Chto Delat Weekly Reader No. 3

Another selection of articles from our virtual magazine rack. This week’s topics include: more (much more) leftist analysis of the world financial crisis; censorship of news of the crisis in the mainstream Russian media; Russia’s demographic crisis and its prospects for superpower resurgence; out-of-control US/UK imperialism; an eyewitness account of the crackdown against the Side by Side LGBT festival in Petersburg; prospects for unity on the European left; and Sarah Palin, American “Poujadist.”

John Pilger. Truth and war mean nothing at the party conferences. The media turns the other way, or perverts the truth, while an increasingly imperialist United States, with Britain in tow, pursues its expansionist interests.

Saturday Night Live. VP Debate Open: Sen. Biden and Gov. Palin go head to head. A television parody of the recent US vice-presidential debate, featuring Queen Latifah and Tina Fey.

Jonathan Raban. Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill. Sarah Palin has put a new face and voice to the long-standing, powerful, but inchoate movement in US political life that one might see as a mutant variety of Poujadism, inflected with a modern American accent. There are echoes of the Poujadist agenda of 1950s France in its contempt for metropolitan elites, fuelling the resentment of the provinces towards the capital and the countryside towards the city, in its xenophobic strain of nationalism, sturdy, paysan resistance to taxation, hostility to big business, and conviction that politicians are out to exploit the common man.

Murray Feshbach. Behind the Bluster, Russia Is Collapsing. The bear is back. That’s what all too many Russia-watchers have been saying since Russian troops steamrolled Georgia in August, warning that the country’s strongman, Vladimir Putin, was clawing his way back toward superpower status. […] Not so fast. Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power. Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.

Richard Seymour. Hard Rain. So, the stock markets turned up their noses at $700bn. Too little too late, apparently—all the stress and the bullying and arm-twisting and bribing and threats of ‘martial law’ were to no avail, at least if the idea was to avert catastrophe. According to Nouriel Roubini, the bail-out may either be inadequate or make matters worse, or both. After all: “When a nuclear option of a monster $700 billion rescue plan is not even able to rally stock markets, you know this is a global crisis of confidence in the financial system.” So: “The next step of this panic could be the mother of all bank runs, i.e. a run on the trillion dollar-plus of the cross-border short-term interbank liabilities of the U.S. banking and financial system, as foreign banks start to worry about the safety of their liquid exposures to U.S. financial institutions. A silent cross-border bank run has already started.”

Richard Seymour. Interests. By the way, here is a thought—A Modest Proposal, if you will—if we really want to bring ‘stability’ to the system at all costs, there is one thing I can absolutely ascertain will do it: bring back slavery. That would restore profitability in a jiffy. Contrary to what your economics text books may tell you, ‘free labour’ is by no means a better bet for capital. ‘Free labour’ can argue about the terms of its exploitation, and may quit any particular assignation more or less as it chooses (notwithstanding the obvious economic compulsion). Slave labour just is the perfect human commodity, since it does exactly what it says on the tin without being permitted to argue back or withdraw cooperation.

Richard Seymour. The End of Freedom. The true believers really do see the broad historical shift that is taking place. The financialisation of the economy and aggressive deregulation that neoliberalism championed is drawing to a close. This doesn’t mean that such regulatory models as are introduced are likely to be to the general benefit of the population. We are not, short of a sudden upsurge in American radicalism backed up by organisational regroupment, about to see the New Deal restored. Nor does it mean that the reconstitution of class power that is about to take place will diminish finance capital as such—rather, it is likely to concentrate its power, and integrate it more closely with the state. And in fact, unless there is resistance, it is likely to be a much more authoritarian state. But for neoliberals, state intervention into the economy in itself constitutes a net contraction of the total available freedom. And this is what they think they mean by communism, or socialism, or—as in Naomi Wolf’s histrionical audit of the Bush administration’s recent actions—a fascist coup. These people have spent a great percentage of their adult lives believing that the alternative to a perpetual liberalisation of the markets was the restoration of serfdom. Capital and its managers were always more pragmatic: their aim was to hegemonise the state, to make it a powerful instrument of their interests, not to diminish it.

Tim Wise. Racism as Reflex at a Time of Crisis. No matter the nature of the crisis, white supremacists will construct a logic that blames the “Other”—usually Blacks. Professional racists Neil Cavuto and Rush Limbaugh claim that poor people caused “the nation’s current financial mess,” rather than “greedy investors, free-wheeling bankers, speculators and other assorted rich people taking advantage of a largely deregulated market for bogus investments.” Turning the world on its head seems second nature for a huge section of “white conservatives who simply cannot bring themselves to blame rich white people for anything.”

Anton Nossik. Кризис, цензура, жизнь.
 Известия про табу на упоминания кризиса в подконтрольных СМИ продолжают поступать со всех сторон.
Истории, которые пару недель назад звучали как нелепый анекдот про чьё-то глупое цензорское рвение, сегодня уже находят отражение в статистике от Медиалогии.

Например, “обвал” применительно к российскому рынку в новостях Первого канала в последний раз (по данным “Медиалогии”) упоминался 16-го сентября, на ВГТРК – 19-го, на НТВ – 17-го, на РБК (даже на независимом РБК!) – 19-го. После этого – как отрезало. Хотя в оценке ситуаций в Америке или Европе каналы в выражениях по-прежнему особо не стесняются, во всех красках описывая проблемы мировой экономики.

Из совсем свежих анекдотов — под цензурные ножницы на госканалах угодил в четверг зампред правительства РФ, министр финансов Алексей Кудрин. Его программное выступление про «семь тощих коров и семь тучных коров» было запрещено к показу в эфире ВГТРК, в связи с допущенной вице-премьером откровенностью оценок.
 [Anton Nossik, “Crisis, Censorship, Life.” News about the taboo on mentioning the crisis in the state-controlled media continues to come in from all quarters. Stories that even a couple weeks ago would have sounded like a bad joke about someone’s stupid censorious zeal have now been reflected in statistics from Medialogy. For example, the word “crash” in reference to the Russian stock market was last used (according to Medialogy) on Channel One on September 16; on Russia Channel, on September 19; on NTV, on September 17; and on RBK (even on independent RBK!) on September 19. After this time, it was as if the word had been snipped from the dictionary. These channels, however, aren’t still particularly shy in their verbal assessments of the situation in America and Europe, painting the problems of the world economy with all the colors on their palette. The latest reports indicate that Russian Federation finance minister Alexei Kudrin has fallen victim to the censor’s scissors. His programmatic lecture about the “seven lean cows and the seven fat cows” was forbidden for broadcast on Russia Channel because the vice-premier was too frank in his assessments.]

Behind the News (KPFA). Doug Henwood, Leo Panitch, and Sam Gindin discuss the financial crisis, the origins and history of neoliberalism, and the prospects for democratizing the economy. Highly recommended! (Radio broadcast)

Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin. The Current Crisis: A Socialist Perspective. ‘They say they won’t intervene. But they will.’ This is how Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, responded to Paul O’Neill, the first Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush, who openly criticized his predecessor’s interventions in the face of what Rubin called ‘the messy reality of global financial crises.’ The current dramatic conjuncture of financial crisis and state intervention has proven Rubin more correct than he could have imagined. But it also demonstrates why those, whether from the right or the left, who have only understood the era of neoliberalism ideologically—i.e. in terms of a hegemonic ideological determination to free markets from states—have had such a weak handle on discerning what really has been going on over the past quarter century. Clinging to this type of understanding will also get in the way of the thinking necessary to advance a socialist strategy in the wake of this crisis.

Videos: European revolutionaries discuss left unity experiences. The British socialist newspaper Socialist Resistance on June 28, 2008, sponsored a fascinating day of discussion and debate on building broad left parties across Europe, attracting a comprehensive list of speakers from key left unity projects. The videos of the following talks were recorded on the day. They include speakers from the Left Bloc Portugal, Respect in Britain, the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, Die Link in Germany, Sinistra Critica (Italy) and the European Greens.

Basil Tsiokos. DISPATCH FROM ST. PETERSBURG | Russia’s First LGBT Film Festival Fights On Despite Government and Media Resistance. Facing local hostility, overt moves by the government to halt their event, and a persistent shroud of secrecy for gays and lesbians in their country, organizers of Russia’s first queer film festival fought to stage their event this weekend even as they were ridiculed in the media. Just back from St. Petersburg, outgoing NewFest artistic director and Sundance fest doc programming associate Basil Tsiokos offers a diary of his experience as a juror at the first Side By Side fest.

William K. Tabb. Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System. This essay examines aspects of the global political economy that I hope will inform progressive governments and movements for social change. It evaluates the constraints and opportunities presented in the current conjuncture of world capitalist development by analyzing four areas of crisis in the contemporary world capitalist system. These are not the only contradictory elements in the contemporary conjuncture, but they are, in my view, the most salient.

Loren Goldner. Great Game II: America Lashes Out on the Borders of China and Russia. The 19th century ‘Great Game’ rivalry between Britain and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia is seeing a resurgence, with America taking Britain’s place. The stakes are higher than ever.


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