Month: <span>March 2022</span>

Rape as a Weapon Appeals

A Step Forward in the U.N.’s Efforts Against Rape…

Featured Image: Photo by Stewart Munro on Unsplash.

On Tuesday, 23 April 2019; the United Nations Security Council voted for resolution N° 2467; concerning the use of rape as a weapon in times of armed conflict.  This resolution builds on an earlier resolution of 24 June 2013; which called for the complete and immediate cessation of all acts of sexual violation by all parties in armed conflicts. The new resolution introduced by Germany contained two new elements; both of which were eliminated in the intense negotiations in the four days prior to the vote of 13 in favor and two abstentions, those of Russia and China.

The first new element in the German proposed text concerned help to the victims of rape.  The proposed paragraph was:

“urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities.”

Sexual and Reproductive Health.

The U.S. delegation objected to this paragraph claiming that “sexual and reproductive health” were code words that opened a door to abortion.  Since a U.S. veto would prevent the resolution as a whole; the paragraph was eliminated.  

There had been four days of intense discussions among the Security Council members concerning this paragraph; with only the U.S. opposed to any form of planned parenthood action. After the resolution was passed with the health paragraph eliminated, the Permanent Representative of France; Ambassador Francois Delatte spoke for many of the members saying:

“It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.

Sexual violence in conflict situations.

The second concept of the German draft that was eliminated; was the proposal to create a working group to monitor, and review progress on ending sexual violence in armed conflict.  Such a working group was opposed by the diplomats of Russia and China; both of which have the veto power.  Thus, for the same reason as with the U.S. opposition; the idea of a monitoring working group was dropped. Both China and Russia are opposed to any form of U.N. monitoring; fearing that their actions on one topic or another would be noted by a monitoring group.  The Russian diplomat had to add that he was against the added administrative burden that a monitoring group would present; but that Russia was against sexual violence in conflict situations.

The Association of World Citizens.

Thus, the new U.N. Security Council resolution 2467 is weaker than it should have been; but is nevertheless a step forward in building awareness.  The Association of World Citizens first raised the issue in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in March 2001 citing the judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia; which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing an accused to trial.  The Tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

The Association of World Citizens again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war; in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights Violations; in the Democratic Republic of Congo; citing the findings of Meredeth Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa. (London: Zed Press, 1998).

Rape is …

They write “There are numerous types of rape.  Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting:

Rape is one kind of war booty women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape:

Rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with the consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. 

This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The Security Council resolution.

The Security Council resolution opens the door to civil society organizations to build on the concepts eliminated from the governmental resolution itself.  Non-governmental organizations must play an ever-more active role in providing services to rape victims with medical, psychological, and socio-cultural services.  In addition; if the U.N. is unable to create a monitoring and review of information working group; then such a monitoring group will have to be the task of cooperative efforts among NGOs.  It is always to be hoped that governments acting together would provide the institutions necessary to promote human dignity.  But with the failure of governments to act; our task as non-governmental representatives is set out for us.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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John McDonald Book Reviews

The Shifting Grounds of Conflict and Peacebuilding: Stories and…

Featured Image: This symbolically represents an holistic approach to peacebuilding. By Consensusafp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

John W. McDonald with Noa Zanolli.

The Shifting Grounds of Conflict and Peacebuilding: Stories and Lessons.

(Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008, 341pp.)

This book is an increasingly used form of oral history collection — sometimes transformed into a book;  sometimes kept as oral archives usually in university libraries.  John McDonald, US diplomat, UN administrator, and Track II diplomacy pioneer is interviewed by Noa Zanolli;  on the different stages of his life and what lessons can be drawn;  especially for Track II-citizen diplomacy efforts. 

Track I is official government-to-government diplomacy among instructed representatives of the State. Track II is a non-official effort,  usually by a non-governmental organization (NGO), such as the Association of World Citizens,  academic institutions;  sometimes business corporations directed either to other NGOs or directly with government representatives. 

John W. McDonald

John Walter McDonald, Chief Judge, District Court of Southern Alberta in 1944. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Track II Efforts.

In this review, I will stress the lessons for Track II efforts. However, as McDonald points out, it is his experience as a Track I Foreign Service officer,  that gave him the skills for effective Track II efforts. McDonald quotes a little verse of the Quaker economist and peace worker Kenneth Boulding:

When Track One will not do,

We have to travel on Track Two.

But for results to be abiding,

The Tracks must meet upon some siding.”

McDonald had a rare career for a US Foreign Service officer in that nearly all his work was related to multilateral settings, dealing  with numerous countries at once, rather than the bi-lateral US to one foreign country at a time;  which is the usual career pattern This was followed by being Deputy Director,  the UN’s International Labour Organization in Geneva from 1974 until 1978.

The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD).

The State Department has mandatory retirement at the age of sixty-five.  Thus,  when McDonald retired from the State Department;  he had a good deal of experience;  and contacts to start in the relatively new field of Track II diplomacy. 

He founded along with Dr Louise Diamond, a psychologist;  the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) to present Track II approaches;  and to carry out some projects either individually;  or in cooperation with other NGOs involved in conflict resolution work.

We Live in a World Society, and Violence and Suffering Anywhere is of Concern to Us.

There seems to me to be four areas:  where the skills of Track I and Track II overlap. We will look first at the four common skills,  which John McDonald mentions through his experience,  and then at two specific Track II issues. Those involved in diplomacy require the same skills; but for Track II, they have to be even finer with more skilful means. 

Governments are used to dealing with governments. No one will ask the Ambassador of a country “What is it that you do?” or “Why are you interested in this issue?” — two questions which are nearly always asked of NGO representatives.

Therefore, NGO representatives have to have a ready answer justifying a universal concern.

“We live in a world society, and violence and suffering anywhere is of concern to us.” 

The reply has to be short and not very philosophical as one does not want to get involved in a discussion of ethics but to move on quickly to the issues involved.

Analysis and listening: 

As John McDonald points out repeatedly;  listening is a real skill: to hear what the other is saying;  both the words and the intensity of the emotions behind the words.  Too often, we do not really listen. We are waiting for the chance to present our own position.

We need to be able to record the essence of what we hear without taking notes or using a recorder;  but rather to write up the conversation shortly afterwards. As McDonald stresses: 

“Success in diplomacy is about people, about spending time with people and building trust relationships.”

Analysis is an ongoing process. Additional contacts, changes in the situation, the actions of other actors — all can modify the original analysis. Thus,  there needs to be ways of presenting modified insights to all those involved in the negotiations.

Communication: written and oral.

The ability to communicate clearly;  briefly and with policy options outlined at the end of a text is at the heart of all forms of diplomacy. This is particularly true of multilateral diplomacy;  where a resolution accepted by consensus is probably the only action to be taken in the short run. 

The ability to choose the right words,  and to avoid those words that prevent agreement is a crucial skill. Drafting UN resolutions is a particular skill,  as words have to have similar meaning in all the official languages. UN resolutions have to be prepared well in advance.

John McDonald gives a good picture of the 18 month sequence;  in which US State Department positions are developed for UN conferences.  Thus for NGOs, there is a need to know where governments are in their preparation cycle. Ideas presented too late in the cycle are simply ignored;  while the same idea presented earlier might be seriously considered.

As John McDonald notes: 

“The timing must be right for an initiator of new ideas, and programs to meet with success. The institution has to be ready for new ideas, even though it does not realize this at the time.  Initiators must also master the bureaucracy they have to deal with.”

Cultural sensitivity and understanding.

In a world in which an increasingly large number of countries as well as NGO representatives want to be involved in decision-making, sensitivity to cultural styles, values, sense of time and proper behaviour is crucial. As McDonald notes:

“The only thing that works is people-to-people, consensus building. Sitting down, face-to-face and talking about the problem — that’s what I keep trying to do.”

Closely linked to the ability to listen, to cultural sensitivity and to communicate clearly are other inter-personal negotiation skills.  Among the most basic is the practice of keeping in contact with people known earlier. McDonald gives examples of telephone calls to people with whom he had worked 20 years earlier who provided insights and information on issues with which he was then  dealing. The idea of “trust” — that people one knows will not deliberately mislead you — remains crucial.

Specific Track II Issues.

There are two issues with which government officials do not have to deal with as directly as do NGOs. The first is the selection of persons to be involved in negotiations and the second issue is fund-raising.

Balanced Delegations.

Normally, the State Department and the Foreign Ministries of other countries have professional diplomats to carry out negotiations. For NGOs involved in Track II;  and where often the individual participant must cover his own costs, the situation is more delicate. 

In some cases, the NGO can prepare a Tract II effort long in advance, cover the costs of participants;  and thus choose “balanced delegations”— men/women, background, interests. Often, today, Track II is related to immediate conflict situations with relatively little time to raise funds and select participants.  Thus, there needs to be a “pool” of people with experience, skills and availability to move fast when the need or the opportunity is there. 

Fund-raising.

A theme which runs through all the descriptions of the activities of the Institute of Multi-Track Diplomacy is the difficulty of fund-raising — an issue common to many NGOs.  There are a good number of requests for help from people in conflict situations and opportunities for creative action.

However, the funds are not there for follow up. As McDonald notes “If IMTD had an endowment, I could focus more intensely and continuously on our work, rather than on researching for funding. What this fund-raising headache has taught me is patience.

It’s hard to raise money for peace in the United States. I also had to persevere.” The IMTD has had the chance of having a small number of individuals;  who have been very generous, but there are also problems of being overly dependent on a small number of people.

Fund-raising is also a necessary skill but one that not all possess. There is a need for Track II efforts to develop cooperation with universities having conflict resolution courses, with other NGOs working in the field and with governments — nearly a full time job.  McDonald’s account of his efforts provides useful insights into Track II approaches — a field that is likely to grow.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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René Dumont Rapprochement of Cultures.

René Dumont (13 March 1904 – 18 June 2001):…

By Rene Wadlow.

Awareness building is often a long process. Thus recognition of the ideas of René Dumont has come nearly two decades after his death with the vote on 17 December 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in rural areas. René Dumont highlighted the importance of small-scale peasant farmers in the world’s food production.  Despite the massive displacement of the peasantry toward cities, more than 70 percent of the world’s food is produced by small family-owned farms.

René Dumont was an active world citizen and always stressed world citizenship in his justification for his studies of agriculture worldwide. Although he was 30 years older than I and much better known through his scientific monographs on African agriculture; and then his popular books on African rural development when we met; there was always a feeling of togetherness in a battle for a better life for African farmers.

General AsemblyImage by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

You might be interested in reading: U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?

Les Verts (The Greens).

When René Dumont died in June 2001 at the age of 97, he was remembered as the father of French political ecology; but he had no direct intellectual heirs.  His 1974 campaign for the French presidency was the first time Les Verts (The Greens) had entered politics at the national level.  Dumont was able to federate around his personality and his reputation as an agronomist; specializing in African and Asian development a wide range of people; who felt that the traditional French political parties were not dealing with the crucial questions of humanity’s future.  His energetic campaign and strong personality in television presentations created the groundwork; on which Les Verts could build a political movement as they  have done. The current ecology party in France is a strong force; probably the third political force in the country.In France.

During the 1974 campaign, Dumont, with his red sweater and a glass of water to recall the dangers of water pollution; was a marked contrast with the more formal candidates.  Dumont received only one percent of the popular vote, but he put Les Verts on the political map and set out the issues which would continue.

The choice is yours, ecology or death.

Dumont was 70 when he ran for president and after the campaign remained more a “father figure” than an organizer in the structuring of the political ecology movement, done largely by a younger generation.  René Dumont was not a “team player” and often expressed his views in a very direct way.  He was particularly direct in his dislike of autos and the need for higher gas prices — not popular themes among the French electorate.  He always stressed that the conditions in the Third World were intolerable and would lead to revolts.

Dumont was known in the general public for his prophetic 1962 L’Afrique Noire est Mal Partie (False Start in Africa); often republished for a decade in up-dated editions.  He denounced the short-sighted agricultural and social policies of the newly independent African states — policies which have continued and which have led to a constant decline in agricultural production.  Dumont was a prolific writer helped in his later life by a series of skilled co-authors.  He would alternate a book on specific agricultural questions with a more general; usually polemical book.  His book titles were often a political program in themselves.  The collection of his 1974 campaign speeches is entitled A vous de choisir, l’ecologie ou le mort. (The choice is yours, ecology or death).

He was a dynamic speaker. In his public, political lectures, his style was cutting and his examples telling but without subtlety; but when he was speaking of agricultural development to students as he did to the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in Geneva; where I was teaching, his analysis was much more nuanced.  Unlike some agronomists; who neglect the socio-cultural context in which farming takes place; Dumont had a sociologist’s concern for the values and attitudes of rural populations.

Globalization.

René Dumont was well aware of the world dimension of agricultural production and distribution.  He called attention to the negative effects of “globalization” well before the term became popular.  His analysis of the agriculture of China, Cuba, Algeria, and Poland were extremely detailed, causing the French Communists to keep up a steady barrage of attacks against Dumont .He had a host of refusal of a visa to a good number of Communist countries.  Dumont was preoccupied all his life with hunger and the dangers of famine in the world.  He summed up his views in a 1997 monograph Famines, le retour (Famines, their return).  He thus stressed the need to increase food production and was criticised by some in the ecology movement;  who feared that intense agricultural production was destructive of ecological balance.

The French Left once called itself “internationalist”; in practice, however, foreign policy rarely played an important role in their political programs.  Dumont with his world experience and knowledge of interdependence gave to Les Verts a world agenda from the start.  His was a call for world reform and for new, transformed North-South relations.  Dumont had a wide influence on development thinking, stressing the need for popular participation and the possibility of taking small steps if they were in the right direction.  His strong personality and convictions helped set the ecological agenda both in France and the world.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Robert Muller Portraits of World Citizens.

Robert Muller: Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

By Rene Wadlow.

The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. 

The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe…

I dream that all governments will join together to manage this beautiful Earth

and its precious humanity in Peace, Justice, and Happiness”  

                                                            Robert Muller (1923-2010).

Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March; was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World CitizensHe was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War.   As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany.  At the end of the war, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.

Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948; where he worked primarily on economic and social issues.  For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged.

The Thinking of Robert Muller.

In 1970, he joined the cabinet of the then Secretary-General U Thant; who was Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.   U Thant had a deep impact on the thinking of Robert Muller.  U Thant’s inner motivations; we’re inspired by a holistic philosophy drawn from his understanding of Buddhism, by an intensive personal discipline, and by a sense of compassion for humans.  

U Thant had been promoted to his UN post by the military leaders of Burma; who feared that had he stayed in the country; he would have opposed their repressive measures and economic incompetence.  Although U Thant was reserved in expressing his spiritual views in public speeches; he was much more willing to discuss ideas and values with his inner circle of colleagues.  U Thant held that:

“The trouble of our times is that scientific and technological progress has been so rapid that moral and spiritual development has not been able to keep up with it.”

You might be interested in reading: Burma’s Military in a Political Hole.

Muller agreed with U Thant’s analysis.  As Muller was a good public speaker; he often expressed these views both in UN meetings and in addresses to NGOs and other public meetings.  Muller became increasingly interested in the views of the French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; who had lived the last years of his life in New York City. For Teilhard, as he wrote in Phenomenon of Man:

“No longer will man be able to see himself unrelated to mankind neither will he be able to see mankind unrelated to life, nor life unrelated to the universe.”

Oe Thant in transit at Schiphol during a press conference, Oe Thant (1 July 1963). By Jac. de Nijs / Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Sense of Humanity.

Muller saw the UN as a prime instrument for developing a sense of humanity; as all members of one human family and for relating humans to the broader community of life and Nature.  As Muller wrote:

“We are entering one of the most fascinating and challenging areas of human evolution. In order to win this new battle for civilization, we must be able to rely upon a vastly increased number of people with a worldview.  We need world managers and servers in many fields.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1947). By Unknown author unknown author; CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>; via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Teilhard de Chardin: The Noosphere and Evolution Toward World Unity.

Albert Schweitzer and Norman Cousins.

I had the pleasure of knowing Robert Muller well as he was often in Geneva for his UN economic and social work and, at that time, had a home in France near Geneva; where he did much of his writing.  Muller was also deeply influenced by the thinking of another Alsatian, Albert Schweitzer; who had also spent most of his life outside France.  I had known Albert Schweitzer when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon in the early 1960s.  Both Schweitzer and I, influenced by Norman Cousins; had been active against A-Bomb tests in the atmosphere; and so I had been welcomed for discussions at the hospital in Lambaste. For Muller; Schweitzer with his philosophy of reverence for life and the need for a spiritual-cultural renewal was a fellow world citizen and a model of linking thought and action.

For Robert Muller; the UN was the bridge that helped to cross frontiers and hopefully to develop reconciliation through a common vision of needs and potential for action.

Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965). By Bundesarchiv, Bild 145 Bild-00014770 / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Albert Schweitzer. Reverence for Life.

Norman Cousins Picture: Apurva Madia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Norman Cousins: A Pioneer of Track II Diplomacy.

Note.

For two autobiographic books, see Robert Muller. What War Taught Me About Peace (New York: Doubleday ) and Robert Muller. Most of All, They Taught Me Happiness (New York: Doubleday, 1978) .

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Rudolf Steiner Rapprochement of Cultures.

Rudolf Steiner: Education. The Road to the Higher Self.

Featured Image: Rudolf Steiner. By Pausoak2018, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was a person with many interests and made contributions to several fields.  (1) We note his birth anniversary on 25 February.  The link among his many interests was that each person has a Higher Self;  which he sometimes called “the Soul”, and that the road to the flowering of this Higher Self was through education;  especially self-education.

To consider every child as a unique individual and to establish a relationship with the child based on mutual trust is the aim of the Rudolf Steiner schools;  also called the Waldorf Schools after the first one he created shortly after the end of the First World War in Stuttgart, Germany. German youth had to deal with the tramas of the defeat and radical changes in society.  In periods of crisis, creativity, imagination and audacity are needed.

Self-Education

This Marine Stays Committed to Country, Service, and Fitness sustanon Fitness Gym Poster Template by andrewtimothy on Envato Elements

Close view of the statue, with representation of Oliver Lodge onthe left. By Rodhullandemu, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Higher Self.

Today, children are facing global challenges that require the child to unfold faculties;  which go beyond the conventional skills which were adequate for the past. More than ever;  areas of social unrest and violence call upon teachers;  who can take personal initiatives and have a sense of responsibility.

Closely related to the belief that there is a Higher Self; Steiner stressed that the seed of the Higher Self existed within the child;  and that the role of education was to give nourishment for the seed to grow. Steiner emphasized the importance of achieving balance in the three different ways; in which a person relates to the world – through physical activity;  the life of the emotions; and the realm of thinking – which he symbolized as hand;  heart and head.

Self-Education.

Steiner also held that there are stages in childhood at which definite new developments occur;  especially in seven year cycles: seven, fourteen, twenty-one.  These seven-year cycles must be properly met in the education system.  The task is to awaken the faculties that lie in each child by means of the everyday activities in the classroom and at home. In the Steiner schools;  an emphasis is placed on cooperation with parents.  Family life should have some of the same characteristics of learning as that of the school.

The role of the school is to equip pupils with the ability to learn independently of exam pressure;  and to set out on a continuous process of self-education.  Self-education;  coping with one’s difficulties is the aim. Much in the Steiner-influenced education is based on observation of nature. Such observation is based on the conviction that there is a deep relationship between humans and the natural environment.  Watching a sunrise or a sunset can be a learning moment. Feelings that emerge in such special moments have a quality of their own.

Today, in many countries;  there is an evaluation of education systems in light of a fast-changing world society.  The ideas of Rudolf Steiner and the practice of the schools merit active consideration.

Rudolf Steiner

Human evolution and knowledge of Christ, Rudolf Steiner, GA 100. By Rudolf Steiner, GA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Note:

1) Colin Wilson. Rudolf Steiner: The Man and his Vision (Wellingborough, UK: Aquarian Press, 1985).

You can find an earlier piece on Steiner by Rene Wadlow, HERE!

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Nikolai Kondratiev Portraits of World Citizens.

Nikolai Kondratiev: The Long Economic Cycles.

Featured Image: Nikolai Dmitrievich Kondratiev (1892-1938) – Russian Economist.

Nikolai Kondratiev (4 March 1892 – 17 September 1938).

17 September marks the execution of Nikolai Kondratiev (also written as Kondratieff) in 1938 as part of Stalin’s “Great Purge” of those who disagreed with him.  Konratiev held that the 1929 “Great Depression” was a normal part of a long 50 to 60 year cycle and that there would be a return to capitalist investment linked to new technologies and the related need for capital.  Stalin believed that  the depression was a sign of the permanent collapse of the capitalist system which would be replaced by Communism.  Academic debate was not the style of Stalin.  Kondratiev who was already in prison for eight years was shot by a firing squad.

Stalin

Portrait of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, 1947. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kondratiev came from a peasant family.  Nevertheless, he was able to enter St. Petersburg  University to study economics where he specialized in agricultural production and agricultural export issues.  A bright student, he was noticed by the leaders of the first post-Czarist government of 1917 and was asked to deal food supplies by the Provisional Government.  He served as Deputy Minister of Supply in the very-short last round of Alexander Kerensky’s government.

The Major Economic Cycles.

After Lenin came to power, Kondratiev focused on this theoretical economic work and in 1925 published his major book The Major Economic Cycles. Through the book, his ideas on economic cycles became well known, and he was invited to speak in different Western European countries and in the United States.  In the United States, he stayed at the home of Pitirim Sorokin at the University of Minnesota.  Sorokin was also interested in cycles – more cultural than economic – but like Kondratiev  believed that cycles were evident by historical analysis.  The two men knew each other from St. Petersburg days, Sorokin having been the secretary of Alexander Kerensky.

Pitirim Sorokin

Pitirim Sorokin By неизв., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

However, Sorokin or Kondratiev or both were watched by the KGB, and on Kondratiev’s return to the Soviet Union, he was removed from his academic post, put in prison for eight years and then executed at the age of 46.

Joseph Schumpeter who taught economics at Harvard University was influenced  by Kondratiev’s work on cycles, but he did not stress his debt to Kondratiev’s thinking. It is only more rentently in the mid-1970s that Immanuel Wallerstein at the State University of New York began to stress Kondratieva’s writing as a contribution to his world-systems analysis.

Joseph Schumpeter

Joseph Schumpeter ekonomialaria. By Image available for free publishing from the Volkswirtschaftliches Institut, Universität Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Copyrighted free use., CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

In a final letter to his young daughter, Kondratiev asked that she “not to forget about me”.  We who can carry out our socio-political analysis without the threat of Stalin’s police can also not forget him.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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