Tuesday 26 February 2013

Barack Obama v The Party of Lincoln

At his first inauguration ceremony, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama set the tone with a line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: “A New Birth of Freedom”. Confident of his place amongst the giants of American history, the forty-fourth president has never been reluctant to compare his destiny with that of The Great Emancipator, the sixteenth president. The fact remains, however, that the Party of Lincoln was the Republican Party, specifically created in the 1850s to defeat slavery. In sharp contrast, the Democratic Party—forever the representative of sectional interests—was mostly in favour of slavery at the time of the Civil War.

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Sunday 24 February 2013

The Great Salesman

Tony Blair comes close to achieving a remarkable feat in his memoirs. By the close of A Journey it is almost possible to feel sorry for a man who at the age of forty-three became the youngest prime minister of Britain since 1812 before going on to win an unprecedented three consecutive elections for his party. Sorry for the man—self-avowed socialist, naturally—who is today a senior adviser at investment bank JP Morgan, advises the Swiss insurance firm Zurich Financial Services, retains a consulting role with the luxury goods firm LVMH, and charges between £100,000 and £200,000 for a ninety-minute speech. What, exactly, is there for us to pity about Phoney Tony?

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Friday 22 February 2013

Democracy Wall 1979

In October 1979 I found myself, through no feat of my own, living the high life in a provincial city in the People's Republic of China. I was twenty-two years old and had just completed an honours degree in Politics at the University of Adelaide, the title of my thesis being “Micro-Computer Technology and Contemporary Capitalism”. It almost goes without saying that the conclusion to my dissertation anticipated the imminent demise of Late Capitalism. It absolutely goes without saying that I was a Marxist.

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Monday 18 February 2013

The Opium of Terry Eagleton

One of the more disturbing moments in Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right—no small thing in a treatise teeming with disturbing moments—is this:

Was capitalist modernity really necessary? How does one weigh the value of modern science and human liberty against the spiritual goods of tribal societies? What happens when we place democracy in the scales along with the Holocaust?  

It might take a second for the full implication of Eagleton’s last question to sink in, but when it does the reader finds himself confronted with an allegation both absurd and without any moral seriousness. Like some kind of malignant Quincy McGoo, Eagleton actually believes that democracy and the Holocaust are two sides of the same modern capitalist coin. How could a fellow who is the current Distinguished Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster entertain such a notion? How can a man who entertains such a notion be the current Distinguished Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster? If nothing else, Why Marx Was Right more than adequately explains Terry Eagleton.

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