a pre-emptive strike by Fallon: get in another shot at the 'crazies' before he is inevitably fired.

The Esquire article also helps to make clear what a powerful position, a true Proconcul, the Centcom Commander is. Not only is he running two major wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) he is also conducting diplomacy at the highest level, with the heads of State and Government of strategically crucial countries like Pakistan and Egypt. This annoyed the Whitehouse, but if they install a sycophant or cripple the Commander's powers it can only lead to increased risk of bad policy.

Naturally this will lead to a renewed bout of speculation as to whether Bush/Cheney plan to attack Iran before the year is out, eg here, here, here and here.

As John Pilger pointed out prior to the Iraq invasion, the US is the Third Reich of our time: a superpower bent on Imperialism and military aggression against one country after another, which we to our lasting disgrace are not only appeasing but assisting. The world regards the US (quite correctly) as the greatest threat to world peace.

The only effective barriers to further aggression have been financial bankruptcy and military defeat. According to Seymour Hersh, had the war against Iraq been a success as planned, the US would already have gone 'left and right', ie Syria then Iran.

In other words, one million Iraqi people had to pay with their lives to save Syria and Iran from aggression, while the rest of the world merely looked on, or in some cases such as Australia's Howard Government, actually participated in the crime.

However there are two other sources of inhibition to US aggression which need to be mobilised: the US domestic population; and the global population. Our responsibility as world citizens is to oppose the barbarism of military aggression and its attendant warcrimes, crimes against humanity, atrocities, tortures, genocides etc - and to force our governments, specifically the new Australian Federal Labor Rudd Government, to also join in a policy of opposition and containment, instead of appeasement and participation.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Henry George Eulogizes Karl Marx March 1883


I am unable to accept the invitation of our committee to address the meeting at Cooper Institute, but I desire to express my deep respect for a man whose life was devoted to efforts for the improvement of social conditions.

I never had the good fortune to meet Karl Marx, nor have I been able to read his works, which are untranslated into English. I am consequently incompetent to speak with precision of his views. As I understand them, there are several important points on which I differ from them. But no difference of opinion can lessen the esteem which I feel for the man who so steadfastly, so patiently, and so self-sacrificingly labored for the freedom of the oppressed and the elevation of the downtrodden.

In the life and in the teachings of Karl Marx there were the recognition of two profound truths, for which his memory deserves to be held in special honor.

He was the founder of the International - the first attempt to unite in a "holy alliance of the people" the workingmen of all countries; he taught the solidarity of labor, the brotherhood of man, and wherever his influence has reached it has tended to destroy those prejudices of nation and race which have been in all ages the most efficient means by which tyranny has been established and maintained. For this I honor Karl Marx.

This seems fair enough.

And I honor Karl Marx because he saw and taught that the road to social regeneration lies not through destruction and anarchy, but through the promulgation of ideas and the education of the people. He realized that the enslavement of the masses is everywhere due to their ignorance, and realizing this, he set himself to work to master and to point out the social economic laws without the recognition of which all effort for social improvement is but a blind and fruitless struggle.

Now this of course is the very view of George himself, and perhaps of anarchist thinkers also, moreso than Marx. Marx was interested in revolution, in which a vanguard would play a more prominent role.

Karl Marx has gone, but the work he has done remains; whatever may have been in it of that error inseparable from all human endeavor will in turn be eliminated, but the good will perpetuate itself.

And how freaking long is that going to take? One of the problems with Marxian economics is that the crucial labour theory of value and theory of surplus value is formally incorrect. We need logically correct theory at this fundamental level, and my suggestion has been that the value theories of henry george can contribute to this.

And his memory will be cherished as one who saw and struggled for that reign of justice in which armies shall be disbanded and poverty shall be unknown and government shall become co-operation, that golden age of peace and plenty, the possibility of which is beginning even now to be recognized among the masses all over the civilized world.

Well, we've had a nightmare century-and-a-quarter of warfare, imperialism, colonialism, tyranny, genocide, warcrimes, crimes against humanity worse than anyone at that time cold have conceived and it just continues on and on unabated in front of our eyes, albeit at a slower pace than the peak horror of WW11. And we still directly face nuclear holocaust or environmental devastation.

But hope springs eternal....

Dave Reed observes that the influence of Henry George on the UK Labour party was rather more, and the influence of Marx rather less, than many might assume:

In the UK the influence of Marx was not paramount in the formation of the Labour Party, as CJ Bartlett attests in a typical college textbook 'A History of Postwar Britain' (1977) p15 "The party had always been a heterogenous body ,drawing inspiration from Morris, Dickens, Ruskin, and Carlyle as well as Marx, and later from the Webbs, Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge, not to mention the general influence of non conformity, the Bible, American contributions from Henry George and Jack London" . Oxford's Prof Iain McLean is more specific in his "Land tax : options for reform" 2004 [which is available direct from the Net and via the Labour Land Campaign website]. He states p10 "Henry George had far more influence on the British and American left than Karl Marx." For this reason the Labour Land Campaign often sees itself, not so much as trying to point the Labour Party in new directions, as trying to get it back to its origins.

How much the Labour Party was committed to land tax can be seen from Labour Land Campaign's "Labour and Land" a summary of old Labour Party manifestos (for internal use by the Labour Land Campaign but now on the Net).It is surprising how long land tax appeared as Labour policy alongside a reluctance to use redistributive income tax. For those wishing to check the originals they are available on the Net as Archive of UK Labour Party Election Manifestos.)

It is a similar story of course with the Australian Labor Party.