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Russian contemporary culture and the White Generals August 30, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I very much liked this piece by Perry Anderson which was linked to during the week (and many thanks to the person who did so). A lot to reflect on – not least his views on the Ukraine conflict and perceptions of same more broadly. But culturally and politically, what of this?

What the impact of this revival of the Church has been on the culture at large is another question, but it is clearly not marginal. The author of the best-selling title of 2012 was the Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, an intimate of Putin, and producer of a popular television documentary chronicling the decline of Byzantium under the corrosive moral influences of the West. His Everyday Saints—‘simple, luminous tales of ordinary Christians’—sold over a million copies in a year. Not everyone was spellbound: to the indignation of its admirers, it did not quite win the country’s Booker Prize. But within the intelligentsia itself, in one—usually, though not invariably, somewhat higher—register or another, religion is in vogue. Russian cinema offers some of the most striking examples of the cross-breeding of retro-nationalism with neo-pietism in the service of the regime. At the box-office end of the market, blending commercial spectacle and middle-brow pretension, is Nikita Mikhalkov, the country’s Steven Spielberg. Once a caryatid of the Soviet cultural establishment, after the fall of the ussr he swiftly announced his conversion to Christianity; secured official funding for his patriotic blockbuster The Barber of Siberia, in which he himself plays an imposing Alexander iii; moved on to maudlin narratives of White Generals of the Civil War era; and in 2005 produced a fawning film-portrait of Putin in honour of his 55th birthday, depicting him as a latter-day—but by no means everyday—political saint. [34]
At the more austere end of the spectrum, where few concessions are made to popular taste or understanding, the cinema of Alexander Sokurov—widely regarded as Russia’s greatest director—mingles necrophilia and mysticism with homages to political correctness of the day. After reverent icons of Yeltsin and eldrich bestiaries of Hitler and Lenin came a glowing portrait of Hirohito as a quiet embodiment of imperial dignity emerging from his palace to the fatherly respect of MacArthur (Sokurov has explained that Japan, after all, had to expand into China). There followed a celebrity tour of the Tsarist past, hinting that if European culture was to be saved, it would be in the Noah’s ark of the Motherland, topped off with a sentimental apologia for the war in Chechnya, Alexandra, starring former diva Galina Vishnevskaya—‘Tsarina’ for the director—as a grandmother telling a Chechen lad to ‘ask God for intelligence’, instead of muttering about independence. This chauvinist parable won Sokurov an audience with Putin, and lavish state backing for his next venture, a phantasmagoric version of Goethe’s Faust. [35]
The better younger directors are less given to this kind of accommodation to power. But even an auteur of such independence as Andrei Zvyagintsev, no friend of the regime, has felt it necessary to avow the Christian faith behind his breakthrough, The Return, and garb his recent attack on official corruption of church and state alike, Leviathan, from a biblical wardrobe as a modern tale of Job. Lower down, there are few depths contemporary Russian cinema has not plumbed. Leading hits include The Island—tale of a repentant monk, who after committing lethal treason at German order during the war, has become so holy that nature itself departs from its laws in his presence; The Admiral, depicting the White supremo Kolchak in a ne plus ultra of schmaltz as a tender lover executed by the Bolsheviks, his corpse sinking cruciform into the Siberian ice; and The Miracle, scripted by Sokurov’s screen-writer Yuri Arabov, the ‘true story’ of a young girl who casts away her mother’s icons except for Saint Nicholas, whom she takes to a louche party—and there, as she dances clutching it, is frozen motionless for her impiety, until months later Khrushchev arrives and gives the grudging go-ahead for an exorcism to liberate her, murmuring as he flies back to Moscow, ‘A miracle—such beauty: as if an angel has flown’. The cultural sump of this sort of Russian cinema makes even the worst films of the Soviet era look presentable.

I’m not well up on how the White’s are regarded in Russia since the fall of the Soviets, but to judge from this there’s a sort of wholesale reevaluation of them, even if only in what appears to be a nostalgic/emotional way. Most of us here of whatever persuasion on the left (and personally in that conflict I still have a sneaking regard for Makhno, for all his faults) would tend to view the White’s as reactionary, at best.

Has anyone any knowledge of this trend in Russian culture?

Yet more on Jeremy Corbyn August 30, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Speaking of bizarre, here’s an odd piece by Nick Cohen in regard to the British Labour Party contest. I’ve always thought, and I know I’m not alone on the site in this respect, that in relation to a range of matters Cohen, whatever his approach in regard to Iraq etc in the 2000s, was fairly on the nose. Perhaps less so in recent times.

It’s very curious because it seems to echo other strands of thought, as with this:

But maybe there are good as well as shabby reasons why Corbyn’s past has failed to detach supporters from his cause. Until now the hypocritical, and in my view despicable, strain of thought that Corbyn represents has been dominant in the universities, the arts, political comedy and much, but not all, of the left-wing media. In what passes for liberal culture it is commonplace to condemn Western crimes while ignoring or excusing the crimes of anti-Western regimes and movements. But, politically, what artists and academics think has had little effect. The attitude of a British government that puts arms contracts before human rights in its dealings with, say, Saudi Arabia mattered far more for the glaringly obvious reason that it was in power and the Left was not.

And:

Not just Corbyn and his supporters but much of the liberal Left announce their political correctness and seize on the smallest sexist or racist “gaffe” of their opponents. Without pausing for breath, they move on to defend radical Islamist movements which believe in the subjugation of women and the murder of homosexuals. They will denounce the anti-Semitism of white neo-Nazis, but justify Islamist anti-Semites who actually murder Jews in Copenhagen and Paris. In a telling vignette, Corbyn himself defended a vicar from the supposedly liberal and tolerant Church of England who had promoted the conspiracy theory that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Discussing it with the person who sent me the link we wondered how much longer Cohen would self-describe as ‘left”…

When the far Left shades into the far Right, I am tempted to hug the centre and treat it as our best protection against the poisonous and the deranged. Respectable commentators have urged Labour members to do the same. They failed to understand that in Labour’s case the centre ground is as polluted as any derelict site.

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week August 30, 2015

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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Garibaldy is having trouble with the internet (which by the by is almost the definition of some of our interactions here, isn’t it?) so to get the ball rolling, how about this from Jim Cusack which is almost hallucinatory in its strangeness:

A former senior garda, involved almost all his life in fighting the IRA, outlined a few years ago what he thought the Provisionals’ plans for assuming absolute power in Ireland would entail.

And:

He pointed to IRA documents that had become public over a decade ago referring to what it termed “TUAS” – “tactical use of unarmed strategy”. This, he believed, was what would be the “likely” way forward. They (the IRA), he said, will bring down the power-sharing government in the North, precipitating a crisis and, in parallel, undermining and replacing the existing party political structure in the ’26 Counties’.
With power in the South and a crisis on its doorstep, this garda – who was held in very high esteem by colleagues – thought the Provos would then institute some form of ’emergency’ government in the Republic, doing away with the need for elections and democracy and the establishment of a single-party state.

Just like that – eh? Apparently so. And the contemporary relevance?

Up until last week, this view of the Provos’ seditious plot to overthrow the legitimate government of the Republic would have been firmly placed by a large constituency of politicians, senior civil servants and media people as the fantasy of some kind of old-fashioned loony.

Only up until last week?

More contributions gratefully accepted.

The water protests – they haven’t gone away… August 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This will not be good news to the government that… and granted at this point figures seem a bit in short supply, there was a remarkably good turnout today on the water protest. Whether anger or hostility it seems to be unabated.

Any thoughts on implications in terms of policy, and/or the timing of the election? And what about potential political progress for those involved in the protests?

Interview with Paul Saba August 29, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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Interview with Paul Saba about the New Communist Movement in the US and other areas of The Left in the US.

Water Protest August 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Same Title Different Song August 29, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Sometimes you think it might be a cover version but it turns out its just a song of the same name. I’ve left out ones like “The Power of Love”, “Runaway” and tried to include just the one band. An awful lot of Beatles tracks have names that have been used by other songs.
Other examples welcome….

(more…)

Cultural Marxism… August 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This is great, an overview of the particularly knuckle headed conspiracy theory (held by a tranche on the right) about ‘cultural marxism’. I’ve mentioned it before, how it seems like a sort of right shading to extreme right ‘lucky dip’. Pull out a name and try to make connections, arriving at a point where individuals and groups entirely at odds with one another are mixed together as part of some group.

The reason I mention this is the way it is now scattered across BTL on the IT site in relation to a number of issues as if the very mention of it was some sort of rhetorical ‘gotcha’.

More trouble with water… August 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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On the other hand a good editorial in the SBP which notes that on foot of Eurostat determining that Irish Water could not be kept off the state balance sheet and the curious new(ish) grant/charge structures. It concludes with this:

In fact, a more serious mistake was the government’s earlier decision to break the link between consumption and billing. If there is an argument to be made for water charges, it is that by charging people for use, the state encourages conservation, or at least discourages waste. That sound principle was utterly undermined by the coalition’s search for political expediency.
By divorcing the charges from householders’ usage of water – in a bid to shut down the political problem – the coalition has instead confirmed to people that the water charges are simply another tax. By extending a grant to non-payers, the coalition will antagonise those who do pay.
In allowing the trouble and confusion over water charges to trundle on into electoral season, the coalition is handing its opponents a rod with which to beat it. It is one they will use with glee.

There’s an element of political truth in that. The bizarre twists and turns of government policy on the matter – clearly driven by expedience mixed with a wish (never quite expressed) to long finger the issue as best as was possible, have led to a situation where whatever about the campaigns as such there is no general appetite on the part of most citizens to pay the charges or engage with the political structures attempting to implement them.

Part of that is, I would suspect, driven by a sense that with an election so close any future administration will radically alter or abolish the charges entirely. We shall see. I worry about what a returned Fine Gael led government might do, particularly if it feels it has a mandate. And even if diminished it still looks fair set to be the largest single party in the next Dáil.

Yet even if so it seems to me that the efforts to impose and then rework the water charges stand testament to this current administration and how ineffectual it has been, how limited its ability to – for want of a better term – to turn the political weather to its advantage. Perhaps it was inevitable or perhaps there was a way forward for them. I don’t think the SBP is correct to think that a focus on the technicalities of the issue would have been better. I do suspect that had there from the off been a resolve to impose this through Revenue matters might have been different. But then that would have underlined the revenue raising aspect of the charges in such a way as to make them even more politically untenable.

So now it is a matter of waiting to see what happens next.

Entrepreneurship August 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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An inadvertently revealing editorial from the SBP this weekend – and one of some interest given the mention of entrepreneurs by Shane Ross in the Sunday Independent too. His line was that IBEC was unfit for purpose – catering to ‘big’ business, the commercial public sector and multinational, and shunned by entrepreneurs. Perhaps so. Perhaps not. The SBP editorial by contrast argues that capital gains tax should be cut for entrepreneurs. But why you ask?

Well, what of this for a rationale?

When a multinational is considering establishing in Ireland, it looks to the rate of corporation tax. In effect, such a company looking to see how much of their profits will be taxed, and at what rate.
Most entrepreneurs who are establishing a company in Ireland do not ask those questions, as many will never make huge profits. Instead, they want to know how much they will have to hand over to the government, through CGT, in the event they are successful and sell their business. Once they have entered the business, most entrepreneurs are looking for the exit.

Is that true?

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