The Point
Last updated: 11 December 2017.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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In Praise of Beethoven

Arthur C Clarke - A Very Modern Odyssey

Tackling Private Landlords

Investigating the Value Form

The Eternal Dark Heart of Empire

If You Build Them, They Will Come

Ukraine, Democracy, and avoiding Civil War

Stephen L. Mowat looks at the crisis in the Ukraine, and looks for a solution beyond Western knee jerk hegemony.

You can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created those problems.”Einstein

In this article I will look at how the world’s main power blocs are handling the upheaval in Ukraine. I’ll argue that viewing the issue in terms of spheres of influence is not such a great idea. In this complex world of ours, relationships between entities are ever important. Ludwig Von Bertalanffy coined the term “whole systems thinking”. It refers to a method of decision making that looks at the interrelationships of the constituent parts of a world political system rather than focusing on the parts themselves.

This crisis is not about Ukraine. Neither is it about Europe. Current events in Crimea are not about Russia. These catastrophic events are about perspectives, connections, relationships and conditions between these gargantuan actors on the world stage.

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The Battle for Seattle

 

Phil Stott on a fantastic victory for the left, as socialist Kshama Sawant wins a City Council seat in Seattle - in what was effectively a constituency with 3 to 4 times the electorate of a Westminster or Scottish Parliamentary seat

The 15th of November 2013 will go down in history. That was the day when an openly declared socialist, Kshama Sawant, created a political earthquake in Seattle, and among left and progressives across the US, by winning a council seat. This is the first time a socialist has won an election in at least 100 years in Seattle. In fact the Seattle city archivist could find no record of a socialist ever being elected in the city.

Kshama, an immigrant from India, won over 93,000 votes to defeat 16 year council veteran and leading Democrat, Richard Conlin. So how was this incredible result achieved? And what are the prospects for further advances for socialism in the "belly of the beast" that is the US?

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Greece Fighting Austerity

 

Gordon Morgan, National Treasurer of Solidarity was recently in Greece as an invited international delegate to the National Congress of Syriza, dominant force of the Greek Left and leading the resistance to austerity and fascism both electorally and on the streets. This is his inspiring account


I was privileged to attend the 1st Congress of Syriza-USF in Athens in July as a representative of Solidarity. This was an exhilarating congress, with around 3,500 delegates which successfully handled a tasking agenda of not only debating how to fight austerity and neo-liberalism and protect Greek communities, but also deciding on a constitution for the new party and electing a renewed leadership.

Syriza has set itself a goal of forming a Government of the Left in Greece after the next election opposed to EU imposed austerity and launching a campaign against neo-liberalism in Europe and across the world. If it succeeds in these aims, which all socialists should support, it will prove to have been a truly historic conference.

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No to military intervention in Syria

As we dash headlong into what would effectively be a declaration of war on Syria, egged on by the usual trustworthy sabre-rattlers, John Wight reminds us of the West's previous in the Middle-East and asks...
Is it all happening again..?
Why would Syrian government forces mount a chemical weapons attack on a suburb of Damascus at a time when a delegation of UN weapons inspectors were in the country – only just arrived in Damascus no less – to investigate previous allegations of chemical weapons use during this unrelentingly brutal conflict? Why would they do so knowing it would give the West the pretext they’ve long been seeking to engage in military intervention? Why would they do so knowing it would instantly lose them the crucial geopolitical support of Russia, without which military intervention would already have taken place? And why would it do so when after two and a half years the Syrian National Army, aided by Hezbollah and Iran, had begun to take the strategic initiative on the ground?
It would constitute one of the greatest military and political blunders in history if it was proved that Bashar al-Assad or any of his generals had ordered the use of what most experts have agreed was sarin nerve gas against the civilian population of Ghouta on the eastern outskirts of Damascus recently, resulting in the horrific scenes of men, women, and children suffering unspeakable agony that we’ve seen in the aftermath.
It would, in fact, be tantamount to Bashar al-Assad signing his own death warrant along with that of his government.
Let's not pretend: from the outset the US, Britain, and France - along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey in the region - have been open in their political, financial, and military support for the opposition and the toppling of the Syrian government. It's instructive that of all the western powers lined up against Assad, France was the one to come out first with a call for direct military intervention in the conflict should it be proved that the government was behind this particular atrocity. France - the former colonial power - whose bloody war to maintain control another of its former colonies, Algeria, from 1954 to 1962, cost the lives of up to 1.5 million people – from the outset decided that the Syrian government was responsible and viewed it as an opportunity to garner support both at home and abroad for some kind of military intervention. Paris was predictably and quickly joined in its rush to judgment by Washington and London.
 Five days after the attack the UN inspectors already in Damascus were given access to the site of the attack. This delay was added to the charge sheet prepared in Washington, which by now had taken control of the situation in time old fashion. Also added to the charge sheet was the sniper attack on one of the UN vehicles as they made their way through the war torn suburb to begin their investigation.
 We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Just cast your mind back to 2002/03 when Saddam and Iraq was in the crosshairs of western military intervention. Remember the then US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, appearing at the UN holding up a vial which he told the world could contain enough anthrax to decimate an entire city? Remember how Saddam’s and the Iraqi government’s denials that they possessed WMDs was taken as evidence they did? Remember how UN inspectors, led by Hans Blix, were withdrawn precipitately when it became clear there was no evidence to support the justification for a war that had already been green lit and was going to take place regardless?
Well here we are, a decade on, with the latest UN Secretary of State, John Kerry, declaring in his recent statement to the world’s media that despite the fact it will probably be impossible for the UN inspection underway in Damascus to determine who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack, he and the president have no doubt that President Assad is responsible.  
 Iraq, Libya, Syria – the script is the same; the only thing that has changed is the location.
The West's hegemonic objectives when it comes to the region are clear. With Syria as one pole of resistance both to the West's geopolitical objectives and Israeli military domination removed, Hezbollah, a second pole in what is an axis of resistance, would be significantly weakened, no doubt preparatory to an Israeli pretext being cooked up to settle accounts with the Lebanese resistance movement after the humiliating military defeat it suffered at its hands back in 2006. The major stumbling block to complete western domination of the region and its resources is, of course, Iran, which would be left isolated if both its close allies, Syria and Hezbollah, were defeated and/or destroyed
Those are the stakes involved in this ongoing conflict; and this is why these allegations must be regarded with a healthy dose of scepticism.
 Meanwhile the suffering of the Syrian people continues, with reports and graphic images and videos of atrocities being committed a stark reminder of the stakes involved. The summary execution of prisoners, the beheading of minorities and prisoners by the main opposition current, the al-Nusra Front – an al-Qaeda affiliate – which is set on turning not just Syria but the entire region into a mass killing field in service to a perverse rendering of Islam, are taking place on a daily basis. There is no other word to describe these people other than beasts, whose very existence is an affront to the very word civilisation.
 Add to this the millions of refugees who’ve crossed Syria's borders to escape the violence, the millions displaced within the country, and the need for an end to the violence is self evident. This can only come about via a political solution, negotiated in good faith by the Syrian government and a credible Syrian opposition. There can be no place at the table for non-Syrian jihadists whose vision for the future of the country is rooted in the seventh century. 
Yet in the West the emphasis remains on supporting the opposition, whatever its stripe, in its attempt to topple the Assad government by force. The lessons of the human suffering, carnage and chaos to beset Iraq and Libya have been forgotten - or as is more likely ignored - in service to the more important issue of an outcome favourable to western geopolitical interests.
'Twas ever thus.
 

George Zimmerman's Acquittal Proves That Malcolm Was Right

John Wight argues that the acquittal Of George Zimmerman for the gunning down of the black teenager Trayvon Martin proves that despite the election of its first black president, the USA is still riven with racism, discrimination and injustice.

  

In the end there was a banal inevitability to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Perhaps it was because the jury comprised six women, all but one of whom were white (the demographic that feels most threatened by young black men in the US), in a state - Florida - not known for its warmth towards black people. Or perhaps it was due to the history of race relations in the US and the nature of a society in which blacks continue to fare worse than every other racial group according to social indicators when it comes to poverty, education, housing, health, crime, and life expectancy. Most probably it was both of the aforementioned combined.

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Cuba 2012 - An Essay in Pictures

In November 2012 I travelled to Cuba for ten days, staying in Havana, then moving inland to Santa Clara, over the mountains to the Caribbean and the third city of Cienfuegos, finally returning to Havana. This short video film is an essay in pictures I took (and a few were taken by my travelling companion) that tries to show Cuba as I found it.  The music accompanying is a mix of original indigenous Cuban music and shamelessly stolen anthems that mirrored the political feelings of optimism my journey through Cuba – not without contradiction – finally gave rise to. As such this is as much a personal as a political pictorial essay – perhaps more so.

If you’ve been to Cuba before I hope you recognise things that spark memories.  If you haven’t I hope this will perhaps entice you to go and see Cuba for yourself one day.

Steve Arnott

 

Other articles by Steve Arnott in The Point can be found here

Misadventures in Hollywood

 

 

John Wight, writer and activist

In 2003, during the run-up to the war in Iraq, I was living in Hollywood, where at the time I was working as Ben Affleck's stand-in on the movie Surviving Christmas. The experience is recounted in my book Dreams That Die, just published by Zero Books. Given that Affleck has just won the BAFTA for the movie Argo, and with this week marking the tenth anniversary of the historic international day of protest on February 15 2003, here is an extract from the book on my experience on the set of the movie in the immediate aftermath of the February 15 demo in Los Angeles.

 


 

 

The Monday after the demonstration saw me arrive for the start of another week on the movie in high spirits. The enormous size and number of demonstrations that had taken place around the world had hit the headlines, managing to knock the pro-war consensus within the mainstream off the front pages of all the major newspapers, as well as relegating them in order of importance on the TV news bulletins.

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China - A personal impression

China is the subject of much political debate on the left. Point correspondent Steve Mowat, visited there recently.

China has unique media coverage. Last year it hit the headlines for among other things, corrupt Maoist officials, assassinations, brutal clampdowns of horseback riding independence campaigners in Tibet and Ugur. Not to mention provocation of regional rivals, construction of immense aircraft carriers and a seemingly unflinching and powerful Communist Party elite. Some could be forgiven for being fearful of the world’s newest great power. Scenes from the recent James Bond movie Skyfall back this up. Skillfully, the picture portrays demons of a cyber-warfare raging silently between China, (notorious for its internet monitoring) and the west. Seductive and callous bad Chinese guys feed their enemies to pet Komodo Dragons, and shootouts among the corridors of Shanghai and Macau’s gambling dens are breathtaking cinema. 

But just how much does this reflect the reality of Western – Chinese relations and life in China?

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Cuba: lessons in the construction of pragmatic socialism

Gary Fraser


Introduction

In the summer of this year my wife Anthea and I had the pleasure of visiting Cuba. It was exciting to be in Cuba at a time of great change in the island. For the first time in its history Cuba truly stands alone. In the 18th and 19th century Cuba was dominated by Spanish imperialists. Then, in the first half of the twentieth century, it was the turn of the Americans to dominate Cuba’s economy and its culture. Following the 1959 revolution, it quickly transpired that the socialist experiment in Cuba could not survive without support from the Soviet Union and consequently Cuba entered into a period of economic dependency which brought problems but also rewards. All of that changed in 1991 when Communism collapsed. Cuba nosedived into the biggest economic crisis its people have faced. Yet to the surprise of many, Cuban socialism survived the fall of Communism. In the 1990s, in the early days of what excited neo-liberals called the ‘new world order, many predicted the imminent collapse of the Cuban regime. The narrative of the period, to borrow from Fukunyama’s overused term, was ‘the end of history’. Yet the Cuban people continued to make their own history, different from the one espoused by the neo-liberals. In this essay, I want to examine that history in detail. I want to argue that socialism in Cuba survives because it is based on pragmatism first, ideology second. Furthermore, I want to discuss the current reforms taking place in Cuba and locate them within the overall discourse of socialism.

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Chavez wins again - Massive democratic endorsement of socialism by Venezuelan people


Ana Dreyfuss-Quillon

Socialists and progressives the world over will have been heartened at the news of President Hugo Chavez’s third consecutive Presidential election victory in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Faced with a united opposition challenge from Henri Capriles, who even tried to woo some Chavista support by pledging to keep many of his reforms and social programmes, Chavez nevertheless won by a margin of nearly 10%, with 55% of the vote.

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