Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Monday, July 27, 2015

Citizenship Issues Ruined a West African Country

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

The issues revolving around migration and citizenship eligibility continue to roil the political waters in both Europe and the United States, as desperate people cross the Mediterranean and the Rio Grande River, seeking better opportunities.

But similar concerns have also been politically deadly in non-western states. In the case of the west African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, it led to civil war and the near-breakup of the country.

A former French colony, Côte d’Ivoire achieved independence, along with the rest of French West and Equatorial Africa, in 1960. Its 20 million people belong to more than 60 ethnic groups, with the Baoulé, at 20 per cent, the largest.

The country’s first president was Félix Houphouet-Boigny, who ruled until his death in 1993. His political vehicle, the Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), went virtually unchallenged.

Côte d’Ivoire prospered economically. This success became known as the “Ivorian miracle” and was due to a combination of sound planning, the maintenance of strong ties with France – the president was a devout Roman Catholic who built the world’s largest church in his new capital of Yamoussoukro -- and development of the country’s significant coffee and cocoa industries.

Houphouet-Boigny’s ethnic group, the Baoulé, became widespread throughout the country, being the most numerous planters of cocoa, rubber, and coffee; they sometimes came to outnumber local native ethnic groups.

As well, given the need for labour to work in agriculture, northerners, mostly Muslims, began to migrate into Côte d’Ivoire from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso.

As long as prosperity was the norm, this wasn’t much of an issue. But in the 1990s the country began to unravel, racked by economic crisis as prices for cocoa and coffee declined, and ethno-regional tensions rooted in issues of identity and citizenship increased.

Also, the democratization process opened up a new way to attain power – but since only nationals could exercise political rights, citizenship became important.

The ideology of “Ivorité,” based on aboriginality, began to be used against people whose ancestors were not native to the country, despite being born there. In contrast to the increasingly Muslim and immigrant north, the predominantly Christian south increasingly came to define itself as the indigenous group.

Houphouet-Boigny’s successor, Henri Konan Bédié, also a Catholic Baoulé, prevented a northern Muslim, Alassane Ouattara, a member of the Dioula people and leader of the Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR), from contesting the presidency in 1995, claiming that his parents had been born in Burkina Faso.

Many northerners were blocked from voting and were increasingly subject to attacks, particularly in the south. Other politicians boycotted the election, which Bédié won with 96 per cent of the vote.

In advance of the 2000 election, Bédié’s supporters continued harassing people they considered non-indigenous, driving them from land in the south. Both Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo, a Catholic Bété politician and leader of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), were determined to unseat him.

Before that could happen, however, a military coup, led by a northern Muslim of the Yakouba ethnic group, General Robert Guei, seized power in 1999. In the ensuing election, which Guei contested, and from which both Ouattara and Bédié were barred from running, Gbagbo became president.

Once in office, Gbagbo began supporting “Ivorité” as a political principle, creating an Office of National Identification to certify whether individuals could claim indigeneity. Ouattara saw this as an attempt to deny his supporters their citizenship rights.

An insurgency, led by a new movement, the Forces Nouvelles, began in 2002 and soon the country was virtually partitioned into two. Attempts to create a government of national reconciliation kept breaking down.

While French and UN peacekeepers patrolled a buffer zone, a 2007 agreement still made no determination as to who was a citizen and therefore had rights to land.

The autumn 2010 presidential election provided stark evidence that little had been resolved. The election, in which ethnicity and the country’s north-south divide played a crucial role, pitted President Gbagbo against Ouattara.

Both men claimed victory and took the presidential oath of office. A new crisis ensued, which in March 2011escalated into full-scale war. At least 3,000 people were killed during the five-month conflict, most of them by pro-Gbagbo forces.

The UN endorsed Ouattara’s election win and French forces finally arrested Gbagbo. In October 2011 the International Criminal Court charged him with four counts of crimes against humanity and he was transferred to The Hague, where he awaits trial.

Ouattara inherited an economy shattered by more than a decade of misrule. Conflicts over land continue to pit northerners against southerners and many other unresolved issues make the likelihood of renewed violence a possibility.

The October 2015 October presidential election, in which Ouattara will seek a second term, will be a critical moment for the country.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Reflections on Coming Federal Election

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

Three months out from the next federal election, things are not looking good for the Conservatives.

Prime Minister Harper has lost a number of key cabinet ministers, including John Baird and Peter MacKay, oil prices have collapsed, and Canada may already be in recession.

That spells trouble for a party whose main claim is that it is a better steward of the economy than its opponents. After nine years, the Harper government seems listless.

At best, the Conservatives can only count on a loyal base of somewhere between 30-35 per cent of the electorate. On the other hand, large segments of Canadian society absolutely loath Harper; he’s been compared to everyone from Attila the Hun to Hitler! (Some call this “Harper derangement syndrome.”)

Despite that, the Conservatives will emerge victorious. The well-oiled Tory machine, plus the addition of 30 new seats in the House of Commons, mostly in Conservative-friendly areas in Ontario and the West, will see to that.

However, while they will come first, the Conservatives won’t win the 169 seats needed for a majority.
The New Democrats will be a close second, though this will depend on the Bloc Québécois not re-emerging as a major force in that province.

The Liberals will hold about the same number of seats as they currently have; they will basically become a “niche” party, supported mostly by recent immigrant communities in big cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, anglophone and allophone federalists in Montreal, and Atlantic Canadians.

By the way, Atlantic Canada’s continued support of the Liberals has an interesting historical parallel: in the United Kingdom, after the Liberals became a minor party in the 1920s, their support came mainly in the “Celtic fringe” (parts of Scotland and Wales).

If all goes as I suggest, the Conservatives will emerge with 154 seats, the NDP with 135, the Liberals with 35, the Bloc with 12, and the Greens with two.

Justin Trudeau will try to entice Thomas Mulcair into forming a coalition government – after all, the Liberals will have nothing to lose -- but the New Democrats would be wise to resist it: why breathe new life into their rivals?

Instead, the NDP will try to topple the minority Tories in a vote of non-confidence when parliament resumes sitting and then form their own minority government (with tacit support from the Bloc and Liberals).

What happens after that is anybody’s guess. My own crystal ball becomes hazy at that point. No doubt they will be interesting times!

Should India Have Been Partitoned in 1947?

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

The advocates of today’s fashionable but often utopian ideal of multiculturalism are usually critical of states based on national or religious beliefs.

Such authors lament the partition of the Indian subcontinent in August of 1947, when, after almost three hundred years, the British finally left, and two independent states, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, emerged.

Even before the British pulled out, large parts of the subcontinent were descending into chaos, as the implications of partitioning the Indian Empire along religious lines became clear to the millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs who would be caught on the “wrong” side of the new borders.

There began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Muslims trekked to West and East Pakistan (the latter now known as Bangladesh) while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction, to India.

Some twelve million people would be uprooted and as many as a million murdered. There were massacres, arson, forced conversions, and rape. Whole villages were torched, and refugee trains, with all their passengers, set on fire.

Those who consider partition an avoidable disaster assert that for centuries, Hindus and Muslims co-existed in a world of intermingled traditions, languages and cultures that cut across religious lines.

The British are typically blamed for bringing religious division to the fore during their long administration, and so setting the stage for the carnage that followed the Second World War.

Others make Hindu and Muslim politicians, in particular Jawaharlal Nehru of the Hindu-dominated Congress Party and Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League, responsible.

Their clash of personalities led to a truculent Nehru refusing Indian Muslim demands for a looser federation that would provide them with greater power and security, and hence making possible Jinnah’s demands for a separate sovereign Muslim state, to be named Pakistan.

Events moved rapidly as the war ended; people moved out of mixed neighbourhoods and cities became informally partitioned into Hindu and Muslim zones.

In the Bengali capital of Calcutta (now Kolkata) major violence broke out in what is known as the “Great Calcutta Killing.” Between August 16 and 19, 1946, four days of massive Hindu-Muslim rioting resulted in 5,000 to 10,000 dead, and some 15,000 wounded. Partition now became the preferred option for all.

The British, realizing they had lost control of events, quickly speeded up their date of departure, and announced they would be gone by August 15, 1947. The rush exacerbated the chaos, with a British judge, Cyril Radcliffe, assigned to draw the borders of the two new countries – and given little more than a month to do it.

Most of the violence now centered in the states of Bengal and Punjab, with their mixed Hindu-Sikh-Muslim populations, as the partition lines would run through them.

The two countries that emerged – both now nuclear powers – have had an uneasy relationship ever since, including two wars over the disputed Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, most of which remains within India, and a 1971 conflict when East Pakistan became the new country of Bangladesh.

But what would have been the alternative? As it stands, there have been horrific massacres inflicted by both sides since 1947, even after the creation of two (and later three) separate states.

For example, in the Indian state of Gujerat, which has a large Muslim population, a three-day period of inter-communal violence in February-March 2002 was triggered by the bombing of a train.

According to official figures, the riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus; 2,500 people were injured non-fatally, and 223 more were reported missing. Other sources estimate that up to 2,000 Muslims died.

Meanwhile, on the Pakistani side, after the initial exodus of Sikhs and Hindus, the society has turned its fury on Christians, Shi’ites and Ahmadis (the last two considered “heretics” by Sunni Muslim extremists).

Imagine a united India, stretching from Kashmir to the Burmese border, with a population of close to one billion Hindus and some 530 Muslims, with Hindus rallying behind Narendra Modi’s “Hindutva” nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Muslims in turn supporting various radical Islamic parties as a reaction.

The country would be ungovernable. So, to paraphrase Churchill, “Partition was the worst outcome, save for all the others.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Course of German Politics

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
It’s now been seven decades since the end of the Second World War, and most Germans alive today have no personal memory of their country’s horrific Nazi past. And it is now a quarter-century since Germany was reunited and regained full sovereignty.

How is this affecting the country’s political culture?

The Federal Republic (“West Germany”) that emerged from the ashes of Hitlerism, for many years steered by Konrad Adenauer, understood that its rehabilitation and security, in the era of the Cold War, depended on its participation in the European project that eventually became the European Union, and on its commitment to the Western alliance, as part of NATO.

With memories of the Holocaust, other war crimes committed against virtually every European nation, and the most virulent form of racism the world had ever seen, still fresh, the Bonn Republic was, so to speak, on political probation.

Though Germany had lost considerable territory, mainly to Poland, was itself partitioned into two states, and had to resettle millions of refugees that were expelled from countries such as Czechoslovakia, its role in starting a war of expansion and extermination forced it to keep quiet about any injuries its own population had suffered.

So issues such as the Allied bombing of cities such as Dresden, and the various acts against civilians perpetrated by the victorious armed forces, in particular those of the Red Army, were rarely mentioned.

Germany was constrained by the Cold War and its own Nazi past.

But in the watershed years of 1989-1991, Europe underwent a zeitgeist shift of immense proportions. 

The Soviet empire in Europe collapsed, the USSR itself disintegrated, and the Berlin Wall came down. 

Today, a woman who herself grew up in the old Communist German Democratic Republic is chancellor of Germany. None of this was foreseen as late as the mid-1980s.

How has this affected Germany’s national identity? For one thing, the country has become more assertive and less afraid of alienating its friends and neighbours. 

The very hard line it has taken against Greece in that country’s current economic crisis is one indicator – some would call it heartless. Its very public support of Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s Russia is another.

As well, Germany no longer marches lock-step with its NATO partners – far less accommodating to Washington’s pressures than in the past, it kept out of Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. It now sees itself as an equal, rather than a junior partner, to the United States. 

In fact, given its economic might, Germany feels it needs no advice from countries adversely affected by the financial meltdown in 2008.

The assertive Germany that emerged after 1871 and led Europe into two ruinous wars was followed by a rump state where any sign of nationalism was viewed with suspicion by much of the world.
Hopefully the new Germany will follow a middle course that does not veer too far in either direction.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Anniversary Marked

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

Two of the 20th century’s well-known dictators died in 1975, 40 years ago.

Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of Nationalist China, was 87 when he passed away on April 5, 1975, while Francisco Franco, the caudillo of Spain, was almost 83 when he succumbed to illness on Nov. 20, 1975.

Chiang Kai-shek was the Chinese military and political leader who led the Kuomintang (the KMT, or Chinese Nationalist Party) for five decades and was head of state of mainland China between 1928 and 1949, when his forces fled the mainland to the island of Taiwan.

Chiang began his military training in 1906 and, leading a regiment in Shanghai, took part in the uprising in 1911 that overthrew the Qing Dynasty and established the Chinese republic under Sun Yat-sen.

After Sun's death in 1925, Chiang became leader of the KMT. He reunified most of China under a Nationalist government based in Nanjing and led the suppression of the Chinese Communist Party.

From 1931, though, he had to contend with a Japanese invasion, first in Manchuria, and after 1937, in the rest of the country.

Though Japan was defeated in 1945, civil war broke out between the KMT and the Communists, who had grown in strength during the war. In 1949, the Communists were victorious, establishing the People’s Republic of China, and Chiang and the remaining KMT forces fled to Taiwan.

There he established a government in exile, which Chiang led for the next quarter-century, and where he imposed martial law. He insisted that his remained the legitimate government of China, though eventually most countries recognized the government in Beijing.

After his death, Taiwan was governed by his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who began to liberalize the political system in the mid-1980s. The generalissimo’s memory is rarely invoked by current political parties, including the Kuomintang.

Francisco Franco in 1907 entered the Infantry Academy and rose rapidly through the ranks; by 1926 he was the youngest general in Spain.

A military dictatorship condoned by King Alfonso XIII governed Spain from 1923 to 1931, but the king was deposed and a republic declared. The country entered a period of uncertainty and disorder.

In 1935 Franco became army chief of staff. When a Popular Front coalition, including Communists, won the elections in February 1936, he and other military leaders began discussing a coup.

On July 18, 1936, military officers launched an uprising. The ensuing Spanish Civil War would last three traumatic years, killing at least half a million people, and devastating the country.

Franco secured the backing of the Catholic Church, and dissolved all political parties other than the fascist Falange. He also acquired massive military assistance from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

The Republic received support from the Soviet Union and the Communist-led International Brigades, but was eventually worn down. Madrid surrendered in March 1939, ending the conflict.

Though he sympathized with the Axis powers, Franco largely stayed out of the Second World War, perhaps because Hitler refused to guarantee Spain a giant chunk of the French Empire in Africa following the French defeat in 1940.

However, Franco did send some 50,000 volunteers, the Blue Division, to fight alongside the Germans on the Soviet front.

Following the war,Spain faced diplomatic and economic isolation, but that began to lessen during the Cold War. As well, political repression within the country diminished.

In 1947 Franco had declared that a king would succeed him, and in 1969 he chose Prince Juan Carlos, the grandson of King Alfonso XIII.

The new monarch dismantled the authoritarian state created by Franco and legalized political parties. The first post-Franco elections were held in 1977. In 2007, the Spanish government removed statues, street names and memorials associated with the Franco regime.

Since the deaths of the two rulers, both Taiwan and Spain have become functioning democracies, and have left their days of military rule and dictatorship behind them.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Racist Extremism in America

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

By now the whole world knows about the murders of nine African Americans at the historic Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. 

Dylann Roof, a 21-year old man, has been arrested for this hate crime. It appears he became a white supremacist in large part by reading racist literature from groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, posted on the Internet. Roof’s own “manifesto” contains material culled from such sources.

The Council started in the 1950s in Mississippi as the Citizens’ Councils of America, formed to fight against the integration of public schools following the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling banning segregation.

There were many other Southern groups battling against the elimination of “Jim Crow” laws during the civil rights era of the 1950s-60s, including a revived Ku Klux Klan. 

The era also spawned George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party, founded in 1959. In July 1963, the party’s publication the Stormtrooper was replaced with the newspaper White Power, bearing the swastika in the centre of the paper.

Rockwell, who was assassinated in 1967, was a major figure in the neo-Nazi movement in the United States, and his beliefs and writings have continued to be influential among white nationalists and neo-Nazis, including the white supremacist Louisiana politician David Duke. 

A former national director of the Knights of Ku Klux Klan, Duke formed the National Association for the Advancement of White People in 1980.

The most horrendous crime perpetrated by white extremists was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

They killed 168 people and injured over 600. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings.

They were inspired by The Turner Diaries, a 1978 book written by William Luther Pierce, founder of the white supremacist National Alliance. It depicts a violent revolution in the United States which leads to a “race war” against Jews, non-whites and gays. 

The book has been labeled a “bible of the racist right” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The book is also associated with two extremist groups, the Aryan Nations and The Order. The former, long headquartered in Hayden Lake, Idaho, was founded in 1974 by Richard Butler, who openly admired Adolf Hitler and longed for a whites-only homeland in the Pacific Northwest.

In his youth, Butler had been a member of one of the largest pro-Hitler organizations in the United States, William Dudley Pelley’s fascist Silver Legion of America, active in the 1930s.

In its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Klansmen and other white nationalists convened regularly at the Aryan Nations compound for its annual world congresses.

In 2000, though, the group began to fall apart after losing a civil lawsuit that depleted the group’s finances. The 2004 death of founder Richard Butler further weakened the group, and it splintered into various factions. 

Butler’s most infamous acolyte was probably Robert J. Mathews, founder of The Order. Its members, who referred to the federal government as ZOG (the Zionist Occupied Government), murdered Denver talk radio host Alan Berg, who was Jewish, in 1984. Butler himself died in a confrontation with the FBI later that year. 

But white supremacists of various stripes remain active. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people in the U.S. have been killed by anti-government fanatics and other racist extremists than by radical Islamists, according to New America, a Washington research center.

So Dylann Roof is heir to a long tradition of extreme right-wing anti-Semitic and racist groups in America.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Will Tunisia's Fragile Democracy Survive?

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

The only state to have come out of the Arab Spring with genuine democratic institutions, after popular discontent toppled the autocratic Ben Ali regime in December 2010, is the north African nation of Tunisia.

But will this last? Recent events make the prognosis problematic.

Tunisia has struggled to contain an insurgency along its porous border with Algeria, where Islamist militants have been increasingly present.

A greater problem stems from Ansar al-Shariah, whose leaders are members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and are now based in Syria and neighbouring Libya, and connected to the Islamic State.

It shares the goals of cleansing north Africa of Western influence and instituting Islamic law.

The chaos unfolding in Libya has created large areas where extremists train, and a ready source of weapons for them from the armouries of former dictator Muammar Gadhafi.

And Tunisia itself, a country which produces 80,000 university graduates a year but has around 20 per cent unemployment, provides fertile soil for the disappointed.

Three thousand Tunisians now make up the biggest foreign fighter contingent in the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Last December, a group of Tunisian Islamists in Syria asked their compatriots to rise up against their own government in the name of an Islamic Caliphate. Clearly, some have responded to the call.

This year, the country has been victimized by a series of terrorist incidents, mainly aimed at foreign tourists, and designed to cripple that segment of its economy.

Among Tunisia’s tourist attractions are its capital of Tunis, the ancient ruins of Carthage, the Muslim and Jewish quarters on the island of Jerba, and various coastal resorts along the Mediterranean Sea.

On March 18, an attack by three gunmen on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis killed 21 foreign tourists. The Islamic State declared that they had struck “citizens of the Crusader countries.”

One week later, a soldier killed seven other troops in an attack at the Bouchoucha military base in Tunis.

Then, on June 26, another shooter murdered 40 people, most of them British, on a beach between the Soviva and Imperial Marhaba hotels, in a tourist complex near Sousse, along the Mediterranean.

Prime Minister Habib Essid, appointed by President Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi on Feb. 5 to lead a coalition government whose members include the Islamist Ennahda and the secular  Afek Tounes parties, has announced the closing of 80 mosques being investigated for extremist links.

Tunisia must take back the terrain of religion that it surrendered to extremists, contends Sami Brahem, a researcher at Tunisia’s Center for Economic and Social Studies and Research.

On Jan. 27, 2014, then President Moncef Marzouki signed the country’s new constitution, adopted a day earlier by a constituent assembly. “With the birth of this text, we confirm our victory over dictatorship,” he said in a speech, waving the victory sign. Perhaps he spoke too soon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Many of Our Cultural Institutions are in the U.S.

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer 

Have you ever wondered why most Canadian cities have fewer cultural institutions than they ought to? It’s because we “outsource” much of our cultural life. 

Most Canadians not only speak the same language as our neighbours in the United States, but we also share, to a very large degree, a common culture. We watch the same films and television shows, read the same books, and follow the same sports. And most large northern American cities are easily accessible to us.

In fact, since we mostly live in an east to west band close to the border, big cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and even San Francisco, are often closer to us, depending on where we live, than other Canadian cities.

If you live in the Maritimes, it’s easier to get to Boston than to Calgary or Vancouver. Torontonians are not that far from New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Manitobans can get to Chicago as easily as to Toronto.

No one in Australia or Britain will spend just a weekend in a great American city, the way we can.

From southern Ontario, it’s fairly simple to visit Chicago, with attractions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chicago Cultural Center. The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is home to an archeology museum and research center. 

There is classical music with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Someone in Saint John or Halifax can drive to Boston without difficulty. There are some 40 museums in the greater Boston area, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Isabella Gardner Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts.   

The city is home to a number of professional theatre companies, as well as the Opera Company of Boston and the Boston Ballet. The Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras perform at Symphony Hall.

The many world-class universities for which Boston is famous house on their campuses museums and galleries, such as the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis and the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard.

Philadelphia, too, has an abundance of history and culture. The city’s museums include the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, while the Academy of Music hosts the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is a theatre, dance and world music venue. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is an internationally renowned educational and research institution.

It’s ridiculous to even begin to name all the various attractions in New York City – it is arguably the cultural and entertainment capital of the world.

We need only to think of the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the City of New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Morgan Library and Museum.

And there are wonderful institutions outside Manhattan – the Brooklyn Museum is the city’s second largest in physical size and holds an art collection with roughly 1.5 million works.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic. As for live theatre, the list is endless. Some 40 or so theatres make up what we call Broadway; as well, there are the smaller venues known as Off-Broadway and even Off-Off-Broadway. So there’s something for everyone.

Nothing can match the grandeur of Washington, DC, and its numerous museums and monuments along the National Mall.

The National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of American History, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of the American Indian, International Spy Museum, the journalism Newseum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provide a cornucopia of riches.

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts produces and presents theatre, dance, ballet, and is home to the National Symphony Orchestra. 

A Calgarian may find it just as simple to head to San Francisco as to travel thousands of kilometres east to Toronto. The Museum of Modern Art contains 20th century and contemporary pieces. The De Young and the Asian Art Museums have significant anthropological and non-European holdings.

The San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and San Francisco Ballet all perform at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.

These cities offer an incredible wealth of culture – and all within fairly easy reach of most Canadians.

Friday, June 26, 2015

When White Minority Declared Independent State

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

A photo of Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine people at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, shows him wearing a jacket adorned with the flags of Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, two now defunct white supremacist states . The latter is today’s Zimbabwe.

Founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1889 and ruled by his British South Africa Company, it became the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia after the end of Company rule in 1923, though it never gained full Dominion status.

White settlers were a minority of the population, which comprised mainly the African Shona and Ndebele peoples, but they retained the levers of economic, political and social control.
By the 1960s, much of Africa had attained independence, and London made plans to institute

Black majority rule in the colony. In a pre-emptive move, Rhodesia’s white government, under Ian Smith, issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence on Nov. 11, 1965. Some 220,000 white Rhodesians would continue to enjoy privileges over nearly four million black Rhodesians.

Sanctions against the unrecognized state were imposed by most of the world community, though neighbouring South Africa and the Portuguese colony of Mozambique continued trading with it. 

Rhodesia descended into a war fought between the regime and two resistance movements, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), mainly Shona, and Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), supported by the Ndebele. 

Black political leaders were arrested and jailed en masse and the regime routinely employed torture to obtain information from real or suspected political activists.

But armed resistance from the guerrilla movements continued. One of the biggest rebel victories was a 1978 rocket attack on Rhodesia’s strategic oil reserve. The rockets hit the fuel tanks in Salisbury (today’s Harare), wiping out the reserve in a single blow.  

The resistance movements were supported by the UN and most of Africa’s sovereign countries, including, after 1975, newly-free Mozambique. The government finally conceded to forming a bi-racial government in 1978. 

In December 1979, Smith was replaced by the moderate Bishop Abel Muzorewa, a Shona and leader of the United African National Council, and the country was renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

But ZANU and ZAPU refused to accept this and the war continued. Britain used its formal position as the colonial power to convene a peace conference in London in 1979. Elections held in 1980 brought Mugabe to power as prime minister of the newly-independent Zimbabwe.

The new constitution reserved 20 out of 100 seats for whites in the House of Assembly and 8 out of 40 seats in the Senate. The government in 1987 eliminated the seats set aside for whites and replaced the office of prime minister with an executive president. In 1990 the government abolished the Senate.

Mugabe has ruled the country ever since.