The simple courage of decision: a leftist tribute to Thatcher

In the last pages of his monumental Second World War, Winston Churchill ponders on the enigma of a military decision: after the specialists (economic and military analysts, psychologists, meteorologists) propose their analysis, somebody must assume the simple and for that very reason most difficult act of transposing this complex multitude into a simple “Yes” or “No”. We shall attack, we continue to wait… This gesture, which can never be fully grounded in reasons, is that[ …]

The Neighbor in Burka

In January 2010 Jean-François Copé, the parliamentary leader of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the ruling French party, proposed the draft of a law which bans the full-body veil from French streets and all other public places. This announcement came after the anguished six-month debate on the burka and its Arab equivalent, the niqab, which cover the woman’s face, except for a small slit for the eyes. All main political parties expressed their rejection[ …]

Why Cynics Are Wrong

Days before the election, Noam Chomsky told progressives that they should vote for Obama, but without illusions. I fully share Chomsky’s doubts about the real consequences of Obama’s victory: From a pragmatic-realistic perspective, it is quite possible that Obama will just do some minor face-lifting improvements, turning out to be “Bush with a human face.” He will pursue the same basic politics in a more attractive mode and thus effectively even strengthen U.S. hegemony, which[ …]

Democracy versus the people

Noam Chomsky once noted that “it is only when the threat of popular participation is overcome that democratic forms can be safely contemplated”. He thereby pointed at the “passivising” core of parliamentary democracy, which makes it incompatible with the direct political self- organisation and self-empowerment of the people. Direct colonial aggression or military assault are not the only ways of pacifying a “hostile” population: so long as they are backed up by sufficient levels of[ …]

Thanks, But We’ll Do It Ourselves

Amish communities routinely practice the institution of rumspringa (from the German herumspringen, to jump around). At 17, their children (who until then have been subjected to strict family discipline) are set free and allowed, solicited even, to go out and experience the ways of the “American” world around them. They drive cars, listen to pop music, watch TV and get involved in drinking, drugs and wild sex. After a couple of years, they are expected[ …]

The Free World … of Slums

Although Timothy Garton Ash is my political opponent, I’ve always admired his wealth of precise observations and found him a reliable source on the vicissi-tudes of post-Communist Eastern Europe. In his new book, The Free World: America, Europe and the Suprising Future of the West, Ash applies his signature bitterly witty approach to the growing tensions between key Western European states and the United States. His aperçus about the relations among the United Kingdom, France[ …]

Knee-Deep

The fate of a Slovene Communist revolutionary serves as a perfect metaphor for the twists of Stalinism. In 1943, when Italy capitulated, he led a rebellion of Yugoslav prisoners in a concentration camp on the Adriatic island of Rab: 2000 starving prisoners disarmed 2200 Italian soldiers. After the war, he was arrested and put in a prison on Goli otok (‘Naked Island’), a notorious Communist concentration camp near Rab. While he was there, he and[ …]