Friday, May 23, 2008

In the National Post, About Afghanistan: 'It's Our Generation's Spanish Civil War'

In today's National Post, where I set out the left-wing case for supporting Canada's engagement in Afghanistan, the headline picks up from my reference to a remark by the British linguist and historian Fred Halliday, who casts the historic “anti-war” misjudgment in these terms:

“To my mind, Afghanistan is central to the history of the Left, and to the history of the world since the 1980s. It is to the early 21st century, to the years we’re now living through, what the Spanish Civil War was to Europe in the mid and late 20th century.”
I go on to observe:

What this means is that the heirs and successors of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion — the brave Canadian volunteers who went to Spain to fight Franco’s fascists — are to be found today not in the main ranks of the left, but among the courageous young men and women of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Vandoos, and all those other Canadian regiments that are holding the banner high in Afghanistan. It means that Canadian soldiers, and not Canada’s “anti-war” politicians and polemicists, are at the vanguard of the historic mission of the left. I would have been proud of those soldiers anyway, but as someone who counts himself among the left-wing founders of the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, I am doubly proud of them.

A much more elaborate set of arguments along these lines unfolds in a conversation I had recently with Stan Persky, at Dooney's Cafe.

The Solidarity Committee first came to the Post's attention here.

To be clear, the Committee is by no means an exclusively "left-wing" group, as I hope my Post essay makes plain. We have all kinds of members, including soldiers: The photograph above - some kids clowning around in Kandahar - was taken by one of our more recent members, Tylere Couture, who works with a Civilian-Military (CIMIC) operation of the Canadian-led Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. Keep an eye on the CASC site in the coming days for Tylere's reports, and more of his photography.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Slavoj Zizek on the senility of the left, the idiocy of capitalism, and other stuff

Zizek, the strange Slovenian pop-communist philosopher, is by far the most interesting Marxist at large in the world today. Fortunately, in this interview (in six parts), his American interlocutor can't get a word in edgewise:

Brought to my attention by General Rubbish, another of that rare species, the interesting Marxist.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Where they burn books, they will also in the end burn human beings" - Heine

My fellow students, German men and women, the era of exaggerated Jewish intellectualism is now at an end.

So Josef Goebbels told a crowd of fascists in the notorious burning of at least 20,000 books at Berlin's Opernplatz, one of more than 30 book-burning ceremonies that took place in German cities in 1933. The Berlin bonfire was 75 years ago this weekend.

The site where the event occurred is now called August Bebel Platz, and Stan Persky, with whom I enjoyed a long conversation only last week, was there, for the commemoration.

Stan's report is here.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Because It's Friday And I'm With My People Is Why

Thursday, May 08, 2008

They're here. They're Jews. Get used to it.

In today's Buenos Aires Herald, Eamonn McDonagh ponders the reasons why it has become perfectly acceptable to deny the very legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state:

"I would speculate that it’s because a lot of people who have no problem at all with the nationalism of the Irish, the Uzbeks or the Tamils seem to be made, at best, uncomfortable by the nationalism of the Jews. Not by their own or anybody else’s, just that of the Jews. It seems to stick in their craws that the Jews have their own state. They are happy for Jews to be doctors, lawyers, shrinks and bankers but for them to have their own state, elect corrupt and ignorant politicians, defend themselves and commit the occasional atrocity, just like the great majority of other nation states at some point in their history, doesn’t seem to be acceptable."

Over at Harry's Place, we're let in on a little secret about Israel. It's taboo to talk about it, "but a good reason to bring it to light is the current, unlimited toxic hatred of the 'anti-imperialist camp' toward the existence of Israel and all she stands for - not toward Israeli policies, whatever they might be, but toward the very legitimacy and existence of the country. This hatred is always based on ignorance and cultural insensitivity and often segues into open, explicit antisemitism. And as always, hatred rests upon a lie, and a lie rests upon ignorance."

Jeremy Ben-Ami dispels five myths about being pro-Israel in America: 1. Jews choose to back candidates largely on the basis of their stance on Israel. 2. To be strong on Israel, you have to be harsh to the Palestinians. 3.The Rev. John Hagee and his fellow Christian Zionists are good for the Jews. 4. Talking peace with your enemies demonstrates weakness. 5. George W. Bush is the best friend Israel has ever had.

Norm Geras offers six reasons why we should celebrate Israel's 60th birthday today. One for each decade: 1. The destruction of the European Jews. 2. Antisemitism. 3. Israel's cultural achievements. 4. Israeli democracy. 5. For the cause of solidarity. 6. For a just settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

Any of these would suffice for me.

Yom Huledet Same'ach.

UPDATE: Z-Word editor Ben Cohen takes apart the enthusiasms of the "one-state" solution.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

'So, Tell Us, What Are Two Nice Lefty Writers Like You Doing In A War Like This?'

The answer is, well, a long story. Really. Almost 10,000 words long. It's up at Dooney's Cafe.

It began as Why Are We In Afghanistan? and it ends that way, too, but it took on the form of something along the lines of a Socratic Dialogue. This was especially suitable to the disposition of my old comrade Stan Persky, whose inclinations to the Socratic method are well known. And besides, he teaches this sort of thing.

But it's also because we both found that an inquiry into this question would require more than just an enumeration of the straightforward answers that have led both us to declare ourselves partisans on this front, so we proceed to an elucidation of our answers to the question, Why Should We Be In Afghanistan? From there, we go on to what we both make of the trajectory that led the main ranks of the left, specifically the "left" in Canada, to make what United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon properly calls "a misjudgment of historic proportions."

And we allow ourselves the presumption of looking forward to brighter mornings as well.

Monday, May 05, 2008

To The Top Of Mount Work With John, Pete, Zoe and Mookie

Here's a north facing view, overlooking Saanich Inlet, with Saltspring Island in the far distance. In the foreground, logger-turned-teacher and fabulous writer John Schreiber, whose Stranger Wycott's Place will soon be published by New Star via my Transmontanus imprint; my perfect daughter Zoe, bass player with Words Around the Waist, back from Toronto for a visit; and our pal Pete Stein, from whom we learned that there really were five Yiddish theatre companies in New York once. Plus mookie:

Here's the view to the south, from the summit. Across Juan de Fuca Strait, you can just barely make out the Olympic Mountains in Washington. Not nearly as ambitious as I'd imagined. There was a cougar up there a month ago. On our morning there were lots of turkey vultures, ravens, a young bald eagle, songbirds without number, Pacific tree frogs singing, and dang good company.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Few Words In Defence Of The United States Of America

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fête des travailleurs: Remember those who fought for you

"What could give more courage to the eternal slaves of the factories and the workshops than the mustering of their own troops? Thus, the idea of a proletarian celebration was quickly accepted and, from Australia, began to spread to other countries until finally it had conquered the whole proletarian world. . . And, when better days dawn, when the working class of the world has won its deliverance then too humanity will probably celebrate May Day in honor of the bitter struggles and the many sufferings of the past."

- On the Origins of May Day, Rosa Luxembourg, 1894.

Be ye many or few drawn together, Let your message be clear on this day;
Be ye birds of the spring, of one feather In this--that ye sing on May-Day.

Hard times come again no more.