Monday, 29 June 2009

Stephen Gowans - A Different Voice

I discovered Stephen Gowans's blog, What's Left, around two years ago. I consider it to be an extremely interesting blog that dares to challenge many of the dominant ideas that are broadcast by various pro-capitalist TV channels in the Western world. Furthermore, his posts are usually backed by extensive research.

Sadly, the views of bloggers such as Stephen Gowans do not seem to attract much attention. This could be due to the fact that when one does not have the sort of capital that various TV news channels have, it is extremely difficult to make oneself heard.

Earlier on today, I came across an article that he had written in April 2009. Although the article focused on Cuba, I was struck by the last part of the post. Talking about former East Germany, Gowans stated that "After experiencing two decades of a resurrected capitalism, half of East Germans want to return to what they had before. Reuters, hardly known for promoting socialism, revealed that a public opinion poll had found that 52 percent of East Germans had no confidence in capitalism, and most of them wanted to return to a socialist economy." A 46-year-old IT worker from East Berlin said, "We read about the ‘horrors of capitalism’ in school. They really got that right. Karl Marx was spot on. I had a pretty good life before the Wall fell. No one worried about money because money didn’t really matter. You had a job even if you didn’t want one. The communist idea wasn’t all that bad."

Taking a look at the comments that were left regarding the aforementioned post, I was struck by the first one. More specifically, one of the readers wrote the following:

"I was born in an Eastern European country which was formerly communist. My Dad did not have much love for that system, but even he admitted that there were good things about it.

1. Paid vacations for all. There were government resorts where you paid a pittance to go with your family and not have to worry about being broke after coming back.

2. Free health care. When there was a public health risk because of a disease, ie flu, the authorities immediately setup mobile vaccination units and told people to immediately get vaccinated. If you did not, they came to your house and made sure you got one (for free, of course)

3. You always had a job and when you got old, you were guaranteed a pension and could live out the rest of your days in peace.

4. It was against the law to be unemployed. If someone did not want to work, and they were healthy, the government found a job for you.

5. Public order and a very low crime rate.

This author is right about the fact that socialist countries may not have offered the high end luxuries that capitalist countries offered, but in a socialist country everyone was guaranteed a safe life with all the basics taken care of.
Many people there would like to go back to the old socialist system.
The world has two choices: luxuries and high tech toys in a capitalist system, or do without them but have all the basics taken care of in a socialist system.
It’s really a trade-off."

Using a Marxist-Leninist analysis of current events, I believe that Stephen Gowans does a great job when discussing the nature of journalism. Many people hardly ever seem to pause to question certain features on TV or to go beyond what is written in a newspaper article. Gowans, on the other hand, stimulates the reader to ask a number of very important questions pertaining to the media: who is writing an article? What is that journalist's socio-political background? What message are they trying to convey via a specific article? What issues might have been brushed aside for fear that they could challenge the points raised in the article? Focusing on the two US journalists who were recently tried and convicted in North Korea, Gowans wrote the following:

"Are Ling and Lee politically neutral? No journalist, no matter how hard she strives to be impartial, is free from class or national allegiances. As journalists employed by capitalists based in the dominant imperialist power, it is inevitable their reporting on north Korea would have had a decidedly pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist tilt, at odds with north Korea’s interests. Ling and Lee are every bit as much warriors in the struggle between Washington and Pyongyang over the question of whether the whole of the Korean peninsula will be dominated by US geopolitical interests as US military and intelligence personnel and Washington decision-makers are. Their battlefield, while it may not be one of missiles and artillery, is people’s minds, and is every bit as important. Ling and Lee are not innocent, politically neutrally journalists, who accidentally stumbled across the north Korean border. They are promoters of an imperialist ideology who almost certainly intruded illegally on north Korea with unfriendly intentions. The evidence suggests they are guilty as charged."

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