About David Hayes
David Hayes is deputy editor of openDemocracy, which he co-founded
in 2000. He has written textbooks on human rights and terrorism, and was a contributor to Town and Country (Jonathan Cape, 1998). His work has been published in PN Review, the Irish Times, El Pais, the Iran Times International, the Canberra Times, the Scotsman, the New Statesman and The Absolute Game.
He has edited five print collections of material from the openDemocracy website, including Europe and Islam; Turkey: Writers, Politics, and Free Speech; and Europe: Visions, Realities, Futures. He is the editor of Fred Halliday's Political Journeys - the openDemocracy Essays (Saqi, 2011)
Articles by David Hayes
It is a rare and gloriously perverse alchemy – unless someone in the Swedish Academy has an even wickeder sense of humour than the awarder of the Nobel peace prize to Henry Kissinger in 1973. The announcement that the English playwright, poet and polemicist Harold Pinter is the recipient of the 2005 Nobel prize for literature comes on the same day that the fading Margaret Thatcher, during her almost twelve-year reign as Britain’s prime minister one of the principal targets of Pinter's characteristically vehement anger, marks her 80th birthday.
A piquant moment for those, like Pinter himself, who spent the whole of the 1980s – that politically bleak decade in Britain – railing and fuming and cursing as “that woman” rode roughshod over the country's constitution, civil rights and political opponents on the left (despite having voted for her in 1979, an act he described twenty years later as "idiotic, infantile on my part.")
The once-invincible Thatcher, now leaning into the twilight in irresistible imitation of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard - bereft of husband, wayward son, the press which once worshipped her (no exaggeration), and the legion of sycophants and minions who burnished the cosmic self-regard that became her downfall - now inspires little attention and less sympathy even from that large section of the British public which repeatedly voted her into office. From many of those who consistently opposed her, the feelings of bitterness and hatred (no exaggeration) remain unremitting.
The conjunction of Pinter’s triumph and Thatcher’s melancholy celebration is a great story which the British newspapers will no doubt milk and mould. Two great haters: one who also happens to be a great artist, the other a major though deeply destructive and vengeful politician whose favourite literary figure was the imperial poet, Rudyard Kipling (Pinter’s 1907 predecessor, and - it must be said, if through gritted teeth - a writer who has become undervalued).
But perhaps anti-Thatcherites should pause before savouring the moment too much. Not just for the obvious reason that much of Thatcher's political legacy continues in the Britain of Tony Blair and the frenzied, unsettled society his predecessor helped usher in (to the equal fury of prominent Blair-haters like Pinter, consumed with unalloyed loathing of the “war criminal” in Downing Street).
Hatred disfigures. Where it becomes a dominant element in a person’s political expression, it corrodes the ability to think, to make judgments, to connect to the true reality of things, to persuade. As a result, it cannot produce a serious, humane politics. This was part of Karl Kraus’s truth when he wrote: “Hatred must make a person productive; otherwise, you might as well love”.
It is fortunate that Pinter’s profound dramas come from a different place than his shallow, vulgar and myopic political views. But insofar as his award will be celebrated for his politics as much as for his art, these two giant figures are closer than they know – trapped in a shrill, polarising language that does a disservice to democratic public discourse. This is not just Margaret Thatcher’s or Harold Pinter’s tragedy, but of many of their political opponents. In short, of modern Britain itself.
Each year on 23 August, a small cluster of people gathers in a quiet corner of London – beside the wall of St Bartholomew’s hospital, opposite Smithfield meat market – to mark the anniversary of the public execution on this spot in 1305 of Scotland’s most renowned national hero, William Wallace.
The decision of the British government, led by prime minister Tony Blair, to support the United States’s preparations to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was extremely controversial in the country. There was massive popular protest and bitter criticism in the press and broadcasting media.
The government tried to win public opinion to its argument that the Iraqi regime – through its remaining weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and active programmes to develop those weapons – was a clear and present danger to Britain as well as to its region.
In September 2002, the government published a dossier on Iraq’s WMD. In a foreword, Tony Blair wrote: “What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.”
Before, during and after the war of March-April 2003, the reliability and use of this “intelligence” (secret information) lay at the heart of debate about the war’s justification, purpose and legality. The political atmosphere in Britain became more tense, public opinion more animated, media coverage more frenzied.
One of the British government’s most respected advisers on Iraq’s WMD, an experienced weapons scientist who had worked with the United Nations to disarm Iraq during the 1990s, was the microbiologist David Kelly. As part of his job with the ministry of defence, he had regularly briefed journalists on an unattributable basis. On 22 May, he met and talked to a BBC radio journalist called Andrew Gilligan in a London hotel.
On 29 May, Andrew Gilligan alleged on the BBC’s flagship morning radio programme that the British government knew that a key piece of intelligence information presented to the public in the September 2002 dossier – that Saddam possessed WMD that could be launched within 45 minutes – was false. Gilligan sourced this allegation to “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier”.
On 1 June, a newspaper hostile to the government published an article by Gilligan accusing Alastair Campbell, the prime minister’s chief of communications, of “sexing up” (embellishing) the dossier.
Campbell expressed outrage at the accusation of deceit, and was publicly scathing in criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the issue. Over the next month, both government officials and media engaged in strenuous efforts to identify the source of Gilligan’s allegations.
David Kelly confided to his superiors that he had spoken to Gilligan, but disputed the latter’s version of their conversation. Kelly’s name gradually became known to senior government, civil service, and intelligence officials, and to BBC executives.
After his name entered the public domain, Kelly was interviewed on 15 July by the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of parliament. In a strained, televised encounter, he denied being the source of Andrew Gilligan’s claim about Alastair Campbell’s role in the September 2002 dossier.
On 17 July, David Kelly left his home in the village of Southmoor, Oxfordshire to go for a walk. The next day his body was found, the cause of death loss of blood from a wound on his left wrist.
The government announced an independent public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding David Kelly’s death. It was led by a senior judge, Lord (Brian) Hutton, and lasted from 1 August to 25 September 2003.
Hutton published his report on 28 January 2004. It substantially exonerated Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, and senior civil service and intelligence officials from blame; it was severely critical of Andrew Gilligan, and of the BBC’s management and editorial procedures.
After the Hutton report, the BBC’s chairman (Gavyn Davies) and director-general (Greg Dyke) resigned, followed by Gilligan. Most newspapers, and a large section of British public opinion, remained censorious of Tony Blair’s government, and regarded the report as a “whitewash” of its role.
As the public argument continued, the British government announced a further inquiry into the pre-war use of intelligence about Saddam’s WMD. Its chair is Lord (Robin) Butler, formerly head of the civil service and adviser to several prime ministers.
We share with Paul’s closest family our deep shock and sadness at this event. We all have lost not just a precious human being but an extraordinary life-force and a great, fertile human intelligence. As an organisation we feel bereft at the loss of a colleague whose ideas and energy were crucial to our formation and development.
In the coming weeks, Paul’s life and works will be remembered on our site – beginning with a tribute from openDemocracy’s editor, Anthony Barnett.
A man in full
For many years, Paul taught politics and social theory at Birkbeck College in London. He chaired the editorial board of the respected Political Quarterly journal. He was also academic director of the multi-disciplinary London Consortium, taught at the Architectural Association and was chairman of the campaign group working for a written constitution in Britain, Charter 88.
In its own moving tribute, Charter 88 described Paul as “one of the most active and inspirational figures at the heart of our campaign”, who “was a champion of democracy and a tireless campaigner for political reform. He will be remembered for his brilliance, insight, great humour and passion for the real issues affecting democracy and people’s rights. He also will be remembered for his absolute dedication as a campaigner and for his wit, charm, warmth and originality. He was a great motivator, and an original spirit. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him and all those fortunate to have worked with him.”
A life in ideas
At the time of his death, Paul was working on a book called Governing Space: Architecture, Politics and War. In its very title it reflects a range of reference and ambition that was characteristic of Paul’s provocative, always forward-looking intelligence.
Among his early books were important elaborations of political theory which showed a profoundly analytical intelligence and a penetrating grasp of logic. These included Durkheim, Bernard and Epistemology (1975), Social Evolution and Sociological Categories (1976), and (in collaboration with Barry Hindess) the astringent works of Althusserian-influenced Marxist theory, Pre-Capitalist Modes of Production (1975) and Mode of Production and Social Formation (1977).
The attempt to excavate the philosophical sources for a contemporary political theory continued with On Law and Ideology (1979) and the important essay-collection Marxism and Historical Writing (1985). The development of Thatcherism in Britain impelled his work into a new, creative phase with Law, Socialism and Democracy (1986) and After Thatcher (1989).
As the wrenching economic and social changes of the 1980s unfolded across the world, and the end of the cold war impacted on political orders and political ideas alike, Paul’s writing became increasingly preoccupied with questions of democracy: its conditions, forms and possibilities. This was reflected in his works Representative Democracy and its Limits (1990), Associative Democracy (1994), and From Statism to Pluralism - Democracy, Civil Society and Global Governance (1997).
What was the character of the modern international economic order which constrained or facilitated different political possibilities at the end of the 20th century? Does globalisation exist? Is it genuinely new? These were the questions that shaped Paul’s pathbreaking work (with Grahame Thompson) Globalisation in Question (1996), so timely and influential that it demanded a swift second edition (1999).
The intersection of technology, geopolitics and environmental crisis shaped Paul’s concise, synoptic study War and Power in the Twenty-First Century (2001). Like his other works, this was accompanied by a host of research papers, journal articles and reviews for a wide variety of international publications. Along with his constant and supportive teaching and supervision to generations of students, Paul Hirst’s work and example leave a rich legacy for years to come.
Paul Hirst’s funeral will take place in London on 30 June 2003. His wife Penny has asked that there be no flowers, instead people are asked to send a donation to Charter 88, the movement for a modern democracy and written constitution in Britain. To donate online, go to http://www.charter88.org.uk/press/0306hirst.html; or send your donation to Charter88 , 18A Victoria Park Square, London E2 9PB, England, UK / +44 (0) 208 880 6088
Please feel free to send us your thoughts and commemorations of Paul Hirst to email@example.com.
The shattering events in New York and Washington on 11 September have opened a new field of crisis and uncertainty in international politics. Some of its many aspects have been addressed already in openDemocracy: the search for a just response to terrorism, questions of international law and geopolitics, the challenge of radical Islam, tensions within western multiculturalism. And from the epicentre of devastation, there have been the moving testimonies of our New York-based media co-editor, Todd Gitlin.
But it has also been clear – from, as it were, the first, terrible moments – that these events belong to the world of the media as much as to that of politics, war or diplomacy. The assaults against two of the media capitals of the world instantaneously became a global information story with endless layers of meaning. From the quintessentially symbolic nature of the targets, to the worldwide and blanket coverage they immediately generated; from the transformations they wrought in the TV schedules (including the cancellation of advertisements) to their longer-term likely impact on the kinds of films and narratives available to Hollywood and allied image-factories; from questions of impartiality and selectivity in news coverage (including the heavily coded language often used to report and discuss issues of terrorism and the middle east) to wider cultural themes like the media’s role in the ‘orchestration of emotion’ and the management of ‘shared national experiences’ – in all these areas, the media impact of 11 September was and will be enormous.
openDemocracy intends to publish arguments and host debates on these issues in the weeks and months to come. We will track the unfolding themes and draw in material from around the world to reflect the truly global nature of the effects of 11 September. For if the heart of the story was the United States, the way it was processed around the world posed a revealing challenge to the powers, responsibilities and values of the media in many different countries. (Hazhir Teimourian’s mordant comments on the Arabic-language press are just one indication of this diversity). We will also seek therefore to frame the American media experience in a comparative context.
How will this coverage affect our existing schedule of debates in openDemocracy’s media strand? The short answer is that we intend to follow a ‘twin track’ approach, creatively adapting to the world after 11 September without being swept away by the torrent of media analyses it must generate – one of which, by Nick Couldry, appears in the current issue. The debate we had planned on the power of media corporations – to succeed the inaugural debate on public service broadcasting – will now be launched (in our featured issue on globalisation) on 17 October with Robert McChesney’s and Benjamin Compaine’s contrasting perspectives. It will continue with contributions from Europe and south Asia as well as the Americas. Some of these may of course register the influence of the terrorist attacks, where these are thought to be directly relevant. In other cases, writers may in time come to view the world after 11 September as not so different in its fundamentals (just as crises like the Gulf or Kosovo wars – epic events at the time, which dominated media coverage for months – were gradually assimilated into a broader media pattern). Either way, we are committed to sustaining the principle of high-quality, purposive and global debate that has been central to openDemocracy’s vision from the outset.
As always, we warmly welcome your contributions, comments, criticisms, and suggestions. They, like openDemocracy itself, are part of the global public dialogue that is surely one of democracy’s healthiest defences against the annihilating instinct in thought, word or deed.