Category Archives: (Anti and Post) Communism

Ron Radosh on Jennifer Delton: A Fresh View of Cold War America

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This article by Ron Radosh is from Minding the Campus:

Teaching in the universities about the so-called McCarthy era has become an area most susceptible to politically correct and one-sided views of what the period was all about. One historian who strenuously objects to the accepted left-wing interpretation that prevails in the academy is Jennifer Delton, Chairman of the Department of History at Skidmore College.

In the March issue of The Journal of the Historical Society Delton writes:

However fiercely historians disagree about the merits of American Communism, they almost universally agree that the post-World War II Red scare signified a rightward turn in American politics. The consensus is that an exaggerated, irrational fear of communism, bolstered by a few spectacular spy cases, created an atmosphere of persecution and hysteria that was exploited and fanned by conservative opportunists such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. This hysteria suppressed rival ideologies and curtailed the New Deal, leading to a resurgence of conservative ideas and corporate influence in government. We may add detail and nuance to this story, but this, basically, is what we tell our students and ourselves about post-World War II anti-Communism, also known as McCarthyism. It is fundamentally the same story that liberals have told since Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy in 1948.

This conventional narrative of the left has been told over and over for so many years that it has all but become the established truth to most Americans. It was exemplified in a best-selling book of the late 1970′s, David Caute’s The Great Fear, and from the most quoted one from the recent past, Ellen Schrecker’s Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. My favorite title is one written by the late Cedric Belfrage, The American Inquisition 1945-1960: A Profile of the “McCarthy Era.” In his book, Belfrage told the story of how he, an independent journalist who founded the fellow-traveling weekly The National Guardian, was hounded by the authorities and finally deported home to Britain. American concerns about Soviet espionage, he argued, were simply paranoia.

The problem with Belfrage’s account was that once the Venona files began to be released in 1995–the once top secret Soviet decrypts of communications between Moscow Center and its US agents—they revealed that Belfrage was a paid KGB operative, just as the anti-Communist liberal Sidney Hook had openly charged decades ago, and as turned KGB spy Elizabeth Bentley had privately informed the FBI in 1945. The Venona cables revealed that Belfrage had given the KGB an OSS report received by British intelligence concerning the anti-Communist Yugoslav resistance in the 1940′s as well as documents about the British government’s position during the war on opening a second front in Europe. It showed that Belfrage had offered the Soviets to establish secret contact with them if he was stationed in London.

Facts like these did not bother or budge the academic establishment. Most famously, Ellen Schrecker wrote in her book that although it is now clear many Communists in America had spied for the Soviets, they did not do any real harm to the country, and also most importantly, their motives were decent. She wrote, “As Communists, these people did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism; they were internationalists whose political allegiances transcended national boundaries. They thought they were ‘building…a better world for the masses,’ not betraying their country.”

Schrecker’s views were endorsed by former Nation publisher and editor Victor Navasky, who regularly in different articles argues that the Venona decrypts are either gossip or forgeries, irrelevant, or do not change his favored narrative that in the United States– only McCarthyism was a threat. As Navasky wrote, Venona was simply an attempt “to enlarge post-cold war intelligence gathering capability at the expense of civil liberty.” If spying indeed took place, it was “a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will, many of whom were Marxists, some of whom were Communists… and most of whom were patriots.” As for those who argue against his view, they were trying to “argue that, in effect, McCarthy and Co. were right all along.”

The lens through which McCarthyism has been seen, therefore, is one seen exclusively through the left-wing prism, which regards defense of one’s own democratic nation against a foreign foe as evil, and sees only testimony against America’s enemies as McCarthyite. What is therefore necessary is to look anew at the McCarthy era, not in the terms set by its Communist opponents, but from the perspective of examining dispassionately the nature of the entire epoch. Those who have chosen to do this, however, have been met with great opposition. A few years ago, the editors of The New York Times claimed that a new group of scholars “would like to rewrite the historical verdict on Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism.” Fearing such a development, the newspaper warned that it had to be acknowledged that it was McCarthyism more than Soviet espionage or Communist infiltration that was “a lethal threat to American democracy.”

[read it all]

Professor Delton’s article, “Rethinking Post-World War II Anticommunism” is excellent. Here is a bit:

[T]the most famous and effective anticommunist measures were carried out not by conservatives, but by liberals seeking to uphold the New Deal. It was the liberal Truman administration that chased Communists out of government agencies and prosecuted Communist Party leaders under the Smith Act. It was liberal Hollywood executives who adopted the blacklist, effectively forcing Communists out of the movie business. The labor leaders who purged Communists from their unions were, similarly, liberals. Most anticommunism—the anticommunism that mattered—was not hysterical and conservative, but, rather, a methodical and, in the end, successful attempt on the part of New Deal liberals to remove Communists from specific areas of American life, namely, the government, unions, universities and schools, and civil rights organizations. It is true that the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) helped carry out these measures, but it is a mistake to assume that J. Edgar Hoover or HUAC could have had much power without the cooperation of liberals who wanted Communists identified and driven out of their organizations.

New evidence confirming the widespread existence of Soviet agents in
the U.S. government makes the Truman administration’s attempts to purge Communists from government agencies seem rational and appropriate—even too modest, given what we now know.3 But even in those cases where espionage was not a threat—such as in unions, political organizations, and Hollywood—there were still good reasons for liberals to expel Communists. Communists were divisive and disruptive. They had the ability to cripple liberal organizations, especially at the local and state levels. Removing Communists from labor and political organizations was necessary for liberal Democrats like Hubert Humphrey, Chester Bowles, and Paul Douglas to be elected to Congress, where they supported Truman’s Keynesian economic policies, raised the minimum wage, fought for health insurance,
defended unions, taxed the rich, and laid the political groundwork for
civil rights and desegregation.

American Library Association (ALA) Candidates Speak on Cuban Library Issue

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I received this press release from the Friends of Cuban Libraries:

ALA Candidates Speak on Cuban Library Issue

Sara Kelly Johns and Molly Raphael, candidates for ALA president, spoke on March 8 at the office of New York City’s METRO library organization.

Both candidates affirmed their respect for intellectual freedom as a core value of the ALA, but a specific question from the audience about the Cuban independent library issue identified their contrasting views on intellectual freedom as a matter of policy.

Critics of current ALA policy say that past ALA investigations and panel discussions on Cuba have overlooked or ignored the repression of Cuba’s independent library movement, founded in 1998 to oppose censorship. According to journalists and human rights organizations, Cuba’s independent library workers have been subjected to police raids, arrests, 20-year prison terms and the court-ordered burning of confiscated book collections. Amnesty International has named Cuba’s jailed independent librarians as prisoners of conscience and is calling for their release.

In the only opinion poll of ALA members on the Cuba issue, conducted by AL Direct, 76% of respondents voted for the ALA to condemn the repression Cuba’s independent library movement.

During the question period at the March 8 presidential candidates event in New York, a member of the Friends of Cuban Libraries complained that several ALA investigations and panel discussions of this issue had allowed only one side of the controversy to be fairly heard. The questioner asked Sara Kelly Johns and Molly Raphael to guarantee that, under their leadership, diverse views on the Cuban library controversy would be fairly represented in future ALA considerations of this issue.

Sara Kelly Johns responded to the question by noting that she has paid close attention to the Cuban library issue. She gave assurances that, under her leadership, diverse views on controversies would be heard within the ALA and that the Cuban library issue would not be permitted to “go under the table.”
If brought to Council by a Council committee, the issue would be discussed.

In contrast, Molly Raphael said that the ALA has already established its Cuba policy on several occasions, and she stated it is not the role of the ALA president to challenge settled policies. With regard to the ongoing controversy over Cuba’s independent libraries, she stated it is not a “yes or no question.”

In contrast, the Friends of Cuban Libraries believe book burning is very much a “yes or no question.”

Also see:

fREADdom: How do you catalogue a burned book?

Jailed Cuban Activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo Dies on Hunger Strike

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[Photo taken in 2003 by Adalberto Roque for AFP]

This extremely sad news comes from the Miami Herald:

A jailed Cuban dissident on a hunger strike for 83 days died Tuesday, his mother reported, the first time in nearly 40 years that an island activist starved himself to death to protest government abuses.

It was the first time an opponent of the communist government died during a hunger strike since the 1972 death in prison of Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet and student leader who fought against both the Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro dictatorships.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old plumber and bricklayer, stopped eating solid food Dec. 3 to protest what he described as repeated beatings by guards and many other abuses at his Kilo 7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey.

Active in several dissident organizations, he had been arrested in 2003 amid a government crackdown that sentenced 75 government critics to lengthy prison terms, and Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience.”

Initially charged with contempt, public disorder and “disobedience” and sentenced to three years, he was convicted of other acts of defiance while in prison, and by the time of his death faced a total of 36 years in prison.

“They have assassinated Orlando Zapata Tamayo. My son’s death has been a premediated murder,” Reina Luisa Tamayo told El Nuevo Herald, referring to government authorities. “They managed to do what they wanted. They ended the life of a fighter for human rights.”

Cuba’s government-controlled news media did not immediately report the death, and the spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington could not be reached for comment.

An increased police presence was reported in the streets of several Cuban cities Tuesday, possibly to avert protests in favor of Zapata, according to the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami group that supports dissidents on the island.

Zapata’s case sparked several street protests by government critics earlier this month, including one during which police in Camagüey detained some 35 people for several hours. The detainees later complained that some of them were beaten during the roundups.

The Directorio Democrático Cubano released the following statement (h/t to Uncommon Sense):

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a valiant defender of the liberty of the Cuban people, died today, murdered by the Castro regime which refused to guarantee respect for his basic rights. An Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Zapata Tamayo engaged in a hunger strike of over 80 days to demand such a guarantee and to protest against terrible mistreatment he suffered in the Communist regime’s prisons, including brutal beatings. Zapata Tamayo, who will be remembered as a giant of the Cuban resistance, had been unjustly imprisoned since March 20, 2003.

“The abuses committed against Orlando Zapata Tamayo prove that torture and terror are inflicted upon the Cuban people are official policy under the Castro regime. His death is evidence of the practice of state terrorism,” stated Janisset Rivero, Adjunct National Secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

In October, 2009, Zapata Tamayo was brutally beaten by military personnel at Holguin provincial prison, causing an internal hematoma in his head so severe that Zapata Tamayo had to undergo surgery. He began his hunger strike on December 3, 2009, at Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey, classified in Cuba as employing a “maximum severity” prison regime. For 18 days, Major Filiberto Hernández Luis, the prison’s director, denied Zapata Tamayo drinking water, the only thing he was ingesting during the strike. The effect of this act of torture was to induce kidney failure. In mid-January, he was transferred to Amalia Simoni Hospital in the city of Camagüey, where he was left to languish nearly completely nude under intense air conditioning, causing him to contract pneumonia. Despite his critical health condition, the regime transferred him to the hospital at Combinado del Este prison, which did not have the equipment and conditions necessary to treat him.

The Cuban Democratic Directorate also underlines that this crime joins a long list of atrocities committed by the Castro brothers which include thousands of executions by firing squad and countless cases of unjust imprisonment of Cuban citizens.

Additionally, Cuban prisoners of conscience Ariel Sigler Amaya and Normando Hernández González are also unjustly imprisoned and in terrible health. Their cases require prompt support and solidarity from Cubans around the world and the international community.

“They finally murdered Orlando Zapata Tamayo. They finally finished him. My son’s death has been a premeditated murder. I thank all of those brothers who struggled not to allow my son to die. There has been another Pedro Luis Boitel in Cuba,” stated Reina Tamayo Danger to the Cuban Democratic Directorate. Boitel was a Cuban student leader who was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime and died after a prolonged hunger strike in 1972.

The Cuban Democratic Directorate condemns this horrendous crime. We raise our voice to call for the condemnation of the Raúl Castro regime and those directly responsible for the death of this human rights defender for committing this crime against humanity.

Zapata Tamayo’s death will not be in vain. It will illuminate the path of Cuba’s civic resistance until the Cuban people achieve their freedom.

Wednesday News Items

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Things are getting busy around here. The end of the semester is always that way. Here a few news items to point your attention to:

It appears the Mumbai terrorists had some logistical support from a U.S. citizen. David Headley, the son of Pakistani diplomat, “changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 so he could hide his Muslim and Pakistani identity and slip more easily into his American businessman cover story while scoping out targets.”  He also served as a DEA informant after getting busted for importing two kilograms of heroin from Pakistan. Read more here, here and here.

Continuing on the counter-terrorism theme, a senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan by a Predator drone strike. Abdirizaq Abdi Saleh aka Saleh al-Somali was the number three leader of al-Qaeda after Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Nice shooting!

In other South Asian news, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is in turmoil due to recent decision by the national government to allow part of the territory to secede and form the new state of Telangana.

In Cuba, a U.S. contractor who was “distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications devices”  has been detained by the authorities. Sylvia Longmire reports, “[t] uunidentified contractor works for Development Alternatives Inc., a development group based in Bethesda, Maryland.” Who, or what, is Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI)? According to their website:

DAI has worked in 150 developing and transition countries, providing comprehensive development solutions in areas including crisis mitigation and recovery, democratic governance and public sector management, agriculture and agribusiness, private sector development and financial services, economics and trade, HIV/AIDS, avian influenza control, and water and natural resources management. Clients include international development agencies, international lending institutions, private corporations and philanthropies, and host-country governments.

More updates will be provided as more information is available.

Moving to the United States, district judge Nina Gershon has decided in favor of poverty pimps community organization, ACORN, by ruling the Congress acted in an unconstitutional manner in singling out the group. I’m not an expert in Constitutional Law, but I know it is the function of the legislative branch, not the judiciary, to decide how our tax dollars are spent. More here and here.

My last item is from NYC where our resident Nehru suited infantile leftist Charles Barron has struck again. This time at a City University of New York groundbreaking he was not invited to (h/t Gothamist):

After getting into a public squabble with a CUNY trustee at a groundbreaking event on Tuesday, City Councilman Charles Barron wants him out. According to the Daily News, the controversial Council member told an audience at Medgar Evers College (a CUNY school), “The Board of Trustees has to change… This is a racist, rednecked right-winger who’s sitting on the Board of Trustees. Make sure you write a letter and say he must be removed.”

This fool wants to be president of the NYC city council.

Demonstrations and Double Standards

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Whatever you think about the Tea-Party protesters, whether you think their cause (or causes) is right or wrong, you cannot help but notice different standards applied to them and the demonstrations organized by the far left.

First, the matter of numbers. It’s strange how a protest of tens of thousands will make the first few pages of the NYT but a conservative protest with hundreds of thousands is back on page A-37. Moving further left, the various IMCs–the reporters of political rallies, protests, demonstrations, and the like–have been silent. Why is that?

fthetroops

Second, the organizations represented. When the NYT recently reported on an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. they noted the anti-war movement “consists of dozens of organizations representing pacifists, veterans, military families, labor unions and religious groups.” Nothing was mentioned about the groups on the radical left (communists and anarchists) who organize these anti-war protests. Nothing was mentioned about the black bloc and others who routinely destroy property and aggressively confront the police in these demos.

protesterattackscop

And, as Zombietime points out, nothing ever gets mentioned about the people who threatened violence against president Bush when he was in office.

KILLbush

Zombie asks:

Is there a double standard? Seems to be.

Every threat to Obama is now vigorously pursued, trumpeted and dissected by the media and the blogs, and roundly condemned. And I condemn such threats as well.

But in the past, whenever someone threatened Bush at a protest, there was a deafening silence on the part of the media and the left-leaning blogs, and consequently very little (if any) follow-through on the part of the Secret Service. Which I find quite distressing. I was condemning those threats in the past (as best I could, by drawing attention to them on my blog) — but few people were joining me in my condemnation.

motherearth

This is not a new development. The NYT regularly downplays the prevalence of extremists on the left, instead preferring to focus on the right. However, where were the racist skinheads, brownshirts and other neo-Nazis at this conservative demonstration? Where were the organizations representing the far-right? Nowhere to be seen or found.

Sure, you had some “birthers” and other kooks but nowhere near the prevalence of “truthers” and other crackpots one finds in left gatherings. Yes, there were nutty Paulistas and people who think Obama is a Muslim Marxist. Like this dude:

muslim marxist

But these people, and the people who compare Obama to Hitler, are far and away in the minority on the conservative right. Most conservatives find those comparisons offensive. Yet comparisons between Bush and Hitler were common on the progressive left during Bush’s two terms in office and few in the mainstream media or on the left were offended by that.

BushHitlerShitAsshole

This brings me to the third double standard, the issue of motivation. What drives individuals to engage in collective action? In the case of left-wing protesters, they are pushed to participate due to a sense of great moral conviction. They protest because it is the right thing to do. What about conservatives who protest? What is their motivation?

The predictable response from the mainstream media is racism. Conservatives protest because our president is black. That is some sad commentary on the state of American politics in the 21st century.

Think about it. It used to be the right that was obsessed with race. At least that was the case when I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I realize there are right-wing racists and extremists out there who are incensed about Obama’s blackness. All you have to do is look around the Internet. An important thing to keep in mind is radicals are on the margins of mainstream conservatism.

When I look at the political culture of the U.S. today, the partisans obsessed with race are largely located on the left. And I am not only talking about the radical left, the liberal left engages in this as well. NY representative Charlie Rangel, other Democratic legislators and the mainstream media have been reducing conservative disagreements with Obama’s policies to racism.

Congressman Rangel claims conservative opposition is “a bias, a prejudice, an emotional feeling” and thinks “some Americans have not gotten over the fact that Obama is president of the United States. They go to sleep wondering, ‘How did this happen?’ “. Even former president Jimmy Carter felt the urge to chime in. Kate Phillips (NYT) notes:

Coupling the Wilson remark with the images in recent weeks of angry demonstrators wielding signs depicting Mr. Obama as a Nazi or as Adolf Hitler, Mr. Carter said: “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.”

Carter continued:

“I live in the South and I’ve seen the South come a long way.” However, “I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people not just in the South but around the country … that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance and grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

You really should not have to be a conservative to find this sort of rhetoric insulting. I am not a Tea-Party protester. But the double standard applied to them is disturbing. These protests are about dramatically increased taxes, a bloated deficit, and the expansion of federal government power. For the vast majority of participants, race is not an issue.

ADDED:

Martin in the Margins on Carter, “race” and the right

The Stark Tenet on protesting and demonstrations

Upcoming Events in NYC: The United States and The Cold War September Seminars

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[Maybe I'll see you at John Earl Haynes' presentation?]

***The United States and The Cold War September Seminars***

To RSVP or to receive a copy of the paper please email, zk3@nyu.edu

Thursday, September 17, 2009*
Dana Frank, University of California, Santa Cruz
“The AFL-CIO’s Cold War in Honduras: The First Years of Intervention, 1954-59″
5:30 – 7:00pm (with reception to follow)
*
Thursday, September 25, 2009*
John Earl Haynes, Library of Congress,
“Alexander Vassiliev’s Notebooks and the Documentation of Soviet Intelligence
Activities in the United States during the Stalin Era”
Special Start Time: 5:00 – 6:300pm (with reception to follow)

*
Tamiment Library Book Talk*

To RSVP please email zk3@nyu.edu
*
Wednesday, September 23, 2009*
Nelson N. Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara
“The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business”
6:00pm- 7:30pm (with reception to follow)

Tamiment Library
70 Washington Square South , 10th Floor
(between LaGuardia and Greene Streets)

Honduras Debate: Davis Vs Grandin on Democracy Now

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Democracy Now! is a misnamed show because the program’s host, Amy Goodman, has such an obvious disdain for the concept of democracy. Like so many on the far left, Goodman reserves her criticisms for places like the U.S. and Israel while giving Cuba, Venezuela and Iran a free pass. She also loves bringing on spokespeople from authoritarian political sects like ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, and other communist front groups. So as you may have guessed, I generally avoid her program like the plague.

I was flipping channels the other day and caught the program mid-broadcast and was surprised to hear an actual debate on events in Honduras taking place between Professor Greg Grandin from NYU and Lanny Davis from the Business Council on Latin America.

Not sure why Mr. Davis agreed to be on Goodman’s program in this first place, but he did a good job of refuting the the misinformation promoted by her and Grandin.

Check it out here.

Excepts from the transcript of the program:

AMY GOODMAN:

Protests in the streets of Honduras continue nearly six weeks after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a military coup. Riot police used tear gas and water cannons on a crowd of hundreds of protesters calling for Zelaya’s return. Clashes have erupted more frequently after the coup government warned last week it would no longer tolerate street blockades.

Meanwhile, soldiers have occupied state hospitals after some 15,000 nurses and other hospital workers declared an indefinite strike. They join tens of thousands of public school teachers who have been striking for weeks. Further protests are expected in the coming days with more Zelaya supporters marching to Tegucigalpa from various regions of Honduras, expecting to converge on the capital on August 10th.

The protests come as the Organization of American States agreed Wednesday to send a delegation to Honduras sometime next week. They want acting President Roberto Micheletti to accept a Costa Rican plan under which Zelaya would return to power until new elections can be held.

Zelaya, meanwhile, has called on the US to use its trade leverage over Honduras to pressure the coup regime. But the Obama administration is showing signs of retracting its stated support for his return. In a letter to Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the State Department said US policy in Honduras, quote, “is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual. Rather, it is based on finding a resolution that best serves the Honduran people and their democratic aspirations.” The letter also criticizes Zelaya for taking “provocative” actions that “led” to his removal…

[T]oday we host a debate on the situation in Honduras. Lanny Davis is an attorney for Honduran business leaders group and the former special counsel to President Clinton. He joins us from Washington, DC. Joining us on the telephone is Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University and author of Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. He reported from Honduras two weeks ago but joins us today from Paraguay.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Lanny Davis, let’s begin with you. Explain exactly who you represent, who is paying you to oppose the ousted president Manuel Zelaya.

LANNY DAVIS: I represent a group of business community people called CEAL, who would be the equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce. It’s the Latin American Business Council of Honduras.

I do want to say that I appeared on Democracy Now! with the assurance, Amy, that you would be a neutral moderator, yet your opening is an ideological rant that distorts the facts. For example, you said that Mr. Zelaya accepted the Arias accords. In fact, Mr. Zelaya rejected President Arias’s proposal, and the government of Mr. Micheletti has announced, and has, in fact, said it would continue to discuss. So, let’s get the facts straight before we go any further.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, let’s begin with what Lanny Davis contends, that the ousted President Zelaya has rejected the Costa Rica accords.

GREG GRANDIN: No, that’s wrong. Two weeks ago, right when the talks broke down, when Arias presented his seven-point plan, Zelaya almost immediately accepted them. And Oscar Arias came out and gave a press conference in which he regretted the fact that Micheletti, the leader of the new regime, the coup government in Honduras, rejected the accords, while Zelaya accepted them fully. And one can Google the statement, Oscar Arias, Zelaya, Micheletti, and they’ll find the exact quote from Oscar Arias.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis?

LANNY DAVIS: Well, we’ll Google—we’ll Google this statement, and I will challenge the professor to find the quote of Zelaya saying, “This is unacceptable,” and walking out of the room. And I will challenge him to find the statement by Mr. Micheletti, which he just sent several days ago, asking Mr. Arias and the commission of the Congress, controlled by Mr. Zelaya’s party, with the chairman a liberal, going through each of Mr. Arias’s proposals.

And, by the way, the Congress, 95 percent of the Congress, even if you quarrel with plus or minus ten votes, voted to remove Mr. Zelaya, including a majority of his own party, as did fifteen members of the Supreme Court, including a majority of the Supreme Court justices who were liberal democrats. So those are the facts. And when you describe this as a military coup and don’t add that two civilian institutions of government, the judiciary and the Congress, both ordered Mr. Zelaya to be arrested or to be removed from office, you are not completely and accurately reporting the news.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, are saying that the coup president right now, Roberto Micheletti, has accepted the Arias accords?

LANNY DAVIS: No, he has taken each element of the Arias accords, which would not, by the way, permit another inaccuracy in your ideological introduction. The Arias accords would not permit Mr. Zelaya to return as president as he was president. He would be restricted from doing anything contrary to the Constitution, such as he is not allowed to support the constitutional so-called referendum, which was found to be, by the Supreme Court, to be unconstitutional. Mr. Arias said that is not permitted. He has to have a coalition government composed of all parties, not just his own. So he would not be allowed to return as president, and that’s really why he rejected accepting all of the elements of the Arias proposal…

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, I wanted, and Greg Grandin, to go back to an interview we did with President Zelaya. It was about ten days after he was ousted. He described for Democracy Now! what happened the day he was removed from power.

PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] They attacked my house at 5:30 in the morning. A group of at least 200 to 250 armed soldiers with hoods and bulletproof vests and rifles aimed their guns at me, fired shots, used machine guns, kicked down the doors, and just as I was, in pajamas, they put me on a plane and flew me to Costa Rica.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the ousted President Zelaya. Lanny Davis, your response to what happened to the ousted President Zelaya?

LANNY DAVIS: Yeah, I don’t defend what was done. He should have been put in jail, as the Supreme Court ordered him. He violated the law. The Congress voted him out of office. And he should have been arrested and prosecuted with full due process of law. So I don’t defend that decision.

I understand the decision, because, again, what your program doesn’t report are facts. So, that was in the context of the day before, the president of an elected country leading a mob—that’s a fact—over 2,000 people, overrunning an air force barracks to seize ballots that were shipped in by Venezuela to conduct a referendum that the Supreme Court, by a 15-to-0 decision, called illegal. So the decision to ship him out of the country, I believe, in hindsight, could have been done differently.

But if you don’t also report that he had led a mob to overrun an air force barracks in violation of the two institutions of government, the Supreme Court and the Congress, at the same time that you call that a coup—it was a civilian-ordered arrest, and he defied the law and defied all findings of his own party in the Congress—if you don’t also report that, Amy, you’re engaging not in news, but in ideological ranting, which is what I said to your producer: I would come on this show with the assurance that you would not do that, and I’m afraid you’ve done it again.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: Can I just jump in? There’s a couple of things I’d like to contest that Mr. Davis said. One is, you are reporting the facts. Micheletti—I was in Honduras when Micheletti rejected the accords and then backpedaled and said that he would accept some of them or that he would reject [inaudible]—

LANNY DAVIS: Now you said he backpedaled. You didn’t say that before, did you?

GREG GRANDIN: Can I finish? Can I—

LANNY DAVIS: I’m glad you now conceded that point. Thank you.

GREG GRANDIN: Am I allowed to finish? Can I finish?

LANNY DAVIS: Sure, sure.

GREG GRANDIN: I let you speak, right?

That it’s obviously an effort to buy time, that the pressure of—by the international community. By the way, the rest of the US allies, not just Venezuela, but Chile, Brazil, Europe, Spain, the European Union, all understand this to be a coup, Central American neighboring countries of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala. So there’s not a dispute in the international community, and it’s only the United States who are having a debate whether this is a coup.

Second of all, let’s just state out—right out front that Zelaya was overthrown because the business community didn’t like that he increased the minimum wage. We’re talking about an elite that treats Honduras as if it was its own private plantation. There’s an excellent AP report published yesterday that says exactly this.

The legal reasoning, all of the legal reasoning and the loaded words about mobs and overrunning that Lanny Davis is using, is all done retroactively in order to justify a military intervention into civilian politics. Even if it is all true, and it’s a big “if,” considering that Otto Reich-linked organizations were running a major disinformation campaign in Honduras for over a year, Zelaya is entitled to due process. Can Davis say where in the Honduran Constitution presidents accused of wrongdoing—not convicted, just accused—can be forced out of bed in pajamas and sent into exile? After all, come on, Bill Clinton was impeached. Members of his own party voted for that impeachment, but he was allowed due process. Zelaya was never presented with an arrest warrant, nor did the military ever mention acting in response to a warrant. All of that was done retroactively in order to justify the military intervention. And in any case, the military is not a law enforcement agency. They certainly aren’t allowed to kidnap citizens and fly them out of the country. The Honduran Constitution guarantees—

LANNY DAVIS: May I respond?

GREG GRANDIN: —due process.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis?

LANNY DAVIS: The absence of fact by somebody who calls himself a professor is positively breathtaking. Let’s go through each of the misstatements of fact. We at least can agree on facts and put our rhetoric aside.

Number one, the Honduran Constitution has no impeachment process. The 15-to-0 vote by the Supreme Court, which you conveniently forgot to mention, is in separate institution of government, eight out of fifteen from the liberal party; the Congress overwhelmingly voted to remove him from office, because he violated Article 239 by his referendum—both the Supreme Court and the Congress being controlled by members of his own party.

Finally, I have not defended the absence of due process. You don’t even listen while you’re ideologically ranting about the business community controlling the Supreme Court, a duly elected Congress, are all controlled by Otto Reich in Washington. You use rhetoric rather than fact. I do concede, and readily concede—

GREG GRANDIN: Here’s a fact. Here’s a fact. Article—

LANNY DAVIS: He should have been—

GREG GRANDIN: Article—

LANNY DAVIS: Excuse me.

GREG GRANDIN: Here’s a fact, Mr. Davis—

LANNY DAVIS: You have no facts to dispute to that the Congress—

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239—

LANNY DAVIS: Now you’ve interrupted—

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239—

LANNY DAVIS: Now we’re even. Now you’re interrupting me, so we’re even. So let me finish.

The Congress, duly elected, and four out of five of the major parties, all parties, both presidential candidates of the major parties, the Church, every civil institution in Honduras, so we’re talking about the judiciary, the Congress, the Church, all of the parties but one, supported his ouster from government. And you say it was the business community elite? You are an ideologue. You’re not talking facts.

GREG GRANDIN: OK. I don’t know—

LANNY DAVIS: Now I’m done.

GREG GRANDIN: Now can I finish—

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: —the ad hominem attack on whether I’m an ideologue or not. A couple of facts. Article 239 of the—

LANNY DAVIS: You’re using ad hominem words, my friend, not me.

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239 of the—

LANNY DAVIS: “Elite” is an ad hominem word.

GREG GRANDIN: Can I—Article—

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin.

GREG GRANDIN: Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution has what is called a self-executive—executing clause that says that any president who tries to decide—who tries to extend term limits is automatically removed. Now, legal scholars in Honduras have disputed the validity of this clause. But setting that aside, Zelaya wasn’t trying to do away with term limits. It’s a disinformation campaign that Zelaya was trying to extend his term in office, which was the only way in which that clause could be invoked. All he wanted to do was hold a non-binding survey to ask Hondurans if they wanted—whether they were in agreement to hold a constitutional assembly that would approve a new constitution after he had left office.

LANNY DAVIS: Can I ask you a question?

GREG GRANDIN: And in any case, Article 239 was invoked, again, ex post facto. You could read the—you could read—again, fact: you can read the decree by Congress, which justified the removal of Zelaya from office, and it doesn’t mention Article 239.

LANNY DAVIS: Professor, can I ask a question?

GREG GRANDIN: Now—

LANNY DAVIS: Can I ask you a question about Article 239?

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah.

LANNY DAVIS: Honest question. The Supreme Court’s decision was a review of Mr. Zelaya’s actions and whether it violated Article 239. That’s a fact. And the Supreme Court—you can read the decision—the Supreme Court found 15-to-0 that your scholars, which can—all legal questions can be debated. I agree with you. Your scholars were disagreed with by a 15-to-0 vote by the Supreme Court, including eight members of Mr. Zelaya’s party. What is your comment about the Supreme Court’s decision?

GREG GRANDIN: The Supreme Court decision was done retroactively. And—

LANNY DAVIS: No, it was not.

GREG GRANDIN: —in any case—

LANNY DAVIS: That’s false.

GREG GRANDIN: —the Supreme Court—

LANNY DAVIS: That’s—wait a minute. That’s a false statement. The dateline is the Supreme Court made that decision on June 25th. He was not removed from the country on June 28th. Now, you just made a false statement of fact. Take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: The Supreme—

LANNY DAVIS: Take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: I’m—

LANNY DAVIS: Take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: Look, you made a false statement when you said that—

LANNY DAVIS: June 25th, three days before he was ousted, was the Supreme Court decision. Take your false statement back.

GREG GRANDIN: And did the Supreme Court—

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, let the historian, Greg Grandin, respond.

GREG GRANDIN: Can I finish? Can I finish?

LANNY DAVIS: I’m waiting for him to take it back.

GREG GRANDIN: The Supreme Court did not invoke Article 239 in that decision. It didn’t—

LANNY DAVIS: You are wrong.

GREG GRANDIN: It just simply didn’t—I am not wrong; I am right.

LANNY DAVIS: You are—again, you don’t even know the Supreme—you don’t even know the Constitution of Honduras has no impeachment clause. You referred to impeachment. And you don’t know a basic fact. Have you read the Constitution?

GREG GRANDIN: I was using impeachment—

LANNY DAVIS: Professor, have you read the Constitution?

GREG GRANDIN: I was using impeachment to talk about Bill Clinton.

LANNY DAVIS: Have you read the Constitution?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to take a break, and we’re going to come back. Our guests are Lanny Davis, attorney for the Honduran business leaders group. He is being paid by the—is it the Honduran Chamber of Commerce?

LANNY DAVIS: It’s called CEAL, and it’s the Latin American Business Council of Honduras. But I said it’s the functional equivalent of a chamber of commerce, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University. We’ll be back with both of them in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests, Lanny Davis, he is being paid by the Honduran chamber of commerce for the Honduran business community opposing the return of the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, and Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history at New York University.

Lanny Davis, I just wanted to read for you from CNN, a headline from July 29th. I am now looking at their website, and it says, “Zelaya accepts proposal; opposition not ready,” talking about the proposal by Oscar Arias to resolve the conflict in Honduras.

And I want to start by asking you now to respond to the European Union imposing sanctions against the coup government, to the Organization of American States also condemning it, to—well, President Obama himself calling it a coup, although they have backtracked on that in the last weeks. Are you satisfied with the Obama administration’s response to the ouster of Zelaya?

LANNY DAVIS: Absolutely. And by the way, if the professor can concede a little bit that maybe Mr. Micheletti is now prepared to go through the Arias proposal and all of its component parts, as the Congress commission recently just did, it sounds like Mr. Zelaya, having put two feet into the Honduras nation and then withdrew, when he was at the border a couple of weeks ago, now seems to have changed his position, and that’s good. And the reason that I say it’s good is that this is going to have to be resolved peacefully between Mr. Micheletti and Mr. Zelaya, and the return of Mr. Zelaya needs to be negotiated under the terms of the Arias proposal. And, of course, Secretary of State Clinton is responsible for encouraging President Arias to begin this process, and Mr. Micheletti and Mr. Zelaya, both of them committed to the process.

At one point, the first announcement day, Mr. Zelaya walked out and said, “This is unacceptable.” I do agree that both parties are now moving to the center and are now at least willing to go back to the table with President Arias, who’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner. There needs to be a negotiated solution.

There will be a new president elected at the end of November. And it’s in the interest of America and the world that there be democratic, free, fair and open elections. I hope the national institutes of democracy, Carter Center, the OAS, everybody who can possibly be on the ground to monitor those elections, so there’s a full and fair and free election for the new president at the end of November, which I think is the ultimate best ending of this very, very tragic story.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, again quoting from CNN from their report on July 19th, it said, “Earlier Saturday Arias outlined seven steps he believes need to be taken. The first step, he said, is that Zelaya must be returned to power.” Do you agree with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Costa Rican president?

LANNY DAVIS: Well, remember, I represent—you keep saying Chamber of Commerce, even though I corrected you twice, Amy. I’m not sure why you didn’t hear me.

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead. Repeat who you represent.

LANNY DAVIS: It’s the Latin American Council of Business Leaders. Latin American Council of Business Leaders.

AMY GOODMAN: Also known as CEAL.

LANNY DAVIS: I said it was the functional equivalent of—

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

LANNY DAVIS: —the Chamber of Commerce.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes.

LANNY DAVIS: OK.

AMY GOODMAN: So, do you agree with—

LANNY DAVIS: Not a big deal.

AMY GOODMAN: —Oscar Arias—

LANNY DAVIS: So I can’t—I can’t—

AMY GOODMAN: —that Zelaya must be returned?

LANNY DAVIS: I can’t offer you my personal opinion; I will offer you the representation of the moderate business community who I do represent, who does say, in retrospect, the sending of Mr. Zelaya out of the country could have been done differently.

But I think they believe that Mr. Arias’s entire proposal, which boxes Mr. Zelaya in to following the law and the Constitution, despite the professor’s disagreement with a 15-0 decision by the Supreme Court—they found the referendum to be illegal and unconstitutional. So, Mr. Arias, reflecting that, has put Mr. Zelaya in the box of the rule of law. And I think the position would be is that nobody trusts him to violate the law.

And I wasn’t characterizing or using inflammatory words when I said—it’s on videotape, on YouTube—I’ll let your viewers look at Mr. Zelaya, the day before the 28th, leading 2,000 people, yelling and screaming and violently pushing forward into the air force base. I won’t use the word “M-O-B,” but what I just said are facts, the president of the country doing that, defying the Supreme Court and defying the Congress to seize ballots that were shipped in by the government of Venezuela.

Now, those are all facts that provide the context of why the Arias proposal, which is the basis for negotiations, has to be fleshed out, so that if Mr. Zelaya returns, he’s required to follow the Constitution and the rule of law and won’t lead another group of people—if the word “mob” offends the professor—another group of people to violate the law and override an air force base guard in order to seize property…

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel President Obama was wrong in originally calling it a coup?

LANNY DAVIS: I think the word “coup” is used by people to describe the forced ouster of an executive official, and that is the way that President Obama saw it from the first announcement. I think, in the second and third look at the facts, when it was seen that he was ordered to be arrested, and he had self—taken himself out of the presidency—I think the professor was correct in saying “self-executing.” Under Article 239, anybody who tries to extend the Constitution, the term of office, is prohibited under 239 as president and is automatically—

GREG GRANDIN: Can I just jump in here?

LANNY DAVIS: —automatically removed from the presidency. So how could there—

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Greg Grandin?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah.

LANNY DAVIS: —be a coup, if he no longer was president?

GREG GRANDIN: But one—again, again, in respect to 239, that was ex post facto justified. In the original Supreme Court—

LANNY DAVIS: Justified.

GREG GRANDIN: —ruling—in the original Supreme Court ruling, it didn’t mention Article 239. This was an attempt to put a constitutional veneer on what is in—what the rest of the world is, in fact, calling a coup.

Now, in terms of the rule of law, which Mr. Davis invokes quite a number of times, let’s talk about the current regime. The recent international observation mission made up of fifteen human rights groups has documented what they call, quote, “grave and systemic acts of political repression” taking place. There’s been at least ten murders or disappearances, all of them Zelaya supporters, the latest being last weekend. Martin Florencia Rivera was stabbed to death, leaving the wake of another executed Zelaya supporter.

Mr. Davis talks about the Catholic Church. Well, it turns out that progressive priests, Jesuits, environmentalists, like Jose Andres Tamayo, is being hounded by soldiers. Just the other day, the police attacked the university, director of the university; Julieta Castellanos was beaten with riot clubs.

Members of death squads from the 1980s, most famously Billy Joya, has returned to support the Micheletti government. The government is closing down radio stations. Radio Globo, one of the few radio stations that is calling it a coup, has been shut down. Due process is suspended. Large parts of the southern part of the country have twenty-four-hour curfews. This is the face of the regime, and Lanny Davis is saying it’s constitutional, is saying it’s upholding the rule of law. I don’t understand how a Democrat can defend it.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin—

LANNY DAVIS: Can I respond?

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis.

LANNY DAVIS: First of all, my name is—apart from getting your facts wrong, my name is Lanny, not Lonnie. But that’s OK. I don’t defend any—

GREG GRANDIN: It’s my Brooklyn accent.

LANNY DAVIS: That’s OK. I don’t defend, if any of those things are true, if any of them are true. The people involved are—

GREG GRANDIN: They’re all true. They are all true.

LANNY DAVIS: Excuse me.

GREG GRANDIN: They’re all documented by international observers.

LANNY DAVIS: Alright, Professor, I think we’re now even, two-to-two, interrupting each other. So, maybe from this point on, we won’t do it.

If they are true, then those people are thugs, criminals, and should be prosecuted. And there are plenty of institutions in Honduras that would prosecute them. The last time that I heard of a charge, however, before we believe truth, because due process is also about getting truth, not believing allegations—I heard somebody and saw on television—the allegation was on CNN—where an individual said, “My mother was abducted from the house. The house was surrounded by police, and I am a Zelaya supporter.” The second or third day story was that this individual was involved in a spousal beating and was arrested, and his mother said, “I wasn’t ousted from my house.” Now, that was the second or third story.

So I’m not denying anything you said, Professor; I’m saying, let’s be sure that what was—seemed to be true is true, and if those people did what you said and if there have been media organizations shut down by the Micheletti government, which I do not believe is the case, but in my mind is open, that’s wrong, it’s a violation of my liberal principles, your liberal principles, there should be prosecutions. As long as you concede that Zelaya violating the law, according to the Supreme Court and his controlled Congress of his party, said he violated the law, and the Congress voted him to be removed, that you will respect democratic institutions in Honduras and not attribute it all to the, quote, “elite,” which is where we started in the very beginning…

GREG GRANDIN: The political institutions, and particularly in these three countries, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been hollowed out from the inside through organized crime cartels, often with deep roots in the military or traditional families. Political parties are often expressions of these interests. Read, for instance, the Washington Office on Latin America, kind of center-left think tank in Washington—they just released a report called “Captive States” that looks at Central America. The United Nations has set up a commission to investigate what they call “clandestine powers” that control Central American politics. This is not a conspiracy theory, and it’s certainly not ideological. It’s just fact…

LANNY DAVIS: May I respond?…

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, I want to follow up my question about meeting with President Obama, which you said you did not have a chance to do that. But you’re a longtime law school chum of Hillary Clinton, as well as Bill Clinton. You, of course, were his special counsel. Have you had a chance to speak with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about this issue?

LANNY DAVIS: No, I not only haven’t, I deliberately chose not to call the State Department at all as part of my job. My job, I thought, and still think, is to get the facts out, to be as honest as I can about my observation of the facts and to testify, as you may know, before Representative Engel’s subcommittee about this situation.

And I would really also have to say that if an American liberal—I assume that professor and I are both liberals—were to make these kinds of judgments about a democracy, the turnout in Honduran—it’s one of the great democracies in Latin America—

GREG GRANDIN: [laughing]

LANNY DAVIS: —in terms of participation and votes. And that kind of laughter and judgmental elitism, which is a word that you seem to like to throw around—I haven’t once heard you mention Venezuela and Hugo Chavez and whether you consider him to be a small-d democrat, or is there any corruption in Venezuela. Would you concede there is similar corruption in one-party rule in Venezuela?

AMY GOODMAN: This is a discussion about Honduras, and I want to stick with this.

LANNY DAVIS: I want to know the answer to the question why Venezuela hasn’t been mentioned.

AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, I want to not go into a debate about Venezuela right now. I want to stick with President Zelaya.

LANNY DAVIS: Isn’t it interesting that I mention Venezuela, and, Amy, you don’t want to talk about Venezuela? That’s a very interesting issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Because I want to stick with this issue of President Zelaya. And I want to turn to his words. We had a chance to first interview him earlier this month during his brief visit to Washington, DC. This is what he said when Juan Gonzalez and I asked him whether he was illegally trying to extend his term through the referendum and subvert the Constitution of 1982. This is President Zelaya.

PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] In Honduras, we do not have reelections, and I never intended to be reelected. That will be a matter for another government, another constitution and another constituent assembly. The popular consultation is a survey, just like the one Gallup does or other polling groups. It does not create rights. It has no power to impose. It is not obligatory. It’s an opinion poll. How could this be a motive for a coup d’état? No one has tried to me. I was just expelled by force by the military. This is an argument made up by the coup plotters. Don’t believe them.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the ousted President Zelaya. I’m going to give you each a last comment. Lanny Davis, let’s begin with you.

LANNY DAVIS: Could I comment about your being the moderator of this show, Amy? No, I guess you don’t want me to.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to give you a final comment on this, if you—

LANNY DAVIS: So Venezuela has nothing to do with Zelaya, even though when he went into the barracks of the air force, he was seizing ballots, which he calls a public opinion survey—he could have hired Gallup—to seize ballots sent in by Venezuela. He’s arguing with his own Supreme Court, 15-to-0.

And your leading question, Amy, to the professor, well, would you comment on the Supreme Court? Well, let’s comment on that, the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is 15-to-0, already answered Mr. Zelaya’s question. The rule of law was that he was ordered to stop, because he was in violation of the Constitution, 15-to-0, eight of whom were from his own party. You always seem to forget mentioning eight of those justices were fellow liberals, and a majority of the liberal congressmen elected, from poor districts as well as wealthy, voted to remove him from office. Amy, you always forget to mention those facts.

And the ballots came from Venezuela, from Chavez. You said we’re here to talk about Zelaya, not Venezuela, which is you’re literally in denial about the involvement of Venezuela and Ortega behind Zelaya.

AMY GOODMAN: Historian Greg Grandin, your final comment?

GREG GRANDIN: Well, I think what you see here is exactly a strategy that Davis is borrowing from the Latin American right to cast anybody that they don’t like, in terms of Venezuela, to taint them with Venezuela, and we’re also seeing the importation of that strategy into the United States. The Republicans have done it quite successfully to derail Obama’s—I mean, Obama came to office promising to enact a new multilateral policy in Latin America, and his attempt to do this and to call the coup what it is, a coup in Honduras, has largely been sidetracked by Republican pressure, which has said that to support Zelaya, the restitution of Zelaya, as the legitimate leader of Honduras, under whatever conditions that the two sides agree on, would be the absolute—would be supporting Chavez’s—would be supporting Chavez’s agenda in Latin America. So we’re seeing both Republicans and Lonnie Davis importing this strategy, which has—

LANNY DAVIS: Lanny, Lanny.

GREG GRANDIN: —actually a quite pernicious effect in Latin America. It’s basically red-baiting…

Polish Anti-Authoritaran Leszek Kolakowski Passes On

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Leszek Kolakowski

“Freedom is always vulnerable and its cause never safe”–Leszek Kolakowski

Polish anti-authoritarian historian and theorist Leszek Kolakowski has passed away on Friday, June 17, at the age of 81. Kolakowski was Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at All Souls College, Oxford. The Library of Congress awarded him the first John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences.

If you are unfamiliar with the man, he was a supporter of Solidarity and penned the magnificent three-volume Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution (1976-78), one of the best texts I have ever read on the subject. Kolakowski argued that the barbarity of Stalinism and other communist states were no aberation from Marxism but the logical conclusion of the application of Marx’s concepts. Some of his other works are The Individual and Infinity (1958), The Philosophy of Existence, the Defeat of Existence (1965), Husserl and the Search for Certitude (1975), If There is no God (1982), Metaphysical Horror (1988).

The Library of Congress website notes:

The relationships between freedom and belief, examined in many different contexts, have been lifelong themes of his scholarly work, and are displayed fully in a wide range of essays written in a non-technical language and accessible to a wide range of readers. In his, “The Death of Utopia Reconsidered” (1983), he explains his view of philosophy:

The cultural role of philosophy is not to deliver the truth but to build the spirit of truth, and this means never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense, always to suspect that there might be “another side” in what we take for granted, and never to allow us to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity as we know it.

What Kolakowski exemplifies and defends is the treatment of every individual as a rational and freely acting subject, aware that there is a spiritual side of life, able to have faith, yet eschewing absolute certainty of either an empirical or transcendental sort. It is the essence of a vibrant human culture to honor the universality of human rights while welcoming conflict of values, and repeated self- questioning, with what he calls “an inconsistent scepticism:”

I do not believe that human culture can ever reach a perfect synthesis of its diversified and incompatible components. Its very richness is supported by this very incompatibility of its ingredients. And it is the conflict of values, rather than their harmony, that keeps our culture alive.

Check out this conversation between Kolakowski and Danny Postel from Daedlus (excerpt):

dp: Your less than euphoric feelings about the Western Left were strongly colored by your year in Berkeley in 1969–1970. Tzvetan Todorov describes a similar experience, of fleeing a Communist country–in his case, Bulgaria–only to find himself in a heavily Communist intellectual milieu in Paris. What was Berkeley like for you?

lk: I found the so-called student movement simply barbaric. There are of
course ignorant young people at all times and in all places. But in Berkeley their ignorance was elevated to the level of the highest wisdom. They wanted to ‘revolutionize’ the university in such a way that they wouldn’t have to learn anything. They had all sorts of silly proposals. For instance, they wanted professors to be appointed by students, and students to be examined by other students. I remember one leaflet issued by the black student movement asserting that the libraries contained nothing but “irrelevant
white knowledge.”

[read it all here]

Read more:

The Death of Utopia Reconsidered” (Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Australian National University, June 22, 1982)

How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist

Roger Kimball’s obit at Pajamas Media

Another obit at Inside Higher Ed

And one more from Democracy Digest

More added via Martin in the Margins and Poumista:

Andrew Murphy at Harry’s Place

Hitchens

Michael Weiss (Snarksmith)

Nick Cohen at Standpoint

Petition in Support of Chinese Writer Liu Xiaobo

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liu-xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo, a dissident writer and intellectual based in Beijing, and a former president of Chinese PEN was arrested in December. His charges, suspicion of inciting subversion of state power after co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration that calls for greater human rights and democracy in China. If convicted he faces up to three years in prison.

Please sign this petition in defense of Liu. Time is very much of the essence, so please add your name as soon as possible.

Added:

[From Michael Craig, China Rights Network, Toronto]

For details about Liu & Charter 08 situation, including text in English of the charter, check out Liu Xiaobo, RELEASE HIM NOW Facebook site.

Anarchists vs. Maoists at SF Book Fair

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book-fair

Ah, it’s that time of year again. Time for the San Francisco Anarchist Book Fair! A place to learn of the glories of social revolution, listen to tales of human autonomy, consensus and self-management and bask in the pungent smell of patchouli oil and sweat.

It is generally an uneventful event. Book sales do not tend to attract an aggressive crowd. But this year’s fair was marked by confrontation, a struggle between anarchists and Maoists. No incendiary devices were exchanged, no bottles thrown, no brawls occurred.

The fair takes place at the fairground building in Golden Gate Park. Every time I went to the event there was some Stalinist, Maoist or other communist group with a literature table outside of the building.  Most attendees ignored them.

This year members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) attempted to enter the building to sell their literature. This created quite a scene. The RCP was told they had five minutes to leave the building or they would be removed. After five minutes had passed they were shown the door.

The RCP proceeded to set up their table outside the facility. Soon thereafter members of the Modesto Anarchist Crew (MAC) dumped a five gallon bucket of water on the table, drenching the RCP’s books and other propaganda.

This has created (or more properly, exasperated) a rift in the SF activist scene with some supporting the action and others decrying it as “sectarian” and “counterrevolutionary.”

Statement from RCP/Revolution Books:

Revolution Books, a communist bookstore in Berkeley, was forced to leave the anarchist book fair and told they could set up outside by the organizers. After setting up their table, someone poured a bucket of water on their books, fliers, and newspapers, destroying hundreds of dollars of literature. We denounce this act and call on the organizers of the anarchist book fair to do the same. This sort of attack is repressive and reactionary and is the complete opposite of the culture of discussion, debate, and dissent that we need in order to create a vibrant, liberated society

Here are some comments from two posts at Indybay:

Never Trust a Bolshevik:

I can’t believe this is even an issue at this point. Anyone with any knowledge of history knows the disaster which comes from making common cause with Bolsheviks. Against the wishes of Makhno, the officers of the Makhnovshchina chose to trust the Bolshies and it got them machinegunned en masse at the Crimean “peace talks.” The CNT made common cause with the Bolsheviks and Durruti ended up face-down with a bullet in the back of his head.

“A” writes:

I know some of the Maoists personally. They’ve never pushed any political agenda or ideals onto me. In fact, one of the organizers is at nearly every protest/rally there is in the Bay Area, spreading a consciousness of change and revolution, but NEVER promoting any particular agenda. It shouldn’t matter what agenda you want AFTER the revolution; the point is that we have the same enemy. I’ve never seen any anarchist show such determination in organizing or participating in Bay Area events, especially Oscar Grant rallies.

Miles replies:

Read some fucking history, specifically about the followers of Lenin, Stalin and Mao and their relationships to anarchists and other anti-state revolutionaries, and then come cry to us about our common enemy and explain how “revolutionary” those butchers are. Fuck you crybabies. If you’re ashamed to call yourself an anarchist after a minor skirmish like that where nobody got hurt or maimed or killed, who needs you on our side? What’s going to happen to your thin skin when the shooting starts? Get lost and take your wishy washy hippy liberal shit with you on the way out. The fact is that the followers of Lenin (and company) denounce us no matter what we do or don’t do, and when they’re not busy denouncing us they frame us, jail us, torture us, maim us and when that stops amusing them, they murder us. It’s factual history, not some bullshit neo-McCarthyist paranoia. No tolerance for our enemies, whether they wrap themselves in a red white and blue flag or a plain old red flag.

Sometimes I miss the Bay Area.