Dutch painter Vermeer, new book


This 2001 video is called Vermeer: Master of Light (COMPLETE Documentary).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Saturday 18th March 2017

IN HIS relatively short life — he died in 1675 at the age of 43 — Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was unknown outside his native country and his name faded into obscurity after his death.

That changed in the mid-19th century, when his paintings of domestic interior scenes of middle-class life grew in popularity in Europe and, eventually, internationally.

Vermeer was not a prolific painter — only 34 canvases are directly attributed to him today — because he worked slowly and meticulously.

He was by no means wealthy and the pigments he used were expensive and this is possibly a reason why his works are few in number.

Almost all his paintings appear to be set in two rooms in his house and feature the same furniture and decorations and very often the same people, usually women.

Taschen publishers are noted for the quality of their art books and that is again in evidence in the newly and sumptuously produced Vermeer: The Complete Works (£25).

It draws on the complete catalogue of his output, with the images accompanied by a detailed and informative commentary.

The quality of the reproductions are such that Vermeer’s extraordinary representation of light shines through on every page and close-ups of selected canvases enhance one of the great pleasures of observing Vermeer’s work — constructing one’s own narrative about his subjects.

The book is a fitting tribute to a painter acknowledged as one of the greats of the Dutch “golden age.”

COMPETITION

Win a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works. The Morning Star has a copy of Vermeer: The Complete Works to give away as a prize. All you have to do is name Vermeer’s birthplace and send your answer on a postcard to Vermeer Competition, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS or by email to dawnpower@peoples-press.com. Please ensure you include your full name and address with your answer.

Closing date: Saturday March 25, 2017

Jörg Baberowski, German extreme right professor


This video says about itself:

National Geographic: Hitlers SS Death Squad Schutzstaffel

10 October 2015

An examination of Hitler‘s elite SS division that carried out mass murders in Ukraine and in Belarus, and engaged in other crimes against humanity.

By the International Youth and Students for Social Equality in Germany:

Stop the shift to the right at Humboldt University!

2 March 2017

A political conflict is evolving at Berlin’s Humboldt University, the significance of which reaches far beyond the university campus. Professor Jörg Baberowski, who regularly advances xenophobic, authoritarian and militarist positions in public, is going to court and mobilising right-wing students to suppress criticism of his far-right positions.

Should Baberowski succeed, it would represent a blow against freedom of opinion and a further step in the transformation of the Humboldt University into a centre of right-wing, militarist ideology. While Baberowski is using his position as head of the Department of Eastern European History to propagate far-right positions at the university and beyond, students who challenge his views would risk punishment and significant professional disadvantages.

The issue is not merely a dispute at Humboldt University, but involves fundamental political questions. Baberowski’s attacks on refugees and calls for a strong state are now official German policy. Refugees are being discriminated against and deported, the police and intelligence agencies strengthened, and the defence budget doubled. There are even public discussions about the reintroduction of military service and the need for Germany to acquire its own nuclear weapons.

Broad sections of the population oppose these developments. The realisation of such a programme would require, as in the 1930s, a dictatorship. This is why Baberowski speaks out in favour of a strong state, welcomes the election of Donald Trump, defends the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and praises the Nazi jurist and theoretician of the state of emergency, Carl Schmitt.

How Baberowski deals with critics

Last year, Baberowski secured a preliminary injunction against the Student Union (Asta) in Bremen, banning it from citing and criticizing some of his right-wing statements.

Last October the Asta in Bremen called for a peaceful protest against the appearance of the right-wing professor at the university, where he was due to speak at the invitation of the Association of Christian Democratic Students (RCDS) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The Asta cited comments by Baberowski on the refugee crisis and the “war on terror,” which they now cannot criticise or cite without risking a fine of up to €250,000. The Asta challenged this order, and the State Court in Cologne is due to rule on the case on March 15.

The action taken by the HU professor against the student representative body of another university has provoked outrage. The student parliament at Berlin’s Free University and the Assembly of Student Representative Councils (FRIV) at Humboldt University, along with other student bodies, registered protests. In Bremen, around 100 students took part in a solidarity meeting at which representatives of the IYSSE reported on the conflict with Baberowski in Berlin. The IYSSE organised a well-attended solidarity meeting addressed by representatives of the Bremen Asta at Humboldt University.

Baberowski responded to this wave of solidarity with heinous personal insults and threats directed against IYSSE members campaigning for solidarity with the Bremen students. At one of his lectures, he denounced the IYSSE, the Trotskyist youth organisation with four elected representatives on the student parliament, as a “Stalinist sect.” He accused the university management for being “cowards” because it allowed these “criminals” to act and do as they pleased. He called on his students, whose marks and career prospects depend on him, to act against the IYSSE.

An open letter is now circulating among right-wing students and ancillary staff at the institute of history addressed to the HU president, accusing the IYSSE of defaming and slandering Baberowski. It calls upon the university management to “prohibit” the IYSSE’s criticism. Management has so far remained silent about these incidents, even though the IYSSE has filed a complaint against Baberowski’s insults and threatening behaviour.

It is significant that neither Baberowski nor the students he has mobilised have uttered a word about the content of his right-wing positions. They are doing everything to silence criticism of Baberowski, but they are incapable of answering a single argument.

Yet there is no other professor who appears so frequently in the media or at public meetings and speaks so openly in favour of xenophobic, authoritarian and militarist positions. He does not even attempt to formally separate his role as a right-wing agitator from his teaching activities at the university. On his university web site, where academic publications are usually listed, he registers no less than 101 radio interviews, 39 television contributions, 32 newspaper articles and 148 essays, the vast majority of which deal with political topics.

Baberowski’s right-wing agitation

The list also includes the demagogic columns authored every month by Baberowski for the Basler Zeitung, owned by Swiss right-wing populist Christoph Blocher. The views promoted by Baberowski correspond with those advanced by Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon. It is no accident that the Breitbart News web site, which Bannon previously headed, repeatedly praised the “renowned professor” Baberowski for his agitation against refugees.

Like Trump and Bannon, Baberowski praises Brexit—“a democratic exclamation mark”—as a decision of the citizens of Britain “against the policy of open borders … which Chancellor Merkel wants to impose on Europe.”

Tirades against Merkel’s refugee policy alternate with calls for ruthless state violence against Islamic terrorism. “Indifference is just another word for cowardice,” he writes. “Whoever understands only the language of violence should feel it themselves.” Referring to politicians who called for prudence in the wake of the Berlin terrorist attack, Baberowski rails, “On the political stage, the song of self-disempowerment is being sung.”

He celebrates Trump’s election victory in the Basler Zeitung as a blow “against the culture of political correctness.” He defends the AfD against the “groundless accusation” that there were fascists among its parliamentary deputies.

Another recurring issue that recalls Trump and Bannon is Baberowski’s attacks on the media and established political parties. The professor, who enjoys access to a wide range of media channels and who ruthlessly attacks his critics, creates the impression that he lives in a dictatorship where opinions are suppressed. Commenting on criticism of Völkish-nationalist ideas and xenophobia, he wrote: “With a moral pistol, the safety catch off, the dictatorship of the politically correct compels citizens to say only what it wants to hear.”

At the height of the refugee crisis in October 2015, Baberowski raged in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung against the “virtue-mania” of the “authorities,” who excluded those opposed to refugees from the debate on immigration. “In the world of the moral righteous, into which Germany has been transformed by the mainstream media, prudence and reason have been outlawed. Whoever refers to healthy common sense risks exclusion and contempt. Whoever violates the limits of the republic of virtues is to be banished to darkest Germany.”

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Baberowski simultaneously played off socially disadvantaged sections of the population against refugees, in the style of the AfD or France’s National Front. “Why should an immigrant receive for free what those who live here have worked hard for decades to secure?” he asked. “Secretaries, construction workers, mothers who have little money available in their old age, hairdressers unable to afford a home because their wages are insufficient, do not understand why the social welfare net is there for those who have made no contribution to its financing.”

He ultimately drew on the arguments of cultural racism to justify his agitation against refugees. “The integration of several million people in a short time interrupts the continuity of our traditions, on which we base ourselves and which sustain a society and provide it with consistency,” he wrote.

There can be no doubt about the extreme right-wing character of Baberowski’s views. Even in the [right-wing] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jannis Panagotidis, Patrice Poutrous and Frank Wolff have criticised Baberowski for abandoning in his polemics “knowledge derived from historical migration research in favour of intervening in the debate as a ‘concerned citizen’ with pre-scientific professions of faith.”

In the taz newspaper, Daniel Bax accused “prominent publicists” of acting as “mouthpieces for right-wing and far-right circles,” and referred to Baberowski as an example. “Baberowski was invited to a CSU (Christian Social Union) meeting in Erding in early October,” he wrote. “But his theses are also shared by the NPD (a neofascist party).”

The fact that Baberowski advances far-right positions is recognized not only by his critics, but by the extreme right as well. Along with Breitbart News, the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer praised Baberowski for his agitation against refugees. In Germany, he is lauded for the same reason by the far-right newspaper Junge Freiheit and the fascist NPD.

Baberowski’s revision of history

There is a good reason why Baberowski does not separate his role as a right-wing agitator from his work as a historian. In his academic field, he also advocates far-right theses based on historical revisionism.

His work on Stalinist violence is motivated by his support for the work of Ernst Nolte, who downplayed the Nazis as an ultimately understandable reaction to Bolshevism. Although Stalin’s reign of terror in 1937 and 1938 was aimed above all against the leadership of the October Revolution, Baberowski persistently refused to acknowledge any break between the October Revolution and Stalinism. And although the mere accusation of Trotskyism amounted to a death sentence, he denies the fact that the Trotskyist Left Opposition waged an embittered struggle against Stalinism on the basis of a socialist and internationalist perspective.

In early 2014, Baberowski told Der Spiegel that he had already defended Nolte at the time of the Historikerstreit (Historians’ Dispute) when Baberowski was a student. “Nolte was done an injustice, historically speaking, he was right,” he added. As with Nolte, Baberowski’s writings are characterised by the downplaying of the crimes of the Nazis. He told Der Spiegel in the same interview, “Hitler was no psychopath, and he wasn’t vicious. He didn’t want people to talk about the extermination of the Jews at his table.”

In Baberowski’s books, there are many passages suggesting that the Nazis’ war in the east was not planned as a war of annihilation, but forced on the Wehrmacht by Stalin. This is also the case in his latest book, Räume der Gewalt (Spaces of Violence), which, in addition, virtually denies the Nazis’ anti-Semitic motives.

The word anti-Semitism does not appear once in the entire book, and the word “anti-Semites” only three times, and then only in a negative sense, as Alan Posener noted in [conservative daily] Die Welt. He cited Baberowski’s assertion regarding the paramilitary death squads of the SS, “Not even in the Einsatzgruppen were particularly motivated anti-Semites to be found,” before adding ironically, “They just murdered Jews.” Posener summed up his criticism by stating, “There was a time when such a dismissal of the role of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust would have been a scandal in Germany. The intellectual level of the country has degenerated to such an extent that Baberowski is being feted.”

Baberowski’s book on violence lacks even the most basic scientific method and serves to justify a right-wing policy of law-and-order. His theory of violence presents human beings as unalterable and violent, explains violence purely on the basis of the immediate situation and denies it has any relevant social or ideological causes.

According to his thesis, order can only be established by means of the force of the state and not through social progress. As he said at a panel discussion in Berlin, “All the money spent on social programmes to civilise people could just as well be tossed in the (river) Spree.” Instead, he called for a better equipping of the state to reinforce its monopoly on the use of force. These views also overlap with those of Bannon, who wants to “deconstruct” the welfare state and strengthen the police instead.

The ruling elite’s shift to the right

The aggressiveness with which Baberowski puts forward his right-wing positions and attacks his critics can only be understood in the context of the global shift to the right by the ruling elites in every country. They are responding to the global crisis of capitalism, which has further deepened since the 2008 economic crisis, as they did in the last century: with war and dictatorship.

The coming to office of Donald Trump, the most right-wing president in American history, has increased the danger that humanity will be wiped out in a nuclear war. Trump and his cabinet, made up of billionaires, generals and right-wing ideologues, have declared war on the American working class and the entire world.

The situation is no different in Germany and Europe. This is the reason why a right-wing professor like Baberowski encounters virtually no opposition in leading media and political circles, and is praised as a “renowned historian.”

As in the United States, the ruling elite is preparing for new wars. “In the coming years, Germany will face foreign policy and security challenges of which the country cannot even dream today, possibly not even in its worst nightmares.” Jan Techau, the director of a US think-tank in Berlin, wrote recently in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. According to Techau, Germans must therefore urgently be “forced to give up their neurotic desire for a morally clean foreign policy.”

Baberowski may be called far right, German court decides.

Jörg Baberowski: A right-wing extremist professor: here.

German daily reacts to Baberowski ruling with campaign of lies: here. And here.

Two weeks after the district court of Cologne decided on March 15 that the Asta (student government) of the University of Bremen is allowed to describe Jörg Baberowski as a right-wing extremist, the presidium of Humboldt University (HU) has thrown its weight behind the professor. It has declared that criticism of his positions is “unacceptable,” and is threatening critics of Baberowski with severe legal sanctions: here.

United States Daily Stormer nazis promote Baberowski

The United States Daily Stormer nazi site promotes Baberowski.

Anti-communist foundation backs extreme right-wing professor Baberowski: here.

Right-wing media and fascistic organizations are rushing to defend Humboldt University Professor Jörg Baberowski after the decision of the Cologne Regional Court that the Bremen University Students Union (Asta) is permitted to describe him as a “right-wing radical”: here.

In its latest edition, the German political weekly Die Zeit devotes an entire page to the dispute with Humboldt University Professor Jörg Baberowski, who, according to the recent ruling of a regional court in Cologne, can be described as a right-wing extremist: here.

The administrative presidium of Humboldt University has instructed security personnel to stop students from distributing leaflets opposing the institution’s declaration that public criticism of Professor Jörg Baberowski is “unacceptable”: here.

French historian arrested in the USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

October 5, 2015 a panel discussion Vichy France and the Jews, revisited: Robert Paxton in conversation with Henry Rousso and Phil Nord.

From France 24:

Renowned French historian detained for 10 hours by US customs officials

2017-02-26

A French historian was detained for 10 hours by US customs officials this week while on his way to an academic conference in Texas.

Henry Rousso, 62, a specialist in the history of World War II who has taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and Columbia University in New York, was held for questioning after his flight from Paris landed in Houston on Wednesday.

The Frenchman said on Twitter late on Saturday: “I confirm. I have been detained 10 hours at Houston Itl Airport about to be deported. The officer who arrested me was ‘inexperienced.”

Rousso was on his way to a Hagler Institute Symposium at Texas A&M University, local daily The Eagle reported.

While he was being detained Rousso called the university faculty who worked with immigration lawyer Fatma Marouf to help secure his release.

“When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out,” The Eagle reported Golsan as saying on Friday.

According to Golsan, customs officials said there was a “misunderstanding” regarding Rousso’s visa.

The Paris-based scholar is currently a senior researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, or CNRS), in Paris, one of France’s largest public research institutes. His work focuses on France in WWII and the post-war period, and he has spoken many times at the Texas A&M University on the French Vichy government during World War II and the Holocaust.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1954, but his family was expelled from Egypt in 1956.

From the Houston Chronicle in the USA:

A prominent Holocaust historian who was detained at George Bush Intercontinental Airport en route to speak at a Texas A&M University symposium last week, said Sunday that he might think twice before returning to the United States given the new climate surrounding immigration.

Professor Rousso on his arrest: here.

USA: Muhammad Ali’s son asked, ‘Are you Muslim?’ by border agents: here.

Bird paintings by Aert Schouman exhibited


This 17 February 2017 Dutch video is about an exhibition in Dordrecht of bird paintings by Aert Schouman (1710-1792).

Among his works are big oil paintings for the walls of Prince William V‘s palace in The Hague.

Now, these paintings are usually in Huis ten Bosch royal palace in The Hague. However, that palace is being reconstructed (which costs lots of taxpayers’ money). So, from now till September 2017, there is an exhibition of Schouman’s work in the Dordrechts Museum in Dordrecht.

Biologists have helped with this exhibition as the birds depicted are from many countries and Schouman often did not know which exact species he depicted.

Henry David Thoreau, United States environmentalist author bicentenary


Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an essayist, poet, philosopher, opponent of slavery, naturalist, and historian from the USA.

This video from the USA says about him:

31 May 2009

Henry David Thoreau sought the simple life in 1845 when he moved to the woods outside Boston to live on Walden Pond. We visit the remains of his home. …

In wildness is the preservation of the world,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in 1851 at a time when he was one of the few thinking about environmental conservation. Six years previous he had embarked on a now-famous experiment in simple living. He’d gone to the woods outside Boston to live in a 150-square-foot cabin to avoid living “what was not life”. …

He spent two years, two months and two days in his cabin at Walden Pond and in 1854, he published his reflections on life in the woods in the book Walden. The book is credited with helping to inspire environmental awareness. …

Due to his detailed observations of the natural world during his days at Walden, his work is now being used to help modern scientists study climate change.

When he died in 1862, the industrial revolution was just beginning to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. His recordings of when and where plants flowered in the area are now being studied to show patterns of climate change.

Conservation biologists reported in 2008 – based on Thoreau’s research- that common species are flowering 7 days earlier than they did during his day and 27% of the species he studied have disappeared (another 36% are endangered).

Henry David Thoreau did not only inspire environmentalism in the USA, but also in many other counties. This morning, Dutch Vroege Vogels radio said that without Thoreau, famous Naardermeer nature reserve would now be a landfill.

Thoreau was also a big influence on literature, both in the USA and elsewhere. Walden, the name of Thoreau’s cabin and book, became the name for the Walden utopian socialist community in the Gooi region as well; founded by Dutch poet Frederik van Eeden.

From the site of The Thoreau Society in the USA:

Thoreau Bicentennial Gathering: Celebrating the Life, Works, and Legacy of Henry David Thoreau

The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering & Bicentennial Celebration of
Thoreau’s Life, Works, and Legacy

July 11-16, 2017
Concord, Massachusetts

Be it life or death, we crave only reality.
Henry D. Thoreau

Film on 1871 Paris Commune reviewed


This video from London, England says about itself:

15 February 2017

The New Babylon is a 1929 Russian silent film about the 1871 Paris Commune. It was directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, with a musical score by Dmitri Shostakovich. Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, explains the importance of this film from a political and film history context.

Petitions in British history


This video from Wales says about itself:

Following the midday ‘Save Our Chartist Mural‘ demonstration in John Frost Square, Newport on 5th October 2013, some of the protesters returned at around 4pm to begin a march from the square to the Civic Centre. A petition signed by over 4200 people in the preceding months was received there by Councillor Charles Ferris on behalf of Newport City Council.

By Keith Flett in Britain:

Petitions can make a difference

Monday 6th February 2017

Petitions are often seen as the most low-key forms of protest, but history shows us that they can bring about political change, says KEITH FLETT

THE petition remains a device of political protest in 2017 perhaps partly because it can now be done online, a case in point being petitions to Parliament, rather than having to be done by signing in ink in person.

Of course the physical petition still exists and you can see people out on high streets asking people to sign for this or that important cause, against cuts, for better air quality and so on.

Politicians will tell you that some people will sign anything, and point to examples where people have signed petitions for and against similar matters.

Indeed this does occur and can be understood by the fact that some will sign to get rid of a persistent petitioner or to avoid an argument.

Through political history petitions have been bedevilled by this. The huge Chartist petitions for the vote in the 1840s were sometimes derided because obviously false names were included.

Yet the petition has remained a significant strategy of those pressing for political change, and this is perhaps the most interesting thing, part of what Charles Tilly called the repertoire of contention of politics since at least the 17th century.

The repertoire ranges from the petition, through to demonstrations, strikes and risings and examples of all of them are the stuff of recent political history.

However the petition has a specificity to it. The one perhaps most in the current mind is that calling on the government not to allow any visit Donald Trump makes to Britain to be a state occasion.

That gathered towards two million signatures in a few days, underlining the power of the online petition. It will, under current rules, now be debated in Parliament on February 20 and it will be accompanied by a protest outside the House of Commons.

There are campaigning organisations, such as 38 Degrees, whose central political focus is the petition. They see it as a way not only to influence opinion but also to mobilise active support for causes.

It is the petition plus physical protest that has most worried the authorities over the centuries, however.

In 1661, under the newly restored monarchy of Charles II, the Tumultuous Petitioning Act as passed. It was not repealed until 1986.

Parliament had been inundated by petitions relating to disputes over land confiscated under Cromwell from 1649 and then restored from 1660. The Act required any petition to Parliament to be agreed by justices of the peace before it could be presented.

The importance of the petition continued despite the 1661 Act primarily because it was one of the few legal ways of making a political protest.

Gatherings of more than 49 people for the purpose of considering political change required permission under various Seditious Meetings Acts, passed from 1795 onwards and again only repealed in 1986. One way around this was to demonstrate in support of a petition that was to be delivered to Parliament.

The Chartist petitions for adult male suffrage in 1839, 1842 and 1848 are probably the most well-known examples of the use of the petitioning strategy.

The final Chartist petition was to be presented to Parliament on Monday April 10 1848. Gathering in Kennington Common, the Chartists planned a mass march to the Commons with the petition.

The authorities had other ideas and the army was called out to prevent the procession from crossing over the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge.

It is an example of how a petition, often seen as the most low-key campaigning tool, can make a real impact. Theresa May and Donald Trump, beware.