Category Archives: History

Launch of a new radical European political party


Yanis Varoufakis, the radical economist the banksters demanded be ousted as finance minister of the Greek Syriza-led government as a condition of further aid, and Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat have launched a new European political party.

Rather than offer our own explanation, here’s the video of the formal announcement, issued this week, via From acTVism Munich:

Press Conference: Yanis Varoufakis & Democracy in Europe Movement 25

Program note:

On the 9th of February, 2016, Yanis Varoufakis & Srecko Horvat launched a movement called Democracy in Europe Movement 25 (DiEM25) in Berlin at Volksbühne.

And for more details, here’s the party’s manifesto.

From the Democracy In Europe Movement — DiEM25:

A MANIFESTO FOR DEMOCRATISING EUROPE

For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.

For rule by Europe’s peoples, government by the demos, is the shared nightmare of:

  • The Brussels bureaucracy (and its more than 10,000 lobbyists)
  • Its hit-squad inspectorates and the Troika they formed together with unelected ‘technocrats’ from other international and European institutions
  • The powerful Eurogroup that has no standing in law or treaty
  • Bailed out bankers, fund managers and resurgent oligarchies perpetually contemptuous of the multitudes and their organised expression
  • Political parties appealing to liberalism, democracy, freedom and solidarity to betray their most basic principles when in government
  • Governments that fuel cruel inequality by implementing self-defeating austerity
  • Media moguls who have turned fear-mongering into an art form, and a magnificent source of power and profit
  • Corporations in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance that bend public opinion to their will.

The European Union was an exceptional achievement, bringing together in peace European peoples speaking different languages, submersed in different cultures, proving that it was possible to create a shared framework of human rights across a continent that was, not long ago, home to murderous chauvinism, racism and barbarity. The European Union could have been the proverbial Beacon on the Hill, showing the world how peace and solidarity may be snatched from the jaws of centuries-long conflict and bigotry.

Alas, today, a common bureaucracy and a common currency divide European peoples that were beginning to unite despite our different languages and cultures. A confederacy of myopic politicians, economically naïve officials and financially incompetent ‘experts’ submit slavishly to the edicts of financial and industrial conglomerates, alienating Europeans and stirring up a dangerous anti-European backlash. Proud peoples are being turned against each other. Nationalism, extremism and racism are being re-awakened.

At the heart of our disintegrating EU there lies a guilty deceit: A highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose is to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, finance, working conditions and environment. The price of this deceit is not merely the end of democracy but also poor economic policies:

  • The Eurozone economies are being marched off the cliff of competitive austerity, resulting in permanent recession in the weaker countries and low investment in the core countries
  • EU member-states outside the Eurozone are alienated, seeking inspiration and partners in suspect quarters where they are most likely to be greeted with opaque, coercive free trade deals that undermine their sovereignty.
  • Unprecedented inequality, declining hope and misanthropy flourish throughout Europe

Two dreadful options dominate:

  • Retreat into the cocoon of our nation-states
  • Or surrender to the Brussels democracy-free zone

There must be another course. And there is!

It is the one official ‘Europe’ resists with every sinew of its authoritarian mind-set:

A surge of democracy!

Our movement, DiEM25, seeks to call forth just such a surge.

One simple, radical idea is the motivating force behind DiEM25:

Democratise Europe! For the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!

Our goal to democratise Europe is realistic. It is no more utopian than the initial construction of the European Union was. Indeed, it is less utopian than the attempt to keep alive the current, anti-democratic, fragmenting European Union.

Our goal to democratise Europe is terribly urgent, for without a swift start it may be impossible to chisel away at the institutionalised resistance in good time, before Europe goes past the point of no return. We give it a decade, by 2025.

There’s lots more after the jump. . .

Continue reading

And now for something completely different. . .


Lenin’s Tomb, the most famous monument of the Soviet era is one that can’t be explained in terms of orthodox Marxism.

After all, a philosophy that rejects life after death has no need of carefully embalmed corpses.

But there it is, a architectural anomaly next to the Kremlin Wall, housing a carefully preserved by a process that remains a state secret in the post-Soviet era.

What, then, is it all about?

Historian J. Arch Getty offers his own sometimes humorous take in the UCLA Academic Senate’s 119th Faculty Research Lecture.

Getty is a professor affiliated with UCLA’s International Institute’s Center for European and Russian Studies, and has served as a research fellow at the Russian State Humanities University in Moscow and as a senior visiting scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He has written several books on Soviet era, and is currently writing a text on the history on the treatment of the dead in Russian history.

From University of California Television:

Dead Man Talking: Lenin’s Body and Russian Politics

Program notes:

Arch Getty explores the intriguing details surrounding Lenin’s body, which was embalmed shortly after his death in 1924 and has been on public display ever since in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square. Getty is a Distinguished Professor in the UCLA Department of History.

Another sign of the death of mainstream journalism


What if they held a public hearing about a plan to slash the pensions of more than a quarter of a million American workers and but a single journalism showed up to cover the event?

Moreover, what if that heaving was held in the American city hardest hit by the collapse of American manufacturing, and the pension fund involved had been the subjects of countless books, magazine and newspaper articles, and films?

Well, that’s precisely what happened.

From Andre Damon of the World Socialist Web Site [emphasis added]:

The Obama administration is pushing ahead with its plans to slash pension benefits for up to one million participants in “underfunded” multiemployer pension funds as part of its drive to make defined-benefit pensions a thing of the past for all US workers.

The White House campaign, carried out in a conspiracy with the major trade unions and multinational corporations, takes place in the wake of the 2013–2014 bankruptcy of Detroit, which set a precedent for slashing the legally protected pension benefits of retirees.

Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s appointee to oversee the pension cuts, held a hearing on behalf of the Treasury Department in Detroit Monday to hear objections to the plan to slash the pension benefits of some 270,000 retired truck drivers, package handlers and other members of the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

The hearing, which took place at Wayne State University, drew an overflow crowd at a 500-seat lecture hall, with up to 1,000 people participating in total. With the exception of the World Socialist Web Site, the media ignored the event, with no US video crews present.

Such is live in 21st Century America, where Kim Kardashian’s ass rate more coverage than the loss of secure futures for a quarter-million workers.

And now for something completely different. . .


It’s a mystery with, as yet, no solution.

There’s an artist somewhere in Europe who’s filling the private and public art galleries of the world with sophisticated fakes, bronze statues — busts primarily — of gods and rulers from ancient Rome and Greece.

The forger is skilled, using ancient metal, presumably from bronze coins, and his work is superficially impeccable, as in this bronze bust of the Roman emperor Augustus exposed [PDF] as a fake by German archaeologist Stephan Lehmann of the Archaeological Museum of the University of Martin Luther, Halle-Wittenberg:

BLOG Spanish master

To expose the fakes, Lehmann has turned to Europe’s most powerful particle accelerators, the only instruments capable of revealing critical details without damaging the sculptures.

The following documentary in English from Deutsche Welle Documentaries looks at the world of forgeries of ancient bronzes, including the complicated egos of the forger’s victims and the collusion of governments and dealers who have little interest in exposing the hazards of a trade that generates hefty revenues for both [and for those of you who came by earlier today and found the video “removed by user,” they changed the link and we have it up again]:

The Mystery Conman

Program note:

For years, a talented fraudster smuggled counterfeit antiques onto the art market. No one knew who the person was but workshops in southern Europe aroused suspicion, especially one in Spain. Experts in Germany have therefore named the fraudster the “Spanische Meister” or “Spanish master.” The documentary follows archeologist Stefan Lehmann from Halle near Leipzig, who’s been on the shark’s tail. Around 40 counterfeits have been discovered so far, but he thinks it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Lehmann hasn’t made himself popular – the subject of counterfeiting tends to get swept under the rug within the art trade and museums. A Swiss collector is the first one to break the silence. He gave Lehmann access to a bronze head of Emperor Augustus, which he bought for several hundred thousand dollars on the New York art market. It’s an exciting case for Lehmann – will his examinations prove that the head is fake? Auction houses and galleries know exactly what they’re selling according to Christoph Leon, an art dealer from Basel who’s working with Lehmann. He says the market is full of fakes because the global financial market invests in antique sculptures so there’s a lot of money at stake. This film follows the trail of the dirty dealings and gives an insight into the unknown world of the antiques trade.

It’s hard not to root for the forger, who is deftly picking the pockets of the one percent by playing on their pretensions.

After all, the forger with the heart of gold has been a staple of film and fiction. But all too often it’s the public’s pockets that are picked, if the form of tax writeoffs given wealthy donors who pass on their fakes to public museums.

And we have to admit that our favorite TV show during our college years was a wonderful series starring A-list stars who profited handsomely from, among other things, peddling forgeries to the wealthy booboisie.

Class cleansing, history, race, and the Super Bowl


A short but notable segment from Democracy Now! how issues of the issues of class and race are integral to America’s most iconic sporting event.

No Super Bowl in recent decades has evoked their spectral present more than the game’s 50th extravaganza, held in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive city to inhabit, yet a city haunted by the issues of race and class.

It was, after all, San Francisco that brought the nation its first drug law, created in 1875 to repress a hard-working Chinese population by banning the use of opium, the drug which helped numb the pain brought on by long hours of physical exertion.

The San Francisco ordinance, quickly adopted by most other California cities with large Asian populations, didn’t halt sales of the drug; instead driving it underground and causing the price to spike.

Nor, as any visitor to modern San Francisco can attest, did it succeed in driving out its Chinese residents.

[The nation’s prohibitions of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin were all based directly on overt racist hysteria, as noted here.]

The San Francisco Bay Area was also the birthplace of the most prominent African American militants of the mid-20th Century, the Black Panthers.

And it was the Panthers who were, remarkably, celebrated in Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show by one of the nation’s most popular singers.

But before the game was held, another cleansing of San Francisco took place, this time one based on class and not race.

And with that by way of preface, from Democracy Now!:

Beyoncé Wins the Super Bowl: Pop Legend Invokes Black Panthers, #BlackLivesMatter at Halftime Show

From the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Zirin joins us from Washington, D.C., sports columnist for The Nation. His latest article, “The Streets of San Francisco: ‘Super Bowl City’ Meets Tent City.”

Thanks so much. His books include The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, which he co-wrote with John Carlos. Your response to all that happened last night, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, there’s on the field and off the field. I mean, on the field, you had the Denver Broncos exhibit one of the great defensive performances in Super Bowl history. Off the field, what you had was really an unprecedented sweep of the homeless before a Super Bowl contest. And, you know, every Super Bowl in the host city has a narrative that exists outside the game. In New Orleans, it was “How will the city recover after Hurricane Katrina?” In New York, if you remember—we discussed this, Amy—it was the sweep and harassment of sex workers before the big game that took place in the Meadowlands.

And in San Francisco, it’s the fact that you have this city of only 800,000 people that has a homeless population of 10,000. Sixty-one percent of the homeless in San Francisco were working at the time they lost their homes. And one-third of these 10,000 people are children. And yet, the response from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was: You better get off the street. You better get gone, because we’re about to have a party for the 1 percent. We’re about to have a Woodstock for the wealthy and celebrate the Super Bowl and celebrate our conspicuous consumption. There’s no greater symbol of this year’s Super Bowl, to me, than the fact you could go to the game and buy a delicious hot dog with real gold flakes sprinkled on top, so you could eat gold with your hot dog while people are literally hungry outside the most unequal and, by some metrics, the wealthiest city now in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about what happened inside, at halftime, Dave Zirin? Can you talk about not only what Beyoncé—

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —did there with her song, the homage to the Black Panthers—

DAVE ZIRIN: It was too short.

The Empire Files: Bloodshed on the border


In the second part [first part here] of “The Empire’s Border,” her report on the bloody politics of the United States’ southern border, The Empire Files‘ Abby Martin examines the origins of that boundary line in bloody conflict, America’s first imperial war against another American nation state.

Her focus then shifts to the first border wall, erected after a fierce street battle in the border town of Nogales, Arizona/Juarez, Mexico 98 years ago.

Adding immensely to the border tensions was the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement [and do watch Hillary’s spouse preaching its virtues on signing the treaty into law].

Then came 9/11, and the subsequent paranoia-enabled national security spending binge, in which fears of boundary leakage proved centers of immense profits and bureaucratic binging. . .

Increased deaths became inevitable, especially given a media fueled campaign of paranoia direction against brown-skinned people.

Well, we’ll leave the rest for you.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: The Empire’s Border Part II – A Hidden War

Program notes:

In the second installment of this two-part episode, Abby Martin continues her investigation of the hidden war on the U.S.-Mexico border, looking at the root causes of the epidemic of migrant deaths. The Empire Files documents an inflated, paramilitary Border Patrol, the devastating impacts of NAFTA, how the U.S. Empire benefits from immigrant labor and what can change the equation.

Featuring interviews with Todd Miller, author of ‘Border Patrol Nation’, and Araceli Rodriguez, mother of Jose Antonio, a 16-year-old boy murdered by Border Patrol.

And now for something completely different. . .


For those of a certain age, the comedy routines of Bob and Ray — Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding — provided many a smile and the not-infrequent guffaw.

While they made occasional forays into television, their routines were born in an era when radio delivered not only music and news, but comedy, drama, and variety programs, featuring the leading stars of the age.

Their routines provided inspiration for two generations of comedians, and novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote of the delight he took in their schtick.

The routines played on the medium itself, skewering newscasts with their intrepid report Wally Ballou, one of a whole cast of characters.

What prompts our nostalgia is a a story in today’s New York Times:

Bob Elliott, who as half of the comedy team Bob and Ray purveyed a distinctively low-key brand of humor on radio and television for more than 40 years, died on Tuesday at his home in Cundy’s Harbor, Me. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his son Chris Elliott, the actor and comedian, who said his father had had throat cancer.

Mr. Elliott and his partner, Ray Goulding — Bob was the soft-spoken one, Ray the blustery, deep-voiced one — were unusual among two-person comedy teams. Rather than one of them always playing it straight and the other handling the jokes, they took turns being the straight man.

What better way to memorialize what is truly the end of an era than with s few of their brightest routines?

First up, from the early radio days, a sketch that focuses on a feature that was once ubiquitous on the airwaves:

Bob and Ray – The Question Man

The next sketch captures a trauma all too common in the days of live radio news interviews:

Bob & Ray – The slow talker

And another interview sketch:

Bob and Ray A Visit with Neil Clummer of The Hobby Hut with The Vegetable Collector

In 1951 the comedy duo moved their act to television, with a fifteen-minute broadcast [yes, broadcast television then often came in both shorter and longer programs than today]. Audrey Meadows, who would go on to television immortality as Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners, joined the duo for the show.

Bob & Ray. “Jack Headstrong” & “The Life and Loves of Linda Lovely”

Program notes:

The first episode of “Jack Headstrong, All American American” and the contuing story of Uncle Eugen’s kidnapping in “The Life And Loves of Linda Lovely”.

From the “Bob & Ray Show” which ran on NBC from 1951-1953, with Audrey Meadows, announcer Bob Denton and organist Paul Taubman.

And pair of short sketches:

Bob & Ray. “Hartford Harry”. Bud Sturdley “Impartial Survey”

The next sketch was performed just as politicians were beginning to discover the power of the medium:

Bob & Ray “Booking Agents to the Politicians”

And one final sketch from their show, again playuing against the medium itself:

Bob & Ray: “Television Referee”

And finally, their appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, performing two sketches that leave their host writhing in laughter:

Bob and Ray “Most Beautiful Face Winner”

Program notes:

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding perform two of their classic interviews: “Most Beautiful Face Contest Winner” and “Four Leaf Clover Farmer.” Lots of great Bob and Ray available at the official site: www.bobandray.com

Radio as they knew it is dead, a transformed into a coldly calculated corporate entity, with local stations reduced to robot run money-making machines.

So hoist one for Bob and Ray, and may their shadows never grow less.