Peter Bloom cached version 10/02/2019 19:53:40 en Symbolic politics - standing up for real democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On both sides of the Atlantic, we need to stand up for genuine democracy and against a system that cynically defends itself by wrapping itself in flags.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// colts.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// colts.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Indianapolis Colts kneel during the playing of the national anthem, September 2017. PA Images/All rights reserved</em></p><p>The refusal of American football players to stand for the national anthem in protest of systematic racism and police brutality continues to divide the country and capture the attention of the world. Adding fuel to the fire, in a widely derided <a href="">PR stunt</a>, Vice President Mike Pence even left an NFL game early to show his anger with the protesters.</p> <p>It is tempting to chalk this whole episode up to another <a href="">politics of distraction</a>. Trump’s original ramping of up the rhetoric coincided with the failure of his latest attempts to repeal Obamacare, and his controversial massive increase in defense spending.</p> <p>Yet there is an even deeper politics at play here. The latest furore represents a fundamental frustration by citizens in America and across the world over their inability to actually influence their government and society. It is the rise of a symbolic politics from the ashes of the United State’s rapidly dying real democracy.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Symbolic Justice</strong></p> <p>Symbolic protests are coming to dominate US politics. The summer was rocked by mass protests and counter-protests around the taking down of official monuments commemorating the Confederacy. It was a powerful reminder that the nation’s racial divides still ran deep. </p> <p>And as San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick <a href="">made clear</a> when he started his #BendTheKnee protest last year, there’s a mounting frustration that traditional political and legal channels are broken: </p> <p>"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."</p> <p>This growing political frustration has meant many turning to <em>symbolic</em> justice. No matter how many times police are documented on video killing black Americans, the courts exonerate them. No matter how many protests there are against these injustices, the brutality continues and the authoritarian creep of a US police state moves forward seemingly unimpeded.</p> <p><strong>Imagined Democracy</strong></p> <p>But the backlash against the protest shows how symbolic politics reflects the growth of a dangerous new “imagined democracy”. The renowned scholar Benedict Anderson famously referred to nationalism as an “<a href="">imagined community</a>”, one built on the romanticized bond people imagine they have with millions of others they have never nor will ever meet.&nbsp; It is the fantasy that unites people to support human made political inventions (like a nation state) as if they were inherent and timeless.</p> <p>The embrace of “imagined democracy” is fully on display by the widespread backlash against the Bend the Knee protests. Players who dare kneel during the anthem are are disrespecting the troops who “fight for freedom”. They are draping themselves in the flag, blinding themselves to the real suffering of other Americans. For those opposing the NFL protests, the dream of American exceptionalism is far more important than the real-life struggles of their fellow citizens. The backlash against the NFL protest shows a refusal to recognize that US foreign policy is less about spreading democracy and freedom and more about maximizing corporate profits.</p> <p>This desire for symbolic victories in the face of lessening genuine political power goes far beyond the US. It is more and more a global phenomenon. Here in the shocking Brexit vote has been seen as a rejection of Westminster as much as it was a rebuff of Brussels. Deepening political alienation has festered into a virulent native nationalism that has adopted the <a href="">English flag</a> as its most cherished symbol. Just as worryingly has been the embrace of the Union Jack in association with a misplaced nostalgia for destructive British Empire, a mass desire for lost imperial power in the face of a present democracy where people’s voices and opinions seem to matter little.</p> <p><strong>Standing Up for Real Democracy</strong></p> <p>It seems as if there is little opportunity to make concrete changes, and all that is left to fight over is our national symbols. People may have greater voice through social media but they certainly do not have greater power. Whether it is rejecting the Confederacy, the longing for the return of a bloody international empire, or the public embrace of neo-imperialism, we are only allowed to battle over the decorations that adorn a political system that is progressively shown to be devoid of real substance.</p> <p>Progressive movements such as Black Lives Matters, the Bernie Sanders inspired “Our Revolution”, or the rise of Corbyn are attempting to reverse this trend.</p> <p>Another example is the Momentum conference – tagline “The World Transformed” – again, people demanding the possibility of making real change.</p> <p>If there is any chance at common ground between the protestors and supporters of the national anthem (and between those who wave the English flag and those calling for the rights of the “many not the few”) it is in a unified cry to take back our politics and make it real again. It is the shared desire to stand up for genuine democracy in the face of a system that can only be cynically defended by wrapping itself in the flag.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/protest/black-lives-matter-protests">Protest in the Black Lives Matter movement: an interview with activist and lawyer Justin Hansford</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/protest/multiple-meanings-global-protest">What are the meanings behind the worldwide rise in protest?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/aaron-winter/charlottesville-far-right-rallies-racism-and-relating-to-power">Charlottesville, far-right rallies, racism and relating to power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Bloom Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:00:00 +0000 Peter Bloom 114192 at Is Corbynomics a return to the socialist past or a vision of the progressive future? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Corbyn's economic programme isn't about taking us back to the past, but embracing the challenges of today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn, by David Holt.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">After months of a very public civil war and heated campaigning, &nbsp;Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as Labour leader with an even greater democratic mandate. His victory signals a potentially radically new direction for the party. Yet is this a return to an unelectable socialist past or a the first step toward an exciting progressive future?</p><p dir="ltr">In this spirit, Corbyn last month introduced a “<a href="">10 point vision for Britain</a>” that promises to “<a href="">rebuild and transform</a>” the country. Specifically, it promises full employment, homes for all, security at work, a renationalized NHS,&nbsp;free education, progressive taxes, and end to excess pay to executives and reduce economic inequality.</p><p dir="ltr">These ideas are quite modest when compared to social democratic programs throughout much of northern Europe. Free childcare, protected workers’ rights and strong social safety net are far from radical outside the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, this so-called “<a href="">Corbynomics</a>” offers a profoundly different vision of society and the purpose of government than what has been advocated by either the Conservatives or New Labour. It updates a once cherished ideal that ‘freedom from want’ is necessary to ensuring personal dignity, individual freedom and collective democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">It is an economic and social commitment to equality and public welfare that resuscitates 20th century social democratic ideals for the new millennium. It is a full scale effort to once again put these values at the heart of economic and social policy in the 21st century. </p><p dir="ltr">The specifics of this agenda makes clear that Corbynomics is much more than a standard plan to improve economic growth or reduce the debt. The offer of free childcare eases the financial hardship of having a family while giving children from all backgrounds a shared social starting point. The commitment to stronger worker’s rights reduces the anxiety caused by precarious employment and returns to employees a real democratic voice within a rapidly changing economy. The renationalization of the railways reflects how essential “services” like transportation should once again prioritize people over profits.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet it is also a updating of these ideals for meeting modern challenges almost wholly unimaginable in the past. The bold “green economy” initiative recognizes the looming threat posed by climate change and the opportunity it presents for transforming our energy usage and economy. The pledge to end “aggressive wars” speaks to a new foreign policy that emphasizes shared development and international solidarity to combat corporate globalization, rising xenophobia and perpetual international conflicts over power and resources.</p><p dir="ltr">Corbynomics is therefore a <a href="">fundamental rethinking</a> of contemporary economic “truths” and ideologies. It wants to replace the “neo-liberal” consensus that has been in place since Thatcher and Reagan. It proposes a social democratic solution for ending “boom and bust” economic cycles. The goal is to unite these old and new socialist principles with the creation of a sustainable progressive economy. </p><p dir="ltr">Shadow Chancellor John Mcdonnell has been the public face of these efforts to challenge outdated &nbsp;“<a href="">Westminster dominated views</a>”. He has been a forceful advocate for renewed socialist policies like “<a href="">people’s quantitative easing</a>” that would require the Bank of England to produce money for needed public investment. He has also spearheaded the “<a href="">New Economics</a>” lecture series that aims to bring fresh perspectives from top economists to citizens across the country. </p><p dir="ltr">These measures are meant to infuse government with a reinvigorated sense of socialist experimentation. Corbynomics is not merely a set of dry policy prescriptions. Instead, it is trying to give public policy the same excitement and innovation that is presently usually associated with the marketplace.</p><p dir="ltr">The immediate hope is that “Corbynomics” can win over those dissatisfied with austerity and Tory rule and deliver an eventual Labour victory in the general election. By providing a coherent and positive alternative to both new Labour and the Conservatives, it has the potential to take advantage of the <a href="">anti-establishment mood</a> of many voters and direct it in a more progressive direction.The real challenge, though, is whether Corbyn and his supporters can shift the national “center ground”. The leftwing proposals of Corbyn continue to be seen by many as “<a href="">too good to be true</a>” – nice ideas but unaffordable. This is the exact opposite of Conservative policies such as the financial bailout and austerity that were presented as “undesirable” but “necessary”. </p><p dir="ltr">Corbynomics threatens to reverse this, highlighting public investment as essential to national survival and prosperity that is imperiled by radical “free market” thinking. It is a new story of economic and social progress. It is cuts not investment that is destroying Britain and it is neoliberalism that is endangering the welfare of nation and the majority of its population.</p><p dir="ltr">Crucial, in this respect, is showing that 20th century social democracy can be updated to meet 21st century challenges. That Corbynomics points the way to a better future and is not just nostalgia for a long since gone past.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/dont-believe-corbyn-bashers-economic-case-against-public-owners">Don&#039;t believe the Corbyn bashers - the economic case against public ownership is mostly fantasy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Bloom Mon, 17 Oct 2016 12:54:06 +0000 Peter Bloom 106010 at Police brutality: Is America teetering on edge of sectarian violence? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The tragic shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile occured because soldiers and police officers alike view themselves on the frontline and dangerous edge of preventing terrorist and criminal attacks.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protests against police violence"><img src="//" alt="Thomas Hawk/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Protests against police violence" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Thomas Hawk/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In what are now tragically familiar scenes, America, and much of the world, was rocked by </span><a href=""><span>two more videos</span></a><span> of US police officers shooting and killing unarmed black men. Only a day later, it stood in shock as police officers and civilians were </span><a href=""><span>gunned down</span></a><span> in Dallas, in what appeared to be retaliation. In little more than a week, three police officers would be shot dead and seven more wounded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – where earlier that month police were recorded killing the black citizen Alton Sterling with seemingly little cause.</span><strong><span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The primary focus has been on the </span><a href=""><span>continuing history</span></a><span> of racial violence by law enforcement – particularly against black citizens. From slavery to Jim Crow to the </span><a href=""><span>present</span></a><span>, the country’s racial divisions have been preserved through official and unofficial terror. It also brought to the forefront rising fears (whether or not </span><a href=""><span>statistically justified</span></a><span>) that this will only escalate racial tensions and violence while creating a hostile and deadly social climate for </span><a href=";from=2015&amp;to=2015"><span>law enforcement</span></a><span>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>However, they also reflect a deeper racial discourse of “policing” that permeates US politics and culture more generally. Notably, it frames US authority as having to constantly protect the country against national and international “threats” to its order. This leads to a top down pre-emptive justification of “lawful” force, especially against stereotyped populations. Thus soldiers and police officers alike view themselves on the frontline and dangerous edge of preventing terrorist and criminal attacks, respectively. The results of this “policing” culture are as fatal as they are racist – creating a perpetual cycle of violence and reaction both at home and abroad.</span></p><h2><strong><span>Beyond “Good Policing”</span></strong></h2><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In the wake of these latest filmed outrages, there was renewed public outcry for better policing. Indeed this year alone over a hundred black citizens </span><a href=""><span>have been killed</span></a><span> by police officers, a statistic that reinforces how necessary and urgent it is to ensure that black lives matter. <span>&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Such calls only intensified after the killings in Dallas – though they took on a decidedly different, more pro-law enforcement tone. The attempt to paint all police officers as “racist” or “bad” was not only supposedly wrong, but also downright </span><a href=""><span>dangerous</span></a><span>. <span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Bubbling to the surface was a troubling social division pitting “cops” and against angry and victimized “civilians.”<span>&nbsp; </span>It was no long a matter of a professional police force serving the public. It was now entrenched partisans groups with calls for “Black Lives Matter” on one side and “</span><a href=""><span>Blue Lives Matter</span></a><span>” on the other.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Between these extremes are supposedly “moderate” and “sensible” voices seeking to understand the exact police culture that is giving rise to this toxic environment of death and retribution. In the </span><a href=""><span>words</span></a><span> of a former black police officer:</span></p><p class="blockquote-new">“Because of this legacy of racism, police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new. It has become more visible to mainstream America largely because of the proliferation of personal recording devices, cellphone cameras, video recorders — they're everywhere. We need police officers.&nbsp; We also need them to be held accountable to the communities they serve.”&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>While informative, these perspectives still ignore a fundamental problem. They fail to fully grasp how the very modern concept of “policing” is contributing to these ongoing tragedies. It is the same mentality of paranoia and aggression that is fueling the seemingly perpetual war on terror. The US needs to do more than stop bad police – it must also put an end to its broader politics and culture of race-based “policing” both inside and outside its borders.</span></p><h2><strong><span>The War at Home</span></strong></h2><p><span><span>The attacks on September 11th dramatically altered US and global politics. Finding and rooting out “terrorists” domestically and internationally became the top priority for the world’s biggest military superpower.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>At the heart of these policies was a fresh vision of authority at all levels. The primary responsibility of all those in power – whether the military, police or politicians – was to prevent terrorist violence. It created a mindset in which threats were waiting behind every corner, forcing the government to be ever vigilant against hidden terror wherever it may be lurking. It has become “</span><a href=""><span>terrorized by the War on Terror</span></a><span>”.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>This led to the justification of pre-emptive attacks and extra-juridical killing – from the disastrous invasion of Iraq to the current policies of </span><a href=""><span>assassination</span></a><span> and </span><a href=""><span>drone bombings</span></a><span>. The target of this aggression has been “radical Islam,” a code word used far too often for terrorizing entire non-white Muslim societies. While official rhetoric has tried to downplay this racial connection, the narrative of crusade and a “clash of civilizations” stoked domestic racism. Calls to ban Muslims from entering the country and building a wall to stop Mexican “</span><a href=""><span>criminals and rapists</span></a><span>” at the border reveals this worrying politics of terror and scapegoating.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Less discussed, perhaps, but no less significant has been the spread of this terror mentality to the domestic police force. One obvious change is the pronounced “</span><a href=""><span>militarization</span></a><span>” of modern law enforcement. Cops on the street increasingly look like soldiers patrolling foreign territory.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The similarities go far deeper than armored uniforms and advanced weaponry. They extend to the very ways in which they police. Officers were already divided between whether they </span><a href=""><span>were “warriors” or “guardians</span></a><span class="MsoHyperlink"><span>.</span></span><span>” In this new era of terror, they are now crusaders actively defending the sacred security of law-abiding, “free” citizens. <span>&nbsp;</span>They are literally “preserving the peace” of their communities, now against the “extremist” elements that supposedly imperil them.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is in this heightened world of mass paranoia and racial prejudice that these murders must be understood. Philando Castile was shot by police only days before the Dallas attacks. Previous to this fatal encounter, </span><a href=""><span>he was stopped 52 times</span></a><span>. This was not the scrupulous action of a traditional police force. It was the putting in place of mobile checkpoints against an oppressed population presumed to be armed and dangerous.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Here the difference between terrorism and crime disappeared into a larger mission to protect the safety of good “American citizens” menaced by the barbarism of homegrown drug dealers and gangbanging. Je suis the Suburbs.<br /> <br /> Just as every Muslim is a potential suicide bomber, every black male is a possible gun wielding thug. The thin racial line between privilege and prejudice has become ground zero for terrorist prevention. The War on Terror has come home.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><strong><span>America’s Deadly Terror Policing</span></strong></h2><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The police have thus taken on a new and dangerous role as part of a global security force against terrorism. Just as international law can be contravened for the sake of international security, so too can legal niceties such as due process and judicious restraint be forsaken when confronted with a potentially perilous criminal element.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>On the surface it seems utterly preposterous that Castile should have died for having a “</span><a href=""><span>wide set nose</span></a><span>” that linked him spuriously to an armed robbery. However, this makes complete perverse sense when placed within the extreme calculus of terror. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair exemplified this misguided thinking in rationalizing the Iraqi invasion, </span><span><a href="">declaring</a></span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="blockquote-new">“The crucial thing after September 11 is that the calculus of risk changed … it is absolutely essential to realise this: if September 11 hadn’t happened, our assessment of the risk of allowing Saddam any possibility of him reconstituting his programmes would not have been the same … The point about [9/11] was that over 3,000 people had been killed on the streets of New York, an absolutely horrific event, but this is what really changed my perception of risk, the calculus of risk for me: if those people, inspired by this religious fanaticism could have killed 30,000, they would have”&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The </span><a href=""><span>hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths</span></a><span> exist alongside the thousands of black deaths at the hands of police as collateral damage in the ongoing struggle to protect 'civilization' safe from destruction. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><a href=""><span>The Black Lives Matter</span></a><span> movement remains a simultaneously restrained and </span><a href=""><span>progressive response</span></a><span> to this policing terror. Their attempted marginalization by many with the at best naïve proclamation “</span><a href=""><span>All Lives Matter</span></a><span>” only fans the flames of an already volatile situation. Sadly the Dallas shootings – stained with both police and civilian blood – were an all too predictable consequence of a world war that is now invading American shores.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The immediate response by Dallas officials has only reinforced this climate of terror. They referred to the suspect – not coincidentally a veteran of the Afghanistan war – as </span><a href=""><span>connected</span></a><span> to black extremists while many in the media as well as politicians </span><a href=""><span>falsely associated</span></a><span> this action with the Black Lives Matter movement. It is crystallizing a fatally familiar 'us versus them' narrative of good 'authority' versus evil 'radicals'. The recent shooting in Baton Rouge – though the full details of the case remain unknown – speaks to the precipice the country finds itself on. America is a nation teetering on the dangerous edge of sectarian violence between a population that believes they must seek their own justice after the courts have failed them and a besieged occupying police force fearful not only for their authority but their lives.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Instead this escalating violence must be a wake up call for the US to end such a divisive and repressive mentality, to challenge its doublespeak belief that 'policing is peace', and to see that the real terror is rooted in its own fears and racism. The US must understand that its embrace of terror policing will ultimately lead to its self-destruction, leaving a trail of black and blue tragedy in its wake.</span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Peter Bloom Thu, 21 Jul 2016 18:00:00 +0000 Peter Bloom 103934 at One world labourism: can Corbyn link national security to global justice? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Corbyn could lead a fundamental shift in Britain's foreign policy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Lewishamdreamer. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Jeremy Corbyn won a stunning victory to become leader of the Labour party. His triumph was clear protest against austerity and mainstream free market consensus on both the acceptable right and left. Promise is the possibility for a new progressive domestic agenda centred on economic equality, social investment and popular welfare. As one headline <a href="">declared</a>, “Jeremy Corbyn’s victory has already transformed politics”.</p> <p>The potential foreign policy consequences of this triumph, however, are less clear. Critics have charged Corbyn of being an extremist sympathiser and dangerously extremist himself. They <a href="">point</a> to his now infamous reference to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”. They <a href="">claim</a> his critiques of Israel are evidence of anti-Semitism. They <a href="">even suggest</a> he is unpatriotic for not singing the national anthem while in the Commons. <br /> <br /> These “fatal” charges are easily dismissed upon closer investigation. Corbyn referred to these groups as “friends” as a matter of diplomacy not ideology. His challenge to Israel is firmly on the grounds of social justice not religion. And whether or not he sings the national anthem pales in comparison to the lack of compassion Tories have shown toward their British countrymen with their economic austerity policies. </p> <p>The hollowness of these accusations reveals just how reactionary the political establishment has become. Nevertheless, there remain serious questions regarding Corbyn’s foreign policy. Would he leave NATO? Does he ultimately support staying or exiting the EU? How would he address terrorism? Conflicts in the Middle East? The refugee crisis? As <a href="">one skeptical</a> commentator asked “British socialism is back – but what does Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader mean for the rest of the&nbsp;world?”</p><p> Fundamentally, does he in fact offer a new positive vision of Britain in the world? Can Corbyn reverse conventional wisdom to show the extremism of the status quo and the existential need for global justice.</p> <p><strong>A threat to national security?</strong></p> <p>Almost immediately following Corbyn’s election as Leader, the Conservatives went on the attack. More than just a political rival, they warned that he was a significant “national security threat”. </p> <p>Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted “Labour are now a serious risk to our nation's security, our economy's security and your family's security”. This idea that a Corbyn formed government would increase British insecurity has been an ongoing theme throughout the leadership campaign. Only weeks earlier, George Osborne similarly <a href="">proclaimed</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>“I think we should take it deadly seriously. For the new unilateralists of British politics are a threat to our future national security and to our economic security. We’re going to take on their dangerous arguments and defeat them.”</p></blockquote> <p>These fears reflect a growing public debate regarding who and what actually represents modern “extremism”. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, Britain’s continued close relationship with “friendly dictators” and <a href="">the country’s arm sales</a> to dangerous regimes internationally challenge the mainstream’s credibility as protectors of national security. In <a href="">the impassioned words</a> of one citizen, “Jeremy Corbyn is a patriot – he would never have waged the illegal war that killed my son”.</p> <p>Corbyn, for his part, has directly challenged his predecessor Tony Blair on this account. In the run up to his election as leader he <a href="">stated</a> that the New Labour supported Iraqi invasion, </p> <blockquote><p>“was an illegal war. I am confident about that. Indeed Kofi Annan [UN secretary general at the time of the war] confirmed it was an illegal war and therefore [Tony Blair] has to explain to that. Is he going to be tried for it? I don’t know. Could he be tried for it? Possibly.”</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Promoting a “just” security</strong></p> <p>It remains to be seen if these conservative efforts – in both parties – will be successful. The <a href="">early public ridicule</a> they have received suggest otherwise. </p> <p>The initial failures of this well worn fear mongering is an opportunity to profoundly reframe British foreign policy and the accepted beliefs that underpin it. The prevailing appeals to militarism and nationalism can be shown themselves as existential threats to the country’s survival. In their place is the need for a new agenda based on international solidarity, shared development and global justice.</p><p> The <a href="">contemporary shift</a> in public opinion regarding asylum for refugees point in this possible progressive direction. This change was also witnessed in the popular support for Greece against the market driven “troika” during the recent Eurozone crisis.</p> <p>To this effect, Corbyn used his inaugural speech as leader to promote a fresh foreign policy agenda. Emphasized were values of international solidarity as well as equitable global, social and economic development, <a href="">saying</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“Let us be a force for change in the world, a force for humanity in the world, a force for peace in the world and a force that recognises we cannot go on like this, with grotesque levels of inequality, grotesque threats to our environment all around the world without the rich and powerful governments stepping up to the plate to make sure our world becomes safer and better… We are one world.”</p></blockquote> <p>These sentiments constitute much more than a stirring appeal to international idealism. Instead they make national security first and foremost an issue of global justice. As he reminded the country in the same speech, “Let’s recognise that going to war creates a legacy of bitterness and problems.”</p> <p><strong>One world labourism</strong></p> <p>These views speak to an alternative perspective of international relations. A growing number of scholars, commentators and policy makers challenge traditional realist assumptions connecting national security to a strong defense and nation state competition. Policies like the “war on terror” in fact “<a href="">make us less safe, less free</a>”.</p> <p>By contrast, they highlight how cooperative efforts to enhance economic security and political freedom worldwide can lessen global conflict (and the conditions that breed it) thus making all countries safer. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal recently <a href="">intoned</a>, “Economic growth is a national security issue”.</p> <p>Interestingly, this blending of idealism and realism echoes the conservative political discourse of the recent past. At the end of the 20th century, the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War promised an “<a href="">end of history</a>” that would replace the threat of nuclear annihilation with a peaceful world composed of free markets and liberal democratic nations. </p> <p>In the post-9/11 reality of the new millennium, the claimed necessary militarism of the “war on terror” was coupled by the idealistic neo-conservative notion that peace could only be secured through the global spread of democracy. Then President George W. Bush exhibited an almost <a href="">divine</a> belief in such realist idealism, driving his aggressive military actions and posturing.</p> <p>Within the present context, Corbyn is similarly trying to successfully advocate for a foreign policy that combines realism and idealism but to significantly ends. One where the almost Orwellian like mantra of “war is peace” is exchanged for a hard nosed appeal to the necessity of a progressive global justice agenda.</p> <p>Interestingly, Corbyn attempts to do so appear to harken back to, at least implicitly, another Conservative tradition – one nation Toryism. This variant of British Conservatism prioritizes the ability to unite the country through its established “common sense” values of decency and pragmatism. Tellingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, Cameron <a href="">sought to recapture</a> this tradition for his own free market purposes of legitimizing austerity. <br /> <br /> Likewise, Corbyn and his followers have repeatedly framed their own domestic and foreign polices as the “decent thing to do”. He attributed his victory to a broader political movement <a href="">that desired</a> “a more equal, a more decent Britain”. Going further, he claimed that, </p> <blockquote><p>“During these amazing three months, our party has changed. We have grown enormously, because of the hopes of so many ordinary people for a different Britain, a better Britain, a more equal Britain, a more decent Britain.”</p></blockquote> <p>These sentiments have been increasingly adopted by a range of progressive actors. Speaking, for instance, to a pro-refugee rally in London, a prominent British civil rights campaigner <a href="">told the supportive crowd</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“Look at what you've done today, you have come to shame your leaders into representing you and your values. Come together to shame your leaders into showing just an ounce of basic human decency."</p></blockquote> <p>Unlike One Nation Toryism, however, Corbyn has much more expansive world view. Gone are the paternalism and the acceptance of social hierarchy. Instead, he promoted human rights promotion, economic investment, diplomacy and social justice as part of an international “common sense”. They are pragmatic means for making the world a better place and in doing so making Britain securer.&nbsp; </p> <p>Jeremy Corbyn is introducing a potentially new political perspective for British foreign policy – one world Labourism. The survival of the UK and the globe could very much depend on its success. In light of Britain’s past and present history of imperialism and exploitation, it is also the decent thing to do. </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Peter Bloom Tue, 22 Sep 2015 23:11:11 +0000 Peter Bloom 96219 at Authoritarian capitalism in modern times: when economic discipline really means political disciplining <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The global spread of capitalism depends on an authoritarian form of politics. How can democracy survive alongside economic discipline in today's world?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr. European Council President. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>After months of tense negotiations, Europe and Greece have finally reached a new bailout deal.&nbsp; Shadowing these talks were </span><a href="">fears of a “Grexit</a><span>” and, potentially, the </span><a href="">breakup of the European Union</a><span>.</span></p> <p>The talks also highlighted growing ideological and political divisions within the continent and also globally. Syriza’s struggle against the Troika reflected larger <a href="">disagreements</a> regarding economic austerity and the rising power of financial capitalism. It was a David vs. Goliath battle of two opposing worldviews – social welfare vs. fiscal responsibility.&nbsp;</p><p>At the heart of this battle are questions <a href="">over the future of democracy</a> in an increasingly hostile capitalist world. It spoke to fundamental issues of present day power, politics and economics. For example, what right does a country have to determine its own economic policies? What right does an international organisation or another country have in deciding such issues for them?&nbsp;</p><p>Germany has been charged with continuing a tradition of <a href="">market driven political authoritarianism</a>, updated for the 21st century, &nbsp;a classic and still tragic tale of a stronger country using its power to exploit a weaker nation at the behest of international finance. According <a href="">to one commentator</a>, the Greeks must “confront neo-liberal authoritarianism"</p><p>"Much like the mythical Atlas, Greece must carry the struggle against austerity on its shoulders as punishment for its government challenging the neo-liberal European consensus in Europe”.</p> <p>This market despotism has evolved to meet the current realities of globalisation and whilst it may echo the past there are also many differences. In today’s world there is a new rationale for spreading not only economic capitalism but also political authoritarianism – where the demand for economic discipline has become an all-encompassing pretext for repressive political disciplining.</p><h2><strong>Imposing austerity</strong></h2><p> From the outset, this most recent Eurozone crisis appeared to be about more than just Greece paying back its considerable debt. Instead, it was motivated by the need to force the Greeks to accept economic austerity. As German theorist Jürgen&nbsp;Habermas <a href="">recently told</a> the Guardian:&nbsp;</p><p>“the outcome is disgraceful because forcing the Greek government to agree to an economically questionable, predominantly symbolic privatisation fund cannot be understood as anything other than an act of punishment against a left-wing government”.</p><p> This “punishment” seems even harsher in light of mounting evidence that these austerity measures are economically ineffective. Indeed the International Monetary Fund, formerly a staunch ally of Germany, <a href="">has challenged the orthodoxy</a> of austerity. Far from helping countries like Greece reduce their debt, it is argued, <a href="">they perpetuate the problem</a> by redirecting vital investment from industry to creditors. </p> <p>The ramifications of this strategy extend beyond the question of the Greek debt. Reflected is a broader politics of imposing austerity on often unwilling populations and the coercive demand that beleaguered countries accept exploitive conditions, leading to higher inequality and less welfare. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><span>This follows &nbsp;an almost five-decade old project to expand neo-liberalism to all corners of the world. International financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF deployed their global influence and capital reserves to compel countries to accept a destructive free-market agenda of mass privatisation and a weakened social safety net.To </span><a href=";aid=4281924&amp;fileId=S0020818300019159">this end</a><span>:</span></p><p> “Governmental elites, if they are to remain in power, must also answer to (or repress) their own populations. And the price to be paid for external help with “liquidity problems” has typically involved politically dangerous stabilization measures (devaluations, wage and credit restrictions, and fiscal deficit reductions)–measures that often arouse the strong opposition of major social forces”.</p> <p>Authoritarian policies once reserved for the “developing” world have now come home to the west. Greece is just the latest example of a capitalism that respects democracy only so long as it profits elite stakeholders.</p> <h2><strong>Market dictators<br /> </strong></h2> <p>Traditionally, markets and democracy were seen to go hand in hand. The fall of the Soviet Union signaled the <a href=";lr=&amp;id=NdFpQwKfX2IC&amp;oi=fnd&amp;pg=PR9&amp;dq=Fukuyama+and+end+of+history&amp;ots=LBMVVoH55D&amp;sig=e9mAr7DrLwUjUoC6lTX-2jNbvkc">“end of history”</a> – where liberalism would reign supreme both economically and politically. The days of state planning and repression were soon to be replaced by free markets and elections across the world.</p> <p>The intervening two decades have severely tested such optimism. The post Cold War world reflects a much more authoritarian reality then the one predicted by the liberal triumphalists. It is characterised by “market despots”, such as China and Russia, as well as a rising tide of so-called “<a href="">illiberal democracies</a>”.</p> <p>However, this authoritarianism is not limited to traditional forms of national despotism and illiberalism. It also encompasses the increased right of IFIs to dictate the economic policies of developing countries. Their mission is to introduce and maintain the neo-liberal transformation of creditor nations. In this respect, <a href="">their</a> “understanding of good governance continues to reflect a concern over the effectiveness of the state rather than the equity of the economic system and the legitimacy of the power structure.”</p> <p>Vital to this mission is the active shaping of these countries political institutions. Under the banner of 'good governance' the World Bank and IMF mould the public sector and civil society to reflect its dogmatic commitment to marketisation. The <a href=";pg=PA3&amp;lpg=PA3&amp;dq=%E2%80%A6this+new+governance+paradigm+represents+a+market/private+sector+model+of+development+which+signifies+the+current+era+of+globalization&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=_STLBpLkrx&amp;sig=ajACCS0dOEg1BLoU_J2WMbsxq-0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CCEQ6AEwAGoVChMIm_nIouvixgIVw1g-Ch0zBABQ#v=onepage&amp;q=%E2%80%A6this%20new%20governance%20paradigm%20represents%20a%20market%2Fprivate%20sector%20model%20of%20development%20which%20signifies%20the%20current%20era%20of%20globalization&amp;f=false">mantra of development</a> has shifted from getting 'prices right' to getting 'institutions' right.&nbsp;</p><p><span>Here </span><a href="">economic 'reforms' mean</a><span> embracing a conservative agenda of privatisation and the retreat of public services. It entails accepting that the economy must be guided by the private sector, even at the expense of the material well being of the majority of citizens. It also involves reconfiguring politics to better facilitate these changes.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Significantly, democracy is relegated to a secondary concern. The priority is establishing 'good governance' above and beyond all else. Explicitly authoritarian regimes can, therefore, <a href="">justify their continued monopoly on power</a> by trumpeting their 'good governance' credentials – including their preservation of private property, anti-corruption campaigns and investment in a permanent market transition.</p> <p>However, it also profoundly limits the scope and possibilities of existing democracies. Elections become decisions over which party can best spread and protect the free market. It is, in <a href=";pg=PA290&amp;lpg=PA290&amp;dq=global+governance+in+the+era+of+global+neoliberalism&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=y5oEtQnPCO&amp;sig=f13ZF6P4k_BYyv1rmJQYLJLRrh0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CCYQ6AEwAGoVChMIlszrgu3ixgIViBw-Ch0ehAeP">the words of scholars</a>, 'nothing less than a depolitisation of democracy'. Deeper questions concerning economic values or social organisation are relegated to technical debates of financial management. </p><h2><strong>Fiscal disciplining</strong></h2> <p>In this new era, states have a primary obligation to be '<a href="">economically responsible</a>'. This responsibility has at best a cursory relationship to democracy. Rather it is focused on <a href="">implementing fiscally conservative policies</a>. The economic conditionality of loans, in this sense, have transformed into moral imperatives. It is now not only politically demanded that countries accept neoliberal principles but it has become their moral duty to do so. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This moralisation of capitalism as a development discourse speaks to an ongoing problem with successfully introducing market 'reforms'. As far back as the 1950s <a href="">governments</a> ranging from Africa to Latin America put in place the marketisation policies expected by their global 'partners' against a domestic backdrop of popular dissent. This often <a href="">produced predictably authoritarian results</a>.</p> <p>Today’s regimes face almost identical pressures. Combined with the global push toward 'good governance' is the mounting burden to be fiscally 'self-disciplined'. It is their 'responsibility' to follow appropriate economic policies – namely deepening capitalism – and <a href="">not allow them to be deviated</a> from by ill-informed popular movements. The economic 'health' of their nation, and its ultimate development, depends on them being assiduous in their prevention and effective dealing with anti-market sentiment and desires. </p> <p>Their inability to fulfill this moral obligation <a href="">necessitates a decisive foreign intervention</a>. International organisations and their powerful national supporters must punish 'irresponsible countries', not only for their own good but for the wellbeing of the global market. The absence of national 'self-disciplining' creates the imperative for a just as authoritarian international fiscal 'disciplining'.</p> <h2><strong>Rise of authoritarian capitalism</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>The emergence of 'fiscal disciplining' empowers governments to preserve economic marketisation by whatever means necessary. The suppression of opposition is acceptable and to an extent encouraged if it contributes to 'good governance' and being fiscally 'responsible'. While it is true that the role of the state in the economy has been substantially reduced, this does not mean they are less powerful. <a href="//localhost/Users/peterbloom1/Downloads/6676-10070-1-PB%20(2).pdf">By contrast</a>, 'neoliberal restructuring has not resulted in less state, as is fashionable to argue in some circles today, but in a different, often more coercive, role for the state'. &nbsp;</p><p> At stake is the transition from democracy toward capitalist sovereignty. In place of deliberation and experimentation is technocracy and profitability, with nations that dare to subvert these priorities at risk of being taken to court by corporations or facing sanctions by international institutions.</p> <p>The global spread of capitalism fundamentally depends on an authoritarian form of politics. It is a repressive logic whereby a strong capitalist sovereign is required to 'discipline' those who are economically 'irresponsible'. This can be seen as states 'disciplining' citizens, corporations 'disciplining' their workforce, or international organisations 'disciplining' states.</p> <p>Witnessed now, therefore, is the rise of authoritarian capitalism, where the rights of capitalism are king, lording over all other political, economic and social desires. &nbsp;We are entering an age in which economic discipline leads inevitably to authoritarian political disciplining.</p><p><em><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em><span> on </span><a href="">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/john-weeks/deficits-in-eu-that-should-worry-europeans">Deficits in the EU that should worry Europeans</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Peter Bloom Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:51:16 +0000 Peter Bloom 94612 at A ‘hero’ for the twenty-first century: meet the CEO politician <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the twenty-first century, politicians behave more like CEOs. When voters are seen as shareholder citizens, what is left for democracy?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Carly Fiorina. Demotix/Brian Frank. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Carly Fiorina. Demotix/Brian Frank. All rights reserved." title="Carly Fiorina. Demotix/Brian Frank. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Carly Fiorina. Demotix/Brian Frank. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina made headlines this week by launching her campaign for the US Presidency with the <a href="">confident message</a> that “what she did for HP, she can do for America”. While potentially being the first female Republican nominee is undeniably newsworthy, it is her business leadership that has garnered the most attention. In the lead-up to announcing her candidacy last February, Fiorina <a href="">declared</a> “HP requires executive decision-making, and the presidency is all about executive decision-making”. </p> <p><span>Despite these optimistic claims, her record as CEO </span><a href="">has been criticized</a><span> as a tenure marked by outsourcing, mass layoffs and internal conflict. Indeed, the issues of her time as CEO were so severe, “that several prominent former HP colleagues&nbsp;recoil&nbsp;at the idea of Fiorina managing any enterprise again, let alone the executive branch”.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span><span>While such criticisms are important, they miss a more fundamental issue. Questioning Fiorina’s track record is one thing. But why is being a CEO considered good experience for being a politician? What does such a belief say about the present and future of our contemporary democracy?</span></p><p><span>With the recent election of a pro-austerity Conservative majority in the UK, these concerns have become even more pressing. Indeed in addition to his fiscal conservatism, Tory leader David Cameron is often described in terms more befitting a responsible corporate executive then an inspiring politician. As the </span><a href="">Economist</a><span> recently observed:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span>"Whatever fire rages in Mr Cameron’s breast, the calm efficiency that allows him to polish off a dozen tough decisions before breakfast comes across, in one so well-heeled, as a slightly alienating insouciance."</span></p></blockquote> <p><span>With the line between political and business leadership styles becoming ever more blurred, are we heading towards a new era where democracies not only serve the interests of corporations but also are increasingly run like corporations?</span></p><h2><span></span><strong>A recipe for success?</strong></h2><p><strong></strong><span>The CEO is a twenty-first century hero. From flamboyant entrepreneurs like Richard Branson to ‘sharks’ like Alan Sugar, CEOs are popularly associated with innovation, dynamism, power and wealth. The new ‘</span><a href="">celebrity CEO</a><span>’ is not the ‘fat cat’ nor the boring suit, but the ‘</span><a href=";lr=&amp;id=YSRTvYgS8AwC&amp;oi=fnd&amp;pg=PA230&amp;dq=Littler+celebrity+CEO&amp;ots=6VTn0FGAAv&amp;sig=BnMWl026tIRsbXBKeSzFQScN1L4#v=onepage&amp;q=Littler%20celebrity%20CEO&amp;f=false">cool cat</a><span>’ – the epitome of power, hipness and success.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>The association of the CEO with success is so dominant that the term has become a cultural shorthand for triumphalism in all walks of life. To lose weight you must be the “</span><a href="">CEO of your own body</a><span>”, men must learn to “</span><a href="">date like a CEO</a><span>”, and personal and professional fulfillment can only come if you are the “</span><a href="">CEO of me</a><span>”.</span></p> <p><span>It is not surprising that politicians are following suit. The twenty-first century has been witness to the rise of the “</span><a href="">CEO model of political leadership</a><span>”.&nbsp; The current age demands a business-focused </span><a href="">style of leadership</a><span>:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span>"As democracies mature, you need different types of people. You go from wanting people who can lead political agitations and write constitutions, to people who can manage a budget and improve the efficiency of programmes. That’s where an MBA training comes in useful."</span></p></blockquote> <p><span>The political uptake for the “</span><a href="">cult of the CEO’</a><span>” was not an embrace of the inspiring executive but rather a reversion back to the corporate leader who was able to ‘get things done’ effectively, efficiently and decisively.</span></p> <p><span>The victory of George W. Bush in the 2000 US presidential election was perhaps the first and most obvious success of this new model. Bush’s business education and experience were trumpeted throughout his campaign, his Harvard MBA used to validate his authority.</span></p> <p><span>A </span><a href="">former classmate of Bush expressed</a><span> what many at the time felt: ''The lawyers and the generals have had their chance. Why not give an MBA a shot?'' Bush’s cabinet was similarly filled with former CEOs:&nbsp; Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Don Evans, Elaine Chao, Andrew Card Jr, and John Snow had all been corporate heads.</span></p> <p><a href="">The trend is global</a><span>.&nbsp; Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi came from Fininvest; before becoming a South Korean statesman, Chung Ju-yung founded Hyundai; and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has a management degree from MIT and headed up the Ghana Tourist Development Company.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>The ‘responsible’ shareholder citizen</strong></h2><p><strong></strong><span>The idea that political leadership should model itself after corporate leadership points to a broader shift within democracies. Voters “are looking for financial acumen” </span><a href="">according to Susan MacManus</a><span>, professor of political science at the University of South Florida, “and they associate that with CEOs. They can talk with credibility when they talk about real financial issues”. Within this political climate, 2010 was hailed in the US as the “high water mark for the CEO as candidate” with over 40 business executives running for higher office.</span></p> <p><span>These values extend beyond just former CEOs. The current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot epitomizes the new business style of democratic leadership. He has followed a pro-market agenda ranging from repealing worker protection laws to privatizing the remaining government-owned corporations. Tellingly he speaks as if Australia itself were a corporation. On his election night he announced: “Australia is under new management and is once more open for business”.</span></p> <p><span>This business mentality is also starting to intrude into ideas of democratic accountability. Covering a fall in the polls, the Australian news media </span><a href=",">tellingly asked</a><span>: “if Tony Abbott was CEO, would he be sacked for his performance?” Even his opponents have adopted the language of corporation. The executive director of the Australia Institute – a left-leaning think – Richard Dennis declared that citizens should “think of government in terms of a business structure” with the Prime Minister as its CEO. In this respect “any CEO who does a poor job of keeping their board informed and aligning their agenda with that of their board is sailing into dangerous waters.”</span></p> <p><span>The idea of the CEO political leader brings with it a new vision of the modern voter. The ‘shareholder citizen’ must be ‘responsible’ and ever more ‘market-knowledgeable’.</span></p> <h2><strong>The emergence of corporate democracy</strong></h2> <p><span>The ‘neo-liberalism’ of the past several decades has radically influenced how we understand democratic leadership and citizenship. Politicians increasingly present themselves as the living embodiment of corporate values. Voters are now ‘shareholders’ tasked with dutifully electing the best CEO for the job. &nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Political theorist Wendy Brown rails against the “</span><a href="">undoing of the demos</a><span>”: the shift from ‘homo politicus’ to ‘homo economicus’ – the “image of man as an entrepreneur of himself”. Politically, this has translated as a romanticization of the politician as private executive and citizens as investors.</span></p> <p><span>The neo-liberal penetration of democratic leadership is not about the absence of government. It is</span><a href=""> its intentional use</a><span> to “encourage particular types of entrepreneurial, competitive and commercial behaviour in its citizens”. The transformation of democracy into corporate strategy produces a politics where the ideology of the market is prioritized and its values predominant. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span><span>The continued prevalence of austerity speaks to this exact phenomenon. Despite clear evidence of its economic failures and skewing of resources to the ‘haves’ at the expense of the ‘have-nots’, it remains a credible, if not in some places popular, policy. “Ideologically, it is the intuitive appeal of the idea of austerity – of not spending more than you have ­–­­ that really casts its spell”, </span><a href="">notes professor Mark Blythe</a><span>. “Understanding how austerity came to be the standard policy in liberal economic thought when states get into trouble can reveal why it is so seductive and so dangerous.”</span></p> <p><span>The CEO politician is “so seductive and dangerous” for the same reasons. They represent a ‘common sense’ idea that leaders should be efficient, productive and decisive. Moreover, that they should deploy these qualities towards maximizing the country’s economic growth and doing whatever is required to ensure a healthy market.</span></p> <p>Such qualities are on display even in heated electoral campaigns where austerity is being explicitly questioned, such as in the 2015 UK elections. Here all parties, from <a href="">Labour</a> to the <a href="">SNP</a>, must convince voters of their “fiscal responsibility”. Labour’s Ed Miliband <a href="">declared</a> that his party "sets out a vow to protect our nation's finances; a clear commitment that every policy... is paid for without a single penny of extra borrowing". Meanwhile his Conservative opponent and current incumbent pointedly <a href="">asked</a> voters if “they would trust Ed Miliband to run the economy?” </p> <p><span>Following an unexpected victory, </span><a href="">major business leaders</a><span> joined together to push the re-elected Prime Minister David Cameron to be “ambitious”, in language that could be mistaken for a newly emboldened business executive given a fresh vote of confidence by shareholders:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span>"Fight the Whitehall culture of incrementalism, risk aversion and inertia that stops much-needed change. Only then can business and government, together, work to ensure that a prosperous, confident UK can pay its way in the world in the decades to come."</span></p></blockquote> <p><span>In today’s democracy, the business of politics is in fact business, both in substance and style. Whether traditional democratic values of liberty, equality, justice, hospitality and community can withstand these changes is yet to be seen. The prospects do not look good.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-bloom/us-republicans-are-not-alone-fear-and-hatred-on-campaign-trail">US Republicans are not alone: fear and hatred on the campaign trail</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> Economics Democracy and government Civil society Carl Rhodes Peter Bloom Thu, 14 May 2015 11:14:11 +0000 Peter Bloom and Carl Rhodes 92777 at Baltimore’s dangerous politics of containment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The city of Baltimore was in a ‘state of emergency’ long before the rioting began.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved." title="Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved." width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The city of Baltimore is making national and international headlines as <a href="">peaceful protests</a> over the death of Freddie Gray by police have escalated <a href="">into full scale rioting</a>.</p> <p><span>As </span><a href="">images of destruction</a><span> stream across the world, there is a rising demand to end the violence by any means necessary. In response, city and state authorities have declared a “state of emergency”. Republican governor Larry Hogan deployed </span><a href="">the national guard</a><span> to enforce martial law while beleaguered Democratic mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake </span><a href="">instituted a city-wide curfew for all citizens</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>These authoritarian approaches, while temporarily understandable, mask a far more worrying set of politics. Rather than solve the underlying causes of these problems, authorities both before and after these events have sought merely to treat its most visible symptoms.</span></p> <p><span>Immediately following the news that Gray had died, the mayor’s office expressed frustration with the sluggishness of the official investigation but </span><a href="">urged continued patience and cooperation</a><span>. There was little, if any, substantive talk of using this incident to address the deeper factors of economic inequality, a culture of police brutality and racism, as well as an ongoing War on Drugs, that have all worked to set the stage for this tragedy.</span></p> <p><span>This ‘wait and see’ approach was at odds with many, both inside and outside government, who felt the need for fundamental change. Councilman </span><a href="">Nick Mosby declared</a><span> to protesters massing outside the Western District police station that “Freddie Gray will not die in vain. I see change coming to&nbsp;</span><a href="">Baltimore</a><span>&nbsp;city. At the end of the day we can’t rest on anything less.”</span></p> <p><span>Nevertheless, a dangerously narrow focus was even further on display in the aftermath of the violence. The mayor </span><a href="">observed</a><span>: “It’s a very delicate balancing act, because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well”.</span></p> <p><span>While Rawlings-Blake later distanced herself from </span><a href="">criticisms</a><span> that she condoned the violence, what was revealed was a new ‘politics of containment’ emphasising the need to minimize the collateral damage caused by rising anger and struggles against police brutality.</span></p> <p><span>Yet as the riots in Baltimore show, this struggle cannot be so easily contained. Unless the country adopts a more constructive and sustained approach towards achieving radical change, such civil violence and official repression will only spread.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protests against police brutality, New York. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Protests against police brutality, New York. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved." title="Protests against police brutality, New York. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protests against police brutality, New York. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>A dangerous politics of containment</strong></h2> <p><span>The death of Freddie Gray is far from an isolated incident. It is the latest in a </span><a href="">long history</a><span> of suspected police violence against the city’s population, especially its </span><a href="">black and poorer residents</a><span>. Between </span><a href="">2009 and 2014</a><span>, alone, 109 people died in police-related confrontations in Maryland, with 31 deaths in Baltimore.</span></p> <p><span>Significantly, this fatal legacy is directly linked to </span><a href="">ongoing issues</a><span> of unemployment and an authoritarian war on drugs that justifies enhanced policing. This ‘war’ represented a </span><a href="">'new segregation'</a><span> of the population, geographically and politically separating these marginalized citizens from ‘mainstream society’.</span></p> <p><span>Reflected was an entrenched politics of containment. The failures of the government to effectively resolve problems of inequality, poverty and racism in the 1960s and 1970s morphed into strategies to simply confine them to certain areas and specific populations.</span></p> <p><span>This mentality has taken on new life in the wake of the recent protests over police violence over the past year. In Ferguson, for instance, police and politicians tried </span><a href="">to deflect and downplay</a><span> the death of teenager Michael Brown through official obfuscation and later demonizations of the victim as a ‘thug’ and protesters as ‘looters’.</span></p> <p><span>As more cases of law enforcement brutality have emerged and more citizens have joined their voices in feelings of collective outrage as well as resistance, this strategy has been progressively replaced by one of containment. The new emphasis is on preventing these incidents from leading to radical challenges to the existing order.</span></p> <p><span>While ‘mistakes’ were admitted, officials took pains to paint this as primarily individual cases of misconduct. Ideologically, it was often portrayed as </span><a href="">a 'racial’ problem</a><span> rather than an ‘</span><a href="">American problem</a><span>’. On the ground this meant, literally and figuratively shaping how, where and when protests could take place and in what concrete form.</span></p> <p><span>In many ways, this has been a highly effective, though tragically regressive, approach. The filming, for instance, of a policeman fatally shooting a black suspect multiple times in the back was quickly ‘calmed’ and taken out of the public spotlight by the swift response by authorities to fire the offending officer and arrest him for murder.</span></p> <p><span>Yet the case of Baltimore puts in stark relief the limits of this containment policy. The attempts to pacify anger by asking for patience until the completion of the ‘official investigation’ were rebuffed by citizens both nationally and locally. This is testament to the little faith left in police inquiries </span><a href="">that time and again</a><span> have acquitted their members.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved." title="Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police on the streets of Baltimore. Demotix/Aidan Walsh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>A national state of emergency</strong></h2> <p><span>It is crucial, therefore to move beyond a politics of containment, both as an official strategy and a popular, though not always recognized, ideology.&nbsp; As the riots have worsened, leaders, public figures and community figures have increasingly called for ‘peace’. Even outspoken TV producer and social critic David Simon </span><a href="">wrote</a><span>: “There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition [sic] of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.”</span></p> <p><span>While not always intended, and eminently understandable given the circumstances, these sentiments reflect a dangerous ‘</span><a href="">crisis narrative</a><span>’ – one that reinforces a mentality of containment rather than demanding real and substantive change. It romanticizes the need to ‘return to normalcy’, implicitly idealizing the time before the unrest as perhaps flawed but ultimately acceptable.</span></p> <p><span>Martin Luther King famously </span><a href="">stated:</a><span> “riots are the language of the unheard”. More recently, the critical philosopher Žižek similarly </span><a href="">observed</a><span>: “every violent acting out is a sign there is something you are not able to put into words”. While not necessarily articulate, the actions of the rioters have spoken volumes. Unfortunately, they do so in a way that allows those in power to draw on a ‘crisis narrative’ to promote the need for order, and in the process, legitimize further police repression to ‘quell’ the unrest.</span></p> <p><span>Not surprisingly, then, the pleas for order have been publicly challenged. </span><a href="">Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in the Atlantic:</a><span> “The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray's death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray's death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested.”</span></p> <p><span>But mere contextualizations of the riots are not enough. They simply keep the discussion fixated in a place of reaction rather than transformation. It is imperative that arising from this unrest is a more forward thinking politics that actively acknowledges the unacceptability of present conditions and continuously demands that they be radically changed.</span></p> <p><span>By focusing on the deeper factors underpinning this violence, both from police and protesters, new possibilities for </span><a href="">solidarity</a><span> can emerge: allowing law enforcement and citizens to recognize that they are victims, though to different degrees, of the same unfair economic policies that underdevelop communities while asking police to ‘preserve the peace’.</span></p> <p><span>These events have tragically </span><a href="">shifted the public’s attention</a><span> away from the police brutality inspiring this violence and towards the more immediate need to restore order.&nbsp; The current reactive approach only produces a reactionary politics of containment.&nbsp; But the city of Baltimore was in a ‘state of emergency’ long before the rioting began.&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/tara-murray/watching-ferguson-but-still-unseeing">Watching Ferguson, but still unseeing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Baltimore </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Baltimore United States Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Peter Bloom Wed, 29 Apr 2015 00:46:14 +0000 Peter Bloom 92376 at An institution under siege <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;">The foot soldiers of American law enforcement should not seek to cast blame on politicians and protesters. Instead they should look to the gilded system which has placed them in the line of fire.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Police officers turn their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of Wenjian Liu. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Police officers turn their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of Wenjian Liu. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved." title="Police officers turn their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of Wenjian Liu. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police officers turn their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of Wenjian Liu. Demotix/Georgio Savona. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The murder of the two New York police officers </span><a href="">Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu</a><span>&nbsp;on 20 December 2014 capped off a year of escalating tension between police and citizens. The string of deaths of unarmed black men and youths at the hands of the police, stretching from Ferguson to Cleveland and to New York, has sparked mounting and at times violent resistance to police brutality. In response, many Americans have rallied in support of law enforcement.</span></p><p><span>The death of these officers has only contributed to increasingly hardened battle lines.&nbsp; In the heated aftermath of the killings, the president of the largest police union in the city, Pat Lynch, accused New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and anti-police violence protesters of undermining the authority of law enforcement and placing them in danger. He </span><a href="">declared that there</a><span> was “blood on many hands tonight” including “those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest” and starting with “the office of the mayor.”</span></p> <p><span>As tragic as the assassination is, the blame is misplaced. Instead, the anger should be directed at the economic and political elites who have used the police to preserve their power against an increasingly deprived, repressed and angry population. It was not the protesters or the mayor who unfairly placed these officers in the line of fire but the oligarchs and gilded system that law officers are unjustly asked to protect.</span></p> <p><span>The uproar over the killing of officers Ramos and Liu was intensified due to the emerging evidence that the perpetrator Ismaaiyl Brinsley had been motivated by desires for revenge against the police. In a message Brinsley posted online before undertaking the attack, </span><a href=";utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=npr&amp;utm_term=nprnews&amp;utm_content=2047">he wrote</a><span>: “I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs." He also employed the hashtags “#Shootthepolice #RIPErivGardner (sic) #RIPMikeBrown”.</span></p> <p><span>For his part, the </span><a href="">Mayor maintained that</a><span>: “When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on everything we hold dear. We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil. They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency.”</span></p> <p><span>Any unity was short-lived. A number of law enforcement representatives and supporters swiftly accused the Mayor and protesters for creating an anti-police culture that set the stage for the murders. </span><a href="">New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated</a><span>: "I think when the mayor made statements about that he had to train his son – his son who is biracial – to be careful when he's dealing with the police, I think that set off this latest firestorm." These views were echoed by the conservative political class. </span><a href="">The former mayor Rudy Giuliani declared</a><span>: “The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion. The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”</span></p><p><span></span><span>With two of their own now murdered, law officers from across the ranks went on the offensive against those they felt had undermined their authority and in doing so directly put their lives at risk. These sentiments continue in the form of a </span><a href="">virtual work stoppage by the police</a><span> as well as public displays of officers </span><a href="">turning their backs on the city’s mayor</a><span>.</span></p> <h2><strong>Under siege</strong></h2> <p><span>These actions taken by the police reflect a deeper anxiety of an institution under siege. The need to protect themselves against not only criminals but also public ‘enemies’ is fundamental to their identity. They are engaged in an ongoing battle against all those in society who would threaten their authority.</span></p> <p><span>Historically, this defensiveness has centred on politicians, activists and those in the media who have, in their view, prioritised the rights of criminals over their ability to effectively deal with crime. Popular entertainment is replete with instances of the </span><a href="">‘hard-nosed’ cop</a><span> who has to do whatever is necessary, even breaking the law, in order to “serve and protect” society.</span></p> <p><span>The roots of this militaristic worldview can be traced back to the </span><a href="">cold war paranoia</a><span> where all dissent was seen as a potential existential threat to national security. In more recent times this outlook has emerged again in the shift from fighting the internal dangers of Communism and dissidents to drug users and terrorists associated with the ‘War on Drugs’ and ‘War on Terrorism’ respectively.</span></p> <p><span>A ‘war mentality’ has had dramatic real-world consequences. According to a recent Department of Justice investigation into the Cleveland police department, following the shooting by police of a 12-year-old boy armed with a toy gun, police often </span><a href="">view their 'beat' as a 'war zone'</a><span> leading them to resort to maximum force with little to no repercussion from their superiors.</span></p> <p><span>In the twenty-first century this polarising mindset of the American police has reached new extremes. It is now common for law enforcement to employ the same gear and rely on similar tactics to those of the armed forces. In this respect, it is not simply that the police think like those in the military. They are also increasingly militarised.</span></p> <p><span>These are worrying trends, especially in a country that prides itself on its democracy. As </span><a href="">Joy Rohde presciently asks</a><span>: “which is more dangerous to democracy – the small-scale violence that might occasionally accompany protest, or a militarized police force?”</span></p><p><span></span><span>This is more than just a matter of perception. It also represents a reality where police are often on the front lines in dealing with the effects of the country’s worst socio-economic problems.&nbsp; The stark images of officers acting with brutal aggression against many of the most vulnerable and oppressed Americans should not hide the fact that they are largely reacting to and are not the underlying cause of these injustices.</span></p> <p><span>It must be asked, who most benefits from the wars that increasingly pit police and citizens against one another? The militarisation and brutality associated with the ‘War on Drugs’ is deployed in the name of a growing </span><a href="">private prison industry</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>This issue is perhaps even starker in the present era. The rising inequality and erosion of the social safety net linked to ‘free market’ policies of the past 30 years has intensified the demand on law enforcement to </span><a href="">successfully 'police' increasingly socially and economically deprived communities</a><span>. While the bankers and politicians responsible for the financial crisis not only survived but also thrived in its aftermath, it was </span><a href="">the police who were forced to confront a crumbling Main Street</a><span> for their continued benefit.</span></p> <h2><strong>A meaningful conciliation</strong></h2><p><strong></strong><span>This is by no means meant to excuse the excessive actions of the police. A foot soldier found guilty of war atrocities should similarly be held accountable. Yet it does demand that we as a society ask hard questions about who is putting these individuals in this difficult position and for what reason.</span></p> <p><span>Within present-day America, the police oath to “protect and serve” the public is being transformed into one where they are expected to protect the ‘haves’ against the rising mass of the ‘have-nots’.&nbsp; Like the many American soldiers being asked to fight in foreign wars that are at least partially, if not primarily, motivated by corporate interests, the foot soldiers of law enforcement are at the mercy of larger financial and political designs that are not their own.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>The deaths of these officers merely add to the casualties of a </span><a href="">destructive cycle of violence</a><span> for whom the only winners are the country’s elites who profit from these social divisions. This tragedy reminds us both that </span><a href="">“Black Lives Matter”</a><span> and </span><a href="">“Police Lives Matter”</a><span>. Neither should be sacrificed to the preservation of an unfair system for whom both are often used as little more than pawns set against one another.</span></p> <p><span>Commentators and leaders from all sides have called for ‘peace’ and ‘conciliation’. </span><a href="">Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams made it clear:</a><span> “This is about the voice of the entire city crying out for unity, crying out saying, “How do we come together and deal with real issues in policing, and at the same time protect our officers?””</span></p> <p><span>Yet this peace will only truly be meaningful when those on both sides of the ‘war’ – police, community members, protesters, progressive politicians, activists, indeed all Americans – stop fighting each other and instead unite in the fight for a more just society.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/tara-murray/watching-ferguson-but-still-unseeing">Watching Ferguson, but still unseeing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> United States Democracy and government Conflict Civil society Peter Bloom Mon, 26 Jan 2015 23:46:52 +0000 Peter Bloom 89968 at Under divine instruction <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The fanaticism of the ‘war on terror’ has long been a mere mask for elite self-interest. The US Senate report into the CIA’s torture programme is a call to end western fundamentalism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-American mural adorning the former US embassy, Tehran. Demotix/Phil McElhinney. All rights reserved."><img src="//" alt="Anti-American mural adorning the former US embassy, Tehran. Demotix/Phil McElhinney. All rights reserved." title="Anti-American mural adorning the former US embassy, Tehran. Demotix/Phil McElhinney. All rights reserved." width="400" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-American mural adorning the former US embassy, Tehran. Demotix/Phil McElhinney. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture programme has sparked&nbsp;</span><a href="">renewed debate</a><span>&nbsp;concerning the ‘war on terror’ and its tactics. From the right to the left, torture is once again at the centre of US and international politics. The&nbsp;</span><a href="">sheer brutality&nbsp;</a><span>of these ‘excesses’ has shocked many Americans and those around the world.</span></p> <p>Much of this discussion remains fixated on the morality and efficacy of using torture to fight Islamic fundamentalism. Many have sought&nbsp;<a href="">to merely ascribe the use</a>&nbsp;of these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ to the past. They argue that they were done in a time following 9/11<a href="">&nbsp;that called for extreme measures</a>&nbsp;to fight an existential terrorist threat. Others&nbsp;<a href="">have used this event as a flashpoint</a>&nbsp;to question the present policies of the US in its continued fight against Islamic radicalism.</p> <p>Yet these debates ignore a potentially larger and more dangerous issue. Namely, the western brand of fundamentalism based on the unquestioned goodness of ‘free markets’ and liberal democracy continuing to drive this war.</p> <h2>The rise of western fundamentalism</h2> <p>The ‘war on terror’ has largely been framed as a&nbsp;<a href="">'clash of civilizations'</a> between a freedom-loving west and its radical Islamic foes. It is, at least rhetorically, the fight of open societies against closed ideologies fuelled by unadorned fundamentalism.</p> <p>However, from the beginning, the west displayed an almost religious fervour in the sanctity of its own beliefs. As the then US President&nbsp;<a href="">George W. Bush declared</a>: “This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization”.</p> <p>The war was necessary not only to root out Islamic fundamentalism but also to spread the gospel of ‘free markets’ and liberal democracy. Enemies of these ideals were part of an ominous&nbsp;<a href="">“axis of evil”</a>&nbsp;primed “to threaten the peace of the world”. This&nbsp;<a href="">“common danger</a>” was “erasing old rivalries” for “in every region”, Bush gushed, “free markets and free trade and free societies are proving their power to lift lives.”&nbsp;</p> <p>These early efforts by the Bush administration were linked to an explicitly religious language. God was with America – a sentiment witnessed in Congress members of all parties joining <a href="">together to sing 'God Bless America'</a> on the steps of the Capitol directly following the 9/11 attacks. Many, both in the US and in Islamic societies, envisioned <a href="">a modern crusade</a>&nbsp;being fought for the very soul of the world. Bush himself was supposedly under divine&nbsp;<a href="">instruction</a>:&nbsp;“God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq”.&nbsp;</p> <p>The fanatical commitment to ‘western ideals' has persisted up to the present, even if after Bush it has been largely shorn of its religious rhetoric. President Obama has repeatedly embraced the unquestioned righteousness of the cause and its foundational beliefs.&nbsp;<a href="">Even as he has attempted to “narrow the war"</a> he has had to tread an almost impossible balance between remaining a committed zealot of American ideals on the one hand and trying to wage a less extremist war in the name of these beliefs on the other.</p> <h2>Domestic terrorism</h2> <p>This fundamentalism has led the US and its allies to justify terror-based strategies. Enhanced interrogation, invasion and drone attacks have all been done in the name of realizing these larger ideals. </p> <p>It is a zealotry that permits almost any action as long it serves this higher cause. The Senate CIA report is littered with incidents that would make even the most staunch terror opponent blush. The ‘rectal feeding’ of detainees, the threatening of their children, the ice baths followed by days of sleep deprivation and the pre-emptive use of torture as a matter of course <a href="">makes for very sobering reading</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>These should not be cast aside as being relics of a previous era.&nbsp;<a href="">Guantanamo Bay&nbsp;remains open</a>. The costly invasion of Iraq of a decade ago has turned into&nbsp;<a href="">a present day call to arms against ISIS</a>. And beneath all of this remains an even more deadly policy, literally,&nbsp;<a href="">of drone attacks</a>&nbsp;which are regularly responsible for civilian casualties in Pakistan.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Just as troubling is the use of the threat of terror to legitimate these policies domestically and internationally. The US message from the beginning of the war was one of being ‘with us or against us’. This has created a network of allies kept in place, at least in part, by the fear of an aggressive superpower.</p> <p>At home, western governments – notably the US and the UK – have promoted the need for increasingly Big Brother-styled measures to protect the population against terrorism. The&nbsp;<a href="">NSA collected information on American</a>&nbsp;citizens and foreign leaders. In this spirit,&nbsp;the new director of Britain’s surveillance agency&nbsp;GCHQ,&nbsp;<a href="">Robert Hannigan, recently declared</a>&nbsp;that privacy is now not an ‘absolute right’. </p> <h2>Fighting fundamentalism at home </h2> <p>The twenty-first century has been marked by a perpetual struggle against competing fundamentalist forces willing to use almost any means necessary to achieve victory. If the purpose of the ‘war on terror’ was to eradicate the terrible human and social costs associated with ideological extremism, the west would do well to look inward as well as outward.</p> <p>Crucially, this fanaticism has been a mask for elite self-interest. The uncritical association of liberation with ‘free markets’ reveals the financial motivations that have been at play. The&nbsp;<a href="">corporate profits reaped by companies such as Haliburton</a>, directly linked to US leaders like Dick Cheney, speak to this truth. Even the recent ISIS threat has not only been a battle of beliefs,&nbsp;<a href="">but also one of oil fields</a>.</p> <p>The unsatiable desire for the elimination of terrorists has been a project carried out in the name of liberty for the benefit of a global economic and political elite. As inequality and economic insecurity grow internationally, it is increasingly necessary to question the sacred ideals of those in power and the lengths they are willing to go to achieve them. This would open up the space for breaking down the ‘with us or against us’ discourses on both sides and permit for less dogmatic and more constructive dialogues regarding how to achieve common prosperity and freedom.&nbsp;</p> <p>If, as it seems, America and the world are willing to progressively unite to reject torture, they must also be willing to let go of the radical zeal fueling these excesses. In order to triumph over terror, it is necessary to first eliminate the fundamentalism giving it birth at home.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-engelhardt-rebecca-gordon/american-torturepast-present-and-future">American torture--past, present, and future? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> International politics Democracy and government Conflict Peter Bloom Mon, 22 Dec 2014 01:18:38 +0000 Peter Bloom 89101 at US Republicans are not alone: fear and hatred on the campaign trail <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The blame game allows these commonly quite similar parties in practice to distinguish themselves from each other in rhetoric.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="The Clintons." title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Clintons. Flickr/Central Intelligence Agency. Public domain.</span></span></span>Bill Clinton recently accused the Republicans of urging Americans to <a href="">“Vote Your Fears and Anger”</a> based on their dissatisfaction with President Obama. Yet the Democrats also campaign heavily on the ‘blame game’. This is a more general problem of an American politics where ideas and solutions have been replaced by ‘blame’.</p> <p>Republicans are not just asking you to blame President Obama. Immigrants, lazy welfare cheats, radical leftists and liberals are also on the list. Democrats have their own list of people and groups who are to blame though.&nbsp;These include President George W. Bush, special interests and most terrifying of all, extremist Republicans.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the names change, the fear remains the same. “These threats are a danger to our country’s founding principles and present progress. The only way to stop them is to vote for us.” The rhetoric sounds very similar on both sides of the aisles.</p> <p>
The Republican form of demonization is often seen as the most damaging. It displays deep undercurrents of racism, classism and general intolerance. By contrast, the Democrats portray their blame game as fair in targeting the powerful and those who represent them politically.&nbsp;Yet it may be the Democrats whose blame campaign is the more dangerous for the country in the long run. Their leftist rhetoric often masks a quite conservative social and economic agenda. While proclaiming values of tolerance and progress, they enact policies that are commonly pro-Wall Street while doing little to address structural racism.&nbsp;Blaming Republicans gives them good political cover for their own brand of conservative extremism.&nbsp;</p> <p>These midterms reflect deeper problems afflicting the American political culture. It is not that voters are being ‘urged to vote your anger and fears’. Instead, it is that this is the only politics seemingly available. In place of bipartisan solutions or even positive ideological visions are inter-party bickering and finger pointing.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a common lament, of course. But it points to a more fundamental truth. The same corporate donors largely fund both political parties. They have similar bases.&nbsp;They may trot out different enemies during election times, yet each are beholden to similar special interests when in power. The blame game thereby allows these commonly quite similar parties in practice to distinguish themselves from each other in rhetoric. It is the drama of politics, and nothing makes better drama than a villain.</p> <p>A perhaps even more fundamental cause for this politics of blame is that both Democrats and Republicans are stuck between the same rock and a hard place when in comes to the economy and politics. Each is exclusively committed to a dominantly capitalist economy. They are then left to explain why this capitalist economy isn’t providing the prosperity American voters desire and expect. </p> <p>Lacking positive alternatives such as a stronger social democracy, the only answer is to blame each other while looking around for the most credible scapegoat.

 Thus the litany of ‘Blame Bush’ has become the mantra of ‘Blame Obama’. The Democrats followed a similar strategy in winning their own mid-term majority when Bush was in power. It did little to stop the war in Iraq, the influence of Wall Street or the general elitist nature of American politics. The Republicans are now taking a page from an old playbook. When the ideas run dry and the country is floundering, it’s all the other guy’s fault.
 </p> <p>
If Clinton was truly interested in stopping this negative politics, he would do more than denounce the Republicans. He would also look to his own house - literally and figuratively. His wife seems intent on running another campaign that shores up her legitimately questionable liberal credentials by blaming the Republican bogeyman. And if she loses and a Republican wins the Presidency, it is a good bet that it will be the Democrats who are turning the mid-term election into a protest vote against the executive.

 American politics of the twenty-first century has become one of choosing whom to blame. This campaigning extends to both mainstream political parties equally. While the rhetoric of hope appears to ring increasingly hollow in a political system seemingly devoid of imagination and reform, the rhetoric of blame still resonates loudly. </p> <p>When there are no answers, someone or some people must be what’s wrong. Voters and politicians should stop worrying about who is at fault for the country’s problems and think constructively about how they can be solved.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics US midterms - democracy in America? Peter Bloom Sun, 02 Nov 2014 18:08:49 +0000 Peter Bloom 87368 at Peter Bloom <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Peter Bloom </div> </div> </div> <p>Peter Bloom is a lecturer in the Department of People and Organisations at the Open University. His primary research interests include ideology, subjectivity and power, specifically as they relate to broader discourses and everyday practices of capitalism and democracy. He is currently completing a manuscript entitled ‘Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Globalization’ to be published by Edward Elgar Press.&nbsp;<strong></strong></p> Peter Bloom Sat, 01 Nov 2014 19:30:08 +0000 Peter Bloom 87369 at