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Peace & Socialism

Whittaker Chambers or Alger Hiss: Who’s the real traitor?

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Though #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for 13 weeks in 1952, beloved of William Buckley and Ronald Reagan ("As long as humanity speaks of virtue and dreams of freedom, the life and writings of Whittaker Chambers will ennoble and inspire."), despite being hailed as "one of the dozen or so indispensable books of the century" (George Will), Witness quickly disappeared from our collective consciousness. We remember its most famous victim, Alger Hiss, as a nice guy who was mercilessly hounded, the prelude to the McCarthy purges of the 1950s, a gruesome stain on US history.


Chambers was a talented writer, penning popular short stories in the New Masses in 1931, a full time editor and journalist at Time. His autobiography is full of details of both sides of the so-called treachery of the times, and Chambers’ own ruminations about love and death and the whole damn thing. It swings from over-the-top self-righteousness to self-abnegation, maniacal zeal as a communist, then as a spy, then as self-proclaimed Mr Right, and woe to anyone standing in the way of his mission to Save the World from Communism.


Like his closeted father, his uncle and brother, all of whom committed suicide, he was possessed by a demon, which drove him to an early grave, working 36-hour days at Time in the 1940s, first doing book reviews, then editing the foreign news page (till he had his second heart attack), then back to books. His fellow journalists resented his new-found conservative attacks on their liberal New Dealer mindset, seeing them all as commie dupes. He immortalized himself destroying the careers of ‘good guys’, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White among many others, for their idealistic sins. He became a born-again Quaker, though, like fellow Quaker Richard Nixon, he still believed in ‘just wars’ against commies.


Victims

His worldview was apocalyptic, first through pink lenses, then puritan. Evil is the central problem of human life. The two opposing worldviews: man as flawed/ sinful (Christianity) vs man as good/ perfectable (enlightenment, liberalism -> communism).

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Orwell: Neocon icon

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How do you explain the fact that the John Birch Society used 1984 as its main office telephone number in the 1960s? Or that both Animal Farm and 1984, are force-fed to virtually the entire western world in people’s formative years in their teens, even as Big Brother jacks up repression and surveillance, and pursues ever more cruel and senseless wars?


A look at Orwell’s weaknesses reveals how Big Brother turn the tables on him, getting the last laugh.


Both Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949) are listed on the Random House Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th century (#31 and #13), and have been translated into more than 60 languages, more than any other novels. Orwell “helped prevent the realization of the totalitarian world he described”, according Jeffrey Meyers in Orwell: Wintry Conscience Of A Generation (2001). We are taught in school to revere his warnings against “Thought Police” and the supreme importance of individual rights and freedom of thought.


An antihero’s vaccine

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Animal Farm, 1984, Darkness at Noon: Death Knells of Communism?

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The two most celebrated leftist literary figures of the 1930s--40s, George Orwell (1903--1950) and Arthur Koestler (1905--1983), lived through the 20th century's revolutionary times as documentarists. They were on the front lines as journalists in the Spanish civil war, came close to death there and in WWII, and then wrote their explosive novels dissecting the communist experience from the inside.


Orwell never joined any party, let alone the Communist Party of Great Britain, but was inspired to go to Spain to fight fascism, and was condemned when he returned to Britain in 1937 for having joined the Trotskyist POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) to fight Franco. His brush with both fascist snipers and Stalinist enemies led him to write Animal Farm and 1984, after which he died of TB, before he could witness what was done with his works.


Koestler joined the German Communist Party in 1931, 'saw the light' by 1934 as his friends started being arrested in Moscow, but stuck it out until 1938, writing Darkness at Noon, becoming the toast of post-WWII western Cold War intellectuals (and the CIA). Diagnosed with terminal cancer, he eventually committed suicide with his wife in 1983.

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Why the Taliban will regain power

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We are fed a load of tripe about the Taliban in the western press. They are portrayed as crude, illiterate, opium traffickers and murders. They are quite the opposite. They are, in the first place, a legend, which began in the 1980s when a movement to resist the lawlessness left by the collapse of the secular regime was formed by brave, uncorrupt ‘talibs’ like Abdul Salam Zaeef, one of the founders of the Taliban, coined by the BBC in 1994.


The ‘students’ were the educated branch of the native Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, though there was never any interest or need for western style formal parties. Good, educated Muslim leaders were respected and consulted by all. Sectarian politics is alien to Muslim society, seen as divisive and even authoritarian, as proven time and again by majority-rule pseudo-democracies, as developed to meet the needs of regulating modern-day imperialism from the 19th century on.


Freedom fighters

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Somalia Afghanistan: A Tale of Two Failed States

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Somalia


Afghanistan

1884--1954

independence struggle and Ogaden split with Ethiopia

1838--1893

Indedependence struggle and Durrand Line border

1969

Coup and socialist military regime under Barre

1973

Daoud coup

1977

Ogaden war

1978

Socialist coup

1980

Switch to US backing

1980

Soviet invasion, US backs rebels

1991

US overthrows socialist leader

1989

Soviet withdrawal

1990s

Warlord chaos -> Shabab

1990s

Warlord chaos -> Taliban

2001

US bombing Shabab

2001

US invasion, bombing Taliban

2006

US rejects ICU truce

2006

Taliban resurgence

2007+

US drones and bombs

2007+

US troop surge, drones, bombs

Somalia achieved independence only in 1960, and major general Said Barre took power in a coup in 1969. By the 1970s, Somalia was prospering, free of British/ Italian 'protection', socialist, a model third world state from the Soviet point of view, not yet targeted by the US. Ethiopia had a Nasser-like military coup in 1974 promising socialism next door. Sudan was at peace and pursuing a Nasserist policy under Colonel Gaafar Nimeiri. Nkruma’s dream of a united socialist Africa looked like it might actually be coming true.


At the top of the world, Afghanistan was following a similar trajectory, though somewhat delayed. It had been left in peace since the 1920s, recognizing and living peacefully with the socialist monolith to the north, slowly modernizing. But, just as in Somalia, its intelligentsia was attracted to socialism.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html