Robin Wilson cached version 08/02/2019 16:50:01 en The populists: what is to be done? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It is all too easy to throw up one’s hands in despair at the advance of the populists. Easy, but wrong.</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="lead " title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Banner of the Council of Europe Intercultural cities programme.</span></span></span></p><p>The United States, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Italy, the Philippines … and shortly Brazil: radical-right populists are now in power in big and powerful states around the globe. ‘Brexit’ was a conjunctural victory for them in Britain which they hope to render permanent by ensuring the UK leaves the European Union – however <em>un</em>popular that may become and at whatever cost. <span class="mag-quote-center">Some on the centre right have already made their peace with the populists.</span></p> <p>It has been a disorienting experience for veterans of the stable and prosperous early postwar decades in western Europe and north America, recalling instead the charged and polarised politics of the 1930s whose ending is well known. Some on the centre right have already made their peace with the populists: the whole Republican Party in the US and the bulk of the feuding British Tories, as well as the Austrian Christian democrats, whose acceptance of the far right into government has occasioned none of the European Union sanctions a similar episode precipitated in 2000. </p> <p>Moreover, should anyone on the centre left be complacent, one recent <a href="">study</a> has shown that social democrats too have been so sucked into the wake of the rising – and rightward-veering – populists that as a political family they generally occupy more authoritarian positions today than the radical right felt able to endorse in 1980. </p> <p>Many despair, given a choice between going with the xenophobic flow and standing, Canute-like, against the tide, which has resolved itself, across Europe, into ‘cracking down’ on ‘illegal immigration’ – although refugees are, by definition, not illegal and all states party to the Geneva convention are obliged to entertain their individual claims. <span class="mag-quote-center">Social democrats too… generally occupy more authoritarian positions today than the radical right felt able to endorse in 1980.</span></p> <h2><strong>There is an alternative</strong></h2> <p>But there is an alternative current of progressive opinion, which has been slowly gathering under the political surface since the political shocks represented by the September 11 attacks in the US in 2001 and, at the end of the last century, the brutal collapse of former Yugoslavia. And it is no coincidence that it should be from the pan-European institution established after the war to say ‘never again’ to aggressive nationalism, anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance, the Council of Europe, that this new paradigm, of ‘intercultural integration’, should have emerged.</p> <p>I have (among others) been an expert adviser to the Council of Europe since this initially intellectual, subsequently policy and latterly practical work began. And I have written up this process of institutional learning in a new Edward Elgar book, <a href=""><em>Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Europe: Moving Beyond the Crisis</em></a>. As I wrote it, however, I found I was writing too about the populists, as the other side of the political coin. For while the populists all rehearse a collective narcissism – claiming to defend their purportedly superior ‘nation’ against its enemies abroad and its traitors within – intercultural integration can be distilled in essence as the inclusion of the other within the self in a society open to the world. <span class="mag-quote-center">Intercultural integration can be distilled in essence as the inclusion of the other within the self in a society open to the world.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//,_1915,_Composition_pour_Jazz,_oil_on_cardboard,_73_x_73_cm,_Solomon_R._Guggenheim_Museum,_New_York.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_1915,_Composition_pour_Jazz,_oil_on_cardboard,_73_x_73_cm,_Solomon_R._Guggenheim_Museum,_New_York.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="461" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Albert Gleizes, 1915, Composition for Jazz. Wikicommons/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>And it is surprising how straightforward it is for progressives to reset the political agenda, once they grasp this opportunity. For, far from ‘making America great again’, Donald Trump is defying the history of how the twentieth century became <em>The American Century</em> – in the words of the book by the former campaigning <em>Sunday Times</em> editor Harold Evans – built on the foundation of the Jews who fled pogroms in Russia and eastern Europe to create world-beating Holywood’s white-picket-fence American idyll and, with African-Americans, fused musical forms into the modern apogee of jazz. Their exiled successors of many countries were to be instrumental in the rise of Silicon Valley, or how Californian corporations took over the world (for ill as well as good). And, just as ‘Steve Jobs’ was the son of a Syrian refugee, Trump’s <a href="">grandfather</a>, Friedrich, Americanised his German surname, Trumpf.</p> <h2><strong>Self-harming populism</strong></h2> <p>Not only is populism economically self-harming – as the Brexit imbroglio is showing in spades, exciting the largest demonstration since the Iraq war in London last weekend – but also cultural openness can play better than closure if progressives have the courage to reframe the public conversation. <span class="mag-quote-center">Cultural openness can play better than closure if progressives have the courage to reframe the public conversation. </span></p> <p>Yes, about half of respondents in an eight-country pan-European <a href="">survey</a> published in 2011 agreed there were ‘too many immigrants’ in their country. But more agreed that immigrants ‘enrich our culture’. Indeed, the movement of people is inevitable in a globalised world and trying to stop it can only be at the cost of huge loss of life (as in the Mediterranean) and blocked encampments, as Ai Weiwei has portrayed so movingly in his panoramic documentary <a href=""><em>Human Flow</em></a>. </p> <p>Moreover, socially, it is not hard to see why the rise of the far right began in the early 1980s, when the postwar Keynesianism which banished the mass unemployment of the 1930s was abandoned in favour of the secular fundamentalism which is neoclassical economics – at the cost of ever-greater insecurity, culminating in the crash of 2008 and its aftermath. A <a href="">study</a> published in 2016 of voting for European Parliament elections showed support for the far right was not correlated with unemployment <em>per se</em> but was so correlated where unemployment benefits were low and where this was not mitigated by effective employment-protection legislation. </p> <p>The embrace by the once-mighty German SPD of the ‘Harz IV’ labour-market ‘reforms’ thus contributed in no small measure to it having been <a href="">overtaken</a> in the polls by the far-right AfD in recent weeks.</p> <p>And while there has certainly been a ‘moral panic’ about refugees and about security in recent years in Europe – the one often presented by the populists as linked to the other – in fact Europe has been here before. The number of refugees has been comparable to the ex-Yugoslav exodus and greatest hostility has been evident in those countries (such as Hungary) which have put up fences rather than those which have shown basic humanity. And while Islamist and far-right atrocities have been horrific, the incidence of politically motivated violence in Europe today is well below that of the 1970s ‘years of lead’ – most obviously in Northern Ireland.</p> <h2><strong>Going onto the front foot</strong></h2> <p>So how do progressives go on the front foot against the populists? The starting point is the universal norms the Council of Europe was set up in 1949 to promote. The narcissistic particularism of the populists is suffocated by an insistence by the rest of the political spectrum, transnationally, on the universal application of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The unit of civilised society is not ‘the people’: it is the individual, entitled to human dignity, like all others. That is why the first sentence of the postwar German ‘constitution’, the Basic Law, which also dates from 1949, reads: ‘Human dignity shall be inviolable.’&nbsp;</p> <p>The next step is to build on that normative commitment a governance framework conducive to the management of a demographically diverse society. As the key policy statement of the new paradigm, the <a href="">White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue</a>, launched by the 47 Council of Europe foreign ministers in 2008, put it, ‘Intercultural dialogue entails a reflexive disposition, in which one can see oneself from the perspective of others. On the foundation of the values of the Council of Europe, this requires a democratic architecture characterised by the respect of the individual as a human being, reciprocal recognition (in which this status of equal worth is recognised by all), and impartial treatment (where all claims arising are subject to rules that all can share).’</p> <p>The document went on to explain how this differentiated the new paradigm from the no longer functioning models of assimilationism (as in France) and multiculturalism (as in Britain): ‘Unlike assimilation, it recognises that public authorities must be impartial, rather than accepting a majority ethos only, if communalist tensions are to be avoided. Unlike multiculturalism, however, it vindicates a common core which leaves no room for moral relativism. Unlike both, it recognises a key role for the associational sphere of civic society where, premised on reciprocal recognition, intercultural dialogue can resolve the problems of daily life in a way that governments alone cannot.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">‘Premised on reciprocal recognition, intercultural dialogue can resolve the problems of daily life in a way that governments alone cannot.’</span></p> <p>The white paper went on to specific the concrete policy implications of this. In education for example, this entailed an impartial approach to the teaching of history, rather than national self-glorification; teaching of the world religions, rather than inculcation of a particular faith; and multilingualism for communication with others, rather than drilling in an official language and/or segregating mother-tongue alternatives. </p> <p>The document advocated that states develop national intercultural integration plans, for which a <a href="">template</a> has now been developed. But it also highlighted a Council of Europe programme, <a href="">Intercultural Cities</a>, initiated in 2007 and now garnering 126 cities, mainly in Europe but extending to every continent. It has been in and through the ICCs programme that the new paradigm has been trialled by the member municipalities on the ground. While it has been positively evaluated, its rapid expansion – including cities such as Paris and Barcelona – has been testament to its compelling success. A huge volume of <a href="">good practices</a> have already been gleaned from it.</p> <h2><strong>The ‘diversity advantage’</strong></h2> <p>What has attracted so many cities to join the ICCs network has been what has come to be called the ‘diversity advantage’&nbsp;–&nbsp;the experience that, if well managed, diversity is to a city, to a state or a continent, an asset to be exploited rather than a threat to be kept at bay. Prosperous and comfortable Oslo, for instance, one of the top performers in the <a href="">ICC Index</a>, locates responsibility for its intercultural work in its business-development section. The municipality is conscious it is trying to attract specialist labour which could go anywhere in the world. The fastest growing city in Europe, its residents stemming from more than 150 countries, it sustains an ‘Oslo Extra Large’ PR campaign, linked to a diversity charter firms are encouraged to embrace. One third of its population is of immigrant origin&nbsp;–&nbsp;a ratio almost exactly matched among the councillors elected to run the city. <span class="mag-quote-center">The fastest growing city in Europe… it sustains an ‘Oslo Extra Large’ PR campaign, linked to a diversity charter firms are encouraged to embrace.</span></p> <p>So there is a potentially hegemonic alternative to the populists. Antonio Gramsci conceived hegemony as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’ and it may be political science but it certainly isn’t rocket science. The intercultural approach makes sense in policy terms and in practice on the street. It is capable of building broad, cross- and non-party coalitions in favour of widely accepted social goals such as prosperity, tolerance and humanity. </p> <p>Recent <a href="">work</a> on the populists, such as by the leading expert Cas Mudde, has emphasised that they have thrived not just because there is a ‘demand’ among those vulnerable to their appeal but also because of the parties’ own effective self-promotion. It has been the deficit of political will on the progressive ‘supply-side’ – not the audience for an alternative – which has hitherto been lacking.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Robin Wilson's new book is published by Edward Elgar, <a href=""><em>Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Europe: Moving Beyond the Crisis</em></a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <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/rosemary-bechler-geir-lippestad/oslo-small-hotels-where-we-meet">Breivik lawyer: how to avoid the Trump trap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler-phil-wood/ordinary-virtues-of-cities">The ordinary virtues of cities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/irena-guidikova/are-cities-key-agents-of-integration">Are cities the key agents of integration?</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"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk United States EU Robin Wilson Wed, 24 Oct 2018 17:49:45 +0000 Robin Wilson 120262 at The left should think more carefully before defending the Good Friday Agreement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The fact that the ultra-conservative Brexiters are out to get the Belfast Agreement doesn’t mean progressives should abandon their critical faculties towards it.</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="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern sign the Belfast Agreement. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>Northern Ireland basked in international media attention in the 1990s, with its ‘peace process’ bracketed with those in Israel/Palestine and South Africa as carrying global political significance. An ‘historic’ agreement on Good Friday 1998 brought a forest of media satellite vans once more to encircle the Stormont estate. Yet as the 1993 Oslo accords bequeathed to still-dominated Palestinians broken-backed, divided enclaves and the end of <em>apartheid</em> in South Africa in 1994 saw its vast ethnic inequality yawn still wider, Northern Ireland faded back into a familiar history of sectarian polarisation, and the spotlight turned elsewhere. </p><p>Until 2017, that is. The most-recent collapse of the power-sharing institutions stemming from the Belfast agreement in January had hardly caused a ripple in London. But when things went horribly wrong for the Conservative party in the June Westminster election, leaving the prime minister, Theresa May, in enfeebled dependence on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to remain in power, Queen’s University Belfast’s PR staff found themselves begging their political scientists for help with calls from around the world, along the lines of ‘Who is the DUP?’</p> <p>May had called the snap election to strengthen—she thought—her mandate to pursue ‘Brexit’, after the narrow vote in favour of the UK leaving the European Union in the referendum a year earlier, which had dislodged her predecessor as Tory leader, David Cameron, from power and office. The result was however to return the focus to what Winston Churchill, in government when Britain partitioned Ireland in 1920-22, resentfully called ‘the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone’, counties abutting what then became the UK’s new border.</p> <p>Ireland had barely entered the heads of the Brexit enthusiasts. Cameron was evidently blithely unaware of how an EU referendum would simply add another charge to the sectarian divide. There was a majority for Remain in Northern Ireland but only because what might be called an alliance of Catholics and/or cosmopolitans prevailed over the conservative communalists within the Protestant community: those who self-defined as ‘unionist’ were even more likely, according to one poll, to vote Leave than voters on the other side of the Irish Sea. While Sinn Féin failed to mobilise for Remain—its 1970s Euroscepticism hangover mirroring that of Labour’s current leader and its long-time ally, Jeremy Corbyn—and the (slightly) more conciliatory <em>Ulster</em> Unionist Party was divided on Brexit, the DUP was ideologically gung-ho, willingly acting as a <a href="">conduit for dark money</a> flowing into the Brexit campaign. </p><p>Fast forward to today: Remain is now leading by ten points in the latest poll in Britain, there is still no devolved government at Stormont and the Brexiters find themselves unwillingly dragged into an Irish bog which they can neither fathom nor escape. True, the discomfiture is not only theirs: Corbyn, turned mute on Brexit and attempting to trample the growing demand within his party for a commission to review its policy, finds himself in an indefensible position—on the one hand supporting not just an invisible border but an end to partition in Ireland, while on the other endorsing not just a soft but a total Brexit, outwith the customs union and the single market, which would make the hardest of Irish borders inevitable.</p> <p>But, partly because of Corbyn’s consequent inability to mobilise the Remain voters Labour would need to displace the Tories from power anytime soon, it is the Brexit ideologues who are now finding Ireland a troubling source of cognitive dissonance. Anyone who really wants to know what is going on with Brexit should read the <em>Irish Times</em>, which clearly <a href=";utm_medium=twitter">reports</a> the view in Brussels that it is impossible to turn into legal text the EU’s outline agreement in December with May—almost scuppered at the time by the DUP.&nbsp; </p><p>This is because the deal not only implies maintenance of a soft border in Ireland but also a consequent regulatory ‘alignment’ between the two parts of the island. Since, to keep the DUP onside at Westminster, the agreement also blocks the obvious solution of a new, <em>de facto</em>, EU/non-EU border down the Irish Sea, while retaining a soft (UK-Irish) border in Ireland, the alternative reduces to the whole of the UK remaining in the single market and the customs union—the softest of Brexits, which would solve all the associated economic problems but would ‘give back control’ to the remaining EU 27 over the rules a post-Brexit UK would follow.</p> <p>That this should cause much political thrashing around among the Brexiters is hardly surprising. And they have picked up on a call in an <a href="">article</a> in the conservative <em>Daily Telegraph</em> by Ruth Dudley Edwards, a senior Irish commentator who has long focused on the north, for an ‘updating’ of the Belfast agreement—given its ‘unintended consequence of enshrining sectarianism in the political process’—into making the accord their whipping boy. </p> <p>It was, after all, the agreement, with its institutionalisation of north-south co-operation in Ireland and associated dismantling of the repressive apparatus of military border control, which rendered the Irish border invisible in the first place. The DUP was always opposed to the agreement—mainly because of the at-root theological reluctance of its evangelical-Protestant core support to share power with Catholics. It ensured that when devolution was renewed in 2007, after an hiatus from 2002, it was on amended terms which the former head of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland, Duncan Morrow, called ‘sharing power <em>out’</em>.</p> <p>So who <em>is</em> the DUP? Cas Mudde’s authoritative <em>Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe</em> defines this political family as comprising parties that are ‘nativist’ (nationalistic and xenophobic), authoritarian and, of course, populist. So he includes the DUP in the radical-right family, noting that it is fundamentalist to boot. Sinn Féin he places just outside: it is, yes, nationalistic, authoritarian and populist too, but ‘only’ xenophobic towards the British and Protestants.</p> <p>Now, with Owen Paterson, a former Conservative Northern Ireland secretary, Kate Hoey, a Labour Leave MP originally from Northern Ireland, and Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP, all casting doubt on the Belfast agreement, their opponents, including Owen Smith, Labour’s recently appointed shadow on Northern Ireland, Keir Starmer, its shadow on Brexit, and John Harris, a <em>Guardian </em>commentator on the left, have all felt obliged to rise to the agreement’s defence, in what has become a noisy but likely ephemeral <a href="">Twitter storm</a>.</p> <p>On its own terms, however, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. It feels like individuals on the liberal left whose knowledge of matters Irish may also be limited are weighing in regardless. As its 20th anniversary looms within weeks, after all, the agreement is not functioning, with neither the Northern Ireland assembly and executive nor the North-South Ministerial Council in being.&nbsp; </p><p>Indeed, what remains is the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Ironically, this is because policing was so difficult an issue in the talks leading to the agreement—going as it did, as with the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, to the heart of the contest over the state—that it was passed to an impartial independent commission to solve. Informed by the region’s human-rights lobby born of the ‘troubles’, the consequent Patten report led to the old, overwhelmingly Protestant and ‘securitised’ Royal Ulster Constabulary being transformed into a police service founded on human-rights principles and committed to neighbourhood policing. Far from adequate, it is however the one institution—despite the still hugely controversial nature of Northern Ireland’s decades of lead—still standing.</p> <p>The reasons why the rest of the Good Friday Agreement institutions are not functioning have by now been well established. In political-science terms, it is a matter of agents and structures.</p> <p>As for the agents, a South African expert on dealing with violent legacies, who now lives in Northern Ireland, <a href="">points out</a> in the <em>Irish Times</em> how the region has failed to see the transition to inspiring leadership marked by his native country’s elevation of Cyril Ramaphosa as president after the disastrously corrupt rule of Jacob Zuma. Bizarrely, it was the one-time anti-<em>apartheid</em> radical, Peter Hain, who as Labour Northern Ireland secretary introduced the DUP to power at Stormont in 2007, by accepting amendments to the post-agreement legislation ensuring it could veto propositions advanced by Sinn Féin which it did not like. </p> <p>This referred back to an attempt in 2002 by the then Sinn Féin education minister, the late Martin McGuinness, to end Northern Ireland’s uniquely antiquated (in Europe) system of academic selection at 11. Latterly, the DUP has similarly blocked SF’s demand for an act to promote the Irish language, predominantly spoken by Catholics (though in no case as mother tongue)—hence the latest, prolonged impasse.&nbsp; </p><p>As for structures, the agreement ensured Northern Ireland’s sectarian politics would be set in aspic by requiring newly elected assembly members to designate themselves as ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’. The correlation between religion of family origin and euphemistic political cover is about as exact as any in social science: only one Catholic and one Protestant among the hundreds of members elected since 1999, to my knowledge, has not designated themselves in a way entirely predictable from their accident of birth. Those declining so to do—members of the non-sectarian Alliance and Green parties—are consequently marginalised: a ‘petition of concern’ raised by 30 members can ensure any motion requires ‘cross-community support’, which has been taken to mean concurrent majorities of <em>soi-disant</em> ‘unionists’ and ‘nationalists’.</p> <p>This clearly retards the emergence of not only the left-right political axis on which a normal European society is based but also of a liberal pole to counterbalance the embedded authoritarianism of Northern Ireland’s political culture—particularly in terms of feminism and <a href="">a generally more open and tolerant society</a>. The DUP has abused the petition of concern repeatedly to ensure that the region remains unique in the UK and Ireland in denying marriage equality to gay and lesbian individuals.</p> <p>There were many claims at the time of its promulgation, principally by the then US president, Bill Clinton, that the Good Friday agreement would be a template for divided societies across the world. Yet actually it has just made Northern Ireland remain similarly abnormal to Bosnia-Hercegovina and Lebanon, with backward-looking constitutional arrangements entrenching ethnicity and so governmental dysfunctionality. </p> <p>In political-science terms, the agreement harked back to the ‘pluralist’ theory of democracy from 1960s America, as applied to divided societies by ‘consociationalist’ thinking in the 70s: political blocs were thus taken as given aggregates, and ethnic elites were allocated the role of private deal-makers. Today, by contrast, there is a broad recognition in the academic literature that democratic societies are necessarily individualist, that constitutional arrangements need to be impartial and that political solutions should be arrived at through public deliberation.</p> <p>In that context, rising to the defence of the Belfast agreement will, unfortunately, take Northern Ireland and its citizens no closer to the normality that few would have thought would take so long to emerge two decades on from 1998. The Brexit mess, however, does illuminate why the British state’s role has proved so inept over those decades—never mind the prior ‘troubled’ years in which its forces were so deeply implicated. </p> <p>Whether it is regarding Belfast or Brussels, the dominant view from London has been that of the English gentleman amateur, who it is assumed will somehow muddle through, without having to detain himself too much with the detail, deploying some ‘creative ambiguity’ en route. The Brexit engagement with EU officials has, however, brought some up short. </p> <p>In the <em>Guardian</em>, a Downing Street source is <a href="">quoted</a> as saying: ‘The UK is run by generalists … Our political class, including officials and journalists, is coming up against a process which isn’t just about bright men who are plausible and get the broad outlines. The EU is built on a really rigid legal order. Our difficulty is when our generalism comes into contact.’ An official in the Brexit department added: ‘We just can’t cope with it. We don’t have the wisdom in the system. The political class can’t cope with the complexity of it.’</p> <p>Britain’s liberal left has betrayed the same ‘Do we still have Northern Ireland?’ disposition over the years, no more aware of the close-textured arguments about ‘constitutional engineering’ resolution of the region’s complex task of conciliation requires. Meanwhile, with honourable exceptions, it has also absented itself from European-wide progressive networks, such as those established by the social-democratic Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies. </p> <p>And the best thing it can do now to stem Northern Ireland’s chronic sectarian polarisation—never mind haemorrhaging jobs in <a href="">engineering</a> and <a href="">construction</a>, as business confidence weakens—is not to rise in reflex to defend the inoperative Belfast agreement. It’s to stop Brexit. </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="/uk/nick-pearce/brexit-restoration">Ulster and Brexit, a return of Britain&#039;s violent history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/guardian-view-on-cultural-genocide">The Guardian view on... cultural genocide</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/2008/04/10/good-friday-10-years-on-paradox-of-belfast-remains-unresolved">Good Friday 10 years on: Paradox of Belfast remains unresolved</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 Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland Robin Wilson Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:19:42 +0000 Robin Wilson 116255 at Beyond shareholder value: why transforming the firm can fix Britain's economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A company is a company is a company—isn’t it? Actually, no. And this really matters: for as long as the company is treated in UK politics as a black box, with the only focus on the operation and r... </div> </div> </div> A company is a company is a company—isn’t it? Actually, no. And this really matters: for as long as the company is treated in UK politics as a black box, with the only focus on the operation and regulation—or, nowadays, deregulation—of the surrounding markets, it will be impossible to rethink the British economy. Indeed, it’s worse than that. Ever since the Thatcher years, and including the enthusiasm for the Private Finance Initiative of the supposedly left-wing Labour chancellor Gordon Brown, the presumption has been in Britain that society should be rethought as UK PLC. Public agencies should no longer deliver public goods, which should be reconceived as commodities like any others and provided by private monopolies. General ‘business’ expertise—the ability to sit on a board with like-minded men (almost invariably) or to take unilateral decisions from the power of a penthouse managerial suite—should replace accredited professional expertise and commitment to public service. When the contrary should be true. Take an arresting fact: the word for company in German (<em>Gesellschaft</em>) and French (<em>soci</em><em>été</em>) is the same as the word for society. As any first-year sociologist could tell any senior economist, the company is a social institution and thus is socially constructed—and so can take a wide variety of forms. The ‘conventional wisdom’—a very socially conscious economist, J K Galbraith, famously coined that term—is that a company should exist to promote ‘shareholder value’. Its valuation on the stock market and the size of its annual dividend should, therefore, be the alpha and omega of its performance. But this is completely wrong-headed, for several reasons. First, as the onetime City figure Will Hutton has pointed out many times, excellent companies do not focus on their current share price or the profits which can be gouged out of the investment but on making a good or supplying a service to the best of their ability. Companies driven by this focus on their long-term mission will do rather well thank you, because they will outclass their competitors, but paradoxically will do all the better for not being obsessed by the bottom line. That’s why Hutton has always railed against the lax mergers-and-acquisitions regime in Britain, which has seen successful companies taken over by private equity firms and then mercilessly asset-stripped. And that’s why Rolls Royce—a company which has become the byword for high performance in common parlance—is the last remaining UK company of genuine world renown. Once this is clear, there is no reason why a company should not have the broadest of goals. Rather than treating any non-financial impact it has as a mere ‘externality’—even if highly negative, as with pollution or over-exploitation of a finite resource—it can ‘internalise’ such considerations to positive effect. German engineering firms have been streets ahead of their UK counterparts, for instance, in addressing the <em>Energiewende</em>. They have recognised, with government support, the potential not only not to pollute the atmosphere but to replace forms of energy generation using fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases by manufacturing renewable, clean sources such as wind and solar. Every other wind rotor in Germany—and there are over 20,000 wind turbines there—is made by a German company. A valiant effort by Lucas Aerospace workers in 1976 to save jobs in Britain by diversifying away from production of arms to ‘socially useful’ alternative goods unfortunately fell on deaf ears. Not only was capital averse to such initiatives but the Trades Union Congress took an oppositional stance to the Bullock report on industrial democracy appearing the following year. Secondly, the pursuit of ‘shareholder value’ aligns the interests of company stakeholders in entirely the wrong way. The theory is that shareholder ‘principals’ need to keep their executive ‘agents’ in line via bonuses linked to stock-market performance and share options, on top of giant, peer-inflated salaries. Not only does this embed short-termism and rent-seeking behaviour by executives but it also occludes the key alignment on which successful companies depend—between staff and customers. Gary Hamel, a prolific contributor to the <em>Harvard Business Review</em> and author of <em>The Future of Management, </em>makes this clear in his book through case studies of successful American companies. Key is the intelligence distilled from consumers by frontline work teams, if they are given sufficient discretion to act upon it—intelligence which no chief executive at the top of a conventional management hierarchy can hope to match. Thirdly, conventional companies exploit labour—yet fail to get the most out of it. While labour is often called ‘human capital’ in today’s world—usually as token recognition—Marx rightly called it ‘variable capital’. The surplus it generates for the company, after the payment of wages and other production costs, thus depends on productivity. But from the worker’s point of view, if greater productivity merely means greater profitability for his/her employer, there is zero incentive to improve or innovate. A bonus might be thought of as the solution but performance-related pay is difficult to assign to individuals in a fair way and can thus undermine work teams, as well as having perverse incentive effects such as the cutting of corners. A much better solution is employee ownership. This implicates the whole workforce collectively in the success of the company, stimulating collaborative outcomes which are greater than the sum of their individual labour parts. Not only does an annual dividend flow to those who have created the wealth—to the ‘partners’, as the successful, employee-owned retailer John Lewis puts it. But, perhaps more importantly, workers feel esteemed and recognised for their efforts. Innovations in work practices will ultimately work to everyone’s benefit in an employee-owned firm, rather than being siphoned off by shareholders and stratospherically-paid managers. Indeed, the ratio of chief-executive to lowest pay at John Lewis, while still huge, is much lower than the average for a big UK company. It is in this context that Wilkinson and Pickett made the case for employee ownership as a driver for equality in <em>The Spirit Level</em>. Worker owners are more likely to be committed to investing in their own professional development and reduced staff turnover will indeed make this a better investment for the company too. With secure, perhaps lifetime employment in mind, they are also less likely than avaricious executives to favour risky, short-term initiatives which could imperil the long term future of the company—in the way, for example, that Royal Bank of Scotland was brought to the brink before emergency nationalisation. Fourthly, the conventional company makes little sense in the age of what Manuel Castells calls ‘informational’, rather than merely industrial, capitalism. Marx did warn that there was an inherent contradiction in the capitalist company between what he described as the ‘socialisation of the productive forces’ and private ownership of the ‘means of production’. But this was less evident when the factory was a walled-off ‘dark Satanic mill’ with workers left with no alternative but to trudge there every day—since only there was the machinery to put them to work. Today, by contrast, workers come to work with the knowledge they have gleaned from public institutions and sources. Why should that knowledge then, largely publicly funded, be privately appropriated?  And it gets even worse when the big internet companies of today undermine the right to individual privacy by mining the personal data of their users to turn a profit. The case, therefore, for social ownership of the firm becomes unanswerable. Fifthly, once the PLC is no longer recognised as the ‘TINA’ (Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’) of company governance, it becomes plain that a diverse ecosystem of forms is available. For example, the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain show an interesting ‘agglomeration effect’, as economists would call it. By collaborating with each other, they are again able to achieve positive-sum outcomes which could not be captured by private companies in mutual competition. Consumer co-operatives offer of course another model, with the retail Co-op in the Britain of today an enduring success going back to a store founded by working people in Rochdale in 1844 to provide reasonably priced food of good quality for its member owners. Fan-owned clubs like Barcelona or Bayern Munich have similarly shown they can endure at the top of European football by drawing on the (in this case literal) ‘wisdom of crowds’, whereas a once-great English club, Manchester United, has been reduced to a European also-ran by being hollowed out by the Glaser family, who treated the club as the collateral for a loan to pay for it—leaving the fans only to pay the interest. ‘Municipal socialism’ used to be practised in progressive local authorities in Britain in earlier times—with little to show for it now but some still impressive city halls, especially with budgets cut to ribbons under the current government at Westminster. But the conviviality of an urban environment is ideal for such wonderful municipal projects as Birmingham’s public library or Strasbourg’s trams. All that is necessary to revolutionise the typically under-performing companies which are the bedrock of the UK economy is to establish an enabling environment. Company law needs to change to favour the ‘disciplined pluralism’ by which John Kay describes a well-functioning market economy. Fundamentally, this means making provision for wider membership of companies than shareholder subscribers—comprising employees, customers, independent members, or some combination of these—so that the annual general meeting of the company becomes a genuinely democratic, rather than ritual, exercise. Those—such as pension funds—with an instrumental stake in the company will still be able to benefit from the profits derived. They just won’t be able to substitute for those who should really be the decision-makers. In addition, there needs to be a proper framework of state-wide and regional public banking, as in Germany, to support companies over the long term, including taking equity stakes. RBS should have been turned into such a public investment bank, like Germany’s KfW. This should be allied with a sovereign wealth fund to the same end. Finally, there needs to be a revolution in education and training in the UK. Not only does there need to be a return to a collectively funded apprenticeship system but also there should be third-level institutes of technology as in Ireland for advanced training—and specific investment, allied with the TUC, in the training of worker governors. Taking the UK economy off its flatlining path of precarious and low-productivity employment requires other changes—notably a supportive, Keynesian macroeconomic environment, re-socialisation of the privatised utilities and, of course, a reversal of the Brexit decision. But transforming company governance is one of the most critical structural reforms the UK economy sorely needs.<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 WP imported wagtail Robin Wilson Wed, 31 Jan 2018 12:54:24 +0000 Robin Wilson 115899 at ‘Many seeds are brought here’: hands up for participation? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The World Forum for Democracy 2017 discusses whether participatory democracy could be an antidote to populism.</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="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Paula Castello, Training and Participation Department Chief, Defender of the Public of Audiovisual Communication Services,Argentina addresses Lab 5.Council of Europe/Klara Beck, November 9, 2017. All rights reserve.</span></span></span>The august panel had spoken. With just ten minutes of 90 remaining in the session, the chair opened the floor to discussion and a forest of hands went up. The theme? Participatory democracy.</p> <p>It would be easy to be cynical about this ‘Lab 5’ session of the World Forum for Democracy – and any discussion of democracy tends to attract more than its fair share of knowing cynics. But that would be a cheap shot. </p> <p>There are no simple answers to how democracy is best extended beyond the representative arena into the wider public sphere – and, if it is, what the relationship between the representative and the participative should be. Max Weber’s definition of democracy, nearly a century ago, as the election of politicians who then tell their voters ‘Now shut up and obey me’ clearly will not do for an era of an educated citizenry no longer deferring to established élites. But genuine questions arise, in particular as to the legitimacy of participatory democracy, which need to be addressed. And that does entail listening to individuals who have expertise or experience to help shape thinking on that. </p> <p>The first speaker in the session in Strasbourg, Paula Castello from Argentina, tackled one of the challenges –&nbsp;how to ensure marginalised voices are equally heard. In representative democracy all those who vote – though not all can, as with too many African Americans – have an equal say: all votes count equally. &nbsp;But in the public sphere, without intervention, the most socially powerful dominate debate.</p> <p>Costello works for an organisation called the Defender of the Public of Audiovisual Communication Services, set up by a 2009 audiovisual communications law which, for the first time, defined communication in the language of rights. She gave a fascinating account of citizens’ participation in public hearings in Argentina, engaging face-to-face with public servants on the functioning of radio and television: ‘We believe it is a way to build a new relationship between the media and the people.’</p> <p>She said Argentina, a huge country, was centralised around Buenos Aires, with local media few and weak. Commercial media were also concentrated and state media had been seen as an instrument of propaganda; only recently were community media given a legal status: ‘The media are seen as a business rather than a human right.’ Yet audiences should be heard, to play a fundamental role in democracy. </p> <p>For her the biggest challenge was to change ‘consumers to full subjects of rights’. Public hearings allowed citizens to voice their opinions and since 2013 there had been 20 regional hearings across the country with 5,000 participants; workshops and preparatory discussions had embraced 11,000 people. Annual themes were decided, such as in 2016 how to strengthen audience rights. A young female participant said at one such event: ‘Many seeds are brought here and they need to be scattered.’ </p> <p>When youth was the theme in 2014, young people said the media did not represent them, that relevant topics were not discussed, that they felt discriminated against by the media and often ignored – they wanted to have airtime to speak their minds. Yet an analysis of 17,000 stories in 2016 found only 2.8% were about children or adolescents and half of these were about crime. </p> <p>The hearings were based, Costello said, on principles of transparency and participation; the forums and workshops prepared those who took part to do so and there was sign language for the deaf as well as online streaming. Reports followed hearings – the Public Defender organisation has to report to the Argentine Congress – and those had led to new projects and public policies. In an environment of big corporate media, social inequality and lack of public participation, she said: ‘Public hearings are innovative initiatives that allow citizens to make proposals and find solutions, recognising people’s right to participate in decision-making.’</p> <h2><strong>Mini-publics</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Paula Castello and Sharon Finegan, Secretary to the Citizens'Assembly, Ireland, at Lab 5. Council of Europe/Klara Beck. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></strong>The Irish Citizens' Assembly is another example of that right being recognised. Its membership of 99 (plus a government-appointed chair) was selected by a rigorous process of ‘sortition’, by which an initially random sample is adjusted and whittled down to reflect as closely as reasonably practicable the demography of the population according to gender, age, social class and region. This is what gives such ‘mini-publics’ legitimacy – the notion that were another such representative sample to be similarly empanelled, its members would likely arrive at similar conclusions after a similar process of deliberation. </p><p>Sharon Finnegan, secretary to the assembly, linked the initiative to the <a href="">academic debate</a> on ‘deliberative democracy’, which she said had shifted the emphasis from the output of the democratic process to scrutiny of its quality. The Citizens’ Assembly had been approved by the Irish parliament after the 2016 election, building on the experience in 2012-14 of a Constitutional Convention – whose recommendation to support marriage equality had translated into a referendum and then legislation to that effect. The assembly had already reported on the first of the five topics allocated to it – abortion (still heavily constrained in Ireland).</p> <p>Its members met periodically for a weekend at a time in cabaret-style format, Finnegan explained. All its meetings were live-streamed and archived on YouTube. Submissions had been received from the wider public, including some 13,000 on the abortion issue. With the assistance of expert advisory groups on each topic, members heard evidence, including from practitioners and advocates, arriving after exchanges and their own deliberations at recommendations on which they voted. </p> <p>She said key principles were openness, fairness, equality of voice, efficiency, respect and collegiality. A parliamentary committee had been established specifically to look at the report on abortion from the assembly and the government had already committed itself to a referendum, which would if passed amend the 1983 constitutional ban.</p> <h2><strong>A new </strong><strong>é</strong><strong>lite?</strong></h2> <p>Etienne Chouard organises ‘ateliers constituants’, or constituent workshops, in France, seeking to transform ‘voters into citizens’. He told the session that the weakest needed a constitution to protect them against the most powerful. Constitutions thus had to limit power and so should be understood not as a contract between the people and the government but among citizens who decided between them to give birth to the powers it comprised. Who got to write a constitution thus mattered: if it was the powerful they would produce an oligarchy rather than the democracy which citizens would draft. His ‘Plan C’ organisation aims for a new French constituent assembly, its members selected by sortition.</p> <p>Chouard, however­ – greatly exceeding the time allotted for his contribution – flamboyantly dismissed representative democracy as 'an oxymoron'. Yet no participatory form can be&nbsp;<em>both</em>&nbsp;macro- in scale <em>and&nbsp;</em>assuredly inclusive – since by definition then all members of the population would have to be simultaneously involved. The only way participatory democracy could replace (as against complementing) representative democracy would be if those citizens who&nbsp;<em>wished</em>&nbsp;to participate were allowed to rule as a new élite – rather as Lenin substituted the soviets for the Constituent Assembly in Russia in the wake of the October revolution. This led inevitably to a one-party state, rather than its ‘withering away’ as the Communist Party leader had foretold, as the party became the necessary vehicle to organise those otherwise amorphous loyal citizens.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="320" height="213" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Etienne Chouard addresses Lab 5, World Forum for Democracy 2017, November 9. Council of Europe/ Klara Beck. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Joseph Spiegel, a local mayor, followed his compatriot, ‘taking the floor as a practitioner’ and a ‘realistic utopian’. One could not pose as a ‘magician’ for citizens, he said –&nbsp;this should be seen as a ‘co-construction by citizens and governing persons’. It was genuinely difficult to engage citizens around complex issues without ‘demagoguery’. To say ‘everything is possible’ would be ‘a denial of democracy’ and there were genuine issues of ‘democratic engineering’ involved. Refusing to oppose politicians and citizens, he said every public initiative should lead to a political demand but the democratic process then had to be respected: ‘You become a citizen. You aren’t born a citizen. Yes, democracy is slow. It has to be slow.’ </p><p>Nastimir Ananiev, a former member of the Bulgarian parliament, concluded the discussion by addressing the question in the title of the session as to whether participatory democracy could be an antidote to populism. The latter, he said, filled the gap left by a lack of information. And citizen engagement should be associated with becoming more informed. ‘We don’t want people to participate just for the sake of it,’ he said. </p> <h2>Adult politics</h2> <p>He pointed to how this thrust of democratic thinking had been the subject of a <a href="">recommendation</a> by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, representing all the member states, in September. The recommendation, on civil participation in decision-making, begins with some strong pronouncements, articulating the significance of public participation in the enrichment of democracy:</p> <blockquote><p>Considering that the participation of citizens is at the very heart of the idea of democracy;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Considering that representative democracy, based on the right of citizens to freely elect their representatives at reasonable intervals, is part of the common heritage of member States;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Considering that direct democracy, based on the right to take part in elections and to launch and sign popular initiatives and requests for referendums, is a long-standing tradition in certain member States;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Considering that participatory democracy, based on the right to seek to determine or to influence the exercise of a public authority’s powers and responsibilities, contributes to representative and direct democracy and that the right to civil participation in political decision-making should be secured to individuals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society at large;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Emphasising that responsibility and accountability for taking decisions ultimately rests with the public authority that has the democratic legitimacy to do so …</p></blockquote> <p>As always with such resolutions, the <em>grandeur</em> of the preamble is followed by rather more mundane practical proposals. But this is a notable assertion by the leaders of Europe’s representative democracies that, challenged by the faux democracy of populism from below, Weber’s dismissive élitism will no longer do.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content-inset-more">openDemocracy was at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the <a href="">WFD2017 website</a> for details). </div> </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> World Forum for Democracy 2017 Robin Wilson Sat, 11 Nov 2017 18:19:48 +0000 Robin Wilson 114591 at Is it time for England to emulate the Nordic civil society model? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Why civil society? In today’s complex and fast-changing societies, the state can neither be all-knowing nor all-powerful. There is thus a strong case for non-governmental organisations to provide... </div> </div> </div> <strong>Why civil society?</strong> In today’s complex and fast-changing societies, the state can neither be all-knowing nor all-powerful. There is thus a strong case for non-governmental organisations to provide grounded information and activist voices, and to act as critical partners in policy implementation. This is the idea of civil society as the ‘public sphere’, in which NGOs provide a rich fabric of associations modelling the good society, as developed by Michael Edwards in his book <em>Civil Society</em>. The late Ulrich Beck argued that politics in today’s world can be understood in terms of a struggle for control of the state between capital and NGOs. This shapes the environment in particular states in which third-sector organisations operate. Civil-society organisations are important to democratic governance because they can bring specialist knowledge and experience to bear on public policy and introduce an element of pluralism. Yet the historical trajectory of the UK state has constrained the third sector in England in ways which suggest it is worth scanning the northern European horizon for models to follow. <strong>Britain’s peculiar statehood</strong> A peculiarly strong residual aristocracy in Britain led in Victorian times to a response to the dislocations of the industrial revolutions characterised by an emphasis on a condescending ‘charity’. This was embodied in the Charitable Organisation Society, which took a paternalistic, ‘improving’ attitude to the urban poor, with Edmund Burke’s fragmentary ‘little platoons’ providing the model for the former Tory leader David Cameron’s short-lived notion of the ‘<a href="">big society’</a> – to match a state stripped by austerity of responsibility for universal entitlements. This in turn led to a visceral commitment in the labour movement, as it emerged in the early 20th century, to state solutions to social problems. Whereas elsewhere in Europe social-insurance funds, established to deal with workers’ risks like unemployment, tended to be administered in a manner involving the trade unions, the 1911 National Insurance Act made this a state monopoly. Similarly, when the National Health Service was established in 1948, friendly societies to cope with health needs at time of crisis were supplanted. The UK welfare state thus sidelined the third sector in the name of a Fabian public-service professionalism. From the other side, the entrenched position of the City outside government and the Treasury within it historically gave financial capital an ear in the corridors of power which NGOs lacked. The associated ‘light-touch regulation’ of markets left the UK with few social buffers against the effects of the 2008 financial crash. The predominant feature of the third sector in England has thus been its subordinate role – with organisations providing specific forms of welfare as clients of the state, eking out a niche filling the holes of an increasingly fragile safety net or offering radical alternatives largely outside the political mainstream. Under Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ regime, there was more support for the third sector, conceived of as a partner in service delivery. But <a href="">research</a> commissioned by the Carnegie UK Trust Inquiry into the future of civil society, published in 2009, nevertheless spoke of ‘a rather embattled sector attempting to promote the values of social justice’. Under the Conservative-dominated governments in the UK since 2010 civil-society organisations have found themselves under even more pressure. This has stemmed not just from cuts in public spending but from the way large-scale, predatory, generalist corporations, such as G4S and Serco, have been able to take over contracted-out services with the most basic, one-size-fits-all offer – their interests aligned with their shareholders rather than those of diverse, vulnerable users requiring flexible and responsive provision. <strong>News from elsewhere</strong> The political history of particular states also explains the trajectory of the third sector in other European countries. In Germany, Bismarck famously sought to solve the ‘workers question’ in the late 19th century by establishing a conservative, state-regulated social-insurance system for employees. Beyond this, welfare functions, such as social care, came to be provided by six Free Welfare Associations (<em>Freie Wohlfahrtsverbände)</em>, enmeshed with the state. Including one Catholic, one Protestant, one Jewish and one left-wing, these employ more than a million staff and are generously funded. But public welfare funding is no longer restricted to these six associations and the diversification of German society has meant that other faith-based organisations, notably Muslim, have appeared on the scene. There is little tradition in this context of third-sector organisations playing an independent, activist-based advocacy role. And while civic engagement has come into fashion, the English word ‘engagement’ had to be appropriated to refer to it (<em>Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement</em>). France has a constitutional set-up dominated by the state and historically suspicious of civil-society associations coming between the state and the individual citizen: shortly after the revolution of 1789, legislation outlawed corporations and workers’ or professional associations.  But since the 1960s the state has engaged increasingly in partnerships with third-sector organisations in the delivery of social services and, to a lesser extent, health and education. This has been enhanced by legislation devolving power from the traditionally centralised state to local government. Austerity in the wake of the financial crisis however saw state and local-government funding for associations reduced and public subventions replaced by competitive tendering, following the UK example. But meantime, coming from the political left – most publicly associated with the former Socialist head of the European Commission Jacques Delors – a new concept had been developing of civil society as the sphere of ‘the social and solidarity-based economy’ (<em>l’économie sociale et solidaire</em>). This was formalised in a 2014 law of that name, which has favoured a renewal of subsidies and partnerships, and the insertion of social clauses into public tenders. The Netherlands presents a paradox. It has a huge third sector yet there is no Dutch translation of the phrase ‘civil society’. The explanation lies in how in the Netherlands religion provided a political cleavage cutting across social class. The Netherlands emerged in modern times as a ‘pillarised’ society, with third-sector organisations carrying out major public-service functions in the different religious pillars of society, though these have gradually dissolved. That meant they were vertically integrated into the state, but it also meant they tended to lose their distinctiveness. And in particular it came at the expense of the horizontal networks among NGOs and activists that make for a vibrant civil society, which is today fragmented and lacking in a shared identity. The erosion of welfare entitlements has seen public day care for elderly and disabled individuals replaced by voluntary provision, which can be experienced as demeaning by users. <strong>The Nordic model</strong> On the wider European canvas, Sweden’s third sector stands out for its activism and volunteering and, as a subordinate element, its social enterprises. Influenced by the country’s social-democratic history, which has constrained capital through a strong state and strong civil society, this has been described as the ‘popular mass movement model’. The ‘movements’ embrace the traditional labour movement, which played a formative role in the emergence of Sweden’s post-war, universal welfare system, and the new social movements of the 60s – the women’s, environmental and peace movements – as well as consumer co-operatives, sporting and educational bodies. Indeed, the Swedish word for popular mass movements (<em>folkrörelser</em>) is much more commonly used than the phrase ‘third sector’. Key aspects are open and active memberships, transparency in the operation of the huge associations, a high degree of formal internal democracy and fairness, and generous access to public policy-making as well as funding. Relatively speaking, in the Nordic model, and here Denmark is as good an example as Sweden, voluntary organisations working in welfare provision – such as social care – play a minor role, because of the commitment to the welfare state. And the paid third-sector workforce is relatively small, because of the strong commitment to volunteering. The tradition of the third sector in Denmark and Sweden, unlike the philanthropic UK version, is of a civic commitment to equality and democracy, and an allied co-operative movement. The Swedish word for ‘charity’ (<em>välgörenhet</em>) acquired a negative connotation during the 20th century, with welfare coming to be understood as a matter of civil or social rights. And even the non-movement aspect of the third sector in Sweden predominantly comprises a member-based mutual or co-operative social economy, rather than Anglo-American style welfare providers. The Nordic model shows why it is wrong to pit the strong society against the strong state, as if the latter worked against the former, as Cameron implied – quite the contrary. In Denmark, voluntary organisations have been promoted by the state, partly as places for learning basic democratic skills. In Sweden, citizens are on average members of around three associations and the country has a particularly strong co-operative heritage. Moreover, Swedish associations have historically operated on the premise of the active member – rather than one, say, sending off a payment to Greenpeace as a conscience-salver. Volunteering then becomes a dimension – even a duty – of membership rather than merely unpaid employment. Around half the population between 16 and 74 years volunteers and, of those, seven out of ten are also members of the organisation concerned. This is not to say that everything is rosy for the Swedish third sector. Membership activism, though still very high in comparative terms, has fallen since the 1990s, indicative of an erosion of older organisations and the emergence of new bodies to which members may merely pay for services or make donations. There has also been a trend towards a ‘contract culture’ in Sweden. Denmark has exhibited a marked growth of voluntary activism in recent decades. There are trends, though, there too towards a more instrumental relationship between members and associations. In Sweden a sense of participation and having a stake is promoted by involving the institutions of civil society in policy-making. The mechanism is provided by governmental commissions (<em>statliga utredningar</em>) focused on a particular issue, including with a view to preparing legislation. Civil-society organisations are not only consulted in the work of the commissions but can provide experts, both internal (<em>sakkunniga</em>) and external (<em>experter</em>), for their deliberations. This not only allows ministries to have very small permanent staff. It also provides the institutional linchpin in a system of democratic governance involving a mix of civil servants, politicians, academics, experts and representatives of relevant civil-society organizations. When such formally independent commissions produce their report, there is a consultation process (<em>remiss</em>), where the document is issued to all affected organisations. Their responses – indeed, those of any interested individual – are all included in the final version of the report, which can then be the basis for government to draft a bill for the parliament to consider. So serious is this process of engagement that it thus may take up to six or eight years, or even longer, from the appointment of the commission to any consequent law being enacted. By the conclusion of this process, a substantial social consensus behind the law tends to have been gathered. On top of the commissions, whose historical dominance has faded, there are specific avenues for influence which allow the ethos of the third sector to permeate the state, through close collaboration between the popular movement organisations and a friendly state apparatus. The popular movement organisations in Sweden have often been described as ‘schools for democracy’. And, outside of conventional state education, there is an adult-education system (<em>folkbildningen</em>) of educational associations and folk high schools, which are run by, or linked to, the popular organisations. A Popular Mass Movement Council (<em>Folkrörelserådet)</em> was established in 1989 to promote these organisations’ collective policy agenda. In 2002 a Forum for Popular Mass Movements (<em>Folkrörelseforum</em>) followed, to foster dialogue between the government and public authorities on the one hand and the movements on the other. There has been a gradual dilution of the popular-movement model across the Nordic countries, however, in recent years. This has been described as a shift ‘from voice to service’, as civil-society organisations have moved into service delivery, and, relatedly, ‘from member to volunteer’, as members have become fewer and more passive. And as ‘business’ talk has increased, the normative drive of civil society has diminished. Nevertheless, there are enduring features of these societies, which mean to speak of a Nordic civil-society model still makes sense. <strong>Speaking for England</strong> The Nordic model, even if less distinctive than before, provides much food for thought for the third sector in England, in terms of both its aims and its activities<em>.</em> It implies a renewed emphasis on the membership base of organisations and a recognition of the huge resource that that offers for volunteering and active campaigning in times of financial stringency. Not all organisations can, should or will reinvent themselves as ‘popular movements’ but there are elements of the model which they can appropriate. For many third-sector organisations, membership is something of a formality and the annual general meeting a necessary evil for senior management – with the professionals left to run the organisation, with little scrutiny from their boards, from day to day. It is then unclear, however, how those professionals add value to what the same individuals would do in a statutory agency and the distinctiveness of the third sector becomes blurred. Amid the daily scramble for enough resources to keep the organisation afloat, it is easy to lose sight of the potential of investment in an active membership. Of course, there is a risk of activism being reduced to mere ‘clicktivism’ in a world suffused by the internet. But if Oscar Wilde supposedly quipped that the problem with socialism was that it took up too many evenings, the scope today for widescale online engagement in genuine deliberation, as well as for crowdfunding of resources, does make membership-driven organisation less of a collective-action dilemma than before. It is also interesting that the second, subordinate element of the Nordic model comprises not grant-funded organisations but social enterprises. And the old consumer co-operative tradition in Scandinavia is being revamped in arenas of social care, for instance in parent co-op kindergartens. Amid a tightening financial screw, if voluntary organisations can behave more like social enterprises – and the number of the latter has grown in England in recent years – this can provide independent revenue streams and so enhance the autonomy and responsiveness to users that make such organisations perform at their best. In the absence of such a broader and deeper understanding of the role of civil society in today’s world, and in particular in the Nordic countries, further superficial fads, such as Blair’s ‘Third Way’ or Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, are likely to come – and go. Returning to Michael Edwards, a recent article by an expert on civil society in England <a href="">concluded</a> that his notion of civil-society organisations working for the public good within a rich public sphere was ‘not part of the policy agenda … at the present time’. That is the challenge of change. <strong> </strong><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 WP imported wagtail Robin Wilson Mon, 28 Aug 2017 15:08:29 +0000 Robin Wilson 113061 at Market fundamentalism has left Britain in the economic relegation zone - it's time for a rethink <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Two fundamental errors block new thinking on the UK economy. The first is a failure to recognise, empirically, just how poor is the UK’s comparative, like-for-like performance. The second is an inab... </div> </div> </div> Two fundamental errors block new thinking on the UK economy. The first is a failure to recognise, empirically, just how poor is the UK’s comparative, like-for-like performance. The second is an inability, conceptually, to abandon the dogma of market fundamentalism in domestic political culture. These errors not only consign the UK to a low-investment, low-productivity, low-income (but high-inequality) path. They also make it impossible to appreciate why this should be so—and what should be done to move on to a more successful (and greener) trajectory. <strong>Innumeracy and insularity</strong> Complacency about UK economic performance stems from a combination of innumeracy and insularity. It was encapsulated in the claim by the prime minister, Theresa May, in the Conservative Party manifesto for the June 2017 Westminster election, that ‘we are already the fifth-largest economy in the world’. As the House of Commons Library had <a href="">explained</a> a year earlier, this was the position of the UK in a league table of gross domestic product (GDP) using market exchange rates to generate common data in dollars, but adjustment of the data for differing price levels, or purchasing power parities (PPP), demoted the UK to ninth—behind, among others, India and Indonesia. Yet this is not the biggest problem with blowing a British economic trumpet. The UK is, of course, a state with a large population and so the meaningful comparison is of GDP (PPP) <em>per capita</em>. On this basis, the UK <a href="">falls</a> to 21st in the world, according to 2016 World Bank data, or 24th according to the International Monetary Fund. This is not all: the UK compensates for weak performance on GDP by a culture in a European context of long hours (engendering huge problems of work-life balance for women, given the paucity of publicly-funded childcare). So the best comparison should really be output per person <em>per hour</em>. This figure has <a href="">flatlined</a> since the financial crisis of 2008, after decades of trend growth, leaving the UK a laggard in Europe: in 2006 its output per hour was 109.7 per cent of the EU average; by 2016 that had fallen to 98.4 per cent. But of course the EU includes many weakly performing economies in its southern periphery and the former Soviet bloc. The following table <a href=";plugin=1&amp;pcode=tesem160&amp;language=en">shows</a> how UK productivity measures up if it is placed in a set of ten northern European neighbours. <table width="640"> <tr> <td width="231"><strong> </strong></td> <td width="231"><strong>Output per person per hour (2016)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">EU 28 average</td> <td width="231">100</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Eurozone average</td> <td width="231">111.6</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Belgium</td> <td width="231">136.7*</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Denmark</td> <td width="231">131.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Finland</td> <td width="231">108.1</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">France</td> <td width="231">124.8</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Germany</td> <td width="231">126.5</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Ireland</td> <td width="231">178.9**</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Netherlands</td> <td width="231">127.5</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Norway</td> <td width="231">147.3</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">Sweden</td> <td width="231">114.7</td> </tr> <tr> <td width="231">UK</td> <td width="231">98.4</td> </tr> </table> <em>Source: Eurostat </em><em>* 2015 data, </em><em>** The Irish data are highly inflated by transfer pricing by multinationals, thereby shifting nominal output to Ireland to avail themselves of its low corporation-tax rate.</em> The UK is thus in the relegation zone of this mini-league. Its other members are all in the EU (except Norway in the European Economic Area), yet hardly seem hamstrung by its supposed ‘red tape’. Indeed, the UK also lags the average performance of the supposedly ‘sclerotic’ Eurozone, with its single currency, by a significant margin. And even this is not the full story: the City elevates the overall UK data markedly: disaggregated, these <a href="">show</a> that while inner London is the richest region in northern Europe, nine out of ten of the poorest regions are also found within the state. Quite what magic can transform the fortunes of a ‘global Britain’ freed from ‘Brussels’, should the UK continue its lemming-like insistence on unilateral withdrawal from the EU, is thus hard to decipher. The real conundrum is of course the opposite: how Britain, hugely advantaged by being first mover in the industrial revolution at the birth of modern capitalism, should have engaged in such a long, slow decline to its current 21st-century economic mediocrity. <strong>Enter the True Believers</strong> Part of the answer is the cossetting the UK enjoyed through the era of access to protected empire markets. Part too is what the New Left figures Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn identified as the lack of a ‘bourgeois’ revolution in Britain, dismantling feudal ways. Part too is that the City dominates not only the UK economy but also economic thinking in Britain, as evidenced by how media commentary frequently anthropomorphises ‘the (financial) markets’, describing their ‘mood’ as if that of sentient beings. In a <a href="">fallacy of composition</a>, the performance of the UK economy is thereby reduced to individual market trades, as if these were barter—which, since for every  sale there is then a purchase, implies automatic equilibrium if market mechanisms are not subject to ‘bureaucratic interference’. In his 'The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money', Keynes however understood the economy as a <em>system</em> of production of goods and services in which labour is the source of value and investment is key. He showed that the classical equilibrium model only applied in the ideal case of full employment; in the typical context of involuntary unemployment, investment (with its multiplier effect) was required to engender sufficient demand for a full-employment equilibrium to be achieved. Look after unemployment, Keynes said, and the budget—enhanced by tax-raising and welfare-reducing employment—will look after itself. And he envisaged the ‘euthanasia of the rentier’ in an economy where public investment loomed ever larger. He argued against the statist ‘socialism’ of the USSR of his day but his economics was by no means alien to a distributed socialism of employee-owned/co-operative enterprises. Indeed, in the absence of such a transformation of a modern capitalist economy, Keynes’ argument was vulnerable to the charge, as the Keynesian economist Will Hutton recognised, that it could take increasingly inflationary doses of demand injection to sustain a capitalist economy at full employment. And the inflationary spiral of the 1970s, while actually making the case for a more advanced ‘social contract’ rather than a market free-for-all, was used by the True Believers in the classical economists Keynes (like Marx) had criticised to make their ‘neo-classical’ comeback. ‘Market disciplines’ were applied in two devastating waves: the ‘sado-monetarism’ (as William Keegan of the <em>Observer</em> called it) of the Thatcher years and the unrelenting austerity imposed by Conservative-dominated governments in the UK since 2010. These have been characterised by massive <em>dis</em>investment, with the deindustrialisation of capital in the first period succeeded by the devalorisation of now atomised labour in the second. In this shocking new world of zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and food banks, a TUC report in 2016 <a href="">found</a> that the UK had seen a steeper fall in real wages in 2007-15, still 10.4 per cent below pre-crisis level, than any OECD country except Greece. By contrast, France had seen a rise of 11 per cent and Germany of 14 per cent, over the same period. Thus a UK economy which once boasted such household names as ICI or GEC, and associated public corporations such as British Steel or British Leyland—is now reduced to a wasteland where there are very few internationally competitive enterprises left. Hence the yawning balance-of-payments deficit, whose unsustainability brings a creeping devaluation of sterling and so further inflationary pressure on living standards. Today’s economic landscape is much more characterised by labour-sweating companies such as Sports Direct than those with high sunk capital such as Rolls Royce. Hence the fashionable ‘productivity conundrum’ is no riddle at all. With public investment at rock-bottom, vocational training now left to the vagaries of the market, and trade unions and statutory labour protections so weakened, the UK economy has inevitably followed a directionless race to the bottom. With the high road of mutually-supporting levels of investment, productivity and income structurally blocked, the low road of casualisation and super-exploitation of unskilled labour has been opened wide. This is at the cost not only of mediocre economic performance but also of rising inequality as the Precariat expands—on top of the impact of the Thatcher interlude, whose suppression of taxes for the wealthy made the UK already a markedly inegalitarian outlier from the rest of northern Europe. <strong>Beyond market fundamentalism</strong> If the UK is such a poor economic performer, then it could at least seek to emulate its European neighbours and peers. Indeed, it would be <a href="">foolishness</a> to suggest—as purportedly left-wing UK Brexiters have done—that the UK would be more able to achieve economic progress outside the EU than within. In that sense the far-right-led Brexit campaign makes much more sense as a struggle for an authoritarian, ‘free-market’ British Singapore stripped of residual workers’ rights. Such emulation involves learning three, really quite simple, economic lessons. The first is that the ‘invisible hand’—a phrase taken wholly out of context from Smith’s (incoherent) usage in <em>The Wealth of Nations</em>, referring to investment domestically rather than abroad—does not apply 241 years later. As Hutton also pointed out, once market interactions are financially intermediated, every purchase does not match a sale—so disequilibria become the norm, not the exception. Moreover, since the globalisation of the economy since the 1970s has been matched by its financialisation, there has been a growing volatility reflected in financial crises of increased frequency and intensity until the global crash of 2008—when it became apparent that the giant Ponzi scheme of exotic derivatives lacking any correlate in the real economy, in which companies such as Lehman Brothers were mired, had to collapse. As John Kay has <a href="">demonstrated</a>, the vast bulk of what City financial institutions do is not to invest in the real economy: it is to speculate with other people’s money. So the investment necessary for enhanced economic performance, as well as the maintenance of demand, must be initiated from the public purse—albeit then multiplied through private sources. While the UK has squandered its asset of North Sea Oil, Norway has turned its oil resource into an enduring asset via a sovereign wealth fund. Indeed, such funds can be <a href="">used</a>, if democratically so desired, to expand the public stake in the economy over time as revenue from existing investments is reinvested elsewhere: favouring enterprises in the ‘green’ economy or those otherwise ‘eco-efficient’ in this way would be an ideal means to bring about the greening of the UK economy, which is a laggard too in such markets as for renewable-energy production. Germany, meanwhile, has its development bank, KfW, going back to postwar reconstruction, and the <em>Landesbanken</em>, involved in regional economic development, providing vehicles for public investment. Of course, until England stops being a European outlier in lacking regional devolution, the latter option is impossible there. The second lesson is that public goods play an essential role. The market-fundamentalist economic discourse in the UK has completely crowded out the (economic) concept of ‘public goods’—those which are (or, arguably, should be seen as) non-exclusive and non-rival and so properly provided by public agencies democratically accountable to citizens, not privatised and subject to ‘commercial confidentiality’. Knowledge is a prime example, especially in today’s ‘informational’ rather than ‘industrial’ capitalism, as Manuel Castells has described it. Yet in the UK the education system has been fragmented into a morass of competing providers, including obscurantist ‘faith’ schools as well as privately-sponsored ‘academies’. The performance of this patchwork is inevitably patchy, as the UK’s again-mediocre standing in the international <a href="">PISA</a> educational rankings demonstrates. The top performers in Europe are Estonia and Finland, which both have unified, comprehensive systems in which youngsters are not differentiated until age 16 when more vocational or academic paths are selected. The UK’s former high performance in higher education is being rapidly eroded. The more technologically orientated ‘polytechnics’ became universities out of snob value and university is being turned into a ‘club’ good for students from wealthy backgrounds by the abolition of grants and spiralling fees, sacrificing the talents of poorer students. The increasing xenophobia towards foreign students and the threat to internationally significant collaborative research posed by Brexit are additional, entirely self-inflicted wounds. At the vocational level, ever since under Thatcher the industrial training boards were abolished, the fundamental appreciation that individual firms will freeride and poach rather than investing in training their own workforces has been forgotten. By contrast, in Germany firms are required to be members of their local chamber of commerce, through which training is collectively provided at a much higher level for the benefit of all. And the network of <em>Fraunhofer</em> institutes, supported by federal and regional funding, pursue applied research on which firms can draw. Germany’s huge productivity differential over the UK is also a product of relative trade-union strength—yes, strength. High wages provide a ‘productivity whip’, forcing firms to innovate to enhance productivity, rather than resting on their laurels, if they wish to sustain profitability. This is an instance of the third lesson which the UK has yet to learn—that social policy is a productive factor. ‘Free-enterprise’ ideology can only conceive of any kind of policy intervention as a ‘burden on business’—hence the ridiculous current requirement that any new regulation affecting business in Britain can only be introduced if three others are abolished. In this cramped perspective, ‘welfare’ is a labour-protecting device which can only detract from the surplus generated by the private sector—hence it should be as selective and means-tested as possible. The UK has gone far down that route since the postwar highpoint of the measures succeeding the 1942 Beveridge report. When unemployment was (in Keynesian terms, correctly) seen as an involuntary risk, for example, unemployment benefit was graduated according to an employee’s National Insurance contributions. Now it is ideologically identified as a voluntary ‘lifestyle choice’ and so the benefit has been renamed ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance’ and is set at a universal minimum which is below subsistence and subject even then to sanctions if ‘jobseeking’ is not seen to be sufficiently assiduous. By contrast, in the Nordic countries with broadly universal welfare states, it is recognised that high public expenditure, funded by progressive taxation, is essential to labour productivity—in terms especially of the education and health of the worker—and so to prosperity. Denmark’s ‘flexicurity’ system, for instance, deliberately has high unemployment benefits so that workers don’t hang on to obsolete jobs and active-labour-market programmes train them for new global opportunities. This extends to a recognition that public funding for the cultural arena—Oslo’s beautiful opera house, for example—is essential to attract the specialised workers so essential to today’s economy for whom the labour market is close to global. There is also a recognition that high-salaried professionals will be willing to pay high taxes for high-standard, personalised public services rather than seek a ‘right of exit’ for private alternatives: childcare, for instance, is not only close to universal across Scandinavia but also employs a largely-graduate workforce. It might be thought that this is all very well from a social perspective but that such a high ‘take’ by the public purse must nevertheless be a drag on the economy. Far from it: the Nordic countries tend to top the conventional leagues of economic ‘competitiveness’. And a 2012 academic study, which defined competitiveness as output per potential worker, <a href="">placed</a> the four main Scandinavians (Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway—in that order) among the top seven of 30 countries.  The UK, which often prides itself on being ‘business-friendly’, came in at again a merely middling 15th. <strong>Radical?</strong> In sum, then, the UK can only move on to a higher economic performance path if it abandons the blinkers of market fundamentalism for a more intellectually robust and evidenced approach. The latter will have at its heart a recognition that the ‘invisible hand’ turns out to be an out-of-control robot arm, that public goods such as knowledge are key to the public interest, and that social policy is not to be dismissed as ‘the nanny state’ but is a core productive factor. None of this is rocket science. None of it is even particularly radical—though it is way moreso than Labour’s supposedly radical Westminster manifesto this year. It just requires progressives in the UK to look beyond their own shores. Which, of course, demands remaining in the EU to work collaboratively to tame the global capitalist tiger, rather than seeking to stop the world.<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 WP imported wagtail Robin Wilson Thu, 24 Aug 2017 12:35:40 +0000 Robin Wilson 113005 at Brexit: a view from the other end of the telescope <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit is the incomprehension of a former imperial power, wistfully hoping to recreate a long-gone global sphere of influence.&nbsp;</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="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em><a href="">Image</a>: diamond geezer,&nbsp;CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</em></p><p>When the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, described the UK government’s proposal this week for an interim customs agreement as a ‘fantasy’, as Euronews <a href=";utm_campaign=Echobox&amp;utm_medium=Social&amp;utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1502789407">reported</a>, it highlighted how the view of Europe from the home counties is very much at odds with the view of the UK from the European mainland.</p> <p>Yet amid the welter of coverage of Brexit in the British media, the view from the other end of the telescope is very rarely adopted. Take a simple example. Throughout the referendum campaign in 2016, no commentator—or even partisan from the Remain side—asked the obvious question: why has the European Union grown from the six that the UK joined in 1973 to the 28 of today and yet only the UK has even considered leaving the club, never mind voted so to do? What is it, in other words, not about ‘Brussels’ but about Britain, which makes it so alien?</p> <p>The UK has always been a reluctant EU partner. An academic book published seven years ago with the title <em>A Community of Europeans?</em> described how hitherto narrowly national identities and public spheres across the EU had become ‘Europeanised’ as a result of decades of integration. But throughout the author, Thomas Risse, noted how the UK remained an outlier. The Brexit vote, we now know, was the consequence, but claims of a domino effect leading to a ‘Nexit’ or a ‘Frexit’ proved ridiculous.</p> <p>On the contrary, before-and-after survey <a href="">research</a> commissioned by the Bertelsmann Foundation in six large EU member states found a significant uptick in support for the EU after the Brexit vote in all of them (France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK) bar Spain. Respondents were asked how they would vote in a referendum on retaining EU membership and in the UK positive responses rose from 49 per cent in March 2016 to 56 per cent in August. Fast forward and three out of four tracking <a href="">polls</a> by Survation—the company which called the Westminster election most accurately—in June and July this year have found Remain would win a rerun referendum. Hence the shrillness of the Brexiters that ‘the will of the people’—most of them, then—must be respected.</p> <p>Yet also entirely absent from the saturation reporting of Brexit—and from the Remain camp—have been the three European precedents for the overturning of a referendum which initially brought a narrow Eurosceptic victory by a second ballot. In 1992 in Denmark, the Maastricht treaty was rejected by 50.7 per cent of voters but 56.7 per cent approved it the following year. Denmark and Ireland, both countries with quite a nationalistic political culture, joined the EU at the same time as the UK and voters in the Republic rejected two treaties at the first time of asking: the Nice treaty of 2001 and the Lisbon treaty of 2007. Constitutionally, Ireland requires referenda on EU treaties, because they comprise constitutional amendments; again, in both cases the initial vote was decisively overturned in the rerun referendum. Democracy is not a once-and-for all event—the ‘will of the people’, always pluralistic, changes.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Democracy is not a once-and-for all event—the ‘will of the people’, always pluralistic, changes.</p> <p>Because of the myopic lens applied to European affairs, therefore, the UK is on track—despite contrary votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland and despite the shifting mood in England—to commit what the leading Irish official dealing with Brexit <a href="">described</a> in April as an ‘act of great self-harm’. A <em>Financial Times</em> investigation <a href="">found</a> in May that the UK would have to rewrite at least a bewildering 759 international agreements as alternatives to those to which it was party as an EU member. And an expert on trade has <a href="">explained</a> how developing a bespoke customs union with the EU bilaterally would be fiendishly complicated.</p> <p>With firms and staff already voting with their feet in the City and the car industry in an agitated state—on top of Brexit-induced inflation hitting already pressed living standards generally—talk of sunny economic uplands for ‘global Britain’ has understandably quietened. So why is Brexit still going ahead?</p> <p>The problem is that there are four longstanding features of British political culture which are taken for granted domestically and yet together have made the UK a ‘foreign body’ in the EU:</p><ol><li>A ‘classical’ English approach to political economy, rooted in the thinking of Adam Smith (not John Maynard Keynes) and embodied in the dominant ‘Treasury view’;</li><li>A ‘liberal’ approach to the welfare state, characterised by means-testing of benefits and a commitment to low taxation;</li><li>A patrician approach to governance, marked by dominance of the executive (‘the Crown in Parliament’) and lack of judicial constraint on ‘parliamentary sovereignty’; and</li><li>A ‘realist’ approach to international relations — ‘no friends, only interests’ — associated with a transfer of allegiances from the countries of the former empire to the ‘special relationship’ with the US.</li></ol><p>These four aspects were never going to sit easily with widely-held post-war assumptions on the European mainland—and indeed long delayed UK membership. While not all would share the traditional&nbsp;<em>étatisme</em>&nbsp;of the French governing class, nevertheless even on the Christian-democratic centre-right there was a recognition that markets had to be socially embedded to avoid the searing experience of deflation and mass unemployment which had been associated with the rise of Nazism and the onset of war. And while not all would endorse the Nordic welfare states, with their universal benefits funded by progressive taxation, the alternative was the insurance-based Bismarckian system, introduced to dampen worker alienation, rather than an Anglo-American minimalism based on faith in ‘flexible’ labour markets.</p> <p>While there was respect for the long tradition of democracy in Britain, with its ‘mother of parliaments’, the absence of a written constitution for the UK was incomprehensible to most elsewhere, as was the British belief in the merits of a winner-takes-all electoral system, in sharp contrast with European-style coalition-building. And while British trumpeting of values of tolerance and freedom would also not have been discounted, the subservience (and associated delusion) of the UK’s Atlanticism was a mystery to many.</p> <p>And so the conflicts inevitably followed over the decades succeeding UK accession, the periodic eruptions beginning when that nationalist evangel for market fundamentalism, Margaret Thatcher, entered Downing Street in 1979. And they were to be over predictable issues:</p><ul><li>- ‘our’ money, as Thatcher banged the table for a rebate on its contribution to the resources necessary for the European Community to function;</li><li>- the mild ‘social chapter’ of the Maastricht treaty and the working-time directive, from which the UK opted out for ideological reasons;</li><li>- the constraints on UK ‘sovereignty’ represented by the European Court of Justice and the (separate) Court of Human Rights; and</li><li>- the establishment of the euro, deemed to undermine the City and sterling as a ‘global currency’.</li></ul> <p>These inchoate conflicts were inflamed by (themselves unregulated) conservative newspapers, which seemed unable to address European integration except in the aerated language of ‘Brussels’ impositions — ‘straight bananas’ among them — presented as defying British ‘common sense’. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">These inchoate conflicts were inflamed by (themselves unregulated) conservative newspapers, which seemed unable to address European integration except in the aerated language of ‘Brussels’ impositions.</p><p>Underpinning all this has been the dominant narrative in Britain of World War II. This is not of a Europe rescued (including with the sacrifice of 20 million Soviet citizens) from the fascist Sword of Damocles but is a story of how ‘Britain stood alone’ against its main national enemy: historically this was France but since World War I had been Germany. Fascism, and the political alternatives to it, only entered this story in the superficial demonising features of helmets, swastikas and the pidgin German (‘<em>Achtung</em>’, ‘<em>Jawohl</em>’) found in countless children’s comic books.</p> <p>Elsewhere in Europe, the political lesson bitterly learned through the Holocaust was of the need to subordinate particularistic identity claims and their aggressive prosecution against the ‘other’ to a regime guaranteeing universal norms of democracy, human rights and the rule of law — the fundamental shift which turned western Europe from the most violent region on the planet in the first half of the 20th&nbsp;century into a haven of peace in the second. What Britain ‘learned’ however was merely a reinforcement of its supposed national mission in the world, embodied in beliefs in its inherent stoicism at home and acceptance of the White Man’s Burden abroad.</p> <p>Brexit is thus not just a misunderstanding between the British ruling class and the rest of Europe. It is the incomprehension of a former imperial power, wistfully hoping to substitute a long-gone global sphere of influence, for what remains—despite all its manifest shortfalls—a modern, cosmopolitan political project.</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 Robin Wilson Thu, 17 Aug 2017 09:06:54 +0000 Robin Wilson 112904 at Towards dialogue in Northern Ireland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can education,&nbsp;notions of deliberative democracy and intercultural integration come together to&nbsp;rescue&nbsp;our dysfunctional democracies?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><img alt="wfd" src="//" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy Nigel Dodds walk under a portrait of Former Leader Ian Paisley at Stormont in Belfast.Niall Carson/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In mid-January, the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland collapsed once more, as the main Catholic party, Sinn Féin, political wing of the IRA, refused to remain in power with its predominant Protestant counterpart, the Democratic Unionist Party, political offshoot of the Free Presbyterian Church of the late Ian Paisley, accusing it of sectarian ‘arrogance’. An election will be held to the Stormont assembly on 2 March but few observers expect a renewal of the diarchy between SF and the DUP, though certain to be re-elected as the dominant parties, any time soon.</p> <p>This might seem just a minor story about a small region in western Europe, especially since the large-scale conflict which beset it during the quarter century from 1969 until the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 is not going to be renewed (although that is no consolation to the victims of the continuing low-level violence). But pull back the spotlight a bit and in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia and Lebanon – the three political entities where in recent decades, as in Northern Ireland, power-sharing has been essayed between ethno-political and paramilitary protagonists after major interethnic conflict – the same story emerges of dysfunctional democracy in still failed states.</p> <p>Pull back further again and observe how populist campaigning against a demonised Other has become the default political style in formerly highly stable democracies – including ‘Brexit’ Britain (‘immigrants’) and a Trumpised USA (‘Muslims’). From Putin’s Russia (‘foreign agents’) to Orbán’s Hungary (refugees) and (de facto) Kaczyński’s Poland (‘Communists’) to Erdoğan’s Turkey (an exiled cleric), autocratic power has been consolidated by representing a supposedly undifferentiated ‘people’ as threatened by the Barbarian at the gate.</p> <h2><strong>‘The people’</strong></h2> <p>As the late Italian political scientist Norberto Bobbio pointed out, the unit of every democratic constitution is the individual citizen, while ‘the people’ is the ventriloquist invocation of every dictator. But populism is threatening to overwhelm democratic institutions with a toxic contagion of fear and mistrust.</p> <p>The irony is that populism only works if ‘the people’, far from the collective self-image portrayed of unity and strength, in reality comprise an atomised mass—a bag of potatoes, as Marx dismissively described the French peasantry. Bewildered by a world which has left them behind, their social relationships characterised by anomie rather than trust, such individuals can then be receptive to, and dependent upon, a ‘strong man’ (it always is). For he can, in an imaginary way, elevate them from their marginalised, ‘little man’ status into that of a supposedly equal member of an esteemed national majority. As in Germany after the punitive Versailles treaty, in every society today in which the populists have established a hold, the idea has become embedded that the ‘nation’ is put upon by perpetual foreign depredations, alone retarding its natural greatness.</p> <p>A further irony is that these nationalistic populisms, defined by their specificity – only <i>our </i>‘people’ can be special, after all – depend on their mutual counterposition. Hence, in January 2016, a popular Polish news magazine <a href="">portrayed</a> EU leaders, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Nazi uniforms, under the headline ‘These people want to control Poland again’. The hot-and-cold relationships between Trump and Putin, Putin and Erdogan, demonstrate this ambivalent interdependence.</p> <h2><strong>‘Dialogue with others’</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Rev. Dr. Inderjit S. Bhogal, OBE, Leader of the Corrymeela Community, speaking at the Centre in 2012. Wikicommons/Andrewincowtown. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It is through these two banal mechanisms, of imagination and imitation, that the evil of populism spreads. To counter it, and to strengthen the bulwarks of democracy against its assaults, individuals clearly need to be able to identify themselves as citizens who are bearers of human rights, subject to the rule of law and capable of democratic participation in dialogue with others – including others of different genders, ethnicities and social classes – on an equal footing. Underpinning this is a respect for individual human dignity, unsurprisingly inscribed in the first article of the 1949 Basic Law defining post-war Germany.</p> <p>Democracy used to be thought of in political science in simple terms. <a href="">Robert Dahl’</a>s ‘pluralist’ conception fitted a dominant, 1960s United States where it could be presented as a stable political contest, aggregating preferences among taken-for-granted ‘interest groups’, operating within a national container. It was a theory which could not outlast the upheavals of an era in which labour and other subaltern groups – particularly women and members of ethnic minorities – felt empowered to challenge social hierarchies and capital correspondingly sought to break the bounds of national regulation, even at the expense of creating a runaway world of more or less chronic economic disequilibria and political crises in the decades which have followed.</p> <p>Since around 1990, the pluralist approach has given way to a new paradigm of ‘deliberative democracy’, led by thinkers such as <a href="">John Dryzek</a>. It has come to the fore because it has recognised that individual preferences have to be explored, rather than assumed, and that they can change through debate in the public sphere. This is not to deny conflict or exclusion – far from it: it is to make the normative case for an enriched democracy in which all citizens can contribute equally to decision-making, which can transcend mere strategic and instrumental considerations. And the ‘deliberative turn’ in political science has taken place because it chimes with more individualised, educated and cosmopolitanised societies. Whereas the populists present themselves, wholly disingenuously, as scourges of the conventional pluralist ‘elites’, deliberative democracy is an authentic response to the crisis of engagement which the ‘hollowing out’ of the old political parties (as the late Peter Mair <a href="">described it</a>) has engendered.</p><h2>Democracy and education</h2><p>So let us zoom in again on Northern Ireland. As a case in point of democracy in perpetual crisis, what does it tell us, in extremis, about the problem – and does it point towards any potential solutions, of wider application? What does it tell us, in particular, about democracy and education? </p><p>Northern Ireland is the site of two ambivalent populisms –&nbsp;British and Irish ethno-nationalisms. These reflect the inability of their respectively ‘unionist’ and ‘nationalist’ adherents to live together with their neighbours of another religious background. For they are not just (as they overwhelmingly break down) Protestant or Catholic, but are committed to a state which supports their ‘side’ against the other, rather than being impartial as it has long been recognised in (most of) Europe must be the case, if all citizens are to enjoy freedom of conscience in multi-religious societies.</p> <p>It has been a fundamental feature of that social modernisation in Europe that, as Tönnies famously recognised, <i>Gesellschaft</i> (society) supersedes <i>Gemeinschaft</i> (community) – that is to say, a reflexive individual must find their way in the world with their peers, rather than simply assuming they are part of ‘communities of fate’, as Anthony Giddens once described the Northern Ireland predicament. </p> <p>However diverse today’s far-right populisms may be, they have in common a singular trait. They each conjure up a mythical golden age of a supposedly homogeneous ‘community’ sanctioned by national ‘tradition’, sullied by the invasion of the alien Other – most notably today, the ‘Muslim’ – whom the ‘elite’ has unconscionably failed to hold at bay. Trump, with his Muslim ban and his Mexico wall, embodies it perfectly. His unfortunate difficulty is that what made America uncontestably ‘great’ in the twentieth century was the serial inflow of refugees and migrants at the heart of every social innovation, from jazz to Hollywood to Silicon Valley.</p> <p>Likewise in Northern Ireland – and the foremost European expert on the radical-right populists, Cas Mudde, places the DUP firmly in that political family and SF on the margin of it. The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, made plain she would welcome Trump to Northern Ireland and her <i>über</i>-British position on the union put her firmly in the Brexit camp – despite this being wholly against the material interests of Northern Ireland’s disadvantaged and EU-supported citizenry. SF meanwhile has always loudly condemned ‘revisionist’ (ie modern) histories of Ireland which have challenged the notion that all of its ills stem from ‘British imperialism’ and the seventeenth-century Protestant plantation of Ulster.</p> <p>Naively, the UK and Irish governments in 1998 implanted in Northern Ireland a power-sharing system based on the pluralist model of democracy, assuming the associated permanent negotiation and bargaining would not repeatedly dissolve into deadlock and collapse, as the protagonists jealously guarded the mutual vetoes they had ensured the Belfast agreement enshrined.</p> <h2><strong>Scores of walls</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A policeman on patrol at a peace wall in Belfast. Paul Faith/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></strong>That has left those of us concerned for reconciliation in Northern Ireland with our backs to the wall – to scores of walls, in fact, as the number of physical barriers at sectarian interfaces, particularly in Belfast, has proliferated since the ceasefires, with only modest moves to offset that trend in recent years. The predominant parties, meanwhile, have diluted the (theoretical) statutory commitment under ‘direct rule’ from Westminster to promote integrated education in the region – some 93 per cent of children still go to segregated schools – in favour of a ‘shared’ alternative which would leave clerical hegemony unchallenged. </p><p>But we have at least learned some salutary lessons as to how Europe’s cosmopolitans should fight its populists. Education is indeed central and if diversity is to be managed effectively in contemporary society education must be about something more than the instrumental accumulation of the elements of an employable cv. Education has to be about the socialisation of rounded citizens, able above all to think for themselves and with the intercultural competences to improvise relationships with their peers which are enriching and fulfilling rather than marked by tensions and frictions.</p> <p>Pioneers of the citizenship strand of education introduced at early-secondary level in Northern Ireland in 2007 are disappointed that, having won plaudits at its inception from educationalists elsewhere, it has lost its ‘critical edge’ and ‘political bite’, as one expert put it. Secondary schools, particularly the grammar schools which remain in the region (almost uniquely in Europe), tend not to foreground it and, another educationalist complained, to teach it like religious education – in a didactic way at variance with the fundamental goal of stimulating critical thought.</p> <p>The integrated schools in Northern Ireland – the vast majority established through parental activism – have however tried to take on board conflictual issues in a deliberative fashion. One integrated-school principal once told this writer of how in one class pupils had successfully engaged in a role-play about the IRA hunger strike of 1981 – with students being asked to play the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and the first hunger-striker to die, Bobby Sands. A leading figure in the field said: ‘Children need to have conversations that are controversial and that prepare them for the real world.’</p> <p>The wider Council of Europe pedagogical experience suggests that non-formal education projects can often be more effective in engaging young people, including because of their practical dimension. And that brings in the role of non-governmental organisations.</p> <h2><strong>Meeting strangers </strong></h2> <p>With the best will in the world, even teachers well trained themselves in intercultural competences – and all teachers in today’s world should be required to have a masters in education, as in Finland –will struggle to cope with every possible classroom scenario. Specialist NGOs, which have built up large repertoires of tacit knowledge and contacts, particularly with individuals from minority backgrounds, can be a major resource in moderating intercultural dialogues. Unfortunately, this has gone so under-appreciated in recent years in Northern Ireland that the two key youth-oriented NGOs working in the area – <a href="">the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust</a> and <a href="">Public Achievement</a> – have had to fold due to financial difficulties, when modest support from the government at Stormont could have saved them.</p> <p>Adults too, of course, need to meet ‘strangers’ who can be turned into individuals whom they come to know and with whom they feel they share a common humanity. <a href="">Reconciliation NGOs</a> in Northern Ireland, such as the <a href="">Corrymeela Community</a> – which was founded in the 1960s as an ecumenical initiative by a former prisoner of war in Dresden who witnessed the bombing of the city – have done sterling work in establishing safe spaces for dialogue across the sectarian divide. Corrymeela has opened up to the growing population of refugees in Northern Ireland, some of whom have joined its volunteers. </p> <p>The <a href="">Belfast Friendship Club</a>, established in 2009 when there were two vicious incidents of racist expulsion in the south of the city –&nbsp;against Poles and Roma – has sought in contrast to model an ethos of hospitality for a cosmopolitanised future. Around its tables, every Thursday night, in a convivial café called ‘Common Grounds’, 40 to 50 individuals from perhaps 15 countries gather just to talk and to find out about activities they can join. Dialogue can thus become ‘banal’ ­– in a good way – too. </p> <p>And this is where the notions of deliberative democracy and intercultural integration come together. Civilised societies are those in which individual citizens of diverse backgrounds find the means to engage, in the public sphere and via elected representatives, in dialogue which leads to collective solutions. If that fails, the siren voices of the populists grow louder. If those voices succeed, however, civilisation itself is the victim.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Belfast friendship Club on its first summer holiday. Stephanie Mitchell. All rights reserved. "><img src="//" alt="" title="The Belfast friendship Club on its first summer holiday. Stephanie Mitchell. All rights reserved. " width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Belfast friendship Club on its first summer holiday. Stephanie Mitchell. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img style="padding-top: 10px;" src="//" /></a>openDemocracy was at the World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between inequality, education and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <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="/wfd/uk/ted-cantle/in-world-of-hate-fear-and-alternative-facts-education-really-does-matter">In a world of hate, fear and ‘alternative facts’, education really does matter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/rosemary-bechler-siamak-ahmadi-hassan-asfour/dialog-macht-schule-taking-dialogue-into-schools">Dialog macht Schule: taking dialogue into schools</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"> Northern Ireland </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <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> EU Northern Ireland Conflict build-bridges World Forum for Democracy 2016 Build Bridges Robin Wilson Tue, 28 Feb 2017 08:37:53 +0000 Robin Wilson 108843 at Northern Ireland: what Einstein would have said <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest crisis in Northern Ireland looks like <em>déjà vu</em> all over again. It’s not that the situation never changes but the remedy offered by London remains stubbornly the same.</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="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A "peace wall" in Belfast/Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>Events in recent weeks in Northern Ireland, including a feud in the IRA in Belfast and tottering power-sharing institutions at Stormont, have highlighted once more that, far from being a ‘post-conflict’ society with an ‘historic’ peace agreement, it remains a region in pre-post-conflict mode where history isn’t over just yet.</p> <p>This is not, however, due to the ‘ancient hatreds’ often projected on to this complex canvas by the simplifying gaze of superficial observers. Indeed, as the all-too-similarly dysfunctional nature of post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lebanon demonstrates, it is the consistent application of this stereotyping perspective by representatives of the ‘international community’—the most powerful states with a regional investment—which is the real problem, regardless of the fine-grained variety of the cases in point. For it leads, as in all three related agreements—Belfast (1998), Dayton (1995) and Taif (1989)—to the same outcome. </p> <p>The first step is a conceptual hoovering up of the unique individual diversity of the populace into communal tribes—Protestants and Catholics; Serbs, Croats and ‘Bosniaks’; Maronites, Sunni and Shia Muslims—failing to recognise the fundamental difficulty, as the late Italian political scientist Norberto Bobbio pointed out, that every democratic constitution is based on the individual citizen. The inevitable victim of this <em>Realpolitik</em> is universal norms: every human-rights convention, including those enshrining minority rights, requires the individual to be the rights-bearer; and the rule of law is meaningless unless state institutions are impartial among diverse citizens. Yet what has really brought violence to an end in another divided society, the Basque country, is that the Spanish state has foregone the human-rights depredations of the earlier ‘dirty war’ and ETA paramilitaries have been effectively, and legitimately, arraigned by the justice system.</p> <p>Having thus discredited all civic, non-nationalistic forces in favour of a male-only, ethnic oligarchy, the second step—this is where the agreements come in—is a hothouse negotiation which throws these ethnic cartels into government with each other. Since the negotiating parties have no commitment to the common interest and the public good, they treat politics as the continuation of war by other means and ensure deadlocking vetoes are built into the resultant pacts. By contrast, their uninterest in economic and social divides offering alternative political cleavages means they fail miserably to provide basic public services—as, <em>in extremis</em>, with the current ‘You stink’ protests in Beirut, over the inability of the government there to stop rubbish piling up in the streets.</p> <p>Government by cartel, with no universal language and no public purpose, inevitably fails to work—indeed even sometimes to exist. The 2010 election in Bosnia only issued in an actual state government 15 months later. And it took four and a half years after the first post-agreement power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland collapsed—over a previous IRA manifestation—before it was re-established in 2007.</p> <h2><strong>Intolerance</strong></h2> <p>But the superficial Westminster view of Northern Ireland—that its decades of ‘troubles’ stemmed from the ‘men of violence’, rather than a socially conservative (and certainly masculinist) culture of intolerance, of which paramilitary violence is a symptom—has meant successive governments have found themselves repeatedly validating Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing repeatedly in expectation of a different outcome.</p> <p>The British and Irish governments hope that yet-further talks among the Northern Ireland executive parties will lead to a renewed willingness to remain in government together, perhaps through the revitalisation of a body like the Independent Monitoring Commission, set up in 2004 to reassure political Protestants (aka ‘unionists’—though they show no interest whatever in British political life) that the IRA was going out of business. But even before the latest killings—and this is not to diminish their viciousness nor the concern that more may yet follow—it was evident that Stormont was facing a slow-motion car crash over the inability of the parties to agree on a range of issues dividing them along the critical sectarian faultline.</p> <p>These did not only include the continuing visceral battles over Protestant-communalist parades and Union flag-flying (in a manner which happens nowhere else in the UK except on neo-fascist marches). There is also the wider issue of healing the trauma of the recent past. On this the representatives of small-C Catholic paramilitarism (aka the ‘republican movement’—although no party in democratic Ireland recognises its legitimacy) are fully aware of Orwell’s 1984 dictum ‘who controls the past controls the future’, particularly with the centenary of the Easter rising looming in 2016.</p> <p>And on top of that comes the impasse over ‘welfare reform’, including the cap on benefits for large families. Opposed by the left in Britain on obvious egalitarian grounds, even this suffers a sectarian skew in Northern Ireland, with political-Protestant support for the Tories, despite the predominantly working-class demography of Belfast and Derry, explicable only by unspoken prejudices about Catholics having large families who ‘sponge off the state’.</p> <p>So, at best, further talks will lead to another shaky deal which cobbles together the power-sharing executive once more, malfunctioning as ever… until the next crisis blows up. Actually, at this point, it would be better for the British and Irish governments to recognise the merits of <em>reculer pour mieux santer</em>, with an interim period of renewed direct rule and a public deliberation over the way ahead. Admittedly, that would not allow them to disengage from Northern Ireland once more as quickly as they decently can but it could allow of a long-term, stable solution.</p> <p>The fundamental challenge in ethnically divided societies is to engineer constitutional arrangements which enshrine both aspects of democracy (as defined by the standard-setter, International IDEA): popular control and equal citizenship. That the former can be simplified to ‘majority rule’ and the latter to ‘minority rights’ means that parties from demographic ethnic majorities and minorities line up in predictable ways. External brokers have to act in impartial fashion to make sure both features are embedded in democratic constitutions so that, over time, trust is built, ethnic cleavages become of reduced significance and others, such as on socio-economic lines, acquire greater salience. These arrangements need to be buttressed by full adherence to the rule of law <em>and</em> international human-rights standards—including because ethno-political majority parties tend to counterpose the first to the second and vice versa for their minority opponents.</p> <h2><strong>Three flaws</strong></h2> <p>The Belfast (or Good Friday) agreement was put together in a few days and then heavily spun, in typical New Labour fashion. Not only did it lack even the ambition in the Taif accord of the ‘abolition of political sectarianism’, three key flaws in the main components of the architecture unwittingly embedded it. Each was motivated by the vital aspiration—as with the more publicly and prudently drafted arrangements of the 1974 power-sharing experiment, sadly truncated by a strike led by Protestant paramilitarism—to transcend the monopoly of Protestant ethnic power which had characterised the first half-century of Northern Ireland’s existence from 1922. But each was poorly thought through in the week leading to Good Friday in 1998, when a draft was finally presented by the two governments to the parties and subject to last-minute haggling.</p> <p>The three critical errors were:— </p> <p>(1)<strong> The electoral system</strong>: the single-transferable-vote (STV) method was carried over from 1974 without reflection, as if it were the only proportional alternative to first past the post. Yet the more common, additional-member system was to be introduced in devolved Scotland and Wales—as the then taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, conscious of the clientelist failings of STV in Ireland, had unsuccessfully urged upon the then prime minister, Ted Heath, in the early-1970s deliberations. Heath wrongly insisted STV would help ‘the moderates’: in fact, in a divided society, multi-member STV constituencies incentivise ethno-political entrepreneurs to pitch for the narrow core vote they need to reach the quota for election (just 17 per cent in six-seat constituencies, as for the Northern Ireland Assembly). </p> <p>AMS, while sustaining proportionality via the regional top-up, would at least encourage competition in heterogeneous constituencies for cross-communal majorities. It is an unadmitted fact, including by the party itself, that all three of the Catholic SDLP’s Westminster seats are secured through such tactical (Protestant) voting. AMS would also favour the emergence of new forces, such as the Greens, currently confined to one assembly seat but able to make gains through regional lists, and—most importantly—put real pressure on the parties to remedy, via prioritisation of list candidates, the appalling under-representation of women in Northern Ireland politics.</p><p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// at stormont.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// at stormont.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Spot the woman: the Ulster Unionists leave the Northern Ireland executive. Demotix / <a href="">Stephen Barnes</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>(2)<strong> Assembly decision-making</strong>: to prevent ethnic-Protestant majority voting, as under the old Stormont, the agreement introduced a system of communal designation, under which members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), once elected, were required to register as ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’ (or, as a residuum, ‘other’). This was to allow that a ‘petition of concern’ of 30 of the 108 members would require that, to pass, a substantive motion would need to attain not just an overall majority but the ‘parallel consent’ of majorities in each of the communalist blocs. This provision—not even aired when the 1974 system was being planned, it being assumed the executive parties would vote together—has not only had the insidious effect of entrenching sectarian mindsets (all but one of the ‘unionists’ have so far been Protestant, all but one of the ‘nationalists’ Catholic). In addition and perversely, though pressed by the SDLP in the 1998 talks, it has been most used by the Democratic Unionist Party—the only party in the assembly big enough to be able to secure a petition of concern on its own—to hold a Canute-like line against modern social legislation, such as on sexual orientation. </p> <p>Meanwhile, progress on the Northern Ireland bill of rights envisaged in the agreement has been stymied by political Protestants. Yet political Catholics have demanded provision in any such bill for communal ‘parity of esteem’, even though this is unworkable because all rights conventions require a potential individual who can vindicate her rights, as well as a clearly defined right as the object and a clear addressee of whom it can be demanded. Such a bill could quite straightforwardly build on the European Convention on Human Rights by incorporating the minority-rights Council of Europe standards—the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages—thereby rendering them similarly justiciable.</p> <p>(3)<strong> Executive formation</strong>: The cursory, secret talks on how a power-sharing government would be formed in April 1998 were in sharp contrast to the extensive discussion of this core issue in 1972-73. Indeed, a paper presented to the Ministerial Committee on Northern Ireland by the secretary of state, William Whitelaw, which included five options for executive formation, specifically ruled out a government with party representation proportionate to that in the assembly—as in the Belfast agreement—on the unsurprisingly prescient argument that this was ‘likely to encourage intransigence and face us with a group who have nothing in common and have no intention of working together’. It was clear at the time that, in Dublin as well as London, the balance of argument was favouring a secular weighted-majority requirement for the executive to be established—although in the end Heath opted for a ‘you, you and you’ alternative which the government effectively controlled. </p> <p>A weighted-majority requirement could provide belt-and-braces protection on top of a bill of rights but the key constitutional stipulation would be that, after an election, those parties willing to share power should be mandatorily required to agree a cross-sectarian coalition—political Protestants have suggested a ‘voluntary’ coalition, of which political Catholics are understandably suspicious—with those unwilling to join such a coalition forming an opposition to hold the executive to account. This is the only way to make elections meaningful in Northern Ireland, where historically-high turnout has been plummeting, since citizens cannot currently ‘turf the scoundrels out’. It would mean a devolved government that operated with collective responsibility and It would also allow initially small opposition parties, on the left for instance, to play a meaningful political role.</p> <h2><strong>Dog-eared</strong></h2> <p>None of the suggested reforms raises any ideological issues, because of their impartial character. But none of these constitutional flaws is going to be discussed, never mind addressed, in the talks stewarded by London and Dublin, which will follow a by-now dog-eared agenda. Yet a transformative outcome at such talks will always be debilitated by the <em>parti pris</em> nature of the participants. </p> <p>Fixing the broken architecture will in any event require amendments to the Westminster legislation under which it operates. This offers a route to progress the parties cannot veto—and indeed was the route pursued, via a green paper, a white paper and an act, in the run-up to 1974. A proper public debate on what such legislation should contain—a debate in which the Irish government could be a full partner—could bring not only much-needed structural reforms but also stimulate the emergence of new, secular political agents in the region. </p> <p>Northern Ireland’s citizens need to be given the chance to become architects of their future, rather than prisoners of their past. But they need the help of the UK and Irish governments to do so.</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/robin-wilson/why-sectarian-fight-persists-in-northern-ireland">Why sectarian fight persists in Northern Ireland</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/robin-wilson/northern-ireland-assembly-elections-revealed-failures-of-devolution">The Northern Ireland Assembly elections revealed the failures of devolution</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"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <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> </div> <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 Can Europe make it? uk Northern Ireland Conflict Democracy and government rule of law institutions & government human rights Northern Ireland Robin Wilson Thu, 17 Sep 2015 18:35:03 +0000 Robin Wilson 96093 at This time, it’s different <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Mason’s&nbsp;<em>Postcapitalism</em>&nbsp;is a book for our times—and the decades ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="230" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>After the 1979 Conservative election victory in Britain and its repetition in 1983, Labour was intellectually comatose, such energy as it had mainly dissipated in factionalism, between a conservative leadership and a radical wing which yet seemed to look backwards. It was outside Labour, in a journal which had gradually floated itself off from the Communist Party of Great Britain, </span><em>Marxism Today</em><span>, where a serious reckoning was being made, even in advance of Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power, through path-breaking essays like Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘</span><a href="">The forward march of Labour halted</a><span>’ (September 1978) and Stuart Hall’s ‘</span><a href="">The great moving right show</a><span>’ (January 1979). And as the Iron Curtain was about to come down on the Communist political family—including its ‘Eurocommunist’ dissidents—in October 1988 </span><em>Marxism Today</em><span> published a startling diagnosis of the strange world in which the left now found itself, encapsulating a look forward into the 1990s in the phrase ‘new times’.</span></p> <p>The <a href="">special issue of <em>Marxism Today</em></a> devoted to this theme slaughtered many sacred cows, essentially arguing that the left was like a beached whale in a ‘post-Fordist’ world of ‘lean’ or ‘just-in-time’ production, where the old mass-production lines were being replaced by boutique production for diverse and demanding consumers. ‘Organised’ post-war capitalism, a relatively stable world in which big corporations recognised trade unions as an institutional voice of (at least male) workers and advanced capitalist states secured relatively full employment (at least for men) with a national welfare floor, was giving way to ‘disorganised’ capitalism, where capital roamed the globe and small and medium enterprises were often at the heart of innovation. The ‘new times’ analysis extended from the economic to the cultural arena, urging the left to recognise that it now inhabited a world characterised by what Antonio Gramsci had prefigured as ‘individualistic society’.</p><h2><strong>Informational</strong></h2> <p>Since then, what defines this new form of capitalism has become clearer. It was described as ‘<a href="">informational</a>’ by Castells (1996) and ‘<a href="">cognitive</a>’ by Boutang (2008). If Fordism raised the productivity of labour quantitatively by building upon the Taylorist disaggregation of the labour process into simple, repeatable parts, co-ordinating them via a production line whose speed management controlled, informational/cognitive capitalism pursues qualitative innovation by cultivating and capturing the knowledge in workers’ heads.</p> <p>But this is in no sense simply a substitution of mental for manual labour, with everything else unchanged. On the contrary, there is a fundamental distinction, which goes to the heart of the crisis of legitimacy contemporary capitalism faces—of which the explosion detonated in the financial institutions in 2008, so ably analysed in Paul Mason’s instant book, <em><a href="">Meltdown</a></em>, was merely a symptom.</p> <p>Taylorism and Fordism were all about enhancing capital’s control by destroying the autonomy of labour. Never again would there be workers who had the space and capacity to articulate alternative social projects like the toolmakers and other highly skilled manual workers who led the first shop stewards’ movement in Britain around the time of the first world war, so well <a href="">described</a> by James Hinton (1973). Huw Benyon’s ethnographic <em><a href="">Working for Ford</a></em>, published in the same year, painted a quite different contemporary picture of a deskilled workforce whose ‘economic-corporate’ militancy, as Gramsci would have described it, did not translate into any radical political ideas.</p> <p>The big difference with informational capitalism is the loss of dependence of high-competence workers on the company. A toolmaker could only acquire his skill through an apprenticeship with a firm. But today’s cognitive workers have acquired their knowledge through publicly funded education systems.</p> <p>Critically, since the ‘new times’ analysis, knowledge itself has become largely a public good, as a result of the internet, rather than a commodity to be bought: why buy (or indeed competitively produce for sale) encyclopedias when Wikipedia is better, as a product of the ‘wisdom of crowds’, than any such alternative could be? And this creates the key problem for capital which Boutang recognised: if knowledge is no longer a commodity, yet it is the primary resource for production, how can capitalists corral that knowledge for their own private profit? How can they even put a meaningful price on it?</p> <p>This was the contradiction which Marx recognised yet which in his time seemed merely theoretical—that between the socialisation of the ‘forces of production’ and the private appropriation of profit derived from them. And it is at the heart of a magisterially reflective new book by Mason, a <em>longue-durée </em>view of the history of capitalism—of the arguments about its political economy and the shape of a successor to it.</p> <p>Of course the publication is wonderfully serendipitous in a UK context: here is Labour, once again, digesting a decisive defeat by a Conservative party well to the English-nationalist, ‘free-market’ side of the European centre-right; and here, once again, is an insurgent challenger to Labour’s shell-shocked centrist leadership, offering up tried Keynesian remedies. And in the space of <em>New Times </em>comes <em>Postcapitalism: A Guide to our Future</em> (Allen Lane).</p> <h2>Owl of Minerva</h2> <p>This is a very ‘Marxist’ book, in many ways except one: it is not a tract written for a sect. First, it is characterised by an intellectual rigour, based on respect for theoretical argument allied to a voracious reading across a wide diversity of disciplines, which was much more evident amid the crucible of the 1970s class struggles in Britain, in which Mason was socialised, than it is today—as manifested in a <a href="">superficial and dismissive <em>Guardian </em>review</a>. Secondly, it follows Hegel’s recognition, endorsed by Marx, that the Owl of Minerva only flies at dusk: we can only fully understand social change with the benefit of hindsight.</p> <p>Thirdly, this is a book of ‘political economy’: it disdains the crass reductions of the ‘neo-classical’ intellectual outriders of Thatcher—of politics to economics and of economics to the putatively utilitarian motives of individual actors. Fourthly, it develops the insight of the Soviet economist (and victim of Stalin’s purges) Nikolai Kondratieff, who saw beyond the business cycles of capitalism to which orthodox economics attends a more profound pattern of waves of innovation, expansion, decline and recovery, each around five decades long.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">This is now the world of open-source software like Linux, of collaborative public projects like the Large Hadron Collider, of co-operative systems like Mondragon in the Basque country.</span></p><p><span></span>The first wave, emerging in the late 18th&nbsp;century in England, was defined by the appearance of the factory system, steam-powered machinery and canal transport; it went into depression in the 1820s, culminating in the revolutionary crises of the late 1840s (whose limited outcomes were to disappoint Marx). The second saw machine-produced machinery replacing mere ‘manu-facture’, spread across the advanced world by railways and steamships, the telegraph and stable currencies; the 1870s depression was to be the stimulant of new technologies, deployed in the third wave. From the 1890s, this was the era of heavy industry, the internal combustion engine and the telephone, of ‘scientific’ management and mass production—of Taylorism and Fordism; the Wall Street crash was the starting gun for an effective civil war in Europe, only resolved by the defeat of fascism in 1945.</p> <p>The fourth was the time of mass consumption of synthetic goods, of the airplane and an apparently endless boom—until the shuddering 70s oil shocks and ‘stagflation’. Mason argues that the fourth wave, lasting over six decades until the iconic fall of Lehman Brothers, was extended by the fall of the Berlin wall, which allowed the political right to exploit the demise of a dogmatic and dictatorial Stalinism to sideline the whole empowering and emancipatory Marxist tradition which had inspired successive cohorts of workers’ movements.</p> <p>Overlapping was the onset of the fifth wave, emerging in the 1990s as the globalised, networked, mobile-communications world we know today—yet prematurely stalled by what has become a protracted crisis. Indeed, these phenomena are interconnected: precisely because profit could no longer be readily appropriated by capital from the real economy of informationalised goods and services, the parasitic apparatus of ever-more baroque and dizzying financial instruments grew like Topsy until its inevitable collapse.</p> <p>What drove these long cycles? Mason argues that the explanation lies in Marx’s ‘labour theory of value’, which he took from the classical economists. Crucially, Marx developed it for the world of the factory system, in which labour itself became a mere commodity. He thus explained profit under capitalism as the ‘surplus value’ of the labour embodied in the value of commodities produced over the labour embodied in the reproduction of the power to labour itself (and in the raw materials consumed). And he derived a tendency for the rate of profit to fall, as competition between capitalists encouraged them to substitute capital for value-creating labour, to the initial benefit of the innovating enterprise but the eventual collective loss of all. Hence the depressions and the intense workers’ struggles associated with each wave—except, Mason points out, the last.</p> <p>The fourth wave was marked by an unprecedented attack by a profit-squeezed capital, now facing competition on an international scale, on the organisation of labour itself—emboldened by the long boom, full employment and the welfare state—with big symbolic defeats like that of the British miners in 1984-85. Hence the confusion of the fifth wave: with informational networks unamenable to surplus extraction in the old hierarchical way, stagnation is becoming the norm in the advanced capitalist world; yet the collective weakness of labour means the worker resistance characteristic of previous waves is lacking.</p><h2>Gravedigger</h2> <p>But Mason argues that capitalism has created a new gravedigger—the ‘networked individual’, who believes (not unreasonably) that information is a public good, and so (in economic terms) non-exclusive and non-rival, and who therefore resists the appropriation of value from it by a private monopoly like Microsoft. This is now the world of open-source software like Linux, of collaborative public projects like the Large Hadron Collider, of co-operative systems like Mondragon in the Basque country.</p> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A cathedral of postcapitalism: the Large Hadron Collider. Flickr / <a class="truncate owner-name" title="Go to Thomas Cizauskas&#039;s photostream" href="">Thomas Cizauskas</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>And Mason proposes a ‘postcapitalism’ which is emergent from this world—not one where the pace would be forced in a Leninist, inevitably authoritarian, fashion. His ‘revolutionary reformism’ would have the goal of minimising the amount of labour for a wage, through releasing the vast innovative capacity of networks, while maximising the non-wage, shared contribution each ‘networked individual’ can contribute to society.</p> <p>In a world thus redirected from the ‘shareholder value’ of neoliberalism to the ‘labour value’ of postcapitalism, there would still be labour. But, increasingly, it would be labour voluntarily shared for mutual benefit, rather than contracted and corralled by a capitalist.</p> <p>Keynes’ ‘euthanasia of the rentier’ would be achieved through the socialisation of financial institutions, never again allowed to engage in the ‘capitalism of the casino’. Company law would be reformed to turn enterprises into societies—it passes unnoticed in the Anglo-Saxon world that the word for company in French (<em>société)</em> and German (<em>Gesellschaft</em>) is the same as that for society. And the state would enable rather than direct this transition, with the long-term outcome which Gramsci well described as the integration of ‘political society’ into ‘civil society’.</p> <p>Mason envisages this transition as taking place over decades: it is a kind of radical gradualism, developed through experimental innovation on a variety of scales. But for him there is no way back for capital: if Kondratieff’s message didn’t appeal to Stalin because it suggested capitalism had profound recovery powers, Mason can see no wave beyond the fifth, arguing that capitalism has always depended on scarcity and is incompatible with a world of abundant, socially-produced goods.</p> <p>But he also stresses the urgency of change. For this to him is a race against two huge challenges: the dramatic rise in dependency ratios in ageing, advanced-capitalist societies and, above all, the threat of climate chaos.</p> <p>And yet here there is hope. After the factory system was established in the first Kondratieff wave, as Marx brilliantly argued in <em>Capital</em>, the labour movement in Britain saved capital from its own rapaciousness by successfully pressing for factory legislation which would restrict child labour and limit the working day. While individual capitalists predicted the end of civilisation as they knew it, this was in the long-term interest of capital, albeit no longer unconstrained.</p> <p>What has been interesting about the fifth wave, even if labour has been weak, is that the environmental movement has grown stronger with each passing year. And while, particularly in the US, sections of capital warn of dire consequences if greenhouse-gas emissions are dramatically reduced, other voices are beginning to see the market potential of the ‘green economy’ and bending to the demands of a finite planet.</p> <p>Gramsci always sought to temper ‘pessimism of the intelligence’ with ‘optimism of the will’, and vice versa. This outstanding book contains much by way of sobering intelligence—yet much, too, to embolden the activist. And, yes, how well Jeremy Corbyn does in Labour’s leadership contest is quite important—but this is much bigger stuff.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A much more intellectually serious <a href="">review </a>subsequently appeared in the <em>Guardian</em>.</p> </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"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <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? Ideas Internet politics of protest global politics economics Robin Wilson Tue, 04 Aug 2015 21:50:32 +0000 Robin Wilson 95017 at Ten theses on security in the 21st century <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What have we learned from the openSecurity experience as the section goes into hiatus? A lot. But governments, police and military, surveillance agencies? Not so much.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The openSecurity section of openDemocracy was established in 2012 with the support of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (RNMFA). Norway has embraced a peace policy in international relations, as with the 1995 Oslo accords on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And its government reacted to the most lethal politically-motivated attack in Europe in the last decade, the Utøya massacre of 2011, not with ‘war on terror’ rhetoric but—as famously encapsulated by its then prime minister (and now NATO head), Jens Stoltenberg—a commitment to ‘<a href="">more democracy, more openness and more humanity</a>’.</p> <p>But this has, sadly, been the exception which has proved the rule. On the wider canvas, the end of the cold war, which promised a world without dividing lines, has instead seen Islamism replace Stalinism as the ‘other’ to US-led imperial might in an increasingly Manichean struggle, in which the events of ‘September 11’ look more like a landmark than a beginning or an end. And the parallel snowballing crisis of globalised neoliberalism, which could yet issue in <a href="">a more self-managed, networked society</a>, has so far been matched only by a ratcheting up of the <a href="">surveillance of the citizen</a> and the <a href="">suppression of NGO-led dissent</a>, most dramatically in the <em>bouleversement</em> in the Arab world between democratic ‘spring’ and dictatorial ‘winter’.</p> <p>Marx used the analogy of the <em>camera obscura</em> to describe how the world as observed could appear to be on its head. And if there is one thing openSecurity has done it has been to show that ‘common sense’ understandings of ‘security’ are often upside-down. Keynes explained the ‘paradox of thrift’ by which fiscal policies reducing demand, while apparently obvious reactions to economic shocks, could simply exacerbate them. And the hundreds of articles published by openSecurity over the years have demonstrated a ‘paradox of security’, whereby purportedly self-evident authoritarian reactions to threats to the state have merely fostered a spiral of violent regression.</p><p class="image-caption"><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></span>Protecting the state over against the citizen doesn't make anyone feel safer. Flickr / <a class="truncate owner-name" title="Go to Jackman Chiu&#039;s photostream" href="">Jackman Chiu</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>This paradox can be captured in ten theses:</p><p><strong>1. The focus of security in a democratic society should be the citizen, not the state. </strong><span>‘Terrorist’ is a largely meaningless label, applicable only to those violent organisations which not only seek to dominate without popular consent but also attempt to intimidate the public at large by the deterrent effects of egregious violence. It has become, however, a catch-all concept in official discourse—except, critically, where one’s own government is implicated—fundamentally as a legitimisation of the abrogations of human rights and the rule of law characteristic of states of emergency. Yet states are only legitimate in as far as they provide collective solutions to problems which individuals cannot solve on their own—the ‘security dilemma’ being one—and so merely eat away at their own Weberian authority, as exercising a monopoly of legitimate force, by acting </span><em>over and against</em><span> the citizen, as our </span><a href="">Whose Police?</a><em> </em><span>series showed in spades. And these problems must be defined from the standpoint of the citizen and her needs, not </span><em>raisons d’état</em><span>. This is the key insight of the notion of ‘</span><a href="">human security</a><span>’, which also points us to the portfolio of policies which can contribute to (or detract from) security, well beyond the sphere of policemen and soldiers.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><strong>2. Mass surveillance is not only oppressive—it doesn’t even work.</strong><span> If the globalisation of communications, via the internet, has been facilitated by satellite and fibre-optic technologies, these have also allowed an unprecedented potential for mass surveillance, going well beyond national boundaries, as the Snowden revelations have demonstrated and our </span><a href="">Future under Surveillance</a><span> strand of publishing elaborated. There has been much argument since about the fundamental incompatibility of mass surveillance and individual privacy as a human right (not to mention the presumption of innocence), to which the proponents of the Big Brother state have wearily responded (in as far as they have felt obliged to do so at all) that it is only by collecting the ‘haystack’ of available information that the ‘needle’ of the ‘terrorist’ threat can be found. This misses the point that the best place to hide a needle is in a haystack and the best tool to find it is a magnet. In other words, as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has </span><a href="">recognised</a><span>, targeted intelligence-gathering, with the proper judicial constraints, is much more effective than collecting everything just because one can.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><strong>3. A gender perspective is not an optional extra: security cannot be understood without it.</strong><span> In March 2015, Sweden’s (female) foreign minister </span><a href="">announced</a><span> that, on feminist grounds, an arms deal with Saudi Arabia was to be abrogated. While this represented a rare intrusion of gender considerations, eyebrows were only raised because the security domain is so suffused by patriarchy—and not just in Gulf autocracies—that this has become entirely taken for granted. The imbrication of masculinism with nationalism (state and secessionist), organised violence and violent crime means none of these phenomena can be adequately analysed in isolation from it. Equally, the application of ‘men in uniforms’, and their instruments, as the default response to security challenges—even when sub-optimal or even counter-productive to do so—can only be properly scrutinised, and better alternatives advocated, using a gender-sensitive lens. Otherwise, a purblind pursuit of conflict will follow, making spirals of futile violence much more protracted and much more difficult to exit than should be the case, as our </span><a href="">Conflict in Context: Colombia</a><span> case study shows.</span></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>4. Social policies may be far more productive of security than ‘security’ policies.</strong> Violence on a social scale is a product of two phenomena, which face their most severe outworking in cheek-by-jowl urban milieux, as our <a href="">Cities in Conflict</a> series spelled out. First is a stretched social hierarchy (including as stretched by gender), which permits those in elevated positions to believe violence against the <em>Untermenschen</em> is necessary or even legitimate to keep them in their place and those at the bottom thrash out inchoately—often against each other rather than the unreachable elite. Second is social mistrust, which exacerbates security dilemmas as individuals club together under convenient ‘ethnic’ banners and aim to get their retaliation in first. Put the two together, so that members of one ethnic group dominate the state, and the result is the horror—now recorded courtesy of the smartphone—of the routine <a href="">killing of African-American young men</a> by white police officers. Seen in this context, ‘law and order’ responses which aim merely to shore up a crumbling hierarchy and do nothing to enhance social glue fail to make anyone safer. Hence the United States, for all its prosperity, comes 101st in the <a href="">Global Peace Index</a>, topped by the egalitarian and socially-comfortable Iceland and Denmark. Indeed, all five Nordics are in the top 11 (out of 162—Syria, inevitably, comes bottom). Not only do their universal welfare states flatten the unequal distribution of market incomes but also they favour high levels of social trust. Austerity policies across Europe have not only undermined welfare and reduced security in the labour market—in the most extreme way in Greece—but have inevitably <a href="">stimulated</a> street protests and associated oppressive ‘security’ measures.</p><p><strong>5. Building walls to keep humanity out makes for less security than hospitality. </strong><span>In the face of the collapse of states in Syria, Libya and elsewhere, massive population movements in search of security are inevitable. Imagining that this is instead due to the ‘pull’ factor of access to a hostile Europe has only led to </span><a href=";s-war-on-migrants">Canute-like efforts</a><span> to stop the tide. Within Europe itself, this ‘fortress’ mentality has perversely only fostered insecurity, exploited by xenophobic movements like PEGIDA in Germany—even though this is wholly disproportionate to the </span><a href="">minor refugee intake</a><span>, dwarfed by Syria’s neighbours like </span><a href="">Lebanon</a><span>, which has reacted far more equably with much more modest resources. Even beyond humanitarian considerations, Europe’s refugees by definition contain a high proportion of ‘entrepreneurial’ individuals, given the resilience and improvisation required to make such a risky and demanding journey, who have a major contribution to make to societies willing to welcome them—the dynamism of the US economy in the 20th century was of course built on those celebrated seaborne ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free’.</span></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>6. Impartial public authority is key to rebuilding collapsed states, rather than ethnicising government.</strong> The default approach of the ‘international community’—the most powerful global powers of the moment—to societies riven by ethnic polarisation following state collapse has, oddly, been to invite ethnic leaders into government, with the predictable effect that the latter treat politics as the continuation of war by other means. Hence the disappointment that ‘peace processes’, such as in <a href="">Bosnia</a> and <a href="">Macedonia</a>, have failed to realise expectations. Worse still, the ‘ancient hatreds’ perspective which often underpins such approaches leads merely to avoidance of what are then perceived as intractably ‘tribal’ conflicts in Africa, such as in the <a href="">Central African Republic</a> and <a href="">South Sudan</a>—left largely to burn themselves out. What such collapsed states need, above all, is externally-guaranteed impartial public authority—such as well-functioning independent judiciaries—so that ethnic state capture, and its fear, can not continue to sustain antagonism and violence.</p><p><strong>7. ‘National security’ is a chimera in a world of ‘really existing cosmopolitanisation’. </strong><span>The ‘realist’ tradition in international relations was based on the same logic as the absence of gun control in the US—in the former president Theodore Roosevelt’s parlance, ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’. Far better, of course, to have no guns at all (as Europe’s far lower murder rate shows) and on the international canvas to agree to ban nuclear weapons, rather than try to sustain the hypocrisies of the nuclear powers vis-à-vis the crumbling </span><a href="">Non-Proliferation Treaty</a><span>. Of course if, as in much US discourse, based on too much exposure to the Hollywood western, violence (by other people) is just an expression of the inherent ‘evil’ of ‘bad guys’, then irrational security policies, such as </span><a href="">endless bombing</a><span>, or policies which just prevent ‘good guy’ casualties, such as </span><a href="">drones</a><span>, will be pursued </span><em>ad nauseum</em><span>—despite the ‘collateral damage’ of civilian deaths, which not only breach the laws of war but also act as a recruiting agent for the very forces under attack. A world of ‘really existing cosmopolitanisation’ makes such ‘realism’ profoundly unrealistic: recognition of our interdependence and common humanity is indispensable to building trust on regional and world scales. Absent such trust, only fragmentation, factionalism and fundamentalism beckon.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><strong>8. Universal norms are the only alternative to renewed cold war and a ‘clash of civilisations’. </strong><span>If diplomacy is not merely to be the continuation of war by other means, it requires a common language that can transcend cultural relativism and </span><em>cui bono </em><span>considerations. That can only come from universal norms of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These are not ‘western’ values: they are not universally upheld in the ‘west’ (think </span><a href="">CIA torture</a><span> for starters) and nor are they absent in the ‘east’ and ‘south’ (the world’s largest democracy is India). They provide the only consistent moral benchmark against which states (and non-state actors) which believe they can defy accountability for their crimes—illustrated case by case in our </span><a href="">States of Impunity</a><span> series—can be brought to book. They are the essential antidote to ‘west versus the rest’ thinking, whether the alternative be an assertively</span><a href=";t-win"> authoritarian-populist Russia</a><span> with its masculinist ‘traditional’ values or the misogynist ‘caliphate’ of </span><a href="">Islamic State</a><span>. They are the only basis on which the International Criminal Court can play its full role—for instance by bringing the Israeli state, and Hamas, to account for war crimes in Gaza.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><strong>9. Only global citizenship can make for global security.</strong><span> Syria, on which openSecurity threw a spotlight in our 2013 conference, </span><a href="">Syria’s Peace</a><span>, represents not only a humanitarian disaster. It also encapsulates the incapacity of institutions of global governance to intervene effectively even in protracted conflicts of egregious proportions, given the mutual vetoes in the United Nations Security Council exercised by the great powers emerging seven decades ago from the chaos of the second world war—a process compounded by the retreat into ‘western’ unilateralism embodied by the illegal, and hugely costly, intervention in Iraq. </span><a href="">Reform of the UN</a><span> to match a more polycentric world and a global civil society is unavoidable (and the </span><a href="">next secretary-general</a><span> can not just be another man emerging from a behind-closed-doors deal) if collective solutions are to be found on the world level to states in vertiginous collapse. And while the international ‘</span><a href="">responsibility to protect</a><span>’ has been sullied by the NATO push beyond the UN no-fly mandate in Libya to force ‘regime change’ it remains key to defending civilians under assault from (strictly) terrorist states. If such global intervention, backed by universal norms, is absent, the vacuum will be filled—as by the Saudi air assault on </span><a href="">Yemen</a><span>.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><strong>10.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Climate justice is key to a safer world—never mind one that remains liveable. </strong><span>Last but not least is a critical theme openSecurity would have wished to pursue (along with the ‘insecurity of austerity’) had funding permitted. The threat of ‘</span><a href="">climate chaos</a><span>’ hangs over the globe and particularly over the global south, already feeding conflicts like that in Darfur. The Copenhagen summit of 2009 became a classic, bipolar stand-off between the US and China, with the rest of the world—including more ambitious Europe—looking on aghast. This year’s ‘COP 21’ summit in Paris represents something of a last chance for humanity but the huge demonstrations across the globe to coincide with the 2014 summit at the UN showed how the notion of ‘</span><a href="">climate justice</a><span>’ can be a key mobilising agent to unify the global community, too often divided by the co-ordination dilemma of fairly distributing cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. As with gender considerations, a ‘security’ discourse which fails to address ecological questions will lack a complete vocabulary to tell the full story.</span></p><p><strong></strong></p> <p>openSecurity would like to express its sincere gratitude to the RNMFA for its repeated funding of the section over three years. It is also very grateful to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for a further six months of support while attempts to secure successor funding were exhausted. Alas, these came to nought in the end. But it is evident that, even in its brief existence, openSecurity has mapped out, in some depth and detail, a new security paradigm which does not fall foul of the evident empirical failures and normative shortfalls of the hitherto-dominant discourse. </p> <p>I would like to pay tribute to the staff team I enjoyed, as well as my predecessors as lead editor of the section, the international advisory board and of course the plethora of contributors to openSecurity across the world. Their work is sufficient unto itself as an archived body of material. But let us hope that the baton can be picked up again at some point, as so much more remains to be done.</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> openSecurity openSecurity global security Robin Wilson Mon, 06 Jul 2015 21:39:10 +0000 Robin Wilson 94153 at After the demonstrations ... <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The popular outpouring in France, taken with the climate marches in September with which it would not at first be bracketed, may be a harbinger of change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The wisdom of crowds—massing for freedom in Paris. Flickr /&nbsp;<a href="">Antoine Walter</a>. Some rights reserved.</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>These are, it goes without saying, troubling times.</p> <p>A generation across much of the globe has known nothing other than growing insecurity, rising inequality and a declining sense of collective political efficacy—the very goals of the neoliberal True Believers who sought to replace post-war democratic governance and the production of public goods by restoration to untrammelled power of the owners of capital, masquerading as anonymous and unchallengeable ‘market forces’. </p> <p>Equally dispiritingly, since advanced capitalism easily saw off a backward socialism as the USSR collapsed, the alternative pole of opposition has fallen by default in many places—particularly where that failure was compounded by disillusionment with the secular Arab nationalism which the Soviets supported during the cold war—to the even more backward forces of authoritarian Islamism.</p> <h2>Unprecedented </h2><p>But there is a stirring. While these are early days, two unprecedented episodes in recent months have been suggestive of a swing in the political pendulum back in the progressive direction for the first time since the late 1960s. </p> <p>True, there have been false dawns. The ‘anti-globalisation’ movement which peaked with the ‘battle in Seattle’ at the World Trade Organisation meeting in 1999 was one, the more recent ‘Occupy’ movement another. Both ephemera shared too much the fundamental characteristic identified by the great, late Fred Halliday of the six major 20th-century revolutions—a negative, ‘stop the world, we want to get off’ oppositionalism which defied the original, Marxian understanding of revolution as a radical emancipation going with the grain of social change.</p> <p>But the ‘people’s climate marches’ across the world in September, coinciding with the United Nations summit on climate change, represented an historic first in the global co-ordination of political protest: the organisers claimed 2.642 events took place in 162 countries, with 400,000 marching in New York alone, to assert the claim of popular sovereignty to save the planet over the rapaciousness of corporate capitalism. And the vast demonstrations in France today in defence of liberty against the Islamist assassins of the <em>Charlie Hebdo </em>cartoonists, with officially 3.7m taking part, were the largest in its history—and, surely, in almost any state—as #JeSuisCharlie became one of the most popular hashtags ever.</p> <p>And it’s a safe bet that many of those who joined the climate marches would have marched for <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> too. Many on the other side would, meanwhile, have been equally bewildered by these public outpourings—from the Masters of the Universe still hoping that the (second) Wall Street crash would not disrupt ‘business as usual’ to the discomfited <em>Front National</em> leaders, missing from the <em>manif</em>, no doubt initially rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of cashing in on last week’s atrocity.</p> <h2>Fragile</h2><p>Belief in progress remains, as always, a fragile wager. Can the hope of solidarity among strangers outweigh the fear of the ‘other’, particularly in a stretched social hierarchy? The internet is awash with misanthropic messaging, even hate speech, and yet New York in September and Paris today were unthinkable without it. &nbsp;</p> <p>And this for a critical reason. It is to provide no apologia for the ‘revolutionism’ of the last century, which only saw in new, authoritarian Leviathans, to say that Lenin’s ‘withering away of the state’ was quite simply a utopian project in the context of the ‘co-ordination dilemmas’ of the world before the internet. No more than the Large Hadron Collider was the ‘regulated society’ which Gramsci envisaged, as the absorption of the state into civil society, conceivable before the emergence of the online public square, through which civil society could become fully self-organising, in a networked rather than hierarchical fashion.</p> <p>That this is not a utopian scheme is evident in another marked commonality between the two sets of demonstrations. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, stepped down from his New York headquarters to lead the marchers in the street. And the French president, François Holland, was joined by some 40 world leaders at the van in Paris.</p> <p>Many, of course, pointed to the contradictions: Ban had hardly been an ecological activist hitherto and, even more gratingly, today figures from markedly authoritarian states seemed happy to defend freedom of expression … just as long as it was somewhere else. </p> <h2>Telling</h2><p>But this is to miss the point: in a world where what Gramsci called ‘civil society’ and ‘political society’ have been diverging as inequality has yawned and in which, to him, the progressive task is as always to break down the division between rulers and ruled, the fact that the rulers are seeing the way the ruled are going and are determined not to get on the wrong side of history is surely telling.</p> <p>And the critical point is this: there is no more secure place, no place which feels more equal, no place above all where citizens can experience more collective efficacy than in a crowd—whose wisdom can now be captured on a global scale. </p> <p>It is in that public square that we can recognise our common humanity. It is there that we can even take into consideration the humanity of the generations who will succeed us as custodians of this vulnerable ecosystem. And it is there that, yes, today, in our millions,<em> <em>nous</em>&nbsp;<em>étions&nbsp;</em><span>tous Charlie Hebdo</span></em><span>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>&nbsp;</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="/opensecurity/dipti-bhatnagar/climate-summit-climate-justice">Climate summit, climate justice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity Can Europe make it? openSecurity politics of protest global politics democratic society Climate change Robin Wilson Charlie Hebdo Ecological Security Non-state violence Structural Insecurity Sun, 11 Jan 2015 21:42:05 +0000 Robin Wilson 89495 at Ulrich Beck - an appreciation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>openSecurity&nbsp;</em>editor&nbsp;Robin Wilson reflects on the work of German intellectual - and frequent <em>openDemocracy </em>contributor - Ulrich Beck, who sadly passed away on 1 January.</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="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ulrich Beck (1944-2015). Wikimedia commons. Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Towards the end of the last millennium, an intellectual fad infected the Anglo-American academy, whose ivory towers can be vulnerable to fast-spreading exotica. Against the backdrop of the fall of the Wall in Germany and the <em>cul-de-sac</em> into which French ‘structuralist’ philosophies had fallen, ‘post-modernism’ announced the end of the ‘grand narratives’ of modernity, deriving from the enlightenment tradition and associated with its emancipating doctrines of liberalism and socialism. Everything was now just perspective, its breathless advocates declared, leading to a rudderless relativism lampooned by Francis Wheen in <em>How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World</em>. It was an unmindfully contradictory affectation—why should others accept the perspective which this grandest of all narratives represented?—and it could not, and did not, last.</p> <p>Meantime, from the always reflective world of post-war German social thought, a much more persuasive—and useful—body of work was emerging. A key figure was Ulrich Beck, who has tragically just died at the age of 70, his reputation in the English-speaking world assisted by the translation of his works by Polity Press, the Cambridge publisher founded by its greatest sociological son, Anthony Giddens. Like his great compatriot Jürgen Habermas (also translated by Polity), now a ripe old 85, Beck came out of the intellectual tradition of the land of Marx, seared by the Nazi nightmare and generative of the post-war Marxist ‘Frankfurt school’. It’s a tradition of sober rigour and a not-unrealistic ‘pessimism of the intelligence’, as Antonio Gramsci would have put it.</p> <p>What comes after post-modernism? Beck might well have asked with a raised eyebrow, given his rather more profound grasp of the sweep of history. Working with the same raw material, of a society which seemed to have lost its post-war moorings, particularly in western Europe—of steady growth, technological advance, organised labour and so on—he made a more insightful diagnosis. For Beck, if modernity could be understood as a reaction against tradition—in the well-worn counterposition by Tönnies of <em>Gesellschaft</em> (society) and <em>Gemeinschaft</em> (community)—then what he understood as ‘reflexive modernisation’ was the reaction of modernity against itself. And this was the world of ‘side effects’, which provided the title of the book that made him famous: <em>Risk Society </em>(<em>Risikogesellschaft</em>).</p> <p>So, for example, how to explain the huge controversy in Germany over nuclear power and the emergence of the Greens and a wider social movement to challenge it? This was a typical example for Beck of how out of the modern era of industrial capitalism troubling phenomena were developing, engendering new social risks which merely modern mechanisms, such as the welfare states dealing with risk in the labour market, could not adequately assuage. </p> <p>Indeed in this new world the experience of labour itself was being transformed. Gone was the male-breadwinner model of a secure career for men. In came a feminised labour market, in which women sought to juggle work and domestic burdens, with many migrant workers, insecure work and frequent job changes. In Beck's <em>Brave New World of Work</em>, the individual worker was author of their own biography, with much more risk falling on their shoulders—and many ‘side effects’ to fear.</p> <p>None more so than the tsunami of human misery which followed the 2007 collapse, in a deregulated, runaway economy, of the financial behemoth which had grown parasitically upon it—Goldman Sachs was famously characterised in <em>Rolling Stone </em>as a ‘great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity’. In that very year, Beck had published the German version of his <em>World Risk Society</em>, addressing how in this globalised context vertiginous challenges, like the threat of climate change, changed the nature of politics on a world scale.</p> <p>So how to cope with this often frightening new world? In his <em>Cosmopolitan Vision</em>,<em> </em>Beck elaborated the concept of ‘cosmopolitanism’ as the appropriate disposition for a progressive, 21st-century politics, where classes could no longer be conceived (if ever they could) as unmediated political actors in an individualised society but where a capacity for empathy among individuals, each (if in each case uniquely) at risk, could engender new solidarities. For Beck, therefore, cosmopolitanism was not ‘the class consciousness of frequent fliers’, as the American thinker Craig Calhoun dismissively harrumphed, but a capacity on the part of the individual, in this world demanding constant self-evaluation, to stand back from him/herself and revalorise the self and other in that context.</p> <p>Abstract? Exactly—that’s why it works across boundaries of nationality and ethnicity in an online world in which space and time are massively compressed. The fastest-growing social movement of recent years, Avaaz, and the way Greenpeace, Amnesty and similar international NGOs nowadays campaign, would be inconceivable without it—as would the very idea of the ’99 per cent’ or of a Pakistani teenage girl winning the Nobel peace prize for her struggle for education. In these times, as Beck accurately put it, politics now devolves into a struggle for control of the state (and transnational institutions) between the NGOs and the corporations. </p> <p>The corporations still have the power—as Gramsci would say, they dominate but are no longer ‘hegemonic’—but the NGOs have the trust. That was a moral the corporate International which convenes every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos had to draw from survey evidence at one of its recent gatherings. And last year it had to focus on the inevitable corollary—that inequality is now the top item on the global political agenda. Marx’s famous internationalist slogan now sounds a bit hackneyed but ‘Cosmopolitans of the World Unite’ has something of a ring about it.</p> <p>Sadly, Ulrich Beck will no longer be around to advise us on how to turn that slogan into reality. But one of his last publications, <a href=""><em>German Europe</em></a>, left some salutary advice for Germany and the Europe which as economic powerhouse it now dominates. Beck debunked the old-time religion of the ‘Schwabian housewife’ chancellor, Angela Merkel—the fallacy that every eurozone member could somehow behave in the same beggar-thy-neighbour, ‘competitive’ fashion as Germany without dragging the continent into deflation, sustained debt and unending austerity. And he showed how Europe can only emerge from the crisis if Germany returns to the more modest ‘European Germany’ of the post-war period—recognising the inhuman ‘side effects’ it can have on its neighbours.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See also <em>Can Europe make it'</em>s <strong><a href="">German Europe</a> </strong>debate.</p> </div> </div> </div> <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/ulrich-beck/digital-freedom-risk-too-fragile-acknowledgment">The digital freedom risk: too fragile an acknowledgment</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? In honour of Ulrich Beck Robin Wilson Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:18:13 +0000 Robin Wilson 89341 at Bosnia: the “lost generation” <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The international media can cast an unflinching spotlight on wars but when the war is over the spotlight is suddenly switched off—would that it were that simple for those, including children, left traumatised in its wake. <em>Film review.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Just about the most insensitive observation international bystanders can make towards those who have been victimised in violent conflicts is that it is time, now the shooting has stopped, for everyone to “move on”. Victims might prefer to be “survivors”, with the implied agency, but unless the trauma they have endured is expurgated they will far more likely be trapped, however involuntarily, in its vice-like grip.</p> <p>Indeed, fractured limbs can heal more quickly than identities shattered by destructive and invasive violence—and by the shocking discovery of the inhumanity others can visit upon a dehumanised self. It is neither possible to cauterise the pain of such bodily assault nor to rationalise it in such a way that the sense of self can be reintegrated. And so victims tend to oscillate between a fixation on the traumatic episode, talking about it years afterwards as if it were yesterday, and a numbed self-protection, which cannot save them from flashbacks at the merest reminder or in their thrashing dreams.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From In the Shadow of War</span></span></span></p><p>Remarkably, too, such trauma can be “passed on” to the children of victims and <a href=""><em>In the Shadow of War</em></a> shows—at once graphically, disturbingly and with great humanity—how this manifests itself among young people in Bosnia-Herzegovina disfigured by a war they don’t remember. The documentary begins with the well-rehearsed statistics of the Bosnian horror: the most violent conflict in Europe since the second world war, 50,000 women raped, more than 100,000 dead, 2.2m displaced and a basket-case legacy of more than one in every two young people out of work. But it brings these cold data to life and to the present day through profiles of four of the thousands of children “abandoned, orphaned or abused”, now late teenagers, nearly two decades on from the Dayton Peace Accords which ended the war—and froze the conflict.</p> <p>Ante’s father is a Croatian war criminal who was sentenced at the Hague to 20 years for his involvement in multiple crimes, most notably rape and murder (nine children were involved). In the film we see him impassive during the televised judgment and, years on, visited by Ante and the latter’s godfather at his Swedish jail, narcissistically focused on himself (as the godfather complains) even in the rare presence of his son. Yet this man is (as the godfather fears) Ante’s role model. The lad plays blood-curdling songs every morning on his MP3 player, openly admits to hating Muslims and is bent on becoming a “professional soldier” and fighting himself in the Croatian cause—driven to avenge in turn the post-war revenge murders of his mother and sister occasioned by his father’s crimes.</p> <p>Magdalena grew up in the same Catholic orphanage in Medjugorje as Ante. The crimes of her father are never itemised but she says: “Everything would have been different if there had been no war.” She blames post-traumatic stress disorder for his systematically abusive behaviour towards her and retracts her charges against him to attempt a rapprochement, only for the abuse to recur. Too old to be taken back by the orphanage, she flees to her maternal grandmother in Croatia but is unable to secure a visa and ends up hiding from her father back in Bosnia.</p> <p>Ilija grew up a Muslim in Mostar, rejected by his mother as a child. She never told him anything about his father except that he allegedly died during the war. When Ilija turned eighteen, he had to leave the orphanage and he is filmed walking past his mother’s house as she ignores him and closes the door behind her. He is driven by a desire to be a successful diver, participating in the famous annual diving competition off the bridge over the Neretva—a sixteenth-century construction destroyed during the war and painstakingly reconstructed from its fragments over many years with the support of the international community (when I was there a decade ago the final keystones were being inserted).</p> <p>Elvis is a disturbed young man, with numerous scars from self-harm, who was taken into a children’s home in Zenica after his mother died. His father, although ethnically Serb, had been tortured and murdered by Bosnian-Serb forces because he remained loyal to the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Elvis has become a petty criminal and for a time tries to make a living in this way in Sarajevo, before returning to the home in Zenica and going back to school. But he is aware of his combustibility and ends up on the streets after he is kicked out. He says: “All my life I’ve been looking for peace and I can’t find it anywhere. I’m a lost person.”</p> <p>Walter, Elvis’ carer, widens the angle: “In Bosnia there is a lost generation.” And this film, eloquently, tells its painful story. In the classic Hollywood genre, all loose ends are tied up at the conclusion to allow the audience to go out into the night with a smile on its face. This harrowing documentary, however, leaves those ends jangling—like the haunting murals at its beginning, on walls some still bullet-holed, recalling the war itself.</p> <p>For its international funders, the restoration of the old bridge at Mostar was a tangible symbol of reconciliation—of the reintegration of what once was shattered. But war is a movie that cannot be rerun and the city remains bitterly divided between its Croat and Muslim communities: it has become impossible to hold municipal elections there, owing to intercommunal deadlock over the electoral arrangements and associated, <em>cui bono?</em> ethnic calculations.</p> <p>There is an old Irish joke about the lost tourist who asks a passer-by the quickest way to Dublin, only to be told: ‘Well, I wouldn’t start from here.’ Reconciliation after a violent conflict on a mass scale, such as the war in Bosnia—of which row upon serried row of graves across the country dating to the early 90s remain a visible reminder—can only ever be a long-term, partial and limited project with much enduring human damage, as this film, made by Georgia and Sophia Scott for Christopher Hird’s Dartmouth Productions, powerfully testifies. Better, much better, not to start from there at all.</p><p><strong><a href="">In the Shadow of War</a>&nbsp;will be shown at the Bloomsbury Theatre&nbsp;in London at 14:30 on 21 June.&nbsp;<span>It will be followed by a Q&amp;A with filmmakers chaired by Dr. Cornelia Sorabji.&nbsp;</span><span>Get&nbsp;<a href="">tickets here.&nbsp;</a></span><span>openDemocracy is an&nbsp;<a href="">Open City Docs Fest</a>&nbsp;media partner.</span></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="// logo BLACK (1).jpg" alt="" /></a></p><p>Browse more of our <a href="">Open City Documentary Festival</a> coverage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="">Trailer: In the Shadow of War</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <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/alex-sakalis/judgment-in-hungary">Judgment in Hungary</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mick-cs%C3%A1ky/why-open-city-docs-fest-is-so-important">Why the Open City Docs Fest is so important</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/oliver-huitson/its-going-to-blow-up-one-day">&quot;It&#039;s going to blow up one day&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mariam-ali/making-it-flow-somehow">Making it flow, somehow</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"> Croatia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Bosnia and Herzegovina </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </div> </div> </div> Serbia Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia Open City Docs Fest review documentary Robin Wilson Mon, 09 Jun 2014 16:51:07 +0000 Robin Wilson 83577 at Why openSecurity? <h2><strong>The unreality of 'realism'</strong></h2> <p>Why&nbsp;openSecurity? 'Security' is of course normally an arena which is exclusive and secretive, heavily and unreflexively male-dominated, and focused on sustaining (or contesting) Weberian 'monopolies of legitimate force' through the suppression of dissent—by whatever means are deemed necessary. In this realist’ paradigm, violence is addressed through a pursuit of ‘national interests’ by states against one other, with the possibility of peace treaties between states or ‘peace processes’ engaging violent actors within them recognising a concluding balance of power.</p> <p>This conventional notion of security is obsolete in a globalised world where power has leaked away from ‘sovereign’ states to sub- and trans-state organisations (including corporations as well as paramilitary organisations), in which conflicts are as often intra- as inter-state, in which constructed identities rather than taken-for-granted interests are frequently at stake and in which victims are mainly civilians rather than uniformed. A turning point was the ‘Euromissiles’ crisis of the 1980s, which engendered a peace movement against the east-west ‘bloc logic’ that played a valuable role sponsoring a people-to-people&nbsp;détente. This helped to bring the cold war to an end—albeit a chaotic one, with a resurgence of ethno-nationalism in central and eastern Europe most disastrously manifested in the wars of the Yugoslav succession.</p> <p>Still stuck within the realist paradigm, imperial wars of intervention today bring only social chaos (Iraq, Afghanistan) and ‘peace processes’ fail (Israel/Palestine) or at best issue in dysfunctional states (Bosnia, Lebanon, Northern Ireland). And the all-too-real security dilemmas engendered by the collapse of dictatorships bring polarisation between modernising and fundamentalist political forces, with the threat of authoritarian renewal (Egypt) unless neutral brokers can intervene (the trade unions in Tunisia), or brutal civil wars as the ‘international community’ is reduced to inaction or partisan endorsement of one or other side (Libya, Syria). The United Nations is hamstrung by its post-war construction based on powerful states allocated veto powers, leaving Latin America, Africa and the Indian subcontinent out in the cold. Meanwhile corporate pursuit of increasingly scarce resources (eastern DRC) and growing ecological constraints (Darfur) underpin intense emergent conflicts in a world which cannot outgrow its finite planetary fabric.</p> <p>The closed conception of security, explicitly outside democratic scrutiny and accountability—that is assumed to offer succour to the ‘enemy’—is however increasingly unsustainable in a ‘networked’ world where information is more and more a public good which leaks out of hierarchical, command-and-control organisations. Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and the&nbsp;<em>Guardian&nbsp;</em>have sent shockwaves through this system. Even if China’s ‘great firewall’ remains in place, it cannot forever control a world of many-to-many communication, as other authoritarian regimes (Cuba and Iran, if not yet North Korea or the Gulf autocracies) are coming to appreciate.</p> <h2><strong>Alternative paradigm</strong></h2> <p>The role of openSecurity is to stimulate strands of argument, analysis and reportage which elaborate and elucidate elements of an alternative security paradigm, all in a spirit of openness and pluralism. This begins with recognition of how&nbsp;unrealistic&nbsp;the ‘realism’ of ‘national security’ is in a world of ‘really existing cosmopolitanisation’ (Ulrich Beck) and of the normative need for a ‘cosmopolitan vision’ as an effective antidote to violence, rather than counter-productive repression. It thus understands security in the broadest sense, as ‘human security’, focusing primarily on the security of citizens rather than the state and embracing the contribution of non-state actors as well as restructured armed forces and police services.</p> <p>Key themes to develop here are what David Held has called global ‘gridlock’, which has left the world’s citizens to look on in impotent horror so many times since Srebenica—including as more and more extreme weather events show climate chaos is here and now—and the intrusiveness of the security state and corporations as they struggle to control the networked world. This of course takes us far from the idea of ‘security’ as a walled-off expert discipline to one which must draw upon all the social sciences as well as the tacit knowledge of a wide range of practitioners on the ground—such as those struggling to engender some sense of collective efficacy in sprawling urban slums or in the face of corporate rapaciousness.</p> <h2><strong>openSecurity</strong></h2> <p>openSecurity has been a full section of openDemocracy since 2012. Generously funded since principally by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it enthusiastically seeks out partners internationally—including members of its prestigious advisory board—which can complement its expertise, enlarge its audience and add to its reach: in 2014 it enjoyed more than three times as many unique page views (over a third of a million) as in 2012. If conventional security policies and practices often, indeed very often, fail or at best are only weakly effective, openSecurity shines a spotlight on solutions in two unique ways.</p> <p>First, intellectually, it advances a much more holistic security agenda. Rather than being fixated on men in uniforms, who can often create as many security problems as they solve, it widens the picture to include the importance of governance arrangements which incur legitimacy, the contribution of NGOs such as those committed to reconciliation, the significance of movements for gender equality in challenging masculinist violence, the necessity of supportive economic and social policies rather than insecurity-generating austerity, the potential of cultural activities to challenge taken-for-granted antagonisms and so on. As against the narrow, one-club approach of reliance on ‘security forces’ to provide security, this broad-based alternative is far more likely to bring successes. openSecurity brings together a compendium of stories like these which can inspire policy-makers and activists alike.</p> <p>Second, morally, openSecurity can offer much more compelling pointers because of its underlying commitment to universal norms rather than the&nbsp;<em>Realpolitik&nbsp;</em>which too often means particular state interventions in situations of insecurity can easily be represented as advancing a particular interest, especially in a post-cold-war world of one superpower. openSecurity can moderate a global debate which is not constrained by ‘national security’ thinking because its moral compass is the universal value of individual human dignity, which inevitably leads to a commitment to human rights and the rule of law. This also means that we demand of our contributors a commitment to ethical journalism, manifesting an integrity and independence untainted by association with ‘security apparatuses’ or corporate agendas.</p> <h2><strong>Wisdom of crowds</strong></h2> <p>Nearly a quarter of a century after the end of the cold war, it often feels like we inhabit a dystopian, runaway world with a fundamental lack of effective steering capacity. We now know how the National Security Agency has sought to instrumentalise the global public sphere to further the US ‘national interest’, with the internet turned into huge enclosures by largely Californian-based corporations. The Irish writer Oscar Wilde said that a map of the world without Utopia on it would not be worth glancing at. openSecurity fleshes out a vision of a polycentric world characterised by the wisdom of crowds, in which the global south has an equal and stabilising voice, and in which networked INGOs, from Amnesty to Avaaz, can weave the warp and weft of a more secure planet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> openSecurity Robin Wilson Sat, 24 May 2014 16:24:44 +0000 Robin Wilson 83119 at Adams: peacemaker or paramilitary? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The arrest of the decades-long leader of the 'republican movement' in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams, has provoked international surprise. It shouldn’t—but it does provide a lesson in the perils of suborning the rule of law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Gerry Adams in profile" title="" width="230" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facing the past: Gerry Adams. Flickr / Chris Elward, Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Isn’t Northern Ireland sorted?</p> <p>In as far as the tiny region, juridically part of the UK and geographically part of Ireland, has crossed the mental radar screen of anyone around the globe In recent years, it has been to occasion a querulous furrowing of the brow—a vague sense of surprise that what had been taken to be the capping of its volcano of internecine violence by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 had nevertheless been succeeded by recurrent eruptions, betraying sustained underlying unease. </p> <p>In what was a prime example of the ‘spin’ for which the self-styled ‘New’ Labour administration of Tony Blair in London was notorious—most infamously in the presentation of the Iraqi dictatorship as an imminent threat to the UK unless dislodged by US-UK military occupation—the Northern Ireland ‘peace process’ was not only presented as a resounding success in bringing centuries of ‘ancient hatred’ to a close but in providing <a href="">a model</a> for the rest of the world’s ethnic troublespots to follow.</p> <p>The arrest yesterday evening of Gerry Adams, the paramilitary leader who used the process—like Blair’s amanuensis, the patrician official Jonathan Powell—to reinvent himself as a leading international peacemaker, thus engendered head-scratching in the newsrooms and so news headlines across the world. Yet in Belfast this was all anticipated—indeed Adams, knowing it was coming, presented himself at Antrim police station, where he was held overnight, under investigation in connection with the grisly murder and “disappearance” of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten in west Belfast, in December 1972.</p> <h2>Security dilemma</h2> <p>No more than the denizens of former Yugoslavia do those who inhabit Northern Ireland suffer from a mystifying, historically-programmed propensity for visiting inhumanity on one another. The cause in each case of the spiral of bloodletting was the entirely comprehensible and contemporary “security dilemma” ensuing from the collapse of the state. In Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1972 that “state” was the monopoly administration of a Protestant bourgeoisie, to whom a mentally disengaging British ruling class had amorally delegated power in 1922 when an ethnic-nationalist insurgency assumed control in the rest of Ireland. Half a century on, a civil-rights movement combining Catholics and secular liberals and leftists shattered Stormont’s own ethnic carapace—invulnerable to prior nationalistic assaults—by rallying international support behind the universal banner of non-discrimination.</p> <p>But with the British state so reluctant to assume political authority once more, chaos ensued amid the loss of any social steering, as “no-go areas” and sectarian paramilitary monsters on either side—including a by then almost non-existent IRA—re-emerged. Troops were sent from London but their repressive behaviour towards members of the Catholic community, most notoriously the massacre of civil-rights marchers on Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972, only compounded the death spiral, forcing a reluctant “direct rule” from Westminster two months later.</p><p class="pullquote-right">in the early 70s Adams had established a unit in the Belfast IRA called the “unknowns”, which conducted several “disappearances”, including that of McConville, whom the IRA—perhaps because of her Protestant background—alleged to have been an “informer” for the British</p> <p>From that moment on, however, London sought to extricate itself once more by setting up a new coalition administration at Stormont, combining Catholic and Protestant political representatives. A painstakingly prepared and debated project engaging moderate leaders began in January 1974 but was quickly brought down by an unconstitutional Protestant “strike” led by the fundamentalist firebrand Ian Paisley. </p> <p>Several failed such initiatives later, the 1998 agreement—by comparison put together in cavalier fashion in just days of serious private negotiations—was perilously translated the following year into a fragile power-sharing administration, this time with the destabilising political leaders of the IRA at its heart, only to collapse in 2002 over an extraordinary IRA spy ring at Stormont. It was determinedly revived by London in 2007, at the expense of including with a veto role the party of Paisley—scourge of all reconciliation efforts but now recast as an avuncular statesman—alongside Martin McGuinness, the man who emerged in the early 70s maelstrom as IRA leader in Derry. With his Belfast counterpart, Adams, McGuinness was spirited to secret meetings with a British government minister in 1972, alongside the Dublin-based formal leadership of the movement, in recognition of the pair’s <em>de facto</em> status.</p> <p>Paisley has now been replaced as Northern Ireland first minister by his long-time deputy, Peter Robinson, who was convicted in a court in the Republic of Ireland of unlawful assembly, having led an incursion across the border during frequently violent Protestant protests against an intergovernmental agreement between London and Dublin in 1985. As part of the protest campaign, he and Paisley wore paramilitary-style berets as they presided at the launch at a private Belfast rally of an organisation called Ulster Resistance, which later become involved in gun-running in South Africa.</p> <p>The desperate willingness of London to include such previously fringe figures in an ostensibly democratic administration in Belfast could only be at the expense of official amnesia about their pasts. And yet these determined ethnic protagonists were bound to treat politics as a war of sectarian narratives over just what the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ were about—and so whether the region’s geographical or juridical locations would define its constitutional status. Hence the recent “loyalist” protests over the decision by Belfast City Council not to fly the Union flag every day of the year. As Orwell sardonically put it in his totalitarian dystopia, <em>1984</em>, he who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future.</p> <h2>An uncontrollable past</h2> <p>But just as ‘dissident’ paramilitaries have continued to disrupt the present, the past has not proved controllable either—with those for whom Adams and McGuinness turned traitors to the cause being willing to break the IRA culture of <em>omerta</em> to speak about the crimes in which they engaged.</p> <p>Such were the sources of the incendiary <em>A Secret History of the IRA</em>, published fully 12 years ago by the respected Belfast journalist Ed Moloney. Moloney revealed that in the early 70s Adams had established a unit in the Belfast IRA called the “unknowns”, which conducted several “disappearances”, including that of McConville, whom the IRA—perhaps because of her Protestant background—alleged to have been an “informer” for the British. Moloney also named McGuinness as the “northern commander” of the IRA when Northern Command instigated the “human bomb” tactic, which saw a workman, Patsy Gillespie, forced to drive to an army checkpoint in Derry with a bomb in his van, detonated to kill five soldiers (as well as Gillespie) in 1990.</p> <p>When the book was published, Adams spoke darkly about possible legal action against its mainstream publisher, Allen Lane. No such action was ever taken.</p> <p>Moloney, having moved to the US, subsequently engaged in an oral-history project with Boston College, interviewing&nbsp;<span>protagonists of the conflict.&nbsp;</span><span>A former IRA member close to Adams in west Belfast, Brendan Hughes, said on tape that the latter had directed the killing of McConville. Hughes is now dead and before she died last year another former IRA member whom Moloney interviewed, Dolours Price, made a similar claim in public in attesting to her role in the murder.&nbsp;</span><span>It is on the basis of evidence from this project, which the Police Service of Northern Ireland obtained after a long legal battle, that Adams has now been arrested.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In recent days, another former IRA figure, Peter Rogers, has publicly described how Adams (who now claims never to have joined the IRA) and McGuinness (who now claims to have left it in 1974) ordered him to take explosives to England in 1980. The operation was intercepted by the Republic of Ireland police, the Gardaí, one of whose officers he (Rogers) shot dead. Robinson has said that McGuinness—who was convicted in a Dublin court of IRA membership in 1973 but is now deputy first minister at Stormont and recently attended a royal banquet in London—should be prosecuted if the evidence so suggests.</p> <p>The increasingly dysfunctional administration at Stormont, mired in mistrust between the parties, faces growing disillusionment on the ground, which will be reflected in a further plunge in turnout at this month’s municipal and European elections. A recent newspaper survey of young people in Northern Ireland found that two thirds did not believe they enjoyed peace and the same proportion wanted to leave to pursue their aspirations.</p> <h2>Kosovo and kidneys</h2> <p>But this is not just a Northern Ireland story: it is a story of what happens when <em>Realpolitik</em> supplants the rule of law in the management of ethnic conflict—and of how this not only echoes the amorality of the protagonists but also stores up trouble for the future through the acceptance of impunity for war crimes or crimes against humanity.</p> <p>And it is a story which will soon have a former Yugoslav destination. The prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, is the ex-leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the paramilitary organisation which fought for independence for the province, under Serb-nationalist rule from Belgrade, during the war of 1998-99. In 2010, a Council of Europe report, following a two-year investigation, named Thaçi repeatedly in conjunction with a revolting organ-trafficking operation by the KLA.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// and hague.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// and hague.jpg" alt="Hashim Thaci and William Hague meet in London" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A willing hand: the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, meeting Thaci in London last year. Flickr / FCO. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A week ago, the Kosovo parliament accepted the establishment of a war crimes court backed by the European Union to investigate the affair. Thaçi said it was a “humiliation”.</p> <p>The masters of <em>Realpolitik</em>—backed by the strong “realist” tradition there in international relations study—are of course not the British but the Americans. The then president, Bill Clinton, basked like Blair in the Belfast agreement. And Madeleine Albright, his secretary of state at the talks on Kosovo at Rambouillet in 1999, thought she could do business with Thaçi. </p> <p>He reminded her of Gerry Adams.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After four days of questioning, Adams was <a href="">released </a>pending a file being sent to the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <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/robin-wilson/who-are-northern-irish-census-and-violence-over-flag">Who are the Northern Irish? The census and violence over a flag</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/robin-wilson/why-sectarian-fight-persists-in-northern-ireland">Why sectarian fight persists in Northern Ireland</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"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Northern Ireland Conflict rule of law europe Robin Wilson Diplomacy Non-state violence Thu, 01 May 2014 11:07:17 +0000 Robin Wilson 82370 at Sri Lanka inquiry: a Tamil asylum-seeker speaks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As an international inquiry on the bloodshed in Sri Lanka in 2009 looms, one Tamil asylum-seeker explains why it matters to him.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Video of Gee at human rights event at Stormont" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>From Sri Lanka to Stormont: Gee addressing a Human Rights Day event last year on “what rights mean to you”. Photo / Alice Neeson. Creative Commons.</p><p>The United Nations Human Rights Council last month <a href="">mandated</a> the UN high commissioner for human rights, NaviPillay, to carry out an investigation into Sri Lanka, where government has resisted any independent scrutiny of the events at the end of the state’s war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, when tens of thousands are thought to have died.</p> <p>What would this mean to the many Tamil diaspora dispersed across the globe? One young Tamil, who has fetched up in another of the world’s trouble-spots, spoke to openSecurity.</p><p class="pullquote-right">"The profound truth is that there cannot be a credible inquiry in Sri Lanka by its own government, which has effectively destroyed the independent judicial system.”</p> <p>Geerthanshan (‘Gee’) Manoharan has been living in Belfast since 2012. As a teenager, Gee took a lead from his father, a prominent human-rights activist, and began to campaign on human-rights issues, highlighting the plight of families of missing persons. A number of young people have been “disappeared” from his home town in Sri Lanka.</p> <h2>Effective campaign</h2> <p>In Northern Ireland he has made many friends through volunteering with organisations like Conservation Volunteers and Habitat for Humanity. He has become a key member of the Belfast Friendship Club, an integration initiative set up by the South Belfast Roundtable. At Belfast City Hall last September, on UN International Day of Peace, the youth charity Springboard presented him with a Community Inspiration medal, describing him as “a perfect Northern Ireland ambassador for peace”. Earlier in the year, an effective campaign, “Belfast Needs Gee”, was mounted when he was threatened with deportation, garnering wide public and political support.</p> <p>Gee told openSecurity: “With all my heart I want this International inquiry to be heard, mainly to restore justice against all the human-rights abuses made by both parties during the last civil war and the ongoing disappearances and violence against innocent individuals and human-rights defenders.”</p> <p>At the Commonwealth heads of government meeting held <a href="">controversially</a> in Colombo last November, the UK prime minister, David Cameron, had urged the Sri Lankan government to mount an independent inquiry on war crimes. “But our government simply cannot or will not do so, because the first accused would have to be the president and his brothers. The profound truth is that there cannot be a credible inquiry in Sri Lanka by its own government, which has effectively destroyed the independent judicial system.”</p> <p>Gee went on: “So I personally believe that the international inquiry can make a huge difference for lots of individuals and families who are spending most of their time in intense sorrow. I have sought sanctuary in a country far away from where I was born, I’ve nowhere to go and I’m waiting in limbo. </p> <p>“It’s the same for so many other people anxious to return to their homeland—if only they could do so without fear. Yet just recently the Sri Lankan government banned 16 groups and more than 400 people, almost every one of Tamil origin, were blacklisted.”</p> <h2>“Genuine concern”</h2> <p>Paul Hainsworth is chair of the Belfast group of Amnesty International and one of its network of country co-ordinators, covering Indonesia. He has come to know Gee personally through the Belfast Friendship Club and Gee addressed the Belfast Amnesty group in January. At the event, he highlighted the difficult human-rights situation in his native country and pointed to the challenges facing citizens in securing justice. </p> <p>Hainsworth said: “Participants got the clear impression of engaging with a serious and compassionate young man who had a genuine concern for the future of his country and for the plight of his fellow countrymen and peers—both within the country and those in danger of being returned there.”</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/sheila-varadan/still-searching-for-justice-victims-in-sri-lanka">Still searching for justice: victims in Sri Lanka</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/dhananjayan-sriskandarajah/sri-lanka%E2%80%99s-twin-challenges">Sri Lanka’s twin challenges</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"> Sri Lanka </div> </div> </div> <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"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Sri Lanka Conflict International politics human rights accountability asia & pacific Robin Wilson Sri Lankan civil war Wed, 09 Apr 2014 11:06:40 +0000 Robin Wilson 81231 at Mandela: explaining the magnetism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal">While the world stops for Nelson Mandela’s departure from it, his iconic status is unquestioned. Yet there is a more complicated underlying narrative to tell.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-centred"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mandela bust"><img src="//" alt="Bust of Mandela in London" title="Mandela bust" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">Mandela: symbol of heroic fortitude already cast in stone. Flickr: G Milner. <a href="">Some rights reserved</a>.</p><p>As South Africans prepared for the huge funeral of their former president, Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, in the eastern Cape on Sunday, the memorial service in Johannesburg spoke volumes: 52 presidents and 16 prime ministers attended to share in the global political stardust attaching to the man, while his successor, Jacob Zuma, was booed by a section of the domestic crowd.</p> <p>A more perfect embodiment of Max Weber’s transition from ‘charismatic’ to ‘bureaucratic’ leadership could hardly be imagined than that between Mandela and Zuma. The one who emerged from 27 years imprisonment, morally upright with no concern to be a crowd-pleaser, the other a populist tainted by corruption and misogyny who emerged only from the African National Congress machine.</p> <p>Yet the Mandela magnetism is not so straightforward. Yes, he withstood the ignominy of his prolonged incarceration by a brutal regime with an iconic fortitude. But out of the enhancing spotlight of the global media, that glittering bronze political statue has a little tarnish. This for two reasons nothing to do with any personal blemishes but all to do with the very particular and extraordinary context in which he found himself.</p> <h2>Cold war</h2> <p>First, <em>apartheid</em> South Africa was a key locus of the cold war. While leftists argued over whether the regime was or was not the best possible political shell for domestic and transnational capitalism—epitomised by the glittering gold and diamond mines with their super-exploitation of black workers—there was no doubting how much investment right-wing western cold warriors like Margaret Thatcher had in its survival and the Soviet Union in turn had in its demise, as with the neighbouring Portuguese colonies. Hence the rather embarrassing recollections of what some of those who now offer obeisance at Mandela’s grave thought of the ‘terrorist’ in earlier times.</p> <p>This polarised international context and intense repression at home meant that the main intellectual force opposed to the regime—the South African Communist Party—was a defensive Stalinist entity quite unlike the liberal-socialist Eurocommunists who emerged in the more open political atmosphere of western Europe in the 1970s. Through its ‘triple alliance’ with Mandela’s African National Congress and the trade union federation, Cosatu, it carried an influence way beyond its small size.</p> <p>Secondly, Mandela’s exclusion from the world on Robben Island coincided with decades of its most intense ever globalisation. The man who emerged from prison on that day in 1990 when he was previously the centre of a global emotional outpouring—just months after the fall of the Berlin wall—may have had his fist raised in confident assertion. But that very gesture indicated how metaphorically he was coming out of a deep pool of darkness, squinting and blinking in a new world he would struggle to comprehend.</p> <p>After protracted constitutional deliberations, in which the ANC’s main antagonist was the formerly ruling National Party, Mandela was to become South Africa’s first post-<em>apartheid</em> president five years later. Honestly assessed, his time in office was a stark failure.</p> <p>Almost alone among the world’s states, after <em>apartheid</em> South Africa fell to an even lower position on the United Nations Human Development Index. The ANC, having been committed to a statist Reconstruction and Development Programme, engaged in a rapid <em>bouleversement</em> when confronted with the era of informational capitalism, when socialism is about the advancement of the broader public good through a liberal and pluralist democracy and a strong civil society, recognising that states can no longer be omniscient nor omnicompetent. Only really in housing, where an old-style, state-sponsored house-building programme was led by the Communist leader Joe Slovo, did Mandela’s government make a significant positive impact.</p> <p>In the world of work, ‘black economic empowerment’ became little more than a vehicle for the enrichment of a new bourgeoisie, tragically embodied by the former mineworkers’ hero Cyril Ramophosa, reduced to being a board member of Lonmin when it massacred its striking workers at Marikana in 2012. With unemployment endemic among the black majority, South Africa’s already huge Gini coefficient of inequality became even larger still.</p> <p>Meantime, the clarion call of liberation turned to dust in so many South African mouths, as the HIV-AIDS epidemic cut a swathe of human sorrow in its wake. And the murder rate in the ‘new’ South Africa soon ran into five figures per annum.</p> <p>Mandela’s aura has never been touched by these—entirely explicable—failings once in power. Nor has international opinion focused on his time-capsule comments on African dictators, like the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, as he interpreted the world still through the cold-war lens of anti-colonialism with which he had entered the long dark tunnel of imprisonment.</p> <p>In that sense, his reputation has resembled that of other political icons—Mahatma Gandhi, Vaclav Havel and Mary Robinson—who have held titular positions rather than being sullied by the inherent nature of day-to-day government, outside of dictatorships, as a shifting equilibrium of compromise between the forces of progress and reaction. Had he sought a second term as executive president—and he would have been a political shoe-in—Mandela’s image might have become less pristine through a clearer association with the shortfalls of the ANC in office.</p> <h2>Generosity of spirit</h2> <p>But there are also two reasons why history will, rightly, be extremely kind to Nelson Mandela and why the global public sympathy has nothing like the saccharin superficiality of that in Britain following the death of Diana, princess of Wales. </p> <p>The first was his huge generosity of spirit. In a neo-liberal epoch where a fragmented and disoriented ‘precariat’ confronts the huge power of corporations which have escaped national regulation, and even those who seek election to achieve change become enmeshed in a detached political class endeavouring to pull rubbery policy levers, Mandela exuded a commitment to a common humanity and set a moral compass for a disordered world.</p> <p>Famously, he used the theatre of the Rivonia trial to present his political credo. He concluded his speech from the dock thus: ‘I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’</p> <p>Yes, the ANC engaged in ‘armed struggle’ to realise that end. But Mandela and his comrades set up its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), in 1961 only after decades of patient, non-violent activism following the organisation’s foundation in 1912 had been met by repression, most graphically with the Sharpeville massacre of a year earlier. There were no democratic avenues open to the organisation to fight for its Freedom Charter. It thus fulfilled the first requirement of a ‘just war’, <em>ius ad bellum</em>. Yes, too, the Truth and Reconciliation Commmission found that MK had violated the requirement of restraint, or <em>ius in bello</em>, with its torture camps of alleged collaborators in the ‘frontline’ states neighbouring South Africa. But Mandela took that on the chin, whereas his immediate successor, Thabo Mbeki, would not.</p> <p>Secondly, and above all, Mandela will be remembered as a symbol of reconciliation in a world so readily polarised--no longer between capitalism and what the Soviets told the Eurocommunists was ‘really existing socialism’ but along ethnic dividing lines in the context of what Ulrich Beck calls with heavy irony ‘really existing cosmopolitanisation’. Whereas Mbeki took the ANC back towards an inward-looking ethnic essentialism with his florid talk of an ‘African renaissance’, Mandela symbolised uniquely the intercultural ‘rainbow nation’.</p> <p>The Turkish-Cypriot psychoanalyst Vamik Volkan argues that each of us in life inhabits an ‘ethnic tent’ of identity. For the intolerant—from the Nazi monsters of anti-Semitism through the embittered and unapologetic defenders of <em>apartheid</em> to the populist xenophobes sprouting up across Europe today—that tent must be purged of any element associated with the identity of the detested different other, the latter turned into a stereotype to which an enemy-image can be attached and on whom, consequently, brutal violence can be without the least qualm unleashed. </p> <p>By contrast, reconciliation, peacebuilding, cosmopolitanism—call it what you will—can be simply defined as a capacity to revalorise the self from the perspective of others and to include the other in oneself. No one in the post-war era has more powerfully embodied this capacity for reciprocal recognition than Nelson Mandela. And one episode—inevitably turned into a Hollywood film—encapsulated it in the most corporeal manner imaginable. </p> <p>In June 1995 in Johannesburg, Mandela as president presented the rugby World Cup to the captain, Francois Pienaar, of the victorious South African team. He did so having donned the Springbok jersey, a symbol hitherto caught in an apparently ironclad chain of connotation with Afrikanerdom and <em>apartheid</em>. The visceral reactions the gesture spontaneously evoked—how many worldwide were moved to tears as they observed it on their TV screens?—revealed just how somatically affecting the openness or closure of our ‘ethnic tents’ towards one another can be.</p> <p>Many dictatorships have a vicious and violent after-life as even their opponents cannot shed the authoritarian mindset into which they have been socialised—witness the ‘Arab spring’ as it turned to ashes. But in that moment, Mandela’s finest, of supreme reconciliation, we knew that South Africa—however scarred socially and economically it would remain—would never again fall into the vortex of searing inhumanity.</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="/elleke-boehmer/mandela-icon">Mandela, icon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/mandela-towards-non-sexist-south-africa">Mandela: towards a non-sexist South Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-mccoll/nelson-mandela-see-movement-he-personified-as-well-as-man">Nelson Mandela: see the movement he personified as well as the man</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"> South Africa </div> </div> </div> <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"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity South Africa Conflict Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics the politics of protest global politics 'term-id:[26644]' Africa apartheid ANC Mandela: free at last Robin Wilson Security in Sub-Saharan Africa Non-state violence Peacebuilding Thu, 12 Dec 2013 11:24:58 +0000 Robin Wilson 77777 at Who are the Northern Irish? The census and violence over a flag <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last week, Belfast City Council voted to flag the Union Jack only on designated days, sparking protest. What does this say about Northern Ireland today, and does it tally with the recent census results?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>There is a very simple moral reason why the violent protests against the regulated flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall should be condemned.&nbsp;</p><p>Because they are fascist.&nbsp;</p><p>Freedom of expression and association depend on respect for the democratic process, the rule of law and the human rights of others. These universal norms have been defied by the campaign of intimidation in recent days.</p> <p>But there is another, factual, reason. This is a conflict of 'generals fighting the last war' - including some actual paramilitary figures. </p><p>The 2011 census results, just out, show a reduced gap between the proportion of Protestants and Catholic residents in Northern Ireland. In the country&rsquo;s chronically mistrustful political culture, some may think this an additional reason to be fearful. They should calm down. &nbsp;</p> <p>First of all, this &lsquo;rugby score&rsquo; tally, as the former Community Relations Council chief Duncan Morrow has called it &mdash;now 48 to the Protestants, 45 to the Catholics &mdash;is the product of a statistical wheeze which is quite disreputable.&nbsp;In 1991, 12 per cent of respondents had not indicated a religious affiliation&mdash;an obvious response to Northern Ireland becoming over time more secular and normal. So the official statisticians decided to give them one anyway. They introduced a new category in 2001, that of 'background'. Unsurprisingly, those who are atheist, agnostic or just wish to treat religion as a private matter has now increased to comprise 17 per cent of the population. Yet still they are being asked what their &lsquo;background&rsquo; is, as below:</p><p><img src="" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>There is no good public-policy reason for this. The existing declarations required of job applicants have brought employment discrimination almost to vanishing point and, otherwise, public services should be allocated on patterns of social need, regardless of religious affiliation. It is contrary to the spirit of the 1995 Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which stipulates that persons belonging to minority communities should not be discriminated against, whether they choose to be associated with that community or not. The convention also mandates that states, including the UK and Ireland, promote &lsquo;intercultural dialogue&rsquo;.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some might argue that we need a tally of how many Protestants and Catholics there &lsquo;really&rsquo; are because of its implications for any future border poll, as enabled by the Belfast agreement of 1998. Yet the poll idea only originated in 1973, because the then Northern Ireland secretary, William Whitelaw, had been politically embarrassed by revelations of his private talks with IRA leaders&mdash;including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness&mdash;the previous year, and Whitelaw felt he needed to buy off hostility from the Ulster Defence Association.</p> <p>The poll, massively boycotted by Catholics (and this atheist), was not rerun in 1983 or 1993 as envisaged, because of its polarising effect. Yet the idea reappeared in the agreement, with the condition that it would only be pursued if the secretary of state deemed a &lsquo;yes&rsquo; to unification likely.&nbsp;</p> <p>The whole point of the agreement, however, was to transcend the old, either-or, British-Irish national-identity choice, which seemed the only option in 1921 but makes little sense in today&rsquo;s cosmopolitan and globalised world. By allowing an egalitarian form of devolution&mdash;albeit with structures ill-designed to foster genuine power-sharing&mdash;the agreement defined a third constitutional option, which is far more popular than the polar alternatives.</p> <p>Despite the widely-recognised poor performance of the Stormont executive, the 2010 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey found that 58 per cent said the best future for the region was devolved government, as against 15 per cent for direct rule and 16 for Irish unification. This makes the argument over a border poll&mdash;and, by extension, the flag at City Hall&mdash;meaningless. So could we have a Scottish- or Welsh-style autonomous symbol, please?&nbsp;</p> <p>There will always be only a minority in Northern Ireland who will define their identity as &lsquo;Northern Irish&rsquo; (21 per cent, according to the census), since we do not inhabit an independent state. So rather than, as in 2011, asking individuals whether they are British/Irish/Northern Irish, far better in the 2021 census to ask a variant of the national identity question developed for multi-national Spain&rsquo;s complex tapestry by the academic Luis Moreno. This asks survey respondents if they think themselves as Spanish only, more Spanish than X (say, Catalan), equally Spanish and X, less Spanish than X or only X.&nbsp;</p> <p>The adapted Moreno question was once asked (in 2008) in the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, with British and Irish exclusive identities or combinations defining the five potential answers. It found that 58 per cent (again) of respondents saw themselves as some mixture of British and Irish (more, less or equal), rather than only one or the other. And so 45 per cent also answered &lsquo;neither&rsquo; to the recurrent question as to whether they were &lsquo;unionist&rsquo; (34 per cent) or &lsquo;nationalist&rsquo; (20 per cent). The &lsquo;neither&rsquo; &ndash; in other words, two fingers to the old political system &ndash; rose to two thirds of the &lsquo;post-troubles&rsquo; generation of under 24s.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1985, &lsquo;loyalists&rsquo; mobilised (equally fruitlessly) against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Seeing the slogan &lsquo;Ulster says no&rsquo; on a wall in Belfast, one smart graffiti writer added underneath a still appropriate rejoinder&mdash;a reference to a contemporary pop song by Frankie Goes to Hollywood&mdash;&lsquo;&hellip; but Frankie say relax&rsquo;.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland Democracy and government Robin Wilson Fri, 14 Dec 2012 17:14:33 +0000 Robin Wilson 69972 at Challenging the populist right - European precedents <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The European left should be the most committed and consistent advocate of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in order to prevent discrimination. But further than that, it should espouse a cosmopolitan politics to manage diversity in a progressive manner. And that politics is inconceivable unless the individual citizen is understood to represent its basic unit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p> There is a widespread concern across the European left that, as in the 1930s, a structural crisis of capitalism, far from automatically precipitating a radical shift in public opinion, risks being successfully exploited by the populist right. This would not only destroy what is left of the post-1945 social-democratic consensus but would redefine politics, in polarised Schmittian terms, against the immigrant/refugee enemy ‘other’— while leaving the real author of the crisis, the banker in Keynes’ capitalist casino, scot-free. </p><p>There is a particular fear that social democrats who have spent decades catching up with the emancipating social movements of the 1960s now find themselves undercut, as their core proletarian support looks for reassurance in the slogan of ‘security’—however illusory—in a labour market where many hard-won protections have been whittled away as a supposedly unavoidable response to globalisation. Indeed, well before the crisis broke, in the French presidential election of 2002 it was clear that a significant proportion of the <em>p</em><em>roletariat</em> had voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen and since then, his daughter, Marine, has strived hard to reach out further to <em>les classes populaires</em>.</p> <p>This, however, is not a new challenge: in the earlier phase of globalisation, before World War I, immigration turned Vienna into a multinational city like so many across Europe today. It was in this context that the Austro-Marxists developed the idea of the ‘personality principle’, by which each resident could decide as to their nationality upon reaching voting age and which recognised the labile character of cultural identity. The liberalisation of citizenship in Germany effected in 2000 under the previous social-democratic government was based on this philosophy. This recognition of what the late political philosopher <a href="">Norberto Bobbio</a> was to call the ‘individualistic concept of society’ was to be at the heart of the anti-fascist consensus, perhaps best embodied in Italy, following the second world war. The norms which the Council of Europe was founded to embed in 1949—democracy, human rights and the rule of law—are inconceivable unless the individual citizen is understood to represent the unit of politics, the bearer of rights and the subject of justice. They run fundamentally counter to the metaphorical—and, next, actual—rounding up of whole populations of individuals labelled and homogenised by a stigmatised group affiliation.</p> <p>The continuing capacity of this normative golden thread to turn the political tables on the immigration issue was evident in 2010 when the right was isolated in the European Parliament on a Socialists and Democrats motion condemning the deportations of Roma from France. Then, albeit after some delay, came the remarkable dressing down for the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, from the European justice commissioner, Viviane Reding—who had the temerity to allude to the transportation of Jews to the camps under Vichy. Part of the answer for the European left is thus to be the most committed and consistent advocate of these universal norms, which coalesce in this context in the idea of non-discrimination. But further than that, in a globalised era the left should espouse a cosmopolitan politics to manage diversity in a democratic and progressive manner.</p> <p>This is not a politics of rootlessness as in the conventional understanding of the term but, as David Held has <a href="">defined cosmopolitanism</a>, is characterised by the triple requirement of equality of citizenship, reciprocal recognition of our common humanity and impartial public authority to arbitrate competing cultural claims. It implies, as Ulrich Beck has <a href="">argued</a>, a political philosophy of ‘constitutional tolerance’ which ensures the state can be home to individuals from a range of nationalities.</p> <p>A weakness of the 60s movements was not their individualism, still less their anti-authoritarianism, but the relativism and particularism which often accompanied the ‘identity politics’ representing one of the emergent strands. A naïve support for multiculturalism from the left often associated it in the public mind with an incoherent mix of minority cultural ghettoes—the US Democrats suffered particularly from this image, to the extent that, pre-Obama, there was an unspoken consensus that only a white southerner could be a credible presidential candidate. This, in turn, facilitated the reappearance of the ‘integral’ nationalism favoured by conservatives in the previous period of globalisation, which assumed individuals from minority communities would assimilate to the prevailing national ‘ethos’—or go elsewhere. The infamous call by the former UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, for ‘British jobs for British workers’ fell into this category, as did the futile debate Sarkozy launched on French ‘national identity’.</p> <p>Instead the left should hold out a vision of a truly integrated society, which benefits economically from the cultural dynamism successive decades of immigration have brought to the US but which blocks the easy path for employers of a race to the bottom by exploiting migrant labour, formally or informally. The high road is one where strong employment protection and universal welfare based on progressive taxation—traditional social-democratic themes, particularly in the Nordic countries—can allow enterprises to maximise their human resources in the face of global competition while simultaneously progressively freeing labour from mere commodity status. It is no accident that the xenophobic right has emerged as an electoral threat in Sweden in the context of a centre-right government which, while unable to dismantle the welfare state, has increased inequality through tax cuts for the wealthy. Now that social democrats across the continent have been liberated from the ‘third way’ accommodation to a discredited neo-liberalism, they must answer the cry for ‘security’ by pledging to refurnish ‘the people’s home’ with the proceeds of taxes on socially useless financial transactions and on high incomes squandered on positional goods.</p> <p>There are signs—though it is hard to look more than a month ahead, as the eurozone teeters on the brink of collapse—that the fortunes of the left are reviving in Europe. The fiercely anti-immigrant administration in Denmark, driven by its dependence on the populist right-wing Danish People’s Party, was displaced last year by a coalition led by the social democrats. Francois Hollande’s victory for the Parti Socialiste in the French presidential election was also a significant win. But it has been almost as if the best one can achieve from the progressive side is a return to the ‘normal’ government Hollande promised. This may reflect an entirely healthy disdain for the demagogy of figures such as the ousted Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. But the populist appeal of such figures across the continent remains a very serious challenge to be confronted.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </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> openSecurity Can Europe make it? openSecurity EU Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Reinventing democracy in Europe Security and the Far Right in Europe Robin Wilson Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other Security in Europe Fri, 10 Aug 2012 11:06:59 +0000 Robin Wilson 67478 at Why sectarian fight persists in Northern Ireland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> This week has seen sectarian rioting between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast. Why does violence continue in Northern Ireland? </div> </div> </div> <p>Why is there still violence in Northern Ireland? This week severe sectarian rioting has broken out between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland&rsquo;s capital city Belfast, which escalated to shooting. The BBC reported:</p> <blockquote><p>Two men are being treated in hospital for gun shot wounds. In all 11 shots were fired - six from the nationalist side and five from loyalists. Two shots hit a police Land Rover. Police said it was "clearly an attempt to murder police officers".</p></blockquote> <p>According to the official narrative, the &lsquo;peace process&rsquo; culminating in the 1998 <a href="" target="_blank">Belfast agreement</a> was meant to lay the basis for a peaceful region in which all significant political forces, including Sinn F&eacute;in (the IRA&rsquo;s political wing) would share power, by the inclusion in the political arena of representatives of paramilitary organisations, principally the IRA.</p> <p>The implication of the agreement was that during the ensuing periods when power-sharing has operated at Stormont, from 1999 to 2002 and from 2007 to the present, paramilitary violence should have diminished, while in the intervening &lsquo;political vacuum&rsquo; of direct rule from London&ndash; when the British and Irish governments worked desperately to have devolution restored&ndash; violence should have risen.</p><p>In fact, the opposite is the case, as the chart below (from Police Service of Northern Ireland <a href="" target="_blank">data</a>) indicates. The number of shootings and bombings clearly increases in both periods of devolution, while falling in the interregnum of direct rule.</p><p class="image-center"><span class="image-caption"><img alt="" src="" /></span></p><p>Trends in public optimism about the prospects for reconciliation in Northern Ireland are a mirror image of this pattern. <a href="" target="_blank">Analysis</a> of responses on &lsquo;community relations&rsquo; to the annual <a href="" target="_blank">Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey</a> generated the graph below. Once more, confidence deteriorates during power-sharing government and rises when this is in abeyance.</p><p class="image-center"><span class="image-caption"><img alt="" src="" /><br /></span><span class="image-caption">Percentage of respondents believing that relations between Protestants and Catholics will be<br />better in five years time</span></p> <p>These phenomena are linked by the proliferation in recent years of &lsquo;peace walls&rsquo; dividing those working-class neighbourhoods in Belfast where politically-motivated violence has been most heavily concentrated &ndash; as at the east Belfast sectarian interface in recent nights. At the last independent <a href="" target="_blank">count</a> by the Institute for Conflict Research, there were 88 physical barriers of various sorts demarcating such interfaces, up from 18 before the &lsquo;peace process&rsquo; began in the early 1990s.</p><p>The explanation of this paradox is that the process addressed violence &ndash; reduced to <em>paramilitary</em> violence and from that implicitly to <em>IRA</em> violence, despite the significant contributions by Protestant paramilitary and state forces &ndash; as if it were the problem, rather than principally a symptom of it.</p> <p>In fact, absorbing the political representatives of one set of paramilitaries into the state will not remove <em>paramilitarism</em> or sectarianism. Indeed, if what happens is that the nationalistic conflict over the location of the state is imported too, then both of those phenomena may be exacerbated&mdash;as the evidence shows is exactly what has happened.</p> <p class="Default">The Swedish political scientist <a href="" target="_blank">Bo Rothstein</a> has identified the &lsquo;social trap&rsquo; of mistrust which makes the healing of societies once fractured so difficult. Collective memories of mistrustful behaviour by the stereotyped &lsquo;other&rsquo; become a self-fulfilling, and so self-sustaining, prophecy.</p> <p class="Default">Thus the 2007 NILT <a href="" target="_blank">survey</a> found only 10.4 per cent who <em>disagreed</em> with the statement, &lsquo;If you are not careful other people will take advantage of you&rsquo;.</p> <p>As to remedies, Rothstein highlights the importance of integrated education and integrated housing, and the rule of law. The two former were referred to in the Belfast agreement, but in the so-called &lsquo;Women&rsquo;s Coalition paragraph&rsquo; on reconciliation, which the main, male-dominated parties dismissed at the time and largely ignored once in power.</p> <p>In the first period of devolution, the parties failed to act on a review they had commissioned on &lsquo;community relations&rsquo;, in lieu of any policy ideas of their own. In the second they shelved a policy document issued under direct rule as well as a successor issued for consultation last year, fatalistically accepting indefinite communal division; it was withdrawn after being widely dismissed by reconciliation practitioners and independent experts.</p> <p>All parties to the renewal of devolution had to sign up to the rule of law. But the current first minister was convicted of unlawful assembly, having led a paramilitary-style invasion of the Co Monaghan village of Clontibret in 1986, and the deputy first minister was convicted twice of IRA membership. Neither has expressed any remorse for these activities or other paramilitary-type behaviour in which they have been involved. All they have been able to do in the face of the violence of recent nights is to announce that they would send an official to the east Belfast interface&mdash;just a few miles away from their Stormont offices&mdash;to report back to them.</p> <p>Indeed, it is evident that the unresolved nature of Northern Ireland&rsquo;s troubled past is the Achilles Heel of what on the surface has become a stable&mdash;if also static&mdash;devolved administration. And a decade of centennial commemorations beckons from the Irish &lsquo;home rule&rsquo; crisis in the 1910s, which will prove intensely controversial. One is the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force&mdash;principal source of the latest violence&mdash;established by Protestant politicians at the end of 1912 to resist home rule by unconstitutional means.</p> <p>And more recent history is part of the explanation for the events of this week. An Historical Enquiries Team within the police is investigating crimes committed since the onset of the &lsquo;troubles&rsquo;. This may implicate UVF members who had thought they had escaped punishment when the Belfast agreement released their imprisoned confr&egrave;res within a couple of years. The orchestrated rioting has been a very public way of saying &lsquo;back off&rsquo;.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Conflict Culture Democracy and government Robin Wilson Fri, 24 Jun 2011 09:48:29 +0000 Robin Wilson 60117 at The Northern Ireland Assembly elections revealed the failures of devolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The big story of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections was not the re-instating of the DUP and Sinn Fein, but the dramatic fall-off in turnout. Voter apathy reveals the failures of devolution in such vital areas as education, public service management and the control of paramilitary violence </div> </div> </div> <p>If the election to the Scottish Parliament saw a seismic shift in the political landscape, in Northern Ireland, as so often, the tectonic plates ground more slowly.</p> <p>There were small percentage shifts in first-preference votes&mdash;the assembly election is under the single transferable vote&mdash; and seats which consolidated the position of the principal ethno-nationalist parties,&nbsp;the Democratic Unionist Party &nbsp;(38 seats) and Sinn F&eacute;in (29), at the&nbsp;expense of the Ulster Unionist Party (16) and the SDLP (14). But the <img class="image-right" src="" alt="" width="140" />main mover was the small, liberal Alliance Party (8), whose first preferences rose by nearly half to 7.7 per cent.&nbsp;</p> <p>The big story of the election was an extraordinarily slow-moving and inefficient count. But perhaps the biggest story was the one really large shift since the last assembly poll&mdash;the precipitate fall-off in turnout.</p> <p>At 54.5 per cent of registered electors, this showed a nine-point drop on 2007. This despite the campaign by the DUP to get out the Protestant vote to stop SF prevailing and Martin McGuinness taking the first-minister position. A televised leaders&rsquo; debate in the week of the election attracted just one in 20 registered voters.</p><p>There are three reasons for this, none of which bodes well for the new assembly term. </p><p>First, the big claim for power-sharing devolution for Northern Ireland&mdash;which only Alliance unequivocally backed before the Belfast agreement&mdash;was that it would be an antidote to paramilitary violence. Yet the move from relatively impartial if remote rule from Westminster to contested sectarian governance has seen violence perversely rise during both periods of devolution (1999-2002 and 2007-present), while falling during the direct-rule interregnum.</p><p>This is remarkably mirrored in popular confidence. Every year the <a href="">Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey</a> asks respondents if they believe &lsquo;community relations&rsquo; are better than five years ago and whether they expect them to be better in five years time. This feelgood/optimism quotient has also fallen during the two periods of devolution, while rising in the interim. A consultation document from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister last autumn on &lsquo;cohesion, sharing and integration&rsquo;&mdash;the product of protracted negotiations between the DUP and SF&mdash;was withdrawn after it was roundly criticised by experts and reconciliation practitioners for fatalistically accepting sectarian division.</p> <p>The second problem is that, while this was widely billed in the media as a &lsquo;bread and butter&rsquo; issues campaign, none of the parties with the exception of Alliance&mdash;whose manifesto ran to 150 pages!&mdash;offered much beyond populist proposals to keep down the regional rate (the only locally variable revenue source), to defer (again) water charges and to urge a reduction in corporation tax (based, like the parallel campaign in Scotland, on a misreading of the now fatally wounded &lsquo;Celtic tiger&rsquo;). Defined by their communal affiliations rather than along a left-right spectrum, they offered voters no significant policy choices.</p> <p>The third, and related, problem is that devolution is making no difference&mdash;except in a negative sense. The inability of the executive to manage public services effectively&mdash;including its refusal to raise the necessary additional revenue&mdash;has seen hospital waiting lists also rise under both periods of Stormont rule, having similarly been brought down when London took over.&nbsp;</p> <p>In education, there has been deadlock ever since the former executive collapsed in 2002 over the continuation of academic selection at 11&mdash;Protestant parties support it, Catholic parties (and most educationalists) oppose, leaving a chaotic and unregulated transition through private examinations. Meanwhile there are 80,000 empty school places because of the unwillingness of the main parties to integrate the education system, as the all-too-brief 1974 power-sharing executive decided.</p> <p>Finally, the recession has hit Northern Ireland hard. Unemployment has nearly doubled in four-years. The <em>Irish Times</em> cartoonist Martyn Turner once presciently drew a person with a clipboard interviewing an Everyman figure, asking: &ldquo;Under which constitutional arrangement would you prefer to be unemployed?&rdquo; (<em>above</em>).</p> <p>Northern Ireland desperately needs some well-founded &lsquo;constitutional engineering&rsquo;&mdash;unlike the amoral <em>Realpolitik</em> pursued in such cavalier fashion by Tony Blair, which has left a legacy of a dysfunctional government replete with sectarian vetoes. Power must be genuinely shared, as Duncan Morrow has put it, rather than cynically shared out, if any prospect of reconciliation is to remain. A more flexible system&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;while still guaranteeing equality for members of the Catholic minority from a drift back towards Protestant majority rule&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;is essential if a more normal arrangement, of left versus right, with an opposition as well as a government,&nbsp;is ever to arrive.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland Democracy and government Britain after 5 May Robin Wilson Thu, 12 May 2011 09:53:09 +0000 Robin Wilson 59453 at Five <div class="field field-full-text"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span></span></p><div>The odd thing was that it turned out the man whose communist spectre frightened the 19th&nbsp;century world saved it in the 21st. Marx would have chortled at the irony. But he had seen it coming. He watched in England as the rapacious capitalists threatened to destroy their workforce—a mere ‘externality’ for each of them—through exploiting children and making adults work impossibly long hours. And he wrote in Capital volume I of how the labour movement had actually secured the long-term interest of capital by fighting successfully for the eight-hour day. Two centuries&nbsp; on, the green industrial revolution had achieved the same outcome—this time with the ecological movement in the van in saving capital from itself.&nbsp;</div><div>True, the more progressive capitalists could see the markets in green technologies and supported the case for regulation, so they didn’t fight to the death. And the demise of the Chinese dictatorship, when it could no longer keep cutting off the Hydra heads of internet-based civil society movements, was a key moment. Funnily enough, the US, with its rusting oil and car industries shrouding the one-time democratic ‘beacon on the hill’, was neither here nor there.</div><p></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-picture"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_picture" width="500" height="547" alt="" src="//" /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-pic-attrib"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Karl Marx </div> </div> </div> Robin Wilson Tue, 26 Apr 2011 10:49:24 +0000 Robin Wilson 59158 at Blair's flawed approach to peace in Northern Ireland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tony Blair's effort in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland is often heralded as his greatest achievement, but the approach he took to the peace process has left a mixed legacy. </div> </div> </div> <p>From the moment Tony Blair arrived in Northern Ireland to save the talks at Castle Buildings in Easter week 12 years ago—detecting the ‘hand of history’ on his shoulder—it was evident that the political future of the region would play a key part in the history of Blair himself.</p> <p>As the sheen burnished by Peter Mandelson quickly faded from ‘New’ Labour—more spin than substance was the cry from the disillusioned left-wing comic Ben Elton—Northern Ireland came to represent the Crown jewel in his government’s first term.</p> <p>In the second terms, as Blair behaved more like an executive president and became mired down in his vainglorious project with George W Bush to topple Saddam Hussein, Northern Ireland if anything became even more critical to his narcissistic concern with image.</p><p>He wanted to go down in the history books, like his 19th century predecessor Gladstone, as the prime minister whose mission had been ‘to pacify Ireland’—not as the junior partner in an arguably illegal campaign in Iraq which cost tens or, more probably, hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and saw millions more displaced.</p> <p>Northern Ireland is, happily, not Iraq—but then as a part of the western democratic world it was never going to be. What is remarkable is not how successful Blair was in resolving the Northern Ireland problem but the uniqueness in western Europe, outside of the Basque country, Corsica and Cyprus, of the region’s intercommunal violence—and, even among those comparisons, how long-lasting it has proved.</p> <p>With no ‘peace process’ in the Basque country, ETA has been curbed much more seriously than Northern Ireland’s paramilitaries by simple pursuit of the rule of law without depredations of human rights.</p> <p>In 1997, Northern Ireland was characterised by deep communal division and paramilitary violence at the margin and neutral but remote direct rule from Westminster. In 2010, Northern Ireland is characterised by deep communal division and paramilitary violence at the margin and an accessible but communalised and dysfunctional government at Stormont.</p> <p>Why has so little changed despite all the hype?</p> <p>Blair is a lawyer who showed remarkably little interest in politics when he was a student. So he has the capacity to master a brief but his conception of politics is very superficial.</p> <p>In that sense, Northern Ireland was all of a piece with the cavalier Iraq escapade—and how Blair’s obsession with ‘middle England’ and the media meant he failed to construct an enduring coalition of constituencies of popular support and presided over the atrophy of a party which is now only kept out of insolvency by the indulgence of the Co-operative Bank.</p> <p>What Blair basically got wrong was to see Northern Ireland through Anglo-centric glasses: to him, it was a conflict fundamentally between the British state and the IRA and its resolution therefore depended on building a relationship with the IRA leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.</p> <p>The former Queen’s politics professor the late John Whyte famously concluded to the contrary in a vast survey of studies of the problem, demonstrating that Northern Ireland was primarily an internal, sectarian conflict. This would not, he pointed out, be transformed by the exit of either the British or Irish states from the equation—as, respectively, political Catholics (‘nationalists’) and political Protestants (‘unionists’) wanted to believe.</p> <p>The implication of Whyte’s thesis was that violence was what social scientists would call a ‘dependent variable’—symptom, in other words, not cause. Blair’s cursory grasp thus meant he failed to address the underlying problem, which has only festered in the intervening years.</p> <p>Hence the unending proliferation of ‘peace walls’ in Belfast and indeed vicious outbursts of racism. Hence also the inability of the two dominant Northern Ireland parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, to agree anything but a pale shadow of the <em>A Shared Future </em>policy to tackle sectarianism published under direct rule.</p> <p>Blair admits in his memoirs that in Northern Ireland he ‘stretched the truth past breaking point’—that’s lying, in plain English—to get agreement. Here again he seems blithely unaware of a simple social-science idea which has acquired widespread understanding since the recent financial crisis: ‘moral hazard’.</p> <p>Just as what Keynes would have described as the capitalists of the casino made fortunes when they won but expected the house—aka the taxpayer—to stand their losses, first SF and, as Northern Ireland polarised politically, the DUP were successively rewarded by Blair for their intransigence by political concessions, with equally deleterious consequences.</p> <p>This inevitably delegitimised the more moderate political forces essential for power-sharing—as against sharing power out—to work as it should. In a broad historical sweep, it worked better in 1999-2002 than since 2007—and, as the archives now show, better still in the all too brief experiment in 1974.</p> <p>One Northern Ireland politician whose integrity few would question is Séamus Mallon, the former deputy first minister. In his swansong Westminster speech in March 2005 at the end of the second term, he referred to the prime minister—following Mark Antony’s acid description of Brutus in <em>Julius Caesar</em>—as ‘an honourable man’. He accused Blair of ‘acting in bad faith’ and making ‘under-the-table deals’.</p> <p>In excoriating remarks two years later, Mallon reflected: ‘In reality his whole strategy in terms of resolution of the Northern Ireland problem—I don’t use the term peace process—was “who do I buy and who do I sell”?’</p> <p>Mallon is, of course, in retirement and is not making millions on a global lecture tour. But he does still have his integrity.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Northern Ireland Conflict europe Robin Wilson Fri, 03 Sep 2010 14:14:42 +0000 Robin Wilson 55855 at Robin Wilson <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robin Wilson </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robin </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Wilson </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Belfast </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="">Robin Wilson</a>&nbsp;was formerly lead editor of the <a href="">openSecurity</a> section of openDemocracy. He advises the Council of Europe on the intercultural paradigm for the management of cultural diversity, on which it has been the global standard-setter in the last decade. He is heavily involved in debates across Europe on the future of progressive politics, including via the Good Society network convened by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. He is the author of <em>Meeting the Challenge of Cultural Diversity in Europe: Moving Beyond the Crisis </em>(Edward Elgar) and <em>The Northern Ireland Experience of Conflict and Agreement: A Model for Export? </em>(Manchester University Press).</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robin Wilson is an independent researcher, specialising in progressive politics and intercultural integration. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-picture"> <div class="field-label">Picture:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img class="imagefield imagefield-field_au_picture" width="478" height="637" alt="Author picture" src="//" /> </div> </div> </div> Robin Wilson Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:12:37 +0000 Robin Wilson 51146 at Platform for Change: A Call for Real Politics in Northern Ireland <p>There can be little doubt as to the public mood about politics in Northern Ireland. It ranges from apathy through annoyance to anger.&nbsp;</p><p>Anti-politics can be cheap and cynical. But there are genuine concerns behind this sour disposition.&nbsp;</p><p>We know from data on public opinion that there is big shortfall between expectations and what devolution to the region has delivered since 2007. And we know from falling voter registration and turnout that citizens feel increasingly disengaged.&nbsp;</p><p>What captured this disconnection was the revelation during the recent protracted private negotiations between the Protestant-fundamentalist Democratic Unionist Party and the Irish-nationalist Sinn Féin—when the very existence of democratic institutions at Stormont had once more been put in the balance—that two manufacturing firms in the greater Belfast area were planning to close. While skilled jobs were in jeopardy on the street, the agenda at Hillsborough Castle was whether members of Protestant communal parading orders would walk on certain streets or not.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>Everyone in Northern Ireland old enough to remember the horrors of the 1970s and 80s—though of course that excludes more and more cohorts of young people—is relieved the embers of violence have gradually faded. But this week reminded us just how far away normality remains—with a car bomb in Newry, a paramilitary ‘punishment’ shooting in Derry, the relived horror at trial of the sectarian slaying of a young man in north Belfast, and a communalist row over who should receive farm modernisation payments in the poorer west of the region.&nbsp;</p><p>Normality, which is undoubtedly what most Northern Ireland citizens yearn for, is hardly an unrealistic ambition. But it will remain a receding horizon until politics there conforms to the same, simple universal norms—of democracy, human rights and the rule of law—which have kept intolerance and violence at bay across Europe for decades. &nbsp;</p><p>No end of private, elite ‘negotiations’ among the sectarian and paramilitary political elite will bring that about. That’s why every day in Northern Ireland seems like Groundhog Day.&nbsp;</p><p>But over recent months, hundreds of frustrated citizens—not Catholics, not Protestants, but citizens—from across the region have come together to chart, on the basis of principles everyone can accept, a new politics for a new Northern Ireland.&nbsp;</p><p>This new campaign, launched today in Belfast, is called Platform for Change. It is backed by well-known personalities but it is mainly supported by unsung heroes and heroines, who have shown their commitment in their daily lives to the public interest and the common good—and by young people who want a politics that is relevant to them.&nbsp;</p><p>And that is what the platform is about. It calls for a collective approach to government in Northern Ireland, with ministers all singing from the same hymn sheet rather than blocking each other’s aspirations. It demands a stream of legislation from the executive, so that the assembly delivers real results. It calls for avenues to allow business, the trade unions and the voluntary sector—and individual citizens—to have a real say in government.&nbsp;</p><p>Nor have those involved in this campaign avoided the difficult policy challenges Northern Ireland faces:</p><p>The platform includes concrete proposals to reset an otherwise intractable debate over academic selection at 11, which has led to chaos in the schools.</p><p>It itemises how a ‘Green New Deal’, supported by the social partners, can give the economic priority of the devolved government real substance.</p><p>And it shows how, in a Europe where the Wall of political ideology collapsed 20 years ago, a European approach to intercultural dialogue can heal a society scarred by its proliferating ‘peace walls’ (88 at the last independent count).</p><p>A big milestone is the next election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, due in 2011. As things stand, this could again prove to be two entirely separate elections—one Catholic, one Protestant—with the agenda dominated by the question of who will or will not be first minister and the dread possibility that no government is subsequently formed. Intra-Protestant divisions over sharing power with SF could lead to the latter emerging as the largest party—by which all shades of Protestant opinion would be appalled, given its history as political wing of the Irish Republican Army.&nbsp;</p><p>Platform for Change wants instead to see those parties that are willing to do so lining up behind the platform, and ensuring as a result that the electoral agenda is dominated by policy issues—and by how a coherent and unified administration can emerge.&nbsp;</p><p>If a government can be elected in which power is genuinely shared—rather than merely shared out as now—the campaign wants to see a debate about a more flexible power-sharing arrangement, founded on equality and mutuality. The current rigid system, so complex most citizens find it hard to grasp, has repeatedly proved vulnerable to political shocks.&nbsp;</p><p>Over the coming months, Platform for Change will be going on the road across Northern Ireland to stimulate wider debate and participation—and so attempt to make change a real possibility.&nbsp;</p><p>Robin Wilson is chair of Platform for Change,<a href=""></a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Belfast </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"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Belfast UK Civil society Democracy and government ourkingdom Robin Wilson Thu, 25 Feb 2010 08:48:05 +0000 Robin Wilson 50450 at Ireland's lost revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new history of the Workers' Party inspires Robin Wilson to reflect on a movement that helped to change the face of modern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <p><em>A <a href="">new history of the Workers' Party</a> inspires Robin Wilson to reflect on a movement that helped to change the face of modern Ireland</em></p><p>Ever since the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent war of independence, progressive politics in Ireland has been bedevilled by the dominance of the ethnicised version of republicanism which was then first enshrined in martyrdom and later became the official ideology of the southern Irish state.</p> <p>That this ‘revolutionary’ movement parodied the paramilitarism of Protestant integral nationalism resisting ‘home rule’, and that it only prevailed because of the repressive British response to the 1916 Putsch and the subsequent efforts to impose wartime conscription are historical ironies long lost. Throughout the 20<sup>th</sup> century, the discourse of the ‘men of 1916’—including the masculinism—set the terms against which all radical currents of opinion positioned themselves.</p> <p>Most starkly, while the extension of the franchise to all adult males in the 1918 Westminster election allowed Labour to flourish in Britain, forming a minority government within a matter of years and a radical, reforming government after the next global conflagration, in Ireland, the republican leader Eamon de Valera declared that ‘Labour must wait’ and for two generations after this electoral abstention Labour politics were retarded as patterns of political affiliation were established by the civil war over the 1921 treaty with Britain defining the Free State. The party was to be perennially confined to be junior partner in a coalition dominated by one or other of the ‘civil war’ parties, never empowered to institute the Keynesian economic and Beveridgean welfare policies which underpinned social-democratic success in post-war Europe.</p> <p>In today’s globalised world, those predominant parties, Fine Gael (whose predecessor wing of Sinn Féin backed the treaty) and Fianna Fáil (which split from an SF rump in 1926 having been on the opposing side), have become zombie categories, their particular historical roots and domestic ideological affiliations increasingly irrelevant. FG was identified following its emergence from a quasi-fascist movement as the party of ‘order’, while FF set its objectives as the reunification of Ireland, divided by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, and promotion of Irish, defined by De Valera’s 1937 constitution as the ‘first official language’—all ill-starred political goals.</p><p><!--break--></p> <p>Having toyed with social democracy during the period of Garret FitzGerald’s intellectual dominance within the party, FG now has no clear value system except via its continued membership—more sensibly than the British Tories—of the European centre-right grouping. FF, bizarrely, recently joined the liberal group in the European Parliament, having shown no recognisable commitment to liberalism at any point since its formation, and indeed it bitterly opposed the election as president in 1990 of Mary Robinson, then a spokesperson within Ireland of a ‘liberal agenda’.</p> <p>Ms Robinson accepted her victory with vaulting rhetoric about how the people had emerged from the ‘faded flags of the civil war’ and embraced a ‘new Ireland’. In many ways they had, and did. Within a few years, divorce—the subject of a wrenching referendum in 1986—was legalised and homosexuality was decriminalised. Decades of emigration and under-performance were reversed as qualified labour and transnational capital flooded into the country in a post-1992 unified European market and, with the 80s fiscal crisis stabilised by European-style ‘social partnership’ between the unions and employers, the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was born. In the north, the 1994 ceasefire by the last significant scion of republicanism, the Provisional IRA, signalled a ‘peace process’ ending decades of violence far more murderous than the civil war.</p> <p>And yet, this was to prove a lost revolution. Ms Robinson was to be succeeded by a paragon of northern Catholic conservatism, Mary McAleese. The geo-political trajectory of the state was to be encapsulated in the phrase of the right-wing figure Mary Harney, who said Ireland was ‘closer to Boston than Berlin’, and long-term EU largesse was spited by a sustained beggar-my-neighbour stance of low corporate taxation. The economy grossly overheated under the pro-cyclical fiscal policy of the FF finance minister Charlie McCreevy, and a huge property bubble was inflated which has now burst. Social partnership has been jettisoned by the current FF-dominated coalition in favour of again pro-cyclical budgeting, risking a Japanese-style deflationary decade. And some 88 ‘peace walls’ in Belfast are testament to how the fragile peace there has brought reconciliation no closer.</p> <p><em><a href="">The Lost Revolution</a></em> is the title of the history of an organisation which wrestled with these two interconnected challenges: Ireland’s delayed modernisation and its crisis of political representation. Emerging from the split in what was left of the ‘republican movement’ in 1969-70, in the crucible of the northern crisis which gave birth to the ‘Provos’, the ‘Officials’ went through a series of transmutations from republicanism to non-sectarian socialism and, in the year before the election of Ms Robinson, as the Workers’ Party they won a peak of seven seats in the southern parliament, Dáil Eireann. Within a few months, however, the fall of the Wall was to set in train a process of ideological collapse which saw the party split in 1992 and most of its members join Labour.</p> <p>This book, fulsomely based on interviews, archives, party publications and newspaper material, tells that story in unprecedented detail. It professes to be no more than an empirical history, and it is very valuable for providing that so painstakingly. But it can only be fully understood in the historical and political context rehearsed above.</p> <p>For the story is an extraordinary one. On the one hand, as the authors highlight, a roll-call of Ireland’s leading cultural and political thinkers, north and south, went through the ranks of the Workers’ Party in recent decades. What was always an embattled minority party swimming against a conservative tide was able to attract the best and the brightest of progressive Ireland. Many went on to higher things, notably in the media, the trade unions and, eventually, the Labour Party—the last two of whose leaders are former WP figures who cut their teeth in the student movement.</p> <p>And there is no doubt that the WP was able to act as this intellectual magnet because of the courage of its assault on the pillars of Irish conservatism: a particularistic ethno-nationalism which could never reunify the actually-existing Ireland and could never shake off its historical legitimisation of violence, and a monolithic church to which the state was perfectly willing to outsource control of health and education. Through a radical process of collective self-criticism, beginning from the failed IRA campaign of the 1950s, the leaders of the movement slaughtered many of the sacred cows preserving Irish ‘traditions’ against the modern world.</p> <p>Much of this proved prescient. No one in the Republic of Ireland would now wish to reinstate the irredentist claim in the 1937 constitution over the north: its removal was part of the Robinson campaign and the wars of the Yugoslav succession were to show just where such aggressive nationalism led, even before the Belfast agreement of 1998 instituted change. And while ‘dissident’ republicans are gaining ground disturbingly, as the Provos have now abandoned all the previous positions they held in opposition to the despised WP ‘Stickies’—from abstentionism from Stormont to antagonism to the police—there is no support for this south of the border, where the desire is only that the north be stabilised and otherwise, preferably, remain out of sight. Meanwhile, a series of tribunals have laid bare the previously concealed abuses of political power by FF for corrupt purposes and the even more veiled abuses of children in church-run institutions.</p> <p>Yet all this intellectual and political renewal ended in nought, as the relic of the WP was sustained after 1992 by a few veteran loyalists. And, on the other hand, <em>The Lost Revolution</em> is a horror story of the <em>langue du bois</em> of a rigidly ideological organisation immune to constructive criticism from activists and sympathisers, and, worse, its extension into large-scale criminality and the maintenance of an occasionally murderous paramilitary structure through the teeth of official—or Official—denial.</p> <p>That the party was right to break from nationalism is axiomatic: any progressive party must support a project of constitutional tolerance, where the state is neutral between differing national identities in a world of mass migration, overlaying older nationality questions (so Irish socialists cannot be ‘unionists’ either). But the very weakness of social democracy in Ireland, and the general insularity of its politics, meant that the only alternative resource the WP drew upon was a peculiarly anti-modern version: Stalinism.</p> <p>And just as Stalin’s cult of the personality drew upon an older Russian Orthodox iconography, the party replaced the republican creed with a new religion of ‘class politics’—promoted with relentless fervour, the moreso as its vulgar Marxism proved inadequate to the complexity of the challenges posed by modern Irish society, north and south. This inevitably led to an internal culture of factionalism and angels-on-pins theological disputes, with a leadership of longstanding figures imposing order on what was often a chaotic movement through ‘democratic centralism’. Allied to the dogmatic and evangelical approach to the external world, this repelled as many of those as the party, in its more progressive guise, as collective intellectual attracted. (I left in 1983, having been active in the party for two years in Belfast working on its weekly newspaper, hoping to see it transformed in a liberal-socialist direction. I was appalled by the denunciation of Solidarity in Poland.)</p> <p>The absence of a compelling hegemonic project was compensated by the maintenance of a key element of the republican ‘tradition’ from which the party elite had emerged: paramilitarism. While the Official IRA declared a ceasefire in 1972, reflecting the substantive shift of the organisation to a non-sectarian political stance, its methodology remained imbued with the authoritarianism from which it had come. Murderous feuds with other republicans, ‘fund-raising’ via armed robberies and neighbourhood control through masculinist thuggery were to characterise the now secret ‘Group B’ just as they did other paramilitary organisations, of whatever political or religious hue. The authors have collated a vast array of material on this, kept from ordinary members of the party (I naively thought if what the critics said were true, being in the Belfast office every day I would see evidence of it, when in fact as <em>The Lost Revolution</em> shows the whole point was that ‘Group B’ operated as a party within the party.)</p> <p>The <em>dénouement</em> came about as a result of the interaction of these two trends. The collapse of Stalinism took the political feet from under the WP, while revelations about the continued activity of the Official IRA also damaged its electoral ambitions in the south. Northern Ireland’s sectarian introversion means the historically more progressive part of the island is now its most conservative region, and it was there that the small-C conservatives in the party, buttressing through the Official IRA their lack of electoral support, were concentrated. When the split came, it was because of those northerners who blocked the liberalisation of the party that, by then, most of the southern membership wanted to see. ‘Democratic Left’ emerged briefly as a successor, and joined an FG-Labour government in 199-97, but proved only a staging post to the Labour Party itself.</p> <p>All, however, is not lost. Irreversible intellectual and political gains have been made over the decades, however crablike and inadequate. FF is now risking political meltdown because of its association with the very developers that have brought the Celtic Tiger to its knees. Labour under its ex-WP leader, Eamon Gilmore, is riding high in the polls, and it may just be that a realignment of Irish politics along left-right lines, with FG providing the principal centre-right pole, is beginning to emerge. And there is increasing recognition that the political carve-up in the north between the ethno-political entrepreneurs, Paisleyite and Provo, who brought us to this pass is neither a sustainable system of governance nor is likely to issue in a normal civil society. <em>The Lost Revolution</em> gives the Workers’ Party a decent burial; a legacy, however, remains.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Buy the reviewed book at openDemocracy's Amazon UK store: Brian Hanley and Scott Millar,&nbsp;<em><a href="">The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party</a>&nbsp;</em>(Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2009)</p> </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"> Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> uk uk Ireland Robin Wilson Wed, 18 Nov 2009 16:27:23 +0000 Robin Wilson 49105 at Northern Ireland: guns, words and publics <p> Northern Ireland has returned to the place its political and paramilitary elites have long believed to be its natural geographical location: the centre of the universe. Once again its bloodletting has been headline news in the global media, whose decades-long encampments in the region had been wound down after the &quot;done deal&quot; which the Belfast <a href="">agreement</a> of 1998 was assumed to represent. Once again, as in the years before the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994, killings by &quot;dissident&quot; republicans - in the first instance, of two <a href="">soldiers</a> outside the British army&#39;s Massereene barracks on 7 March 2009 - evinced the clichéd lexicon of calumny. <span class="pullquote_new">Robin Wilson founded  the Belfast-based think-tank Democratic Dialogue. He now works as an independent researcher<br /> <br /> Also by Robin Wilson in openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2373">The end of the IRA</a>&quot; (16 March 2005) <cite></cite><br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/democracy-protest/ulster_2915.jsp">Northern Ireland&#39;s peace by peace</a>&quot; (11 October 2005)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/globalization-institutions_government/reconciliation_3425.jsp">Ireland&#39;s blocked path to reconciliation</a>&quot; (4 April 2006)</span> </p> <p> True, there was a key difference this time: that the now official - formerly &quot;Provisional&quot; - republican leadership joined in what thus became (as things were viewed from Whitehall) unanimous condemnation of the &quot;Real IRA&quot; <a href="">action</a>. In the aftermath, the largely absentee Northern Ireland secretary, Shaun Woodward, reassured the House of Commons in Westminster in an unctuous <a href="">statement</a> on 9 March: the incident, he said, was a &quot;temporary darkness at the end of a tunnel of considerable light&quot; and a sign that &quot;the politics of a shared future is working&quot;.   </p> <p> But when darkness fell that same night, another dissident group, the &quot;Continuity IRA&quot;, shot dead Stephen Carroll, an <a href="">officer</a> in Northern Ireland&#39;s reformed police service (<a href="">PSNI</a>). Woodward&#39;s choice of words betrayed unconscious irony.   </p> <p> <strong>The divided peace</strong> </p> <p> <em><a href="">A Shared Future</a></em> was the policy on &quot;community relations&quot; introduced in March 2005, while Northern Ireland was in the middle of four and a half years of <a href="">renewed</a> &quot;direct rule&quot; from London, following the collapse in 2002 of the power-sharing executive arising from the Belfast agreement. The first official statement by any government since partition acknowledging not only that Northern Ireland was a deeply divided society, but that such deep division was intolerable by democratic standards, it was binned by the fundamentalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and, with particular animosity, Sinn Féin (SF) when they reassumed the reins of devolved power in a political <a href="">marriage of convenience</a> in March 2007. No such challenge to their clientelistic bases could be tolerated. <span class="pullquote_new">Among <strong>openDemocracy&#39;s</strong> articles on Ireland, north and south:<br /> <br /> Richard English, &quot;<a href="/democracy-protest/sinnfein_3068.jsp">Sinn Féin&#39;s hundredth birthday</a>&quot; (28 November 2005)<br /> <br /> Conn Corrigan, &quot;<a href="/democracy-protest/march_3297.jsp">A long march: Ireland&#39;s peace process</a>&quot; (23 February 2006)<br /> <br /> Eóin Murray, &quot;<a href="/democracy_power/politics_protest/ireland_greens">Ireland&#39;s new shade of green</a>&quot; (2 July 2007)<br /> <br /> John Horgan, &quot;<a href="/globalization-institutions_government/northern_ireland_4411.jsp">Northern Ireland: a view from the south</a>&quot; (7 March 2007)<br /> <br /> John Horgan, &quot;<a href="/article/email/conor-cruise-o-brien-a-protean-figure">Conor Cruise O&#39;Brien: a protean figure</a>&quot; (22 December 2008)<br /> <br /> Neal Ascherson, &quot;<a href="/article/email/conor-cruise-obrien-the-irascible-angel">Conor Cruise O&#39;Brien, the irascible angel</a>&quot; (22 December 2008)<br /> <br /> Plus: regular comment and insightful analysis on <a href="/ourkingdom">OurKingdom</a>, such as Tom Griffin&#39;s &quot;<a href="/blog/ourkingdom-theme/tom-griffin/2009/03/11/the-struggle-for-the-soul-of-irish-republicanism">The struggle for the soul of Irish republicanism</a>&quot; (11 March 2009) </span> </p> <p> A successor policy to <em>A Shared Future,</em> which had been<em> </em>due to be launched nearly a year ago<em> </em>at the annual conference of the <a href="">Community Relations Council</a> (CRC), has <a href="">yet</a> to appear. Yet the continuing ethnic battle - what the CRC chief executive, <a href="">Duncan Morrow</a>, describes not as power-sharing but as &quot;sharing power out&quot; - meant that the devolved executive did not meet for five months between June and November 2008, just as the economic crisis was hitting the region&#39;s long-suffering citizenry. Even before the hiatus in self-government, nearly three-quarters of respondents to a poll said renewed devolution had made no difference whatever to their lives. And, on the ground, the &quot;peace walls&quot; just keep going up: there are now eighty-eight in Belfast, according to the last independent count.  </p> <p> <strong>The political code  </strong> </p> <p> A closer scrutiny of the carefully parsed words of condemnation following the Massereene and Craigavon attacks shows that the display of political unity against the current paramilitary threat is rather more superficial than has been suggested. <a href="">Shaun Woodward</a>, in language straight out of the 1970s, described the shooting of the soldiers as &quot;cowardly&quot; - by implication, those by armies in British uniform are &quot;courageous&quot;. It was this blinkered acceptance of violence by military, as against paramilitary, men which underpinned the British state&#39;s utter failure to understand how such masculinist army actions as the kicking down of doors, street harassment, internment and unaccounted killings (as on &quot;<a href="">Bloody Sunday</a>&quot; in January 1972) all aided recruitment to the previously discredited IRA when the &quot;Provisional&quot; movement was born.  </p> <p> The two leading men in the movement ever since, Gerry Adams (in Belfast) and Martin McGuinness (in Derry), chose words that would similarly not throw in question the legitimacy of the violence they had previously espoused. Adams restricted himself to language he had used to distance himself from those IRA &quot;operations&quot; he had found politically inopportune in the 1980s and 1990s: the attacks were &quot;wrong and counterproductive&quot;, he lamely <a href="">averred</a>, in a statement which took fourteen hours to emerge after Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were murdered. McGuinness, now deputy first minister, spoke more openly than ever about his own IRA career and of how the Sinn Féin leadership was bringing about a &quot;united Ireland&quot;, <a href="">disdaining</a> in that context the &quot;traitorous&quot; dissidents for getting in the political way.  </p> <p> What was notable by its absence here is the language of <em>universal</em> norms - of democracy, human rights and the rule of law - which has underpinned peace in most of western Europe since the second world war; and in the process confined the &quot;banality of evil&quot; to the peripheries of Northern Ireland, the Basque country, Cyprus and Corsica. Again, there is a political logic at work here: for the much-vaunted Northern Ireland &quot;peace process&quot; has always been <a href=";db=main.txt&amp;eqisbndata=1847920322">driven</a> by the most cynical &quot;New Labour&quot; <em>Realpolitik</em>, which allowed the paramilitary narrative of the &quot;troubles&quot; to be legitimated in the negotiations leading to the Belfast agreement and in the recurrent crises over its implementation.  </p> <p> <strong>The insurgent logic </strong> </p> <p> It is thus unsurprising - though doubtless this will come as a shock to many - to discover that sympathy for the rationales given by paramilitaries for their violence was found by the <em><a href="">Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey</a></em> to have nearly doubled between 1998 and 2007. This sentiment was particularly evident among a section of young Catholics, the basis for the re-emergence of a republican challenge. To this new (even if small) cohort, denunciation by the grey-haired Provisionals is water off a duck&#39;s back. </p> <p> For while the 1974 power-sharing experiment was brought down by the &quot;loyalist&quot; strike to which the state of the day showed far too much pusinallimity, the fact that the IRA campaign continued unrelenting helped drive moderate Protestants into the hands of bigoted politicians and the paramilitaries in the van. Indeed, Adams and McGuinness were to come to formal authority in the Provisional movement as critics of the southern republican leadership that had engaged in a fruitless ceasefire in subsequent months.  </p> <p> Moreover, the terms of the St Andrews negotiations leading to the <a href="">agreement</a> of October 2006 - which saw the Democratic Unionist Party go into government with Sinn Féin only on condition that it was able to block all republican demands - has (as the historian <a href="">Henry Patterson</a> has argued) finally <a href="">restored</a> the pre-1972 &quot;unionist veto&quot; on politics in Northern Ireland. The governmental hiatus of 2008 followed the serial vetoing by the DUP of SF aspirations on ending academic selection, recognising the Irish language, having a &quot;conflict transformation centre&quot; at the Maze prison and bringing about the devolution of policing and justice. The inability of the republican leaders to achieve their political goals has given credence to those at the margin who say they should be advanced - as Adams and McGuinness <a href="">too</a> once said - by other means.  </p> <p> <strong>The wearing tide</strong> </p> <p> There is, however, good reason <em>not</em> to fear that, in another clichéd comment that has been much heard in recent days, Northern Ireland will return to &quot;the bad old days&quot;. The massive violence of the early 1970s stemmed from the &quot;security dilemma&quot; that state collapse engenders, with major paramilitary forces ensuing. The British state, so reluctant then to intervene, fatally put off dismantling the unionist <em>ancien régime</em> until the human damage had been done. No such scenario of utter constitutional uncertainty can now be envisaged. In any event, as <a href="">Rogers Brubaker</a> has argued, such ethnic conflicts tend over time to burn themselves out, despite the efforts of ethno-political entrepreneurs to stoke the fires, as the quotidian concerns of ordinary citizens&#39; take over.  </p> <p> And it was these war-weary concerns which (though it has been written out of the official narrative) were critical to bringing paramilitarism to an end in 1994. Huge peace demonstrations, organised by the trade unions in late 1993, brought to a <a href="">close</a> an awful <a href="">period</a> marked by an IRA bomb in the Shankill and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) massacre at Greysteel, and violence on such a scale was never to recur.   </p> <p> Once again in Northern Ireland, <a href="">history</a> has repeated itself - but not only as human tragedy, and not only in the black farce of paramilitaries-turned-politicians becoming sanctimonious about other paramilitaries who took them at their previous word. For on 11 March, lunchtime <a href="">rallies</a>, mounted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, brought the centre of Belfast to a halt and took place in other cities across the region. There the language was the universal language of human solidarity and principled hostility to all violence. And that, in the end, will prevail. </p> uk democracy & power Robin Wilson Creative Commons normal email Mon, 16 Mar 2009 15:00:16 +0000 Robin Wilson 47537 at Northern Ireland could stymie "super-department" <p><strong>Robin Wilson (Belfast, Policy Analyst): </strong>The suggestion that the various secretaries of state for the nations and regions should be <a href="/blog/ourkingdom-theme/guy-aitchison/2008/07/27/plans-for-new-devolution-super-department">wrapped up into one department</a> has made sense ever since devolution was established in the initial years of ‘New’ Labour. But devolution to Scotland, Wales and (always shakily) Northern Ireland was, paradoxically, characterised by the patrician English trope of amateurish muddling through. And so the repeated case made by the Constitution Unit for a formal system of intergovernmental relations, as in Canada or Australia—and of which the unified department would have been one element, along with Lords reform to make the second chamber a voice for the nations and regions—fell on deaf Whitehall ears. Other departments in effect became ‘English’ departments, even when their actions had implications for devolved counterparts. </p> <p>A decision to move belatedly towards having a single minister for the devolved jurisdictions at the cabinet table—a further step from the rather awkward job-sharing of recent years—would certainly be welcome, if <a href="">media speculation</a> is borne out. But a fly in the ointment remains Northern Ireland—and if such a move were premised on a belief that imminent devolution of policing and justice powers would slot in the last piece of the jigsaw of a settlement for the troubled region, this could turn out to be a mistaken assumption.</p> <p>While it is true that the first and deputy first ministers, Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, have agreed that policing and justice should be devolved as <a href="/blog/ourkingdom-theme/damian-oloan/2008/08/05/policing-justice-the-sdlp">a single department under one minister</a>, and that minister should not be from either of their parties, they have not agreed on the critical question—when it is to happen.  </p> <p>The DUP is in no hurry: it has no intention of accepting the transfer unless and until it can claim it has put the IRA out of business. Mr Robinson will not be retreading the path of David Trimble, the former Ulster Unionist leader who was discredited by the failure of the IRA to comply with the decommissioning deadline in the Belfast agreement, by the cynical way in which Tony Blair as prime minister treated this as a mere matter of Realpolitik and by the ruthless manner in which the DUP exploited Mr Trimble’s discomfiture. </p> <p>As for SF, the party is facing growing grassroots alienation over how its political strategy for a united Ireland has stalled, and indeed how every demand it makes on behalf of Northern Ireland Catholics—from the abolition of selection at 11 to an Irish-language bill—is blocked by the DUP, armed with the veto power it secured, as a condition for accepting power-sharing with SF, in the St Andrews agreement of October 2006. That agreement may have slated devolution of policing and justice for May 2008 but that deadline also came and went. </p> <p>London and Dublin will renew pressure on the DUP in September, having lent on the Independent Monitoring Commission to produce an ‘ad hoc’ report that month which they hope will show the IRA has wound up its structure, having wound down its campaign. But the most senior Catholic policeman in Northern Ireland, Peter Sheridan, says this has yet to happen. And, indeed, with the current bemused mood among the ‘republican base’, and with the ‘dissident republicans’ gaining recruits, Gerry Adams and Mr McGuinness will have no desire to remove the last vestige of their authoritarian control—shaky even in west Belfast and south Armagh—or in so doing so to make finally clear, including to themselves, that no residual organisation is being retained for a political rainy day. </p> <p>Mr Adams is very conscious—because Mr Robinson has made it very public—that the DUP leadership is seeking in the long run to replace the current, four-party, mandatory executive set-up at Stormont with a voluntary power-sharing alternative which would, in effect, be unionist-dominated. The republicans were happy that they could best the former bellowing bigot, Rev Ian Paisley, reduced by age to sentimentalism. But since Mr Robinson assumed the reins of government and party power the devolved Executive Committee has only been allowed to meet once by SF and no meeting is envisaged before mid-September—a three-month break.  </p> <p>Mr Adams is determined to show, having not deigned to assume ministerial office himself, that he remains a power in the land to which Mr Robinson (and, indirectly, the current prime minister, Gordon Brown) must bend. If the DUP does not shift, he wants London and Dublin to exercise the joint authority they threatened to prod Mr Paisley into dealing with the Provos. </p> <p>Meantime, ordinary Northern Ireland citizens are left increasingly frustrated by the inability and unwillingness of the political class to reach accommodations on the outstanding issues, with 24 executive papers still in the pending tray. These include an anti-poverty strategy and an affordable-housing review—which seem rather more immediate to many in these straitened times than whether or not the police officer in the passing car is or is not accountable to politicians at Stormont. </p> <p>The Northern Ireland secretary, Shaun Woodward, has become virtually invisible in the region. But if Mr Brown thinks that means he can treat Northern Ireland as normalised, wrapping up the Northern Ireland Office into a Department of the Regions, he may well find Messrs Adams and Robinson, however unwelcome, continuing to bang separately on the door of No 10—to demand he apply his clunking fist to support their side in the sectarian arm-wrestle between them. </p> <p>And that is the larger difficulty. Devolution to Northern Ireland had two contradictory goals: to provide SF with as political place in the sun, which frightened the Protestant community into the arms of the DUP, and to promote reconciliation through power-sharing, of which the DUP is congenitally incapable. It is unlikely to be put on a secure footing by another patched-up deal supervised by London and Dublin. Only more radical constitutional re-engineering, removing the features of the Belfast, and still more St Andrews, agreements which institutionalised ethnicity, will provide the enduring settlement obviating the need for a proconsular supervisor at Hillsborough.</p> uk uk Ireland Northern Ireland Robin Wilson OurKingdom Wed, 13 Aug 2008 05:00:00 +0000 Robin Wilson 45793 at Ireland's blocked path to reconciliation <p>Who killed Denis Donaldson, a figure who had moved in the space of three months from being a trusted, convivial adviser to Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at their negotiations with British government officials to a loathed, lonely figure brutally slain at a remote cottage in Donegal? </p> <p>As a "tout" or informer who passed information from inside the Republican movement to British and Northern Ireland security services over two decades, Donaldson was a <a href= target=_blank>marked man</a> &#150; even though his exposure in December 2005 had come at a time when the Irish Republican Army's "armed struggle" was in effect already over, and thus had far less of an impact than if it had occurred at the height of the "troubles". </p> <p>The politicians in Northern Ireland were quick to condemn the <a href= target=_blank>murder</a>, and equally swift in seeking to make it part of their own favoured "narrative" of what is happening and what needs to happen in the current period of political stasis. Sinn Féin and the IRA's repudiation was notably firm, but linked (in the contribution of the party's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness) to a scolding of Unionists for freezing political progress; the <a href= target=_blank>Democratic Unionist Party's</a> Ian Paisley Jr was similarly severe in seeing Donaldson's fate as evidence of the Republican propensity for violence. </p> <p>The question of attribution and of investigation is clearly vital: this is both a political murder and a serious criminal act. My guess (and that is all it is at this stage) is that the deed was done by IRA members embittered by Donaldson's treachery, and meanwhile keen to taunt the Sinn Féin leadership of Adams and McGuinness for their endless preening in front of the TV cameras in pursuance of a "peace process" that is doing nothing to deliver the objectives for which the ordinary IRA volunteers sacrificed so much of their adult lives. </p> <p>An additional political aim would be to signal to the governments of <a href= target=_blank>Bertie Ahern</a> in Dublin and Tony Blair in London that some Republicans remain defiantly outside any tent of "inclusion" and "reconciliation" they can construct. </p> <p>If dissident IRA members are indeed responsible, this might signal the beginning of the collapse of the organisation's own edifice, which could take place quite quickly and engulf a Sinn Féin leadership that is already finding the reception has got much <a href= target=_blank>colder</a> in Dublin, Washington, and even London.</p> <p>It seems highly improbable that the attack could have been authorised by the IRA leadership. Adams and McGuinness "condemned" the killing, a toxic word they have not used since the Real IRA splinter-group committed the <a href= target=_blank>Omagh atrocity</a> in August 1998; this suggests they are serious about their denials of any responsibility (when the Provisional IRA commits a murder but won't admit it, the organisation just says it's "wrong"). And while I think the Real IRA or Continuity IRA would have claimed Donaldson's murder if they had authored it, internal Republican dissidents who had decided it was time to give up on loyalty to the leadership and "whack" the informer would have no reason to identify themselves.</p> <p>The other candidate suggested for Donaldson's <a href= target=_blank>murder</a> &#150; especially in Republican political circles, but more widely among members of the conspiracist tendency which is never short of material in Northern Ireland &#150; is the British intelligence agencies themselves. This too is unlikely, even though they have been deeply involved in some highly unsavoury incidents in Northern Ireland during the last thirty-five years. It may be a Republican conceit to imagine themselves as an Irish equivalent of the African National Congress battling the might of "British imperialism", but since the early 1990s the aim of Northern Ireland's "securocrats" (a term from South Africa's own long struggle that became a Provisional IRA favourite) has been not to crush the Provos but tame them by indulgence. </p> <p><b>A road to recovery</b></p> <p>The broader significance of Denis Donaldson's end and its aftermath is that it illuminates the condition of Northern Ireland's blocked political culture. The group <a href= target=_blank>Healing Through Remembering</a>, which specifically addressing the question of truth recovery and how best it can proceed, proposes an argument relevant to this point: that there can be no real progress until there is a general acknowledgment by all actors of their responsibilities.</p> <p>As things stand, that is completely lacking. The IRA continues to insist that the "armed struggle" was legitimate, without explaining why those who would want to sustain it now are wrong or why it had to be continued at such human cost for so long; it is presented as an inevitable response to partition but it is a response the vast majority of Irish people eschewed. </p> <p>The <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2876">Loyalists</a> insist that the sectarian crimes for which they were responsible were essentially the product of rabble-rousing speeches by Unionist politicians in the early 1970s; this doesn't explain either why most Protestants were unaffected (or alienated) by them or why these speeches had such an enduring effect in the 1980s and 1990s &#150; never mind how ordinary Catholics could at any point have been "legitimate targets". <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Robin Wilson is director of the Belfast-based think tank <a href= target=_blank>Democratic Dialogue</a></b></p> <p>Also by Robin Wilson in openDemocracy: </p> <p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2373">The end of the IRA</a>" (March 2005) </p> <p>"<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2915">Northern Ireland peace by peace</a>" <br />(October 2005)</p> <p>Democratic Dialogue&#146;s report <em>Recognition and Remembering</em> is <a href= target=_blank>here</a> </p></div><p>Britain's Labour government has apologised for the shooting dead of fourteen Catholic civil-rights demonstrators in January 1972, and (at vast expense) established the "Bloody Sunday" tribunal to establish the truth of that contested event. The British and Irish governments have also agreed to a number of inquiries into alleged collusion between elements of the state and Loyalist or Republican paramilitaries. Yet there seems no real appreciation in either government of the fundamental lack of a moral compass in dealing with paramilitaries, which has alternated over the years between repression and appeasement, in each case at the expense of the rule of law and the emergence of something akin to a normal civil society. </p> <p>In this light, and as I <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2373">argued</a> in <b>openDemocracy</b> in March 2005, it really was the McCartney sisters' campaign for the rule of law after the vicious murder of their brother by a Sinn Féin member in Belfast which brought closure to the IRA campaign, something that neither mighty state had managed to do in decades.</p> <p>There are other institutions in Northern Ireland, such as the churches and the media, which have much to gain and to contribute by facing their own responsibilities for sustaining sectarian mindsets and the associated antagonism. There are also issues of "sins of omission", which would apply to large swathes of the (particularly Protestant) middle class, who hid behind their garden fences rather than put their heads over the parapet during three decades of bitter conflict.</p> <p>Northern Ireland still has to find the spaces, places and institutions of <a href= target=_blank>dialogue</a> where its people can speak and listen honestly to each other as part of the search for a full accounting of what they have done to each other, and what they have endured, during the "long war". This profound moral as well as political dilemma will remain long after the name of Denis Donaldson is added to the melancholy roster of "lost lives". </p> </div></p> Globalisation europe institutions & government Robin Wilson Original Copyright Tue, 04 Apr 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Robin Wilson 3425 at Northern Ireland's peace by peace <p>Stephen Howe&#146;s excellent <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2885">survey</a> of &#147;Loyalism&#148; in Northern Ireland is exhaustive. Indeed, few of us who actually live here, exhausted by (literally) wall-to-wall sectarianism, would have had the energy or enthusiasm to plumb these subcultural depths to quite such a degree.</p> <p>Some observers may think there is little to know beyond the half-true stereotypes Stephen probes. In the Irish republican worldview, which has replaced old unionist supremacism with a more subtly sectarian propensity to patronise, all (non-nationalist) forms of thought among Protestants remain trivial false consciousness. Indeed, in the latest republican discursive fashion, the term &#147;unionist paramilitaries&#148; has operated to flatten out all intra-communal distinctions between politics and violence. The republican movement&#146;s physical weapons have now (almost all) <a href= target=_blank>gone</a>; the verbal ones remain well oiled. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Robin Wilson is director of the Belfast-based think tank <a href= target=_blank>Democratic Dialogue</a> </b></p> <p>He is responding to Stephen Howe&#146;s two-part openDemocracy essay &#147;Mad Dogs and Ulstermen: the crisis of Loyalism&#148;</p> <p>Part one of the essay is <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2876">here</a></p> <p>Part two is <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2885">here</a></p> <p>Also in this discussion: Graham Walker, &#147;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2910">Loyalist culture, Unionist politics: a response to Stephen Howe</a>&#148; </p> </div><p>For others, the idea that Loyalism is somehow &#147;working-class&#148; and progressive persisted for far too long. After the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994, some non-sectarian progressives saw hope in the emergent political fronts for the loyalist paramilitaries, particularly the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF&#146;s) <a href= target=_blank>Progressive Unionist Party</a>. But anyone who had read Peter Gibbon&#146;s blandly-titled but classic article in the 1977 <em><a href= target=_blank>Socialist Register</a></em>, &#147;Some basic problems of the contemporary situation&#148;, would have recognised the impossible nature of such &#147;anti-establishment&#148; proletarian unity in Northern Ireland.</p> <p>Gibbon&#146;s leftwing argument led to the same conclusion as that of the liberal political scientist John Whyte in his magisterial 1991 survey of perspectives on the conflict, <em><a href= target=_blank>Interpreting Northern Ireland</a></em>. Contrary to the republican emphasis on the British state &#150; a view which Anglocentric British leftists have tended to echo &#150; they both emphasised the internal dynamic of the conflict. Both also saw efforts to change the faultlines of that conflict from Protestant versus Catholic to class against class as utopian</p> <b>Politics beyond segregation </b></div></p> <p>The implication for any liberal-left approach to Northern Ireland is to focus on political accommodation itself. Here David Held&#146;s notion of <a href= target=_blank>cosmopolitanism</a>, a broader attempt to deal with the challenges of &#147;identity politics&#148;, is extremely helpful. By cosmopolitanism he means a value system in which each individual (not &#147;community&#148;) is treated as of equal moral worth, all individuals recognise their common humanity and the state treats impartially all competing claims. If any government since <a href= target=_blank>partition</a> had adopted such a stance, Northern Ireland&#146;s problems would have been on the way to a solution.</p> <p>This vision for Northern Ireland has quietly entered the new policy framework on &#147;community relations&#148;, published in March 2005. This document, <em><a href= target=_blank>A Shared Future</a></em>, represented the first time that any government at Stormont since 1922 has recognised that Northern Ireland is a deeply divided society and that, implicitly, this is not simply amenable to a political &#147;fix&#148; at the level of a deal between the political (now, ironically, including paramilitary) elites.</p> <p>This has obvious implications for Northern Ireland as a society. For instance, Ballynafeigh in south Belfast remains peacefully demographically mixed, while Ballysillan in north Belfast is a ghetto of the impoverished loyalist nihilism Stephen portrays. This is because local voluntary organisations and inter-denominational networks have sustained the former as an attractive, integrated neighbourhood, whereas the latter embodies the anomie of decline where <a href= target=_blank>paramilitarism</a> offers the only &#147;order&#148; there is. </p> <p>The future clearly lies with the former social model rather than the latter. And if segregation has been a disturbing and continuing trend in Northern Ireland, it is worth stressing that socio-economic and politico-cultural changes have left the &#147;Loyalist&#148; section of the male-manual working class, on which Stephen&#146;s essay focuses, a very small social fraction indeed. The demise of the paramilitary political wings on that side is testimony to the very fact that the great majority of Protestants, out of a combination of good liberal politics and bad social snobbery, see them as thugs and corner-boys.</p> <p>But the cosmopolitan vision also has implications for what sort of constitutional accommodation will work. New Labour heavily spun the <a href= target=_blank>1998 Belfast agreement</a> as having &#147;solved&#148; Northern Ireland&#146;s constitutional conflict. It did nothing of the sort &#150; it merely repeated what earlier &#147;breakthroughs&#148; had done (like the <a href= target=_blank>Northern Ireland Constitution Act of 1973</a> which ushered in short-lived &#147;power-sharing&#148;): namely, setting competing unionist and nationalist claims side by side, and creating a method (a simple-majority referendum) for arbitrating between them. The failed border-poll experiment of 1973 should have warned the architects that this was the best formula for a destabilising sectarian headcount.</p> <p>The 1998 agreement will not be revived on the basis of a <em>politique du pire</em> (&#147;politics of making things worse&#148;) deal between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party. The sectarian blame-game that substitutes for politics in Northern Ireland is even more alive now than when Peter Gibbon and John Whyte wrote their classic analyses. But there is a basis for what can in shorthand terms be called a &#147;both-and&#148;, rather than an &#147;either/or&#148;, resolution of Northern Ireland&#146;s constitutional conundrum &#150; one impossible to conceive in earlier decades.</p> <p><b>A cosmopolitan future</b></p> <p>This is also where the concept of modernisation, whose relevance to Ireland Stephen ably discusses, comes in. In a four-dimensional political context &#150; <a href= target=_blank>post-1997 devolution</a> across the United Kingdom, prolonged (if contested) European integration, intensified globalisation, allied to the economic take-off and social &#147;liberal agenda&#148; in the Republic of Ireland &#150; it becomes perfectly conceivable to imagine the citizens of Northern Ireland eventually sharing a cosmopolitan political space. </p> <p>This polity could both be defined as a devolved region of the UK (where its competences, as with Scotland, would be extensive but constrained) and at the same time allocated a power of general competence in its dealings with the republic (where no such constraints would apply). For decades, the student movement in the region &#150; which one would imagine would contain its most volatile political elements &#150; has operated happily on a similar basis.</p> <p>This would be a <em>settlement</em>, rather than an agreement, with three beneficial effects. </p> <p>First, it would delegitimise the ethno-nationalist political forces on both sides - whose projects would be thereby rendered literally meaningless &#150; in favour of the more civic-minded and progressive. </p> <p>Second, it would remove from the scene republican irredentism (rejected as obsolete by most actually existing Irish people, as the small and very tasteless &#147;<a href= target=_blank>Make Partition History</a>&#148; march in Dublin on 24 September demonstrated) and the cultivated sense of threat in which loyalists self-pityingly indulge. </p> <p>Third, it would thus consign to the <a href= target=_blank>Ulster Museum</a>, if not to the dustbin of history, the display of memorabilia that Stephen Howe has so carefully curated.</p> democracy & power europe politics of protest Robin Wilson Original Copyright Tue, 11 Oct 2005 23:00:00 +0000 Robin Wilson 2915 at The end of the IRA <p>The Irish novelist John Banville once reviewed a book of <a href= target=_blank>short stories</a> by Gerry Adams for the <em>Irish Times</em>. They contained, he wrote, the sentimentality of every totalitarian. </p> <p>Gerry Adams and his comrade-in-arms Martin McGuinness run the &#147;Republican movement&#148;&#150; the Irish Republican Army (<a href= target=_blank>IRA</a>) and its electoral arm Sinn Féin &#150; as a Leninist, politico-military machine. They emerged in the early 1970s in <a href= target=_blank>Belfast and Derry</a> respectively, in the wake of the collapse of the one-party Unionist <em>ancien regime</em> (itself a polity foreign to democratic norms) and a republican split between &#147;Officials&#148; and &#147;Provisionals&#148;. Adams and McGuinness, leaders of the majority &#147;Provisional&#148; wing, have dominated the movement for decades.</p> <p>As the not unsympathetic observer Kevin Toolis put it (<em>Times</em>, <a href=,,1072-599823,00.html target=_blank>5 March 2003</a>): <blockquote>&#147;Sinn Fein is a democratic party in the same way as the &#145;democratic centralist&#146; communist parties of the Soviet bloc were democratic. Adams and McGuinness are part of the same tiny hermetic leadership elite that has ruled the IRA since the early 1970s. They fire and call the shots.&#148;</blockquote></p> <p>Individually, they have been linked to some of the most ruthless killings of the Northern Ireland &#147;troubles&#148;. In his authoritative <a href= target=_blank><em>A Secret History of the IRA</em></a>, Ed Moloney claims that Adams set up two secret cells to carry out special operations on behalf of the IRA&#146;s Belfast brigade. One of these units was responsible for the &#147;disappearing&#148; in 1972 of Jean McConville, a mother of ten from the city&#146;s Divis Flats. <a href= target=_blank>McConville</a>, whom the IRA decided was an informer, was taken to a beach on the southern, Republic of Ireland side of the border, shot in the back of the head and buried in a shallow grave. Her remains were discovered recently by accident. Moloney reports that it would be inconceivable that the order for this killing would not have been given without Adams&#146;s knowledge &#150; if he did not issue it himself. </p> <p>According to Moloney, McGuinness was &#147;northern commander&#148; of the IRA in 1990 when command staff won the approval of its executive body, the &#147;army council&#148; (which he chaired and on which Adams sat), for the use of the &#147;human bomb&#148; tactic. While his family was held hostage, <a href= target=_blank>Patsy Gillespie</a> of Derry was forced to drive a car loaded with 500 kilogrammes of explosives to a border checkpoint, where the bomb was detonated by remote control. Gillespie and five soldiers were blown to pieces. </p> <p>For Adams and <a href= target=_blank>McGuinness</a>, politics was an extension of militarism. Just as the ideologues in the Soviet east realised that appropriating the language of &#147;peace&#148; could win them well-meaning, if naïve, allies in the west during the cold war, the two republican leaders developed a &#147;peace strategy&#148; which they have purveyed to a wider public since the early 1990s. Many believed, as many had hoped of Leninist apparatchiks, that engagement would lead them to adopting democratic norms. &#147;Useful idiots&#148;, as Lenin is <a href= target=_blank>supposed</a> to have said.</p> <p><b>Enter the McCartney sisters</b></p> <p>The strategy served Adams and McGuinness well, bringing them <a href= target=_blank>electoral</a> rewards, political office in Northern Ireland&#146;s devolved government (now suspended), and the appearance of respectability (a welcome by leaders in Washington and London). Now, at last, it is all threatening to blow apart &#150; and, in a delicious irony, from inside their own &#147;community&#148;.</p> <p>A huge, &pound;26.5 million <a href= target=_blank>raid</a> on the Northern Bank on 21 December 2004, almost certainly the work of the IRA, had already put the movement&#146;s refusal to renounce violence and criminality under the spotlight. With it, the hope that a <a href= target=_blank>Gramscian</a> <em>transformismo</em> would neuter Provisionalism finally ran into the sand.</p> <p>But the dam truly broke in the aftermath of a chilling incident the following month, when IRA members in a Belfast bar brutally murdered <a href= target=_blank>Robert McCartney</a>). His neck slit and his stomach opened, McCartney was left (with a friend who luckily survived) to bleed to death in the street, while IRA members inside intimidated some seventy witnesses and forensically cleaned the premises. </p> <p>For thirty years the leadership of the IRA has managed to withstand everything &#150; from internment without trial to <a href= target=_blank>Bloody Sunday</a> to the blandishments of Tony Blair &#150; the British state has thrown at it. Now, a vigorous campaign for justice by a group of five women from a tiny Catholic <a href= target=_blank>ghetto</a> in east Belfast, Robert McCartney&#146;s sisters, has the seven men of the IRA army council running around like headless chickens. In a second wonderful irony, their leading member Paula McCartney is a women&#146;s studies student.</p> <p>In a metaphorical sense, it is like the falling of the Berlin wall, when all the old political strategies became redundant overnight and the exponents of &#147;newspeak&#148; start to look shabby and discredited. Yet Blair (something of an expert in newspeak himself) continues to engage with Adams and McGuinness, via his private emissary Jonathan Powell, as if nothing had happened. </p> <p>The government in Dublin, especially the justice minister <a href= target=_blank>Michael McDowell</a>, has adopted a much stiffer, don&#146;t-call-us-we&#146;ll-call-you, stance. The republican leaders, previously feted as peacemakers and statesmen, are finding doors <a href= target=_blank>slamming</a> in their faces in Washington, even amidst the St Patrick&#146;s Day schmaltz and shamrockry. The hitherto Sinn Féin-friendly <em>Guardian</em> has scuttled sharply away from its fellow-travelling op-ed pages; the <em>Boston Globe</em> has compared the IRA to the Mafia; and the republicans&#146; strongest Congressional supporters, <a href= target=_blank>Peter King</a> and Edward Kennedy, have advocated the IRA&#146;s disbandment. In a third spectacular irony, it is the McCartney sisters (Paula, Catherine, Gemma, Claire and Donna), as well as Robert McCartney&#146;s fiancée Bridgeen Hagans who are being <a href= target=_blank>welcomed</a> to the White House while Adams is frozen out.</p> <p>The British prime minister has meanwhile infuriated Sinn Féin&#146;s main competitor for the Catholic vote in Northern Ireland, the Social Democratic and Labour Party&#146;s <a href= target=_blank>Mark Durkan</a>, by observing on more than one occasion that his party&#146;s trouble is that it doesn&#146;t have any guns. By falling into the trap of cultivating what the ethnic-conflict expert <a href= target=_blank>Donald Horowitz</a> calls an &#147;auction mentality&#148;, Blair&#146;s amoral offers of sequential concessions to the highest bidder has emboldened not only Adams but still more that old Protestant reactionary warhorse, Ian Paisley. </p> <p>Tony Blair may have felt &#147;<a href= target=_blank>the hand of history</a>&#148; on him when he presided over the historic Belfast agreement in 1998. But he has shown no awareness of the polarising pitfalls (following <a href= target=_blank>Lloyd George</a>&#146;s Irish practice) of speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Tragically, in physical terms, Northern Ireland does not now have just one <em>Antifaschistischer Schutzwall</em>: it has <em>thirty-seven</em> &#147;<a href= target=_blank>peace walls</a>&#148; or similar barriers at Catholic-Protestant interfaces.</p> <p>But what has really caught the attention of the international media, otherwise bored with a repetitive sectarian story, has been the way the McCartney sisters&#146; simple clarion-call for justice has cut through all the ideological obfuscations (a French journalist friend once likened talking to Adams with interviewing the Vietnamese war hero General Giap, with his <em>langue du bois</em>). Now a rattled McGuinness has warned the sisters against engaging in party politics (there have been suggestions they might stand against <a href= target=_blank>Sinn Féin</a> candidates), reflecting his own monopolistic conception of it.</p> <p>The sisters want to be sure that witnesses to their brother&#146;s murder can, without the widespread intimidation that has occurred since, go to the police and give their evidence in court. Paramilitaries, by contrast, see themselves as judge, jury and executioner &#150; as revealed by the decidedly Orwellian five-hour exchange between IRA representatives and the McCartney sisters in which the former, magnanimously as they appear to have thought, suggested they would kill the killers. The republicans&#146; refusal to endorse the reformed <a href= target=_blank>Police Service of Northern Ireland</a> &#150; ironically, the only post-agreement institution left unshaken - meanwhile looks increasingly synthetic.</p> <p>Northern Ireland&#146;s devolved institutions are not going to be restored any time soon to a society more bitterly divided than ever. But there can no longer be an acceptance that its citizens &#150; British or Irish by choice &#150; should suffer a lesser right to justice by virtue simply of living there. The days when a Northern Ireland secretary (<a href= target=_blank>Mo Mowlam</a>) could dismiss the IRA killing of a Catholic civilian as &#147;internal housekeeping&#148; must surely now be over.</p> Conflict conflicts europe democracy & terror Robin Wilson Creative Commons normal Wed, 16 Mar 2005 00:00:00 +0000 Robin Wilson 2373 at