Pro-peace views illegal in Germany?


This video is about a Japanese government politician, Taro Aso, who said Japan should follow Nazi Germany’s example to revive militarism.

By Christoph Dreier in Germany:

German politicians, media seek to criminalize opponents of war

30 June 2014

In recent months, President Joachim Gauck has been calling quite openly for a more robust German military presence in the world. This attempted revival of German militarism has been decisively rejected by a majority of the population. Politicians, the media and the public prosecution department are now organizing a campaign against opponents of war and preparing to launch criminal proceedings against them.

In line with this, the Facebook posting of a hitherto largely unknown Left Party politician has recently come under attack. Last Monday, 28-year-old Brandenburg state parliament deputy Norbert Müller referred to criticism of Gauck’s war policies made by a number of church pastors, and wrote on his Facebook page: “Some remain true [to their faith]. Others become federal presidents and obnoxious warmongers.”

The posting was seized upon by numerous media outlets and condemned for “defaming the president”. Such a denigration is a criminal offence in Germany, which—under Section 90 of the Criminal Code and on authorization of the federal president—can be punished with imprisonment for a term of between three months and five years. A spokesman for the Potsdam public prosecutor told Spiegel Online that the authorities were reviewing the case. On Wednesday, Gauck then sent word that he had not authorised the prosecutor to initiate proceedings.

On the same day, deputies of the Christian Democratic Union [CDU], Christian Social Union [CSU] and Social Democratic Party [SPD] tabled the Facebook posting as a topic for general debate in the Bundestag [federal parliament]. They also called on Left Party faction leader Gregor Gysi to state his position on the matter.

The faction leader of the SPD, Thomas Oppermann, called Müller’s remark an “incredibly abusive piece of criticism” and accused Gysi of being personally responsible. His “incredible blunder” arose from his “demagogic twisting of the president’s words”, according to Oppermann, and he concluded by associating the Left Party with the National Socialists. The SPD was taking Müller’s criticism seriously, “because that was the strategy the Nazis used against President Ebert in the Weimar Republic”, Oppermann said.

Gysi responded by distancing himself from Müller. Müller had “expressed himself incorrectly”, he said, and Gauck was not an “obnoxious warmonger”. “No party can be responsible for what every one of its members ever says,” Gysi declared. Left Party leader Bernd Riexinger also distanced himself from Müller, declaring that the current debate on war missions had to “be conducted completely objectively and with due respect for the dignity of the [president’s] office.”

The threats against Müller are instead being used to intimidate and criminalize all genuine opponents of war. It is an irrefutable fact that the president has for months been systematically promoting more vigorous international commitment on the part of Germany, explicitly including the use of military power.

Having calculated the probable media response, Gauck had expressed a similar view on the Day of German Unity in 2013 and at the Munich Security Conference at the beginning of the year. He declared in Munich that Germany was regarded internationally as a “shirker”, and it therefore had to be prepared to take more risks. Both speeches had been carefully prepared and coordinated with the federal government.

In the last 15 years, Germany has been involved in the wars against Serbia and Afghanistan, and it also provided the US with logistical support in the war against Iraq. The federal government co-sponsored the coup d’état in Ukraine, which was crucially supported by the brutality of the Svoboda and Right Sector fascists. Both the Serbian and Iraq wars were pursued without the legitimacy of the United Nations and were therefore in breach of international law, according to current legal norms. One would therefore have to ask whether Gauck, who is advocating more robust military engagement, is himself breaking the law.

The idea of exploiting the legal clause proscribing “defamation of the federal president”, in order to persecute opponents of war, continues established traditions in Germany.

The law of lèse majesté (insulting majesty) was used during the Wilhelmine Empire to intimidate opponents of rearmament. Between 1896 and 1907 alone, the Vorwärts social democratic newspaper documented 907 convictions under this law. A prominent example was the socialist and anti-war activist, Rosa Luxemburg, who was imprisoned in 1904 for accusing the emperor of incompetence.

After 1908, the clause on lèse majesté faded into the background. However, similar clauses relating to personal convictions were used to incarcerate pacifists and anti-war protesters. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Luxemburg was again imprisoned. This time she was charged with “incitement to disobey laws and ordinances of the authorities”. She had called for the exercise of conscientious objection.

With the revolution of 1918, the legislation limiting rights to contentious personal views was initially abolished. However, when Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau was assassinated by the far right in June 1922, the SPD, Independent Social Democratic Party [USPD], Catholic Centre Party and German People’s Party [DVP] passed the Law for the Defence of the Republic, which made denigration of the Republic, and its president, a punishable offence.

But this law was not applied against the extreme right. Instead, it was used as a political weapon against the Communist Party [KPD] and other left-wing groups. In 1924, two-thirds of convictions relating to the Law for the Defence of the Republic were handed out to Communists; in 1925 and 1926, all such convictions were. In 1925 alone, as many as 269 Communists were sentenced under this act.

When social contradictions intensified and rearmament was stepped up, the sentences meted out by the political justice system became even more savage. One well-known victim was the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who in 1931 was sentenced to 18 months in prison because he had written an article exposing the illegal rearmament of the Reichswehr [armed forces of the Weimar Republic]. Not long after his release, which came shortly before Hitler came to power, the Nazis threw Ossietzky into a concentration camp. He died as a result of the abuse he suffered there.

After the war, Section 90 of the Criminal Code, which makes “defamation of the federal president” a punishable offence, was adopted as one of the superseding clauses of the Law for the Defence of the Republic. Presidents Theodor Heuss and Heinrich Lübke used it primarily to combat critics who tried to expose their role in the Third Reich. In the last 20 years, the clause has hardly ever been used.

Whenever German imperialism returns to preparation for war, legislation limiting the right to personal political views also makes a return. The fact that the prosecution of opponents of war is being openly discussed in parliament and the media is a serious warning for the population.

Archbishop dismissed for sexual abuse


This video is called Vatican tribunal convicts former envoy of sex abuse.

From Associated Press:

Jozef Wesolowski, Vatican Ex-Ambassador, Convicted Of Sex Abuse

By Nicole Winfield

Posted: 06/27/2014 9:26 am EDT Updated: 2 hours ago

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican‘s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been convicted by a church tribunal of sex abuse and has been defrocked, the first such sentence handed down against a top papal representative.

The Vatican said Friday that Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski was found guilty by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in recent days, and sentenced to the harshest penalty possible against a cleric: laicization, meaning he can no longer perform priestly duties or present himself as a priest.

Wesolowski has two months to appeal. He also faces other charges by the criminal tribunal of Vatican City, since as a papal diplomat he is a citizen of the tiny city state.

The Holy See recalled the Polish-born Wesolowski on Aug. 21, 2013, and relieved him of his job after the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, told Pope Francis about rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican authorities subsequently opened an investigation, but haven’t charged him. Poland, too, opened an investigation into Wesolowski and a friend and fellow Polish priest.

Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for alleged sex abuse, and his case raised questions about whether the Vatican, by removing him from Dominican jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations ahead of that of authorities in the Caribbean nation.

The Vatican has never said how Wesolowski responded to the charges and hasn’t provided any contact information for his lawyer.

The case is particularly problematic for the Vatican since Wesolowski was a representative of the pope, accused of grave crimes that the Holy See has previously sought to distance itself from by blaming the worldwide sex abuse scandal on wayward priests and their bishops who failed to discipline them, not Vatican officials.

The case has also been delicate because Wesolowski was both ordained a priest and bishop by his Polish countryman and former pope, St. John Paul II.

Portuguese-Jewish-Dutch philosopher Spinoza


This video says about itself:

Spinoza

4 February 2009

Roundtable discussion with Akeel Bilgrami, Jonathan Israel, Steven Nadler, Joel Whitebook, and Catherine Wilson.

By Derek Wall in Britain:

Critical thinking: On the importance of reading Spinoza

Thursday 26th June 2014

The foundations of free-thinking and modern secular societies were laid down by a fearless Dutch philosopher who used logic to dismantle prejudice, writes DEREK WALL

I must admit that I am somewhat mystified by my favourite philosopher. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), a Dutchman and member of the Jewish community excommunicated for unknown transgressions, is increasingly in fashion. However, he is far from readable and easily misunderstood.

I think that for a whole number of reasons his ideas are hugely inspiring especially for those of us on the left and in particular to members of the Green Party like me.

He is notoriously difficult to read and many recent authors who have looked at his work, in my opinion, obscure rather than enlighten.

Today he is seen as a prophet of radical green politics and as the most important philosopher to challenge religion and superstition.

Steven Nadler’s recently published A Book Forged In Hell is a clear and fascinating guide to Spinoza’s most controversial work — the Theological-Political Treatise. The very title of the treatise shouts out dullness and obscurity but as Nadler recounts its effect when it was first published in 1670 was explosive.

It is a materialist guide to religion that shocked the Dutch authorities.

Nadler’s book is a biography of the treatise and very much a page turner, a philosophical and political thriller, which demands to be bought, read and shared.

Spinoza was a political thinker inspired by the Dutch republic and the need to create a real democracy, which put the people — described by him as “the multitude” — in charge.

While he feared that the multitude might be manipulated by an elite, he has been seen as a radical democrat or even an early communist because of his opposition to hierarchy.

In 21st century terms he would have supported the 99 per cent and challenged the elite. He argued that God and nature, in Latin “Deus sive Natura,” were the same.

He was a materialist and felt that it was wrong to see humanity as separate from the rest of nature, or to see reality divided into “spirit” and “matter.”

So his connection to green politics is obvious. If we are part of nature, we should respect nature. Animal welfare has a strong foundation in his thinking because, while we are different from other species, we and they are part of a common substance.

Georgi Plekhanov described Spinoza as “Marx without the beard.” While I think this is a massive over simplification, Engels famously noted that Spinoza’s materialist outlook was consistent with a Marxist philosophy noting: “Old Spinoza was quite right.”

Marx read the Theological-Political Treatise and made detailed notes on it as part of his preparation for his PhD on philosophy.

Warren Montag has produced a very readable Marxist perspective of Spinoza’s ideas in his book Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza And His Contemporaries.

Nadler’s book focuses more on Spinoza’s views of religion which I find fascinating.

It’s fair to say that I am so taken with Spinoza’s views on religion that whenever I see a group of Jehovah Witnesses I can hardly contain my urge to proclaim the good news to them.

Whether you class him as an atheist, pantheist or believer in the god of the Bible, there is no doubt that he shook things up quite dramatically.

Spinoza was alarmed that religion in the Dutch republic was used to suppress free thought, with various churches and sects denouncing nonconformists.

Religion for Spinoza was intrinsically political, often used as a means of social control, but it could instead be used to promote mutual love and the common good.

Free thinking was only possible if the social control element of religion — based on empty rituals and irrelevant dogmatism — was exposed and rejected.

The treatise is an examination of the Bible that rejects all elements of superstition because superstition is a means of social control.

It is almost as if he went through the Old Testament with a black marker pen, crossing out anything that he saw as false.

Spinoza rejected Genesis — God was timeless and identical with nature, so the idea of a creation story, where God creates the universe is obviously theologically untenable.

Spinoza rejected the concept of miracles — why would God suspend rules of nature and perform tricks. This was undignified and profoundly irreligious.

Moses could not have written about his own death, so the belief that he wrote the first books of the Old Testament was false argued Spinoza. And on, and on — any suggestion that prophets had special insights or God acted, or appeared like a human being, was also crossed out from Spinoza’s Bible.

He seemed to have run out of energy, or at least marker pens, by the New Testament where considerably less is crossed out, although the various miracles performed by Jesus were of course binned.

Spinoza’s materialist and critical reading of the Bible has been seen as paving the way for a secular society.

He argued that the Bible was not the direct word of God but the work of human authors in a given historical context. If they distorted the true religion in their confusion, it was sacrilege not to throw their words away or reread them in the light of reason.

Nadler’s book shows how Spinoza’s critical reading of the Bible contributed to the creation of free-thinking, secular societies.

He argues that in creating the modern world, which values science and reason, Spinoza’s treatise was a vital text.

From religious tolerance to sexual freedom, Spinoza paved the way by criticising superstition and irrationality founded on the Bible.

Nadler also shows that Spinoza’s book created panic and provoked hatred, even in the relatively tolerant Dutch republic.

The treatise was condemned in the words of Nadler’s book title as A book Forged In Hell.

Spinoza was condemned, in contradictory fashion, as both a Jew and an atheist.

The book was banned and became subject to a trans-European hate campaign. Nonetheless in the longer term, Nadler argues, the treatise changed everything.

Spinoza rejected the label atheist, arguing that religion, politics and science, could be brought together, although personal belief and personal freedom to pursue philosophical enquiry were vital.

For him, once the constructed historical nature of the Bible was understood, the true religion could be pursued.

So what did Spinoza recognise as the true religion, once everything else has been stripped from the Bible? He argued simply that true religion was based on obedience to a simple moral principle of mutual love.

While there are always likely to be intense theological debates, the truth of religion is simple for Spinoza — if it promotes mutual love it is true, if it promotes hatred and repression it is false.

I think this formulation has implications for politics too.

Whatever its origin, politics that promotes human cooperation and trust is right, if it promotes inequality, elite rule and intolerance is wrong.

Spinoza can be criticised in various ways but he is a key inspiration for both socialist and ecological politics and should not be forgotten.

In his day — as Nadler reminds us — he upset people. The Calvinist Synod condemned the treatise as “spawned in Hell by a renegade Jew and the Devil.”

While his writing, inspired by Descartes’s geometric method, is tough and often uninspiring, the effects of his words make Spinoza continually worth re-reading.

Derek Wall is international coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Greek news update again


This video from Greece is called Thessaloniki Gay Pride Parade 2014.

From Greece, there is not only news about Golden Dawn nazis.

A report by parodiederutopie of the Thessaloniki Pride held in the city on June 20 – 21 2014:

Taking into account the increased vote in favour of the Golden Dawn Nazis as well as the overall extreme-right shift in Greece, the mere election of a progressive mayor in Thessaloniki could not guarantee a successful Pride. Fortunately, this was not the case and thousands  of LGBT people crowded the streets of the city, offering a spirited reply to mainstream society and its fascist, racist and homophobic majority.

The internationalist solidarity between gay and transgender people across the Balkans, the radical content of the speeches offered as well as the most anticipated parade of the sexual and gender diversities suppressed in Greece by phobic attitudes, fascist attacks, governmental policies and the police brutality, offered a major political event for public expression and human rights demonstration. Among the several events organized prior or during the Thessaloniki Pride, we should especially mention the pink triangular memorial wreath offered in front of the Jewish Holocaust Memorial.

Thessaloniki’s bishop condemns homosexuality as ‘perversion of human existence’: here.

Arrests of anarchists near Greek Prime Ninister’s house: here.

28/6/2014: In prisons all over Greece, detainees are intensifying their protests against the introduction of a new bill by the Ministry of Justice, which proposes the creation of high security prisons. Since last Monday, more than four thousand prisoners have gone on hunger strike and the number is rising by the day, in what is the largest mass hunger strike to day. ‘Hunger strike is the ultimate tool to express opposition, but it also manifests accurately our desperation’ the detainees said to ‘Sunday Ethnos’, who also expressed their determination to see their cause to the end, while some of them, mainly immigrants, went to the extreme of sewing their lips: here.

Mormons excommunicate women’s rights campaigner


This video from the USA is called Mormon Women: KATE KELLY, ORDAIN WOMEN standing for truth they desire to receive.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Mormon church excommunicates women’s rights campaigner

Tuesday 24th June 2014

THE US Mormon church excommunicated Kate Kelly, the founder of a prominent church women’s pressure group, yesterday.

The rare measure brings down the harshest punishment available on Ms Kelly, whose only crime was creating an organisation and staging demonstrations calling for women to be allowed to join the priesthood.

Kelly’s former church leaders in Virginia notified her by email after holding a disciplinary hearing on Sunday.

They found her guilty of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

Ms Kelly’s group, Ordain Women, announced the decision and released excerpts from the letter she received.

After a year, they will consider allowing her back, but only if she displays “true repentance” and shows she has “stopped teachings and actions that undermine the church, its leaders and the doctrine of the priesthood.”

Ordain Women spokeswoman Debra Jenson said the group was saddened but will continue to fight on.

Mormon Church Hasn’t Budged on Gender Roles in 40 Years: here.

US Tea Party politician praises stoning gays


This video from the USA is called GOP Candidate Scott Esk: Let Cities Decide Whether Gays Should Be Stoned To Death.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Oklahoma Tea Party candidate claims: ‘Stoning gays was a law that came direct from God’

Facebook post quoted biblical verse sanctioning the execution of homosexuals

Tim Walker, Los Angeles

Thursday 12 June 2014

A Tea Party candidate running for office in Oklahoma has appeared to endorse the practice of stoning gay people to death.

Last year, Scott Esk, who is in the race to represent the 91st district in the State House, responded to a friend’s Facebook post about the Pope’s stance on gay people by copying and pasting Bible verses including Leviticus 20:13, which describes homosexuality as “detestable” and demands gay people be “put to death”.

When asked by another Facebook user whether he supported executing homosexuals by stoning, Mr Esk replied: “That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realise, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”

This week, the Oklahoma magazine Moore Monthly uncovered the posts from 2013, and invited Mr Esk to clarify his position. Stoning gay people, Mr Esk said in a phone interview, was “done in the Old Testament under a law that came directly from God” he said, adding: “And in that time there it was totally just. It came directly from God.

“I have no plans to reinstitute that in Oklahoma law. I do have some very huge moral misgivings about those kinds of sins.”

Mr Esk continued: “I know what was done in the Old Testament and what was done back then was what’s just… And I do stand for Biblical morality.”

While Oklahoma is a largely conservative state, Rob Morris, the publisher of Moore Monthly, said he had never met any other Oklahomans who held views comparable to Mr Esk’s.

“Even people that don’t agree with things like gay marriage… nobody wants the death penalty for gays,” Mr Moore told RawStory.com.

Oklahoma introduced a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. The law was overturned in January 2014 by a federal judge in Tulsa, who declared the ban unconstitutional. His decision was stayed, pending an appeal. Earlier this year one Oklahoma Republican, state Representative Mike Turner, suggested the state do away with all marriages, including heterosexual marriages, saying it was the only way to keep same-sex marriage illegal while also upholding the US Constitution.

Though there is no recent polling readily available on the level of support for same-sex marriage in the state, The Atlantic magazine has estimated, based on existing data that, in 2012, 35 per cent of Oklahomans supported same-sex marriage.

See also here.