“All that is real in the universe is an infinity of void space, and an infinity of primary particles in random and everlasting motion. Such is the physics of Epicurus…The Epicurean idea of an infinite universe of matter and space, indifferent to human hopes and concerns but whose workings can be understood, is the predominant scientific idea with which we now live. We have fellow feeling with the importance Epicurus attaches to happiness in this life, with his desire to diminish pain and overcome irrational fears, and with his attempt to understand and come to terms with death, the frontier we shall all reach but not cross as the individuals we now are…
The one world realism of Epicurus is made sharper by the principles 1. No thing is ever created out of nothing by divine will; everything happens according to natural laws without the aid of gods. and 2. No thing is ever put out of existence: natural laws resolve each thing again into its primary parts.
…This would commonly be taken as a contradiction of the Genesis story which forms the foundation of Jewish, Christian and Islamic credos about God creating ex nihilo.
But there is an ambiguity. The first two verses of the Book of Genesis may mean either (a) ‘In the beginning God created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth and (when he had done this) the earth was without form and void…’ or (b) ‘In the beginning the earth was without form and void and (from the pre-existing condition) God created the heavens and the earth…’
The first time that meaning (a) appears unequivocally in the Hebrew canon is in Maccabees 7:28. Generally Christians have preferred (a) and Muslims (b)” (Gaskin, John. 1995. The Epicurean Philosophers: ix, xxiv, xxvii.).
Hobsbawm, Eric. 2012. “After the Cold War: Eric Hobsbawm Remembers Tony Judt.” London Review of Books, April.
Beautifully-written rebuttal of the 20th century liberal rejection and condemnation of communism, as well as homage to civic courage. Crafting a story of intellectual and political maturation and redemption, Hobsbawm dissects how Tony Judt traversed from the Cold Warrior troops and conservative tooldom (as Judt started out trivially focused on critiquing dying French Left intellectualism) to trenchant critic of imperial Israeli apartheid politics.
Both Hobsbawm & Judt understood the twentieth century’s “basic passion: namely the belief that politics was the key to our truths as well as our myths.”
…Judt “launched one of the most implacable attacks on (Hobsbawm) in a passage which has become widely quoted, especially by the ultras of the right-wing American press. It amounted to: ‘make a public confession that your god has failed, beat your breast and you may win the right to be taken seriously. No man who doesn’t think socialism equals Gulag should be listened to.’
…after 1968 (Judt) became much more of a militant oppositionist liberal over Eastern Europe, an admirer of the mixed but more usually right-wing academic tourists who provided much of our commentary on the end of the East European Communist regimes. This also led him and others who should have known better into creating the fairy tale of the Velvet and multicoloured revolutions of 1989 and after. There were no such revolutions, only different reactions to the Soviet decision to pull out.
…Four things shaped French history in the 19th and 20th centuries: the Republic born of the incomplete Great Revolution; the centralised Napoleonic state; the crucial political role assigned to a working class too small and disorganised to play it; and the long decline of France from its position before 1789 as the Middle Kingdom of Europe, as confident as China of its cultural and linguistic superiority. Denied a Lenin and deprived of Napoleon, France retreated into the last and, we must hope, indestructible redoubt, the world of Astérix. The postwar vogue for Parisian thinkers barely concealed their collective retreat into Hexagonal introversion and into the ultimate fortress of French intellectuality, Cartesian theory and puns. There were now other models in higher education and the sciences, in economic development, even – as the late penetration of Marx’s ideas implies – in the ideology of the Revolution. The problem for left-wing intellectuals was how to come to terms with an essentially non-revolutionary France. The problem for right-wing ones, many of them former communists, was how to bury the founding event and formative tradition of the Republic, the French Revolution, a task equivalent to writing the American Constitution out of US history. It could not be done…
…Tony had so far made his name as an academic bruiser. His default position was forensic: not the judge’s but the barrister’s, whose objective is neither truth nor truthfulness, but winning the case. Faced with governments and ideologues who read victory and world domination into the fall of communism, he was honest enough with himself to recognise that the old verities and slogans needed to be junked after 1989. Probably only in the ever nervous US could such a reputation have been built so quickly on the basis of a few articles in journals of modest circulation addressed exclusively to academic intellectuals.
…(Judt) was well aware of the risks, personal and professional, he ran in attacking the combined forces of US global conquest, the neocons and Israel, but he had plenty of what Bismarck called ‘civilian bravery’ (Zivilcourage) – a quality notably lacking in Isaiah Berlin, as Tony himself noted, perhaps not without malice. Unlike the ex-Marxist scholiasts and intellocrates on the Left Bank who, as Auden said of poets, made ‘nothing happen’, Tony understood that a struggle with these new forces could make a difference. He launched himself against them with evident pleasure and zest. This was the figure who came into his own after the end of the Cold War, widening his courtroom technique to flay the likes of Bush and Netanyahu rather than some political absurdity in the Fifth Arrondissement or a distinguished professor in New Jersey. It was a magnificent performance, a class act; he was hailed by his readers not only for what he said, but what many of them would not have had the courage to say themselves. It was all the more effective because Tony was both an insider and an outsider: English, Jewish, French, eventually American, but plurinational rather than cosmopolitan” (Eric Hobsbawm 2012).
Noam Sheizaf’s “Ending the occupation: No way around direct pressure on Israel.” Sheizaf argues that progressive Israeli settler occupation of Palestinian land is the optimal strategy for Israel; and it will be unless there is an organized global movement, such as boycott, that puts pressure on Israel.
Such a boycott is global Leftists’ only currently-available strategy for helping Palestinians against apartheid and colonial genocide (in the Canadian sense). It will be interesting to see if a low-volume boycott is possible, and if it has any effect. The sanction against anyone attempting a high-volume boycott of Israel is enforced, and it is severe noncooperation–exclusion/shunning, black balling, job loss–considering the capitalist context, and due to the lack of an organized, alternative community that could serve as a refuge.
The only other foreseeable hope for Palestinian freedom and survival is on the tails of unpredictable shifts in geopolitical opportunity structure–for example as an unintended, secondary outcome of Chinese geopolitics and the implosion of the Anglosphere or the development of an alternative organized community within the West. Or perhaps it’s better to say that social movement strategies, such as boycott, become effective as the shifting opportunity structure aligns.
It’s a slight alteration of Marx’s 18th Brumaire truism:
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under [the shifting labyrinth of] circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”
My question is kind of the opposite of Walt & Meerscheim’s: Can any Leftist human community coalesce, present an opposing counterweight to, inter alia, Israeli imperial partisans?
H1.1. Not if the Leftist community requires organizational leadership from within the Jewish community, which is already, continuously re-bound to Israel.
Q2. This then beggars the question of why there is no Leftist community in at least the Anglosphere that is not dependent upon Jewish organizational leadership or cooperation.
H1.2. Anti-communist immigration / settlement policy + state and workplace repression + Little King politics + institutional maintenance of elite solidarity.
Q3. Can any other community present an opposing counterweight to Israeli imperial partisans? And if not, why not?
H1.3. We know that Britain managed (tribal? nomadic? low-social organization and low-network connectivity?) Middle East and N. Africa by distributing Saudi family members into autocratic, surplus-monopolizing leadership positions across the new states, a strategy designed precisely so that people in that territory cannot coalesce in opposition to the imperial, oil- and finance-controlling UK-US bloc.
Social movement strategy: An example of the thoroughness of pro-Israeli discipline in the US.
The coincidence of these factors in achieving organization is apparently decisive:
1) Capital (ownership of economic surplus)
2) Strategic alliances with global capitalist hegemons (ie UK, US)
3) Iron-clad socially- and economically-enforced discipline based on an identity legitimate within capitalism: ethnic-religious identity, not Left political identity. Uneven distribution of legitimate strategic repertoires: In the capitalist Anglosphere, Left discipline is attacked, internally and externally, as “communist totalitarianism”; whereas ethno-religious discipline is invisible, regarded as a sacred right. Effectiveness example: Dershowitz et al’s disciplinary force moved Finklestein from a critical to a pro-Zionist political position.
4) Internal-external boundary reinforcement; reliable, targeted incentives.
Costs of current US imperial wars, courtesy Bill Moyers.
Lessons (Again, because we’re memoryless morons.) of military interventions, this time Libya: “Military interventions that topple repressive regimes invariably offer occasions to observe, though at others’ expense, the law of unintended consequences. Second, the constituencies that clamor for such campaigns move quickly to other matters once those malign consequences become manifest.”
In the solid “The Arab Spring and the West: Seven Lessons from History,” The Guardian‘s Seamus Milne reaches into the British Pathe News Video Archive to recall the oil-dependent fundamentals of West-Middle East Relations.
1) The West never gives up its drive to control the Middle East, whatever the setbacks.
2) Imperial powers can usually be relied on to delude themselves about what Arabs actually think.
3) The Big Powers are old hands at prettifying client regimes to keep the oil flowing.
4) People in the Middle East don’t forget their history – even when the US and Europe (conveniently) does.
5) The West has always presented Arabs who insist on running their own affairs as fanatics.
6) Foreign military intervention in the Middle East brings death, destruction, and divide and rule.
7) Western sponsorship of Palestine’s colonisation is a permanent block on normal relations with the Arab world.
Pro-Enlightenment Jewish intellectuals talk about their experiences growing up within total Zionist hegemony, and their break from that hegemony in this 15 minute trailer from the film “Some of my best friends are Zionists”.
The Obama regime persecutes whistleblowers. This article discusses the man who released documents to the press demonstrating Israel’s efforts to whip up anti-Iranian furor in the US. The Obama regime put him in prison.
Al Jazeera story on how US anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists are targeted for political persecution by the FBI.
US Ambassador to Israel publicly assures us all that Israel’s ‘security’ is the US’ raison d’etre in the Middle East.