junho 26, 2009

As fantasias ocidentais sobre a revolução iraniana revisitadas por Daniel J. Flynn no City Journal

The bloody scenes in Tehran, with at least 19 protestors killed so far in clashes with government forces, may seem like a repeat in miniature of the violence there more than 30 years ago. The glaring difference is that the protestors who toppled a corrupt, oppressive regime in 1979 have become the corrupt, oppressive regime in 2009.

With the 1979 Iranian revolution so close in the rearview mirror, the mistakes of Western observers then bear remembering today, as the seeds of something momentous may be again at hand. In the late seventies, some intellectuals, enamored with the idea of revolution in general and the anti-Western outlook of the Iranian revolutionaries in particular, projected their political values on the shah’s deposers. When, instead of embracing the ideology of Harvard Square or Telegraph Avenue, the revolutionaries exported terror, exhibited a toxic anti-Semitism, persecuted homosexuals, and pursued nuclear weapons, many of these intellectuals emerged with egg on their faces. As Mother Jones editor Adam Hochschild candidly admitted after Iranian reality had dashed Western dreams: “The Left is always better at seeing what leads to revolutions than at seeing what may follow them.” Though criticisms of the shah of Iran for human-rights abuses and other crimes seemed on the mark, Hochschild conceded in 1980 that his magazine had been “embarrassingly nearsighted about [the shah’s] successors.”

A year earlier, Mother Jones had been much more buoyant about the Iranian revolution’s prospects. “What kind of state might result if Khomeini or his followers take power?,” Eqbal Ahmad asked in the magazine’s April 1979 issue. “As someone who has talked with him at length, I believe that, when Khomeini speaks of an Islamic state for Iran, it is a Shi’ite scholar’s way of saying that he wants a good state in Iran. His concept of a good state includes democratic reforms, freedom for political prisoners, an end to the astronomical waste of huge arms purchases, and a constitutional government.” Ahmad ridiculed the view that “reactionary Muslim mullahs motivated by their hostility to modernization and reforms” led the revolution. “Left alone,” he speculated, “Iran without the Shah would probably evolve into a country that looked like Spain or Portugal without Franco or Salazar.” Even by the magazine’s postdated publication date, the prediction appeared ridiculous.

Sounding like the ideological tourists who visited Iran’s Soviet neighbors several generations earlier, Kai Bird opined in the March 31, 1979 issue of The Nation that “there is every reason to believe that the still unpublished [Iranian] Constitution will include all the elements of a liberal democratic system.” The future Pulitzer Prize winner exuberantly noted how merchants hawked Lenin and Marx on the streets. He imagined decentralized workers’ collectives, rather than the state, controlling Iran’s oil industry. In the April 21, 1979 issue, Bird described the economic views of Iranian oil workers as not very different from those of the average Nation reader. He wrote, “The worker komitehs want to participate in [oil policy] decisions—and if they persevere, there will be little room left for the fellows from Exxon.” In an unsigned editorial in the March 24, 1979 issue, anticipating its special correspondent’s report, The Nation excused “the revolutionary insistence on summary justice” by maintaining that it “may have staved off a far bloodier round of private vengeance.” After all, “less than forty former Pahlevi officials have been executed, and with only one possible exception, each was prominently associated with the worst excesses of state power in the Shah’s era.” But just a few months after the Ayatollah Khomeini’s triumph, events forced Bird to concede that the Islamic Revolution had been a “disappointment.”

“One thing must be clear,” warned postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault in the fall of 1978. “By ‘Islamic government,’ nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clerics would have a role of supervision or control.” An atheist homosexual, Foucault nevertheless found himself seduced by an Islamic revolution that targeted people like himself once it had consolidated power. Writing for the French and Italian press, the celebrity intellectual made two trips to Iran in the fall of 1978 to compile material for his firsthand dispatches.

Prophetic in seeing Islam as a “powder keg” of political force, Foucault was horribly remiss in his uncritical assessment of Islamism. From his conversations in Iran, and in Paris with exiles such as the Ayatollah Khomeini, Foucault was not, unlike other Western intellectuals, deluded into believing that the shah’s overthrow would result in a secular government familiar to Westerners. Rather, he believed that an Islamic theocracy might consist of equal rights for men and women, a socialist redistribution of oil profits, and a responsive democracy, among other things.

Writing in Le Nouvel Observateur in October 1978, Foucault outlined the principles that he believed would undergird any emergent Islamic state in Iran: “Islam values work; no one can be deprived of the fruits of his labor; what must belong to all (water, the subsoil) shall not be appropriated by anyone. With respect to liberties, they will be respected to the extent that their exercise will not harm others; minorities will be protected and free to live as they please on the condition that they do not injure the majority; between men and women there will not be inequality with respect to rights, but difference, since there is a natural difference. With respect to politics, decisions should be made by the majority, the leaders should be responsible to the people, and each person, as it is laid out in the Quran, should be able to stand up and hold accountable he who governs.”

The devotion to socialism, pluralism, democracy, and disarmament that Foucault, Bird, and others imagined in their Persian proxies turned out to be remarkable delusions. Rather than looking at Iran and describing the ugliness they saw, prominent intellectuals instead looked in the mirror, reported the beauty they saw there, and called it Iran.

Their blindness offers a cautionary lesson for today. As a new generation of Iranians rebel against yesterday’s revolutionaries, conservatives appalled by the anti-Americanism of the Iranian old guard risk projecting their political values upon today’s revolutionaries. This is Iran, after all, and even the opposition candidate despises Israel, aggressively pushes for a nuclear Iran, and has heretofore shown little interest during his long political career in transitioning from government by ayatollahs and mullahs to government by the people.

President Obama, who undermines his credibility by vacillating between remaining strategically outside of the fray and inserting himself in it by telling Iranians that the whole world is watching, nevertheless seems to understand the danger of getting Western hopes up too high: “Although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, the difference in actual policies between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as advertised,” the president explained on CNBC last week. “I think it’s important to understand that either way, we are going to be dealing with a regime in Iran that is hostile to the U.S.”


JPTF 2009/06/26

junho 24, 2009

Leituras: As Faces de Janus: Marxismo e Fascismo no Século XX, de A. James Gregor (Imprensa da Universidade de Yale, 2000)

Descrição do livro:
Attempting to understand the catalogue of horrors that has characterised much of twentieth-century history, Western scholars generally distinguish between violent revolutions of the "right" and the "left". Fascist regimes are assigned to the evil right, Marxist-Leninist regimes to the benign left. But this distinction has left us without a coherent understanding of the revolutionary history of the twentieth century, contends A. James Gregor in this insightful book. He traces the evolution of Marxist theory from the 1920s through the 1990s and argues that the ideology of Marxism-Leninism devolved into fascism. Fascist regimes and Communist regimes - both anti-democratic ideocracies - are far more closely related than has been recognised. Employing wide-ranging primary source materials in Italian, German, Russian, and Chinese, the book opens with an examination of the first standard Marxist interpretation of Mussolini's fascism in the early 1920s and proceeds through the emergence of fascist phenomena in post-Communist Russia. A clearer understanding of the relation between fascism and communism provides a sharper lens through which to view twentieth-century history as well as the present and future politics of Russia, Communist China, and other non-democratic states, Gregor concludes.
JPTF 2009/06/24

junho 19, 2009

‘O ataque dos BRIC‘: Brasil, Rússia, Índia e China ensaiam bloco contra o G7 in Courrier International

Le Brésil, la Russie, l’Inde et la Chine, pays désormais rassemblés sous l’acronyme "BRIC", se sont réunis pour la première fois en vue de tenir un langage commun face aux grands défis internationaux. Ils ont affirmé vouloir une réforme rapide du système financier mondial, même si la question d'une monnaie de réserve supranationale fait débat entre eux, et ont manifesté le souhait d'être plus influents et de se faire entendre davantage aux Nations unies. Le sommet qui a eu lieu le 16 juin dernier dans l’Oural, à Ekaterinbourg, la troisième ville de Russie, se voulait le contrepoids du sommet du G7 (groupe des sept pays les plus industrialisés) qui aura lieu dans un mois en Italie. Le ministre des Affaires étrangères brésilien, Celso Amorim, a donné le ton vendredi. "Le G7 est mort. Il ne représente plus rien. Je ne sais pas comment sera l’enterrement…", a-t-il confié à l'AFP. Les grands pays émergents représentent 25 % des terres habitables de la planète, 40 % de la population mondiale et 15 % du produit intérieur brut mondial. Ce sont en réalité des pays encore très pauvres, mais leur potentiel de croissance est de plus en plus important. Selon Goldman Sachs, qui a inventé l’acronyme BRIC en 2001, ces pays pèseront de plus en plus dans l’économie mondiale. Le PIB de la Chine, par exemple, dépassera celui des Etats-Unis d’ici à 2050. Aujourd’hui, les pays du BRIC pèsent pour 15 % dans le commerce mondial, un chiffre qui devrait augmenter au fil des années. Nandan Unnikrishnan, chercheur à l'Observer Research Foundation de New Delhi et qui a l’oreille des autorités indiennes, met en exergue ce qui unit les quatre pays. Il évoque aussi les relations tumultueuses entre l’Inde et la Chine, les deux moteurs asiatiques du BRIC.

LE TEMPS Le BRIC est-il un concept viable ?
NANDAN UNNIKRISHNAN Les quatre pays ont de nombreuses préoccupations communes : les réformes de la gouvernance mondiale, la mise en place d’une nouvelle architecture financière avec un système de régulation, la démocratisation du Fonds monétaire international pour refléter le véritable poids économique de chaque pays membre, des réformes à apporter à l’ONU et au Conseil de sécurité. Ces revendications ne doivent pas laisser penser que le BRIC est une nouvelle version des pays non-alignés. Les quatre pays ne sont pas identiques. Les économies brésilienne et russe sont fondées sur l’exploitation et l’exportation des matières premières, alors que l’Inde et la Chine sont des importateurs. Dans le domaine industriel, la Russie et le Brésil ont déjà des secteurs très avancés, notamment l’aviation, que la Chine et l’Inde voudraient développer.

La Chine et l’Inde peuvent-elles vraiment s’entendre ?
Les relations entre les deux pays sont très complexes et représentent un défi. Ils souffrent de l’héritage de la colonisation. Les frontières ont été découpées de façon arbitraire. Elles ont donné lieu à une guerre entre les deux pays en 1962. Le différend n’est toujours pas réglé. Une commission y travaille, mais elle ressemble davantage à un chien qui dort et qu’il ne faut pas réveiller. Il s’agit d’une question difficile, c’est pourquoi il faudra encore beaucoup de temps pour la résoudre. Le plus important, c'est que les possibilités d’une nouvelle guerre sont pratiquement inexistantes.

Y a-t-il des points de convergence ?
Les deux pays sont des économies émergentes. Le commerce entre eux ne cesse d’augmenter : il se monte aujourd’hui à plus de 45 milliards de dollars. Nous avons beaucoup de positions communes dans les forums internationaux, notamment dans les négociations commerciales du cycle de Doha. Le fait que nos diplomates s’entendent nous aide à construire une relation de confiance. Construire cette confiance est un objectif majeur.

Les pays du BRIC ne sont-ils pas concurrents dans le commerce international ?
Absolument. Pas seulement dans la conquête des marchés, mais aussi dans la course aux matières premières. Nous avons tous un grand besoin d’énergie ou d’acier. Le Brésil, la Chine et l’Inde se concurrencent, notamment en Afrique. Il y a aussi une vraie concurrence dans le développement des voies maritimes : Pékin et Delhi tentent de s’assurer l’accès aux ports en Asie et en Afrique.

Comment expliquez-vous qu’il y ait plusieurs plaintes commerciales déposées à l’OMC entre le Brésil, l’Inde et la Chine ? Récemment, l’Inde a d’ailleurs interdit l’importation de différents produits chinois ?
C’est de bonne guerre. Lorsque les enfants font leurs dents, ils cherchent toujours à mordre. Il ne s’agit pas de problèmes fondamentaux. Il faut voir le nombre de choses que nous faisons déjà ensemble.
Des entreprises chinoises investissent en Inde. Des entreprises indiennes produisent en Chine.

JPTF 2009/06/19

junho 08, 2009

Derrota generalizada dos partidos socialistas/sociais-democratas nas eleições europeias in Guardian, 8 de Junho de 2009

Europe's mainstream centre-left parties suffered humiliation last night when four days of voting in the EU's biggest-ever election concluded with disastrous results for social democrats.

Results from the national rounds of the European parliament election across the 27 member states also showed support for centre-right Christian democrats diminishing in places, but nonetheless notching up handsome victories in several key states.

In Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, the centre right won the elections, with stunning defeats for the left in certain cases.

In the EU's biggest country, Germany, returning 99 of the parliament's 736 seats, the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition, sunk to an all-time low, with 21% of the vote.

The result was slightly worse than a dismal performance five years ago that all the opinion polls had predicted would not be repeated.

"The result is significantly worse than we expected," said Franz Müntefering, the SPD's chairman. "This is a difficult evening."

Less than four months before Germany's general election, last night's outcome augured well for Merkel's hopes of ditching her grand coalition in favour of a centre-right alliance with the small Free Democrats, who made the biggest gains, from six to more than 10%.

Next door in Austria, the chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats, Werner Faymann, led his party to its worst ever election result, just over 23%.

In both countries, the Christian democrats won comfortably, but Merkel's Christian Democrats and her Bavarian CSU allies were six points down, on 38%.

France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, claimed triumph with 28% for his UMP party to the Socialists 17%, the first time a sitting French president has won a European election since the vote began 30 years ago.

In Italy, the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi also did well, despite his marital breakdown and scandals over parties at his Sardinian villa, while in Spain the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero also lost the election to conservatives.

"It is bitterly disappointing, we had hoped for a better result. In most countries it went pretty bad for us," said Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialist group in the European parliament.

With the social democrats licking their wounds and the centre-right scoring victories whether in power or in opposition, the other signal trend of the ballot was the breakthroughs achieved by extreme right-wing nationalists and xenophobes.

Following on from the triumph of Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam campaigner, who came second with 17% in the Netherlands on Thursday, the hard-right and neo fascists chalked up further victories .

The anti-Gypsy extremists in Hungary, Jobbik, took three of the country's 22 seats; in Austria two far-right parties mustered 18%, and extreme Slovak nationalists gained their first seat in the European parliament.

Anti-Brussels candidates and Eurosceptics also won more seats in Denmark, Finland, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

The misery for the centre left, exemplified by Germany's SPD and Labour's traumas in the UK, deepened as results trickled in from other big EU states, such as France, Italy, Poland, and Spain.

The main opposition for Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, is further to the right, while the leaders in France and Italy appeared to benefit from tough anti-immigration and law-and-order stances, despite the soap opera nature of both leaders' private lives.

With the jobless numbers soaring amid the worst economic crisis in the lifetimes of European voters, the centre left is clearly failing to benefit politically in circumstances that might be expected to boost its support.

In the Netherlands on Thursday, in the first of the four-day election marathon, the Dutch Labour party, junior partner in the government, also took a hammering, losing 11 points to come third and failing for the first time to lead in at least one of the country's four big cities.

If the social democrats in the big countries of Europe faced a bout of soul-searching pessimism last night, many of the smaller EU countries offered little consolation.

The opposition centre-right in Ireland also notched up gains, while the Fianna Fáil government performed wretchedly. The opposition right in Hungary scored a landslide victory against a discredited socialist government.

Crumbs of comfort for the centre left came from Portugal, Greece, and Malta.

But analysts noted that the protest votes and victories for mavericks could also be ascribed to a lackluster election campaign in which leaders of key countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and the other big member states failed to project any persuasive pro-European vision in the midst of the most worrying economic crisis ever experienced by voters.

Yesterday was the big election day, with 18 of the 27 staging ballots, as well as Italy voting for the second day. Britain and the Netherlands kicked off the voting marathon on Thursday last week, with a further five countries following on Friday and Saturday.

Estimates of the new balance of power in the 736-seat assembly suggest that the centre right will have around 270 seats to the socialists' 160, a much wider margin than predicted.

The four-day vote was the biggest ever for the EU's only directly elected institution, with 375 million people entitled to choose from more than 10,000 candidates for 736 seats.

Hans-Gert Pöttering, the outgoing president, or speaker, of the European parliament, stressed that Europeans "want" the parliament, but conceded that that desire would not be reflected in the turnout.

Pöttering, a German Christian Democrat, is likely to be the sole MEP to serve in all seven parliaments since voting began in 1979.

The assembly, he said, closing the final session last month, is "the centre of a European parliamentary democracy of which we could only dream in 1979".

The damning popular verdict on that assertion, however, was the lowest turnout in 30 years. It was estimated at around 43%, compared with 45% last time, and 62% in Europe's first election in 1979.

JPTF 2009/06/08

Cartoon de Bleibel no Courrier International

junho 06, 2009

‘O drama multicultural‘ da Holanda: resultados eleitorais mostram uma crescente polarização da sociedade holandesa

In politics, things can turn on a euro cent. Just six month ago Wouter Bos was celebrated for the way he dealt with the financial crisis. The Dutch Labour party leader and finance minister soared in the opinion polls. But all that was forgotten when people went to vote on Thursday, and dealt Bos' party a devastating blow: Labour lost four of its seven seats in the European parliament.

The Christian democrats, the other major coalition partner, also took a severe beating: it went from seven to five seats. That didn't keep prime minister and party leader Jan Peter Balkenende from claiming victory: "We said we wanted to remain the biggest party and that's what happened," Balkenende said, adding nevertheless that his coalition government will have to work hard to regain the public's confidence.

The big winner of Thursday's election was undoubtedly Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) went from zero to four seats, making it the second biggest Dutch party in the Brussels parliament in its first European election.

Low turnout

The mainstream parties had silently hoped that the traditional low turnout for European elections would prevent a PVV breakthrough, going on the assumption that Wilders supporters are not that interested in Europe and wouldn't bother to vote. That turned out to be wrong. Despite a record low turnout - 36.5 percent, 2.5 points less than in 2004 - the PVV was able to attract 16.9 percent of all voters. According to research by public broadcaster NOS, many PVV voters were men and/or over fifty.

At a party meeting on Monday, Wilders had correctly predicted that the PVV would become bigger than his old party, the right-wing liberal VVD, which he broke away from in 2004. Still, VVD party leader Mark Rutte was not entirely unhappy with his party's three seats - down from four. Opinion polls had predicted a bigger loss. Just ahead of the election, Rutte had caused a controversy by proposing to broaden the definition of freedom of speech to include Holocaust denial. No matter how hard he tried to explain what exactly he meant, Rutte was ruthlessly attacked by political friends and foes alike. "This is a good result, " Rutte said on Thursday night.

But even Wilders had not expected his party to become bigger than Labour. "This the day the PVV finally made its breakthrough," he said. "People have had enough of the Balkenende and Bos cabinet." Wilders will not be going to Brussels himself; preferring to concentrate on national politics. Instead, an aide, Barry Madlener, will lead the PVV's four-man delegation to the European parliament, an institution it would like to see abolished.

'No real answers'

Just two months ago, the other parties said they were thrilled that the PVV had decided to take part in the European elections. Finally, they would get a chance to prove that the PVV had no real answers to European problems, was the thinking. The mainstream parties would have no trouble at all convincing the electorate that Europe was in the end a good thing for the Netherlands, or so they thought.

But the PVV's Barry Madlener, a former real estate agent, ran a better campaign than expected. His message was clear and simple: Brussels should have less power, and Turkey will never ever join the European Union. The mainstream parties, by contrast, had a much fuzzier stand on Europe, as Madlener never failed to point out.

In fact, the only other party to do well in these elections was at the other end of the political spectrum. The left-wing liberal party D66, which went to the polls with an outspoken pro-European stance, won over 10 percent of the voters and went from one to three seats in the European parliament.

The Netherlands is a more polarised country since Thursday's election. The political landscape has splintered. Stable government coalitions made up of two major parties and a sometimes a smaller third party may be a thing of the past. If national elections were held today with the same outcome, it could take months of negotiations to form a government. And any government coalition would probably require four parties, since most parties have already ruled out governing with the PVV. (The Christian democrats are on the fence about sharing power with Wilders.)

Penalised by voters

All this makes it easy to forget that this election was really about Europe. So what does the Dutch result say about the position of the Netherlands in Europe? The Netherlands was a founding member of the European Union. Does the PVV victory, on top of the Dutch 'no' in the 2005 referendum about the European constitution, mean that the Netherlands is now firmly in the eurosceptic camp?

Not quite. The electoral gains of the eurosceptic PVV are offset by the success of the pro-European D66. Another eurosceptical party, the Socialist Party, gained slightly compared to the 2004 election but lost big-time compared to the 2006 national election. The pro-European Green party held its own.

By contrast, parties like Labour, the Christian democrats and the right-wing liberal party VVD, who tried to be pro-European and eurosceptic at the same time, were penalised by the voters. In the European context too, the Netherlands is now a polarised country.

JPTF 2009/06/06