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From misogyny to war and politics: read the best of Rosemary Bechler

In memory of our late colleague, a founding editor of openDemocracy, here is a selection of her excellent articles spanning the past 20 years

Adam Ramsay
Adam Ramsay
29 November 2021, 12.00am
Rosemary in Berlin for the founding of DiEM25, February 2016
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Anthony Barnett

Our colleague and friend Rosemary Bechler died earlier this month after a long illness. openDemocracy would not be here without Rosemary, who was involved from the outset. And today, we recommend reading some of her many pieces.

In July 2001, Rosemary reviewed “two recent European films of human migration and disconnection”. “Do they both give equal space to their characters and open up a true dialogue with their audiences?” she asked, a theme that would run through her writing.

In December 2001, Rosemary launched openDemocracy’s ‘Purpose Europa’ debate, looking at the future of the EU. After expansion, she asked: “What will Europe then be for?” Given what was to come, it’s worth a read.

“When a mordant satirist of American mores observes the layered intrigues of a 1930s English country house, we are into something far deeper than the Anglo-American heritage industry.” Who else gives you such an opening line?

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And then came the run-up to the war in Iraq, and the sprouting of opposition to it, new shoots of resistance that Rosemary documented in her own style.

As a strong ally of women’s and peace movements around the world, her reporting on Nepal’s ‘single women’s movement’ from 2006 was extraordinary.

In the run-up to the 2008 US election, Rosemary wrote a series on feminist theory, arguing against narrower, liberal feminisms and for more radial understandings of gender and international relations. The first is here, the rest linked at the bottom.

“Europe is in crisis,” Rosemary wrote in February 2012. “We must commence to practice an egalitarian, peaceful, green and democratic Europe, open to a changing world.”

In 2014, Rosemary reviewed a documentary in which the elderly residents of a Transylvanian village describe their love lives. “We have much to learn from these people. If you can help it, don’t miss this ravishing film,” she wrote.

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Rosemary wrote an iconic review of the Jane Austen classic.

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'What I want to examine is why... progressives can’t use the same tactic as their rightwing counterparts of trashing the opposition'

Rosemary knew France and French politics extremely well, and so her 2016 interview about the country’s policing and multiculturalism is an important read.

Immediately after the Brexit referendum, Rosemary, a long-term Europhile, wrote to defend Jeremy Corbyn from The Guardian’s criticism about his role in the vote.

In 2018, Rosemary wrote a four-part series on what she called “the monocultural national us”, arguing – against some prominent thinkers – that attempts by the Left to adopt nationalism were disastrous.

Later that year, on the same theme, Rosemary conducted what was to become an iconic interview with the leading left-wing thinker, Chantal Mouffe.

She argued against a so-called ‘people’s vote’ and gave her account from inside the Democracy in Europe Movement, @DiEM_25.

Rosemary was a passionate advocate of deeper and more deliberative forms of democracy, as she wrote about here.

And a profound thinker about the institutions of British nationalism, including the BBC as well as misogyny.

She was writing for openDemocracy until September, when she asked what progressives should do next, after shutting down their opponents.

Over the summer, I interviewed Rosemary, along with openDemocracy’s founding editor-in-chief, Anthony Barnett, about some of her ideas. You can watch our conversation below.

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