Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A minority among judges bring a bad name to the judiciary

SC sowed seeds of right to information about assets in 2002
TOI, 26 Jan 2009, 0132 hrs IST, Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN NEW DELHI:
French poet, playwright and novelist Victor-Marie Hugo, exponent of `Romantic Movement', wrote the immortal words -- "invasion of armies can be resisted, but an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted" -- in his mid-19th century novel `The History of a Crime'. Exactly 150 years after Hugo wrote his book, the Supreme Court in 2002 delivered its path-breaking judgment on electoral reforms [Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) 5 SCC (294)]. It knew the necessity of new ideas to sustain the health of a democracy and sowed the first seeds of right to information. It mandated the Election Commission to seek information on the antecedents -- including assets, educational qualification and criminal background -- of candidates in the fray to enable voters to exercise informed choice.
The central idea behind this judgment -- the voter's informed choice being the key to democracy -- was distilled long ago by Sir Winston Churchill, who had said, "At the bottom of all high-sounding tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly palliate the overwhelming importance of the point." Nonetheless, it sparked a brand new idea in the Indian context. It was about time to arm the voters, either muscled or misled by money, with information. And no one, not even an army of politicians, could resist it.
For the idea was fortified by a sound legal principle -- "you be ever so high, the law is above you". The rapturous applause that followed the 2002 judgment had numbed even the most cunning among unscrupulously powerful politicians. Despite finding it unpalatable, they bowed before the idea of empowering voters. And the seed of the idea sown in 2002 has now grown into a huge tree through the Right to Information Act, 2005. In a short span, it has helped many citizens to dig out hitherto forbidden official data to apprise themselves of the perspective, mindset or hidden agenda behind important decisions touching their daily lives. Now, the fruits of the apex court's effort have come back to haunt it in the form of a directive from Central Information Commission (CIC) wanting to know whether judges of Supreme Court declare their assets periodically to the Chief Justice of India as per a 1997 judicial resolution.
The SC, as an institution, has so far resisted an answer to this query on the ground that the information sought was not in public domain but in the private domain of the CJI, to whom the judges voluntarily provide details of their assets. One is not sure of the reasons behind the resistance to collective disclosure of assets by judges, though the CJI has given freedom to individual judges to do so on their own. What are they scared of -- breaking a tradition, fearful of misuse of such data or is it something else? The public reaction, as seen in the views of constitutional experts like Fali S Nariman, Soli J Sorabjee and Ram Jethmalani, is fast turning the idea into a storm as the debate invariably ends in `those who preach should practise'. At this juncture, those who can should convince tradition-respecting judges that nothing untoward would happen if they declare their assets. It would only help raise their stature and respect, still intact to a large extent among public and litigants, and silence judiciary baiters.
There is another advantage. Once judges reveal assets, which in a majority of cases would be so meagre that it would make people realise how difficult it was for judges to live on the lowly salary they were paid till the recent hike. Moreover, successive CJIs, including incumbent Justice K G Balakrishnan, have unequivocally declared both from the Bench and in public that `black sheep', deadwood and corrupt have no place in judiciary. Everyone knows that a minority among judges bring a bad name to the judiciary. When it is so, declaring assets would provide a means to identify the `black sheep' and get rid of them. dhananjay.mahapatra@timesgroup.com
People’s Power for the Control of Corruption
By Harsh Mander and Abha Joshi
In the space of less than a decade, the burgeoning movement for the right to information in India has significantly sought to expand democratic space, and empower the ordinary citizen to exercise far greater control over the corrupt and arbitrary exercise of state power.
The right to information is implicit in the Constitution of India, even so the dominant culture of the executive has been one of secrecy and resolute denial of access of information to the citizen. Citizens groups have long battled for the exercise of these rights in courts. The movement for the right to information received a fresh impetus from a courageous and powerful grassroots struggle of the rural poor for the right to information, to combat rampant corruption in famine relief works. This struggle was led by a people’s organisation, the Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan (which literally means ‘organisation for the empowerment of workers and peasants’). The reverberations of this struggle led to a nationwide demand for a law to guarantee the right to information to every citizen, with widespread support from social activists, professionals, lawyers, and persons within the bureaucracy, politics and the media, who are committed to transparent and accountable governance and people’s empowerment. Three successive federal governments in quick succession have committed themselves to the passage of a law to guarantee the people’s right to information and some state governments have actually passed such laws and administrative instructions. [...]
The development of the right to information as a part of the Constitutional Law of the country started with petitions of the press to the Supreme Court for enforcement of certain logistical implications of the right to freedom of speech and expression such as challenging governmental orders for control of newsprint, bans on distribution of papers, etc. It was through these cases that the concept of the public’s right to know developed.
The landmark case in freedom of the press in India was Bennett Coleman & Co. vs. Union Of India in which the petitioners, a publishing house bringing out one of the leading dailies challenged the government’s newsprint policy which put restrictions on acquisition, sale and consumption of newsprint. This was challenged as restricting the Petitioner’s rights to freedom of speech and expression. The court struck down the newsprint control order saying that it directly affected the Petitioners right to freely publish and circulate their paper.
In that, it violated their right to freedom of speech and expression. The judges also remarked, “It is indisputable that by freedom of the press meant the right of all citizens to speak, publish and express their views” and “Freedom of speech and expression includes within its compass the right of all citizens to read and be informed.” The dissenting judgement of Justice K.K. Mathew also noted,
The freedom of speech protects two kinds of interests. There is an individual interest, the need of men to express their opinion on matters vital to them and a social interest in the attainment of truth so that the country may not only accept the wisest course but carry it out in the wisest way. Now in the method of political government the point of ultimate interest is not in the words of the speakers but in the hearts of the hearers”.
This principle was even more clearly enunciated in a later case AIR 1973 SC 783 Indian Express Newspapers(Bombay) Pvt. Ltd.vs India (1985) 1 SCC 641) where the court remarked, “The basic purpose of freedom of speech and expression is that all members should be able to form their beliefs and communicate them freely to others. In sum, the fundamental principle involved here is the people’s right to know.
Another development on this front was through a subsequent case in which it was held that if an official media or channel was made available to one party to express its views or criticism, the same should also be made available to another contradictory view. The facts of this case, briefly, were:
One Mr. Shah who was also a Director of a voluntary consumer rights organisation and had , incidentally, worked extensively on the right to information, including drafting a model Bill, wrote a paper highlighting discriminatory practices by the Life Insurance Corporation which is a government controlled body. The Corporation published a critique of this paper in its institutional publication, to which Mr. Shah wrote a rejoinder which the LIC refused to publish. The Court held that a state instrumentality having monopolistic control over any publication could not refuse to publish any views contrary to its own.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect

'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years By STEPHEN MOORE

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers.

With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."

In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W11


Re: The Life of Iranian President Ahmedinejad
by auroman on Sat 24 Jan 2009 08:21 AM IST Profile Permanent Link
Is it the renunciation of a small-minded man who cannot dream or imagine something more refined? Is it the nervous repulsion of a man who fears the trappings of wealth ?

Friday, January 23, 2009

American spirituality has been experimenting with new forms, techniques, and interpretations

Ken Wilber, Saniel Bonder, and Linda Groves-Bonder discuss the trend of experimentation within the past several decades of American spirituality, finding new ways to translate ancient wisdom and practices for the 21st century

Summary: For several generations now, American spirituality has been experimenting with new forms, techniques, and interpretations of timeless spiritual truths, translating and updating the innermost teachings of the world's religious traditions for today's world.* These experiments have helped to preserve these crucial spiritual insights in the modern and post-modern world, at a time when whole blocs of civilization have moved beyond the rituals, myths, and dogma that have traditionally sustained these teachings, and have become highly critical to these interpretations of spirituality—and, in many cases, to spirituality itself.

We have begun to move beyond magic and myth, and new worlds of human experience have since emerged—worlds of science and reason, worlds of pluralism and postmodernism, worlds of integration and unification, and even faint whispers from worlds beyond—all of which have made this sort of spiritual reflection, re-contextualization, and integration one of the most crucial ongoing experiments of our time.

As Ken, Saniel, and Linda make clear, any conception of spiritual reality must acknowledge the evolutionary nature of spirituality if it hopes to survive the intellectual rigors of the modern and postmodern worlds. Our philosophies of Spirit must take into account the mysterious unfolding of the physical and intra-physical universe, from the Big Bang to this present moment, understanding the full complexity of the manifest world and its inherent drive toward more novelty, more freedom, and more fullness. Furthermore, spirituality must also be seen to be itself forever evolving, as timeless and ever-present states of consciousness find new forms of expression within a succession of ever-emerging structures of consciousness—each more complex and more complete than the last; each containing more possibility than the last.

The simple fact of the matter is, none of these considerations could have been fully appreciated until now. We simply did not have the comprehension, the language, or the methodologies to take the full range of human experience into account—which is precisely what makes this such an exciting time to be alive.

We currently have unprecedented access to all the world's accumulated knowledge. An immeasurable wealth of collective scholarship, skill, and mastery can be found just a few keystrokes away, culled from an almost inexhaustible reservoir of perspectives, experiences, and worldviews. The world is rapidly becoming more integrated—moment by moment, piece by piece, byte by byte—and today's most cutting edge spiritual teachers have already begun to notice.

The ongoing synthesis of knowledge and experience is beginning to reveal the deepest patterns of the human condition, fertilizing the soil for an entirely new wave of spiritual practice and philosophy. These integrated approaches to spirituality potentially marking a second "Axial Age" of history—a term coined by Karl Jaspers, referring to the 600-year period just before the birth of Christ when, all across the world, "the spiritual foundations of humanity were laid simultaneously and independently... foundations upon which humanity still subsists today." They are the same foundations upon which this new vision of Integral spirituality is built, transcending and including the very best of premodern, modern, and postmodern worlds—consciously adapting to the relentless emergence of newer and newer forms, while finding new words to wrap around the timeless and ever-present Mystery.

It's not so much that a single universal religion will be created, replacing the great spiritual traditions of history, but that these traditions will themselves become more integrated, taking a more comprehensive view of physical and spiritual reality than ever before possible. Once separated by immense chasms of language, custom, and distance, the ancient religious foundations of the world become isolated no longer. Slowly we recognize these solitary pillars for what they are—Rosetta stones to help previously secluded cultures decipher their own human and spiritual experiences, as well as mighty columns of human potential, working in tandem to support a single heaven, while bringing us ever closer to it.

*In referring to America as a sort of psycho-spiritual laboratory for these "experiments in awakening," we are not at all suggesting any kind of cultural or spiritual superiority of one country over another—far from it! Nor is it to say that this sort of spiritual integration is not occurring anywhere else in the world—it most certainly is. Rather, it is a simple recapitulation of the great American cliche—which, for a variety of historical reasons, has typically acted as a "melting pot" of ideas, beliefs, and identities; a crucible of human experience in which all the world's knowledge, wisdom, and compassion is allowed to mix, interact, and eventually catalyze new forms of spiritual expression for the future. In this sense, Ken Wilber can be seen to be a distinctly American philosopher, one of today's finest embodiments of a rich American legacy toward integration—transcending and including pioneers like William James, James Mark Baldwin, Clare Graves, and Abraham Maslow.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Forcing people to live on their little cultural and linguistic islands

Pneumababble, the Crock in the Cosmic Egg, and the Word Made Fresh
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

In an essay entitled The Gift of Language, the esteemed Theodore Dalrymple easily dismantles one of the orthodoxies of linguistics, the idea that language can be reduced to genetics. Here is a fine example of how an intellectually gifted outsider with common sense can see straight through the absurdity of this or that reigning dogma or catechism. The absurdity can be seen directly by the intellect, because the intellect is made of truth and for this reason can detect pure nonsense when it sees it...

Here is a fine example of how leftists, as always, believe they are the magnanimous "liberators" when they are actually the oppressors of mankind. They have the idiotic notion they are somehow "anti-imperialist" or "anti-colonialist," when they are specifically colonizing these poor souls with their own parasitic postmodern ideology. By forcing people to live on their little cultural and linguistic islands, they aren't "liberating" anyone. Rather, they are enslaving them. Intellectually and spiritually, a Cornell West or a Harry Belafonte is an abject slave. Likewise, the purpose of an organization such as CAIR is to enslave Muslims, just as the purpose of the NAACP is to enslave blacks, largely through the use of an oppressive and narrow language that sharply limits, defines, and contains reality.

from Dr. Sanity by Dr. Sanity

Likewise, in today's leftist culture, being perceived as "good" is much more important than actually doing good; hence the emphasis on show and the endless rhetoric about hope and change. The endless marches and protests and such. Participating in these useless activities has little to do with bringing peace, brotherhood or social justice into the world. But, as I have noted before, it serves the primary purpose of making participants feel good and virtuous about themselves. And that is the only thing that matters to these uninsightful, pathetic do-gooders. The kind who are unable to find anything good to say about a country that gave them unlimited opportunity, and the freedom to pursue their dreams.

They are almost always completely unable to see how their behavior facilitates and encourages exactly the opposite of their stated intentions:

  • instead of achieving peace; they make it possible for the destoyers and murderers of the world ot operate freely and with complete impunity; permitting them to get away even with genocide without having to suffer any consequences; as they appease and rationalize murderous behavior.
  • instead of achieving brotherhood; they have gone over the top to emphasize the differences between people; and pit group against group with identity politics and multicultural dogma;
  • instead of generating tolerance and love, they facilitate a perverse intolerance and hatred; spewing it forth with unbelievable venom toward those who don't happen to agree with them;
  • instead of bringing about social justice; they end up actively supporting, justifying and protecting the most despicaable dictators and thugs the world has ever known.
  • instead of truly championing the oppressed--the poor, the discriminated against, the victimized-- they have become invested in making them their "pet victims "and nourishing and promoting their victimhood for all eternity. They don't care about developing or supporting programs that empower their pets, they are only concerned feeling good about themselves and promoting their agenda. Note how any who escape from their victimhood scam and actually begin to think for themselves are branded "traitors" to their eternally oppressed race or gender or whatever. and, last but certainly not least:
  • Instead of creating an environment where 'hope' can thrive; or where 'diversity' really means celebrating differences, they will end up creating a dead-end world where opportunity and freedom slowly wither away and die as people are encouraged to be perpetual victims and express their eternal outrage that one group may ending up achieving more than another.

** The Nation(s) Of India We, The Nation(s) Of India Rajiv Malhotra

Globalisation has opened the floodgates for minority leaders to tie-up with western churches and NGOs, Saudis, Chinese and just about anyone wanting to carve out a slice of the Indian elephant. Such minorities include the Nagas, now serving as a foreign subsidiary of the Texas Southern Baptist Church; Tamils who first got Dravidianised and are now being Christianised through identity engineering; Maoists in over 30 percent of India's districts; and Saudifunded Pan-Islamists expanding across India. These fragmented identities weaken Indianness due to their loyalty to foreign alliances. The leaders depend on foreign headquarters for ideological and financial support. Rajiv Malhotra is the President, Infinity Foundation, who also writes on issues concerning the place of Indian civilisation in the world Posted by GlobalCitizen at 9:52 AM Labels:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Possible Kondratieff winter phase beginning in late 2008

Kondratiev wave From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In heterodox economics, Kondratiev waves — also called Supercycles, surges, long waves or K-waves — are described as regular, sinusoidal cycles in the modern (capitalist) world economy. Averaging fifty and ranging from approximately forty to sixty years in length, the cycles consist of alternating periods between high sectoral growth and periods of slower growth. Most academic economists do not posit the existence of these waves.
The Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev was the first to bring these observations international attention in his book The Major Economic Cycles (1925) alongside other works written in the same decade. Two Dutch economists, Jacob van Gelderen and Samuel de Wolff, previously argued for the existence of 50- to 60-year cycles in 1913. However, only recently has the work of de Wolff and van Gelderen been translated from Dutch to reach a wider audience...

Finally, the "Winter" stage, that of severe depression, includes the integration of previous social shifts and changes into the social fabric of society, supported by the shifts in innovation and technology. It is tempting to expand the theory to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Some economists, such as Schumpeterians, have proposed that the third cycle peaked with World War I and ended with World War II after a turning point in 1929.[citation needed] A fourth cycle may have roughly coincided with the Cold War: beginning in 1949, turning with the economic peak of the mid-1960s and the Vietnam War escalation, hitting a trough in 1982 amidst growing predictions in the United States of worldwide Soviet domination and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The current cycle most likely peaked in 1999 with a possible winter phase beginning in late 2008. The Austrian-school economists point out that extreme price inflation in the absence of economic growth is a form of capital destruction, allowing either stagflation (as in the 1970s and much of the 2000s during the gold and oil price run-ups) or deflation (as in the 1930s and possibly following the crash in commodity prices beginning in 2008) to represent a recession or depression phase of the Kondratieff theory.

I have never hidden my Trotskyist politics from my students but I also haven’t advertised my politics

Unable to answer our political criticisms The WSWS resorts to a smear campaign
By Alex Steiner

In politics a sure sign that you can’t answer criticism is that you try to change the subject. And one of the most tried and true methods for doing that is to smear the reputation of your opponent: discredit the critic so as to ignore the criticism.

That is precisely what the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) has done with its series, “The Frankfurt School vs. Marxism: The Political and Intellectual Odyssey of Alex Steiner.”[1] This series, by SEP chairman David North (along with an addendum by Ann and Chris Talbot), purports to be a response to the polemic, Marxism Without its Head or its Heart (MWHH), written by me and my colleague, Frank Brenner. But it addresses not a single one of the criticisms we made of the International Committee’s political line. Instead it is a blatant effort to discredit my reputation.

To that end, the series resorts to the usual modus operandi of smear campaigns – lies, half-truths, innuendoes and pulling quotes out of context. At its sleaziest, it becomes an exercise in character assassination, as in North’s claim that I suffer from “extreme emotional volatility, susceptibility to discouragement when confronted with problems, and pessimistic view of life.” After that ‘diagnosis’, there is presumably no need to take the arguments of such an individual seriously. (How ironic that North, who routinely denounces any references to psychology as subjective idealism, should resort to armchair psychologizing when it suits his purpose.)

It should be said that this way of dealing with criticism and political dissent is quite common in middle class radical circles. A notable example are the Spartacists and their various offshoots, whose internal disputes frequently involve mutual accusations of being ‘insane’, ‘deranged’ etc. That North now stoops to these kinds of accusations says more about the state of his political degeneration than about my state of mind.

The bulk of North’s document is supposedly an account of my “political and intellectual odyssey” over the last four decades. This account bears about the same relationship to the truth as North’s psychological ‘diagnosis’. It relies heavily on private correspondence, often of a personal nature, ripped out of context.

Furthermore, while North (and the Talbots) attack me for being “duplicitous” in not posting this material, supposedly because I was trying to hide my real positions, they themselves never post these texts, choosing instead to pick out whatever quotes they find ‘useful’. If this material is as damning as they claim, why not let readers judge for themselves? This is indicative of the intellectual dishonesty that pervades this enterprise.

I will be posting all the relevant texts and also issuing a full reply to this smear campaign in due course. What I am posting now is a preliminary statement in order to warn readers of the nature of these documents and the political motives behind them. In this regard, a number of points need to be made:

First, the title of the series – “The Frankfurt School vs. Marxism” – is a misnomer. There is little discussion of the Frankfurt School, let alone a serious critique of the latter from the standpoint of Marxism. The only purpose for the title is to prettify a smear campaign with a veneer of theoretical high purpose. As we have pointed out in MWHH, the International Committee has never produced anything resembling a serious analysis of the legacy of the Frankfurt School. North invokes the latter as a bogeyman epitomizing irrationalism and then uses that to discredit me through guilt by association.

Second, there is a striking disconnect between North’s ‘line of attack’ on me in this series and his previous polemic, Marxism, History & Socialist Consciousness. There North condemned Brenner and myself for allegedly ignoring the party’s political line in our critique. It was the political line, North insisted, that was the paramount concern in assessing the work of the revolutionary movement:

[T]he way this has been done in the history of the Marxist movement is through a careful and exhaustive analysis of the political line of the organization that is the subject of the criticism. If you had chosen to proceed in this theoretically principled manner, there is no shortage of materials upon which you would be able to draw …The response of the International Committee to these historic changes would easily fill up several dozen volumes. However, nowhere in your document is there to be found any analysis, or even reference to, the political line of the International Committee.[2]

In fact it wasn’t true that we had ignored the IC’s political line in our previous documents[3], but in MWHH we greatly expanded our criticisms, providing precisely the “careful and exhaustive analysis” that North had demanded. I will cite here just the three most noteworthy examples:

1. We devoted an entire chapter (34 pages) to a detailed analysis of the WSWS line on Iraq. That chapter examined dozens of WSWS articles over a three-year period (2004-2007), and based on that analysis we contended that the party had abandoned the perspective of the permanent revolution in Iraq. The WSWS failed to report on any of the struggles of the Iraqi working class and it never put forward a perspective or program for building a Trotskyist party in Iraq. Instead the WSWS became a left apologist for a bourgeois nationalist Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr.[4]

2. We devoted another chapter (29 pages) to examining the party’s perspective on the everyday struggles of the working class and the trade unions. We looked at the WSWS’s abysmal intervention in the New York City transit strike of December 2005, we showed how the SEP had come to adopt an abstentionist propagandism completely alien to the traditions of Trotskyism, and how the party had become almost totally estranged from the working class in its political activity. [5]

3. We also looked at the shameful record of the WSWS and the SEP in relation to the mass demonstrations that swept Mexico in the summer of 2006 in protest over the ruling party’s attempt to steal the presidential election. While over a million workers marched through the streets of Mexico City (or fought pitched battles with police in Oaxaca), the SEP made no effort to intervene in this mass movement, to hold a meeting or even issue a programmatic statement on the crisis. Whatever coverage there was on the WSWS were routine rewrites from the bourgeois press, and only one article was ever translated into Spanish.[6]

Faced with this “careful and exhaustive analysis” of major aspects of his party’s political line, North’s response has been to say absolutely nothing about any of these issues! Instead he has decided to say a great deal about me.

To anyone not blinded by an unthinking party loyalty, it should be obvious what is going on here: North has no answers to our criticisms, and so to avoid discussing them he has resorted to an ad hominem attack. Even if North’s claims about me weren’t full of distortions and lies, even if I were an idealist, a Frankfurt School devotee and “emotionally volatile” to boot – none of this has any bearing on the SEP’s political line. Either our criticisms of the latter are valid or they aren’t, and the only principled way to respond to them would have been to address their substance with the kind of “careful and exhaustive analysis” that North demanded in relation to the party’s political line. That neither North nor the Talbots have a word to say on any of these issues exposes the thoroughly unprincipled nature of their document. Beneath their many claims to be defending the heritage of Marxism lies a cynical and demagogic agenda that is a discredit to Marxism.

That agenda is to ‘personalize’ this polemical dispute in order to poison the atmosphere so that no party member or supporter will give any consideration to our criticisms. This is already evident in some of the letters the WSWS has posted regarding North’s latest document. One such letter declared: “Steiner and Co. will soon enough be urging on the fascistic buffoons at the Sarah Palin rallies, all in the name of irrationality and ‘sexuality.’”[7] This vile and inflammatory slander was posted without comment by the WSWS editorial board, which means they either condone such slander or consider it reasonable commentary. The mentality behind this letter is the mentality this smear campaign is designed to engender.

One further point needs to be made here. At the end of his document, North impugns me for my supposedly “new political relations” with the New Space, which he presents as a kind of political “swamp” consisting of various radical academics who have come together to push the agenda of the Frankfurt School and destroy Marxism. He further claims that I have tried to keep this new “political affiliation” a secret from the readers of our web site and at the same time I have tried to keep my connections to Trotskyism a secret from the New Space because such ties are looked upon with disdain by the radicals who populate the New Space and whose approval I desperately seek.

There is not a word of truth in anything about this account of my association with the New Space. First of all, the New Space is not a political organization at all. It is thus not possible for me to have a “political affiliation” with it. My affiliation with the New Space is that of an instructor, not a political spokesman. The New Space is an alternative educational institution that was founded to provide a venue where left wing ideas and theories can be discussed and studied.

It is true that there are people of different political persuasions who attend the talks and classes at the New Space and it is also true that the instructors at the New Space cover a wide variety of political and philosophical tendencies. There have been instructors and lecturers who exhibit some sympathy for some members of the Frankfurt School whereas other lecturers are quite hostile to the Frankfurt School. In any case, the Frankfurt School is not a major item in the syllabus of the New Space classes.

As for my own work there, I have taught classes on Hegel, specifically his Phenomenology of Spirit, Philosophy of History, and Logic. I have never hidden my Trotskyist politics from my students but I also haven’t advertised my politics, as it has no bearing on the courses I teach. In this respect I am no different than at least one SEP member that I am aware of, who has taught for decades at a major university: I very much doubt that he advertised his Trotskyist politics in the course catalogue of his university. (I might add, however, that there is one difference between myself and this comrade: I have never earned a cent for my lectures, which I do on a voluntary basis.)

The North/Talbot document is a shameful work. As I’ve said, a full response to its many lies and distortions is forthcoming, but even at this preliminary stage it is possible to state that this work marks a new low in the degeneration of the leadership of the International Committee, which behaves increasingly in a manner that besmirches the name of Trotskyism.

[1] http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/oct2008/fran-o22.shtml
[2] Marxism, History & Socialist Consciousness, pp. 3-4.
[3] North could only make this allegation by completely ignoring my 2004 document, The Dialectical Path of Cognition and Revolutionizing Practice, which contained a 12-page section titled “Where is the International Committee Going?”, devoted precisely to the party’s political line: http://www.permanent-revolution.org/polemics/dialectical_path.pdf
[4] http://www.permanent-revolution.org/polemics/mwhh_ch02.pdf
[5] http://www.permanent-revolution.org/polemics/mwhh_ch05.pdf
[6] http://www.permanent-revolution.org/polemics/mwhh_ch01.pdf
[7] Note: This letter was originally posted in a special letters section of the WSWS: “Letters on ‘The Frankfurt School vs. Marxism’”, WSWS, Nov. 8, 2008: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/nov2008/corr-n08.shtml If you now go to that location, the offensive letter is gone. See the following for the full story of the “disappearing letter”, The Revealing Case of a Disappearing Letter, by Frank Brenner,

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

French Revolution admitted Jews into mainstream European society for the first time as equals

Healing Religious Extremism
Moving us somewhat beyond a diagnosis of the fundamentalist problem and towards certain prescriptions for healing and peacemaking actions, Robert Eisen directed our attention to the history of the relationship between Judaism and Islam, paying special attention to the collective memories that still survive as a result of these interactions. In a whirlwind tour, Eisen recounted something of the respective histories of Judaism and Islam, pointed to their similarities, and drew a series of implications from this analysis. Eisen pointed out that the origin stories about the Jewish people link the idea of military conquest to divine blessing such that when the Jews are obeying God’s will, God fights for them. This linkage between military might and divine favor forced a radical re-narration of Jewish identity in the wake of the destruction of both the first and the second temple. Rabbinic Judaism emerged in the 1st century C.E. as a way of tying Jewish identity to the Law rather than to the Land. The military tropes were still prominent religiously, but they now took on an inner, less violent aspect. The rabbis called themselves “holders of the shields”, and likened the study of the Talmud to a kind of battle. The old memory of military conquest was transfigured, its outwardly violent elements suppressed, and the idea of humiliation (exile) became part of Jewish identity. Hope for the messiah and a deliverance from exile never faded, but it was a hope that had come to terms with humiliation as the current state of affairs.

Until the French Revolution, the Jewish diaspora lived daily with this sense of humiliation and exile. The revolution, however, admitted Jews into mainstream European society for the first time as equals. This monumental event had powerful repercussions and one could argue that all of modern Jewish history is an attempt to come to terms with this normalization of Jewish identity. Some, of course, welcomed it eagerly. Others felt that it was seductive, promising an end to humiliation when no such deliverance was, in fact, possible. Others held an even stronger position and felt that the normalization of European Jewry heralded the destruction of Jewish identity. Modern Zionism is, in part, an attempt to say that Jews will not get their dignity through assimilation but only through a return to the Land, a place of their own, and their own standing army. After the Holocaust, the rallying Zionist cry became the need for the creation of a safe haven for Jews, a haven that is the nation of Israel. Rabbi Kook’s innovation was to argue that the cosmic battle between God and the world was one that the people of Israel could take part in, help along, and perhaps speed up. Redemption could be accelerated and participated in, and such participation might even entail picking up a gun.

Islamic history also begins with conquest and with the sense that God’s blessing was manifest in military victory. Indeed, Islamic historians have often pointed to the earl y military might of the nascent Muslim community as a sign of God’s favor upon the new religion. Unlike the Israelite narrative, Muslims know of no rabbinic interlude, no period requiring the divorce of militarism from religion. Nevertheless, Islamic expansionism did come to an end at least by the middle of the eighteenth century when Christian/European colonialism became a global power. The end of World War I saw the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the parceling out of its lands to various Christian European states. Like their Jewish counterparts, Muslims too felt something seductive in the European presence and assimilation was attractive to many. But they also felt the destructive aspects of European culture and many saw assimilation as a betrayal of Islam. The fall of the great Islamic empires could only be seen as a rip in the historical fabric, an indication that all was not as it should be. Like Zionism, Muslims too constructed a nationalist response to the allure of European culture. This took many forms-from the secular program of pan-Arabism to an Islamic pseudo-messianism which held that, through a return to the Koran, Muslims could wage a successful jihad and drive their enemies out. Once Israel was established, its existence was quickly identified as the ultimate humiliation of Islamic identity. Israel was thus seen as a challenge: a foreign western power placed in the midst of the Islamic people as a test of their fidelity. Israel became a challenge from God and answering that challenge meant rooting out the nation of Israel, wiping it from the map, as it were.

Eisen pointed out that both of these narratives bear many similarities. Both are responses to humiliation: exile, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, on the one hand, and colonialization, secularization, and decline, on the other. Both communities see the other as the ultimate expression of evil: Muslims regard Israel as the outpost of the (foreign/American) great Satan, while Israelis, as we saw in Greenberg’s discussion of Amalek, came to associate the Arabs with the Nazis. Moreover, both communities are scared of the other, and with good reason. Muslims see the power of the Israeli army, replete with American support and the most powerful technologies of war. Israelis see themselves as a small minority (only 6 million strong) surrounded by hundreds of millions of Muslims bent on erasing their country. Reflecting on his experiences in dialogue, Eisen noted further that the level of ignorance regarding the other on both sides is staggering.

Eisen suggested a number of practical ways to move the peacemaking process between these radically estranged communities forward. First, he suggested that the most important step is for representatives of their various communities to acknowledge their own past narratives, their temptations to militarism, and the humiliations of history. Confessing one’s own fear is a powerful act that opens a space for genuine dialogue. Second, beyond knowing and acknowledging one’s own story, peacemakers should be able to say that they know their dialogue partner’s history, as well. When we come to dialogue as informed participants, we can reach out to our partners by saying that we know their history, tradition, and their genuine fears. This involves would be peacemakers in: intellectual work (learning well the history of the other community); emotional work (the ability to empathize, without however presuming to get inside the heads of the other); and action (particularly in the form of dramatic gestures that demonstrate a real openness to the other).

None of this is easy work, for either Jews or Muslims. Both cultures pride themselves on being strong and the confession of fear is often very hard. One strategy might be to involve clerics since clerics have the double advantage of already knowing their traditions intimately and often having more practice at baring their emotions (as compared, for example, with heads of state). It is perhaps arguable that the Oslo peace accords failed precisely because they were brokered by secularists and without religious involvement. As Landau pointed out, religious parochialists on both sides rejected the equation of shalom/salaam with secular governance. The Oslo accords were a non-starter because they treated both sides without paying due regard to the weight of their traditional religio-historical identity. Whoever is involved, this peacemaking work desperately needs to be undertaken and soon. Only by understanding the common cultural and historical inheritances of both Jews and Muslims, Eisen concluded, can we begin to move forward and overcome some of the real socio-emotional blocks to reconciliation. Summary for the September 10-14, 2006 Symposium on Jewish Fundamentalism Hosted by Esalen’s Center for Theory and Research (CTR) 11:38 AM

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
"Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity."

  • Auroville Charter
    Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
    Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
    Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
    Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.

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January 3rd , 2009
News & Notes No: 276 of January 3rd, 2009
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Monday, January 05, 2009

One has to respect every entity, every society, every identity, every individual

Organiser - New Delhi, India Page: 2/39 Home > 2009 Issues > January 11, 2009
RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Mohan Bhagwat in Shillong India has to give a unifying principle
Mohan Bhagwat

“The RSS is helping everything and everyone who tries to protect his own identity and loves other identities at the same time. RSS is always with all those efforts. The concept of one identity being against other identity itself is not our concept. All identities live together peacefully with some discipline, with good intensions. They can help each other and humanity in general. That sort of society has to be created first, which will demonstrate before the world that we are Bharatiya, we have so many languages, so many castes and creeds and yet we live in peace and harmony,” said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Mohan Bhagwat. He was addressing a gathering of eminent people at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, on December 24.

Shri Bhagwat said we all are inheritors of the glorious hoary culture. “Though the world calls it a Hindu culture, it is not a monopoly of the Hindus, it is for all human beings. It is actually manavata (humanitarian view of life). We might have all the power in the world but we are not to use it to crush the smaller or poorer nations. We are creating a world order in such a way that all nations can benefit from it and every nation becomes fit to contribute for good of the humanity. This view itself is our national view and that is why though we profess to organise Hindus we have termed our organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh because it is our nationality. The term Hindu does not apply to any religion or particular people living in particular land. The term applies to this ancient glorious tradition, to this world-view. This will become a panacea for the whole world in modern times and therefore, I exhort you all to join hands in this endeavour and become instrumental in this yeomen and God given responsibility of bringing peace and sanity in the world and not to remain as silent spectators,” he added.

Shri Bhagwat quoted a Vedic shloka—Janam Vibhrati Bahudha Vibhajasam, nana Dharmanam Prithavim Yathoukasam, which means people of many languages and many creeds live together on this earth. “That is the gist of Hindu tradition—living together with each other, living together with nature and realising the unifying principle. That is the gift Bharat has to give to the world—a unifying principle—perceiving the same in our own way of recognising God and at the same time respecting others of their ways but never converting one to another faith. The conversion is then unnecessary. If it is the same truth I am perceiving in my way and you are preserving in your way then what is the need of conversion. If there is no conversion, there is no irritation and there is then peace. This is what the world needs and this is our God has given duty to contribute this gift to the human race, to the world but we have to prepare ourselves. We cannot give to the world we do not have. We have to earn our tradition, earn our world view, we have to shape our life according to that. We have to unite and we have to create an example of model life in our nation, first in Bharat. For that we have to prepare each individual and unite each individual together so that there will be atmosphere of striving for common good of humanity for world peace. A new world order that various leaders of humanity dream is something of this kind but they cannot outline it exactly because they don’t have that heritage, the tradition that is bestowed upon us. It is our duty to expound it for the benefit of world and we should be fit for that,” he added.

Talking about diversity he said diversity is a must in this world but diversity is there to realise the indebt unity—there is unity in diversity and if you realise that then unity is possible with diversity and unity must speak diversity. “One has to respect every entity, every society, every identity, every individual—that is a fact. Everybody has to be respected—everything is created by God, nothing should be destroyed. We can lead life without conflict. We can progress and at the same time preserve the nature. We can propagate the natural surroundings around and at the same time progress can be achieved. This is the tradition of our land—Bharat. This is not a theory,” he added.

He further said the same truth has been expounded in every walk of life, in every type of society in this world. Once whole life was based on this principle and at that time all societies/communities in the world lived together in peace, harmony and satisfaction at that time and yet progressed. “We have to translate this according to modern times and prepare a model but for that we have to know our heritage, we have to know our ancestors, we have to know our traditions. We have to find a way as to how to express them in modern living so we have to analyse all this. We have to take to live like this,” he said. (FOC)