Luther in de DDR ~ Van reformator tot revolutionair

© wikimedia/cc
DDR-postzegels van Luther uit 1983

Hoe viert een socialistische regering een reformator die ze tientallen jaren heeft verketterd? De DDR deed daar in 1983 niet moeilijk over en propageerde van de ene op de andere dag een ‘marxistisch Lutherbeeld’.

Het jubileum van de Reformatie wordt in Duitsland in 2017 groot gevierd. Vanuit de hele wereld komen mensen naar Duitsland om te wandelen in de voetsporen van Maarten Luther: in Erfurt, waar hij studeerde, in Wittenberg, waar hij als theologieprofessor carrière maakte, of op de Wartburg bij Eisenach, waar de vervolgde reformator onder de schuilnaam ‘Junker Jörg’ de bijbel in het Duits vertaalde.

Het is niet de eerste keer in de Duitse naoorlogse geschiedenis dat er een jubileum aan de reformator wordt gewijd. Ook in 1983 was er een groot Lutherjaar – in de DDR. Achter het ijzeren gordijn werd de 500e verjaardag van de in 1483 geboren Luther uitgebreid gevierd met speciale kerkdiensten, grote bijeenkomsten en internationale hoogwaardigheidsbekleders.

Dat lijkt merkwaardig – religie gold in de Oost-Duitse arbeiders- en boerenstaat tenslotte als ‘opium voor het volk’, zoals Karl Marx het had geformuleerd, en er heerste een agressief atheïsme. Sinds de oprichting van de DDR in 1949 waren christenen tientallen jaren lang gediscrimineerd als “reactionair”. Het regime in Oost-Berlijn zette de kerken als “tegenstanders van de socialistische opbouw” voortdurend onder druk. De veiligheidsdienst de Stasi hield kerkgemeenten in de gaten en christenen die hun geloof openbaar beleden konden vaak geen carrière maken of mochten niet studeren.

‘Reactionaire knecht van de Duitse vorsten’
Maar in de jaren zeventig werd de situatie voor de kerken in de DDR beter. Dat kwam mede door de zelfmoord van de evangelische dominee Oskar Brüsewitz. In augustus 1976 demonstreerde hij in de Oost-Duitse stad Zeitz op straat tegen de onderdrukking van christenen door de staat. Hij overgoot zich met benzine en stak zichzelf aan. Later overleed hij aan zijn verwondingen.

Het ‘signaal van Zeitz’ dwong de Oost-Duitse regering haar starre houding aan te passen. Tijdens een topoverleg in 1978 werden DDR-leider Erich Honecker en de kerken het eens over een vreedzaam naast elkaar bestaan van kerk en staat. En ze besloten het naderende Lutherjaar groot te vieren. Voor de kerken was het jubileum een mogelijkheid zichzelf te profileren. De SED, de communistische partij die het in de DDR voor het zeggen had, hoopte op een verbetering van het DDR-imago in het buitenland – en op financieel gewin door deviezen uit het Westen, vooral van bezoekers uit de Verenigde Staten.

Er was alleen een probleem. Tot dan toe had de DDR-leiding Luther ideologisch bestreden. Socialistische scherpslijpers hadden de reformator als reactionaire “knecht” van de Duitse vorsten gebrandmerkt, omdat deze vorsten hem hadden beschermd toen hij zijn stellingen openbaar had gemaakt. Bovendien gold Luther in de DDR decennia lang als “doodgraver van de revolutie”, omdat hij zich openlijk tegen de opstandige boeren had uitgesproken.
Read more

Great Lakes Of Africa ~ From Problems To Solutions

“People are the problem, People are the solution” the keynote speaker’s concluding words at the first Great Lakes of Africa Conference held in Uganda in May 2017, generated a flurry of nods and agreements. Entebbe hosted over three hundred delegates at the shores of Lake Victoria, to discuss sustainable solutions for the pressing problems of the African Great Lakes. Spanning across 11 countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia), the African Great Lakes region is large and indispensable as it provides livelihoods to millions. It was interesting to see a variety of stakeholders, including government leaders, regional and basin authorities, inter-governmental organizations, development and funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, community groups and the private sector come together to discuss challenges and solutions for this special region. Presentations made by delegates resounded the problems of pollution, over extraction of natural resources, pressure on natural resources, changes in land use and need for further research in many areas. For me, it echoed some of my thoughts on what I have observed in the Lake Chilwa Basin in southern Malawi. Lake Chilwa, although a smaller lake compared to the giants such as Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, is very important for the millions that live in its basin. And indeed, I have also seen in the Lake Chilwa Basin that people are the cause of its problems and certainly, they are the solution too.

Why people are the problem comes to light when one looks at anthropogenic causes of Lake Basin changes. They include watershed deforestation causing sedimentation in lakes, over abstraction of water for irrigation leading to lowered water levels of lakes, poor solid and sewage waste management leading to eutrophication, use of toxic chemical for agriculture in lake basins and competing land uses leading to reduced land for conservation. Several examples were presented including the case of Kenya’s Lake Turkana which is renowned as the world’s largest desert lake. Hydropower development and large-scale irrigation plantations have depleted river inflow into the lake. As a result, the lake level has already fallen two metres, and the local fishing industry has taken a toll. It was chilling to hear at the conference that this lake has been likened to “an African Aral Sea in the making”. Nearby, at Lake Victoria, which employs over 1 million people, over the years, impacts of eutrophication and climate change, are threatening its critical ecosystem services. While, Lake Tanganyika has experienced various ecological changes including lake warming and heavy pressure on various fisheries resources. Lake Malawi is also no exception, where degraded habitats, declining fish stocks and agriculture runoff into the lake all threaten livelihoods of those depending on this lake. Almost all presenters accepted that rapid population growth in the region puts tremendous pressure on the natural resources in the ecosystems. Some called for an integrated approach, where women’s needs especially that of family planning should be considered and population numbers managed. Read more

Is Capitalism In Crisis? Latest Trends Of A System Run Amok

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Having survived the financial meltdown of 2008, corporate capitalism and the financial masters of the universe have made a triumphant return to their “business as usual” approach: They are now savoring a new era of wealth, even as the rest of the population continues to struggle with income stagnation, job insecurity and unemployment.
This travesty was made possible in large part by the massive US government bailout plan that essentially rescued major banks and financial institutions from bankruptcy with taxpayer money (the total commitment on the part of the government to the bank bailout plan was over $16 trillion). In the meantime, corporate capitalism has continued running recklessly to the precipice with regard to the environment, as profits take precedence not only over people but over the sustainability of the planet itself.
Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization.
Today, the question that should haunt progressive-minded and radical scholars and activists alike is whether capitalism itself is in crisis, given that the latest trends in the system are working perfectly well for global corporations and the rich, producing new levels of wealth and increasing inequality. For insights into the above questions, I interviewed David M. Kotz, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism (Harvard University Press, 2015).

C.J. Polychroniou: David, corporate capitalism and the masters of the universe have bounced back quite nicely from the global financial crisis of 2008. Is this an indication of the system’s resilience, or do we need to think about larger considerations, such as the trajectory of the class struggle in the contemporary world, the role of ideology and the power of the state?

David M. Kotz: The severe phase of the economic and financial crisis ended in the summer of 2009. By then the banks had been bailed out and the Great Recession ended, as production stopped falling and began to rise in North America and Europe. As you say, since then profits have recovered quite well. However, normal capitalist economic expansion has not resumed, but instead, global capitalism has been stuck in stagnation.

Stagnation means no economic growth or very slow economic growth. Stagnation has afflicted most of the developed countries since 2010, with some countries, such as Greece, still in a severe depression. US GDP growth has averaged only 2.1 percent per year since the bottom of the Great Recession in 2009. That is by far the slowest expansion following a recession since the end of World War II. Even mainstream economists, such as Lawrence Summers and Paul Krugman, have recognized that the economy is stuck in a severe stagnation.

In the US, the official unemployment rate has fallen to a low level, but that is due to millions of people being dropped from the official labor force as a result of giving up looking for work after finding none for a long period. Most of the new jobs pay low wages and provide little or no job security. Meanwhile, the rich continue to get still richer.

The long-lasting stagnation has brought stagnating wages and worsening job opportunities. This creates a severe problem for capitalism, even with rising corporate profits and growing wealth for the top 1 percent. This problem has an ideological and a political dimension. While capitalism always brings a high degree of inequality, it is tolerable for those holding the short end of the stick as long as living standards are rising and job opportunities are good for most people. A long period of stagnation delegitimizes the existing system. As growing numbers of people turn against “the system” and the elites who run it, a political crisis develops. The bourgeois democracy that normally acts to stabilize capitalism turns into a source of instability, as anti-establishment parties and candidates start winning elections. Read more

Roel Coutinho ~ Guinea-Bissau And Senegal 1973-1974

In 2016 professor Roel Coutinho (on Dutch wikipedia) MD donated 752 photographs and slides made by him in the course of his medical work in Guinea-Bissau and Senegal in 1973 and 1974, during the final year of the war of independence waged by the PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) resistance movement against Portugal. The digital images are located in Category:Guinea-Bissau and Senegal 1973-1974 (Coutinho Collection). The physical collection is part of the Library of the African Studies Centre, Leiden (the Netherlands).

The donation includes images of daily life, dance and parties, hospitals, further medical interest, PAIGC soldiers and weapons, open air people’s shops and schools, and pictures of the later first President (Luís Cabral) and later first Prime Minister (Francisco Mendes) of Guinea-Bissau. The metadata for this collection were collected and organised including captions in Portugese by Michele Portatadino, MA African Studies, Leiden University. The photographs were digitized by GMS Digitaliseert in Alblasserdam. Harro Westra did the technological set-up. Hans Muller finalised the upload to Wikimedia Commons using the GLAMwiki Toolset. The project was initiated by Jos Damen and sponsored by the African Studies Centre, Leiden University.

Imam takes care of a leper, Sara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed escort carries the wounded to the Senegalese border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pounding rice, Guinea-Bissau


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