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October 31, 2005

GAY EUROSOCIALISTS ORGANIZE ALLIANCE, DEMONSTRATION FOR POLISH GAYS IN PARIS

Some 200 people, including representatives from gay organizations from many European countries (who were in town for the annual conference of the International Gay and Lesbian Association), demonstrated in front of the Polish Embassy in Paris on Saturday, October 29, against the new Polish president Lech Kacyzynski and his Polish_embassy_demo homophobic attitudes and statements.

Among the speakers was Tomasz Szypula (left, with bullhorn) representing the largest Polish gay organization, the four-year-old, all-volunteer KPH (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, or Campaign Against Homophobia), who said that "Poland is sensitive about its image abroad, and the Polish media do report on appeals to vigilance against homophobia in Poland from from elsewhere in Europe -- even if it is often only to criticize those protests," the daily e-bulletin of the French gay magazine Tetu reported. . ILGA's secretary-general, Kursad Kahramanoglu, promised that "we will bring Poland to account before all the institutions of the European Union, to remind Poland of its responsibilities to assure the rights of its gay citizens."

Pes_logo The virulently homophobic declarations of the new Polish government's leaders are but one good reason to salute the creation of an LGBT caucus within the Party of European Socialists (logo left), which Homosexualites_et_socialisme_logo_3 regroups elected democratic socialist Eurodeputies in the European Parliament at Strasbourg and PES members in the other institutions of the European Union. There are 201 socialist deputies affiliated with the PES in the Europarliament, making it the second largest political force in that body -- and seven members of the powerful European Commission in Brussels are also PES membrs. An open letter to the Eurosocialists of the PES, demanding the creation of a European-wide gay rights platform for the PES, was released this past weekend, and co-signed by representatives of gay caucuses from 9 different European democratic socialist parties in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Sweden. The appeal followed a meeting this past weekend of Eurosocialist gay groups held at the French Socialist Party's headquarters in Paris, and hosted by the French group Homosexualites et socialisme (logo upper right). The meeting was addressed by former French Culture Minister Jack Lang and former Economics and Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, both candidates for the French Socialists' 2007 presidential nomination. The creation of this new, cross-national alliance of gay socialists will help unify lobbying and pressure for enforcement and expansion of gay rights throughout Europe -- a crucial task, since many of the newer member countries now being admitted into the European Union (like Poland) don't have a gay rights tradition, or gay movements as well-organized as those in Western Europe's democracies.

A Must Read: 'BABES IN BUSHWORLD' The new issue of In These Times (of which I'm a contributing editor) has a terrific piece by Laskshmi_chaudry Lakshmi Chaudry (right), "Babes in Bushworld," This is first-rate analysis and reporting, and witty writing. Says Lakshmi: "Raunch is Republican. The sexuality that reigns supreme in Bush World bears the basic imprimaturs of right-wing ideology: gross materialism, sexual hypocrisy and acquiescence in the name of empowerment. It is in every sense a conservative wet dream come true....." Don't miss this original and powerful article, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here.

For West Coast readers: A PASOLINI SYMPOSIUM Pasolini_trenchcoat_best_4 To help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Pasolini (left), there will be an all-day symposium on "Pier Paolo Pasolini and the City" on Saturday, November 5, in Los Angeles at UCLA. It begins at 11 AM, with the last panel starting at 5:15 PM, and will be held at UCLA, School of Theater Film and Television, Melnitz Hall, room 1422. For Directions to Hypermedia Studio and Melnitz Hall, CLICK HERE. A half-dozen Pasolinians will be featured speakers, including the excellent John David Rhodes from the University of York, author of "Stupendous, Miserable City: Pasolini, Rome, Cinema." For more information, contact Chiara Ferrari at 310.349.7645, or Alessandro Marianantoni at 323.337.7410....And, if you missed DIRELAND's publication -- for the first time ever in English translation -- of Pasolini's last great poem, "Victory," you can read it by clicking here.....And for my long L.A. Weekly article on Pasolini's life and murder, "Restoring Pasolini," click here.

For NYC area readers: IRAQ: THE CASE FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL  Gilbert Achar, the French expert on Middle Eastern affairs (who was raised in Lebanon) and who is a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique, will make the case for immediate withdrawal from Iraq at a forum on Thursday, November 3, at 7 PM, to be held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street  (Between 7th and 8th Avenues) To get there, take A, C and E trains  to 14th Street/8th Avenue, or the 1, 2, or 3  trains to 14th Street/7th Avenue. The meeting is sponsored by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, with which I've long been associated -- indeed, it is one of the few organizations to which I regularly lend my name.

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October 28, 2005

IS POLAND'S NEW PRESIDENT KACZYNSKI ANOTHER PUTIN, OR ANOTHER PERON?

The following analysis of the aftermath of last Sunday's elections in Poland was written especially for DIRELAND by our regular contributor on Eastern European politics, DAVID OST (below left). David_ost David is professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, and occasional visiting Ost_book_cover_1 professor at Central European University. He has written extensively on democracy and political economy in Eastern Europe, with particular focus on the Solidarity movement in Poland. His most recent work is The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe (Cornell University Press, 2005). His articles have appeared in The Nation, Dissent, and Tikkun among other publications.

Kacsynski_postelection_1  On Sunday, October 23, the conservative populist Lech Kaczynski (left) won the Polish presidency, defeating his neoliberal rival Donald Tusk by nine points. Only a month earlier, Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party and Tusk’s Civic Platform won the parliamentary elections too, dividing up over 60% of the seats between them, and promising to govern together as a coalition. But less than a week after the presidential voting, the coalition is already coming apart. Law and Justice, tasting power, has pushed Civic Platform away and is beginning to govern in a de facto coalition with the right-wing extremist, anti-systemic parties, the xenophobic Self-Defense (Samoobrona) and the anti-gay and anti-Semitic religious fanatics of the League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin.)

Before the elections, the Kaczynski twins (lower right -- Lech is the new president, Jaroslaw the parliamentary leader who controls the prime minister) -- repeatedly said they wouldKaczynski_twins_2 refuse to enter into coalition with these two extremist, far-right parties. But as the press now reports (Gazeta Wyborcza, October 27), Law and Justice met with Self-Defense over a month ago to work out a possible de facto coalition. Poland is today moving rapidly to the political right – not so much the neoliberal right of free-market globalization, but the traditional right of presidential decrees, uncompromising government, religious extremism, and disenfranchisement of the "riff-raff," both street criminals and political opponents. Dig those history books out of the basement: Law and Justice is reviving the so-called "Sanitation" politics of the 1930s.

Whether it will succeed or not is unclear. Capital markets have already reacted negatively, but the Kaczynski brothers have been working towards this moment for years. Progressives in Poland are already in despair. How did it get to this?

First, on the presidential elections. In the end, it came down to a battle between two right-wing visions: Kaczynski’s anti-systemic, Poujadist populism vs. Tusk’s straight-laced neoliberalism. Kaczynski’s calls to "clean up" the political system of its rot and Donald_tusk_1 corruption, and to improve workers’ standards of living in the process, won out over Tusk (left) and his appeals for calm, stability, and a flat tax to encourage corporate investment. Despite losing consistently since 1989, Polish liberals still haven’t learned that appeals to free-market "rationality" will not carry the day in a country with unemployment near 20%. Kaczynski won support from rural voters, the poor, the religious right, and from supporters of the extremist parties whose candidates lost in the first round of voting. Tusk appealed particularly to the better-off, the better-educated, and inhabitants of the larger cities where the economy is doing well.

Kaczynski won votes both from the losers in the economic transformation and from those who want the government to create a more "moral" society, and see corruption and cultural degeneration as the sources of the present "rot." Often these are the same people: those who want a more economically just society often latch on to moral issues as substitute satisfactions, as if they know that in the world’s current neoliberal moment economic satisfaction is unlikely, and they want to have at least some kind of triumph of their own.

In the week before the election, these people came out of the woodworks and massively joined Kaczynski’s campaign. "Before the first round I had a hundred volunteers, mainly high-school and college students," said Michal Sztybel, the 20-year old head of Kaczynski’s campaign in Bydgoszcz. "Afterwards, Father_tadeusz_rydzyk_1 older people started coming to us in droves," thanks to urgent appeals from the extremist Radio Maria network -- which is led by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk (right, an openly anti-Semitic Christian extremist in the Falangist tradition of Spain’s Francisco Franco or America’s Father Coughlin) -- and from right-wing candidates who dropped out in the first round, as well as from the Solidarity trade union (of which Kaczynski, in 1990, was acting president).

Kaczynski’s communitarian and anti-liberal campaign – he contrasted his vision of a "solidaristic Poland" to what he said was Tusk’s vision of a "liberal" Poland – appealed to all these constituencies. He embraced anti-gay and anti-Europe politics to appeal to the Christians, promised low-income housing and renewed state-supported health care for unionists, a tough stance toward both Russia and the EU to bring in the nationalists, and a thoroughgoing overhaul of the political system – a "Fourth Republic" willing to lock up the criminals to replace the pusillanimous present republic – to bring on board the political extremists. For the Kaczynski brothers, the militant right-populist rhetoric is key. They recognize that their chief constituency are those who feel they’re suffering economically. This demagogy (very similar to that of France's Jean-Marie LePen in his attacks on social and political "decadence) is aimed at keeping those economic "victims" in line, so that even if those people don’t get the economic prosperity they’re looking for, at least they get the satisfaction of seeing "bad guys" taken down and "morality" upheld.

Solidarnosc_1 The Kaczynskis (who as children were movie stars ) have built their entire political career on this basis: that they would be the one to organize people’s anger. Already in 1990, they were the first to break with the original Solidarity government because they sensed, correctly, that economic shock therapy would create an ocean of resentment, and that the politicians who win would be those who "articulate" that resentment and channel it to themselves. The Kaczynski brothers were thus the first to break the unity of Solidarity and create a political party: the Center Alliance, which they formed in 1990, was but the first incarnation of the Law and Justice party that has triumphed today.

And so Kaczynski, last week, won 80% of those who voted earlier for Andrzej Andrzej_lepper_2_1 Lepper (left), the pugnacious and demagogic leader (part Mussolini, part Robin Hood)Maciej_giertych  of the Self-Defense party, and 86% of those who voted for the pro-Radio Maria candidate Maciej Giertych (right), of the League of Polish Families. Giertych is the father-worshipping son of a Polish politician who crusaded against "Jewish-masonic conspiracies" -- and Giertych's campaign slogan this year was "Poland above all!" ("Polska jest wazniejsza!"), which calls to mind the German Nazi slogan "Deutschland uber alles." Kaczynski also decisively won the large rural vote (40% of the electorate), among whom Kaczynski beat Tusk 2:1.

While Kaczynski prevailed among the poorer and the angrier – those who hope life will improve but believe it probably won’t – Tusk won the support of the more successful: the prosperous, better educated, inhabitants of large cities who do believe life will improve for them. Tusk also won in the more urbanized and secularized western and northern regions of the country, while Kaczynski triumphed in the poorer and more religious eastern regions.

As for left-wing voters, in the run-off they divided between those who see the march to an ever more laissez-faire economy as the greatest danger today, and those who see the erosion of the rule of law and the specter of religious fundamentalism as the key dangers to be Ryszard_bugaj avoided. The former voted for Kaczynski, the latter voted against him, meaning for Tusk. So while Ryszard Bugaj (left), the leading and most consistent democratic socialist from the old Solidarity movement and the former leader of the Union of Labor party, threw his support to Kaczynski, 75% of the first-round voters for the ex-Marek_borowski communist, social-democratic candidate of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), former vice-premier Marek Borowski (right) – mostly urban, relatively prosperous liberals – voted for Tusk in the run-off. (Overall, most of those voting for Tusk were mainly just voting against Kaczynski. For one of Tusk’s biggest problems was a personality that did not inspire passions. Indeed, he spoke out against passions, promising only a presidency of hard work and decency. Few were moved.)

Many domestic observers see President Kaczynski (lower left) as a politician in the Peronist mold, and the question now is how he will behave in office.Lech_kaczynski_hands_raised_1   Of course, until the Constitution is changed (as Law and Justice promises), it is still parliament that has most of the power. Liberals were pleased that Law and Justice’s parliamentary power seemed to be contingent on a coalition with Civic Platform, and they were allayed that Jaroslaw Kaczynski appointed Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz -- a neoliberal economist (though simultaneously a homophobic religious radical) -- as prime minister. Indeed, some were hoping that Law and Justice would just limit itself to lining its own pockets just like previous governing parties have done. But since the elections, Law and Justice (logo right) has indicatedPis_logo  that it indeed wants to make good on its call for a radical overhaul. The Kaczynskis are not likely to maintain their promises to economically help the poor. They are already backing off on their pledge to increase budgetary outlays for health care, and the ongoing budgetary crisis makes it almost certain that they will in fact soon impose a wave of cutbacks. And this only makes it more likely that they will seek to consolidate their popularity not by bringing economic justice but by bringing moral righteousness. It is this that brings them – much sooner than anticipated – to the radical right.

For if the Kaczynskis do drive Civic Platform away, they can maintain power only by Samoobrona_polish_selfdefense_party_1 allying with Self-Defense (logo left) and the League of Polish Families, whose voters ensured Lech’s presidential victory. This week, they already bypassed Civic Platform’s nominee for Speaker of Parliament, and got the votes of the extremist parties in order to elect their own. It is not at all unlikely, therefore, that the most extreme radical right parties will soon be part of the governing coalition in Poland.

The mainstream view is that this cannot happen, that non-economic agendas still cannot trump economic ones. Globalization, it is said – meaning things like the European Union and the need for economic competitiveness – means that the nationalist and religious fundamentalist rhetoric of European parties is just that: rhetoric, intended only to win votes, not for actual deployment. But though that’s been the case in the past, is it really a guide for the future? How plausible is that? This is a time when the anti-immigrant New Right advances in western Europe, the religious right gains gets bolder and bolder in the United States, and Polish voters turn out for parties and candidates that denounce liberal democracy. The problem with the analyses calmly predicting the perseverance of liberal democracy is that they are made chiefly by the same liberals who keep saying that passions are irrelevant, and whose candidates keep losing.

Of course, it is possible that Law and Justice will rein itself in, or succumb to the pressure of international financial markets and reach out more willingly to CivicPlatforma_obywatelska_civic_platform  Platform (logo right). For the events of the last week have driven down the value of the zloty and of Poland’s stock market. The political instability poses the danger of a freeze on new investments, not just from outside the country but from inside as well. As Penn State University political science professor Michael Bernhard points out, given the events of the past week, "anyone with a former Communist Party membership and mobile assets would be a fool not to send them overseas at this point, and to suspend all on-going investment plans."

The problem, though, is that Civic Platform will not be satisfied with a coalition offer aimed only at making it take responsibility for unpopular economic decisions. That’s why it has also been demanding control of other ministries, like Internal Affairs as well, which controls the police. But Law and Justice so far has been unwilling to give up any of the so-called "force" ministries. And so a coalition to appease the financial markets may not be as inevitable as western financial markets now seem to feel.

Of course, it may be possible to calm financial markets and move to greater authoritarianism. Law and Justice may yet reach out to the so-called "red barons" (former communists now among the economic elite), allowing them their freedom in return for continued financial support. In this way, Poland might become more like today’s Russia.

The conclusion is hardly reassuring. Still, the similarities with contemporary Russia are Putin among the more paradoxical of current Polish developments, particularly given Law and Justice’s explicit and tough anti-Russian stance. Just like Putin (left), the Kaczynskis refuse to give up the "force" ministries. Like Putin, they talk of locking up "corrupt" businessmen who also happen to be political opponents. (They must have awe-inspiring admiration of Putin’s ability to send his biggest rival, the former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to a hard-labor Siberian prison camp with an 8-year sentence.) And the broader aim may be to keep the economy going by scaring other businessmen to go along. Of course, without Russia’s oil income, it is doubtful such a policy can succeed. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be tried. And though the EU might protest, it cannot risk alienating Poland too much, given both Poland’s large size and long-standing sensitivities about western mistreatment of the east.

(It should also be added that the criticism in some of the European press about Law and Justice’s homophobia will also have no effect on Polish politics. Kaczynski didRainbow_flag_1  indeed help build up his right-wing base voters by trying, unsuccessfully, to block gay rights parades while mayor of Warsaw, but neither he nor Tusk raised the issue during the campaign. Only if he tries to enforce a ban now that he’s president will it provoke a conflict with the EU, though even then it will be one that the EU Commission, if not the European press, will certainly try to avoid.)

Any way one looks at it, then, liberal democracy in Poland is likely to face increasingly hard times. Without a coalition with Civic Platform, Law and Justice is necessarily driven into coalition with the radical right. Nor does this necessarily mean that Civic Platform becomes the main opposition. The Democratic Left Alliance, which ran the government till last week, won 12% of the seats in the new parliament, and it will play the role of main opposition. And to the degree that they are able to do so, Civic Platform will probably refuse to be associated with them. The legacy of the past thus remains a big obstacle to success. For in the end, the long-term success and stability of liberal democratic politics probably requires a liberal-socialist alliance, just as happened in western Europe after World War II. To the extent that this remains unlikely – not only because of political rivalries but because of globalization’s constraints – the populist, illiberal right will probably continue to advance.

Finally, are the liberals right to be in such despair? It’s hard to say. Law and Justice is certainly pushing fast to consolidate its own hold on power. But the problem with thePoland_map_2  liberals is that they tend not to have any ideas on how to improve things – first of all, people’s economic conditions. Voters gravitate to populist demagogues not because they believe in all they say but because people always needs a party that at least says something can be done to help them out. Law and Justice will be trying to appease people’s economic anger by offering them more authoritarianism instead (something certainly not unfamiliar in contemporary American politics). But other parties can challenge this successfully not by shouting that the other guys are demagogues but by offering real ways of addressing economic conditions. If that’s not possible – both because the political will isn’t there, and because in this age of strong global capital but weak international civil society, real economic alternatives are genuinely hard to come by – then we may be in for more radical right-wing governments elsewhere in the world.

The moral of which is that we should all watch Poland closely. It might well be a harbinger of things to come in the west as well. -- David Ost

RELATED READING: An interesting pre-election article by the legendary former dissident Adam Michnik (right), looking at what remains of the Adam_michnik_1 Solidarnosc-led Polish revolution, contains some pointed observations on the Poland of today. In an essay, "In Search of Lost Sense," originally published in Gazeta Wyborcza, of which Michnik is now editor (and translated in the excellent English-language German online 'zine Sign and Sight), Michnik writes of today's Poland: "The days of selfless heroism are gone, and the spirit of enterprise and competition has superseded the solidarity ethos. The social activists' altruism, courage and sense of honour are rare goods in the Polish market these days, and they are not valued very highly. Shrewdness and brutality, ruthlessness and impertinence are a lot more effective and a lot more popular. Intrigue will often dress up as moral cause; fanaticism can be presented as a defence of principles. No wonder people who have given the best years of their lives to fight for Poland's freedom are now feeling frustrated." To read the complete Michnik artricle, click here......And you might want to look at Norman Birnbaum's August article, written exclusively for DIRELAND, reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the birth of Solidarnosc, "Evaluating Solidarnosc, 25 Years Later," by clicking here.

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October 26, 2005

A HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED PASOLINI POEM -- on the 30th anniversary of the poet's death, a DIRELAND exclusive

November 2 will be the 30th anniversary of the death of Pier PaoloPasolini_pensive_4  Pasolini (right)-- and to commemorate his disappearance, DIRELAND is proud to publish here, for the first time ever in an English translation, a major Pasolini poem, "Victory."

That I am privileged to publish this poem in its English language première is due to our friend Norman MacAfee, who selected and translated the Collected Poems of Pasolini (now published in paperback by Farrar Straus Giroux). Norman offered DIRELAND this poem in recognition of my extensive reporting, on this blog and elsewhere, on Pasolini's murder (see, for example, my August 3 L.A. Weekly article, "Restoring Pasolini," which details Pasolini's life and assassination.)

Pasolini was a hugely influential polymath of postwar Italian culture — although many outside of Italy know him only as a brilliant, idiosyncratic filmmaker, he was also the greatest Italian poet of his generation, as well as a novelist, playwright, literary critic, political columnist and painter, who frequently celebrated homosexuality in his writings and films. (Of Pasolini’s more than 50 books, only a handful have been translated into English.)

The official version of Pasolini’s 1975 murder -- that he was killed by a teenage hustler and juvenile delinquent, Pino “the Frog” Pelosi -- is now completely discredited. Even the court that sentenced Pelosi to just seven years in jail after he confessed to the murder noted at the time the enormous differences between the confession and the forensic evidence, which indicated multiple persons were involved in the killing.

This past May, Pino the Frog recanted his 1975 confession in an interview on Pasolini_corpse_4 Rai 3 Italian television, saying the 30-year-old murder was committed by three men with Sicilian accents, who beat the poet to death (at left, Pasolini's corpse) after they discovered Pasolini having sex with Pino, and who shouted anti-gay and anti-communist epithets (a very public and well-known figure in Italy, Pasolini had a life-long, love-hate relationship with the Communist Party -- which had expelled him for homosexuality when he was 26 -- and always called himself a “Catholic Marxist.”)

In the wake of Pino the Frog’s recantation, and after demands by parliamentarians and the mayor of Rome, the investigation into Pasolini’s murder was officially re-opened -- only to be rapidly shelved in early October. The police were, after all, being asked to investigate their own earlier bungling of the case, and after three decades the trail to the real culprits had gone cold.

It is widely believed in Italy that Pasolini’s assassination was political -- some say he was killed by neo-fascists (who reviled Pasolini Pasolini_1965_1as the epitome of “left-wing decadence, and who had often staged violent attacks on theaters presenting his plays and films), others that it was a Mafia hit (at the time of his murder Pasolini was working on a film about the Mafia and prostitution). And it is not entirely out of the question that the murder was simply a particularly vicious gay-bashing. But after Pino the Frog’s recantation, the judge who had sentenced him told Rome newspapers that, in 1975, the possibility the murder had been political was “never investigated” by the police. (Above left, Pasolini the year after he wrote the poem below).

Norman MacAfee (right), the translator of the poem below, is a distinguished Norman_macafee_2_bw_1 poet in his own right. In addition to being the English-language translator of Pasolini's poems, he has also translated the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre and Les Miserables. His books include The Death of the Forest, an opera to music of Charles Ives (Amsterdam: Beppie Blankert DanceConcerts, 2004); The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now (New York: Basic Books/Boulder: Westview, 2004); and A New Requiem (poetry, 1988). Norman has written, especially for DIRELAND, an introduction to this never-before-published Pasolini poem, in which he describes its history and explains some references in it that might otherwise escape some American readers:

PASOLINI: THE GUN IN THE POEM -- Introduction by Norman MacAfee

Pasolini was born the year the fascists took power in Italy, 1922, and spent his first twenty-three years living under a system he despised. He later described himself during that time as "an unarmed Partisan/who fought with the weapons of poetry." In the last months of the Second World War, his younger brother, Guido, decided to join the Partisan forces fighting the fascists in the mountains near their town of Casarsa in Friuli. Pier Paolo saw Guido off at the train station and gave him a book of poems by Eugenio Montale, the major poet of the previous generation. But the quiet book of poems held a surprise: Pier Paolo had carved out enough space in the book’s pages to hide a gun.

It is an image that sums up Pasolini’s approach to culture and history—Italian poetry at the time, speaking in a hermetic code to avoid fascist censorship, needed an opening up to history, to meaning, to the struggle all around, to "sex, death, political passion," to reality. Pasolini would spend the rest of his life shooting his way out of the hermeticism of those decades under fascism. The gun in the book was also a fatal sign: Guido would be shot and killed a few months later in Partisan struggles in the mountains.

After the war, Pasolini became a central figure in Italian culture, embodying the overthrow of fascism, the new era of democratic free speech, and new possibilities for gay people. He wrote brave long poems that contested the world around him: "The Ashes of Gramsci," "The Tears of the Excavator," "The Religion of My Time," "Reality," "A Desperate Vitality," "Plan of Future Works," and "Victory." He wrote novels about the Roman slums. Beginning in 1961, he made 26 films, including Accattone, Mamma Roma, The Gospel According to Matthew, Hawks and Sparrows, Teorema, Medea, The Decameron, The Arabian Nights, and the posthumously released Salò: The 120 Days of Sodom, one of the most scandal-creating films ever made. He painted and wrote plays. He was the defendant in thirty-three trials for his work, mostly involving allegations of obscenity, blasphemy, and anti-national statements. He was hectored and persecuted even as he was listened to. "I’m like a cat burned alive,/crushed by a truck’s tires,/hanged by boys to a fig tree,//but still with at least eight/ of its nine lives," he wrote in 1963 in "A Desperate Vitality," one of his most extraordinary poems, composed while watching Jean-Luc Godard make Contempt, from a novel by Pasolini’s close friend Alberto Moravia.

In the 1970s, Italy’s most respected and influential newspaper, Il Corriere della sera, invited him to write several times a week a front-page column on whatever subjects he wanted. He seized the opportunity to shake things up. He wrote that he knew the names of those responsible for a decade of terrorism in Italy, asserting CIA and Mafia involvement. He compared consumerism to fascism. Shortly before his death he said, "You can’t have ideas like mine and expect to be left alone."

As he was dying, I was on a train from New York to Philadelphia finishing the first draft of a poem dedicated to him. The next morning, I woke to the front-page headline, "Italian Filmmaker Bludgeoned to Death." Inured to the mysteries surrounding the American assassinations of the 1960s, I assumed that we would never know conclusively how Pasolini died. One thing I could do, however, to balance this crime, to keep Pasolini alive in some way, was to translate his poetry, which had not yet appeared in English. But my Italian was rudimentary, and so, the next month, December 1975, again on the train to Philadelphia, I was lucky to sit next to Luciano Martinengo, an Italian documentary filmmaker, who quickly agreed to help me. The first and second poems we translated were "Reality" and "Victory." They are ecstatic, euphoric, prophetic, political, epic, everything American poetry was not. Most American poets of the 1970s were acting like they were living under the new fascism of consumerism, hermetically writing about their marriages, divorces, houses, and students.

"Reality" would appear in the selection of our translations of Pasolini’s poems, published in the U.S. by Random House in 1982 and in the U.K. by John Calder in 1984, and republished by Farrar Straus & Giroux in 1996. As we were making final decisions on the book, Jonathan Galassi, my editor at Random House and later at Farrar Straus & Giroux, and I felt that the manuscript was too long, and we reluctantly agreed on "Victory" as the poem to cut.

"Victory" is, I think, Pasolini’s last great poem. As he wrote it, he was making The Gospel According to Matthew; his attention shifted to filmmaking and the poems became sketchy. It is a bold poem: I would refer the reader to the final pages, with their exhortations to violence against neocapitalism. "Victory" has never before appeared in print in English. It will be I hope an inspiration to poets who write in English.

A few details in the poem below may need explaining: The "day of victory" of the poem’s last line is April 25, 1945, when German troops surrendered in Italy, effectively ending the fascist era. "Ab joy," Provençal for "of joy, joyous," evokes the exhilaration and the ecstasy of the troubadors that Pasolini felt in writing, in Togliatti_2 understanding. The Tagliamento and Livenza are the rivers of the Friulian farm country where Pasolini spent much of his youth. Palmiro Togliatti (1893–1964, at left) was head of the Italian Communist Party, Pietro Nenni (1891–1980, at right) head of the Italian Nenni_2Socialist Party. In 1964, when the poem was written, the U.S. (through the CIA) had financed a schism in the Socialist Party, creating and funding a right-wing, militantly anti-communist social democratic party, the PSIUP (the maneuver backfired, and only wound up strengthening the Communists while weakening the Socialists.) The Cervis were brothers killed by the Nazis. During riots in Reggio Calabria for better working conditions in the early 1960s, several demonstrators were killed. Piazzale Loreto is the square in Milan where Mussolini’s body was hung upside down. Marzabotto was a village in the Appenines, destroyed, along with its inhabitants, by the Nazis. Via Tasso is a street in Rome where the Nazis and Fascists had their torture headquarters.


VICTORY
by Pier Paolo Pasolini
translated by Norman MacAfee with Luciano Martinengo


Where are the weapons?
I have only those of my reason
and in my violence there is no place

for even the trace of an act that is not
intellectual. Is it laughable
if, suggested by my dream on this

gray morning, which the dead can see
and other dead too will see but for us
is just another morning,

I scream words of struggle?
Who knows what will become of me
at noon, but the old poet is “ab joy”

who speaks like a lark or a starling or
a young man longing to die.
Where are the weapons? The old days

will not return, I know; the red
Aprils of youth are gone.
Only a dream, of joy, can open

a season of armed pain.
I who was an unarmed Partisan,
mystical, beardless, nameless,

now I sense in life the horribly
perfumed seed of the Resistance.
In the morning the leaves are still

as they once were on the Tagliamento
and Livenza—it is not a storm coming
or the night falling. It is the absence

of life, contemplating itself,
distanced from itself, intent on
understanding those terrible yet serene

forces that still fill it—aroma of April!
an armed youth for each blade of grass,
each a volunteer longing to die.
. . . . . . . . .
Good. I wake up and—for the first time
in my life—I want to take up arms.
Absurd to say it in poetry

—and to four friends from Rome, two from Parma
who will understand me in this nostalgia
ideally translated from the German, in this archeological

calm, which contemplates a sunny, depopulated
Italy, home of barbaric Partisans who descend
the Alps and Apennines, down the ancient roads...

My fury comes only at the dawn.
At noon I will be with my countrymen
at work, at meals, at reality, which raises

the flag, white today, of General Destinies.
And you, communists, my comrades/noncomrades,
shadows of comrades, estranged first cousins

lost in the present as well as the distant,
unimagined days of the future, you, nameless
fathers who have heard calls that

I thought were like mine, which
burn now like fires abandoned
on cold plains, along sleeping

rivers, on bomb-quarried mountains. . . .
. . . . . . . . .
I take upon myself all the blame (my old
vocation, unconfessed, easy work)
for our desperate weakness,

because of which millions of us,
all with a life in common, could not
persist to the end. It is over,

let us sing along, tralala: They are falling,
fewer and fewer, the last leaves of
the War and the martyred victory,

destroyed little by little by what
would become reality,
not only dear Reaction but also the birth of

beautiful social-democracy, tralala.

I take (with pleasure) on myself the guilt
for having left everything as it was:
for the defeat, for the distrust, for the dirty

hopes of the Bitter Years, tralla.
And I will take upon myself the tormenting
pain of the darkest nostalgia,

which summons up regretted things
with such truth as to almost
resurrect them or reconstruct the shattered

conditions that made them necessary (trallallallalla). . . .
. . . . . . . . .
Where have the weapons gone, peaceful
productive Italy, you who have no importance in the world?
In this servile tranquility, which justifies

yesterday’s boom, today’s bust—from the sublime
to the ridiculous—and in the most perfect solitude,
j’accuse! Not, calm down, the Government or the Latifundia

or the Monopolies—but rather their high priests,
Italy’s intellectuals, all of them,
even those who rightly call themselves

my good friends. These must have been the worst
years of their lives: for having accepted
a reality that did not exist. The result

of this conniving, of this embezzling of ideals,
is that the real reality now has no poets.
(I? I am desiccated, obsolete.)

Now that Togliatti has exited amid
the echoes from the last bloody strikes,
old, in the company of the prophets,
 
who, alas, were right—I dream of weapons
hidden in the mud, the elegiac mud
where children play and old fathers toil—

while from the gravestones melancholy falls,
the lists of names crack,
the doors of the tombs explode,

and the young corpses in the overcoats
they wore in those years, the loose-fitting
trousers, the military cap on their Partisan’s

hair, descend, along the walls
where the markets stand, down the paths
that join the town’s vegetable gardens

to the hillsides. They descend from their graves, young men
whose eyes hold something other than love:
a secret madness, of men who fight

as though called by a destiny different from their own.
With that secret that is no longer a secret,
they descend, silent, in the dawning sun,

and, though so close to death, theirs is the happy tread
of those who will journey far in the world.
But they are the inhabitants of the mountains, of the wild

shores of the Po, of the remotest places
on the coldest plains. What are they doing here?
They have come back, and no one can stop them. They do not hide

their weapons, which they hold without grief or joy,
and no one looks at them, as though blinded by shame
at that obscene flashing of guns, at that tread of vultures

which descend to their obscure duty in the sunlight.
. . . . . . . . .  

Who has the courage to tell them
that the ideal secretly burning in their eyes
is finished, belongs to another time, that the children

of their brothers have not fought for years,
and that a cruelly new history has produced
other ideals, quietly corrupting them?. . .

Rough like poor barbarians, they will touch
the new things that in these two decades human
cruelty has procured, things incapable of moving

those who seek justice. . . .

But let us celebrate, let us open the bottles
of the good wine of the Cooperative. . . .
To always new victories, and new Bastilles!

Rafosco, Bacò. . . .  Long life!
To your health, old friend! Strength, comrade!
And best wishes to the beautiful party!

From beyond the vineyards, from beyond the farm ponds
comes the sun: from the empty graves,
from the white gravestones, from that distant time.

But now that they are here, violent, absurd,
with the strange voices of emigrants,
hanged from lampposts, strangled by garrotes,

who will lead them in the new struggle?
Togliatti himself is finally old,
as he wanted to be all his life,

and he holds alarmed in his breast,
like a pope, all the love we have for him,
though stunted by epic affection,

loyalty that accepts even the most inhuman
fruit of a scorched lucidity, tenacious as a scabie.
“All politics is Realpolitik,” warring

soul, with your delicate anger!
You do not recognize a soul other than this one
which has all the prose of the clever man,

of the revolutionary devoted to the honest
common man (even the complicity
with the assassins of the Bitter Years grafted

onto protector classicism, which makes
the communist respectable): you do not recognize the heart
that becomes slave to its enemy, and goes

where the enemy goes, led by a history
that is the history of both, and makes them, deep down,
perversely, brothers; you do not recognize the fears

of a consciousness that, by struggling with the world,
shares the rules of the struggle over the centuries,
as through a pessimism into which hopes

drown to become more virile. Joyous
with a joy that knows no hidden agenda,
this army—blind in the blind

sunlight—of dead young men comes
and waits. If their father, their leader, absorbed
in a mysterious debate with Power and bound

by its dialectics, which history renews ceaselessly—
if he abandons them,
in the white mountains, on the serene plains,

little by little in the barbaric breasts
of the sons, hate becomes love of hate,
burning only in them, the few, the chosen.

Ah, Desperation that knows no laws!
Ah, Anarchy, free love
of Holiness, with your valiant songs!
. . . . . . . . .
I take also upon myself the guilt for trying
betraying, for struggling surrendering,
for accepting the good as the lesser evil,

symmetrical antinomies that I hold
in my fist like old habits. . . .
All the problems of man, with their awful statements

of ambiguity (the knot of solitudes
of the ego that feels itself dying
and does not want to come before God naked):

all this I take upon myself, so that I can understand,
from the inside, the fruit of this ambiguity:
a beloved man, in this uncalculated

April, from whom a thousand youths
fallen from the world beyond await, trusting, a sign
that has the force of a faith without pity,

to consecrate their humble rage.
Pining away within Nenni is the uncertainty
with which he re-entered the game, and the skillful

coherence, the accepted greatness,
with which he renounced epic affection,
though his soul could claim title

to it: and, exiting a Brechtian stage
into the shadows of the backstage,
where he learns new words for reality, the uncertain

hero breaks at great cost to himself the chain
that bound him, like an old idol, to the people,
giving a new grief to his old age.

The young Cervis, my brother Guido,
the young men of Reggio killed in 1960,
with their chaste and strong and faithful

eyes, source of the holy light,
look to him, and await his old words.
But, a hero by now divided, he lacks

by now a voice that touches the heart:
he appeals to the reason that is not reason,
to the sad sister of reason, which wants

to understand the reality within reality, with a passion
that refuses any extremism, any temerity.
What to say to them? That reality has a new tension,

which is what it is, and by now one has
no other course than to accept it. . . .
That the revolution becomes a desert

if it is always without victory. . . that it may not be
too late for those who want to win, but not with the violence
of the old, desperate weapons. . . .

That one must sacrifice coherence
to the incoherence of life, attempt a creator
dialogue, even if that goes against our conscience.

That the reality of even this small, stingy
State is greater than us, is always an awesome thing:
and one must be part of it, however bitter that is. . . .

But how do you expect them to be reasonable,
this band of anxious men who left—as
the songs say—home, bride,

life itself, specifically in the name of Reason?
. . . . . . . . .
But there may be a part of Nenni’s soul that wants
to say to these comrades—come from the world beyond,
in military clothes, with holes in the soles  

of their bourgeois shoes, and their youth
innocently thirsting for blood—
to shout: “Where are the weapons? Come on, let’s

go, get them, in the haystacks, in the earth,
don’t you see that nothing has changed?
Those who were weeping still weep.

Those of you who have pure and innocent hearts,
go and speak in the middle of the slums,
in the housing projects of the poor,

who behind their walls and their alleys
hide the shameful plague, the passivity of those
who know they are cut off from the days of the future.

Those of you who have a heart
devoted to accursèd lucidity,
go into the factories and schools

to remind the people that nothing in these years has
changed the quality of knowing, eternal pretext,
sweet and useless form of Power, never of truth.

Those of you who obey an honest
old imperative of religion
go among the children who grow
 
with hearts empty of real passion,
to remind them that the new evil
is still and always the division of the world. Finally,

those of you to whom a sad accident of birth
in families without hope gave the thick shoulders, the curly
hair of the criminal, dark cheekbones, eyes without pity—

go, to start with, to the Crespis, to the Agnellis,
to the Vallettas, to the potentates of the companies
that brought Europe to the shores of the Po:

and for each of them comes the hour that has no
equal to what they have and what they hate.
Those who have stolen from the common good

precious capital and whom no law can
punish, well, then, go and tie them up with the rope
of massacres. At the end of the Piazzale Loreto

there are still, repainted, a few
gas pumps, red in the quiet
sunlight of the springtime that returns

with its destiny: It is time to make it again a burial ground!”
. . . . . . . . .
They are leaving . . .  Help! They are turning away,
their backs beneath the heroic coats
of beggars and deserters. . . . How serene are

the mountains they return to, so lightly
the submachine guns tap their hips, to the tread
of the sun setting on the intact

forms of life, which has become what it was before
to its very depths.  Help, they are going away!—back to their
silent worlds in Marzabotto or Via Tasso. . . .

With the broken head, our head, humble
treasure of the family, big head of the second-born,
my brother resumes his bloody sleep, alone
 
among the dried leaves, in the serene
retreats of a wood in the pre-Alps, lost in
the golden peace of an interminable Sunday. . . .
. . . . . . . . .
And yet, this is a day of victory.

1964


Translation copyright © 1982, 2005 by Norman MacAfee
Copyright © 1964 by Aldo Garzanti Editore

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October 25, 2005

POLAND COULD LOSE E.U. VOING RIGHTS OVER NEW LEADERSHIP'S HOMOPHOBIA

Both the European Commission that runs the European Union and leaders of several Lech_kaczynski_2 party groups in the European legislature have warned the new Polish government of President Lech Kaczynski (left, in campaign billboard) that anti-homosexual initiatives and restoration of the death penalty could cost Poland its voting rights in the E.U., Tuesday's European papers report. But there's not a word of this in the U.S. press, even though the European dailies go to bed five to six hours earlier than their American counterparts.

Under the headline, "Polish Leader's Anti-Gay Stance Threatens E.U. Voting Rights,"  The Guardian's European editor, Nicholas Watt, reports today that,  "In a shot across the bows of arch-conservative Lech Kaczynski, the commission declared that all member states must abide by EU rules which protect minorities and block the death penalty..... 'We are going to follow the situation very attentively,' the principal commission spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said yesterday." Friso_roscam_abbing The Guardian goes on to write that "Friso Roscam Abbing, the European Commission's justice spokesman (left), warned the new president he must abide by article 6 of the Treaty of Nice, which says that all member states must protect minority rights and not impose the death penalty. A failure to comply could trigger article 7, which allows the EU to deprive a member state of voting rights. This allows voting rights to be withdrawn if a member state is in "serious breach" of its obligations on human rights."

And in The Independent today, a report from Brussels says that "Poland was given a blunt warning over its human rights obligations yesterday - after the election of a Martin_schultz_mep president who has sought to curb gay rights." The British paper quotes Martin Schultz (right), leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament and a member of Germany's SPD (Social Democrats), as saying that Kaczynski is "on probation", adding: "I hope the president will be a different kind of person to the [one we saw as] candidate."

Unfortunately, neither The Guardian nor The Independent (let alone Kazimierz_marcinkiewicz_2 the big American dailies) give any indication as to the substance of what the fuss is all about -- for that, you'd have to have been reading DIRELAND, whose East European expert, David Ost, has detailed the aggressive homophobia of not only newly-elected President Kaczynski, but of the Prime Minister-designate picked by the conservative parliamentary coalition Kaczynski leads, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (left), who says it is the responsibility of government to prevent gays from "infecting" others with homosexuality. For a more detailed look at the homophobia of Poland's new rulers (and their anti-Semitic alliances), click here.

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October 24, 2005

SECRET BRIT POLL SHOWS HUGE IRAQI OPPOSITION TO ANGL0-AMERICAN OCCUPATION

London's conservative Daily Telegraph yesterday published the stunning results of a Suicide_bombings secret poll, taken by the British Ministry of Defense, that shows Iraqis overwhelmingly opposed to the Anglo-American occupation of their country, with nearly half of Iraqis supporting suicide bombings against the occupier. Up to 65 per cent of Iraqis support suicide bombing attacks on occupying troops,  and "fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country," The Telegraph report on the poll says.  According to the Telegraph, the poll also shows:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

The opinion poll, carried out in August for the U.K.s Defense Ministry, also debunks claims by both the US and British governments that the general well-being of the average Iraqi is improving in post-Saddam Iraq. The Telegraph reports: "Immediately after the war the coalition embarked on a campaign of reconstruction in which it hoped to improve the electricity supply and the quality of drinking water.That appears to have failed, with the poll showing that 71 per cent of people rarely get safe clean water, 47 per cent never have enough electricity, 70 per cent say their sewerage system rarely works and 40 per cent of southern Iraqis are unemployed." To read the entire Telegraph report on the secret poll, click here.

ARAB WORLD'S FIRST GAY QUARTERLY: Barra, the first gay Barra_cover quarterly in the Arab world (cover at right), has been launched in Lebanon. It is sponsored by the four-year-old Lebanese gay group Helem, which says it "leads a peaceful struggle for the Helem_logo liberation of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Lebanon from all sorts of legal, social and cultural discrimination." The quarterly is published in Arabic, but has an English-language web-page, from which you can download its first issue and subsequent back issues by clicking here. The quarterly seeks and welcomes financial support.

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AFGHAN WOMEN'S MAG EDITOR JAILED FOR ARTICLES AGAINST STONING TO DEATH AND LASHING

The editor of a respected women's magazine in Afghanistan Afghanistan_flag_1 has been sentenced to two years in jail for "blasphemy" after the judge in the case was ordered to imprison the editor by the Ulama Council, the country's leading religious body which is dominated by conservative clerics, according to reports from the Associate Press and regional newspapers like the Pak Times.

The editor of Haqooq-i-Zan (Women's Rights),Ali_mohaqiqcnasab  Ali Mohaqiq Nasab (left) was arrested on Oct. 1 after he published articles in two issues of the magazine denouncing the law which makes leaving the Islamic religion a crime, punishable by stoning to death; he also criticized the practice of punishing adultery with 100 lashes, and argued that men and women should be considered by law to be equals. ("In some cases, the testimony of a female witness is considered to have only half the value of a male," the AP noted.) In other words, saying that men and women should be equal under the law  and that stoning to death is wrong are "blasphemous" statements for which one can be sent to the slammer for years.

Now, do you remember Laura Bush's "crusade" for women's rights in Afghanistan, which was part of the Bush administration's propaganda campaign to convince Americans the U.S. military invasion of the country was justified? Remember how the CIA's puppet choice for president of Afghanistan, the theatrically-dressed Hamid Karzai, was sent to sit Karzailaura next to Laura during the State of the Union (left) and, once elected President, how Karzai the "democrat" was applauded by both Houses of Congress (and both parties) when he spoke to them?

Well, guess who ordered editor Nasab (who is also an Islamic scholar) to be arrested? Why, the complaint was made by President Karzai's top adviser on religion, Mohaiuddin Baluch, says the Committee to Protect Journalists, citing a previous Baluch statement to the AP that, ""I took the two magazines and spoke to the Supreme Court chief, who wrote to attorney general to investigate."   And the presiding judge of Kabul's primary court, Ansarullah Malawizada, told the AP, "The Ulama Council sent us a letter saying that he should be punished so I sentenced him to two years' jail." So, here we have the spectacle, in what Bush & Co. insist on calling Afghanistan's "democracy," of a top aide to the president ordering a courageous editor put on trial for criticizing the barbaric policies of stoning and lashing, and  a judge acting on the orders of a group of reactionary clerics and sending the editor to jail because such articles were "blasphemous."

Remember all that Bush rejoicing when the Afghanis passed their new constitution? ItAmb_khalilzad_5  was drawn up with the help of then-US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad (right) -- now performing the same role in Iraq as the architect of its new Constitution. Well, the Khalilzad-sponsored Afghani Constitution's Article 31 makes it a crime to criticize Islam in any form, and that includes criticizing Islamic Sharia law. And it is under that dictatorial Article 31 that editor Nasab has been put behind bars.

Yes, Afghanistan is a great democracy, alright -- Bush TOLD us so...

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POLAND ELECTS A HOMOPHOBIC, HARD-RIGHT PRESIDENT

Kacsynski_postelection The results of Poland's presidential election yesterday are in, and the winner of a run-off between two rightists is Lech Kaczynski, leader of the reactionary Law and Justice Party, with a healthy 10-point victory over his rival.

In choosing Kaczynski (above left), the Poles have also elected a world-class homophobe. As East European expert David Ost wrote in his pre-election analysis for DIRELAND: Kacyzynski has pledged to purge the Polish polity of crooks, put more people in prison, write a new Constitution, and stigmatize gays. Indeed, one of Kaczynski’s best-known acts in recent years, as Mayor of Warsaw, has been his decision, two years in a row, to ban the Gay Pride Parade. Before that, as Minister of Justice in 2000, he presided over a big increase in the prison population. Father_tadeusz_rydzyk Policies such as these have won him the enthusiastic support of the extremist right-wing Catholic Radio Maria radio station and its influential, openly anti-Semitic leader, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk (left). With his lavish economic promises combined with his support for an active and repressive state, Kaczynski appears as a populist out of the past; many in the Polish press compare him to Argentina’s Peron.

That Kaczynski is already preparing to abandon the populist demagogy of his campaign's economic promises is made clear by his parliamentary coalition's decision to nameKazimierz_marcinkiewicz  Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as prime minister. Marcinkiewicz (right) sits squarely in the neoliberal-but-religious-fundamentalist camp, so fashionable lately in this era of "there is no alternative" globalization. (Religion, in this view, is supposed to assuage citizens while social welfare is cut.) A radical Catholic activist in the early 1990s, Marcinkiewicz is militant in his condemnation of homosexuality as "unnatural" behavior that the state must stop from "infecting" others .....You can read the rest of David Ost's informative analysis of Polish politics by clicking here.

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October 21, 2005

Urgent! NEW REPUBLICAN GAG RULE ON NON-PROFITS

The group OMB Gagged Watch has issued an urgent appeal about a new Republican gag rule restricting the ability of non-profit organizations to do voter registration or lobbying and advocacy for their constituencies . The bill is likely to be voted on by the House of Representatives next Wednesday, October 26. And a coalition of 60 national organizatons has sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert opposing the Gag Rule.

A provision to be introduced as a manager’s amendment to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) in the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act (H.R. 1461) would dramatically restrict nonprofit advocacy.  While it applies only to nonprofits seeking grants under a new Affordable Housing Fund (AHF), the provision sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the speech and association rights of all nonprofits.

Even non partisan activities are restricted under this Nonprofit Gag Provision, like voter registration. voter identification, and get-out-the vote activities. Also forbidden are: anything that “promotes,” “supports,” “attacks,” or “opposes” a candidate for federal office, which could be interpreted to include criticism of elected officials who may be seeking reelection;  broadcast of any ads – Gagged_2 public service announcements, grassroots issue advocacy, anything – that refer to federal candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary; or lobbying, except if the group is a 501(c)(3) organization it may lobby within permissible limits. Affiliation with any entity dthdat engagges in any of the aabove activities during the same time period -- 12 months before applying for a grant or during the grant period -- will also disqualify the grup from receiving money from the AHF.

This highly dangerous Republician initiative would sharply limit the ability of non-profit  organizations serving the poorest among us to speak up about the needs of these voiceless communities. AIDS service organizations that receive federal housing money for people with AIDS could be affected -- like the splendid New York-based Housing Works, which does a lot of lobbying and hosts the Campaign to End AIDS. And so could every affiliate of national lobbying coalitions like the Leadership Conference on Civil Rigfhts, or AIDS Action (as useless as many of us feel AIDS Action is, taking away funding from its affiliates would be a disaster for the AIDS community).

Joining OMB Watch in the appeal to stop this anti-civil libertarian gag rule were the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, and the National Council of NonProfit Organizations.

Time is extremely limited! Tell your representatives to let House leadership know that this provision should not come to the floor.  And if there is a vote on the provision, tell them to oppose the Nonprofit Gag Provision.

For more information on this horrible gag rule, click here.

Working with groups such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, whose members would be directly effected by the provision, OMB Watch has established, and will continually update, a one-stop resource center with analyses, statements, action alerts, and more.

Posted by Direland at 03:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

GERMANY'S BUNDESTAG BLOCKS LEFT PARTY

Lothar_bisky Deutsche Welle reports today that the German Bundestag (parliament) has blocked the chairman of the new Left Party (Linkspartei), Lothar Bisky (left), from one of the 6 Deputy Speaker posts to which the party is entitled by statute -- even though the Left Party won 54 seats in the Bundestag in the recent parliamentary elections, making it the fourth largest political formation in Germany.

"On Tuesday, despite repeated rounds of voting, Lothar Bisky, party chief of the Left Party, failed to garner enough votes from his fellow parliamentarians to be elected to one of six deputy speakers' posts. Initially, the success of the vote was seen as a Linkspartei_3 foregone conclusion as these posts are traditionally distributed evenly among the parliamentary parties.  But Bisky failed to secure an absolute majority of at least 308 votes in three rounds, leaving the Left Party in dismay and lending the first day of parliament some unexpected drama. The Left Party has expressed outrage, with parliamentary leader Dagmar Enkelmann calling the incident 'nasty and unparliamentarian,'" Deutsche Welle reported.

Gregor Gysi (right), one of the Left Party's two charismatifc leaders (the other being the Gregor_gysi_3 former chairman of the Social Democrats, Oskar Lafontaine) declared, "We're not going to drop Mr. Bisky now, and we'll have all the patience we need to see him through. We'll let parliament vote as long as it takes to elect Bisky as one of the deputies." The Left Party's exclusion from Otto_solms the Deputy Speakership was equally criticized by some on the right. "Deputy parliamentary speaker Hermann Otto Solms (left), from the free-market liberal Free Democrats, admits that he feels uneasy about the outcome of Tuesday's vote. He stressed that the Left Party is entitled to have a deputy speaker of its own, and the general suspicion surrounding this party should not play a role in the voting 'Our statute clearly defines that all political forces represented in parliament have the right to be represented in the presidium made up of the speakers,' he said.  'There are no two ways about it. At the same time the people elected into this presidium need to enjoy majority backing from the MPs.'"

For more details, read the whole Deutsche Welle report by clicking here. And for a scorecard explaining the players on the German political scene, see the prescient Der_spiegel_cover pre-election report by DIRELAND contributor Norman Birnbaum, the distinguished expert on European politics, on Germany's political crisis by clicking here......Also, the latest issue of Der Spiegel, the German equivalent of TIME magazine, has an interview with the new conservative Chancellor, Angela Merkel, which you can read -- in English -- by clicking here.

DID BUSH KNOW OF THE LEAK COVERUP IN THE PLAME CASE? My David_corn_1 friend David Corn (left), The Nation's D.C. correspondent, has an interesting item about this on his blog today: "In Wednesday's New York Daily News, Washington bureau chief Thomas DeFrank has an important story--but much of it is between the lines. DeFrank writes: An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News. 'He made his displeasure known to Karl,' a presidential counselor told The News. 'He made his life miserable about this.'....

"Waitaminute! Two years ago, the White House--via McClellan--Karl_rove_4 definitively declared that Rove (right) was not "involved" in the CIA leak. But if Bush at some point upbraided his guru about the leak that means (a) Bush knew that Rove was involved and (b) Bush countenanced McClellan's dissemination of a false cover story. This is evidence that Bush was a party to the attempted White House cover-up and that Bush might have directly lied about the issue....

"If DeFrank got this right, he has a bigger scoop than the paper seems to have realized. His article does not note that these accounts from White House aides indicate that Bush knew the White House had lied in its public statements about the leak scandal...." To read David's entire item, click here.....

IN A RELATED DEVELOPMENT, the good folks at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) today issued a statement denouncing the Society of Professional Fair_logo_1 Journalists for giving its coveted "First Amendment Award" to the New York Times' Judith Miller. Said FAIR: "By rewarding a reporter who was apparently collaborating with and protecting a powerful official in an effort to punish the free speech of a government critic, the SPJ is undermining, not advancing, the principles of the First Amendment....Miller is a reporter who violated the standards of professional journalism to work with a top White House official to get revenge on a government critic--and then declined to testify to protect him from the criminal consequences of his lies. This context has an obvious bearing on Miller’s qualifications for an award celebrating freedom of expression." FAIR's statement includes detailed documentation, including from the Times itself, for its charges, and you can -- and should -- read it all by clicking here.

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THE DISTURBING CASE OF TAYSIR ALLOUNI, THE AL-JAZEERA JOURNALIST JAILED IN SPAIN

In the new issue of the L.A. Weekly just out, my young friend Mehammed Amadeus Mack has a detailed look at the disturbing case of Taysir Allouni (left), the correspondent fTaysir_allounior Al-Jazeera who -- despite the fact that the court found he was not a member of Al Qaeda -- was last month sentenced to seven years in prison for collabortion with the terrorist organization. But of what did that supposed collaboration actually consist?

Mehammed Mack (right) unravels the awfully flimsy Mo_mack evidence with skill. He writes: "The case stemmed from a transaction Allouni carried out in 2000 with a businessman named Mohammed Bahaiah, a fellow Syrian and former neighbor of his in Spain, who had moved to Pakistan and developed business contacts with the Taliban. After selling his house and moving to the Middle East, Bahaiah asked Allouni to deliver the remaining $4,500 still owed him by the buyer of his house. Allouni paid Bahaiah out of his own pocket and was later reimbursed in Spain by the buyer. The Spanish judges saw the transfer as equivalent to material support for terrorism, since the money ended up in the hands of Bahaiah, whom they linked to al Qaeda. Allouni maintains that he delivered the money as a favor to someone who had provided him valuable knowledge about the Taliban.

"The case provoked a discussion about just how much is lost in translation when a foreigner’s way of doing journalism brushes up against the laws of his country of residence. During the trial, media outlets were abuzz with the same recurring question: Was Allouni an undercover al Qaeda sympathizer or just an ordinary reporter using unorthodox means to cover the Taliban? By his own testimony, Allouni was never aware that his reporting activities could be construed as criminal. His sentencing demonstrates that journalists living in countries, like Spain, with stringent anti-terror legislation are not free to exchange favors for journalistic access. Furthermore, the trial’s legacy could provoke new laws restricting journalistic freedom in Europe and abroad, with England and Australia now discussing draft proposals to govern journalists in the handling of terrorism cases...."

There's a great deal more to Mack's article -- including on what the Allouni case means for the future of journalistic freedom -- which you should read by clicking here. 

DID FOX NEWS OUT CONDI RICE? That's the question Rex Wockner asks in his amusing column for 365gay.com....

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