Sunday, October 23, 2011

Layer 482 . . . Freefall, Stiglitz, Anti-capitalist Occupations, Eagleton, Economics, Villanelles, Douzinas, Greece, Tunisia and Gaddafi

From BBC TV last night I learned that 600 Canadian soldiers died in 1944 in an area near Caen on the day that British and American planes bombed the city into oblivion. Obviously the bombs were not meant to kill allied troops.

"Francis Reginald Scott, commonly known as Frank Scott or F.R. Scott, (August 1, 1899 - January 30, 1985) was a Canadian poet, intellectual and constitutional expert. He helped found the first Canadian social democratic party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and its successor, the New Democratic Party."
 - Wikipedia
"Scott's father instilled in his son a commitment to serve mankind, a love for the regenerative balance of the Laurentian landscape and a firm respect for the social order. He witnessed the riots in the City during the Conscription Crisis of 1917."

A villanelle is a poem with only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain.

"Dear Heather" is Leonard Cohen's eleventh studio album, released in 2004.

"Villanelle for Our Time", the album's 7th track, was recorded on the 6th May 1999, shortly after Cohen's return from the Mount Baldy Zen Center. It is an improvised jazz recitation of an F.R. Scott poem.

Villanelle For Our Time
From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.
The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.


It's been an eventful month. 600 anti-capitalist camps have sprung up in cities around the world. Libya's civil war has raged to its end. Gaddafi has been captured and shot. The citizens of Tunisia are voting today for a new post-revolutionary government . . .

Some say there's a ridiculous number of competing parties seeking election for their candidates in Tunisia. Maybe - however - this is how an anarcho-syndicalist democratic system should work: through there being a large number of parties, or syndicates, representing every possible point of view, that must genuinely communicate, discuss, persuade, negotiate and compromise. How can this be worse than a two-party system in which both the parties espouse basically the same conservative ideology?


Joseph Stiglitz is one of the most intelligent men on our planet. In 2009 he published a book called "Freefall - Free Markets & the Sinking of the Global Economy". (Now a Penguin @ £9.99) Stiglitz was the Chief Economist at the World Bank and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001.

Paul Mason said this in the New Statesman -

"If anyone is going to produce a bold new economic theory and vision to guide the centre left beyond the financial crisis, it's going to be Joe . . ."

David Smith said this in The Times -

"Freefall is a spirited attack on Wall Street, the free market and the Washington Concensus."

Chuck Leddy said this in the Boston Globe -

"Freefall is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the roots of the financial crisis."

So the question you have to ask yourself is - do you NOT want to understand the roots of the financial crisis, the reasons for the banking collapse, and what should be done now and in the future?

"Freefall - Free Markets & the Sinking of the Global Economy". Penguin  £9.99


Here's an extract from the preface of Freefall:

"In the Great Recession that began in 2008 millions of people . . . lost their homes and jobs. Many more suffered the fear and anxiety of doing so . . . A crisis that began in America soon turned global, as tens of millions lost their jobs worldwide - 20 million in China alone - and tens of millions fell into poverty. This is not the way things were supposed to be.
The Great Recession . . . has shattered illusions. It is forcing [many of us] to rethink long-cherished views. For a quarter century, certain free market doctrines have prevailed. 
This book is about a battle of ideas, about the ideas that led to the failed policies that precipitated the crisis and about the lessons that we take away from it. The battle between capitalism and communism may be over, but market economies come in many variations and the contest among them rages on. 
Managing the crisis is only my first concern; I am also concerned about the world that will emerge after the crisis. We won't and can't go back to the world as it was before.

Terry Eagleton's another very clever guy, and a Distinguished Professor of English Literature. Hot off the press is a new book of his called, "Why Marx Was Right".
Yale University Press  £16.99

"The crisis has at least meant that the word 'capitalism,' usually disguised under some such coy pseudonym as 'the modern age,' 'industrialism' or 'the West,' has become current once more. You can tell that the capitalist system is in trouble when people start talking about capitalism. It indicates that the system has ceased to be as natural as the air we breathe, and can be seen instead as the historically rather recent phenomenom that it is . . . 
A form of social life can be perceived for what it is when it begins to break down. Marx was the first to identify the historical object known as capitalism  - to show how it arose, by what laws it worked, and how it might be brought to an end.
[As for] Marxism as a moral and cultural critique . . . Alienation, the 'commodification' of social life, a culture of greed, aggression, mindless hedonism and growing nihilism, the steady hemorrhage of meaning and value from human existence: it is hard to find an intelligent discussion of these questions that is not seriously indebted to the Marxist tradition . . .

 This is from a major article in the Guardian G2 last Friday:

Occupy London: my nights with the St Paul's protesters
The Occupy London protesters have a kitchen, a tech-tent, a library – even a football team. But do they have any answers?

by Patrick Kingsley

In the short term, I learn quickly, these guys want to stay here. I arrive on Tuesday, the fourth day of the occupation, and already the place seems staggeringly well organised – and growing fast. Estimates vary, but yesterday some say there were 100 tents lining the steps of the cathedral, and along its northern face. Today there are around 150. Tomorrow, maybe 200.
 People always impatiently ask what the occupiers' "demands" are, and why collectively they seem unwilling, or unable to provide quick-fix solutions. These questions miss the point. First, there are lots of occupiers, all from different social and political backgrounds, who understandably need time to thrash out what it is they want to achieve together. The camp gives them that time. Second, if there's one thing that does unite almost all of them, it's their rejection of capitalism – although they are wary of how they couch this. Nevertheless, a huge "capitalism is crisis" banner hangs over the entrance to the site; they're not interested in making petty demands on a system they see as irreconcilably flawed. If anything, the camp itself is their demand, and their solution: the stab at an alternative society that at least aims to operate without hierarchy, and with full, participatory democracy. And to be fair, in its small way, it kind of works.
Wail Qasim, an 18-year-old politics student: "You can go to the ballot box every five years, but politicians don't actually represent your view. So the importance of this kind of space is in the way it brings together people to open up a dialogue about building an alternative." 
Blogger Steve Maclean, 31, is slightly more pragmatic: "We're forming a space where people can come together and crystallise all of what we think. Out of this more concrete ideas can be formed."
Bear, who co-ordinates the kitchen, runs catering at festivals. He, incidentally, as he picked his way over a few crates of donated fruit, gave me the most nuanced view of what he hopes the camp will achieve: "We're not going to create the answer here, but we can effect a change by leading by example, by showing people that an autonomous, democratic community based on social rather than financial cooperation can work."
The tech team is one of 15 autonomous sub-groups at the camp, each with responsibility for a particular area. There is a group that deals with the camp's donations; there are the food, and "university" teams; the police negotiation group; legal, which has enlisted a friendly QC, in case of future trouble; recycling; outreach, which distributes flyers about the camp, and is planning a politics workshop for schools; music, art, and entertainment; a cathedral liaison team, which is tactfully dealing with its increasingly wary clergy; and a media team, for dealing with people like me.
Almost everyone's involved in something and, crucially, there's no hierarchy – or there's not supposed to be. The teams meet once a day and agree things by consensus, in a discussion "facilitated" (but not led) by a different member of the group each time. Their decisions are announced every lunchtime at a pan-camp logistics meeting – once again ideally facilitated by different people, to avoid anyone gaining too much influence. But the main meeting of the day is the general assembly. Held at 7pm, it's attended by 400-500 people and aimed at political discourse and camp strategy.
Most of the occupiers don't think this is a problem that can be solved by a few tweaks to [financial] regulation. They think it's a systemic problem not attributable to a single group. It's a problem with capitalism.
At the back of the crowd, the suit standing next to me leans in to say something. "So what answers have they got?" is what I expect him to say. After all, he's a former investment banker now studying for an MBA. But Nikita – "yes, just call me Nikita" – surprises me. "Even if they don't have a solution, people still have the right to say 'no'," he says, pausing between each word. "It's only once people start saying 'no' that we will start thinking about what the solution could be."

Sleepless at Occupy London Stock Exchange - video


Greece's lines now are clear
The Greek elite that tried to push through policies on the back of a deficit it fuelled stands alone and accused

by Costas Douzinas - Professor of Law at Birkbeck College

Greece is split in two. On one side are politicians, bankers, tax evaders and media barons supporting the most class-driven, violent social and cultural restructuring western Europe has seen. The "other" Greece includes the overwhelming majority of the population. It was in evidence yesterday when up to 500,000 people took to the streets; the largest demonstration in living memory. The attempt to divide civil servants (ritually presented as lazy and corrupt) from private sector employees (the "tax evading" plumbers) has misfired. The only success the Papandreou government can boast is the abolition of the old right-left division – replaced by a divide between the elites and the people.
It is as if the Greek elites desired the debt to orchestrate the wholesale destruction of the welfare state and transfer of public assets to private hands.
The Papandreou government will stand accused of incompetence and moral cynicism. Every authoritarian regime dreams of radically changing society. This government's mission was to replace care for others with indifference, hospitality with exploitation. They failed, and now only a thick blue line separates the elite from the outraged people.
Thursday's demonstration ended tragically with the death of a trade-unionist. The last vestiges of governmental legitimacy are gone and the government will follow soon. The democratic deficit from which political systems suffer everywhere is irreversible in Greece. The responsibility of the "other" Greece is to devise a constitution of social justice and democracy for the 21st century. This is what Greece can offer to the world.

Other articles by Costas Douzinas:

Greece is standing up to EU neocolonialism

The usurious conditions of the Greek bailout reveals Brussels' colonial mindset – but Athens is showing citizens can resist

In Greece, we see democracy in action

The public debates of the outraged in Athens are the closest we have come to democratic practice in recent European history

Austerity? There is an alternative – a new project for Europe's left

Our initiative aims to show there is an alternative analysis of the present situation rather than the misery and injustice of austerity

These hunger strikers are the martyrs of Greece

Asylum seekers willing to die in the face of expulsion after shame and exploitation bear witness to a higher truth than life

Greek protests show democracy in action

A minister described Greek civil disobedience as 'anomie' – but it is legitimately reclaiming our democracy from failed institutions

In London and Athens, protesters are rekindling the true European spirit

The idea of Europe must go back to a democracy that resists fake economic orthodoxy and false monoculturalism


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment