The rich get richer, the middle class gets hollowed out. We all stay quiet. Steve Fraser explains why we allow it.
Marxist political advice and its discontents
By Omar Ali
Professor Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner professor of history at Trinity college. He is also a prominent left wing activist. The two roles have different requirements. Here he tries to bridge the gap.
Someone had commented on 3quarksdaily.com that this is “Another bucketload of gormless Marxist verbiage around a central anti-semitic core: forget the mountains of corpses and the decades of torture and oppression – Assad’s main crime is defined as “neoliberalism … and a practice of accommodation with both the US and Israel.”
That triggered the following comment (i have edited the original slightly for clarity) from me: The real problem with neomarxist verbiage is not double standards or selective outrage, its the unbridgeable gap between being a professor and being an actor on the ground in a civil war in a faraway country.
Vijay Prashad as a professor in a first world University may eventually contribute to changing the way X or Y issue is framed in the mind of the elite, and that in turn will eventually have some impact somewhere in actual daily politics and political struggles but those are big “eventually-s”. Some professors are OK with that and focus on doing their research and writing their books and teaching their students in the hope that their analysis will eventually “trickle down”. But that (for obvious reasons) is not very satisfying for most of us. Hence the need to suggest practical courses of action in today’s clash, to pick sides, to “organize a relief column”. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your estimate of said professor’s wisdom and insight) this aspect of a professor’s work has near-zero real world relevance.
I don’t know how to fix this problem, but it does seem to be a real problem. Most right wingers are almost by definition closer to the ruling elites so maybe they dont feel the pain as much, but left wing professors are in a painful bind here..to have no opinion on proximate politics and wars seems silly, but to have an opinion that arises logically from their theoretical framework is frequently sillier, and any honest and good man may end up in Professor Prashad’s position. Its a real dilemma.
In an attempt to pre-empt misunderstandings, let me add:
1. My question is not about the details of his analysis.
2. Its about this scenario. Lets say Vijay is Vladimir Lenin. Well, in that case he is not only a theoretician (though he would like to believe that his superior understanding of theory informs his practice), he is an organizer, a rebel, a leader, a politician with day to day decision to make. Very fine nuances and very involved calculations will come into play. Many of those calculations will be very cynical. All of them will be locally bound by existing circumstances. Theory will have to give way again and again. But Vijay (probably not even in his own mind, but I don’t know him personally, so I cannot say for sure) is not Lenin. He is a professor. He does research, he writes books. He has theories. And he is part of a broader left wing academic current that has its own internal dynamics very far from the ground in Syria. I am saying I don’t expect him to say things that are too useful as guides to action.
3. What do you think?
Courtesy: Brown Pundits
Jonathan Kay: The Pakistan problem isn’t just the government. It’s the people
By Jonathan Kay
Since the Taliban resurgence began gaining force in 2005, a common refrain in the West has been that Pakistan must “do more” to rein in the jihadis who are drawing support from bases in the borderlands of Balochistan and Waziristan. American officials have made countless visits to Pakistan to deliver variations on this message — with nothing to show for it.
Earlier this year, the BBC disclosed a secret NATO report, based on 27,000 interrogations with captured Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees, concluding that jihadis operating in Afghanistan continue to receive support and instruction from Pakistani military handlers. One interrogated al-Qaeda detainee quoted in the report declared: “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching.”
The usual Sunday-Morning-talk-show explanation for this is that Pakistan is hedging its strategic bets: Pakistani military leaders doubt the United States military can tame Afghanistan before American combat forces’ scheduled exit in 2013. And rather than see the country degenerate into absolute chaos (as occurred in the early 1990s, in the wake of the Soviet departure), Pakistani military leaders want to be in position to turn Afghanistan into a semi-orderly Pashtun-dominated client state that provides Islamabad with “strategic depth” against India. And the only way for them to do this is to co-opt the Taliban.
The parameters and paranoia of the bygone Cold War just refuses to evaporate from the psyche of Pakistan’s military-establishment. That war might have folded with the folding up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but it seems Pakistan’s military-establishment is still largely stuck (albeit willingly) in the thick muck that this war threw up in this region in the 1980s.
The continued aggressive posturing by the Pakistani establishment, albeit this time with a full civilian façade and on the pretext of seeking peace in Afghanistan, indicates that the already dysfunctional relationship between the US and Pakistan is literally on the rocks
“After the ‘war to end war’, they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘peace to end peace’” –Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell.
Lord Wavell, a commander of the British forces in the Middle East and later a Viceroy of India, had been commenting on the treaties bringing World War I to an end and the future shape of the post-Ottoman Middle East, but the mad dash towards ‘peace and reconciliation’ in the Pak-Afghan region over the last two weeks suggests that after a decade-long war, we too may be in for more turbulence, not tranquillity.
The very connotations of the terms truth, peace and reconciliation make it nearly impossible to say anything critical of — let alone contradicting — the process. But when the inimitable host of VOA’s Pashto service, Rahman Bunairee asked me last week to comment on President Asif Ali Zardari’s remarks in Turkey about opening up of a Taliban diplomatic office there, I found it difficult not to be cynical about the whole drama. “Since when does the president have such clout to determine Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan,” I responded. Thinking of Wavell’s words, I added that what appears now to be a solution to a problem will likely be the mother of many larger problems to follow. President Zardari was speaking for the Pakistan Army and the so-called peace proposal — the diplomatic street address for the Taliban included — had been drafted in Rawalpindi. The civilians may have been acting it out, but the script is unmistakably Khaki. ….
…. In the Afghan memory, Pakistan, for three decades, has been part of the problem, not the solution. Each time that Pakistan has ‘sponsored peace’ there, rockets have rained on Kabul. Pakistan has miscalculated the Afghan and the US readiness to accept it as a partner in peace and the Gilani-Kayani-Pasha delegation to Kabul is being seen as a too-clever-by-half move to shoulder out the legitimate stakeholders. Unless Pakistan comes clean on the jihadist terrorists it harbours, any peace it sponsors will mean an end of all peace.
To read full article : Daily Times
by Razib Khan
I have a post up at Secular Right which expresses some cynical skepticism about the popular revolutions in North Africa. I’m especially skeptical of Egypt, though I would be happy to be proven wrong by history. Democratic governance is better than the alternatives, all things equal, but all things are not equal. Tunisia is in many ways a more “Western” society than Egypt, so I have more hope that a conventional Western form of governance in liberal democratic form will emerge there. Additionally, unlike Egypt Tunisia has no minorities to oppress.
Because of the power of democratically in the American mind we often can’t conceive of the possibility that populism abroad may not shake out in a direction conducive to our own “national interests.” Or, further other values which we putatively cherish, such as individual liberty and tolerance of dissent and diversity. But it is no coincidence that we were founded a republic, and not a democracy.