State a Papcy Amid Echoes of a Dirty War
March 25, 2013
BUENOS AIRES — One Argentine priest is on trial in Tucumán Province on charges of working closely with torturers in a secret jail during the so-called Dirty War, urging prisoners to hand over information. Another priest was accused of taking a newborn from his mother, one of the many baby thefts from female prisoners who were “disappeared” into a system of clandestine prisons.
Another clergy member offered biblical justification for the military’s death flights, according to an account by one of the pilots anguished about dumping drugged prisoners out of aircraft and into the sea.
As he starts his papacy, Francis, until this month Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, faces his own entanglement with the Dirty War, which unfolded from 1976 to 1983. As the leader of Argentina’s Jesuits for part of that time, he has repeatedly had to dispute claims that he allowed the kidnapping of two priests in his order in 1976, accusations the Vatican is calling a defamation campaign.
Now his election as pope is focusing scrutiny on his role as the most prominent leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina, an institution that remains under withering criticism for its role in failing to publicly resist — and in various instances actively supporting — the military dictatorship during a period when as many as 30,000 people are thought to have been killed or disappeared.
This stance by Argentina’s church stands in contrast to the resistance against dictatorships by Catholic leaders elsewhere in Latin America at the time — notably in Chile and Brazil, two nations where far fewer people were killed. Even as the head of the Argentine Conference of Bishops from 2005 to 2011, Francis resisted issuing a formal apology for the church’s actions during the Dirty War, disappointing human rights campaigners.
“The combination of action and inaction by the church was instrumental in enabling the mass atrocities committed by the junta,” said Federico Finchelstein, an Argentine historian at the New School for Social Research in New York. “Those like Francis that remained in silence during the repression also played by default a central role,” he said. “It was this combination of endorsement and either strategic or willful indifference that created the proper conditions for the state killings.”
Francis, 76, has offered a complex description of his role during the dictatorship, a period officially called the Process of National Reorganization, in which the authorities installed a terrifying campaign against perceived opponents.
While refraining from public criticism of the dictatorship, Francis said in his autobiography that he pressed military officials behind the scenes to free the two priests from his order — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — even meeting with top military officials.
Francis also said that he hid at a Jesuit school several people persecuted by the dictatorship, and even helped one young man who resembled him to flee Argentina, via Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian border, giving him priest’s garb and his own identity documents.
The Rev. Ignacio Pérez del Viso, a Jesuit who is a longtime friend of Francis’, said that a small number of Argentine bishops spoke out against the military dictatorship. But they were clearly in the minority, he said, and others in the Argentine church, including the new pope, who was 39 at the time of the 1976 coup, adopted a far more cautious position.
“When you saw that the majority of the bishops preferred to have a dialogue with the military,” Father Pérez del Viso, 78, said, “it’s not easy to say, ‘We will do something different.’ ” He added: “Many of the bishops opted, rather than to confront the military head on, to try to intercede in private conversations for those they could save.”
“Later the bishops realized this was a mistake,” Father Pérez del Viso said. “But to see the mistake at that moment was difficult.”
Religious scholars attribute such passivity to remarkably close ideological and political links between the church and the armed forces. Some priests have even been forced to stand trial on charges of human rights abuses.
After a previous military coup in Argentina in 1930, the church forged a role as a spiritual guide for the armed forces. By the time military rule was established again in the 1970s, their operations overlapped to the point where some bishops were provided soldiers as personal servants in their palaces, and only a handful of bishops publicly condemned the dictatorship’s repression.
“Of all the national churches in Latin America, Argentina is where ties were closest between the clergy and the military,” said Kenneth P. Serbin, a historian at the University of San Diego.
This legacy presents a challenge to Francis. Last week, a judge who took part in an investigation into a clandestine prison at the Naval Mechanics School said the inquiry uncovered no evidence that Francis was involved in the kidnapping of the Jesuits. “It is totally false to say that Jorge Bergoglio handed over those priests,” the judge, Germán Castelli, was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Nación.
But doubts persist, based on the priests’ own accounts, including a 1977 report by Father Yorio to the Jesuit authorities, obtained by The New York Times, and a 1994 book by Father Jalics.
Father Yorio wrote that Francis, who was then the top Jesuit in Argentina, told them he supported their work even as he sought to undermine it, making negative reports about them to local bishops and claiming they were in the slum without his permission.
“He did nothing to defend us, and we began to question his honesty,” wrote Father Yorio, who died in 2000. Finally, without telling the two priests, Father Yorio wrote, Francis expelled them from the Jesuit order.
Three days later, hundreds of armed men descended on the slum and seized the two priests. Father Yorio was interrogated and accused of being a guerrilla. The priests were kept for five months, chained hand and foot and blindfolded, fearing they would be killed.
Finally, they were dropped off in a drugged state on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
In a statement posted on a Jesuit Web site last week, Father Jalics said he would not comment “on the role of Father Bergoglio in these events.” He said that years after the kidnapping, they celebrated a Mass together and he solemnly embraced him. “I am reconciled to the events and view them from my side as concluded,” Father Jalics wrote.
But in an interview, Father Yorio’s sister, Graciela Yorio, accused Francis of leaving the priests “totally unprotected” and making them an easy target for the military. She said that her brother and Father Jalics, whom she referred to using his name in Spanish, were in agreement about Francis’ role. “My brother was certain,” she said, “And Francisco, too, Francisco Jalics. I have no reason not to believe my brother’s word.”
Still, several prominent leftists here have defended Francis, emphasizing his openness to dialogue and austere habits. “He is questioned for not having done all he could do,” said Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a pacifist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. “But he was never an ally of the dictatorship.”
Though Francis has had to respond to doubts about his own past during the Dirty War, he has faced other issues that still haunt the church. He was head of Argentina’s bishops’ conference in 2007, when the Rev. Christian von Wernich, a former police chaplain, was found guilty of complicity in the killing and torture of political prisoners.
Even after his conviction, Father von Wernich was allowed to offer Mass to fellow prison inmates. Other priests have similarly faced charges related to abuses from the dictatorship era. And still there are other priests who have not been charged with a crime, but who face serious accusations about their connection to the armed forces.
The church has tried to account on different occasions for its actions during the dictatorship. In 2000, it apologized for its “silences” that enabled rights abuses. And last November, after the future pope’s tenure as head of the bishops’ conference had ended, the church issued another statement in response to the assertion by Jorge Videla, the former head of the military junta, that Argentine bishops had in effect collaborated with the dictatorship.
The church rejected Mr. Videla’s claim, but said it would “promote a more complete study” of the Dirty War years.
Reporting was contributed by Fabián Werner, Emily Schmall and Jonathan Gilbert from Buenos Aires; Mauricio Rabuffetti from Montevideo, Uruguay; and Nicholas Kulish from Berlin. ###
Is a University Throwing Out Its Historical Russian Books?
By Stephen Wilson
March 16, 2013
'It is Unreal! Am I seeing things?' thought a person passing by who is an ardent enthusiast of Russian culture as he witnessed a worker throwing out expensive Russian academic book.
He was shocked and astonished. What on earth was going on! He admonished the worker not to throw out the books. The worker informed him that the University was intending to burn them all in order to create more space.
The books consisted of Russian classics of literature as well as historical classics such as Vasily Klyuchevsky's four volumes of 'The History of the Russian State'.
Our friend managed to salvage some books from being incinerated. He made the worker promise to delay the destruction of the books until he came back .
However, when our friend returned it was too late. They had burnt all the books.
This rash and idiotic action appears to confirm the prejudices of Russians who think that many Europeans don't understand, never mind respect, Russian culture.
Who would imagine that a so called advanced university would burn books? They should heed the warning that whoever begins to burn books is capable of killing people. After all, least we forget, the Nazis started bonfires where they threw classics of American literature into the flames.
Unfortunately, it is not pragmatism for badly required space which some Ulster men use to exclude cultural gems.Many Irish are shocked to discover that there are actually some Russians who are doing their best to preserve their language and culture. They don't even understand what motivates those idealists. There appears to be a huge deficit of imagination which has been flattened about by the need to create empty space, in not only the university, but in the minds of a few myopic and narrow minded people who don't understand why culture is not a luxury, but as natural and normal as breathing fresh air.
By Revolution Newspaper
March 4, 2013
Four thousand French troops invaded the North African country of Mali in January. They drove Islamic Jihadists from their strongholds in the cities and towns of northern Mali. While a picture of the French occupation of Mali is just emerging, including evidence that it is setting off indiscriminate massacres of religious and ethnic groups accused of aligning with the Jihadists, the "international community" has applauded the invasion as a grand victory for human rights.
Jihadists who seized control of large areas of Mali banned radio and television, beat women, cut off the hands of people who were accused of "blasphemy" or "loose moral behavior," and executed people to enforce a draconian version of Islamic law.
But their crimes aren't even in the same league as those of the French invaders.
Modern France—the proclaimed land of "liberty, equality, fraternity"—was built to a great degree on top of the blood, bones, land, cultures of the enslaved peoples of a huge region of North Africa and Southeast Asia.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, a tenth of the earth's surface was colonized by France—an empire that at times ranged into the Americas, the Caribbean, and Asia. The French empire suffered setbacks in North America at the hands of their British rivals and their attempt to colonize Mexico was defeated by Mexican forces in 1867. They were driven out of Haiti when the African slaves rose up against their colonial masters.
But French colonialism was entrenched in North Africa and Southeast Asia. In the later half of the 1800s, the French colonized Indochina—the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. French capitalists turned vast tracks of forest into rubber plantations. Tens of thousands of Indochinese labored in the plantations under what were described by one worker as "hell on earth." According to official (and likely underreported) French statistics, 17 percent of the workforce at one plantation died in the year 1927 alone.
By the early 1900s, through wars, alliances with local rulers, and systematically provoking conflicts between different peoples in the region, the French established control over much of North, West, and Central Africa including what are now the countries of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo.
France didn't abolish slavery in its African colonies until 1905. U.S. academic David P. Forsythe wrote, "From Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Niger in the east (what became French Africa), there was a parallel series of ruinous wars, resulting in tremendous numbers of people being violently enslaved. At the beginning of the twentieth century there may have been between 3 and 3.5 million slaves, representing over 30 percent of the total population, within this sparsely populated region."
Today, the French are hailed by the so-called "international community" for saving important cultural artifacts from the Jihadists in the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu. But if you are looking for plundered cultural and historic art and culture from Timbuktu, a good place to start would be the many French museums of colonial artifacts stolen from Africa by the French colonial rulers.
The French ruling class and their ideologues—those celebrated icons of enlightenment and bourgeois democracy—justified all this with the crudest racism. In 1886 the French bourgeois republican Jules Ferry declared: "The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races."
After World War 2, the French waged a counter-revolutionary war of occupation in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, killing hundreds of thousands of liberation fighters and civilians. After the defeat of the French in 1954, the U.S. took over the imperialist domination of Vietnam and waged its own war against the peoples of Indochina until being defeated in the mid-1970s.
And between 1954 and 1962 France sent 400,000 troops into Algeria to attempt to crush the independence movement. The French forces killed over 100,000 Algerians before being driven out.
The success of liberation struggles, along with the dismemberment of traditional-style empires and the rise of U.S. imperialism, provoked a series of crises for the French ruling class and brought the end—in the main—to formal French colonialism. But what emerged instead was neocolonialism, which maintained the same basic oppressive relationships between France and its (former) colonies, but in the form of nominally independent states.
Of every thousand children born in Mali, 109 die in infancy. By contrast, in capitalist-imperialist countries, the infant mortality rate is in the range of three, four or five children per thousand. Those additional 100 children in every thousand who die in infancy in Mali are direct victims of the workings of imperialism—with the French ruling class the main "beneficiaries" of the brutal exploitation of the people of Mali.
Financial instruments of international capitalism-imperialism like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) impose policies that contort the economy of Mali in service of foreign capitalist-imperialist investment. IMF policies force peasants in Mali to use scarce arable land to grow cotton for export to France instead of food to feed themselves and their children. That, in part, is why 27 percent of the children in Mali are dangerously underweight. And when world market prices for cotton crashed starting in the late 1990s, Malian farmers suffered even more extreme privation, and Mali's national debts to imperialist financial institutions mounted.
The legacy and present-day operation of imperialism produced the most profound and horrific scars on the economic, political, and social landscape in Africa, including setting the stage for endless fratricidal conflict among peoples in Africa that has been an essential element in colonial and neocolonial domination. France, for example, was deeply involved in provoking and perpetuating the horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1984 that resulted in the killing of between half a million and a million people. A Rwandan commission determined that France helped train the ethnic Hutu militia that carried out much of the killing, helped plan the genocide, and participated in the killings. The report accused 33 senior French military and political officials of involvement in the Rwandan genocide including François Mitterrand, the president of France at the time. The Rwandan report said "French soldiers themselves directly were involved in assassinations of Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis." ("Rwanda: French Accused in Genocide," AP, August 6, 2008).
Such are the baby killing, genocidal "liberators" of Mali.
Mali borders countries that are in the crosshairs of both sides in the clash between Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad. The French invasion of Mali is not just to enforce imperialist super-exploitation of the people of Mali. It is a move on the part of the Western imperialists—with the U.S. providing substantial backing to the French invaders—in that conflict.
Today, far too many of the kinds of people in countries like France and the USA who correctly opposed the wars against the people of Vietnam or Algeria are at best passively complicit with the same kinds of crimes carried out by their own ruling classes against people around the world, including the French invasion of Mali—so long as those invasions are justified as keeping people in those countries safe from "the terrorists," fighting Jihad, and bringing "democracy" to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
But Western imperialism is still imperialism. The crimes carried out by the Jihadists in North Africa can't touch the scale of horrors brought by just French colonialism and imperialism alone—which again enslaved some three million people in North Africa and that today, is responsible for the deaths, in infancy, of over 100 of every 1,000 children born in Mali. If you didn't know that when you started reading this article, you know it now.
The U.S. and its allies (with France "walking point" in its former colonies in Africa) have carried out and continue to commit monstrous crimes in the name of opposing Islamic fundamentalism. The following points, emphasized in recent articles inRevolution, are crucial in getting at the reality behind this imperialist justification.
First, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is in large part a product of the workings of imperialism (including specific policies of the CIA in Afghanistan, where it backed and funded Islamic fundamentalists going up against the Soviet Union).
Second, the crimes of U.S. imperialism—from the Foxconn sweatshops in China to the environmental emergency, from mass incarceration in the USA to the intolerable infant mortality rates in North Africa, dwarf even the aspirations of these reactionary Islamic forces.
Third, if you don't oppose, but instead fall into active or passive complicity with either "the West" (the U.S. and other imperialists including the French) or Islamic Jihad, you strengthen them both—in the vicious cycle where every drone attack that wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan (with far, far too little protest in the U.S.) serves to recruit more jihadists, and on and on.
Bob Avakian's analysis of "the two outmodeds"—two clashing reactionary forces that represent ways of thinking and organizing society that belong in the past—provides a concise and powerful tool for understanding this conflict and acting to change the terms of things:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
When you start from the interests of humanity, then instead of aligning with "our government" and celebrating and defending its immoral and criminal actions around the world, the challenge is to break out of the terms of these "two outmodeds" and be part of what Bob Avakian has posed as "bringing forward another way." There is a different way the world can be, and a real alternative to capitalism and all forms of oppression in the new synthesis of communism that BA has developed, and in his ongoing revolutionary leadership
By Stephen Wilson
February 16, 2013
Just another awful yellow painted block of flats identical to the next one. For there seems nothing remotely sinister or surreal about this building which I have been strolling past for the last three years. At least that is what I first thought. I was far wrong! It turns out that this building has the highest rate of suicide in Moscow.
It is a banal building of 17 floors standing along Ulitsa Osiniyaya near metro Klilatskoyi. Many of the local residents have been killing themselves over the past 20 years or more. They either hang themselves, take an overdose of tablets and often leap out of the windows.
The cases make grim reading. For instance, in the space of one year, 8 people from the age of 3 to 60 years of age threw themselves out of the windows. In the spring of 1999, a 17-year-old by the name of Alesha jumped out of the window on the 17th floor (the official version claims he was keeping bad company and was taking drugs, yet no drug substances were found in his blood). In September 1999, a 23-year-old nurse and her three year old daughter leapt out of a window (the official version suggests she had an argument with her mother). In November 1999, a 16-year-old called Andrei killed himself and in January 2000, a 50-year-old man called Mikhail Konstantinovich killed himself.
Only recently, many young school children are reputed to have killed themselves in the spring. Incidently, there are also many car accidents on the road near this building.
So this is a notorious black spot in more ways than one!
How do people explain this 'anomaly'? The older residents believe that the building may have been 'cursed' by some evil spirit. Other people speculate that the oppressive atmosphere around this spot might disorientate and depress already vulnerable people. Local people complain they suffer from headaches, feel changes in their blood pressure and fatigue.
The overcrowded apartments where grandparents,parents and their young children are all crammed into a tiny space leading to arguments and animosity only renders the place more intense.
There are some bizzare theories which are offered. One includes the fact it is no coincidence that the late President Boris Yeltsin lived across the road and his house was protected by some electronic magnetic force which sent negative radioactive waves straight across to the opposite building driving the local residents crazy. Most of the people who threw themselves from windows from the same height of the adjacent window
of Yeltsin. Why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to needlessly harm other people?
I spoke to one of my students of English ,whom I will call Nadia. She is a 14 year old school girl. 'Why do you think this building has so many suicides?'
'O, that is easy to explain. A lot of young school children in their final years kill themselves because they all go to a school where they fail their exams. The school is very strict and fails them. They kill themselves because they feel they no longer have any future or chance of getting into a university and so getting a job.'
I said 'Exams are not everything. I know many people who have not passed school exams and go on to get good jobs. Why adopt an 'all or nothing' approach? Can something be done to prevent this? Surely the teachers could speak to them?'
'You are an optimist. There is nothing that can be done. They freely chose that way'.
'Come on, can you say that they 'logically ' commit suicide'?
'Do you know how much pressure those children are under? If they don't get good marks their parents don't give them any money. So passing exams begins to be equated with material success. If they don't get money from their parents, what can they do and where can they go? They feel completely trapped and that there is no way out. I would do the same if I was in their situation'. They can't afford to rent or buy an apartment, so there
is no way of escape. But it is no accident that so many young people kill themselves in the spring. That is the very time children are taking their final exams. But every year I witness about two car accidents where people are killed on the road nearby. The traffic drives too fast here. I saw an old woman who was killed while crossing the road.'
I was left feeling that the notion of 'free choice' in deciding your future was academic and absurd. What kind of freedom do Russian school students have when they feel they have nobody to turn to or help them? The alienation seemed to be too profound and oppressive. What was worse is that excessive pressure and the myopic and misleading notion that the goal of life is to attain 'material or social success' (i.e. a well paid job,a career and entrance into a university) rather than spiritual goals. As if life begins and ends in an exam room!
Of course, we can't conclusively prove that this is the main motive behind the spate of suicides as many people who kill themselves are not school children, but middled aged men or young nurses. However, Nadia's explanation seems more convincing than outlandish conspiracy theories, the influence of the 'evil eye' or an old curse put on the building.
One thing which emerged from my investigation is how many local Russians still believe in 'curses', witchcraft and fatalism. What needs to be done is to launch a proper and careful investigation into this problem so as to prevent this persistent trend. It is callous to suggest that 'well,it is their problem. They freely choose to kill themselves'.
He who is born not to be hanged, will be drowned. But does anyone really freely kill themselves in their right mind? Those committing suicide do so because they don't feel free. It is precisely the feeling of being up against a brick wall which drives people to suicide.
We are all responsible for each other, which suggests that we also share some responsibility for suicide. What if someone's kind words lead to the imperceptible result of preventing a youth from rashly committing suicide? A few kind words might make a difference!
The Slaves That Time Forgot
They came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.
Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.
We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.
But, are we talking about African slavery? King James II and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.
The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.
From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.
Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.
As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.
African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African. The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.
In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.
England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.
There is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.
But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they’ve got it completely wrong.
Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories.
But, where are our public (and PRIVATE) schools???? Where are the history books? Why is it so seldom discussed?
Do the memories of hundreds of thousands of Irish victims merit more than a mention from an unknown writer?
Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: To (unlike the African book) have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened.
None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.
New Ratings Claim Best Moscow Institutes Not up to Standards
By Stephen Wilson
December 22, 2012
Attempts by the Ministry of education to improve standards by imposing new effective ratings on further Education institutions has provoked a torrent of angry letters and petitions from academics and teachers. Critics claim that the new government effective ratings are based on badly selected criteria that fails to do justice to the real performance of many universities. According to the Ministry of Education, as many as 136 institutions fail to meet modern standards of education.
Many critics feel that those institutions might be closed down on highly spurious grounds. This is despite the fact that the Ministry of education Dmitri Livanov has attempted to reassure critics this won't always be the case. The government claims that the institutions fall well behind international standards and that a radical overhaul of the education system is urgently needed. For instance, not a single university makes the top 100 world's universities.
The government claims that the institutions need to be fully modernised, commercialised and competitive. Yet the government's new effective ratings find Moscow's best institutes as 'ineffective'.
What is the 'Literature institute' and Moscow Architecture ' doing on the list of ineffective institutes?
Dmitri Shividkovsky, the provost of Moscow Architecture Institute is exasperated by the government's evaluation. He states 'In the last national architecture contest it was our students which took 50% of all the awards. I think that is a pretty good indication of effectiveness.' And the Literature institute can boast of numerous outstanding writers and playwrights!
So what has gone wrong? What criteria is the Ministry of Education using to evaluate the effectiveness of institutions and why is it provoking so much wrath?
THE GOVERNMENT'S EVALUATION STANDARDS
According to the Minister of education, Dmitri Livonov, 'Several Universities and institutes, unless they are in a condition to guarantee high quality education, they are to be closed. But one further educational institution for a whole region is not the answer. There must be healthy competition. In very concrete situation, a separate decision is to be accepted. For example, if in the Far East several institutes have low entry marks (based on the Unified school exam points), does that mean we have to close them? Of course not! On the contrary,we need to invest in order to raise the prestige, and increase the ratings of these universities by attracting students. Then the entrance to university will be chosen, if the prestige of further educations will be attractive to them. For instance, it is possible , it will be possible for many entrants, from say, the Urals, to study not in Moscow, but the Far East. Our task is to provide a high level of education in each region of the country!'
So entry to further educational institutions will be based on the following criteria:
1.How much income a University earns.
2.The level of international activities(i.e. conferences)
3.The size of infrastructure.
4.The number of foreign students an institution attracts each year.
5.The use of Unified state exam grades for determining whether an institution is effective or not.
Entry to further education institutions is largely based on how many points a school student gains in his final year exams. The effectiveness of institutions will be based on how many points the students required to gain entry. For instance, if a school student wishes to enter Moscow State University, he needs 200 points (ballovs) in three required subjects.
The problem with this criteria is that it fails to distinguish between how a business corporation and a university is run. Running a university is not like managing a business and is in many ways much more difficult because it is a highly acquired art. The aim of an institute is not mainly to boost its income! It is to encourage creativity. It is absurd to measure the creativity of an artist or architect on the basis of how much income his work brings him or her. Just because an institute fails to attract foreign students does not in any way reflect on how high its standards are. Are we suggesting that consumerism' determines the standards of universities?
There is a real danger that if those new proposals were implemented, the quality of further educations would drastically, not moderately decline. The zeal for boosting income would take paramount over any kind of creativity.
According to the provost of the Literature institute, Boris Tarasov, the points a student gains in the unified state exam is secondary as 'All applicants have to take a creativity test.'
The promise of higher pay for lecturers is hardly inspiring. Increasing some salaries from between 20,000 to 30,000 rubles (30 roubles = $1) won't be enough to deter lecturers from leaving universities, or replacing those who are dying.
A more justified way of evaluating institutions might be the number of publications, textbooks and authors take part in institutions, but this is largely based on state aid.
NO CLEAR IDEA HOW TO EVALUATE THE HUMANITIES
It is distinctly self -evident that officials at the Ministry of Education don't have a clue as to how to evaluate institutions which specialise in the Humanities or Arts. The proposals appear to be muddled and mixed up. The proposals might not simply mirror incompetence or ignorance. It might even be far worse. It could be that all the areas of civil and social life have become so commercialised that the central telos or purpose of Russian society is not to serve the public interest of the community, but making as much money as possible.
Even educational institutions are deemed as no more than 'lucrative investments' for officials. What offends those people who are almost obsessed with making money is that certain institutions are not 'commercially minded' enough. Some scientists simply want to pursue science disinterestedly!
When a famous Russian scientist refused to accept the Nobel prize and the money that went along with it, very few people could understand his motives! They thought he was a crank or fool! But his position that the awarding of the Nobel prize is based on bad evaluation, appears to be spot on.
A lot of the criteria used to evaluate the performance of , say, scientists and institutions is highly questionable.
The government proposals for evaluating performances are likely to be postponed and taken back to be revised and then sent back. Officials will most likely seek to impose some new proposals without much discussion or debate. They already relate to highly sophisticated academics and provosts as if they are naughty school children who should be sent into a corner for bad behaviour. Teachers should be seen and not heard. When those proposals are finally rushed through, there may be not only massive redundancies, but the departure of the most talented and creative people who will become demoralised. They will attempt to go abroad or work in other areas of life.
RUSSIAN EDUCATION CRISIS - The Unpaid
By Stephen Wilson
December 8, 2012
Any teacher who has worked for years in Russia can confirm at least one incident of being either underpaid or unpaid. This experience hardly raises an eyebrow from many local Russians who have become almost habitually used to hearing so many cases. They have become dulled into an apathetic complacency where 'it is a fact of life ' until they experience
it directly by being hit in the pocket.
Although incidents continue to occur,the situation is not nearly as bad as in the era of the wild nineties. I remember arriving to collect my wages only to discover 'the teaching company' had vacated the offices. They had just vanished.
I can also recall some companies who would never pay you or make the conditions of payment absurdly complex. I remember one foreign, not Russian, director of a 'respectable' company putting up a a public notice in the staff room warning 'If you don't turn up on this particular date to collect your pay, you won't get paid. You 'll automatically lose your salary'
This is despite the fact that this statement explicitly violated the law of the Russian Federation.
When I went to collect my salary from this employer, he mistook my name for a part-time employee and was almost underpaid. I began to carefully count how many hours I had worked as well as the money I was paid out. I later learnt from rumours and hearsay that this director had lost his job or 'been shifted ' to another department for 'embezzlement ' .
One of the great mysteries of working for many educational companies is that nobody knows exactly when you are going to be paid. You keep on asking colleagues who also don't know. It is almost approximately at the end of the month and if you sometimes don't turn up, it is tough luck.
So attempting to find out when you got paid was like playing a mind-reading game.
That was the wild 1990's. Things have considerably improved in Russia because people have began to understand that not paying teachers can lead to the collapse of companies and that doing business well requires a degree of honesty, even if it often phoney.
I thought those days might be past. But no,not completely. I have just heard that a 'Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages' (private paying) failed or refused to pay one lecturer who had delivered 8 lectures.
The contract he had signed was declared null and void. This institute claims to have links with Cambridge University and 'specializes in the area of International communications with the knowledge of foreign languages.'
Rumours abound of a threatened cut in salaries of 50% for Teachers of English. Why can't the Institute pay promised wages? Has it run out of money or been plunged into debt? Does it not value it's reputation? If an institute continues to make and break agreements, nobody is going to take it very seriously and it will lose not only its reputation but face imminent collapse in the long-term.
If the institute of Foreign languages values its reputation and want to be taken serious by the International academic community it should honour its contracts pay its debts. It might prudently begin by paying the lecturer for all the eight lectures he had given! It might go a long way to burying any hatchet! Who knows! Honesty might just improve doing business than acting like a cowboy company.
A TRAUMATIC TRANSFORMATION AWAITS RUSSIA EDUCATION
Russia, for all the anti-western rhetoric of its politicians, is set to uncritically embrace the worst of Western models. That is in the name of modernisation there will be more a cult of science and technology, commerce and almost full scale privatisation.
Whole departments in the humanities and social sciences which are not money spinning will be axed. Teachers at schools and further education departments can expect many redundancies. Those cost-cutting exercises are faithfully following what has already happened in Europe. In fact, when many Russian students visited Germany and enquired about career opportunities there, they received the staggering news that not only was this impossible, but that their German colleagues had lost their jobs. Whole departments of Celtic studies were closed down. The German academics began asking whether they could find alternative employment in Russia.
A Russian student of archaeology was informed by one Irish lecturer that 80% of Irish Archaeologists are currently unemployed.
So how can the quality of Russian universities can be maintained in this increasingly oppressive climate is anyone's guess. The perspectives appear grim in deed. Fighting for the jobs and dignity of teachers will demand a huge feat, if not miracle!
THE DAY OF VICTORY IN MOSCOW The 9th Of MAY - AN UNFORTGETTABLE FEAT
By Stephen Wilson
May 19, 2012
You can't help noticing how they walk. Even before you see the medals dawning their chests you know immediately they are war veterans. For many of them are limping with the aid of walking sticks and pausing for a rest from time to time. They look so vulnerable. It must be difficult to just attend those parades. Forty years ago they were fathers, twenty years ago, grandfathers and now most of them are great grandfathers!
They have watched their whole world collapse around but they somehow go on! Their pensions remain low and their conditions so dire! From time to time a child will run up to them and hand them a flower. The more robust veterans revel in dance with attractive young women at the day of victory celebrations on Telman Square.
For the past few weeks, preparations for the day of Victory are almost everywhere. They are strikingly conspicuous. Billboards lining the main road show photos of war veterans holding hands with their great-grand children,shops put up posters proclaiming 'We remember you', 'We love you', and 'we are grateful to you ' and 'Thank you for the victory Grandpa! ' On the streets young women hand out orange and black ribbons to pedestrians. They then openly display them as a sign of homage to the fallen. So some girls tie them to their pony-tails, wear them on theirs hand or tie them to their rucksacks.
The importance of this date; the 9th of March can't be underestimated. It is sacred! The Great Patriot war (1941-45) represents one of the greatest folk memories of the Russian people. It far overshadows the anniversary of the October revolution of 1917 which has gradually paled into a mere 'day off'. For every year people gather to lay flowers on the graves of their fallen relatives, or give presents and treat the veterans to a celebration marked by songs, music and dancing. This is one of the most spontaneous celebrations.
Even if the government did not organize victory parades, salutes or made speeches, people would still gather to commemorate those events. This is because practically every family has lost a member or relative. No Russian has been untouched by this great cataclysm or immense tragedy. The figures of the losses stagger belief. As many as 20 million people died and even this might be regarded as a conservative estimate. Some put the figure at 24-25 million. Professor John Erickson of Edinburgh University, claims that the Nazis invasion accounted for not just 25-27 million, but 40 milllion. He argues that the war led to a drastic decline in Russia's birth rate at the end of the war. So the demographic disaster was immense!
Even today, the number of females significantly surpasses men. So Russians tell me that it is not easy to find available husbands.
However, statistics hardly inform you about the harrowing experience of so many victims. It can't show the tears and pain of so many.
When people think of the Great Patriotic war, they tend to remember the heroic defence of the Brest fortress where soldiers fought on till the end of the 900 day siege of Leningrad, where thousands perished a slow lingering death from starvation, the Battle of Moscow, Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin where 350,000 soldiers were killed and wounded. So the mood on this day is far from being euphoric, but tinged with sadness. Yet people do strive to express joy!
Do young Russians know the details of the war? Is it not likely to be forgotten as the years pass by? How do young children learn about the Great Patriotic war? Some of the war veterans express anxiety. One veteran who visited a school was shocked when a school student suggested "wouldn't it have been better to have surrendered?" 'They just don't understand the mortal danger our country was in and that Hitler intended to erase Russia from the map" reflected the veteran. The worst experience is seeing young Russian fascists walking around the city with tee-shirts with swastikas and chanting 'Heil Hitler'. For war veterans it must be beyond belief! Who would have thought that 'Mein Kamp would be openly sold near Red square during the early 1990's? Evidently a lot more education needs to be done concerning the history of this period.
How is the Great patriotic war taught in schools? In the worst cases, boring textbooks can kill any lively interest. History,as it is taught in Russian schools, is presented in terms of a chronological collection of dates of offensives by Zhukov, Konev and Ryakhovsky. History is reduced looking at an abstract arrow and another arrow denoting the route of a particular army to Berlin. Abstract arrows and maps depersonalize history. What should be a fascinating account is turned into a dull and drab map-reading exercise.
The less pleasant aspects of the war are either ignored or justified. A lot of the history has been perverted by ideology. It is fair to say that a lot of stories of the war are not told to children. For instance, children are sometimes still told that Stalin wa s agreat war leader who won the war; without Stalin there would be no victory and that Stalin was a great war leader. Stalin's role appears to be enjoying rehabilitation. It is not uncommon to
hear school-children telling American English teachers that they like Stalin. They are not told how Stalin ignored all the intelligence warnings of an imment invasion by his own spies. (He shot his own spies for giving such a warning!), how before the war he killed all the most talented brains of the Red army, leaving it defenceless and disorganised, and how his idiotic order 227 'Not one step back' led to many military defeats!
A simple example of how Stalin's purges weakened the Red army is that despite having the best tanks in Europe in 1941, the tankists could not use them properly because the officers who were meant to train them had practically all been shot by Stalin! Not many people are told of how a female soldier shot her boyfriend for retreating and how he died in her hands, or how so many Russian prisoners of war were 'liberated' only to be put into new Russian prison camps.
The role of Land-lease in assisting Russians, scarcely gets a mention in history books. According to Gordon. L Rottman, Stalin admitted that if it had not been for American Spam or meat, his men would have starved to death! (see Gordon L Roffman's Soviet Riflemen,1941-45,Osprey publishing,,2007,New York)
Zhukov's idiotic use of search-lights during the crossing of the River Oder and in the Battle of Berlin which caused pointless deaths is conveniently ignored by people who eulogise him. (See Max Hasting's Armageddon,The Batlle for Germany,Pan Books,2004,Macmillan,London)
The best way of educating the young is to invite war veterans to school. This is one way where young people learn about history. When I spoke to school children about those visits, they told me that they informed them that the war was a terrible experience they could have done without. They don't like to speak about those events because they often relive them through narrating them. The truth is often beyond consolation. (Last week a young 12 year old girl called Nastiya told me how she was shocked to learn at school, about how the Nazis treated the Jews.)
It is very easy to offend the sensibities of war veterans. Some were shocked when they learnt that war memorials to German soldiers had been built on Russian territory! Alot of them do not like to hear bad words about Stalin's role in wartime.
It is very sad to hear that many Russians believe that Americans and Europeans are ignorant about Russia' s role in the war and don't fully appreciate it. They claim that the Americans arrogantly assume they won the war and that Russia role was negligent. I have heard this view from many Russians. Some go to the extreme of claiming they would have won the war without allied help. They don't appear to have heard of land-lease or the allied offensives in Africa or Italy. There is alot to be said for Russia winning the war, albeit with aid from the allies. Almost three out of every five people killed during the war were Russians. Russians paid the greatest price for the war.
Not all the stories of the great partiotic war are grim. One young girl called Tatiyana said 'My grand-father went to the front and he himself is from Tobolsk. He joined the artillery and reached Berlin! I'm glad that he is still alive today and with us! When I was a school-student he came to my class. All the rest of the school-children envied me. He spoke to the first-class about the war and about friendship. He also spoke about how he met my future grandmother. They both got married. They both celebrate the day of victory in Hungary in 1945. I'm proud of them. The day of victory is his day. And his name is colonel Yuri Vasilevich. I wish him and all the other veterans good health and love from all of us.' I have heard a lot of romantic stories about soldiers falling in love and marrying each other. I met a war veteran called Yulia, who fought at the Battle of the Kursk and only narrowly missed being hit by an approaching Tiger tank looming up and aiming its gun at them. She was only 18 at the time. She survived to marry her commander.
It is not true that the British and Americans were indifferent to the sacrifice made by the Russians during the war. The Queen Mother of Britain genuinely felt a lot of compassion for the Russians and did alot to assist people at Stalingrad and Leningrad during the war.
It is worth recalling that the great comedian, Charlie Chaplin, was kicked of Americq, for making a poignant speech about how difficult it must be for Russian mothers to worry about whether their children would return alive from the front. He made ths speech during war. This was one of the cited reasons as to why he was kicked out of America by Joseph Mccarthy. He was expelled from America for being too symapthetic to Russians soldiers.
The truth about this war has to be told, warts and all. The best people to tell the truth are the war veterans themselves. Historians have to respect their sensibilities when recording their experiences. We owe them so much!