Peace with Justice in Israel and Palestine

Presentation to the Isocracy Network Annual General Meeting, 13 August 2014

The subject of this forum is peace with justice in Israel and Palestine. It's a subject over which many people who understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict far better than myself have written a great deal.

I'm not even going to try to come up with my own plan to come up with a prediction or a plan of how to achieve peace and justice in Palestine because I do not consider myself qualified to do so. What I intend to do this evening is outline what I see as the main obstacles to peace with justice.

Democracy As The Rule of All

Indstrial Democracy IWW graphic
This keeps coming up. So a quick word about democracy.

"Democracy" does not mean elections. It does not mean "two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner" or Warren Ellis' funny, unforgettable vulgar equivalent. It does not mean the tyranny of the majority.

The word "democracy" comes from the ancient Greek δῆμος κράτος — dêmos kratos — literally "people power". It means not monarchy with a king who is in charge because he owns the place. Not aristocracy with a special leader-class of people who are born to it. Not theocracy by priests who derive their power from the favor of the gods. Not any special governing class, but rather a government reflecting all of the people.

Democracy means that government derives its legitimacy from the people it governs, has no separation from that populace, and acts in their service: Lincoln's "of the people, by the people, for the people".

The Ukrainian Crisis: Electoral History, Great Powers, and Self-Determination

Independence and Early Days

Ever since Ukraine's first post-Soviet elections in 1991, there were hints of the impending crisis that now engulfs the country, as a the proxy maneuverings between the Great Powers of Russia and the European Union. In the December 1991 presidential election, the first free elections in the country since 1918, there was on overwhelming victory for Leonid Kravchuk, running as an independent but previously holding the position of secretary of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, and going on to organise the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united). The runner-up was Viacheslav Chornovil, a well-known dissident of the 1960s and 1970s, who headed the centre-right People's Movement of Ukraine which at the time included everything from liberal communists, through to liberal democrats, to proto-fascist nationalists. Whilst Chornovil received only received 23% of the overall vote, three western regions gave him a majority, and one (Lviv) with 75% [1]. It was the hint of what was to come.

By the 1994 the east-west divide in Ukraine became very evident. Leonid Kuchma defeated Kravchuk 52% to 45%, with Kuchma receiving handy support from the Socialist Party of Ukraine, whose candidate Oleksandr Moroz received 14% in the firt round. In the far-east Luhansk Oblast 88% voted for Kuchma, and in the far-west Lviv Oblast Kravchuk received 94% - one may note that this was the same region that had only given him 11.5% of the vote a mere three years previously. Kuchma won all the provinces in the east, and Kravchuk all the provinces in the west; only in the cental provinces of Mykolaiv, Cherkasy, and Kirovohrad was there a contest which bore some resemblance to the final vote. In the following election, in 1999, a resurgent Communist Party won almost 40% of the second-round votes, with Petro Symonenko challenging Kuchma. The Communists won several provinces in the central and southern regions, with the far-west provinces this time supporting Kuchma, three of them with over 90% of the vote.

21st Century Anarchism

Anarchism's major strength is its ability to adapt to changing circumstances without altering its core principles. The 21 st century is the anarchist century because the core principles of anarchism are principles that can unseat the four horsemen of a modern 21 st century apocalypse that has arisen because of increasing population growth, finite resources, an international economic system based on the creation of increasing profits irrespective of the human, social and environmental costs and human induced climate change.

For the Toilers of the Sea: Tom Barker's Revolutionary Adventures in Marine Transport

"Many readers will remember Tom Barker, one time of Auckland," reported the Maoriland Worker in 1921:

who, under the pen-name of "Spanwire", used to write Auckland notes for this paper. Since Tom gave up punching tickets and collecting fares on the trams of the Queen City, he has had enough of adventure to satisfy a dozen men... Incidentally he mentions that he is writing a book, "An Industrial Handbook on the Marine Transport Industry".

I discovered the existence of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or 'Wobbly') pamphlet The Story of the Sea: Marine Transport Workers' Handbook almost by accident, during a keyword search in the Australian National Library. I was looking for background on early 20th century marine transport workers, and their participation in the IWW. It was one of those serendipitous discoveries that often happen in the obscure and under-researched field of radical working-class history. The author of the pamphlet was not identified, but once I checked the US IWW monthly publications from this era, where the pamphlet was originally published as a series of articles, the pieces fell into place. For the author was none other than the legendary Antipodean Wobbly, Tom Barker.

The Early Days of Mutualism

The execution of Eugen Varlin

It's been argued that contemporary mutualism is largely an Internet based movement and has lacked any relevance since the mid-19th century. However, it is worth remembering that if it wasn't for Mutualism, there would be no worker unions or co-operative federations.

To begin with, in 1857, Eugene Varlin founded a bookbinders' mutual aid society, becoming the nucleus of a bookbinders' trade union + he founded the bookbinders' mutual savings and credit association, organised along Proudhonist lines. Believing in sexual equality, he promoted the anarchist feminist Nathalie Lemel within the credit union. The Workers' Mutual Help Association was formed in Bologna, 1860 to safeguard employment, education, right to strike and universal suffrage. The International Workingmen’s Association was established by the Proudhonist Henri Tolain in July 1863, of which Varlin was a member.

Varlin organised the very first strike of the Parisian bookbinders in 1864 which was a success. In 1867 he and Nathalie Lemel started a co-operative La Ménagère. In 1868 Varlin and Lemel co-founded the co-operative restaurant La Marmite, which remained in business until after the Paris Commune. Varlin believed that trade unions should overcome their professional, local and national sectarianism to form a united international labour movement, dedicated, "to the constant improvement of the conditions of existence of ... the workers of all professions and all countries and to [bringing] workers into possession of the instruments of their labour", as the statutes of his bookbinders' union put it.

North Korea: Human Rights and International Relations

Presentation to the Isocracy Network on Friday April 19, 2014 at Trades Hall. PDF slides of the presentation are also available.

What I'm going to try and do tonight is do more than simply discuss how terrible the human rights situation is in North Korea. I will speak about that, but what I think will be far more useful will be to explain how things got to where they are, and what I believe the possibilities for progress are. To do this we first must go back in time, and while giving some general background I will touch on a few things that tend to get overlooked in mainstream accounts that I think are very important for understanding North Korea. Now, to tell the history of North Korea is to tell the history of Kim Il-sung, as perhaps more than any other state in history, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK was, and continues to be, shaped by the character of its founder and leader for almost 50 years.

North Korea : Human Rights and International Relations

North Korea at night

North Korea has been described by former Australian justice Michael Kirby, in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Councils, as committing crimes against humanity. The report accused the regime of mass killings and torture and said responsible officials should face the International Criminal Court.

Apartheid and Zionism : Precise Definitions, Visceral Ontologies

Nelson Mandela in 2008
The death of Nelson Mandela has reminded many of the criminal history of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Whilst others have spoken about the personal characteristics of Mandela, and have done so appropriately [1], it is also unsurprisingly to see a debate on the critical fringes of politics debating the role of Mandela and the ANC, noisily challenging the polite and mainstream celebrations of his life. From the left, there has been those who have criticised the disconnect between politicians like Obama who celebrate Mandela's resistance, yet still find need to condemn and jail those who leak evidence of widespread surveillance against their own citizens and unfriendly spying activities [2]. Others have drawn attention to the long-term recognition held by Mandela, Tutu, and other anti-apartheid leaders who saw great similarity between their condition and that of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Ami Kaufman, at 972mag, picked five top examples of Israeli politicians who condemn apartheid and celebrate its fighters from afar, but not those who are too close for comfort [3]. Matthew Taylor, at Mondoweiss, described Obama's speech both moving and hypocritical on his failure to make the same connection between South Africa and Israel as Mandela did [4]. Reviewing the difference between Mandela's politics and those world leaders who sing his praises, Seumas Milne writes [5]:

To a New Year, Isocracy!

Back to the Future
The incontrovertible dictates of the Gregorian Calendar state that another year is presently coming to a close, and another, laden with potential, is soon to dawn.

As earnest believers in human freedom, this is one holiday that I believe we can rally behind. A new year, a new chapter in the so far interminable story of our universe that we author for our more intimate human micro-universe.

So, 2014, another chance for human freedom!


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