'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, August 11, 2006

Some Light Weekend Reading 

Generally, I try to avoid being just another portal, but, from time to time, I consider it worthwhile to identify some interesting articles. With the weekend upon us, here's some relaxed reading to provide context to the turbulent events of recent weeks and beyond.

First, Mother Jones has an informative interview with Tariq Ali. In his free ranging responses, Ali directly addresses many subjects of importance, such as his opinion of the Cuban revolutionary project, as implemented by Castro, the negative impact of NGOs around much of the world, the reform of Islam, the emerging implausibility of a two state solution in Palestine, and, the right of the Lebanese, and especially, Hizbollah, to resist the Israeli invasion:

MJ: How can you support Hezbollah’s actions—or those of Hamas—given both groups’ adherence to a fundamentalist ideology that you make no secret of disliking?

TA: Well look, I don’t agree with their religious views, obviously. I’m not a believer. That’s hardly a secret: I state it in public. However when a country is invaded and attacked and people resist it’s important to speak up and to say they have the right to resist and to defend their right to resist. The whole history of the 20th century is a history of resistance groups which are either nationalist or, in large parts of the Muslim word, religious groups, including for instance in Libya and the Sudan. There, the groups resisting the Italian invasion were ones that [Europeans] couldn’t support politically—but nonetheless they defended them against attack. When Mussolini invaded Abyssinia and Albania in the name of European civilization and said he was going to wipe out these backward feudal despotisms, most people in the West defended the Ethiopians and the Albanians against the Italian onslaught and said they had the right to resist. So it’s on that principle—that when people, whoever they may be, you may not like them, but when they decide to resist, you have to defend their right to do so.

Second, John Ross describes the ongoing protests in Mexico City against the refusal to recount the ballots of the presidential election in Mexico:

The encampments stretch from the Periferico out in the ritzy Polanco district nine kilometers east to the Zocalo in the crumbling old quarter of the city. The great square has been sectioned off into 31 state camps where AMLO's [Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's] people live under enormous tents, the origin of which is uncertain. Some of the encampments function better than others. The Oaxaca delegation, veterans of such camp outs (striking teachers back home have been occupying the state capital's main plazas for three months) are said to have the best "cocina". Oaxacan cuisine is internationally celebrated. Meanwhile the folks from Campeche have run out of money and will soon be heading back to that far-off southern state.

AMLO sleeps with the delegates from the states--albeit in a fenced-off enclave under a private tent. It is not the first time that Lopez Obrador has encamped in the Zocalo. In 1995, after big-time electoral fraud in his home state of Tabasco, the leftist led hundreds of ragtag campesinos in a 1300-kilometer odyssey, "the Exodus for Democracy", which bedded down on these rain-soaked stones for weeks. Later, he would govern the capital from City Hall on one corner of the Tiennemens-sized Square and if he does ever ascend to the presidency, he has promised to move into the National Palace on another corner.

Extending west from the Zocalo, AMLO's people in the 16 delegations or boroughs of the capital have set up their own encampments. The Cuauhtemoc and Carranza delegations occupy Madero Street on a strip of the Centro Historico refurbished by Lopez Obrador in collusion with the third richest tycoon in the known universe, Carlos Slim. The contours of the old quarter or Centro Historico roughly correspond to the island of Tenochtitlan, the heart of the Aztec empire.

AMLO's encampments here bear more than a passing resemblance to those set up on these same streets by the "damnificados" refugees) from the killer 1985 earthquake that may have taken as many as 30,000 lives--the damnificado movement was the "caldo" (soup) in which Mexico's resilient civil society was brewed. In fact, some of those living on the streets now, lived on them back then. At a meeting in one of the tents on Madero and Motelinia to hash out food supply problems, Tona Lechuga from nearby Regina Street recalls how food stores were organized after the 1985 cataclysm. "We need to do this right" she insists, "We have an army to feed."

Lastly, we have another obituary for Murray Bookchin, by Mike Small in the Guardian:

His magnum opus was The Ecology of Freedom (1982). "The domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human," he wrote. "The long-term solution to the ecological crises is a fundamental shift in how we organise society, a new politics based on face-to-face democracy, neighbourhood assemblies and 'the dissolution of hierarchy'."

For Bookchin there was a clear distinction between ecology, which wanted to transform society, and environmentalism, which wants to ameliorate the worst aspects of capitalist economy. In Remaking Society (1990) he wrote: "To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing."

And, don't forget, there are protests against the Israeli attacks upon Lebanon and Gaza in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle this weekend.

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