Les evenements de mai 68

Inspiration and Context

Les evenements de mai 68 are now fifty years old. Yet their profound and revolutionary effect on French society and radicals in advanced capitalist nations are still being felt, and of course, with the 50th anniversary in 2018, there is a small flurry of reminiscent articles even in the mainstream media. True, much of l'esprit de '68is is built around a sense of utopian, creative, and imaginative euphoria, with the science fiction novel by Lisa Goldstein, The Dream Years, an illustrative example. On the other hand there was particularly earthy and challenging cinema from the new wave greats in cinema; Jean-Luc Goddard's ironically titled Tout Va Bien and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers. As much as these artistic endeavour both inspire and challenge however, it is primarily from documentation at the time that the most functional lessons can be learned; in particular, the French-language Journal de la commune étudiante and the English translations in Writing on the Wall.

Situations have a context, and the situation in France in 1968 was at a breaking point. The rule of de Gaulle as president and Pompidou as prime minister had reached a point of near-parody in grandiosity (de Gaulle) and ennui (Pompidou). In the immediate post-war environment, there had been radical hopes which were soon sidelined and the Fourth Republic had come to a sudden and eventful collapse as nationalists in the army rebelled against the government's policy of a negotiated settlement in Algeria and threatened a coup against the government. Whilst the economic policy of dirigisme had assisted in the post-war recovery, and de Gaulle's nationalism ensured France as an independent world power, especially after developing it's own nuclear capability. Demographic changes had led to a significant increase in the student population of France in an environment that still expected social conservatism. The traditional French countryside had been abandoned in favour of the expansion of modern industry, yet the economic security of the French working class was dubious at best, despite what would be called Trente Glorieuses by Jean Fourastié. Whilst this had some reflection in political results (the "presidential" parties only had a one-seat majority in the 1967 elections) the next legislative elections were some time away.

Behind Every Statistic is a Human Story

Edited by Joanne Roberts

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the year 2016 witnessed the largest number of victims of drowning among migrants crossing the Medtiterranean Sea with the number of missing and dead estimated to be five thousand people.

Although the year 2016 was the deadliest in terms of statistics it was the year in which I decided to cross the sea to Europe. I had often heard from my friends who left Turkey before me about the panic of the sea and the fear they experienced during the crossing. Many migrants who had preceded me were forced to go through the adventure of the rubber boats and had to deal with the human traffickers who had spread in Turkey and become like stock brokers. Gambling here is not only about money but also with lives.

Human trafficking in Turkey is the only bridge for the refugee to save them from humiliation and homelessness. It is the only hope to their dreams of a decent living in Europe.

Breaking the Silence from Opposition held Territory

Exclusive with Om Amran from Syria

Interview and Editing by Joanne Roberts

Following the recent chemical attacks in Douma there are many voices that are being heard. This reminds me of the beginning of the revolution back in 2011. There was mass coverage of the Arab Spring all over the Middle East. The difference with Syria was the narrative. From the very beginning Assad tried to paint a picture of him and his regime versus terrorists. These people were never called protesters. They were branded dissidents, traitors
and terrorists from the beginning. The voices that were never heard in this revolution was that of the revolutionaries themselves.

As quickly as they became loud and proud they were detained, tortured, disappeared and killed. What remains now is a population who know that if they speak up they are at risk of losing their life or putting those they love at risk of harm. It is for this reason people like Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett are so dangerous. The two of them never speak up for those in opposition held territories and never give them a voice. They are happy to be puppets for the Assad regime. According to these women these voices do not matter. To me they are the most important.

We will speak with Om Amran from Opposition Held territory and see if we can spread the truth. So many people have been silenced in this conflict and for those brave enough to speak out we should give them a chance to fight back. As the saying goes "The pen is mightier than the sword".

Germany's New Right Wing

Since parliamentary democracy was restored in Germany after World War Two, several right-wing parties have sought to get the required 5% of the popular vote to be represented in parliament. They all failed until 2017. In that election a new right-wing party, Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), won 12.6% of the vote, making them the third most powerful party, ahead of the Greens, the Left, and the Free Democrats. They also won many seats in the individual state parliaments and one seat in the European Parliament.

Conservatism is Bad for the Economy

Here is why conservative proposals to cut deficits are idiotic:

Conservatives assume that money is a commodity, originally corresponding to gold used as a medium of exchange. This is both currently, and historically, inaccurate. Money originated as a system of credits or IOUs.

Use of precious metals as money emerged when warring city-states invaded and plundered neighboring communities. They would steal the gold and silver; the king would melt down the metals and coin them to divide up the booty among the soldiers. They would then demand that the conquered subjects pay taxes in these new coins, which would create a demand for the soldiers' coins, allowing them to trade the coins for goods and services. This is how governments created market systems where trade rather than gift-economy type communism was the norm.

But, prior to metallic money and robust markets, money was already a thing—it just wasn't a nigh universal medium of exchange and most people could actually go their whole lives without ever using it. Money was a unit of accounting and a credit (i.e. a debt or IOU). We know this from archeological and anthropological research. Fiat or debt-based currency systems were the original and the norm. Even when metals began being used as money, it was still a debt-based or IOU system. The metal was simply a token or credit. Once you understand this, you can easily understand why "balancing the budget," "being fiscally conservative," and "reducing deficits" is completely idiotic! Public finances are not like private finances!

Peace without Justice in Syria

The end of last month witnessed the capture of Jawbar, Zamalka, Irbin, and Hirista suburbs in Damascus from the opposition to the Syrian regime [1], as the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army captured the city of Afrin and most of the surrounding province from the Kurdish People's Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces [2]. From here, the upcoming actions are almost predictable. The regime will move against the rebel enclave of Duma, the Turkish Free Syrian Army will target Manij. In each of these actions the promises of the Syrian revolution will fade even further from the promises and hopes of activists and demonstrators seven years ago, although the lessons will never be forgotten. From a population of some 17 million (2014), approximately half a million have been killed, and another five million have become international refugees.

The map of Syria is being redrawn to suit the powers of other states. Once but a close ally, the Syrian government is now in reality entirely dependent on Russia and to an extent Iran. For their rebel-held areas of northern Syria, Idlib, and west Aleppo, they are increasingly under the control of Turkey, which now has observation posts deep in the region, including Surman, Tell Tuqan, Al Eis, Anak, and at the time this is being written Khan Shaykhun, and Chab Plain. The Kurdish People's Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces are understandably nervous, following the possibility of a U.S. military withdrawal [3], an astoundingly weak move. Although Rojava does enjoy popular support throughout other democratic governments, and the possibility of other NATO powers stepping in is high; France has already made an announcement to that effect [4]. The prospect of conflict between NATO powers should give Turkey cause for caution.

Martin Luther King's Other Dream : End Poverty Now

This day, fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated. He has become most famous as a civil rights activist, who used civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, to end racial segregation. What is often overlooked is his desire to abolish poverty, both within and between nations, by the expedient method of a guaranteed minimum income.

Martin Luther King Jnr, like many before him, advocated a guaranteed annual income on the basis of justice. This is a good moral reason, inspired by both the rumbling discontent and misery by the impoverished, and the empathy and humanity felt by the well-off who witness the visceral suffering of their fellow human beings.

"Now one of the answers it seems to me, is a guaranteed annual income, a guaranteed minimum income for all people, and for all families of our country. [crowd applause] It seems to me that the Civil Rights movement must now begin to organize for the guaranteed annual income."
-- Martin Luther King Jnr, "The Other America Speech", Stanford University, April 14, 1967

Ronald Reagan Was the Worst President

Ronald Reagan, the favorite President of conservatives everywhere, is representative of the economic policies that have ruined America. I must admit that the title is an exaggeration. The worst President, by far, was Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump's favorite President, who committed unspeakable atrocities against Native Americans, as well as having terrible economic policies. In reality, Ronald Reagan is merely representative of what a bad President is. The Reaganomics-style conservative economic policies that have devastated the American economy really started in the mid-1970s under Richard Nixon. Reagan only serves as a stand-in to represent every conservative President and advocate of trickle-down economics. Today, conservatives are merely pushing a more radical and politically incorrect version of Reaganomics. I'm only going to mention a few points to establish that Reagan was morally despicable, then I will focus more on the science of economics and how conservatism leads to stagnating wages, high unemployment, and economic instability.

Thomas Hobbes' Pseudo-Libertarian Fascism

I am currently reading the works of Thomas Hobbes. Well, I've come to conclude that Thomas Hobbes is kind of a terrible person, and also dreadfully self-contradictory.

Hobbes starts from a pretty rational and libertarian foundation, but then goes astray quite quickly. In De Homine, Hobbes starts with a theory of ethics that I mostly agree with.

"The common nature of all things that are desired, insofar as they are desired, is good; and for all things we shun, evil. Therefore Aristotle hath well defined good as that which all men desire.... Therefore good and evil are correlated with desiring and shunning. There can be a common good, and it can rightly be said of something, it is commonly a good, that is, useful to many, or good for the state....
"Moreover, the greatest of goods for each is his own preservation. For nature is so arranged that all desire good for themselves. Insofar as it is within their capacities, it is necessary to desire life, health, and further, insofar as it can be done, security of future time."—Thomas Hobbes (De Homine, Ch. 11)

Ending Homicide and the Right to Arms

It would seem now that every few months there is a mass murder outbreak within the country most famous for a "right to bear arms". Indeed, the rate of mass shootings is accelerating[1], and they are becoming deadlier. The conflict of interests has been brought again to public debate with the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting [2], where the U.S. president, Donald Trump, offered his prayers and condolences, ordered flags be flown at half-staff, and then suggested arming teachers as a deterrent [3]. In contrast student survivors have demanded stricter gun controls [4], a position rejected by pro-gun activists as being ineffectual at best and dangerous at worst insofar it provides opportunities for armed homicide. The question of who is correct in this matter is an empirical one whereas, the question of what alternatives can be feasibly be implemented, is a political one.

Several seemingly obvious statements need to be made, at least in part because the arguments are often raised in the debate. The gun is not the only deadly technology available, and a determined person can, of course, carry out a homicide through other means. But the availability of a deadly ranged technology does make it easier. Ceteris paribus, because humans are imperferct, the greater the quantity of guns, the more opportunities there are for deliberate misuse or mishap; in a tragically prescient article the New York Times [5] pointed out that the United States and Yemen (which is the midst of a civil war) are two exceptional countries which both have a high number of guns per capita and mass shooting per capita. Likewise it should be unsurprising to discover that restrictions on firearms (e.g., restricted purchase, storage requirements) result in less firearm injuries, intentional or otherwise [6]. The latter point is important - gun suicides far exceed gun homicides and given that suicides are surprisingly a split-moment decision, an easy means to perform such an act correlates with the event [7].


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