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What is the Left?
Hydrachist

An excerpt from The Paris Commune: A Political Declaration on Politics in Polemics, Verso, 2006.

To start with, let's note that before the Commune there had been a number of more or less armed popular and workers' movements in France in a dialectic with the question of state power. We can pass over the terrible days of June 1848 when the question of power is thought not to have been posed: the workers, cornered and chased from Paris upon the closing of national workshops, fought silently, without leadership, without perspective. Despair, fury, massacres.

The American economy is in shambles, with a spiraling debt crisis, a vanishing industrial base, and a plummeting dollar. And, as the debacle of the occupation of Iraq continues to demonstrate, the US is finding it increasingly difficult to keep the rest of the world under its hegemonic thumb through military intervention. Giovanni Arrighi's new book, Adam Smith in Beijing, situates this global decline of US power within the context of a epochal shift in the world-system away from North American dominance and towards Asia. Is China the real winner of the "War on Terror"?

Eric Peterson

The Zapatistas - A Movement Becomes A Teenager

The Mexican – Indigenous movement ”Ejército Zapatista por la Liberación Nacional” – EZLN – has since its “birth” January 1. 1994 been able to attract world wide attention with its spectacular actions. Outsiders may have difficulties to get an idea of what the movement is really about, but the Zapatistas once described their political philosophy like this:

“Zapatismo is not an ideology
It is not a bought and paid for doctrine.
It is …an intuition.
Something so open and flexible that
it really occurs in all places.
Zapatismo poses the question:
“What is it that has excluded me?”
“What is it that has isolated me?”
…In each place the response is different.
Zapatismo simply states the question
and stipulates that the response is plural,
that the response is inclusive……”

Lately, international attention may have dropped off somewhat, but the EZLN still posses the capacity to bring themselves into focus. At the end of the 2006 the movement celebrated its 13 years anniversary at a meeting in the small mountainous village Oventik in Chiapas, in the south of Mexico. The birthday was celebrated in the presence of more than 4000 guests, of whom some 1100 were internationals coming from more than 40 different countries. The 4-day long party contained a series of speeches by the zapatistas on alternative culture, commerce, women’s role and media, where the guests were presented with the EZLN’s point of view, and then had the opportunity to ask questions and finally could present their own vision.

Fergal reviews

Ramor Ryan. 'Clandestines: The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile'

“......the only thing that works is memory. Collective memory, but also even the tiniest, most insignificant memory of a personal kind. I suspect, in fact, that one can barely survive without the other, that legend cannot be constructed without anecdote” - Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Clandestines consists of a series of stories and reflections culled from Ryan’s experience of over twenty years of activism. The result is an entertaining and readable mixture of memoir, political essay, travelogue and literature. Clandestines then is not your standard political tract but rather a form of political picaresque documenting Ryan’s adventures as a wayward radical with an uncanny ability to find himself in interesting and often tricky situations everywhere from the mountains of Kurdistan to jungles of Chiapas. Ryan has certainly been around the block and the book includes a number of eyewitness accounts of events of major political and historical importance such as the massacre of mourners at a Republican funeral in Belfast by Michael Stone in 1988 and the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990.

However, Ryan is at his best when he is observing the everyday and the marginal rather than the epic and grandiose and much of the book is taken up with Ryan's descriptions of various encounters with people at the edges of history. These memorable character sketches, by turns affectionate and exasperated, often ironic and occasionally derisive, fill and enliven the pages of Clandestines. Ryan wanders amongst this motley crew-the generous and riotously joyful Berlin squatters, the Zapatista peasants, the disaffected Cubans, a drunk Croatian war veteran, the Central American gang members, a charismatic Venezuelan punk singer, the self indulgent hippies at a Rainbow Gathering and a host of others- observing, conspiring, joking and drinking and ultimately turning these encounters into a series of amusing and interesting tales without ever stretching the reader's credulity too far.

Mario Savio and the 60s Free Speech Movement

On Thursday, June 9, at 7:30pm, the Libertarian Book Club's Anarchist Forum will present NYU scholar Robert Cohen speaking on Mario Savio and the 60's Free Speech Movement. Cohen has edited a book on that remarkable period in Berkeley, California which sparked the transforming times in the 60s and 70s, when civil rights, anti-war actions, and radical change became the center of American political life. Cohen's biography of Mario Savio, the hero of the Free Speech Movement, will be published soon and reveal much about Savio that had until now been hidden. After Cohen speaks there will be an open discussion session, where questions can be answered and memories shared.

A Bullet Fired for Every Palestinian Child
"Did You Two Squabble?"

By YITZHAK LAOR


This trenchant essay by Israeli novelist Yitzhak Laor was originally submitted to the London Review of Books, which in the past has frequently published Laor's writing. But they refused to run this skewering of the Israeli Left with the LRB's editor chiding Laor that "in my editorial judgment (to be pompous) this piece won't help anyone." CounterPunch is honored to publish it. AC / JSC



One of the times I was detained (it was after a demonstration), I shared a cell with a young burglar, all blood and broken teeth, beaten twice. The first time was when he tried to escape, as detectives came to arrest him, since attempted escapes had become a sort of free license for police violence. The second time was a bit later when he was taken to hospital to stop his bleeding. Handcuffed he entered the ER, chained to a cop, and the doctor asked them both: "Did you two squabble?" The burglar did what he had to do: he spat his blood right into the face of the enlightened MD, and of course was beaten again, right there, still handcuffed, under the indifferent eyes of the medical staff. I liked my cellmate, I cannot forget his story, nor his pride. From that day on, June the 8th 1982, the question "did you two squabble?" became for me the image of the real description for the bystander.

"Judging Judges:
A Few Pages from The Mirror of Justices (c. 1290)
Peter Linebaugh, Counterpunch


With the Supreme Court nicely toying once again about who is to live and who is to die as it considers the death penalty for juveniles and as the American casualties in Iraq yesterday included three teenagers, it is well past the time to chop legal logic, or merely vote for the dime's worth of difference between Bush-Kerry troop levels.

Turning a forgotten page from the annals of time, let us review a selection from the thirteenth century London fishmonger, Andrew Horn, whose underground classic, The Mirror of Justices, was not printed until 1642 nor translated until 1646, those revolutionary years preceding the beheading of the sovereign.

Tags:

Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement, edited by Eddie Yuen, Daniel Burton-Rose and George Katsiaficas (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2004)

Christina Gerhardt


From the upcoming edition of Faultlines



Confronting Capitalism, an updated version of The Battle of Seattle, takes stock of what has shifted in the movement in the four years since the Seattle WTO protests in 1999. In his astute introduction, Eddie Yuen (one of the volume’s editors) adeptly lays out not so much a linear history, but rather a constellation of concerns and tactics.

Arguing that “the potential of a deepening global network of workers, students, farmers, youth, indigenous people, immigrants, and ‘marginals,’ is the greatest source of hope today” (vii), Yuen shows the commonalities that draw together a global movement. Yet he also pinpoints how the battle in the north contrasts with that of the south.

hydrarchist writes

Marcus Rediker author of
Villains of All Nations

the http://www.readysteadybook.com interview



Marcus Rediker is a historian, writer, teacher and activist. He is author of four books, all "history from the bottom up," most recently Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age(Verso). He teaches history at the University of Pittsburgh. Here, he kindly answers a few of my questions




Mark Thwaite  What began your fascination with pirates and piracy?


Marcus Rediker  "It was an accidental beginning, which is one way of saying, I suppose, that I never intended to write a book about pirates. I had no personal connection to the sea, having grown up in landlocked Kentucky and Tennessee in the upper south of the US When I entered graduate school in the mid-1970s I wanted to do the kind of work being done at Warwick by Edward Thompson, Peter Linebaugh, and others – that is, to use legal records to write the history of working people who left no records of their own. “History from the bottom up” or “peoples’ history” as it was called. So I looked around for a group of historical subjects who had caused enough of a ruckus in their day to create substantial documentation. I settled on pirates.


Primitive terrorists

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier—Explorer, Naturalist and Buccaneer
By Diana and Michael Preston
Walker & Company; 368 pages; $27. Doubleday; £16.99

Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age
By Marcus Rediker

Beacon Press; 256 pages; $24. Verso; 240 pages; £18.99

From

The Economist


THE business of piracy changed utterly between 1680, when William Dampier set out in pursuit of Spanish barques, and the 1720s, when rascals such as Blackbeard terrorised the Atlantic. Dampier and his fellow privateers were amateurish, eclectic in their interests, and mostly inoffensive. The outlaw pirates of the early 18th century, by contrast, were single-minded and lethally effective. These two books take after their subjects.

Diana and Michael Preston concluded that, in order to understand Dampier, they should retrace some of his steps. They cannot have got far. Dampier was an adventurer in the Walter Ralegh mould—at one point, he set sail from Mexico to Guam, not knowing whether it was 5,500 or 7,000 miles away. As a raider of Spanish gold, Dampier was inept, seizing his first true treasure ship at the age of 60. That does not seem to have discouraged him, however. The buccaneer's first love was natural history, a subject to which he devoted much time and colourful prose. Having wowed the British public with tales of exotic lands, he retired and died, apparently safe in his own bed.

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