1. The Populist Revolution: Bernie and Beyond
2. Politics of Fear Devouring Human Rights Worldwide
3. China: Surviving the
Politics: Will Our Freedoms Survive Another
5. Fools, Frauds and
Firebrands : Thinkers of the New Left
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 28,
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a
revolution or revival that Ellen Brown sees: I like her and provide a
link to her article (the original link is faulty, right now); item 2 is
about "the politics of fear", with which I disagree, though I respect
the writer; item 3 is about China and the Chinese Cultural Revolution,
and is recommended; item 4 is about an article about American politics
that I thought too negative and mistaken about several things; and item
5 is about a recently reissued and rewritten book by Roger Scruton on
"The Left" (and specifically: its thinkers), from Scruton's informed conservative point of view.
Populist Revolution: Bernie and Beyond
I will probably later today upload Part 1 of my autobiography (till I
am 28), that was first published bit by bit in Nederlog, but that since
has been revised and is now in its own directory.
by Ellen Brown (<-Wikipedia). I found it originally on Truthdig but
there seems to be a misprint on page 2, and so I link to the original on
This starts as
I have to admit that I am less certain of a "populist revival" than Ellen Brown,
while I am also not an admirer of "populism", especially not in its
The world is undergoing a populist
revival. From the revolt against austerity led by the Syriza Party in
Greece and the Podemos Party in Spain, to Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise
victory as Labour leader in the UK, to Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the
Republican polls, to Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to
Hillary Clinton – contenders with their fingers on the popular pulse
are surging ahead of their establishment rivals.
Today’s populist revolt mimics an earlier
one that reached its peak in the US in the 1890s. Then it was all about
challenging Wall Street, reclaiming the government’s power to create
money, curing rampant deflation with US Notes (Greenbacks) or silver
coins (then considered the money of the people), nationalizing the
banks, and establishing a central bank that actually responded to the
will of the people.
But she may be correct, and she is usually quite rational. This is
about Hillary Clinton's policies as regards banking - from which she seems to
have received most of her campaign money:
Sanders’ focus on Wall Street has forced
his opponent Hillary Clinton to respond to the challenge. Clinton
maintains that Sanders’ proposals sound good but “will never make
it in real life.” Her solution is largely to preserve the status quo
while imposing more bank regulation.
That approach, however, was already
tried with the Dodd-Frank Act, which has not solved the problem
although it is currently the longest and most complicated bill ever
passed by the US legislature. Dodd-Frank purported to eliminate
bailouts, but it did this by replacing them with “bail-ins” –
confiscating the funds of bank creditors, including depositors, to keep
too-big-to-fail banks afloat. The costs were merely shifted from the
people-as-taxpayers to the people-as-creditors.
And this is on Sanders plans for the banks:
What Sanders is proposing, by contrast,
is a real financial revolution, a fundamental change in the system
proposals include eliminating Too Big to Fail by breaking up the
biggest banks; protecting consumer deposits by reinstating the
Glass-Steagall Act (separating investment from depository banking);
reviving postal banks as safe depository alternatives; and reforming
the Federal Reserve, enlisting it in the service of the people.
This is the ending (which is currently
missing on Truthdig):
For decades, private sector banking has
been left to its own devices. The private-only banking model has been
thoroughly tested, and it has proven to be a disastrous failure. We
need a banking system that truly serves the needs of the people, and
that objective can best be achieved with banks that are owned and
operated by and for the people.
Yes, indeed. This is a recommended
article: Click the last dotted link for more (it does link to
the correct version).
Politics of Fear Devouring Human
is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
The politics of fear has consumed the
Fear of terrorism and fear of refugees,
which have grown alongside ongoing global conflicts, fueled many of the
biggest human rights developments—and failings—worldwide in 2015,
including in the U.S. and Europe, according to a new
report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The influx of refugees fleeing violence,
war, and poverty at home prompted numerous Western governments to
restrict borders and roll back human rights within their own countries
in "misguided efforts to protect their security," the report
(pdf) states. Meanwhile, authoritarian
governments in conflict zones embarked on "the most intense crackdown
on independent groups in recent times."
Together, these policies have created a
climate in which all citizens are at risk.
I agree with the last paragraph, but not
with the first two.
More precisely, while I think there is
something like a "politics of fear", that seems
to me not to be one of the root causes of what is currently happening.
For there is no single root cause, and in
any case it is not fear - and note that what I deny is not the presence
of fear of foreigners and terrorists, but the insisting that fear is
the cause of what is happening in the world.
I think the root causes of what is happening psychologically
(and fear also is psychological) are these:
- lack of intelligence and lack of
- belief in propaganda
- deception by the main media
And apart from these psychological causes
there are also the social, economic and (un)democratic
- the predominance of propaganda in the
- the rulings of the very rich through lobbying and through government
- the very great advances of the very few very rich over the very many
I am merely sketching - and all I am
saying is that fear itself is not a root cause
of the very many problems the West and the world face: it is a
product of several deeper causes, six of which are listed above.
Surviving the Camps
third item is by Zha Jianying on The New York Review of Books:
This starts as follows:
By now, it has been nearly forty years
since the Cultural Revolution officially ended, yet in China,
considering the magnitude and significance of the event, it has
remained a poorly examined, under-documented subject. Official archives
are off-limits. Serious books on the period, whether comprehensive
histories, in-depth analyses, or detailed personal memoirs, are
remarkably few. Ji Xianlin’s The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese
Cultural Revolution, which has just been released in English for
the first time, is something of an anomaly.
That is, I agree that I have seen few
good documentations and explanations of Mao's Cultural Revolution,
though I have
seen a few, in fact mostly in the 1980ies and 1990s. They exist, but
they are in minority, and most are by Chinese who live in the West, and
by some scholars on China who kept their moral integrity (and
who were, therefore, usually denied the right to enter China).
One example was Pierre
Ryckmans (aka Simon Leyes), who died in 2014, and who wrote several
very fine books about China.
And I have looked into this,
though considerably less deeply than real scholars,
for I am interested in China since the early 1970ies (indeed after
I had ceased to be a Marxist).
Here is a description of Ji Xianlin's book:
At the center of the book is the
cowshed, the popular term for makeshift detention centers that had
sprung up in many Chinese cities at the time. This one was set up at
the heart of the Peking University campus, where the author was locked
up for nine months with throngs of other fallen professors and school
officials, doing manual labor and reciting tracts of Mao’s writing. The
inferno atmosphere of the place, the chilling variety of physical and
psychological violence the guards daily inflicted on the convicts with
sadistic pleasure, the starvation and human degeneration—all are
vividly described. Indeed, of all the memoirs of the Cultural
Revolution, I cannot think of another one that offers such a
devastatingly direct and detailed testimony on the physical and mental
abuse an entire imprisoned intellectual community suffered.
In fact, I did find something like
a Chinese translation: It is here
(in pdf form, from Cardiff University, but I only found this today on
Wikipedia and have only briefly inspected it).
Ji was over eighty at the time of
writing. In the opening chapter, he confessed to having waited for many
years, in vain, for others to come forward with a testimony. Disturbed
by the collective silence of the older generation and the growing
ignorance of the young people about the Cultural Revolution, he finally
decided to take up the pen himself.
I note that Ji Xianlin (<-
Wikipedia) also was one of China's top intellectuals.
Here is a last quotation from Zha Jianying:
Reading Ji’s account again, however, has
also renewed some of my old questions and frustrations. How much can we
really make sense of a bizarre, unwieldy phenomenon like the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution? Can we truly overcome barriers of
limited information, fading historical memory, and persistent
ideological biases to have a genuinely meaningful and illuminating
conversation about it today? I wonder.
As far as I am concerned - and I lack
Chinese - I am pretty pessimistic. There are a few good sites by
Chinese who live in the West, but that is about it. And I do not think
that the Chinese are currently free enough to openly discuss the
In any case, this is a recommended article.
4. Circus Politics: Will Our Freedoms Survive Another
This starts as follows:
fourth item is by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog:
I think the title is good but this
introduction is too negative, though indeed I concede there is
ample reason to be negative - but why throw Bernie Sanders
“Never has our future been more
unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that
cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and
self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the
standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of
Adding yet another layer of farce to an
already comical spectacle, the 2016
presidential election has been given its own reality show.
Presented by Showtime, The
Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth will
follow the various presidential candidates from now until Election Day.
As if we need any more proof that politics
in America has been reduced to a three-ring circus complete with
carnival barkers, acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, lion tamers,
animal trainers, tight rope walkers, freaks, strong men, magicians,
snake charmers, fire eaters, sword swallowers, knife throwers,
ringmasters and clowns.
Truly, who needs bread and circuses when
you have the assortment of clowns and contortionists that are running
for the White House?
No matter who wins the presidential
election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the
on the big heap of frauds and cheats aka "clowns
and contortionists"? (He may not be
ideal, and I don't agree with everything he says, but I do
agree with a lot and he certainly is honest.)
There is also this:
As author Noam Chomsky rightly observed,
“It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed
by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”
In other words, we’re being sold a
carefully crafted product by a monied elite who are masters in the art
of making the public believe that they need exactly what is being sold
to them, whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the hottest toy, or
the most charismatic politician.
Well... who are "we"? I agree that
everybody in the USA gets to see a whole lot of propaganda
and I also agree that these mislead many, but surely not all.
I do not know about proportions,
but I'd say at least 15% of Americans are - still - more or
less rational, and these also cover a good part of the most
Then there is this:
Of course, we’ve done it to ourselves.
The American people have a history of
choosing bread-and-circus distractions over the tedious work involved
As a result, we have created an
environment in which the economic elite (lobbyists, corporations,
monied special interest groups) could dominate, rather than insisting
that the views and opinions of the masses—“we the people”—dictate
national policy. As the Princeton University oligarchy study
elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital, represent
the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average
citizen. As such, the citizenry has little if any impact on the
policies of government.
No, "we" have not done this,
simply because there is no such "we". If you want to blame parts of the
US adults for being unintelligent, deceived, or prejudiced, you
may, but not by equating everyone to what "we"
did: There is no such "we".
Besides, when I read this:
Former concentration camp inmate
I blinked and stopped reading: I know about
Hannah Arendt since 1962; I've read at least 4 of her books; but I never
knew she was a "former concentration camp inmate" and indeed she wasn't, as the writer of this
article could have also known if he only had checked out her
Wikipedia page: Hannah
5. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands : Thinkers of the New Left
The fifth and last item is by Clement Knox
on the Los Angeles Review of Books:
This is from near the beginning, and
introduces the subject of the article:
Actually, I had a somewhat similar
experience in the Paris of 1968, where I went to twice to see the
revolution (or revolt or whatever) namely in the beginning of May and
the beginning of June of 1968.
It was in Paris, in 1968, that Roger
Scruton, a British writer and philosopher, had his Damascene conversion
to small-c conservatism that set him on a trajectory for, in his words,
a “life beyond the pale” of institutionalized academia. The setting for
his epiphany sounds improbably picturesque. He told The
Guardian in 2000 that it was while watching, from the safety
of his garret window of course, students in the Latin Quarter tear up
cobblestones to use as ammunition against the police that he realized,
I was on the
other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class
hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they
trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist
gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it […] That’s when I became a
Reading Scruton, one realizes that it was
that last part, the Marxist gobbledegook, that really exorcised him.
His prodigious output since then — 40 or so works of nonfiction, seven
novels, two librettos, and a BBC
documentary — have been volleys in his lonely intellectual war
against what he sees as the academic and philosophical shortcomings of
left-wing thinking in the 20th century.
But I was some years younger than Roger Scruton (not yet 18, or barely
18); I had a completely different background than Scruton had
(both of my parents and 1 grandparent were communists; two
other grandparents were anarchists); and I also had different
conclusions than he did.
Indeed, one of my own conclusions based on the events in France
of 1968 was
one very few persons could have drawn:
I realized that my own communist father, who had been a communist since
1935, and who had survived over 3 years and 9 months of German
concentration camps as a communist, was a far more credible
revolutionary than each and all of the leftist students I read and
heard in the later 1960ies.
And another of my conclusions was that I could not find anyone
whom I agreed with about the events of 1968, not on the right and not
on the left - though I have to admit that I found some twenty or more
years later that Stephen Spender
had written a book about 1968 that I thought decent: well-written and
mostly sound - but I did not
get to read it before 1988, and probably considerably later. (The book
is "The Year of the Young Rebels", that was published in 1969, but was
missed by me until I found a secondhand copy of it 20 or more years
Anyway... the following is about Scruton's book, which turns out to be a
rewritten version of a book he first published over 30 years ago (and
that I did not read, although I did read several of
Fools, Frauds and Firebrands,
originally published in 1985 as Thinkers of the New Left, is
a reprise of his central intellectual effort to prove canonical
left-wing academics either wrong or unscholarly, or both, on their own
terms. This new edition is updated to reflect changed times and
modified to both include new figures on the left-wing intellectual
scene (Žižek, Badiou) and remove others (Laing, Wallerstein)
whose threat, one assumes, has now passed. To hear him tell it, the
book’s publication in the 1980s turned him into a pariah and signaled
“the beginning of the end of [his] academic career.”
Roger Scruton certainly had a better
academic career than I had, though indeed his and my history are very
difficult to compare, and all my academic possibilities were destroyed
by a combination of illness (that I
have since I am 28) and active
discrimination by both the City and the University of Amsterdam
over the facts that I disagreed with Marxism (while
most in the University of Amsterdam pretended to be marxists -
see note  in case you disbelieve this) and that
I disagreed with the free but illegal trading of illegal
soft drugs by friends of Amsterdam's mayor from the bottom
floor of the house where I lived. (They still do, and still
do so illegaly, more han 25 years later...)
But that was an aside. Here is a bit more on Scruton's book:
Far from being a Vernichtungskrieg
waged without mercy upon the hallowed figures of the left-wing
intellectual canon, this is a remarkably evenhanded hatchet job, with
Scruton staying true to the promise made in the foreword “to explain
what is good in the authors I review as well as what is bad.” This
commendable sense of fairness might leave some readers who came
expecting blood somewhat peeved. Those who turned to chapter four, on
Sartre and Foucault, expecting to attend a public execution will be
severely disappointed, for Scruton lavishes praise on both.
I disagree with Scruton's praise, except
(perhaps) for the literary side of Sartre.
Then again, I also disagree with Scruton over much of his -
conservative - philosophy.
But if you are philosophically naive and wish to learn more
about the leftist thinkers, from a fairly informed conservative
point of view, you may be interested in this book (that I very
probably will not read, because I am not
philosophically naive, and probably disagree more with several of the
treated there than Scruton does).
 Here is
some background information, that is very probably quite difficult
to understand (there is considerably more here):
From 1971 until 1995 (24 years) all Dutch universities were formally in
the hands of the students. They had been given that power by
the minister and the parliament, who had ruled that from 1971 onwards
all Dutch universities were to
be lorded over by a parliament, called the "Universiteitsraad" in
Dutch, with sub-
parliaments in each faculty ("Faculteitsraad"), and with all
parliaments (quite a lot, in view of the many different faculties)
having to be elected each year, on the following principle:
Every student, every
professor, and everybody else who worked for the university in any
capacity (secretaries, doormen, cleaners etc.) was counted by the
principle "1 man = 1 vote" (so a full professor of 58, a cleaner of 25,
and a first year student of 18 each had 1 vote), and the diverse
parliaments were elected by the ordinary majority of votes.
This meant that the students always had the absolute majority,
and indeed from 1971-1985 (appproximately) most students who got
elected were members of the Dutch Communist Party.
This was especially (but certainly not only) the case in Amsterdam,
where especially philosophy students (and sociology students,
and politicology students) had become members of the Dutch CP, and
remained so till into the 1980ies.
I know that if one is not Dutch almost all of this will seem quite
crazy (and indeed it was completely undone, again by a
minister and a parliamentary decision, in 1995) but this is really
how it was done in Holland in the time that
I studied there.