Jul 18, 2016

Crisis: Hedges on Writing as Resistance, Israel, FBI, Chomsky on Anarchism etc.
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Writing as Resistance
2. Without a Serious Middle East Peace Effort, Hatred Will
     Only Grow

3. Feds Monitoring Activists on Facebook Ahead of
     Republican Convention

4. Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Communism and


This is a Nederlog of Monday, July 18, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is on a fine article by Chris Hedges, mostly about WW II; item 2 is about a decent article on modern Israel (I think); item 3 is about the FBI, and forewarns what will probably come soon (oversight of all "radicals" by the FBI, that knows every- thing about anyone); and item 4 is about an interview with Noam Chomsky about anarchism, communism and socialism that I mostly agree with.

Writing as Resistance

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

I start with a brief introduction about Poland and some of the reasons why I am more interested in WW II, the resistance in WW II, and the murder of the Jews between 1941 and 1945 than most.

First about Poland, where the horrors and the heroism that Chris Hedges speaks about in his article took place. I just quote two successive statements from the Wikipedia lemma "Poland":
Of all the countries involved in the war, Poland lost the highest percentage of its citizens: over 6 million perished – nearly one-fifth of Poland's population – half of them Polish Jews. Over 90% of deaths were non-military in nature. Population numbers did not recover until the 1970s.
Next, about the resistance to the Nazis in WW II. I am more interested in this subject than most, because both of my parents were - real - communists for over 40 years, who were - a rather rare fact in Holland [1] - both in the communist resistance against the Nazis in WW II, and both my father and his father were arrested in June of 1941, and were convicted by collaborating Dutch judges [2] as "political terrorists" to be punished in the Nazi concentration camp. My grandfather was murdered, my father survived 3 years, 9 months and 15 days of four concentration camps. After the war, my father was one of the two (!!) communists who were ever knighted in Holland [3], because he was the main man who made a national exhibition about WW II, resistance, concentration camps, and the dangers of a re-emergent fascism. There also is a good decription of his life in the concentration camps by my father, that was translated by me in 2010. [4]

Now we get to Chris Hedges' text, that is mostly dedicated to what is now called the Ringelblum Archive (<-Wikipedia) that was compiled by a group of Polish Jews that was led by Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum (<- Wikipedia), who lived from 1900-1944, when he and his family were murdered for being Jewish.

This is from the Wikipedia lemma on Dr. Ringelblum:
Together with numerous other Jewish writers, scientists and ordinary people, Ringelblum collected diaries, documents, commissioned papers, and preserved the posters and decrees that comprised the memory of the doomed community. Among approximately 25,000 sheets preserved there are also detailed descriptions of destruction of ghettos in other parts of occupied Poland, the Treblinka extermination camp, Chełmno extermination camp and a number of reports made by scientists conducting research on the effects of famine in the ghettos. (...)
On the eve of the ghetto's destruction in the spring of 1943, when all seemed lost, the archive was placed in three milk cans and metal boxes. Parts were buried in the cellars of Warsaw buildings. [5]
After this introduction, I turn to Chris Hedges' text. This is from near the beginning:
Ringelblum formed his small army of writers clandestinely. Nazi discovery of any writer’s involvement meant his or her immediate execution or deportation to a death camp.

Ringelblum did not want a hagiography of the Jews. He demanded “the whole truth … however bitter.” He admonished his writers to eschew preconceptions, even about the Nazis. He called for them to describe the horror around them with an “epic calm … the calm of the graveyard.” He told them to capture “what the common man experienced, thought, and suffered.” The job of the writer, he said, was to document every aspect of reality, including the degeneration and immorality that beset many of the Jews trapped in the ghetto. Writers should collect enough fragments of life, with enough dispassion, to allow readers to sense the ghetto’s totality.

Ringelblum’s ruthless commitment to the truth gives to the archive, only parts of which have been translated into English, an immediacy and profound moral force. He and his writing collective, which he called a “free society of slaves,” left behind insights into human nature, tyranny and resistance. 

As you can see from the Wikipedia lemma Jewish Historical Institute, the documents that were found after WW II ended (not all were found: [5]) comprise some 6000 documents and 30,000 pages.
Leyb Goldin, a journalist and translator of European literature, left behind a short story called “Chronicle of a Single Day.” The main character in his story, an intellectual and former revolutionary named Arke, is wasting away. His legs are nearly useless sticks. He has nothing left to sell. A soup kitchen is his only source of food. He staggers slowly through the streets, past the emaciated corpses, usually stripped of their clothes, and the gaunt army of beggars. He wonders when death will take him. The Nazi blockage of food intended for the ghetto has led to 100,000 people dying of starvation. There is an internal war between Arke and his stomach. “If you’re hungry, you cease to be human, you become a beast,” he says.

“... It’s your stomach and you,” he says. “It’s 90 percent your stomach and a little bit you. A small remnant, an insignificant remnant of the Arke who once was. The one who thought, read, taught, dreamed. ...

My father and his father were also thoroughly starved in Amersfoort concentration camp (in Holland), where my father, whose weight was over 80 kilos when healthy (without fat: he was an athlete), at one point weighed 37.5 kilos. (I asked him why he hadn't committed suicide. His answer: "Son, you couldn't do that, for this was taken out on your comrades.")

There is this on the Warsaw ghetto (<- Wikipedia):

The hellish existence of the Warsaw ghetto—where within 100 square blocks a half million Jews were deliberately starved to death, exterminated through beatings and executions or seized for transport to the gas chambers over three years, brought out the worst and the best, including the majestic moment when Dr. Janusz Korczak sacrificed himself by volunteering to accompany the nearly 200 orphans he cared for to the loading platform and eventually the gas chambers at Treblinka. Korczak dressed his orphans, some only 2 or 3 years old, in their best clothes for their final journey, gave them small blue knapsacks and let them carry a favorite toy and book.
The linked item about dr. Janusz Korczak is well worth reading. Then there is this on the Jewish police in Warsaw, described by Ringelblum:
Evil was not limited to the oppressor. Ringelblum, who in 1944 was executed by the Nazis along with his wife and 12-year-old son, described the Jewish police, most of whom were lawyers before the war, as “gangsters.” [Click here to see a .PDF copy of Ringelblum’s journal, “Notes From the Warsaw Ghetto.”] They did dirty work for the Nazis, rounding up people, including children, to fulfill deportation quotas. The Jewish police demanded bribes of money, diamonds or gold to remove fellow Jews from the transport lists. It was usually the destitute and the poor who died first. Ringelblum often went to the Umschlagplatz, the square in the ghetto where Jews were collected before being marched to the trains bound for Treblinka, to plead with the Jewish police to release some victims, especially writers, intellectuals, teachers, musicians and artists. Jewish police often responded by beating him with their truncheons.
And there is this on the Jewish wealthy elites in Warsaw:
He had a bitter contempt for the wealthy elites in the ghetto.

“Turbulent times at least have one good result,” he wrote. “Like a strong searchlight, they expose things that have hitherto remained hidden. The beastly face of Jewish bourgeoisie, its cannibalistic character has recently surfaced during these hungry times. The whole activity of the Judenrat [the Jewish administrators of the ghetto] is one of heartrending injustice against the poor. If there were a God, he would destroy this nest of wickedness, hypocrisy, and exploitation.”

Ringelblum called the Judenrat, the rich and most of the shopkeepers “leeches who exploit the predicament of the poor who lack money even for a piece of bread.” When an appeal was made to wealthy members of the ghetto to levy a tax on themselves for the benefit of the refugees being herded into the ghetto from other parts of Poland, there was, Ringelblum wrote, a standard reply: “That won’t help. The paupers will die out anyway.” He documented the widespread trafficking in ration cards of the dead and the missing, calling it “a very lucrative business for certain elements in the Ghetto, particularly officials. They are hyenas of the worst sort.” [6]

The article of Chris Hedges ends as follows:
Ringelblum, as Samuel D. Kassow wrote in “Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive From the Warsaw Ghetto,” “was absolutely convinced that the story of Jewish suffering, no matter how terrible, was a universal story and not just a Jewish one. And evil, no matter how great, could not be placed outside of history.”

We all have the capacity for evil. The line between the executioner and the victim is razor-thin. Ringelblum and his writers warned us of how easy it is to surrender our better selves in the name of survival. They cautioned us against the danger of political ideologies, careerism, opportunism, the lust for violence and the loss of empathy. They excoriated those who survived at the expense of another. Ringelblum and his writers buried their records shortly before most of them were killed. In their final moments they cried out for us to be faithful to the good. They could not save themselves. But they could, they hoped, save us.

Of course Ringelblum was right that "Jewish suffering (..) was a universal story and not just a Jewish one" - in fact I'd say only racists look differently upon this.

And I strongly agree with Hedges that people should not give in to "
the danger of political ideologies, careerism, opportunism, the lust for violence and the loss of empathy".

I do differ from him in a detail: While I think "
all have the capacity for evil", I also think this is unevenly spread. In Holland, for example, during WW II six times as many Dutchmen volunteered for the SS as went into the real resistance; in Holland, for another example, more than 100,000 Jews, mostly poor ones, were arrested, in part thanks to the help of the Dutch Judenräte (Jewish Council), and murdered; in Holland, for the last example - in the words of prof.dr. Karel van het Reve:
(..) the Jewish Council (an institution, as our teacher Jacques Presser wrote in an unpublished book Homo submersus (..) of Jews who earned above a certain income, with the aim of sending the Jews who earned less to Poland)
--Foreword in: David Koker, "Diary written in Vught""
For more, see note [6].

This is a - strongly - recommended article.

2. Without a Serious Middle East Peace Effort, Hatred Will Only Grow

The second item is by Uri Avnery on Truthdig and originally on Counterpunch:

This starts as follows - and is by someone with a Jewish background who is an atheist [7]:

A Palestinian youngster breaks into a settlement, enters the nearest house, stabs a 13-year-old girl in her sleep and is killed.

Three Israeli men kidnap a 12-year-old Palestinian boy at random, take him to an open field and burn him alive.

Two Palestinians from a small town near Hebron enter Israel illegally, have coffee in a Tel Aviv amusement quarter and then shoot up everybody around before they are captured. They become national heroes.

An Israeli soldier sees a severely wounded Palestinian attacker lying on the ground, approaches him and shoots him in the head at point blank range. He is applauded by most Israelis.

These are not “normal” actions even in a guerrilla war. They are the manifestations of bottomless hatred, a hatred so terrible that it overcomes all norms of humanity.

Yes, that seems more or less fair - as does the following:
This was not always so. A few days after the 1967 war, in which Israel conquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, I traveled alone though the newly occupied territories. I was welcomed almost everywhere, people were eager to sell me their goods, tell me their stories. They were curious about the Israelis, much as we were curious about them.
I can recall similar stories from Holland, and the brief of it is that Israel was in the first 20 years of its existence a quite different (and much more friendly) country than it is now.

Here is today's situation:

By now, the two peoples seem to live in two different worlds. A centuries-old Arab village and a new Israeli settlement, situated one mile apart, might just as well exist on two different planets.

From their first day on earth, children of the two peoples hear totally different stories from their parents. This goes on in school. By the time they are grown up, they have very few perceptions in common.

For a young Palestinian, the story is quite simple. This was an Arab land for more than 14 centuries, a part of Arab civilization. For some, their ownership of the country goes back thousands of years, since Islam did not displace the existing Christian population when it conquered Palestine. Islam was at the time a much more progressive religion, so local Christians gradually adopted Islam, too.

I'd say that clearly these Palestinians are prejudiced. Here is the Jewish counterpart:

Every Jewish child in Israel learns from an early age that this land was given by God to the Jews, who ruled it for many centuries, until they offended God and He drove them out as a temporary punishment. Now the Jews have come back to their country, which was occupied by a foreign people which came from Arabia. These people now have the cheek to claim the country as their own.

This being so, official Israeli doctrine says, there is no solution. We just have to be ready for a very very long time – practically for eternity – to defend ourselves and our country. Peace is a dangerous illusion.

I'd say that clearly these Jews are prejudiced. Unfortunately, fiercely nationalistic prejudices are no foundation for peace - and unfortunately,
a war involving Israel may involve Europe and the USA.

This is a recommended article because it is fairly neutral (in my eyes) and sketches how extremely difficult and dangerous the present position is.

3. Feds Monitoring Activists on Facebook Ahead of Republican Convention

The third item is by Cora Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Federal authorities are watching political activists organizing protests ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention, warning that “anarchist extremists” pose a threat to Cleveland.

A “threat assessment” issued jointly by the FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security warns law enforcement to be on the lookout for “potential indicators” of “violent anarchist extremist activity.” The indicators include “pilfering construction sites” for rocks, pipes, or bricks and “movement of newspaper containers and trashcans to create barricades” — but also carrying spray paint, eye drops, or wearing “clothing bearing anarchist symbols.”

In fact, this is plain propaganda from the "federal authorities", that is much reminiscent of earlier state propaganda against "anarchists" and "extremists".

Here is some more:

Of course, there have been protesters of various stripes at every convention in recent memory; indeed, during the 2012 conventions, a similar intelligence briefing about anarchists was made public. But given the current heightened tension after a week of demonstrations around the country over police killings and the attack on officers in Dallas — combined with Trump’s incendiary rhetoric — both authorities and protesters are especially on edge.

The city of Cleveland has spent a reported $20 million in federal funds on riot gear, barricades, batons and more, and local activists have been visited and questioned by local and federal authorities. Cleveland has marked off a nearly 2-mile zone around the convention center, with designated protest areas. Inside the zone, people will be prohibited from carrying a variety of everyday items such as bike locks, tape, rope, sleeping bags, tennis balls, and water guns. With Ohio’s open-carry laws, however, real guns will be allowed.

In other words: "sleeping bags", "tapes" or "tennis balls" are aggressive items you may be arrested for, but if you are walking around with a huge gun (of course: assuming you do not also wear "clothing bearing anarchist symbols") you must be a person of peace.

Again, this seems to me mostly - intentional - hysteria. This may be over and done with once the Republican Convention ends, but this sounds like the future, especially if Trump becomes the next president:

Bly had an FBI agent and a local police officer at her door on the morning after the Fourth of July. They told her she was a “person of interest” and asked her about her plans for the convention and whether she was concerned about any lone-wolf types.

“They did this to a lot of people,” Bly said. “It was a ‘see something, say something’ kind of thing.”

For that is what the FBI wants and did get: Huge dossiers on each and every radical, who then can be visited at home by FBI agents, and be either warned or arrested for being "an anarchist extremist radical terrorist".

The police of the near future will know what you think and feel and have done a lot better than you do, and may arrest you at any time on the mere ground of deviance from the norm, and may keep you in jail forever (though others may never learn this, for those arrested or kept in jail also may not be allowed to make their arrests public).

At least, that is what I expect, especially if Trump gets to be president. And all of the conditions for it are already in place.

4. Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Communism and Revolutions

The fourth and last item is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truthout:
This starts as follows, and is (it seems) from a series of interviews C.J. Polychoniou made or is still making with Noam Chomsky (<- Wikipedia), which also is a good idea, and the interviews are usually interesting, as is the present one.

It starts as follows:
As global capitalism, with neoliberalism being a necessary accompaniment, has covered now the entire globe, it is extremely useful to revisit some of the great radical traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries -- namely, anarchism and communism. What do they stand for? What are their main differences? Did Soviet Communism represent an authentic form of socialism or was it a "reformed workers' stage" -- or, even worse, a tyrannical form of stage capitalism? In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Noam Chomsky shares his views on anarchism, communism, and revolutions in hopes that the new generation of radical activists does not ignore history and continue to grapple with questions about strategies for social change.
I have done reasonable amounts of thinking and reading about anarchism and communism, in part because my parents were communists nearly all their adult lives. I ceased being a Marxist when I was 20, for various reasons, but I guess that the least confusing description of my political views is that I am some sort of anarchist [8].

And I will select three bits from the present interview. Here is the first, which also has some personal reminiscences related to it:

In your writings, you have maintained the view that the Soviet Union was never a socialist state. Do you accept the view that it was a "deformed workers state" or do you believe that it was a form of state capitalism?

The terms of political discourse are not models of precision. By the time the Soviets and factory councils were eliminated -- quite early on -- there was hardly a trace of a "workers state." [Factory councils were forms of political and economic organization in which the place of work is controlled collectively by the workers.] The system had wage labor and other features of capitalism, so I suppose one could call it a kind of tyrannical state capitalism in some respects.
I would place the abandonment of socialism much earlier, under Lenin and Trotsky, at least if socialism is understood to mean at a minimum control by working people over production. The seeds of Stalinism were present in the early Bolshevik years, partly attributable to the exigencies of the civil war and foreign invasion, partly to Leninist ideology. Under Stalin it became a monstrosity.

I agree with Noam Chomsky that the Soviet Union never was socialist, and indeed gave up socialism under Lenin and Trotsky. My personal reminiscence enters because I was sent as a 14-year old, in 1964, to the German Demo- cratic Republic ("East Germany"), which was supposed to be a socialist state,
also by my communist parents, who did not accompany me on the holiday, while I strongly disagreed, in the
German Democratic Republic of 1964, that it was socialist: I insisted it was nothing of the kind. (Of course, I was quite right - but I was the only one who said so, in 1964, and indeed saying so was quite dangerous for people living in the GDR, although I was not aware of that in 1964.) [9]

This is Chomsky on the real meaning of socialism:

Since its origins, socialism has meant the liberation of working people from exploitation. As the Marxist theoretician Anton Pannekoek observed, "This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie," but can only be "realized by the workers themselves being master over production." Mastery over production by the producers is the essence of socialism, and means to achieve this end have regularly been devised in periods of revolutionary struggle, against the bitter opposition of the traditional ruling classes and the "revolutionary intellectuals" guided by the common principles of Leninism and Western managerialism, as adapted to changing circumstances. But the essential element of the socialist ideal remains: to convert the means of production into the property of freely associated producers and thus the social property of people who have liberated themselves from exploitation by their master, as a fundamental step towards a broader realm of human freedom.
Yes, Chomsky is right. But there also is a fundamental difficulty here, that is indeed one of the differences between most anarchists on the one hand, and most communists and social democrats on the other hand, which is that the latter two groups believe in state socialism (the workers take over the state,
and the state then owns the means of production), while anarchists don't believe in state socialism. I'm with the anarchists here, and discuss the problem in a bit more detail in my "On Socialism" of 2015.

And there is this on one of the main differences between anarchists and communists:
The Leninist antagonism to the most essential features of socialism was evident from the very start. In revolutionary Russia, Soviets and factory committees developed as instruments of struggle and liberation, with many flaws, but with a rich potential. Lenin and Trotsky, upon assuming power, immediately devoted themselves to destroying the liberatory potential of these instruments, establishing the rule of the [Communist] Party, in practice its Central Committee and its Maximal Leaders -- exactly as Trotsky had predicted years earlier, as Rosa Luxembourg and other left Marxists warned at the time, and as the anarchists had always understood.
Yes, indeed. There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

[1] In Holland, the only groups who went into the resistance were the Communist Party, as a party, from May 14, 1940 onwards, which took the lives of some 3000 communists, and some Protestant Christians. The other resistance was individual.

It was said immediately after WW II ended that "7 million Dutchmen were in the resistance"; in fact the total resistance was of a few tenthousands: Most Dutchmen collaborated, either forced (you have to eat) or willing (the Germans were strong and winning the war until 1943).

You may think what you please about the Dutch in WW II, but I think it is a fact more Jews would have been saved if more Dutchmen had had the courage to resist.

As it was, more than 1% of the population - more than 100,000 persons - were murdered "for being of the wrong race (and poor - see note [6])".

[2] The complete Dutch Supreme Court collaborated (apart from its president, who was the only Jew in it), and so did most Dutch judges. After the war, no Dutch judge was ever prosecuted for collaboration.

[3] As I said in note [1], the whole Dutch Communist Party went into the resistance (around 10,000 men and women), which took the lives of 3000 of them. After WW II, almost no Dutchman was prosecuted for what they did in WW II, while the communists were soon reviled as "traitors" who "wanted to
make Holland socialist like the Soviet Union". Much of what they did in the resistance was not treated in non-communist histories. And so it happened that, all in all, only two Dutch communists were ever knighted: Jan Brasser,
because he headed the resistance in the province North-Holland, and my father, because he was the main force in creating and designing the National Exhibition on Nazism and the Resistance (which was not national when he made it). My father originally thought - as a communist - that he would decline the knighthood, but accepted in the end because 40 people who knew him had signed a request to the Queen (and my father was dying).

[4] Here is the link again:
a good decription of his life in the concentration camps by my father, simply because it is good.

[5] This is from the Wikipedia lemma on Emanuel Ringelblum:

The fate of Ringelblum's archives is only partially known. In September 1946 ten metal boxes were found in the ruins of Warsaw. In December 1950 in a cellar of another ruined house at 68 Nowolipki Street two additional milk cans were found containing more documents. Among them were copies of several underground newspapers, a narrative of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, and public notices by the Judenrat (the council of Jewish leaders), but also documents of ordinary life, concert invitations, milk coupons, and chocolate wrappers.

Despite repeated searches, the rest of the archive, including the third milk can, was never found.
[6] This is from what I wrote on January 19, 2015 (between "---"):


Yes - and let me also say something on the reasons that in Holland over 1% of the total population was murdered for being "of the Jewish race", which is far more than in almost any other country:

The main reason are that David Cohen and Abraham Asscher were two quite rich Dutch Jews who decided to collaborate with the Nazis, and first got most of the Jews to register as Jews, in 1940-41, and then helped most of the poor Jews into the concentration camps, with the explicit point and promise from the SS that the rich Jews then would be spared.

As Karel van het Reve put it, in his foreword to David Koker's book:
(..) the Jewish Council (an institution, as our teacher Jacques Presser wrote in an unpublished book Homo submersus (..) of Jews who earned above a certain income, with the aim of sending the Jews who earned less to Poland)
--Foreword in: David Koker, "Diary written in Vught""
Indeed Cohen and Asscher were saved, at the price of over 100.000 poor Jews who were murdered. Also, after the war neither of them even had to face a court: The Dutch mostly pretended nothing had happened (and grew even more anti-semitic after the war than before the war).

The Asschers and Cohens also had children, who had children, notably Rob Oudkerk (grandson of David Cohen, dismissed as a sadistic cocaine-using alderman of Amsterdam some years ago); Lodewijk Asscher (great-grandson of Abraham Asscher, presently vice-president of Holland, and very rich); while I have asked many times of Job Cohen what is his relation to David Cohen, but Job Cohen - also very rich - has never answered anything I wrote, thereby suggesting he has to hide a lot.
Dutch "morality", reader!

[7] For me and my parents - who also did a lot for "the Jews", as item 1 shows - there is no Jewish race. That was an invention by Dr. Goebbels (<- Wikipedia). Being Jewish is like being Catholic: it is a religious faith. Then again, I agree that those who were brought up in the Jewish faith have a different background from those who were not (and something similar holds for the Catholic faith), and that is why I wrote "with a Jewish background".

[8] But I am not quite clear what kind, and I also disagree with most anarchists about some things. Then again, I do like Henry Thoreau, Emma Goldman, and Peter Kropotkin.

[9] I don't think this was important for anyone but me, but (1) my reaction to the GDR was purely personal and individual (and not conformistic, like most - and I was 14, and indeed no one agreed with me, while there, also none of the other Dutchmen), and (2) it was both my first confrontation with "a socialist state", that I was predisposed to like by my parents, and my strong and never withdrawn conviction it was not socialist at all, but was in fact a dictatorship. (Incidentally, my parents disagreed some with me, but more so with the GDR, for their officials had refused all answers to my questions, and my questions were reasonable.)

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