On a Socialist Camping Trip

G. A. Cohen
Why Not Socialism?
Princeton, 2009
92 Pages
£10.95
ISBN 978-0691143613

As a teenager, Jerry Cohen was a counsellor in the Montreal Jewish socialist summer camp Kinderland, where, in the words of one of his young charges, “the sons and daughters of 1950s leftists spent July and August waging class struggle against mosquitoes and boredom”. These summer expeditions left a lasting impression: decades later, Cohen fondly recalled campfire songs from Kinderland at his inauguration as Chichele Professor in All Souls college chapel; and a camping trip serves as the prime illustration of the virtues of socialism in his latest and last work, a lively discussion of political morality.

While Jerry Cohen made a career out of intellectualising his personal journey from pro-Soviet schoolboy to doyen of Oxford political theory, it is in Why Not Socialism?—more than any other text—that we see as a whole his considered stance on justice. For this life-long socialist, socialism’s infeasibility does not entail its irrelevance, for its most basic merit lies in its encapsulation of an ethic of care for other human life. In a period when we are re-evaluating our economic priorities, this is a timely call for personal integrity—and a reminder that in necessarily compromising with self-interest, we must not lose sight of our ideals. Continue reading

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Tensions Rise in Latin America over US Military Plan to Use Three Bases in Colombia

The Colombian government has agreed to grant US forces the use of three Colombian military bases for South American anti-drug operations. The move has heightened tensions between Colombia, the largest recipient of US military aid in the Americas, and its neighbors, particularly Venezuela and Ecuador. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that the US Army could invade his country from Colombia.

Clip courtesy of Democracy Now

Chávez Urges Obama To Change His Ambiguous Discourse

Venezuela’s President blamed the CIA for the coup in Honduras

President Hugo Chávez urged his US counterpart Barack Obama’s Administration to stop shilly-shallying and condemn the coup d’état against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

During his weekly radio and TV program Aló Presidente (Hello President) last Sunday, Chávez avoided holding the US ruler responsible for the events in Honduras. He rather pointed to “the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the US Department of State and the Pentagon,” Efe reported.

Chávez claimed that if Obama moved to withdraw the US troops from the Honduran military base of Palmerola, revoke the visas and seize the properties that the members of the de facto government own in the United States, the situation for the coup leaders would become untenable.

Obama “is not going to trick us with an ambiguous discourse or with a smile,” warned Chávez. He added that Obama wants to be seen “as a peaceful dove, as an innocent lamb.”

The Venezuelan ruler said that he would rather deal with former US President George W. Bush than with Obama. In Chávez’s words, “you better face the head of the empire assuming his role as such, than face someone who is off and on.”

Chávez recalled that US President John F. Kennedy was killed by US “imperial” forces. “I hope they do not kill Obama, because Obama is biting off more than he can chew.”

Furthermore, the Venezuelan ruler admitted that he has “talked with several Honduran military officers.” He said that he knows that middle and low rank officers in the Honduran Army are unhappy with the current situation. Therefore, Chávez predicted that Zelaya would return to his country.

“Zelaya will return to his country. The government of Honduras will decide whether to kill him or not. He is willing to die,” the Venezuelan Head of State said.

Finally, he drew the attention of the de facto government about the arrest of a group of Venezuelan journalists in Honduras. Chávez said that “if anything happens” to the staff of the Venezuelan TV channels who are currently working in Honduras, the de facto authorities shall take responsibility for their actions.

Chávez added that despite the US military power, political changes in Latin America will not cease.

“The process of change in Latin America is not going to stop, President Obama. You can send the Fourth and the Sixth Fleet, or the world’s largest bombers, but changes will not end,” Chávez said.

Translated by Gerardo Cárdenas

Source: El Universal

Marxism 2009

Here is the final timetable for Marxism 2009 with full details of speakers and meetings.

If you are looking to attend some of these workshops and meetings here is some useful information. Continue reading

Venezuelan News Round Up

Chavez: Venezuela progressing towards food independence

CARACAS, June 14 (Xinhua) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that the government has set targets for exporting food to neighbor countries and is progressing towards food independence.

During his weekly radio and television broadcast “Alo Presidente,” Chavez said Venezuela’s cattle herd now topped 12 million heads and is estimated to rise to 14 million by 2012.

Chavez hosted Sunday’s show from the La Bandera farm in southwestern state Tachira, a model socialist dairy farm set up on land seized from drug traffickers.

The Venezuelan government has seized 50 farms from traffickers, equivalent to 12,000 hectares suitable for livestock.

La Bandera now has 1,985 heads of cattle, up from 1,300 18 months ago; and produces 38 percent more milk, the Venezuelan president said.

Source: http://www.chinaview.cn

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Venezuela takes on Tetra Pak

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez has threatened to ignore international patents and manufacture Tetra Paks to help reduce the need for imports.

Chávez told the audience of his weekly Aló Presidente show that patents were “universal knowledge” and Venezuela had the materials to produce the cartons itself. “We don’t have to be subject to capitalist laws,” he said.

Importing Tetra Pak materials is said to have cost the South American country $63m (£38.5m) in May alone. Tetra Pak was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Chávez targeted overseas packaging in March when he seized 1,500 hectares of eucalyptus forest belonging to Irish packaging giant Smurfit Kappa that he said should be destined for food rather than cardboard.

In yesterday’s broadcast, Chávez said the government would have to seize packaging firms that did not deal with national food companies, although did not provide further information.

Aló Presidente is now in its tenth year and runs on Sundays on state TV. It starts at 11am and has been known to run for five hours.

The segment of the show on Tetra Pak and patents can be viewed in Spanish via the YouTube website by clicking here.

Source: http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/RSS/News/913111/Venezuela-takes-Tetra-Pak/

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Wrong type of passenger prompts Venezuela to redirect metro line

Plan for two stations in Caracas put on hold because it would have benefited ‘oligarchs’

Venezuela has redirected a new metro line away from a chic part of Caracas, one of Latin America’s most congested capitals, because it would have benefited “oligarchs”.

Authorities cancelled plans for two metro stations at Las Mercedes, a district of malls and restaurants, because it would serve the wrong type of passenger in a country undergoing a socialist revolution.

“That is a line which benefits the oligarchy,” said Claudio Farias, president of the state-owned company Metro Caracas. “We are redesigning it because we think this line makes no sense. Everybody goes to restaurants in Las Mercedes in their cars.”

Under redesigned plans five stations will be dropped from line five, which is intended to carry about 300,000 passengers daily from the central Zona Rental to low-income areas in the south-east.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/15/venezuela-metro-redirected

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Venezuela Orders End to Coca-Cola Zero Production

On Wednesday the Venezuelan Ministry for Health ordered the Coca-Cola Company to remove its product Coca-Cola Zero from sale for containing a cancerous ingredient, sodium cyclamate, an ingredient not included in the US version of the drink.

Jesus Mantilla, the health minister, said, “The product should stop circulating in order to protect the health of Venezuelans.” He said the product contains sodium cyclamate, which in large amounts can be harmful, and then announced that the product should be recalled, destroyed, and not produced anymore.

Divis Antunez, director of sanitary control for the Health Ministry, said the ingredient wasn’t in the company’s application that it made in 2007 and that was approved by the Ministry. Later, in a random test conducted by the National Institute for Hygiene Rafael Rangel, sodium cyclamate was found and the Health Ministry started a legal process for non-compliance with the Health Registry.

Antunez said that the recommended amount of sodium cyclamate for human consumption is 11 mg per kilo, whereas the new Coca-Cola Zero has 18-22mg per 10 mils, exceeding the amount approved by the Venezuelan Commission of Industrial Norms (COVENIN).

Yesterday Coca-Cola said in a press release, “The Coca-Cola Company and its bottler Coca-Cola Femsa Venezuela responsibly declare that Coca-Cola Zero doesn’t contain any ingredient that could be harmful to the health.” However, Coca-Cola said that until the government concludes its administrative proceedings it will suspend production in Venezuela and recall the drink.

Coca-Cola Zero is a drink without any calories (or an amount small enough to be rounded down to zero) and is marketed to young males who are self conscious of their weight but see Diet Coke as being for women. The diet and zero versions in the US, England, and Canada both contain non-calorie sweeteners aspartame (E951) and acesulfame K (E950), but in slightly different proportions and they therefore have slightly different tastes.

However the versions produced in Venezuela (as well as in Chile and some other Central American countries) have sodium cyclamate (E952) in larger proportions than aspartame. Whilst aspartame is cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sodium cyclamate has been prohibited since 1969 when it was proved to cause cancerous tumours and congenital malformations.

Sodium cyclamate, when combined with other chemicals, has the capacity to sweeten up to 600 times more than sugar. According to Aporrea.org, it is also much cheaper than aspartame at $10/kilo compared to $152/kilo for aspartame.

In Mexico in August 2007, El Universal-Mexico reported that Coca-Cola was also putting sodium cyclamate in the coca-cola zero drink there. The article said that the drink contained 25mg of the ingredient for every 100g in a can of 355ml. Pro-U.S president Vicente Fox authorized the ingredient for the government’s list of permitted food additives in July 2006.

In February 2008 Mexican feminist news Cimanoticias reported that consumers had “triumphed” and that the ingredient had been removed from the drink.

Source: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4516

Hugo Chávez: the most popular leader in the Middle East

The results of the new survey of ‘Arab opinion’ conducted by Zogby International show that Barack Obama has a much more favourable rating than did his predecessor as US president. But when asked to name the world leaders whom they most admire, the participants put the President of Venezuela at the top of the poll.

The survey, which was conducted in April and May 2009, sampled the views of 4,087 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. According to the respected Zogby polling organisation, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6%. One of the questions put to the participants was “which two world leaders (outside your own country) do you admire most?” The most frequently named leader is Hugo Chavez, at 36%. Following Chavez in order of admiration are Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and former President of France Jacques Chirac (both at 18%), Osama bin Laden (16%), Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (15%) and the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy (14%). Continue reading