Radical media, politics and culture.


Obituary for Pierre Vidal-Naquet

Maurice Ulrich, >l'Humanité

Original French title: "Pierre Vidal-Naquet n’est plus,"
by Maurice Ulrich, translated by Patrick Bolland

An internationally recognised historian, a rigorous and committed intellectual, Pierre Vidal-Naquet was actively engaged in all the struggles for justice in his incessant and courageous search for “fragments of truth”. He died last week [July 29, 2006] at the age of 76.

“It is human beings, real people, who are killed by torture” he told Jean-Paul Montferran in an interview published in l’Humanité on 3 November 2000.

Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who fell victim to a cerebral hemorrhage last Monday passed away on Friday night. He had decribed himself as “an activist historian, determined to participate in society as a full citizen”. He directed his erudite passion to Ancient Greece where the very idea of democracy was born. He also led the most principled struggles of our own times for justice and truth.

"Capitalism Has Only Hurt Latin America"
Evo Morales, Der Spiegel

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, why is such a large part of Latin America moving to the left?

Morales: Injustice, inequality and the poverty of the masses compel us to seek better living conditions. Bolivia's majority Indian population was always excluded, politically oppressed and culturally alienated. Our national wealth, our raw materials, was plundered. Indios were once treated like animals here. In the 1930s and 40s, they were sprayed with DDT to kill the vermin on their skin and in their hair whenever they came into the city. My mother wasn't even allowed to set foot in the capital of her native region, Oruro. Now we're in the government and in parliament. For me, being leftist means fighting against injustice and inequality but, most of all, we want to live well.

SPIEGEL: You called a constitutional convention to establish a new Bolivian republic. What should the new Bolivia look like?

Morales: We don't want to oppress or exclude anyone. The new republic should be based on diversity, respect and equal rights for all. There is a lot to do. Child mortality is frighteningly high. I had six siblings and four of them died. In the countryside, half of all children die before reaching their first birthday.

SPIEGEL: Your socialist party, MAS, does not have the necessary two-thirds majority to amend the constitution. Do you now plan to negotiate with other political factions?

Morales: We are always open to talks. Dialogue is the basis of Indian culture, and we don't want to make any enemies. Political and ideological adversaries, perhaps, but not enemies.

SPIEGEL: Why did you temporarily suspend the nationalization of natural resources, one of your administration's most important projects? Does Bolivia lack the know-how to extract its raw materials?

Tariq Ali: Toward A New Radical Politics

Paige Austin, Mother Jones

Tariq Ali's books garner wildly emphatic reviews on Amazon.com, alternately adoring and scathing depending on the politics of the reviewer — the kind of polarzied reactions you'd expect for the editor of The New Left Review.

Born and raised in pre-partition Pakistan, Ali studied at Oxford, where he became a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War; later, he broadened his critique to condemn what he saw as American imperialism in much of the world, especially the Middle East and Latin America. Along the way, he faced Henry Kissinger in debate and became a lifelong friend of Edward Said.

Though a committed leftist, Ali has never been narrowly political in his work. He has published dozens of books in a nearly 40-year career, ranging from historical fiction — early Islam is his most frequent topic — to political essay. His most recent work, Bush in Babylon, took aim at the American invasion of Iraq, a war which he might call a new chapter in the intertwined histories of Western imperialism and Muslim extremism chronicled in his previous work, Clash of Fundamentalisms.

It was hardly surprising, given this background, that Ali was among several writers — including Noam Chomsky, Jose Saramago and Howard Zinn — who recently signed two letters supporting Palestinians and Lebanese in the face of what they called Israel’s campaign of “deliberate and systematic destruction.”

“Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over,” they wrote in the first, dated July 19. “But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.”

As well as an editor of the NLR Ali is editorial director of the leftist publishing house Verso, and he's a frequent contributor to The Guardian, Counterpunch, and The London Review of Books. He recently talked with Mother Jones about his views on the war in Lebanon, the need for an Islamic Reformation, and the rise of Latin America’s new left.

Mother Jones: In the letter that you and several other writers published on July 19, you said the “liquidation of the Palestinian nation” is proceeding more rapidly these days. How long have you felt that the possibility of Palestinian statehood is gone?

Tariq Ali: I have felt that for some years, even before these latest Israeli actions. Once it became clear to the Palestinians that the Oslo accords were a farce and that no Israeli government was prepared to implement even the limited concessions they had promised in them, then it was only a matter of time. My view has always been that either the Palestinians get a fair and just state or you have a single-state solution — there is no third way in between these two. Now, curiously, the Israelis by their own action have made a single state the only possible thing.

Richard Mock, Sculptor, Painter and Editorial
Cartoonist, 61, Dies

Roberta Smith, New York Times

Richard Mock, a painter and sculptor whose interest in
politics led to a second career as an editorial
cartoonist, died on July 28 in Brooklyn, where he
lived. He was 61.

His death followed a long illness, said his companion,
Roberta Waddell, curator of prints at the New York
Public Library.

Mr. Mock was a lifelong painter whose work ranged from
a cartoonish, politically charged Neo-Expressionism
through portraiture and self-portraiture to bright,
paint-laden abstractions. But he was best known for
the satiric linocut illustrations on social and
political issues that appeared on the Op-Ed page of
The New York Times from 1980 to 1996, in other New
York-based newspapers and in worldwide publications.

Dorothy Healey, 91
Lifelong Communist Fought for Working People

Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times

Dorothy Healey, a onetime labor organizer, civil rights activist and
Marxist radio commentator who was chairwoman of the Southern
California district of the Communist Party USA from the late 1940s
through the 1960s, has died. She was 91.

Healey, dubbed "the Red Queen of Los Angeles" by headline writers
during her heyday, died Sunday of pneumonia in the Greater Washington
Hebrew Home, said her son, Richard. She had been a resident of
Washington, D.C., since 1983.

The diminutive Healey, who stood just under 5 feet tall and once wore
a pendant that pictured a clenched fist raised as a symbol of
solidarity and militancy, fought a lifelong battle against what she
called the oppression of the middle class and minorities.

Women Seize TV Station in Oaxaca, Mexico

Rebecca Romero

From SF Gate

About 500 women banging spoons against pots and pans seized a state-run television station and broadcast a homemade video Wednesday that showed police kicking protesters out of Oaxaca's main square last month.

The women took control of Oaxaca's Channel 9 station Tuesday and held employees for about six hours before releasing them. It was unclear how long the siege would last and police were nowhere to be seen near the station Wednesday.

The standoff is the latest by demonstrators who accuse Gov. Ulises Ruiz of rigging his 2004 election victory and violently repressing opposition groups.

Station director Mercedes Rojas said the state has filed a criminal complaint with the federal attorney general's office, noting that the station has about $54.5 million worth of equipment inside and that the protesters had threatened the 60 employees with violence while holding them captive.

"The Art of War:

Deleuze, Guattari, Debord and the Israeli Defense Force"

Eyal Weizman

The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools

The attack conducted by units of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’.1

During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of ‘overground tunnels’ carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

Contemporary military theorists are now busy re-conceptualizing the urban domain. At stake are the underlying concepts, assumptions and principles that determine military strategies and tactics. The vast intellectual field that geographer Stephen Graham has called an international ‘shadow world’ of military urban research institutes and training centres that have been established to rethink military operations in cities could be understood as somewhat similar to the international matrix of élite architectural academies. However, according to urban theorist Simon Marvin, the military-architectural ‘shadow world’ is currently generating more intense and well-funded urban research programmes than all these university programmes put together, and is certainly aware of the avant-garde urban research conducted in architectural institutions, especially as regards Third World and African cities. There is a considerable overlap among the theoretical texts considered essential by military academies and architectural schools. Indeed, the reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim, the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military.

Anonymous Comrade writes:

"Delusional Expectations"

John Chuckman

At this writing, Israel has killed six hundred civilians in Lebanon, including more than one hundred children, and killed another one hundred and fifty in Gaza. It has created hundreds of thousands of refugees and destroyed enough bridges and power stations and apartments to create misery for years to come.

Nothing is more dishonest than attempting to justify this barbarism with "Islamist fundamentalists declare their goal openly to destroy the state of Israel and kill Jews."

There is no possibility that Israel can be destroyed by Islamic fundamentalists: the notion is simply a fantasy. This is so not just because of Israel's ready willingness to bomb and kill, but because of great-power guarantees. It is so also because no Arab state believes any longer that Israel’s destruction is a sensible or possible goal, despite their leaders’ public rhetoric. And it is true because the enemies Israel claims are so threatening, organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas, are militarily weak by any rational standard of calculation.

Ailing Castro Gives Power to Brother

Associated Press

HAVANA — Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Monday night and told Cubans he will undergo surgery.

The Cuban leader said in a letter read live on television by his secretary that he had suffered gastrointestinal bleeding, apparently due to stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba.

Because of that illness, Castro said he was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his brother and successor Raul, the defense minister, according to the statement read by Carlos Valenciaga.

Social Ecologist Murray Bookchin Dies at 85

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Murray Bookchin, an early proponent of what he described as social ecology, died at home early Sunday at the age of 85.

He was surrounded by family when he died of heart failure at home, said his daughter, Debbie Bookchin.

Murray Bookchin long was a proponent of left-leaning libertarian ideas and was among the first people in the early 1960s to promote the then-emerging field of ecology into political debate.

He published Our Synthetic Environment under the pseudonym Lewis Herber in 1962 in which he called for alternative energy supplies among other environmental proposals. It was in that book, which predated by five months the better known work Rachel Carson Silent Spring, that Bookchin introduced the notion of social ecology.


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