Team Syntegrity https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/23945/all cached version 16/10/2018 14:57:31 en Fireworks nights https://www.opendemocracy.net/rhiannon-white-rosemary-bechler/fireworks-nights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“There feels like a massive push towards ‘diversifying’ the arts. It makes me feel uncomfortable when at the centre of that push we find mainly white, middle class people.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/artisjust_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/artisjust_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Art is just a word. Common Wealth. Jon Poutney. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (R): Rhiannon, we are catching up with participants in our Team Syntegrity ‘non-hierarchical conference’ in Barcelona last June, to see what impact it had. It's great to be back in touch. Could we start with some background on your work and what kind of process of change most interests you?&nbsp; </em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon White (Rhiannon): </strong>I grew up on a housing estate in Cardiff and we didn’t have a theatre near where I lived. When I was a kid I loved making theatre, telling stories and bringing people together. When I did eventually go into the theatre, it felt pretty alien, judgmental and a bit bourgeois! Not a place where kids from a council estate should be! I made it my mission in life to shake it up a bit, and create theatre where people could feel like it belonged to them. Along with Evie Manning I set up <a href="http://commonwealththeatre.co.uk/">Common Wealth.</a> There were loads of empty buildings in Bristol where we lived and we would squat those empty buildings and make massive shows in them. We took theatre outside of ‘the theatre’. </p> <p>We made a show about domestic abuse and we made it on a street full of people, <a href="https://witness.theguardian.com/assignment/51e01e41e4b019f8d7037ae0/428179">inside a house</a>. The house where we held the performance had neighbours either side. That show showed us that people have a real appetite for theatre regardless of where they come from. One woman in her fifties came to our show four times, and she had never previously been to the theatre. When we heard about that, we realised that was what we felt like when we came together because we wanted to make theatre. We wanted to share that experience, but on a massive scale. </p> <p>So basically we set ourselves up as a theatre company and decided that we wanted to make works for people who might think theatre is not for them. Our work isn’t just theatre: it includes visual arts, and music and is multidisciplinary.</p> <p>We started by thinking about the buildings that people might go to at the heart of any community. Places where you have that infrastructure around you, your audiences around you, and people can pop in and see what rehearsals are going on. Being close to people means that they can help inform the piece, which is essential, because our work is all about people and place and you have to get that context right otherwise it doesn’t mean anything. It has to be rooted in the truth of that place.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 20.19.47.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 20.19.47.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Rhiannon debriefing on a Team Syntegrity session on Safe Spaces. Cameron Thibos, videographer.</span></span></span>So far, we have worked in houses; warehouses; we have worked in hospitals; boxing gyms; City Hall. The last show, ‘We’re still here’, was inside an old industrial warehouse over a hundred metres long that used to be an old tinworks, so we had that industrial history already implicit in the production. </p><p>We started work on ‘<a href="https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/were-still-here">We’re Still Here’</a> two years ago in Merthyr Tydfil in the south Wales valleys. We began with the idea of working class leaders. Who are they? Where have they gone? Why aren’t they here? When are they coming back? Merthyr was the first place not just in the UK but apparently in the world where the red flag was raised! And it has this incredible socialist history of working class martyrs and uprisings. Keir Hardy was MP there. Down the road, Aneurin Bevan who created the NHS. The Chartists were really close by. So it has this whole public radical history that all the kids know about, it’s in their bones. </p> <p>The process was really important. We started there but it felt like something of the past, not something for the future, and our work is always situated in the present and about how we can push the present forward. So at the time we were working on it in Merthyr, the Port Talbot steelworks kicked off and we both thought, ”Wow, that’s where we should be. Because that’s where our working class leaders are and if Hardy was alive today I’m sure he’d be standing with them! “ </p> <p>So we went down there and met the branch chair of the <a href="https://community-tu.org/">Community Union</a>, Gary Keogh, and I’ve never met anyone like him in my life, someone who is a true, selfless socialist. The way he speaks about the world! We were talking about the gap between rich and poor and he said, “ I wouldn’t want to live like them and they couldn’t live like us.” So he is a poet and a political poet at that. </p> <p>He was massively involved in the campaign and when we met him he was exhausted. He’d been to Mumbai, and watched the pensions disappear. He was so generous with his time and told us from a very personal perspective what impact it had on him and his family and how he felt, and how he wanted it to be different for the boys and all the complexities of that came through from Gary. We didn’t just meet Gary: we met loads of steelworkers, people who worked for Tata Steel, workers’ wives, I met Gary’s son, we talked to children, all the people involved in the campaign or on the fringes of the campaign. So we built up a picture of Port Talbot, and the playwright took all the material away and devised a play based on this real-life testimony.</p> <p>The way we always operate is that through our initial process we invite people to visit us. Our doors are open: so steelworkers would come in in their break, or Gary would bring a group of union guys, and they would sit there and we’d show them a little bit and they’d say, “No it didn’t happen like that. That’s a little bit wrong” or point out that someone who didn’t come from Port Talbot would have to have that explained. So we’d rewrite. </p> <p>We had a community cast of around 14 people who had never performed before. A lot of them had worked directly for Tata Steel, and some had lost their jobs through all the upheaval that was going on. They would come in in the evening and we would just give them a couple of scenes. They would say, “Someone from Port Talbot wouldn’t say that: they’d say this…” and rewrite it for us. So they all became script consultants. There was one hunting scene for example, called ‘To Kill an Animal’, a symbolic scene asking the question, who is being hunted and who is the hunter? When one steel worker who went hunting came in, he criticised that piece of the text, “No, that’s not how you kill an animal.” So he worked with the actor, step by step, explaining how you gut and skin an animal. The play becomes more and more precise.</p> <p><em>R: That’s very Brechtian, if I may say so!</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon:</strong> I hope so, I hope he’s watching over me! The main thing about this kind of theatre is how many local people came. I met someone the other day whose dad came along to see it, but was very dubious beforehand and ended up coming three times. That’s who we are doing it for, because in Port Talbot there isn’t really a theatre – apart from the odd panto – so for the people involved this is a moment in time where they come together and feel really powerful, because they are sharing their experience directly and people are listening. That’s powerful in itself, because when does that ever happen!? </p> <p>For the audience, it is cathartic. I always feel that theatre should be like those fireworks nights when you are all together in a big crowd and you don’t know anyone but you are all from different places and watching something beautiful. It should be like that coming together, and I think there is a lot of power when people are together experiencing something, especially something political, that is full of complexity and that somehow disrupts things. I think art should be disruptive.</p> <p><em>R: Is it also, as you say, obliged to be beautiful in its own way?</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon:</strong> Not always beautiful. But I do want it to be visually stunning. Something that stays with you. So in ‘We’re still here’, we created a world that was a little bit like the film set in Tarkovsky’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB7jVTut3-g">‘Stalker’</a> – do you know it? – there is a lot of water and plants growing in industrial ground like they do. So we created a set with a tree inside our warehouse, water in the background, and a rock where the real steelworker sat to talk about losing his job. We wanted that to be a longlasting image. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Artisforboris_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Artisforboris_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Artisforboris. Common Wealth/Jon Poutney. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>R: Has that run now finished? Don’t you want to do it in other places?</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon:</strong> It finished at the end of October. Yes – the problem is that it was a really massive show, with an overall cast of 30 and a stage management team of around 20, so it’s a massive undertaking to get it up again. But interestingly, what has happened since is that we had a film made by Film Cymru, about the involvement of the local people.&nbsp; So we had a screening of that and we all came together, even the thirteen year olds who were involved – everyone is still in touch! Whenever something happens, especially if it is a political development, like the leak in the steel factory that happened yesterday, I’m in the loop and know immediately what is going on on the ground. Also we had quite a lot of high profile people attending the show, from Michael Sheen, who wanted to chat to us afterwards about Port Talbot and the future of art there, to Stephen Kinnock and Leanne Wood who cried for half an hour afterwards! That was brilliant – it felt like there was a bit of a momentum kicking off. You can catch a glimpse here on the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2szZD8UIPs">audience feedback link</a>. </p><p><em>R: Did you talk about this experience at The World Transformed session on <a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/political-artists-in-the-age-of-the-social-movement/">The Role of the Political Artist </a>you were involved in, in the series organised by Ash Ghadiali? I tried to get in, but it was packed out!</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon: </strong>Yes, it was an intense time for me, because I came to the Labour Party conference in Brighton by train straight from Port Talbot, and the day after was our press night<span>.</span> It was crazy being on the stage next to Low Key and Ken Loach – Ken Loach has been a mega inspiration for me, so to be on stage with him was so surreal and an absolute privilege. My absolute hero! </p> <p>Lowkey and Barby Asante talked about Grenfell – Lowkey talked about ‘the grenfellisation of people’ and how after they died, we need to remember more about them than the last minutes of their lives. I think you can apply that to all situations and all lives. Me and Ken brought an outside London perspective into the room: it worked well. The room felt quite charged: it was a powerful panel. That’s what we need. We need to get the kind of people I’m working with into these rooms, and the sorts of energies that are there when they get together.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0249_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0249_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rhiannon in the 'difficult discussion.' Cameron Thibos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>R: That reminds me of what you said last June after an entire day when you and Emma didn’t really say anything in the ‘Transforming the Left’ discussion in the Team Syntegrity in Barcelona. Joe Truss was facilitating and I think he had the good idea of going round the table to ask people what they were really invested in, in that discussion…</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon:</strong> I felt out of my depth in that group, particularly the type of language being used: I couldn’t communicate. The reason why I have always been attracted to the left is because I have always imagined it to be an inclusive space where people can open up freely and talk about their own experiences. In that group, that wasn’t the case for the first two days. But when the power relations going on around that table were identified, and someone noticed that and said what they felt – we were freed up. It made me feel like it wasn’t just me.</p><p>And then instead of trying to join in the very academic debate going on between the three guys at the level of what seemed to me to be an abstract overview, Emma and I were able to talk from a more personal perspective. I learned a lot from <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future">Emma</a>. </p><p><em>R: So Rhiannon – what happens next for Common Wealth?</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon:</strong> I have been writing <a href="https://www.cultureisordinary.co.uk/">a report on art and social class</a> for the Arts, Humanities and Research Council, with <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJy8qIFbcww">a video</a>. </p> <p>Being working class and working within the arts has always been a bit of a tension for me. I see few people who share my background and that’s problematic when you think of the stories that artists are sharing and who gets to tell them. I wanted to write something that captured the feeling in the arts world amongst other working class artists, the struggle, the frustration and the anger that can come from mis-representation or to be honest no representation at all. </p> <p>At present there feels like a massive push towards ‘diversifying’ the arts. It makes me feel uncomfortable when at the centre of that push we find mainly white, middle class people. I’m interested in art as a form of expression – and how we continue to encourage working class voices into it is a minefield especially as the pathways are limited. </p> <p>As part of the report we created a show that we staged at Chapter as part of Cardiff University’s social science festival. It was called ‘Class, the elephant in the room.’ </p> <p>I worked with four very talented working class actors. We used the research as a starting point and created a performance that shared experience of how working class people feel within the arts world. <a href="http://www.creativecase.org.uk/heads-up-hassan-Mahamdallie">Hassan Mahamdallie</a> hosted a debate after the show. </p> <p>It was provocative: we had a good debate with Hassan Mahamdallie.&nbsp; The question of representation in the arts and who gets to make art is a big debate at the moment – we should all be talking about it. </p> <p><em>R: Any last thoughts on the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a>?</em></p> <p><strong>Rhiannon:</strong> I was writing this morning before we spoke, and actually that time we spent in Barcelona was genuinely one of the best things that happened in 2017. Just thinking on that level opened my mind so much to those bigger questions and conversations. Meeting so many brilliant people who I am still in touch with, like <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">Ash</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/aya-haidar-rosemary-bechler/safe-spaces-bagpipes-and-houmous">Aya,</a> made it a really special time. </p> <p>So thank you for that. That’s the first thing.</p> <p>I just want to be involved in any way I can be to support you guys and the ongoing conversation. Whatever you need from me. I really enjoyed the learning. That hard time I had around that discussion table was probably my deepest learning. And it’s great that I recognise that and can take that with me. It was like a year’s worth of development in three bloody days! More of that would be great!</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0204_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0204_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Market place of ideas, Team Syntegrity 2017. Cameron Thibos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></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>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></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="/rhiannon-white/future-of-civil-society-is-dependent-on-space">The future of civil society is dependent on space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future">Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/aya-haidar-rosemary-bechler/safe-spaces-bagpipes-and-houmous">Safe spaces, bagpipes and houmous </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler-luthfur-ullah/meeting-lofa">Meeting Lofa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/armine-ishkanian/team-syntegrity-2017-edging-towards-more-liveable-world">Team Syntegrity 2017: edging towards a more liveable world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/deirdre-o-neill-mike-wayne/putting-class-back-onto-uks-equality-agenda">Putting class back onto the UK&#039;s equality agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/dermot-feenan/is-bbc-hideously-middle-class">Is the BBC hideously middle class?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/lydia-graystone/radio-4-and-social-class-exclusive-ourbeeb-report">Radio 4 and social class: exclusive ourBeeb report</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 Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Rhiannon White Wed, 17 Jan 2018 18:49:08 +0000 Rhiannon White and Rosemary Bechler 115700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fighting in the left corner https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-chessum-rosemary-bechler/fighting-in-left-corner <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“We are an organization with one staff member, and a limited amount of energy because nobody in the political and activist left wants to talk about Brexit! “</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0082_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0082_preview.jpeg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>MIchael in thought in the market place for ideas, Team Syntegrity 2017, Barcelona.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (R): We are keeping track of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process">Team Syntegrity process</a> and its impact, and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">participants </a>seem quite happy to do this. In your case, Michael, I have an added reason for a catch-up, because I felt guilty as your host as well as a facilitator of the event – not something that one normally combines! – that I didn’t register the algorithm preventing you from participating in the ‘<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/luis-mart-n-noam-titelman-emma-avil-s-andreas-karitzis-rhiannon-white/transform-and-rebuild-left">transforming and rebuilding the left’</a> discussion – which is where so much of your expertise in various fields lies.</em></p> <p><em>I should have done something about the fact that you weren’t really able to contribute as you would have wished. </em></p> <p><em>So, well, why don’t we give you the opportunity to talk through what you were thinking about, and update us on that as we approach the end of 2017. We can just feed it back into the post-event stream of consciousness that we are tracking! Does that make sense?</em></p> <p><strong>Michael Chessum (M):&nbsp; </strong>Sure! It wasn’t that big a deal. I had a great time!&nbsp; I don’t normally think of myself as a leftist dogmatist but surrounded by pirate people, I found myself fighting in the left corner pretty well throughout. </p> <p>So what have I been up to? Well, I still work in ‘<a href="https://en-gb.facebook.com/AnotherEuropeIsPossible/">Another Europe is possible</a>’.&nbsp; Since the days of the radical Remain campaign, we have been grant-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and I am fully-funded, working in Global Justice Now, just around the corner. </p> <p>For the last year our main priority has been the Progressive Deal for Europe, based on our six progressive reasons for EU membership which gives you a series of flashpoints to fight over: workers’ rights, environmental protection, free movement, human rights, science and research funding and Erasmus. </p> <p>Free movement and migration is the main controversy that engages us. But what we are doing now is pivoting towards the democratic process as such. So our remit is these six elements, plus democracy and the process. This is because of the Withdrawal Bill, but also because of the need to review strategy around a possible call for a new referendum on the terms of any final deal, including an option to remain. </p> <p>The question is how we do that? How do we communicate such options in a way that isn’t totally toxic.</p> <p><em>R: Why did the <a href="https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal.html">Withdrawal Bill</a> elicit this change of tack?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> Well, the Bill as currently constituted is the biggest power grab by the political executive in modern British political history.&nbsp; It takes hundreds of EU laws, claiming merely to be doing the admin for the Brexit transfer, but in the process in fact gives important powers to the executive to strip out major rights and protections, without going through a vote in parliament. <span class="mag-quote-center">The Bill as currently constituted is the biggest power grab by the political executive in modern British political history.</span></p> <p><em>R: Do we have a list now of what they are keenest to strip out?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> Sort of. A lot of them are very up front. What came up this week, for instance, was the Fundamental Charter of Human Rights, which they very forthrightly insist is ‘coming out’. We lost the vote on that one, including all the material on digital rights and privacy for example, in an extraordinary moment of spinelessness on the part of the Tory rebels. </p> <p>Labour forwarded an amendment to keep the Fundamental Charter on the books. Dominic Grieve, Tory backbencher, leading his band of rebels, puts forward an identical amendment.&nbsp; The Tory Minister gets up and says, “ Well I have heard Dominic Grieve’s position and would like to assure him that I am producing a report on this and will be looking into this again”… &nbsp;and so Grieve withdraws his amendment and then leads his Tory rebels to vote against Labour’s amendment which was lost by ten votes ! So Grieve took the whip. You have to hope there has been some sort of backstage deal because together we could have won on the Charter. </p> <p>It was one of those moments when as a leftist you can only rely on the House of Lords, like the civil rights campaigns of the Blair years, where the Lords were again the only recourse. &nbsp;Because that’s where it all goes next. They will then kick it back. The thing that they will do is put the Charter back in, and the Government could give way then in that ping pong period. But what is not happening is any kind of ‘cross-party alliance’. Ken Clarke <em>is</em> the cross-party alliance. He is the only Tory who is consistent in voting with the opposition. The rest of them are totally solid. </p> <p>The Opposition is on the whole solidly united on this terrain, except for the bigger issues in the second and third readings when Frank Field and Kate Hoey, who are pro-Brexit, come out in favour of the Government, which makes things more difficult. <span class="mag-quote-center">Ken Clarke <em>is</em> the cross-party alliance.</span></p> <p>So we are forced to think about democratic process under these circumstances because this is the most important and dangerous piece of legislation that has faced the country in a long, long time. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0081_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0081_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The political left, moreover, isn’t mobilized around this at all. This has been a huge missed opportunity for them. Because if we had managed to popularize this democratic cause against the power-grab, even with one of those boring old traditional rallies and marches in Central London, we could have brought popular pressure to bear and at least made the Government think twice about a lot of these things. Especially given the very weak parliamentary position the Government is in. </p><p>We have missed a trick on this precisely because it is about process, and the left has never known how to talk about democratic process very well at all. This is why even in Corbyn’s platform and movement, despite it being very radical and popular, there is nothing in there about federalism, democratic electoral reform, the crisis of the British state as such. None of that is in there. For the same reason, the political left is not focused on this seminal power challenge. <span class="mag-quote-center">The left has never known how to talk about democratic process very well at all.</span></p> <p><em>R. Has Momentum and its very creative <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuOT5RGdD5g">World Transformed festival</a> which accompanies Labour party conferences nowadays made no difference in this area – because surely wherever ordinary people are invited to have a voice, that is where democratic process begins to matter!? I was disappointed to see Momentum close itself to non-members of the Labour party, for example. Doesn’t that constrain Momentum’s true potential? </em></p> <p><strong>M.</strong> I don’t think Momentum has missed its chance. What you had in Momentum when I ended up ceasing to be on its steering committee in January this year, was two competing functions. There is the social movement, facing society, and engaged in community activism, and the disciplined party faction. The first function is quasi-democratic, but it is a very messy process and can be very unpleasant too. On the other hand, you have this very disciplined party machinery which is essentially top down. </p> <p>So that dual life played out in the initial leadership campaign for Corbyn which produced Momentum. Momentum changed into the second leadership campaign, and then changed back into being Momentum, and that dual life has always been there. But Jon Lansman’s understanding of the need for a very well run, top down effective campaign – very effective at what they do, winning the internal elections, mobilizing for general elections – has essentially won out for now.&nbsp; What it isn’t any more is a pluralistic, bottom-up, grass roots organization. The local groups have no official say. </p> <p>Some people think that was what Momentum always should have been. For others, their position is determined by factional politics. So announcing that Momentum would henceforth be Labour members only was ensuring that whoever was expelled from the Labour party – at the time it was the organized far left who were internal opponents of Lansman and the current leadership&nbsp; grouping who were getting expelled – would be prevented from taking it over. Moreover, Momentum at the time was also deciding to ‘seek affiliation to the Labour Party’, which was easier if you went down that road of ‘Labour members only’. </p> <p>But I agree, I do think the decision to exclude non-members was a mistake, because effectively it takes us backwards by several steps. The British Left has been through a collapse of British Labour Party membership, the near death of the official labour movement under Thatcher and then the hollowing out of what’s left of the Labour Party under Blair. </p> <p>Suddenly, almost from the outside, but relying on party activists who had been around for a long time – people like Lansman who did good work, together with Corbyn and McDonnell – formed a base from which the left on the outside could spring to life inside a transforming party. Unfortunately that is not the narrative which Momentum’s current leadership has of its own history. For them, this is labour values proving themselves and coming true again. So we are moving back, historically, in terms of where this surge has come from. </p> <p><em>R. But if Momentum can’t reach outwards, how will it build its movement? Isn’t this frustratingly self-defeating?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> It will begin to reach outwards more again. If you think about it, so far there has been the leadership campaign, setting up Momentum, and then from early 2016, in short order, waves of rebellion, the referendum, another leadership election, internal warfare, 2017 and the e-mail coup in which all the structures were abolished, and then an election called in May. So there has been no room to breathe thus far. </p> <p>But they are recruiting staff as I understand it, to campaign around issues, not just around elections. Even at the grassroots of the Labour left, though, people are more party oriented than they were a year ago, and a lot of that has to do with what they learned from the polarising second leadership election, which hardened everybody against the Parliamentary Labour Party and against the Labour right. Everybody knew who the enemy was all of a sudden and was going to make sure they beat them in their local CLP. That was it. <span class="mag-quote-center">Everybody knew who the enemy was all of a sudden and was going to make sure they beat them in their local CLP.</span></p> <p>But one way or another, those Momentum outreach campaigns are going to become essential. Either there will be a bit of let up, now, and we have to face all those cuts on a local level which are still under way, so we have to become active around that defence. Or there will be another general election… and Momentum will become crucial for reaching out.</p> <p>The big problem is that the strategy of that disciplined party faction is always going to be vesting control in the party leadership: ”what we need to do is get behind the party leadership and make sure we get a Labour Government.” There is very little intellectual engagement in that strategy – maybe taking a long hard look at Greece or Chile, or any example we have of a serious leftwing government&nbsp; gaining power under contemporary global conditions, and what happens to them, either in terms of being forced out, or in terms of self-destructive compromises. So there are a lot of dangers in gathering all your agency at the top of these party mechanisms. <span class="mag-quote-center">There are a lot of dangers in gathering all your agency at the top of these party mechanisms.</span></p> <p><em>R: Very interesting. Do you mind my asking how you came to quit the steering group of Momentum last January?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> I didn’t quit. The steering group was abolished. A democratic conference was being planned for a few months after, which would have had delegates from all over the country. Lansman wrote an e-mail proposing a new constitution to the 12 people then on the steering group, which didn’t have a steering committee in it. People in the majority had already been lined up to agree. In my group, three refused to participate and one said no. But in an hour and a half, all of the democratic structures which had been evolved within Momentum were simply swept out. So was I, and I haven’t been back in the office since. </p> <p>There was a question about us setting up some new kind of process – a grassroots Momentum&nbsp;– since we totally agreed that what had happened, which we refer to as ‘the coup’, had no democratic legitimacy. But after that, there were a lot of disagreements: the debate was split between ‘delegates-based movements’ and one member one vote – I didn’t like either much and was looking for a compromise position. </p> <p>Then there were differences over whether we should split from Momentum or leave Momentum, or stay inside, and I was saying let’s fight on.&nbsp; All the different opposition elements failed to get on with each other, and what with the disagreements and no funding, it wasn’t going to go anywhere very fast.</p> <p><em>R:&nbsp; So where next for fighting for a better leftwing understanding of democratic process?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> I’m friends with a lot of the people involved in Momentum still. I just haven’t been actively involved or in the office. Lansman and I had a friendly but slightly tense conversation at party conference. But yes, I come from a background in the student movement and the labour movement and I do understand both democratic traditions. What I see inside Westminster and inside the Labour Party, is that these are systems where you do whatever you can get away with. <span class="mag-quote-center">Inside Westminster and inside the Labour Party, these are systems where you do whatever you can get away with. </span></p> <p>This isn’t just about opportunism. It is about the basic norms of our democracy. It strikes me as absurd, for example, and I only learned this recently. But there are four hundred amendments tabled to this incredibly important bit of legislation we were talking about. Who gets to choose which ones get selected for debate? The Deputy Speaker of the House, with no rights of appeal.&nbsp; When are the chosen amendments announced? On the day of each amendment debate. So you don’t know what’s coming up until the day of the decision, so – how do you run a public campaign? </p> <p>You don’t. Parliament is not about running public debates. There may be scrutinizing committees, calling for submissions of evidence that then get circulated. We have a legal expert who has written a lot of these amendments, working on these. But this is not at all the same as a public information campaign. <span class="mag-quote-center">Parliament is not about running public debates.</span></p> <p>There is then one account of what happened in Momentum which is a single story running from that totally unaccountable feature of Westminster politics, into ripple effects on all surrounding processes. You have a Westminster elite that with processes and procedures like this is deliberately walling itself off from the outside world. In that system, MPs and your parliamentary representatives have the supra-rights that accrue to parliamentary sovereignty. That infects the Labour Party via the PLP. Because what MP’s essentially have is a sense of entitlement on the basis that they have been elected by the people, and as such have the right to tell the membership of the Labour Party to ‘sod off’. </p> <p>That means that the basic norms of democracy – that you should be able to select your candidates – that you should be able to give them a steer in close consultation – that the MPs are the voice of the Labour movement in parliament rather than being some kind of professional detached entity with their own rights – that is where all the trouble starts. That infects the whole culture of the Labour party, including, subconsciously, the old Labour left, who basically have an attitude which isn’t rigorously, procedurally democratic. They too are out to win, at any cost, and by the shortest route. Things will happen at local and national level to do with conferences which are basically about people who don’t technically have the right, somehow taking it upon themselves to throw their weight around because they can get away with it. </p> <p>It goes broader than the thinness of our representative democracy: it is about the lack of process. Ultimately, it is about a lack of respect for members and a lack of respect for their collective wisdom. Whereas, in a world which had a rational approach to movement-building, I like to think that we would put that argument for the organization that I want to see to the members as a whole and trust them to know what’s best. <span class="mag-quote-center">It goes broader than the thinness of our representative democracy: it is about the lack of process.</span></p> <p><em>R. So here are two issues that I think did come up in the Team Syntegrity in Barcelona. One was ‘rational approaches’ as such: and the question of what happens to these in the emotional times in which we seem to be living – your generation seems to know much more about this than say, mine did. </em></p> <p><em>The other question is about ‘collective wisdom’.&nbsp; Under the individualizing pressures of neoliberalism, can one really rely on collective wisdom in the same ways we once did? I’m thinking of the proliferation of enemy images which is the way the right increasingly wield power. Don’t we need rich pluralist political cultures to overcome this – a commitment to much more empowering forms of self-organisation, and conscious, willed collaboration with others – not just a rubber-stamping chorus of approval ?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> Absolutely, but the need for pluralism doesn’t only correspond to the need to involve individual voices. Pluralism is the only force that enables a movement to redefine itself, adapt, to be an effective collective. Yes, people want agency and I think that getting people to think about their agency collectively is almost the first step in political consciousness, where a subculture becomes a politics. This challenge is not at all confined to working under neoliberal conditions. A sub-culture, ‘Corbynism’ for example, means that being into Labour politics suddenly becomes ‘cool’, with ‘grime nights for Corbyn’ and whatever. And this is the start. </p> <p>The leaders of ‘the Momentum coup’, by the way, are always talking about ‘the dynamism of the Sanders movement’. But ironically the Democratic Socialists, the Momentum-like movement in the US, are a delegate-based movement who run socialist education meetings, which actually I think may be a good idea. It’s really missing from Momentum and the Labour left, reading things and talking about politics and ideas…. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0030_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0030_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Yes political movements need pluralism more than ever I suppose, but I also remember the 2007 student movement with people coming out onto the streets who almost wanted agency just for themselves. And it was drawing them into that collective that made them political. &nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">It was drawing them into that collective that made them political.&nbsp; </span></p> <p><em>R. So in the absence of this basic democratic and democratizing culture, how will Another Europe is Possible make that pivot towards democracy? </em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> &nbsp;The ‘referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal with an option to remain’ has always been our policy, but it’s hugely difficult! We refer to this as ‘the Rotdwor’ problem, which is an unpronounceable acronym using the first letters of that phrase to sum up rather well the communications challenge involved! </p> <p>Especially if it is accompanied by what we refer to as ‘the blue problem’ – that many people campaigning for Remain seem to think that waving EU flags and singing Ode to Joy at random passers by is enough to win over the swing voters – not true. (I couldn’t help thinking that if all the people marching on the March for Europe had thought to do this before the referendum, that might have been more useful!) </p> <p>And then there is the Establishment problem that Alistair Campbell believes he is a good face for the movement – also not true.</p> <p>So this is probably our main demand and how do we articulate it? <span class="mag-quote-center">Then there is the Establishment problem that Alistair Campbell believes he is a good face for the movement – also not true.</span></p> <p>‘Free movement’ is the other big issue campaign, but that is very much a principled argument to be had within the labour movement and amongst progressives about migration and what we think about it.</p> <p>On the referendum, it is making a very reasonable democratic case to say, the British people decided by a small majority that they wanted to exit Europe. They didn’t know at the time what that meant. Now it means this. They should be allowed to decide whether that corresponds to what they wanted.</p> <p>That’s very rational: but you can’t just say that. I’m straw-manning one strand inside the Remain movement – but one strand of thinking is undoubtedly of the opinion that people were misled and stupid and therefore should vote again. We can’t give any traction in any way to that sort of idea. </p> <p>They are right that what would make the difference this time is that it would be a vote on a particular deal, and they are also right, in my opinion, to believe that we might win that vote overwhelmingly, and not just because the demographics would be more in our favour with those too young to vote last time coming of age and some of the older generation dying off. </p> <p>Even so, what we need is a narrative that can also bring in a more resurgent, anti-Establishment case. When people experience the downturn in the economy that’s going to result from Brexit, they won’t be saying, “Oh that’s bloody Brexit!” For most people it will just be the next chapter in a series of betrayals by the political elites. And so to have a narrative that opposes Brexit on the basis that it will cause yet more of what afflicts us, has to be an anti-Establishment argument. <span class="mag-quote-center">To have a narrative that opposes Brexit on the basis that it will cause yet more of what afflicts us, has to be an anti-Establishment argument. </span></p> <p><em>R. The right led by the far right will manage to make that case very well if we leave a vacuum there.</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> Exactly. </p> <p><em>R. Isn’t that why we need a much more profound debate about what future we want for the UK?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> We do need some kind of nationwide deliberative process, to be sure, and one basic reason for calling for a referendum is that it is not democracy if you can’t change your mind. We don’t have just one election and then that’s it for all time !&nbsp; </p> <p>The flaw with a referendum however is precisely the lack of deliberation, and so the question arises, how could we inject some of that deliberative democracy into a debate leading up to the referendum? </p> <p>From the position we are in, at the end of the day, and I hesitate to call it a single movement – but this is the problem of the Remain people in general – the considerable resources are all in the wrong places. We, for example, are an organization with one staff member, and a limited amount of energy because nobody in the political and activist left wants to talk about Brexit! </p> <p><em>R: Really?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> Well, the decision not to have a Brexit debate at Labour Party conference was the result of the Momentum leadership not wanting to put the Labour leadership in a difficult position. Something similar is going on with the free movement issue, though most CLP’s would like to talk about free movement. But the Left doesn’t want to talk about Brexit because the orthodox position is, “Why do you want to talk about this. We need to get a Labour Government in and once we do that, then we can talk about what we want for our society and all this. Let’s just get behind the leadership and push it through.” </p> <p>That’s what I was referring to when I commented on the notion of investing all of your power in the leadership – the lack of ideas, the lack of a sense of history and what has happened to governments in the past… the lack of discussion.</p> <p>So that lack of energy and of resources makes it very difficult for us to turn our minds to how best to prompt a national debate. Instead, we have got to go into the Labour Party and the progressive spectrum of parties in the UK and try and persuade people who have some influence. I was at a Lib Dem conference running a fringe event, also the SNP conference and the Greens. We need to persuade these people across the broad left any way that we can, by just doing the basic nuts and bolts of a very basic politics, that this referendum idea is the right, progressive and democratic way to go.</p> <p><em>R: Aren’t you worried about the false binarism involved in another referendum, once again forcing apart what I see as natural allies: those who wish to stay in Europe to have a broad democratic alliance that can change it fundamentally in the interests of all the European peoples, and those who want to leave in the hope that they will have more democratic control over their lives and their prosperity as a result? Hasn’t the Labour Party been rather clever at not alienating either of those two important constituencies? What I’d like to see is a richer opportunity for debate between them… don’t you agree?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> It will be important the way the new referendum is framed: of course that’s true. It needs to be drawn up along very different lines. The good thing is that the Tories are making that possible. Because they are busy making themselves ‘the party of Brexit’, and that makes it much easier to talk about Brexit as a Conservative cause. </p> <p>At ‘Another Europe’ we talk about a ‘fresh’ rather than a ‘second’ referendum, precisely because this will be a discussion about a bad deal that is on the table. Taking it down will be relatively easy. But getting the opportunity in the first place is what is going to be very difficult, the critical thing. And that is why the national conversation is not our priority.</p> <p><em>R: But isn’t it the same issue that’s at stake? Don’t you need people leaping up all over the place and saying – you’re not pushing that through without giving me a chance to ask questions and say what I think! And doesn’t that come down to the expectation at least, if not the experience, of a deeper democracy in the UK, as well as across Europe? Isn’t this what we have to push for in the next two years of&nbsp; ‘transition period’ – or longer maybe if Yanis Varoufakis is right about how long these transitions actually take?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> It is about mobilization. A lot of people are talking and thinking about this. But we need to know how we can put pressure on our political leaders to that end. Not another academic debate in the abstract about what we need. Do they want one? – that’s what we need to establish.</p> <p><em>R: So aren’t you getting pushed back into top down politics, because of the lack of time and capacity?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> Absolutely. Yes.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0058_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0058_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity, June 2017. Cameron Thibos, photographer. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>R: One of your six demands is on ‘free movement’. How did you bring about that Labour campaign, seemingly overnight?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> I and others thought that we needed <a href="https://www.labourfreemovement.org/">an organization</a> that is specifically dedicated to intervening on this issue in the Labour Party. We set it up, wrote a statement, got a few MP’s on it and a few trade union leaders. I was surprised how well it went and we got a load of press coverage. So immediately it shot out of the cannon, around three thousand people signed up. </p> <p>We went to conference and Young Labour submitted a ‘contemporary motion’ which didn’t get debated because Brexit wasn’t debated, so you had this bizarre position where the ‘Single Market’ motion, predominantly from Labour’s rightwing, and our ‘Free Movement’ motion would have ended up being composited together, which would have been strange. But it was never prioritized. </p> <p>Now we have a few irons in the fire. We need to start building up constituency-level pressure and sending speakers all over the country. I’ve been talking this over today. We particularly want to start talking about migrant workers’ struggles, European and non-European, McDonalds and the like, so that we can start to kick back against a growing tendency on the Labour left to compromise with the right on ‘free movement’ while attempting to make it look as if you are taking a leftwing position.&nbsp; </p> <p>The totally disingenuous position we come across a lot is, “No, I’ll vote against your motion to defend ‘free movement’, because why can’t we have free movement globally?” Our motion always has talked about us defending and extending free movement. But let’s defend what we have got! That’s our argument. While these guys are really covering themselves as they resort to the age-old proud tradition of throwing migrants under the bus for reasons of electoral credibility! </p> <p>The UK labour movement has a long history of this: the TUC after all lobbied for the Aliens Act, didn’t it! What you find now is people who have come out of Bennism and also around the old Communist Party who can convince themselves that free movement is just a tool to drive down wages. <span class="mag-quote-center">What you find now is people… who can convince themselves that free movement is just a tool to drive down wages.</span></p> <p>So we are going to try and kick back against all of that. We would like to get Momentum on board, because it has a huge base of young people who are internationalists. It’s not going to be easy, thanks to that new constitution, but if we can get 10% of all Momentum signatures and a referendum call and win that vote, they will be bound to help us at the next Labour party conference. </p> <p>Once again, however, we have to be careful to balance reaching out to our metropolitan, millennial choir on the one hand, and at the same time trying to reach out to a much broader layer of people, for whom migration is not an exchange of advantages but something that happens to them, without it being at all obvious that this guarantees their rights as well – people who would never consider living, studying or working in Europe, for example.</p> <p><em>R: I wonder if you felt at the Team Syntegrity in Barcelona that there was only a limited understanding among European progressives of those sorts of profound political challenges in Brexit Britain today?</em></p> <p><strong>M:</strong> There definitely is. I was at the European Alternatives meeting, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/joan-pedro-cara-ana/re-thinking-strategies-for-social-change-in-transeuropa">Transeuropa festival </a>in Madrid, and it was a very good conference. But although Britain is often referred to by leftwing Europeans as the great hope for Europe – there is not a profound understanding of Brexit or Brexit Britain, and the different deepseated ways in which neoliberalism and the Thatcher period have affected our political culture in the UK. </p> <p>And at the same time, many of them will cheer on the European Commission in the negotiations… So there is a lot to talk through!</p> <p><em>R: Well, thank you so much for this conversation, Michael, and very good luck! </em></p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3966_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3966_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em></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>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></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="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/joan-pedro-cara-ana/re-thinking-strategies-for-social-change-in-transeuropa">Re-thinking strategies for social change in Transeuropa</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill">Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wiebke-hansen-rosemary-bechler/change-in-consensual-way">Change in a consensual way</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings">The politics of feelings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler-luthfur-ullah/meeting-lofa">Meeting Lofa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future">Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future</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"> UK </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Brexit Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Michael Chessum Tue, 16 Jan 2018 16:38:33 +0000 Michael Chessum and Rosemary Bechler 115679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Team Syntegrity 2017: edging towards a more liveable world https://www.opendemocracy.net/armine-ishkanian/team-syntegrity-2017-edging-towards-more-liveable-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is it really enough to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘retweet’ each other’s posts and updates? Or do we need something more – co-produced meeting points and collaborative projects in our real/daily lives?&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 13.53.03.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 13.53.03.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Armine on her significant moments in Team Syntegrity 2017 in the final session at Artchimboldi, Barcelona.</span></span></span>In June last year I had the pleasure of being part of a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity conference</a> hosted by openDemocracy. Until the workshop, I had heard much about the process from my colleague and openDemocracy main site editor, Rosemary Bechler. The main question addressed at the conference was: “In the context of several major interconnected global crises, how can civil society help to renew our democracies to rise to the challenge?” It is a question I helped Rosemary draft and one in which I am very interested.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0068_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0068_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>What most drew me to the Team Syntegrity model was that it combines a non-hierarchical model of engagement with a well-developed system of facilitation and moderation. But before arriving in Barcelona, I couldn’t quite imagine how this system would work in practice. While I had been very much looking forward to the conference, due to some unforeseen complications, I could only join the workshop mid-way. By that time, the group had developed its own unique dynamic, so when I arrived in Barcelona two-days after the workshop had started, I felt as though I was stepping mid-way into an on-going conversation. I would catch snippets of past discussions and interactions and although the participants all welcomed me, I could not shake the feeling that I was more of an observer, rather than a full-fledged participant since I had missed out on the foundational interactions of the first days. Regardless, I could clearly see the earnest and honest discussions that were taking place and the strong connections that had been forged in such a short space of time.&nbsp; &nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0050_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0050_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The participants came from different countries across the globe (e.g., from Australia, Wales, and all points in between) and from very different walks of life (e.g., artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs). But once we were together in that space, they brought our energies together to&nbsp; address not only the main question above, but also to start generating and thinking through various sub-questions including, how do we create safe and inclusive spaces in society and how do we reinvent politics.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0044_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0044_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In an era of ever-shrinking public spaces (physical and otherwise) and growing intolerance and hate, events which bring together diverse groups of people to debate, to think, and to come up with new ideas and ways of thinking and engaging with others are important. But being a realist (some would say pessimist…), I cannot help but wonder whether and how we can sustain the discussions, connections, and momentum beyond such organised events and conferences? </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0043_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0043_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Some participants have already connected and continue to maintain links with others on social media. But these are individual connections, and is it really enough to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘retweet’ each other’s posts and updates? Or do we need something more – such as co-produced, collaborative projects or meeting points and connections in our real/daily lives? And how can we make this happen when we are so geographically dispersed and immersed in our own work and projects?&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0167_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0167_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Obviously, it is up to each of us to maintain the connections and conversations, to seek new collaborations with people we met through Team Syntegrity, and to show solidarity to one another. For me, openDemocracy is that meeting point, albeit a virtual one, through which this can happen and through which the participants of the Barcelona Team Syntegrity conference can stay in touch.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0214_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0214_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>But ultimately for the process to be meaningful and sustainable, it demands action from each of us and a willingness to continue the conversations we started in Barcelona. So, let’s check-in every once in a while into this space and find ways we can create, what my fellow Team Syntegrity member, Joan Pedro-Caranana called, “a more liveable world”.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0079_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0079_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cameron Thibos, Team Syntegrity 2017 photographer. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></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>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></a></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>Armine Ishkanian co-organised Team Syntegrity 2017 in her capacity as co-editor of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements">openMovements.</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/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/piers-purdy/team-syntegrity-emergent">Team Syntegrity emergent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aya-haidar/letter-from-recovering-team-syntegrity-2017-participant">Letter from a recovering Team Syntegrity 2017 participant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler/diary-of-organiser-team-syntegrity-2017">Diary of an organiser: Team Syntegrity 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings">The politics of feelings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rhiannon-white/future-of-civil-society-is-dependent-on-space">The future of civil society is dependent on space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wiebke-hansen-rosemary-bechler/change-in-consensual-way">Change in a consensual way</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/aya-haidar-rosemary-bechler/safe-spaces-bagpipes-and-houmous">Safe spaces, bagpipes and houmous </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill">Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler-luthfur-ullah/meeting-lofa">Meeting Lofa</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future">Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Barcelona </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 class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> Barcelona Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Team Syntegrity Armine Ishkanian Sun, 14 Jan 2018 13:32:36 +0000 Armine Ishkanian 115645 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future https://www.opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s/intercommunication-past-and-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><ins datetime="2018-01-13T12:10" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins><ins datetime="2018-01-13T12:10" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins>"Instead of talking about the Greek debt and its creditors and the European Central Bank, we decided that a people-to-people message could be much more effective to lift up their spirits."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0258_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0258_preview.jpeg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emma Aviles, second from left, in Team Syntegrity discussion, Barcelona, June 2017. Cameron Thibos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (R.): Hi Emma, we are hoping to talk to you about a combination of themes discussed at the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a> last June in Barcelona; on media and communications and on reinventing politics. I think for you, these two go pretty well hand in hand?</em></p> <p><strong>Emma Aviles (E)</strong>: Since June, I have been in contact with Ash and Richard, and also with Cecilia Milesi, your independent evaluator, but not with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">the others</a> most closely involved in those two discussions. We all have quite crazy agendas, I think, and it was good work just to get us all together there! </p> <p><em>R: I don’t know if you remember how I first encountered your work – but it was via a video interview that you did on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical Municipalism</a> with Sunny Hundal at ‘Fearless Cities’ when you were describing the people-to-people communications that had taken place during the EU crisis over Greece. You talked a lot about ‘We’ in describing that act of solidarity and I wanted to find out more about what exactly that category is for you?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> I come from the Spanish 15M movement. I am a new generation activist who feels deeply embedded into what Manuel Castells called ‘the networked society’. When I speak about a ‘we’ it is a much wider ‘we’ that I identify with, it is a ‘we’ in society that shares some common practices and exchanges ideas knowledge, and ways of mobilising.</p> <p>To be more specific this ‘we’ during the crisis would have been the 15M movement in Spain, which I lived through in Barcelona, and more specifically the <a href="http://auditoriaciudadana.net/">Citizen Debt Audit Platform (PACD)</a> which was set up as a citizen-led platform that actually extended throughout the whole country from 2012. The communication-solidarity moment you are talking about was a video we made to send a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPOUGIYzoj8">message</a> to the Greek people to show them how well we understood the situation they found themselves in, and that we knew that what was happening was not because they were ‘lazy Greeks’, but rather a scam imposed upon them by political and economic powers. We wanted to deliver a powerful and empowering message via that vehicle called ‘the emotions’ which we sometimes forget is more often the basis for politics than ‘facts’. <span class="mag-quote-center">We wanted to deliver a powerful and empowering message via that vehicle called ‘the emotions’ which we sometimes forget is more often the basis for politics than ‘facts’.</span></p> <p>Instead of talking about the Greek debt and its creditors and the European Central Bank, we just decided that a people-to-people message could be much more effective to lift up their spirits in those years of struggle. The video was made using our communications knowledge, strategy and dynamics, and it actually went hugely viral in Greece and all over the place, with newspapers calling us up and so forth!&nbsp; </p> <p>It really worked very well at the international level. We understood only too well that Europe is a terrain on which it is necessary to interact, but at the same time it is not easy to communicate across different languages and cultures. Emotional empowerment, we were right to think, is one of the better ways of doing this.</p> <p>But with regard to our home turf and the Spanish state, the whole of 15M was a big communications success, which of course in turn didn’t come out of the blue, but was rooted in past struggles. It was a very unique techno-political experience that has definitely changed how Spanish politics work – and its actors – and how people here understand the possibilities of a renewed democratic intervention.</p> <p><em>R: Was the rather sophisticated communication strategy around the independence referendum in Catalonia part of this newfound democratic literacy?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong>&nbsp; Yes. Definitely all these experiences are cumulative. Though what was different about the Catalan referendum process was that it also included strongly rural areas, and here we have a particular mixture of experiences that come from a long Catalan history of struggle and grass roots organising, and the tools used by 15M which you could see appearing in similar patterns of coordination and communication.&nbsp; The Catalan grassroots movements (CDRs) are just another example, if you like, of a distributed movement, which people who belong to an empowered and networked society have the ability to organise.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/redes.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/redes.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I don’t know how much detail got through on this internationally, but we had many different political actors mobilising their people in different ways. We had the big civil society groupings like Òmnium Cultural and La Asamblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) which organised their people as well. But then you also had the CDR’s – the committees in defence of the republic – which were self-organising groups of people in different locations who weren’t at all ‘commandeered’ by the political parties or the civil society groups. This was a big success, and the CDR’s in particular pushed the others on to do more than they otherwise would have done. Some people believe that Puigdemont left for Brussels because he realised that people were going to do whatever it took to defend their institutions and that this was completely out of their control. No-one could actually say don’t do this or that, because it was self-organised with people deciding themselves what they wanted to do. When the Catalan leadership realised this – they feared violence, and not wanting blood on their hands, they exited the stage. </p><p>This distributed organising we describe as ‘a beehive’ movement, when emerging systems and collective intelligence decide what happens without an actual top down or centralised coordination node. The Queen Bee doesn’t decide what happens: it is the bees who decide how many eggs she lays…</p> <p><em>R: Your emphasis on emotional literacy is very intriguing, since I know that you know a great deal about the facts around both debt, for example, and technopolitics.</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> There are lots of organisations of course around the world working on debt. In Europe, the emphasis was traditionally on the Global South. But since the economic crisis, there has been a shift to studying debt in the Global North – and especially the European periphery – and how we are living through phases similar in many ways to what Latin America suffered in the 1980’s. The International Citizens Audit Network (<a href="http://www.citizen-audit.net/">ICAN</a>) wanted to bring all these groups across Europe and campaign together. But the situations in each country are very specific and different, and after some years, and the pretence of ‘back to normality’, this collaboration has dropped in intensity.</p> <p>I used to be more of an environmental activist until I participated in the 15M movement, where I ended up learning all about the internet. 15M was a space where we learned a lot about everything. And that is also when I became very interested in debt. Our citizen movement against this scam they called a ‘crisis’ thought we must do something to intervene in the debtocracy mechanism, at a time when the big Bankia private bank (which used to be a public bank) collapsed due to the <a href="https://15mparato.wordpress.com/citizens-against-corruption/">criminal interventions of our politicians</a>, while we received in exchange a European bail-out accompanied by austerity measures, losing our universal healthcare, cuts in education and so on. &nbsp;This generation of activists believes that the mastering of tools and practices, and ‘getting things done’ is fundamental, to push us further forward than what is achieved just by resistance or with advocacy. <span class="mag-quote-center">This generation of activists believes that the mastering of tools and practices, and ‘getting things done’ is fundamental.</span> </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Municipal-Recipes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Municipal-Recipes.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>So the result of that thinking was the launch of an initiative around a citizens’ debt audit. We had to demand a transparency of public data so that we could figure out for ourselves what they had done with our money, and collectively decide what part of the debt, while being legal, was nevertheless illegitimate. How we define ‘illegitimate debt’ is at the end of the day to be decided by us, the people, in a sovereign act of deliberation and consultation, as it is our money! </p> <p>Some of our people from this big, ongoing, collective process of the ‘citizens’ debt audit’ platform have gone into the key institutions and municipalities. One colleague is Deputy in the Spanish Parliament. In Madrid, the number two, Carlos Sanchez Mato, is a member of the platform and they are already starting up citizens’ audits in the various districts of Madrid: they are also auditing big private-public partnership construction initiatives like the ringroad around Madrid. Here in Barcelona there are lots of people in the city council from the platform as well, and they are going to publish all the economic data even though the city council of Barcelona is not indebted in the same way. Making this information transparent to the people is a very important step.</p> <p>All this was done in parallel with a strong communications strategy. We believe that is at the core for building many of these citizen tools, like <a href="https://twitter.com/15MpaRato">@15MpaRato</a> which I’m sure you and Alex know about, led by Xnet.</p> <p>These are all examples of how it is in our hands to make change happen, and that there are so many things we can do which can so empower people. The narratives that we build around these mechanisms of participation are vitally important because we are saying, “ It is we who have the solutions in our hands.” <span class="mag-quote-center">The narratives that we build around these mechanisms of participation are vitally important because we are saying, “ It is we who have the solutions in our hands.”</span></p> <p>As for techno-politics, my path was via Xnet’s project 15MpaRato. I got involved from the moment it launched and that was when I really got to know how it all worked in a much more detailed, in-depth way. For many years now I have been participating in Xnet, who are hard to beat in Spain and probably across Europe for their understanding of techno-politics, and how to communicate to build citizen power and collective action.</p> <p><em>R: So given your experience in this field, and all your points of comparison, what was your personal experience of the Team Syntegrity three-and-a-half-day event in Barcelona? </em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It was quite unique. Yes, we are used to events with facilitation, although the participative methodology we use in Spain is closer to those evolved in Latin America and those work well for us.</p> <p><em>R. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/cecilia-milesi/lessons-observations-team-syntegrity-barcelona-2017">Cecilia Milesi</a>, our independent evaluator, also recommended the Latin American approach, saying that she felt the need for a more focused, shared context, situating a specific change process within a sharply-defined socio-political or organisational ecosystem. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a>, by contrast begins with a ludicrously open, blue skies question, and a deliberate range of people …</em></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0147_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0147_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></em><strong>E.</strong> The part where we decided what themes we would spend our time on was interesting. They were of course gathered from our own concerns, but I felt more guidance could have been helpful in ensuring that we chose subjects more relevant for more of the people there. It was an interesting decision-making process though, how we arrived at those 12 themes. </p><p>At the time, the algorithm used to allocate which themes people were responsible for as discussants or critics seemed to me totally arbitrary, although of course it was working with our top preferences. And that was a real novelty. You really are leaving people to use their collective intelligence and figure things out for themselves. But some of the discussion-tables had such different points of view that they had to try and reconcile – I suppose the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/david-stefanoski-felix-weth-joan-pedro-cara-ana-simona-levi-ana-segovia/internet">internet discussion’</a> was one of those! Maybe a preparatory exchange could have paved the way for a more efficient encounter between those people. </p> <p>Having said that, for me one of the most interesting aspects of the Team Syntegrity dynamic was the way that ideas were transferred from person to person and group to group. We got to hear about things and participate in discussions that are not the usual focus in our lives, and that is a very enriching experience, not least because it helps you shape ideas about your own line of work in a different way. </p> <p>In many cases I believe this opened us up to creativity. When I saw how feminist issues travelled from one table to another and ended up creating this amazing experience in the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-weatherhead-richard-bartlett-ashish-ghadiali-david-mallery-rui-tavares/parenting-planet">parenting the planet</a>’ all-male discussion group, that seemed hugely valuable. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>All-male discussion group on feminism/anti-patriarchy, Team Syntegrity, Barcelona 2017. </span></span></span>The 15M itself was an amazing experience in just this way – bringing many non-experts together, and many non-politicised people out of the blue, who then learned so much from others much more knowledgeable. If we don’t allow this kind of listening to happen, things are not going to move forward. When I participated in the <a href="https://nuitdebout.fr/">Nuit Debout</a> movement in France, one of the reasons why it collapsed was because the traditional ‘expert’ activists just didn’t have the patience to slow down and walk at the same pace as the less experienced participants. I have been in many situations where I know much more about one thing, but much less than them about many other scenarios. </p><p><em>R: It is asking a lot I know. But for the experts too, it is important, isn’t it, to learn how to convey your message effectively to people who think very differently from you… and to have some curiosity about the result.</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> We all have to find a balance between giving and taking! But there are situations where you just have to get up and leave if you feel you can’t afford the time, and one of the tensions that I saw in the internet group was a familiar clash of cultures that has become too time-consuming, between the new internet activists as I have been describing them, and traditional activists who are moving into the digital world, but without fully understanding it. </p> <p>By contrast, our discussion on media and communications was efficient and very comfortable and there was a real flow to the discussion between the other colleagues and myself. The work <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/phil-england/rebuilding-democracy-in-iceland-interview-with-birgitta-jonsdottir">Birgitta</a> has done of course, has been very much connected to the sort of work we have done in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/xnet">Xnet</a> and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Party">X-Party</a>. I didn’t know her personally, but we have been following her work and I know she knows other people in my team. So that was an easy one because we knew we were on the same wavelength. With Agnieszka, who is more of a journalist, it was really interesting to hear her points of view and discover the many synergies between us despite our different backgrounds. But we were ready to listen to each other and suck up each others’ proposals, so it was quite a collaborative table, rather than a confrontational one. </p> <p>One of the reasons it was so easy for us for example to put together our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/emma-avil-s-agnieszka-wi-niewska-birgitta-j-nsd-ttir-kate-farrell-wiebke-hansen/team-syntegrity-comm">slideshow of best practise</a> in media and communications at the Team Syntegrity, was because this was part of the existing knowledge arising from practises that everyone in our networked society generation is familiar with. For us it is something similar to the revolutionary technology of the era of the printing press. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is now a big divide between new wave digital activists and the older generation of the more traditional left in this regard. They see the internet as something to be used in a very basic way.</span></p> <p>And I do feel that there is now a big divide between new wave digital activists and the older generation of the more traditional left in this regard. They see the internet as something to be used in a very basic way. My experience in France in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/geoffrey-pleyers/nuit-debout-citizens-are-back-in-squares-in-paris">Nuit Debout</a> movement was that the traditional left regarded the internet as menacing or at best something of a liability. The new generation shares so many practises because we have been developing our struggles and communicate on this terrain and even if we don’t know each other when we come together to try and do something, it doesn’t take long for results to pop up! </p> <p><em>R: Is this because the traditional left assumes that the main direction of communication is going to remain, for example, one-to-many?</em></p> <p>E: Yes, the unidirectional way of communicating is part of this. But it is also the use of language and the fear of sharing our emotions because we might be mistaken for populists! – you know? So it goes much further than this. The preoccupation with unity of message and ‘staying on brand’ is also an issue. We have seen this with a lot of NGO’s. There is a study that has been recently published that has looked at movements and social organisations in the United States, and it seemed to me that they put their finger on the problem. Here it is, ‘<a href="https://sustainabilitynetwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NetChange-NetworkedChange-2016-1.pdf">Networked change: how progressive campaigns are won in the 21st century</a>.’</p> <p>But I’ll give you an example. #15MpaRato was a project launched by Xnet. But Xnet didn’t have their brand on it, because they wanted this device to be anonymous so that the people could appropriate it much more easily.&nbsp; If you want to mobilise, to make the best of the collective intelligence you can bring together, and encourage self-organising in a facilitated down-up environment, having your brand on it will probably be a barrier to success. </p> <p>Yet this is what we see both in political parties and traditional NGO’s: both cling to their branding. That makes it much more difficult to have a broader and more varied user-base than your immediate circle of supporters. You will always be setting up systems that say, ”this is me: that is you”. But if you create an environment that is not branded, it is much easier to unleash the dynamics where people actually step up to the plate, and make use of what is on offer for themselves, that is – appropriate it in some way. </p> <p><em>R: You mentioned meeting up with Richard Bartlett, one of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-bartlett/more-mouthy-male-feminists-please">key participants</a> in that ‘Parenting the planet’ group – how did that happen?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> We were invited to a meeting in Canada of about eighty activists from around North America, including coloured people, white people and natives. An Irish colleague working in techno-politics was organising an event, the ‘Web of Change’ and called me up to ask if I could recommend a list of international participants. I thought it would be interesting for him to invite Richard. It was, of course, fantastic to catch up with him again. And at that event, we did have the feeling that we continued working on the feminist/anti-patriarchal challenges we had begun to explore at the Team Syntegrity last June. What was generated around that discussion-table is part of a wider process that I know from Spanish social movements, but that Richard is also involved in, and one that made us accomplices in the Canadian event, where we managed to inject it once again into the proceedings! So this was a transformative experience.</p> <p>Ash Ghadiali, meanwhile, has been interested in the new communications strategies arising out of the 15M movement. I had told him about how important psychologists, sociologists, communicators and other experts were in helping us build our strategies, and he wanted to understand how this was orchestrated in more detail. Unfortunately, then the Catalan situation blew up, and I was sucked into that furore, so I couldn’t continue that exchange as I would have liked. </p> <p>It has been an absolute tsunami here!</p> <p><em>R: Well let’s talk about how communications for change work under such tsunami conditions. You spoke a lot in the Team Syntegrity about being able to talk to people from your heart and your guts, if you want to involve and engage them. This seems so different from the way that psychometric messaging, algorithms and filter bubbles work – all those tools that billionaires deploy who want to manipulate us via social media. So what is the alternative direction we need to go in? </em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It is really amazing, for those of us who were active in 15M, just to observe how the mega-rich and powerful are deploying the same practises and tools &nbsp;– the bubbles and the messaging – that we have been evolving since 2011. But of course the message they want to convey is completely different. Moreover they have been buying with a lot of money clickfarms and bots to do this work for them, whereas our bots are real people, and lots of them! </p> <p>It’s really interesting though, because there are some strong parallels in the way they are working. In particular, they also are communicating from their guts!&nbsp; That is why it works so well for them! Why then, aren’t the left using the same successful techniques? Take memes: we use these as the doors or windows with which to enter people’s consciousness, in order then to be able to develop a more complex and differentiated message. But we need those entry points, to touch down on people’s culture and their emotions. So we must ask ourselves, how can we use our language and build our messages in order to reach people, as well as of course mastering the tools and practises, and at the same time acquire the numbers of people it will take to viralise, or to break down algorithms.</p> <p>Of course the digital world is just another layer of reality. The physical world also exists and what those who really want to bring about transformative change can add to the memes and the messaging, which are the sparks that light the touch paper, is all the different ways in which collective intelligence can apply itself to doing things together: everything from meeting up for a collective social catharsis which celebrates not being alone, to formulating proposals for action. These things must work hand in hand.</p> <p>For example, in France some fellow activists called us up and invited us to come and help them build a communication device, for many of us could sense that something was about to happen. So we arrived in Paris three weeks before March 31, to help them prepare. The original call came from the coalition ‘Convergence des Luttes’ – the coming together of struggles! And the slogan to accompany this was, “We will frighten the powers that be!”, supposedly with this “convergence”… We had to say that this wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t appeal to citizens who weren’t already politically involved, and it was a priority to build a stronger movement around the small number of people involved at that stage.</p> <p>So we built the communication around one of their slogans: ’Nuit Debout’ – “night standing” – which had no recognisable political connotation at all, and its narrative was built from hope, from the emotions, not from confrontation, telling people simply to come out on the streets, so that they could find themselves and realise that they were not alone. And that worked. Because the analysis was spot on. Here we had a society which was going through the shock-doctrine having lived through the state of emergency, all the state repression and arrests during Cop21, and everything else they had been through. People were feeling isolated and not at all connected with each other. So the objective, through our strategy, <em>was</em> to bring them physically together in a space where they could start seeing each other, talking with each other and learning from each other and start building together from there. </p> <p><em>R: I take your point. And how important was it to the effectiveness of what was achieved, that it was rather different kinds of people who were brought together…?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> The big problem was that once all those people had answered that call and were ‘there’, the traditional activists who had initiated the action started to get very impatient with what they referred to as “these politically immature people”! They were finding the assemblies that gathered for discussion boring, and they started wanting to take control over them. There were people out there on the square from many different worlds. But the <a href="https://paris-luttes.info/reponse-du-mouvement-du-15m-a-la-6197?lang=fr">sad thing</a> was that when <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet">the collision came</a>, it was between all those worlds and the traditional left ‘leaders’. </p> <p><em>R: Having come out under their own steam and for their own reasons, they didn’t like being pushed around. That's important isn’t it?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> Yes, that was it. And it was a very sad moment, because if an exchange of knowledge had been allowed to take its course in all that diversity, maybe something quite different would have emerged. I had learned that lesson not so long ago here in <em>Plaça</em><em> </em><em>Catalunya</em> in Barcelona!</p> <p><em>R: You mean in 15M – tell me more. &nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> One of the things that happened was that it took just two people, people who are known to the existing anarchist liberatarian movements, to convince the others that they should be there in the square with all the new people who were suddenly involved. The first knee-jerk reaction of the seasoned activists in Barcelona was, “Don’t go there. Let’s not get involved. We don’t know who these people are. There could be all sorts of infiltrations, given how immature these people are…” and so on. But these two held their ground and said, “ No, our historical role is to be there with the people and share ideas with them!” And many did it in a way which was not top-down and not manipulative, so it really produced results. <span class="mag-quote-center">But these two held their ground and said, “ No, our historical role is to be there with the people and share ideas with them!”</span></p> <p>A similar process which really worked well for the whole country, was that there was this network of facilitators who were already online sharing their practises and work issues. When the squares filled up, one of the girls who belonged sent an e-mail to the entire network all over the country, saying, “ It’s our duty to be out there helping in the facilitation of the people in the squares.” So we had hundreds of people disembarking into these squares packed with people from all over, trying to deal with assemblies of thousands of people, and actually achieving this! So you see what can happen if you have close coordination between these two layers, the digital and the physical space. We were able to connect up what was going on in the different squares, and that was how we were able to arrive at the experience of being the 15M. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/plaza-catalunya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/plaza-catalunya.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15M in Plaza Catalunya.</span></span></span><em>R: Now we have yet another stand-off between the Catalan independentists and the Spanish state, with seemingly no opportunity to talk across the divides, and no help at all from the supra-national level of the European Union – do you think citizens can use any of these communication processes to break down this polarisation?</em></p> <p>E: First of all, it is very important to say that there are many many different layers of independentism in Catalonia. There is the conservative élite. There are the organised associations of civil society – ANC and <em>Òmnium</em> Cultural – which will have nothing to do with anyone linked to the CUP, for example. Beyond this there is a complex constellation of political actors who sometimes combine and sometimes confront each other. <a href="http://cup.cat/">La CUP</a> [the Popular Unity Candidacy (<a title="Catalan language" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_language">Catalan</a>: <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Unity_Candidacy">Candidatura d'Unitat Popular</a>, CUP</em>), for example, is confronted by many political parties who also stand for independence. <span class="mag-quote-center">There are many many different layers of independentism in Catalonia…&nbsp; Beyond this there is a complex constellation of political actors who sometimes combine and sometimes confront each other.</span></p> <p>Then you find many who feel in the middle between people who don’t want independence and those who do. These people want neither black nor white, neither yes nor no. The palette of colours here is wide and completely invisibilised! </p> <p>For example, the independentists I am closest to are not committed to independence as a neat solution to all our problems, per se. No, but they see it as an important point of rupture with the political status quo. The truth is that the old Spain who won the civil war is still there in this Spanish Government. And we, the ones who lost, are still under their rule 40 years later. So how will we break free from this? It is probably not through the kind of negotiations that happened throughout the transition period. This just extended the problem for all those decades. But, for them, this is where rupture comes in: this could be one of the things that jolts us into revising our entire political system and democratic processes, enabling people to rewrite our constitution, and to rethink and rebuild whatever it is we want to design together. We would have a chance to decide what that should be. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the political experience of the invisibilised middle ground is completely unfair. For them, there is no political representation and no media coverage. It is true that Catalunya en Comu does try to represent this middle position, but the path of ‘equidistance’ doesn’t offer a political rupture point either. So a lot of people in the middle ground find themselves moving towards the independence position, since they too are searching for a way of exposing the nature of the Spanish state as they have experienced it to wider public scrutiny, and they are also seeking change.</p> <p>October 1 was amazing. I participated in a project instigated by various movements in the city, under the heading of <a href="https://agenciauo.org/">AgencyUO</a>. One hundred communications activists who work in various collectives came together to create a media centre that could cover the events of October 1 by our own means and using our own narratives.</p> <p>I was doing the morning shift and my job was to monitor what was happening on twitter, to pick out important developments to focus on and send our people there, because we were broadcasting on various channels: we had radio, tv, a web, social networks, streamers and Telegram groups. </p> <p>October 1 was organised in such a way that older people and young people were encouraged to go and vote in the morning, because if violence occurred, it was expected later on in the day. But the police decided to crack down at 10.30 in the morning, when the old people were voting, and when we saw this, this actually launched many of the people who were caught in the middle out to vote ‘yes’ in the afternoon.</p> <p>So here we have it: this complex situation in which as citizens we find ourselves in the middle of battles between polarised political interests. I did vote ‘yes’ but I am not an independentist. At the same time I have no trouble interacting with them. We have different ideas, but I have no problem with that. We belong to the same community. At the same time of course you have the nationalists and fascists who want independence, and we keep our distance from them, for sure. But the majority of the people who are in the middle and are voting ‘yes’ went into those schools to vote, voting different ways and thinking different things, but happy to be in this together and to be making this possible. </p> <p>Because, October 1 was only made possible by the people.&nbsp; There was a very precise moment when the government lost control over what was happening once the violence started, and it was the people who throughout that whole day, held the electoral process and the gathering of votes together. After finishing my shift in the media centre, I went to vote in a working class area nearby, and when I walked into the school what did I see? Older people, young people, people looking after the ballot boxes but also playing dominoes, providing food or childcare and play activities for the kids, a policeman who had been given flowers – it was civil society that was holding the ring. We saw what people were able to do together on that day. That is one of the most important factors, helping people to believe there is as a way forward. <span class="mag-quote-center">We saw what people were able to do together on that day. That is one of the most important factors, helping people to believe there is a way forward.</span></p> <p>Then at night, I went back to my village about 40 kilometres outside Barcelona, when the counting of the votes was happening at the end of the day. I found farmers with their trucks and other vehicles out blocking the roads, because the police were expected to arrive and take the ballot boxes away from us. The people were guarding the city council where the counting was going on. This was a transformative experience for many millions of people in Catalonia, 2.2 million of whom voted on that day.</p> <p>Now people are feeling a little blue about things, because with Article 155 imposing direct rule on Catalonia, it seems as if the Spanish Government has ‘won’ yet again. But we are in a standby situation in these days running up to the elections of December 21, and we will see what the outcome is. The citizens’ assemblies are still going on, and people keep organising. We have no idea. But people do know that they can believe in each other, and that they have each other, and they have seen the power of what we can do together, and the synapses between the different groups and movements allow us to quickly intercommunicate and organise. So, who knows…? <span class="mag-quote-center">The synapses between the different groups and movements allow us to quickly intercommunicate and organise. So, who knows…?</span></p> <p><em>R: This must also impact on your sense of priorities as a media activist?</em></p> <p><strong>E:</strong> It’s interesting. We have been helping activist groups in the city and around Spain to improve their knowhow, especially in creating a decent security environment for them to work in, because we know that there has been surveillance and also interference at different levels. We expect, following the December 21 elections, that there will be a legal crackdown on people who were active on October 1. They are using legality as their execution block.</p> <p>I know Barcelona en Comu are preparing tools for ‘citizen participation’, and that they are working on different ways of opening up governance for the people, so that people can be the ones who put forward their proposals and demand new laws. Of course, this is what we wanted them to go into parliamentary politics for – to open the institutions up to the people, so that their processes became transparent and the politicians themselves were seen not as rulers, but as public workers. But I understand the constraints and contradictions. Walking into that machinery of power must be difficult, and making real deep change quite a considerable challenge. </p> <p>Many of my activist colleagues are feeling quite let down by all the things that haven’t been happening, and we aren't very happy with the latest coalition with the left and the greens here in Catalonia, because they act as a big power bloc internally and coopt “Los Comunes” in an ‘old politics’ sort of way. There is a lot of internal tension. They know how to play the political game, top down, using the old techniques, so the new proposals for ‘Catalonia en Comu’ evoke a certain weariness. </p> <p>As an activist with experience in working in different countries, I think it is very important to have this wider debate and information around municipalism and its networks in different countries across Europe and beyond. But one thing that is missing from this debate so far, is an understanding of why radical municipalism and people power has caught on here in Spain in a way which has been so powerful. For me, what we need to understand is the movement-building and what active citizens were able to create – in short, what came before. It was the creation of a mass of politicised citizens that was the essential phase, previous to launching a set of municipal initiatives. And this should be one of the first aspects of this new politics that we should discuss in depth. And then build.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15m-mutaciones.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15m-mutaciones.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>15M network.</span></span></span></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>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></a></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>Fearless cities: how municipal governments are challenging right-wing governments, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjOFgTbvXXs">15 min.video</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="/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical municipalism: demanding the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/repression-and-digital-resistance-in-catalanreferendum">Repression and digital resistance in the #CATALANREFERENDUM</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/xnet/how-to-preserve-fundamental-rights-on-internet-guide">How to preserve fundamental rights on the internet: a guide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/catalonian-lessons-civil-society-has-something-to-offer-on-gaming-tab">Catalonian lessons: civil society has something to offer on the gaming tables of governance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet">An open letter to #NuitDebout from the Indignados’ districts of the internet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/emeka-forbes/how-technology-powered-catalan-referendum">How technology powered the Catalan referendum </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kate-shea-baird/new-international-municipalist-movement-is-on-rise-from-small-vic">A new international municipalist movement is on the rise – from small victories to global alternatives</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/kate-shea-baird/how-to-build-movement-party-lessons-from-rosario-s-future-city">How to build a movement-party: lessons from Rosario’s Future City</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ada-colau/first-we-take-barcelona">First we take Barcelona...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill">Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</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> digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Emma Avilés Sat, 13 Jan 2018 14:17:29 +0000 Emma Avilés and Rosemary Bechler 115632 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meeting Lofa https://www.opendemocracy.net/rosemary-bechler-luthfur-ullah/meeting-lofa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“In the Kenyan camp there are second generation and third generation refugees,” I said, “Can you imagine somebody being in there on a permanently temporary basis? It’s hopeless.” It opened their eyes a bit I hope.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4483.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4483.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lofa's office in EYST, Swansea, Wales, 2017.</span></span></span>Rosemary (R.) Lofa – so great to see you here in Swansea. We have a small window of opportunity, both for you to talk about yourself and your line of work which is so special, and then to tell us a bit about what impact, if any, the Team Syntegrity had on your life. But tell me, originally, you are from Bangladesh?</em></p> <p><strong>Luthfur Ullah (Lofa):</strong> My family is from Bangladesh. I was born here. But my grandparents came over to Leeds during the war because there was a shortage of labour. They settled in Leeds and Bradford originally.&nbsp; My grandparents worked in the factories: my father did the same. But when I was one year old, my family moved to Swansea. They had a friend here and this is a really lovely part of the world ­ – they really liked it. Thirty-seven years later, here we still are!</p> <p>But I am very busy nevertheless: I have five children – 20, 18, 10, six, five – and two partners – though not at once! So it’s all a bit hectic.</p> <p><em>R: You don’t have to explain…</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> My oldest son is in Cardiff University studying finance and marketing and it’s hard work with them all but I wouldn’t have it any other way. They take me for a mug of course and my daughters have me wrapped around their little fingers.</p> <p>My name is actually a particularly patriotic Bangladeshi name, meaning ‘the kindest’ – but it was so difficult to pronounce, by the age of five or six, even my sisters called me Lofa – and everyone calls me that. I’m comfortable with it.</p> <p><em>R: You were saying that since the Team Syntegrity event in Barcelona last June you have been incredibly busy…</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> There was so much backlog, I didn’t realise how much my project, the family link work – has exploded. Family Link is helping families within Swansea County engage with services, welfare advice, whatever support they need. It may be on mental health, domestic violence, honour-based violence – all of these things with a BME focus. We are the lead body now on ‘race ‘ in Wales. So we enforce policy, conduct research into the engagement of BME communities with social services and education, integration into the community, how they feel after Brexit and all that cohesion stuff. </p> <p>This is my new office which we have built and my colleague Shahab and myself are based here now. This week, for example, we have six emergency cases that we are dealing with. It has been like that for months. Tomorrow I am delivering an immigration package to Clearsprings which is a housing provider specifically contracted to provide housing for asylum seekers. They need to be educated now into what to expect and what cultural practises they need to understand. There have been situations where support workers or housing caseworkers would be going into the home and not appreciating certain etiquettes – it could be something small like expecting women to answer the door. Not knowing how to engage. I have been doing a lot of immigration and asylum training recently – three courses in schools since Barcelona.</p> <p>You would think that schools would be more aware than most: but they are not. I had a primary school recently and a couple of Syrian refugee families had moved into the area. The teachers didn’t know the difference between an immigrant and an emigrant or how to speak to them at all. But once the training starts we have a relationship with that school and they often bring us back to do refresher sessions. And of course we talk to the pupils. We follow up to see how the families are settling in and in this case they are getting on well, and it’s all fine. We have a couple of comprehensive schools where we go in once every two or three weeks to speak to different classes.</p> <p>At two o’clock, we have four young people coming in. They attend the Rathbone&nbsp; Work-based Learning Programme and we deliver immigration and asylum training, racism and Islamophobia training as part of that. They do 16 hours a week apprenticeships preparing them for work.&nbsp; They are young people who haven’t done terribly well at school. They might have issues at home. Some of them have gone through horrific stuff. They aren’t going onto college and they have fallen through the net. These programmes are designed to give them skills like customer service. Some go on to further education. Hopefully we might have changed some views there. In the beginning they were rather ignorant about the current situation. You’ll meet them and find out for yourselves.</p> <p>They may hold negative views about other communities. You can understand where the anger is coming from. And when the media carry the sorts of headlines we so often see, they don’t think to question those hostile narratives.&nbsp; But they are lovely kids! I’ve been talking to them about how Germany has taken so many immigrants and asylum seekers and Britain has taken so few in comparison. </p> <p>That didn’t hit home until I showed them a video called ‘Let me in’ – Alicia Keys. I love her. She’s a singer and she made this video which portrayed a reverse situation, where Americans were suffering under war conditions and many flee to Mexico to seek refuge and the Mexicans let them in! Then that got them thinking. In the news it is always people of colour and people less well off suffering like this and somehow that helps them become desensitised to the situations we are talking about. So I showed them that, and you could have heard a pin drop. Some of them were crying. Now, to get that reaction… when they see it could be us, perceptions change. </p> <p>Before that they were saying, “No they can’t come here, they should go somewhere else.”&nbsp; So you say, ”Where would you like them to go?” They say, “Why can’t they stay in the refugee camps?” You say, “Well a lot of them do.&nbsp; The largest camp was until recently in Kenya and now it’s in Bangladesh, my home country… because of the Rohingyas – 800 thousand of them, that has shot up in a few months!&nbsp; But in the Kenyan camp there are second generation and third generation refugees.” I said, “Can you imagine somebody being in there on a permanently temporary basis? It’s hopeless.” It opened their eyes a bit I hope.</p> <p>So you’ll meet Andrew Penhale, who is their tutor. He’s a lovely guy. We work together quite often.</p> <p><em>R. Great. Thank you so much for setting that up! Can I just ask you, when you work with Syrian families isn’t there a massive language problem?</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> Yes, of course. I don’t speak Arabic. I have a few phrases for a low level conversation, and because I’m at home with those, my few phrases are enough to make them immediately comfortable. But you met Moossa here just now who is one of my young people, and he speaks Arabic. I have a couple of these volunteers – lovely boys, Qatab, Hassan – they come in to sit with me and the Syrian families to help translate. Qatab is a young person on my Progression Project, my second project, which is all about getting young people trained and educated into volunteering, work or further education. I will facilitate that by getting them work placements or volunteering opportunities. I have a couple of Employment Champions now - someone who has gone into volunteering or work and who is in a position to give something back to help their peers. Qatab is a young man who came here from Iraq just over two years ago.&nbsp; When he came he had very little English, but now he is doing level one in Youth Work and goes to college in Llanelli. He speaks fluent English, but he comes back to me as an Employment Champion on our Progression Project, and also goes to help the Syrian asylum workers with translating for their families. It’s rather amazing.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0235_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0235_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lofa as one of five critics in a Team Syntegrity discussion, June 2017.</span></span></span><em>R. Now we have a better idea, perhaps you could tell me a little more about your experience of working with the other participants in the Team Syntegrity non-hierarchical conference for three and a half days...&nbsp; </em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> Well the first thing to say is that I came back from Barcelona inspired. I thought, no, I want to educate myself. I’ve always been on about personal development, but since I came back, Shahab, my colleague and myself have both signed up now for a Masters in youth and community work. After work here every Monday, we go to Cardiff, study until 9.30pm and then back home. My first two assignments, 6,000 words, have to be in at more or less the same time! </p> <p><em>R. Well gosh. If I can help – I’ll do a bit of editing any time! How interesting. Are you enjoying it?</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> It’s really good. You know what. It is making me question my own practises at work. I’ve never really thought about the theory behind what I do before. It just comes naturally. But now I’m thinking about it and there is one whole section on developing relationships and reflexive practise which has really got me thinking. I had one client who said something to me that I didn’t really like, and now I find myself replaying all our conversations in my mind and asking myself how we got to the situation where he would say that to me… now I can apply a theory to it. And I think, my God! I’m really enjoying it and it’s all your fault! </p> <p><em>R: Did you feel you had a chance to share your experience with the other Team Syntegrity participants in Barcelona?</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> I made some fabulous friends, Vanessa, Rebecca – we were joined at the hip, Joan Pedro, Dafydd – Joan Pedro and me ended up talking all night, so yes they got to know me and quite a lot about my perceptions and my work. Definitely. I wondered if some of the participants who were academics found it more difficult to gather what someone who was not so academic was on about.&nbsp; I’m grass roots and I do think sometimes that people in academia live in some sort of bubble.</p> <p><em>R. Joan Pedro was quite articulate about the need to break down those class barriers wasn’t he? I think that was one of his chief learnings from the event: or perhaps he has always thought that way and our three-day event just confirmed it?</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong>&nbsp; Yes, that’s right. I didn’t feel uncomfortable.&nbsp; But at times, I felt a bit of a dunce – and asked myself what I was doing there? I was aware that – wow – some of these people were so intelligent that you could have built spaceships in there if you’d wanted to! But actually they made me feel so welcome. And if you asked questions, they would explain. It’s just the way it is – people come from totally different backgrounds and those differences have to be negotiated.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>R: And it doesn’t seem to have put you off academe…</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> No, I wanted to learn more.&nbsp; This is what I’m reading now: I’ve always been interested in politics…</p> <p><em>R: “Britain and France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East“…</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa:</strong> And here’s another of my favourites, Noam Chomsky. You know, I’ve always had a passion for reading but never had the time. And now I am taking a bit more time for my education. </p> <p><em>R. You were in two Team Syntegrity discussions as a discussant responsible for the outcomes – &nbsp;was one on global citizenship and one on the rise of the far right?</em></p> <p><strong>Lofa</strong>: That’s right. On that last one, I did get to see a different viewpoint. What I experience of the far right in my work is quite negative. The far right has a bit of a stronghold of activism here in Swansea, so our projects are all about challenging it, alongside challenging Islamic extremism and challenging exploitation. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0288_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0288_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The far right discussion at Team Syntegrity, Barcelona, June 2017.</span></span></span>But in that discussion, as well as sharing my views and perspectives, I got to thinking that the far right are not that way just because it is the way they are. Maybe their environment contributes to the choices they make. It was Wiebke from Hamburg who made some really good arguments on this. I was really impressed by her. But to be honest, if you ask me – they were <em>all </em>amazing – my fellow participants – they were all amazing!&nbsp; She broadened my view on the whole issue of how we might set about eliminating racism. I don’t know if we will ever manage it, because it isn’t confined to any one grouping, of white people, for example. There are plenty of people of colour, take India, plenty who think they are superior to others because they have lighter coloured skins… so it’s a very widespread phenomenon all over the world. But she has got me thinking about the many different reasons why people start thinking that way. </p><p>Global citizenship – that was such a hard topic, because it’s on such a scale. I am a member of the Welsh Alliance for Global Education and Citizenship, although I’ve missed the last two meetings just because of being too busy. We deliver global citizenship education in the schools here as part of ‘personal and social education’ (PSE), and it is not taken very seriously. </p> <p>I know they are trying to embed it as part of the national curriculum here – and the Donaldson Report highlighted the need for mainstreaming aspects of global citizenship into every subject. They are looking to do that, but it’s not easy to do. &nbsp;My fellow-participant in that discussion, Markha – another lovely woman – wanted to put her ideas over and I wanted to do the same. But we weren’t connecting. &nbsp;She is brilliant though and I do like her grand vision!&nbsp; I like her plans. But I felt her programme in world scholarships was far too ambitious and that we need to start with baby steps, something that anybody could do and be a part of and feel a part of ! </p> <p>So since I have come back, I took a particular interest in the youth exchange that we had arranged with quite a mixed group of 25 people from Molenbeek in Belgium, the community that acquired notoriety recently in connection with terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. They came for a week, and it was very interesting! Here, they met Iraqi and Syrian asylum seekers, kids from the Bangladeshi community and from the white mainstream. Unfortunately the kids with more rightwing views don’t access our shelter as much as we’d like them to… I don’t know why. If they came more often, I think they’d be blown away by some of these things that are going on here. </p> <p>When they get together they actually get along – we have had football matches and so on! These are the small steps – just getting people together to do anything, football every Thursday, beauty parlours for the girls-only drop-in centre attended by Asian, Muslim, Syrian and Welsh girls. That is what most interests me. And on a global level, I wouldn’t try and get them to study because everyone everywhere is on very different educational levels – but if we could just meet! Take people from the north and south of India! Just hang out and chill out and talk to each other. Never mind bringing the Europeans over at this stage. &nbsp;Just meeting would be a good start!</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0094_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0094_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Market-place of ideas, Team Syntegrity, June 2017.</span></span></span></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>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></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="/wiebke-hansen-rosemary-bechler/change-in-consensual-way">Change in a consensual way</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/aya-haidar-rosemary-bechler/safe-spaces-bagpipes-and-houmous">Safe spaces, bagpipes and houmous </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/joan-pedro-cara-ana/re-thinking-strategies-for-social-change-in-transeuropa">Re-thinking strategies for social change in Transeuropa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</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"> Wales </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Spain Wales Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Luthfur Ullah Wed, 10 Jan 2018 17:41:34 +0000 Luthfur Ullah and Rosemary Bechler 115598 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill https://www.opendemocracy.net/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"We are very aware, when it comes to the whole Greek experience, that one of the problems the political left faces is … what it means to be able to implement your own ideas."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0116_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0116_preview.jpeg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andreas in the market place of ideas, Team Syntegrity, Barcelona, June, 2017.</span></span></span>Rosemary(R): As someone based in Greece and practised in international debates around ‘</em><a href="https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/new_politics_workshop_report-1.pdf"><em>new politics</em></a><em>’, what did you make of our Team Syntegrity process in Barcelona last June: did it add something to the toolbox?</em></p> <p><strong>Andreas (AK): </strong>The interesting thing about this three-day event was the fact that people with very different interests and expertise came together. We weren’t exactly focused and working together on the tools or methodologies that would achieve progressive change: we were more diverse than that. </p> <p>But every now and then it seems that it is important for all of us to check out the relevance of what we are doing in our respective fields, by becoming more aware of what is happening to the people around us working in totally different areas, and by having access to their perspectives on what is going on. I saw how people these days are approaching what is happening, and how they think they should address it. And I have kept in touch with the Greek participants and also with Ashish Ghadiali. </p> <p>I saw and heard a lot about areas of activity<span> </span>which are not priorities for me, but which appeared to me nevertheless quite crucial to bear in mind. I’m thinking of three of these: the need to find a good way to bring emotions into our calculations of social organisation and political change; secondly, the complexity that different religious backgrounds bring to the table of anyone fantasising about a global identity; and the fascinating things going on in agriculture, of which I know very little, but which turn out to be utterly relevant to the urban challenges with which I wrestle. Pavlos has given me a lot of tips in this regard, despite both of us being so busy.</p> <p>It was also good to encounter people who simply have different positions in the global division of labour. That was also nice. I have a sense of urgency; I met people who had an even greater sense of urgency; but also people who had considerably less of that sense. We are all part more or less of a global movement for progressive change that we would like to see coordinated; but it became very clear that people do not have the same experiences, the same feelings about what is going on, let alone the same commitment to how to tackle it. That is important to take into consideration.</p> <p><em>R: Those were all things you learned from your fellow participants. What about your own ability to share your concerns and priorities with the others? – sowing seeds and seeing them germinate was one of the favourite metaphors of the event.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>On that front, I have a dual response. The first is rather negative. I felt that sometimes the point I was trying to make was not well understood by my fellow-participants. I realise that this means that I have to take into greater consideration, as I said, the different vantage points of my interlocutors. You have to find a way to communicate it better. But I came to the conclusion that this was also more profoundly about my diagnosis regarding the way politics functions or rather does not function in liberal democracies today, based on my experience in Greece. Politics no longer works. It doesn’t deliver; and at the same time, it doesn’t allow a space for people to talk convivially about their institutional experience in this regard. </p> <p>But of course, the extent of the decline is not the same in all liberal democracies. So if you are discussing with people from countries where the institutional framework does not appear so obsolete, it is understandable that talking like this may seem rather bizarre. It must have seemed as if I was trying to warn them of an imminent setback, as opposed to helping them articulate their existing experience of the options before them. So I probably needed a different way of speaking. When I referred to the political functioning of liberal democracies I described it in such a way that made it sound as if it was no longer powerful enough institutionally to allow the prospect of any real political advance. But this is not an adequate description of what is going on in their countries, where it seems to people that, with whatever difficulty, they are indeed able to advance their democratic cause. So I need to find a new frame for the same sort of reasoning that I am engaged in.</p> <p>Many times, however, even if people didn’t share my perspective, I thought they did glimpse the fertility of the ideas behind what I was trying to elaborate. </p> <p><em>R: Were discussions about the UK Labour Party and Momentum’s role that I know you had with one or two of the participants an example of this sort of misunderstanding?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>I am very happy that there are people who understand the need to change our priorities and our methodology in working for progressive change. I had exactly the same convictions myself in the years leading up to 2015, when the realities in Greece became so clear. A few years back, I would have argued for the same things, based on the assessments I was making then about what sorts of prospects we faced and how things could evolve. But after 2015, this was no longer an assessment. We had the facts, the reality. </p> <p>So this has convinced me to be bolder in arguing for a different methodology, one which concentrates much more on the creation of social capital to better prepare ourselves for the forthcoming challenge in various countries. And I find people from other countries are beginning to listen to this. </p> <p>The Labour Party path seems a fruitful one. I am not a pessimist in this regard. But the UK faces very difficult problems and it will be a hard fight. I don’t have any problem with failure either. I don’t mind that, because I believe that whatever we do during a period of time is not a permanent solution to any problem: it is always an attempt to cope with the challenges that will provide valuable lessons for the future. And it’s my role to learn.</p> <p><em>R: I wasn’t trying to engage you in that sort of dreary speculation over who the winners and the losers are likely to be, which goes on ad nauseam. I suppose I was hoping to focus on your thoughts on the function of a leftwing movement in rather reactionary countries nowadays. What should they aspire to, what should they look like? This I take it was the main topic of the ‘Transforming the left’ discussion you were involved in last June.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>What you are asking for is <em>the</em> core problem we need to address: how are we going to organise socially and politically the majority of the people in order to become powerful enough to influence the course of our societies? This is the question. What we have now, if you ask my opinion, is a pretty good diagnosis in itself of what is not working. We may have the requirements, the specifications of what we need. But we have to fill in these specs with content, with various experiences and with actual processes. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0190_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0190_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity, June, 2017.</span></span></span>Maybe there are interesting things going on in Britain that I am not aware of. But here in Greece, I can tell you about a similar path that is under way. We are trying to build networks that draw people into activity, while maximising the decision-making opportunities that are appropriate to what people know how to do. These will be organisations constructed around a variety of autonomous and semi-autonomous groupings, which allow people to choose where they are best placed to learn and to contribute. We don’t have to take all the decisions together. We will take qualified decisions while maintaining a basic democratic functioning within the parts and good coordination between the parts. </p><p>So if you ask me the new model of organisation that I am describing is not a top down organisation, where people transfer the crucial decisions to those above them: but it will be a network of autonomous entities engaged in their own projects, but cooperating and coordinating together to achieve more complex tasks. That is what we are trying to do now in <a href="http://komvoshub.org/2/about.html">Komvos</a> – in its experimental phase, based on commons principles and those of a solidarity economy. </p> <p>The pilot is not a huge network, but we are using it to find out what kinds of qualities the organisers must have, what kinds of digital tools you could use to have this kind of coordination, and the kinds of institutions we need in order to support such networks on a larger scale. If you think about it, for example we need institutions that can scale up the parts of the network that are working well; mature projects for implementation – you may have a good idea and not have a clue about how to translate it into an implementation plan, and there are people who are experts and can do this for others; and we also need a strong funding component, instead of having to create small funding units within each of the cells, that can provide this service to any cell or cluster of cells that needs it. This funding component might include facilities for crowdfunding, donors, foundations, banking and investment skills, everything. It is a new institution. We also need a cultural institution. These are the features of the ‘content’ needed to fill the frame that I was referring to.</p> <p>Komvos in this sense is a facilitator of this network. We don’t want it to become the organisation itself, but rather to act as a cell that enables a group of other cells to emerge, by mediating between different parts of the network to consolidate better communications overall, and by supplying different processes that enable different cells which are autonomous and up and running already, to work out what they can do best together. These are if you like ‘second order cells’ of a network that are not themselves in the field, but that support all the cells working in the field. This is what I am thinking about and what we are working on.</p> <p><em>R: To what extent is it necessary that the members of these cell clusters, or networks, consciously espouse a shared political purpose?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>That’s a tricky question, because the people involved in setting up Komvos with me are strongly politically oriented. But we are very aware, when it comes to the whole Greek experience, that one of the problems the political left faces is the underestimation of technical aspects of social capacity, what it means to be able to implement your own ideas. This is because we tend to think that the major problems are political, and a matter of political will. This is right to a certain extent. But if that means that you become totally impotent in terms of your operational capacities, then that creates, as you can imagine, a serious problem. </p> <p>So in this phase of our actions and operations, we do not want to connect this kind of activity to any explicit political commitment. We know that if we flourish at this level, our skills will be completely essential to any emancipatory politics in the broadest sense of the term, but we don’t want to burden those involved today with political controversy and cat-fights – those are happening of their own accord quite enough anyway – but we don’t want to promote this. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to see and are not working for an indication in a few years’ time that innovative and transformed political platforms are emerging at a municipal and regional level – and why not at a national level too? But they will have been informed about what it means to become involved in politics through the activities in the network that they have been engaged in, and that I have been describing to you.</p> <p><em>R: &nbsp;That’s very interesting, because it tells me that your primary purpose is not to find a new and more productive function for the left in any given society, in this case Greece, but that your primary purpose is to build up nodes of social capacity. You may have your own political motivations for committing to the formation of a certain kind of resilience in the face of the future challenges you anticipate, but that’s it. Those motivations are not the driver for the whole, and theoretically, the skills you seek to form could and perhaps should be nurtured in many different parts of our diverse societies? In our reactionary liberal democracies there are people throughout society who have everything from entrepreneurial and technological skills to caring and ethical skills, which we shall need to bring together in any decent future fight on behalf of democracy and people power.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>Yes, that’s it. But let me add to this way of describing what I’m saying. After 2015 here in Greece, I do not have a left organisation that is a point of reference for me. It would be quite different, and I would say more or less the same things but in a rather different modality, if a vibrant left party could have emerged alive and kicking from what happened in 2015. Had that happened, then today we would have an organisational tool that maybe needed improvement and modifications, but which could help in the creation of the network that I was talking about, bringing people from different origins, with different priorities and different political identities together, and this left party could be one crucial factor in its success. We don’t have that. So I cannot say, “First I will rebuild and revive the left and then the new left will do this.” It’s not going to work like that. And so if you ask my opinion, you have to go straight to the people, to the many different people, among which leftwingers constitute only one constituency, who are going to prove useful to this project. I strongly recommend this strategy to my leftist friends, and amongst the leftist organisations, I read in their publications quite a lot of similar ideas and methodological echoes. But I would not choose to work within the left at this period of time. I’m not underestimating those ideas. I did work within those methodologies for twenty years! But I don’t think I have to begin from there to reach the many parts of the people in struggle that surround me. That seems more productive.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0248_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0248_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity discussions, June 2017.</span></span></span><em>R: Your vision reminds me of many very different organisational opportunities, from the Greater London Enterprise Board before Margaret Thatcher crushed it, to the exciting municipal experiments in the Fearless Cities network launched in Barcelona. Where, internationally, do you take your inspiration from?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>The interesting things happening now in Barcelona and Madrid and other areas in Spain are indeed a major source of inspiration and relevant ideas. Moreover, there we are talking about another European country, which means a similar political context and indeed a shared history. We witness the expansion of similar efforts in other countries. Thanks to Magda at the Team Syntegrity, I recently discovered some of the great work being undertaken by Razem, the new leftwing party in Poland, something similar to what Podemos are doing. And there are similar initiatives in Romania and also in Croatia at the municipal level. It is all at a very early stage, this way of addressing our organisational and methodological problems, but it is happening and will give us new insights. </p> <p>What is happening in Rojava and the Kurdish areas of Syria is also inspiring. The major argument that comes from there is that democracy and the decentralisation of decision-making and the coordination of equals are not luxuries that we can only aspire to after we have put paid to our enemies, but that they are crucial and essential tools if you want to survive because they are the only way to liberate in full the capacities of the people. That is an absolutely key argument. And a major breakthrough in experience that is going on there, and I use it a lot.</p> <p>Another source of inspiration comes from the enemy camp, so to speak! I admire the determination, the political conviction and the coordination of neoliberal political formations in every country. They are very dedicated, and very ready to give away their power if that is good for their cause. Take the example of neoliberal politicians who privatise. Privatisation takes away power from the political level, from <em>your</em> level if you are a neoliberal politician, and gives it to major corporations. But these corporations are the proper entities according to neoliberal ideology that should take these kinds of decisions. From our perspective, how often do you see leftwing political leaders come to power who readily give away decision-making to the social entities that their ideology seems to promote? I admire that: I like it. That’s another source of inspiration. Their determination and devotion and being ready to do things that seem to curtail their own influence to promote the wider ideological goals.&nbsp; </p> <p>Another inspiring model is the very successful, I should say, social movement, the Islamist Gulen movement in Turkey – Gulen was the former friend and now deadly enemy of Erdogan – which used to work mainly at the social level, organising various basic social functions in Turkey, cornering education and other crucial areas of society, to preserve both the ideas and activities of the people that they favoured at a very profound level. I believe, when I talk about power at the social level, that we need to be thinking about functions like that and on that sort of scale. You literally have to organise vital functions of society in a way that is autonomous, or semi-autonomous, and with several interfaces<span> </span>with the state. Hezbollah is attempting a similar process of becoming the true organisers of life at a neighbourhood level, and combining that with political power, using that leverage to empower themselves at a social level. </p> <p>That too is a very interesting reversal of priorities if you think about it. In the traditional left we want to produce social power in order to have political power, because we believe that is very crucial and no doubt it is. But in Lebanon, Hezbollah cannot take over the government even if they had the majority: war would break out the following day. So they know their political limits. And they have used the political power that they have in order to acquire a veritable social power, attained through empowering people in various areas in Lebanon. </p> <p>These are interesting versions of how you can reconfigure and combine political and social power and what kind of priorities you formulate. <span></span></p> <p><em>R: I wonder, for example, what you would make of that moment in the development of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt when there seemed to be the opportunity to develop a vibrant, pluralist youth movement, but this was never allowed to come to fruition.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>They were also operating in a very toxic political environment, and are forced to be active at the social level of influence, as a consequence. But their fight is for other values, not for our concept of emancipation, and so that is bound to set limits. The funny thing is that all too often the left have similar self-imposed limitations even though we say to ourselves that we fight for emancipation, and this is what we promote. If you have a pluralist youth movement around you, you must not be afraid of it. You must see it in a positive light. I can see why the Muslim Brotherhood might find that impossible. But it’s more strange when leftist parties can’t deal with that.</p> <p><em>R. There is a big debate in leftist circles about ‘left populism’, and the sort of move that Jean-Luc M</em><em><span class="st"><em>é</em></span>lenchon has made to construct a monocultural French National Us, for example, from the ‘common sense of the social majority’, beyond class, race and gender differences. This again seems designed to bypass the pluralist energies which empower self-organising formations in our diverse societies? Do you see this as a major trap for progressives? &nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>I agree about the dangers of ‘left populism’. But we can find a solution to this simply by broadening our viewpoint. At this moment in time, this is not at all a problem confined to progressive movements or the left. This relates to a problem human society has encountered since the first permanent human settlement of the Sumerians. Since then, the best way that we have figured out how to take decisions in complex societies is by cutting off the majority of the population from that decision-making. In the broadest sense, this is a description of our civilizational status. Despite exceptional and brilliant moments in history, we have not solved the problem. But I strongly believe that we are living in a period over the last two centuries and increasingly, in which continuing in this manner visibly harms our societies on a huge scale.</p> <p>So we are about to take an evolutionary step, and emancipation, progressive values, I see these as the ingredients of this evolutionary step. We have to solve this sort of problem within the political left, which is the question you were putting to me, but in order to do this, we have to see the challenge as an instance of a much broader phenomenon that societies are facing. Usually the left don’t do that. We think that it is our problem, and that if we manage to solve it, we will then go on to liberate society. </p> <p>I have watched this general decline of the default position we have at hand, which is cutting other people off from the decision-making, in order to be able to control and manage complex societies. I see this in various areas of human activity, whether you are looking at surveillance or left factional in-fighting. </p> <p>But to solve this – we need a broader perspective. The core question is, how is it possible to do mass politics without leaders, leaders not in the sense of those who decide, because as I have already suggested, that is the part that won’t work, but leaders as the symbolic consolidation of values, social trends and commitments. Maybe we don’t need a symbolic consolidation, a person, a face, in order to do mass politics. But up until now we do seem to have connected differently to faces, in a way that we do not to ideas. A person can commit him or herself to ‘solidarity’ as an abstract principle, but someone who is seen to enact this will move people’s admiration in a much more direct, emotional way. This particular woman, with her eyes, and her persona – can have an enormous effect on a public, and we cannot be indifferent to this.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0282_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0282_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity,June 2017.</span></span></span><em>R: You mentioned the centrality of the emotions, perhaps particularly to the younger participants in the Team Syntegrity. This may be a generational development, linked to the digital rise of peer group communication. Emotional literacy and the pursuit of happiness is surely a profound cultural, social and political gain, but it coincides with an era only now barely emerging from the sense that ‘there is no alternative’ to austerity. People tend to look for reassurances that they are not going to be losers before they are willing to try anything. Is that your experience in trying to organise change in Greece?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>&nbsp;What stimulated me on the subject of emotionality in Barcelona was my growing conviction that people will be able to make huge sacrifices and take on huge risks for change if they are emotionally attached to other people. That this is the crucial factor. </p> <p>I have met twenty year olds who are ultra-nationalists. But if they have the opportunity to really get to know someone from another country, and this goes well, these friends may in no time be willing to give their lives for each other. Something is happening in this area of social relations. And I don’t think we have grasped this development or have a serious assessment of what is going on. I am not talking about psychological explanations – these we do have. But I am talking about a serious political understanding of the impact of these developments. The rise of the right in so many countries has to do with this kind of emotional transference among groups of people, and we have not paid proper attention to this.</p> <p>When it comes to what motivates people to become active, for the next few decades we will probably have to cope with generations of people who implicitly assume that change can be both easy and quick, once they decide on something. Go to a few demonstrations, go and vote, participate in a few meetings, and things must change. But this is not the case. It’s not easy to tell people that they are going to have to ‘try harder’ if they want to live in a decent society. And I wouldn’t exactly want to say that anyway. It’s more a case of them being more ambitious for themselves about what they want to see and to do. People must be more engaged in ways based on their own interests. And for sure, as societies we have to try harder to find these ways.</p> <p>The ‘end of history’ mentality is so rooted in our minds, which says to us, either there are no serious challenges, or if they do exist, I will deal with these in a way that suits my lifestyle. I may look like a militant activist, but actually, my commitment is two or three hours a day maximum. This approach will not produce results, because the difficult times coming will require a different order of commitment. I’m not just talking about the hours this will take, but the nature and quality of the commitment including my own sense of my identity and interests. We will have around us as you said anxious people who want quick results. We must vote against Trump and mobilise for his impeachment and a change of president; and if we invest in our society in this way and are successful, it must change because we have been willing to do this! But this is not true. A lot of people have to do all sorts of things at all sorts of levels of society, large and small, before a society begins to change and we win the privilege of being able to say, not that we are changing, but that indeed we are influencing our societies in a better direction.</p> <p>Influencing society is a very hard job. The neoliberals poured a huge amount of effort and money into institutions, foundations, colleges and universities, working for decades to secure the changes that we witness around us. We cannot expect that demonstrating for three days out in the streets, or voting for a political change, will be enough to change the nature and direction of our societies. So this is the false expectation that we should also be thinking about more, and finding ways to overcome it.</p> <p><em>R: Thank you, Andreas. <br /></em></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>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></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="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings">The politics of feelings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</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"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> Croatia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </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 Turkey Syria Egypt Lebanon Croatia Poland Spain Greece Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Andreas Karitzis Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:46:10 +0000 Andreas Karitzis and Rosemary Bechler 115597 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Carmena's city: from 2011 to the present day, how Madrid tried to change the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/city-of-madrid-change-world-manuela-carmena <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The host city for Transeuropa, surfing or drowning in the waves of governing for change?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20170912_172615.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20170912_172615.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffiti of Mayor Manuela Carmena. Joan Pedro-Carañana. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Madrid provided a perfect setting for the<em> Transeuropa</em> festival that was held on 25-29 October. Many discussions that took place reflected key debates and contradictions that have turned Spain’s capital into a key control experiment in politics for change. In Madrid, new and often differing ideas have emerged on how to address the ills affecting society. </p> <p>This article conducts a <em>tour d’horizon</em> around the different social, political, cultural and economic proposals for change that have been promoted in Madrid since 2011. </p> <h2><strong>Questions in general</strong></h2> <p>Processes of change should connect a diagnosis of the existing structural context of multiple, interconnected crises with a viable therapy. Some of the key questions that arise are the following: </p> <p>- How can a social majority be built to confront the international oligarchy? </p> <p>- How can local institutions improve people’s well-being in a context of systemic crisis? </p> <p>- How can human rights be protected in the face of the refugee crisis or speculation in the housing sector? </p> <p>- How to tackle climate change when the system is based on extractivism, productivism and consumerism? </p> <p>- How can social services be improved in the context of debt and the politics of Austerity? </p> <p>- How to foster a plural culture for change when the media are concentrated in a few conglomerates that promote superficiality and triviality? </p> <p>- How can politics be feminised in the context of the patriarchal power structures that dominate institutions? </p> <p>- How can the digital commons be promoted vis-à-vis the power of technology monopolies?</p> <p>There is surely no formula to resolve these problems. These questions have prompted different responses that have often led to conflict, especially between proposals coming from institutional politics and those arising from social movements. </p> <p>This article focuses on the proposals that have been raised at the local level in Madrid and their capacity to foster national and international transformations. New questions arise on a strategic level about how to achieve the shared objectives of confronting the multiple crises and building a more equal society:</p> <p>- Should local governments focus more on transforming culture or the economy? </p> <p>- Should they attempt radical transformations or give a sense of governability and normality? </p> <p>- Should they try to avoid backlashes from powerful agents? </p> <p>- What relations should be developed between social movements and political parties? </p> <p>- How can effective and democratic decision-making processes be combined? </p> <p>- How can local forces act in the context of national and European governance? </p> <p>- How can cities become environmentally sustainable? </p> <p>- What communication practices can foster solidarity and bring people together? </p> <h2><strong>The two souls of the 15-M combine to attain municipal government</strong></h2> <p>The first debates took place within the 15-M (or ‘indignados’) movement all around Spain in 2011. The movement had (at least) two souls. One of them was based on a ‘citizenist’ perspective that was looking for the regeneration of institutions and politics, and the other approach proposed deeper, radical transformations. </p> <p>Whilst the first perspective demanded an end to corruption and the abuses of the political and economic systems, the latter identified important limits to representative politics in the context of the EU and global, financial capitalism, questioned the system itself and promoted more direct forms of democracy. One soul focused on the indecent practices of the corporate-state elite and the other soul contested the indecency of the logic behind the corporate-state system. Citizenism addressed the effects, radicalism looked into the causes. Neither of them was able to identify adequate means to achieve their diffuse objectives.</p> <p>The election of the Popular Party and its implementation of Austerity policies demonstrated the limits of street mobilisation. However, three years later, Podemos was born on the back of the legitimacy granted by the 15-M movement. The following year, the two souls of the 15-M converged again in an explosion of creativity and hope that brought Manuela Carmena to the mayor’s office in the city of Madrid. She ran with Ahora Madrid, “a citizen platform of popular unity” that put into practice municipalist principles. </p> <p>The origins of Ahora Madrid date back to June 2014 when Municipalia was launched and soon after turned into Ganemos Madrid. It was defined as a citizen initiative based on horizontality and assembly. It was a confluence of people, social movements, associations and parties that sought to democratise politics by engaging in internal democratic practices. Its short-term objective was to unite a plurality of forces on the left to run for the municipal elections of 2015 in Madrid. This proposal that came from below obtained 30,000 signatures as an endorsement. Podemos and other parties soon joined. In March 2015, Ahora Madrid was presented as the party that would run for the elections. With the online voting of 15,000 people in the primary elections, Manuela Carmena was elected candidate by a wide majority. </p> <p>Ahora Madrid activists and outside citizens mobilised massively to campaign for Carmena during the municipal election in May. A flow of creative communication once again occupied the streets and the social media. But this time, the socio-political movement was subsumed by its personalisation in the figure of Carmena. Pop-style images a la Obama campaign, far from the aesthetic of the traditional left, dominated. Following the principles of the star system, the candidate was portrayed as a charismatic leader with a great personal history to tell, one of the struggle for human rights, clandestinely during Franco’s dictatorship and as a renowned judge during democracy. Posters featured Carmena as a pop-icon, a superhero that could take care of us; <em>supergranma</em>. The narrative was based on the view that she had experience, was good-natured, intelligent and willing to listen and engage in dialogue. </p> <p>The use of political marketing involved the re-appropriation and re-signification of the imagery of mainstream politics. The campaign could not be based on vacuous and vague promises like those of traditional parties, but needed practical transformative content. Thus, hope for change was filled with solutions to the problem of home evictions and the democratisation of institutional practices. The individualised images of Carmena were accompanied by references to the 15-M movement to show that it was a collective enterprise full of youthful joy. Carmena insisted on the collective character of the electoral platform and her reliance on the work done by those who were not visible. The official <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3OYOEd_ZQ0">anthem</a> emphasised togetherness and the ‘we’, combining reggae and Latin music to defend dignity, creativity and the joy of living.</p> <p>The two souls of the 15-M reappeared to confront the multiple crises that Madrileños were facing. The pragmatic soul co-existed with proposals for deeper transformations in the mid-term. The latter was dominant in the electoral programme. On a strategic level, the programme focused on creating a sustainable economy with quality employment, assuring social rights and equity, and making Madrid a more sustainable, cohesive and close city through democratic, transparent and effective government. Specific measures included tackling home evictions, facilitating citizen participation and having binding referendums, guaranteeing universal health care and basic supplies (water, electricity, gas) to eliminate energy poverty, the remunicipalisation of privatised social services, a citizen audit of the municipal debt for its restructuring, improving mobility and reducing pollution, plus an emergency plan to create employment. </p> <h2><strong>Criticisms of the municipal government</strong></h2> <p>With this programme, Ahora Madrid came second in the municipal election with 20 seats in May 2015 with PP winning 21 seats and PSOE 9. Ahora Madrid reached an agreement with PSOE and Carmena became mayor.</p> <p>Many social movements and left wing parties participated in the process of “popular unity”, but Carmena emphasised the transversal approach to incorporate people from different ideologies and backgrounds. Thus, Carmena has often declared that she wants to govern for “everybody”. However, the efficacy of this rhetorical tool is reduced when practical decisions have to be made around topics in which there are conflicting interests.</p> <p>After two years in government, social activists – some of whom participate in the government – have questioned the depth of the reforms that have been implemented and the strategic line of the City Council. The audit of municipal debt and the plan against energetic poverty are still a work in progress. Some privatised social services have been remunicipalised, but not others. After all, critics recall, Carmena had said that the proposals in the programme were only suggestions.</p> <p>The city centre is experiencing a rapid process of gentrification with rent prices skyrocketing and housing speculation expanding. Activists against home evictions value the intentions of the City Council but feel dissatisfied with the depth of the changes and complain that only a small number of council houses have been put at the disposition of evicted families. Many families continue to pay for their mortgage even after being evicted since the implementation of the discharge of the debt depends on the Spanish central government of PP (normally the property is taken as payment of debt and any outstanding debt written off – but what happens in Spain is that the person loses the house and still has to pay the debt). The limits to local politics are also reflected in the fact that the national health system also depends on central government.</p> <p>Left-wing activists and critical members of the City Council have questioned the role of Ahora Madrid in real estate macro-projects such as Operation Chamartín (later known as Madrid Nuevo Norte), which was initiated by the PP. They argue that the City Council has abandoned its initial plan to confront the interests of financial and real estate capital and bring the operation to a halt. While the Council has not conceded all the demands made by corporate power, activists argue that it is nevertheless promoting planning permission for massive amounts of land and favouring macro-construction and speculation. Offices, skyscrapers, headquarters for corporations and ostentatious buildings will give shape to the financial City in the North. Meanwhile, the south of Madrid will become further excluded and impoverished. With this operation, activists argue that the City Council is conferring more hegemony on the financial and real estate interests that are ruling the city.</p> <p>Critics contend that the life of the working and middle classes hasn’t changed much with the ‘government of change’ because of the ‘governist’ approach it has adopted. This pragmatic, citizenist and institutionalist perspective tries to avoid confronting powerful interests and, thus, doesn’t engage in the material struggle. Activists accuse members of Ahora Madrid of increasingly focusing on keeping their position and being re-elected instead of doing politics that introduces conflict. They criticise the centrality of the mayor and her nephew in-law in the decision-making processes to the detriment of plurality and democratic practices. </p> <p>The strategy of administering government in professional and ‘serious’ ways has led, in the view of critics, to equivocation. In this view, the Council’s focus on corruption and institutional regeneration is insufficient when powerful economic actors attack the interests of the majority.</p> <h2><strong>Contradictions regarding equality</strong></h2> <p>In spite of the limitations of the reforms implemented by the City Council, Madrid has less debt now (3,500 million Euros with a reduction of 2,000 million), more social investment (26% increase) and surplus (1,100 million). It has also worked to improve mobility and reduce pollution by restricting traffic in the city centre.</p> <p>After two years in government, Ahora Madrid has created a Councillorship of Equality to combat sexism and gender violence, as well as an Employment Commission, although the results are limited so far. For example, only 240 grants have been assigned for young, unemployed people and only 300 long-term unemployed people over 45 years old have been offered a place to participate in an employment pilot programme.&nbsp; </p> <p>The façade of the City Council features a placard welcoming refugees, but the reception of refugees depends on the central government, which is not complying with its commitment to host around 17,000 refugees. Only 1,304 people have been received in Spain and only 355 have been granted the legal status of refugees. In spite of not being its competency, the City Council of Madrid has dedicated 10 million Euros (0.25% of the municipal budget) to providing shelter (40 houses, mostly rented) and legal, psychological and school support to refugees.</p> <p>Madrid has also joined the refugee-cities network launched by Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau and hosted the Encounter of Municipalities of Madrid Committed to Refuge, in which municipalities, political parties, trade unions, associations and NGOs all agreed on 12 measures to welcome refugees. However, the City Council has been criticised for taking up to 10 days to provide shelter and assistance to 80 refugees who were camped in a park and to inform the Ministry of Employment, which is the competent authority.</p> <h2><strong>Contradictions in participation and democracy</strong></h2> <p>The City Council of Madrid has been praised as an international reference point for citizen participation. It has taken its model of citizen participation to the UN, being the only city in the world that took the floor. It is argued that a process of decentralization and dispersion of decision-making power is taking place. In this view, local districts have been granted more autonomy and decision-making capacity so that neighbours can make proposals that the councillors take to the government board. </p> <p>The City Council has also made available many places for associations to organise events. For example, it has contributed to dialogue and understanding between Madrid and Catalonia by providing a space to discuss a referendum of independence. However, in a flagrant attack on freedom of speech a judge prohibited the act after an appeal presented by the Popular Party. Again, the limits of local politics in the context of authoritarian structures becomes clear. The City Council cancelled the act and presented allegations. What else could it do? Civil disobedience? Certainly not retire the judge.</p> <p>A noteworthy initiative has been the creation of the platform <a href="https://decide.madrid.es/">https://decide.madrid.es/</a> for citizens above 16 to vote in a participatory budget and make proposals, debate, vote on them and submit to binding referendum the proposals that obtain at least 2% of the census. The platform has been developed through free software that can be copied by other cities around the world and the Council provides assistance to other localities to implement this programme. </p> <p>The Council has endowed the participatory budget with 100 million Euros. Citizens of Madrid have been called to vote for the remodelling of Gran Vía and Plaza de España, making the city more sustainable and friendly for pedestrians and cyclists, and improving transportation. </p> <p>Participation has remained low as the Council lost the support of social movements and no prior process of information and education in democracy and online voting was put in place. 214,000 people (out of 3.2 million) have participated in the voting. Only 28,000 people voted in the first round of the voting on the general lines of the project to remodel Plaza de España. In the second round, which included mixed voting between citizens and a technical jury, and required more expertise, only 7,600 people participated and chose five designs that went to the semi-final. The jury of experts of the City Council discarded three proposals, including the most popular among citizens, and chose two projects on the list for the final vote. The winning design reached the final with 403 votes.</p> <h2><strong>Problems in the culture wars</strong></h2> <p>Activists argue that the Council has engaged in culture wars to the detriment of trying to intervene in the economic system to redistribute power and wealth. They criticise Ahora Madrid for focusing more on developing a winning ‘narrative’ on the various problems than on transforming the material sites of struggle. </p> <p>Instead of strengthening political organisation, institutionalising change and developing new economic structures, the Council selects a cultural battle according to an analysis of electoral costs/benefits. Pop aesthetic and transversal communication are considered insufficient to build power and hegemony. Interventions in the economy are required. However, the political discourse of Mayor Carmena not only does not focus on the economic dimension, but it also minimises the political dimension as a conflictive site of struggle. An important part of the discourse is based on ‘empty signifiers’ emphasising that Madrid looks “beautiful” now and that the people feel “happy”.</p> <p>Ahora Madrid thought it could win hegemony by engaging in the culture wars, but the right wing has demonstrated that they feel all too comfortable with many of the battles and the errors that the Council has made. </p> <p>The left welcomed the application of the Law of Historical Memory to change the name of streets and statues in tribute to fascists. However, the flagrant errors the Council made gave ammunition to the right.</p> <p>The contradictory character of the processes taking place in Madrid could be observed in World Pride, which demonstrated that Madrid is a paradigmatic city for LGTBI rights, but which was commercialised and lacking in class analysis. </p> <p>A successful cultural intervention has consisted in the introduction of traffic lights with parity (a couple formed by a man and a woman), inclusive (man and man, and woman and woman couples), and egalitarian (a female figure). The Council has also launched a campaign to include civic messages against sexual aggression in badges and napkins at bars during the summer festivities.</p> <p>One of the worst defeats in the culture wars began when the Council didn’t notice that it had hired a puppet show for adults for an event with children. The right-wing media immediately rubbed its hands and attacked both the City Council and the puppeteers: the puppeteers were unjustly accused of ‘enhancement of terrorism’ and sent to prison. The Council felt intimidated and was incapable of providing an apology for the mistake it made <em>together </em>with an explanation, a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-alberto-azc-rate-lorenzo-pascasio/manifesto-for-civil-liberties">defence of freedom of expression</a> and the questioning of the legal accusation. The mayor did not support the puppeteers and removed the responsible councillor from office. The result of this cultural spat was that the right was victorious, moderates felt aghast and the left disappointed. </p> <h2><strong>Citizenism, radicalism and the Iron Law of Oligarchy</strong></h2> <p>The two souls that gathered together during the 15-M seem now to be torn apart. The more moderate soul is dominant in the Council. This citizenist approach considers radicals a minority incapable of connecting with the majority of the people. On the other hand, radical activists distrust citizenism as a new way of becoming a moderate force like PSOE, excluding dissent and democratic practices. Conflicts arise on determining the depth and type of transformations that should be pursued. </p> <p>Such divisions and tensions arise essentially as an effect of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy">Iron Law of Oligarchy</a>: when political organisations grow and achieve institutional power they start to focus more on internal struggles for power than on governing for the people and transforming reality. An internal war of manoeuvre generates blind allegiances and attacks on other factions. Bureaucratisation, verticality, power, corrupt practices and centralisation in the hands of the few characterise the oligarchic organisation. </p> <p>Differences in political position are often a result of personal and factional conflicts, and not of fundamental ideological disagreements. The structures and relations of power that develop in this context don’t leave room for the feminisation of politics, which requires the dispersion of power among people instead of the deployment of power over people.</p> <h2><strong>Counteracting the Iron Law of Oligarchy</strong></h2> <p>A mitigating factor of the oligarchic tendency can be the existence of strong social movements that act as counter-powers both within and outside the institutions. The municipalist movement attempts to continue with its agenda to prevent further movements of the City Council to the centre and the right political spectrum and to seek deep socio-political transformations in the mid-term.</p> <p>Activists remind the Council that it received its legitimacy from the 15-M movement and that it could lose it. They insist on the importance of internal democratic practices and external semi-direct democracy, as well as on the remunicipalisation of social services and the generation of social conflict. Acting at a municipal level, they try to reduce the influence of the State and expose the insufficiencies of representative democracy. </p> <p>Radical municipalism will continue to promote a new economic model that moves away from speculation, financialisation and real estate hegemony. It will promote a constituent process and will also continue to build networks with other municipalist movements to try to develop an internationalist force. The problem is that it does not have enough power.</p> <h2><strong>Looking at the future</strong></h2> <p>The fact is that institutional power cannot achieve deep transformation without the participation of strong social movements for change, and also that grassroots activism needs institutional reforms to develop new political and economic structures. The 15-M movement faced the limits of activism and Madrid’s City Council is facing the limits of institutional politics. Combined action from below and from above is required. <span class="mag-quote-center">The 15-M movement faced the limits of activism and Madrid’s City Council is facing the limits of institutional politics. Combined action from below and from above is required. </span></p> <p>Grassroots excitement has faded, but the City Council and Carmena are doing well in the polls. Thus, Ahora Madrid is still surfing the short wave of electoral politics, but the wave could die down if it loses the propulsion of grassroots currents. The Council and activists will have to learn how to move back and forth between the short waves of electoral politics and the long waves of social transformation. This means winning short-term victories that contribute to an accumulation of power for engaging in deeper, longer transformations.</p> <p>The multiple, interconnected crises have not been counteracted sufficiently so far. Only by working together can meaningful change be achieved. Further coordination within and between rebel cities can be a first step in building national and European forces able to change the power relations in the EU and confront the power of the international oligarchy.</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 here for the <a href="https://transeuropafestival.eu/">Transeuropa Festival</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="/joan-pedro-cara-ana/re-thinking-strategies-for-social-change-in-transeuropa">Re-thinking strategies for social change in Transeuropa</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"> Spain </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Spain Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Joan Pedro-Carañana Wed, 06 Dec 2017 21:54:29 +0000 Joan Pedro-Carañana 115133 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transnational collaboration among independent media: an interview with Jamie Mackay https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jamie-mackay-joan-pedro-cara-ana/transnational-collaboration-among-independent-media-interview-with- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What we want to build is something counter-hegemonic, where we are accountable only to our readers, and committed to providing a space that holds power to account.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28865921.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28865921.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The offices of Budapest daily newspaper Nepszabadsag, in Budapest, Hungary,October 8,2016when the independent newspaper unexpectedly ceased publication. Jan Woitas/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Familiar to openDemocracy readers as a former editor <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/jamie-mackay?page=1">and writer </a>for Our Kingdom, Jamie Mackay is Press Coordinator of European Alternatives (EA) and a writer and editor at <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/">PoliticalCritique</a></em><em> magazine. In October he organised a transnational media meeting at European Alternatives’ Transeuropa festival, a cultural and political encounter that took place in Madrid. Independent media practitioners discussed the opportunities and obstacles to collaboration, established avenues of cooperation and came up with concrete ideas for mutually beneficial fundraising. In this interview, Jamie shares their plans for the future.</em></p> <p><em>Joan Pedro Carañana (J.P-C.): What were the main objectives of the meeting?</em></p> <p><strong>Jamie Mackay (J.M.):</strong> We met as a group of about 25 independent media from across Europe, firstly to share our experiences of working in different national contexts, and secondly to establish a strategy for new forms of collaboration among our magazines. We presented our respective platforms and shared some of our most interesting and unique stories, from Istanbul to Lisbon. We began with the audience and the question of whether we were aiming to cultivate a small readership for activists – the left or another pre-defined constituency – or a more general readership. There were a lot of different answers, but I think we all agreed on the need for some kind of pluralism. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>J.P-C.: How do journalists set about promoting pluralism?</em></p> <p><strong>J.M.: </strong>So much power sits with the commissioning editors in choosing what, who and how to cover issues. Making sure this is always a conversation, and being actively challenged, is a vital point for democratic media. <a href="http://www.alasheq.net/en/">Ramy Al Asheq</a>, a Syrian writer based in Cologne, made a really important intervention in the meeting. For years he’s been involved in various refugee-run initiatives, working to establish a voice in German civil society beyond simply talking about journeys and the trauma of fleeing war. Now they are building spaces in which they can be empowered to talk about music, books, cooking, domestic politics, etc., as a challenge to the tokenistic use of refugee voices. For most of us, listening to and working with these kinds of initiatives would be a good start. </p> <p>It’s worth re-iterating a point made by the journalist <a href="https://ismaileinashe.wordpress.com/">Ismail Einashe</a> too, that while it is great to work transnationally across borders, between languages and so on, we can’t lose sight of who is writing the stories and the power dynamics in play. If we cover precarious worker struggles from an international perspective, for example, that’s all well and good, but we still can’t lose track of who is doing the reporting, and framing it. White middle class journalists: or a more diverse editorial team? Finally, who, going back to the audience question, actually reads this stuff? Consciously reaching for new audiences is, I think, one of the most important ways of developing a pluralistic editorial practice.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>J.P-C.: What agreements for collaboration did you achieve?</em></p> <p><strong>J.M.: </strong>The most successful part of our meeting came from a discussion about how to cooperate to tell stories transnationally around key themes. The right to housing has been one of the areas in which this cross-border approach has been able to work effectively so far. A sort of first test of the loose network we’ve been working together to build. &nbsp;</p> <p>To give you an example, a few months ago the Italian magazine <a href="http://www.ilsalto.net/">il Salto</a> set up a pan-European inquiry into problems with all kinds of housing struggles across Europe, commissioning articles from Portugal and Italy. These were <a href="http://www.ilsalto.net/inchiesta-lotta-casa-europa/">published in Italian</a>. Then they got in touch with <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/">Political Critique</a> and we translated the pieces in-house <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/world/2017/life-and-struggle-in-a-modern-day-roman-slum/">into English</a>. On top of this we contacted the Czech magazine <a href="https://a2larm.cz/">A2larm</a>, another of our partners, who gave il Salto a piece from <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/cee/czech-republic/2017/when-the-mayor-turns-the-city-into-a-ghetto/">the city of Kladno</a>, so it appeared in Czech, Italian and English. And so on and so on. The meeting also helped fuel this: <a href="http://novaramedia.com/">Novara media</a> gave a UK perspective, <a href="http://lagrietaonline.com/">La Grieta</a> a Spanish one and now there’s a piece from Amsterdam too. The whole series is free to be retranslated or posted within the network. </p> <p>We talked about other possible themes and inquiries of a similar nature, and had the idea of organizing something similar looking at feminist experience, or working lives. Cristina Mari, an editor at <a href="http://kosovotwopointzero.com/">Kosovo 2.0</a>, mooted an idea that I found really interesting: to commission a series of pieces across the network about how a single EU policy affects a local context, and then put them together in a single space. So choosing, for example, a reform to workers’ rights, looking at benefits and problems of the measure in Poland for example as compared with say Greece. Another practical suggestion was to coordinate some kind of cross-border, cross-platform crowdfunding campaign among us; to raise money for a ‘translation pot’ to keep up the momentum of the cross-border work. </p> <p><em>J.P-C.: What objectives did you agree to pursue?</em></p> <p><strong>J.M.: </strong>The main thing was to stay in touch. And in the weeks after at least some of us, an expanding group, have been communicating on a daily basis, on a social media page. Making sure we have some aspect of community and debate is really important, to stop our collaborations becoming just bot-like aggregators. Though even this would be a start…! </p> <p>As for my own personal takeaways I’d say the main priority is to amplify each other’s work, re-contextualising stories in transnational ways for different audiences and so bringing arguments, information and perspectives where they were previously lacking. Building links across borders in a very tangible sense. &nbsp;</p> <p>At Political Critique we’re trying to put this objective at the heart of our editorial process with a big emphasis on translation, and a thematic organization of our site which is conducive to thinking beyond nation states alone. But different publications and individuals have their own perspectives on how it can look. The most important thing for now is that we develop a process between us where editors can quickly and efficiently find authoritative and trustworthy perspectives on issues outside of their national contexts. This is really a question of trust, and as much about internal processes as front-end presentation to readers. The end result, provided we all keep talking, will be a drastic improvement in the quality and nature of all our international coverage. </p> <p><em>J.P-C.: How do you view your connection with the mainstream media? Do you aim to compete with them? Will you conduct critical analysis of mainstream media content?</em></p> <p><strong>J.M.: </strong>I can only speak for Political Critique here, but I wouldn’t use the word compete, no. To me that suggests we are trying to build something that resembles them. Not only is this impossible from a resource point of view, I also think we start from quite different principles. By mainstream media, as a broad term, we usually mean information and subsequently power wielded by billionaires, who in most cases set a press agenda while, at the same time, using their vastly superior resources to present politicized information as something neutral. </p> <p>Add corporate advertising into the mix, lobbying and individual business interests, and you can see why so much of the ‘mainstream media’ works so hard to keep their funding deals secret. Then of course there’s the fundamental relationship with government and the state, lobbying, yes, but also the overlap with intelligence services which openDemocracy has covered for many years. Other members of the network are involved in serious interrogations of mainstream media too, like <a href="http://kosovotwopointzero.com/en/choosing-city-islamic-state/">Kosovo 2.0</a> who have worked really hard to challenge stereotypes about the nation, for example the factually inaccurate presentation in global media – e.g. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/images/2016/05/22/nytfrontpage/scannat.pdf">The NYT</a> – that it is Europe’s number one hotbed for jihadi recruitment (see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/01/opinion/the-ways-that-kosovo-is-fighting-extremism.html">the response</a> by Florian Qehaja for an eloquent corrective). </p> <p>What we want to build is something counter-hegemonic, where we are accountable only to our readers, and committed to providing a space that holds power to account. This means an explicit political commitment to democracy. No hidden games. We want to be free from corporate interference, transparent about our funding and, with cases like the Kosovo story above, committed to rigorous fact checking. For me personally there are some great bigger magazines, like <a href="https://www.internazionale.it/">Internazionale</a> in Italy, who regularly publish the network’s pieces in their print edition, or <a href="http://www.eldiario.es/">eldiario</a> in Spain who we also have ties with. I do think there is space within a certain kind of large audience journalism to resist the dominant trends of the corporate media. As smaller independents we can play a role in that, but it’s just one aspect of what we do. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>J.P-C.: Do you have any plans to promote broader reforms in the mainstream media systems through forms of regulation?</em></p> <p><strong>J.M.: </strong>As a network we don’t have a ‘plan’ as such to promote specific reforms no, though many of us are involved in initiatives in our respective countries and at the very least we aim to communicate the conversations about mainstream media reform to one another’s audiences. For this reason there are many different answers, but some common themes do emerge: tackling monopolies, taking action on lobbying, the need for genuinely independent press regulators to name just a few. </p> <p>In Europe today, though, we are living through extraordinary circumstances, like the situation in Poland. I was talking with my fellow Political Critique editor Dawid Krawczyk from <a href="http://krytykapolityczna.pl/">Krytyka Polityczna</a> about this the other day. There are still mainstream newspapers and TV broadcasters who are independent from the government there. But he told me there is also a reasonable fear that a next step after dismantling the judiciary system may be an attempt to take over the media. Not many people expect it to be some kind of brutal intervention by the state. No one will send troops to a TV station or newspaper offices like in some cartoonish totalitarian regime. What might happen, though, is that the ruling party passes a bill demanding that media companies are owned by Polish shareholders. Investors connected with the government would probably be incentivized to invest in shares of those media companies and then control the content produced by them. </p><p> Looking at the situation in Hungary where most of the mainstream media is now controlled by oligarchy with ties to Viktor Orban it’s clear that problems with the mainstream media system are arising from similar pressures, but with quite vastly different national manifestations. Any conversation about reforming the mainstream media has to be connected to the larger international issue of how to tackle the excesses of corporate and oligarch power. And that’s the conversation our network pushes forwards every day, against all kinds of adversity, on our various platforms. By the way, we all hope openDemocracy will be an increasingly important part of this network or similar.</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="/joan-pedro-cara-ana/re-thinking-strategies-for-social-change-in-transeuropa">Re-thinking strategies for social change in Transeuropa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana-victor-fleurot/video-games-and-socio-political-change-intervi">Video games and socio-political change: interview with Victor Fleurot (2084/) </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/joan-pedro/anti-austerity-forces-and-digital-media-in-spain">Anti-austerity forces and the digital media in Spain </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Team Syntegrity Joan Pedro-Carañana Jamie Mackay Wed, 06 Dec 2017 11:05:28 +0000 Jamie Mackay and Joan Pedro-Carañana 115104 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Safe spaces, bagpipes and houmous https://www.opendemocracy.net/aya-haidar-rosemary-bechler/safe-spaces-bagpipes-and-houmous <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“This is the safe space I was talking about… a totally open space people can feel safe in, because stories are shared, barriers are broken and everyone is welcome.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0008.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0008.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aya Haidar</span></span></span>Aya Haidar </em><em>was one of 30 participants from Europe and beyond who took part in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a> – or non-hierarchical conference – held in Barcelona on 18-22 June 2017. This is part of a series of follow-up conversations on that event's themes, recommendations and relationships.</em></p><p><strong>Aya Haidar (Aya): </strong>I’m sorry about the delayed start. I’m in Scotland in this tiny town on an arts residency and I was getting ready to speak to you guys when I get a call from one of the ladies who works in our office. She went to the train station to drop someone off and saw these two Arab-looking men wandering around lost. (This is an incredibly white part of the world.) The older one looked unwell and partially disabled, the other just lost. No-one speaks Arabic so she took them back home and rang me up to ask me to translate. Anyway they come from another town maybe an hour and a half away, because they found an advert for a mobility scooter for sale on Facebook. They came on the offchance, but they only have a postcode and they are lost. It’s freezing, it’s raining and they only have these crappy, flimsy little jackets.&nbsp; </p> <p>I tried to understand. The guy said, “Look my Dad is unwell. He has heart problems, and we have to be back where we live at 5pm for a doctor’s appointment. My mum is having an operation…”–&nbsp;they haven’t eaten, the list is endless! The scooter is for his father because he can’t walk, yet he has been traipsing over here in the rain to get it and is clearly on his last legs. It costs £600, which is literally all the money they have and turns out to be in another town one hour away and the trains are so infrequent. But this amazing woman in our office has a van and says, “Take my van. I’ll walk home. Just get them there.” The van is perfect because fitted out for a wheelchair. And we find someone to take them to pick up the scooter and get them home. &nbsp;So that’s why I was late.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/aya.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/aya.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The motor scooter!</span></span></span><span><em>Rosemary Bechler (RB): Does that sort of thing happen every day, Aya?</em></span></p> <p><strong>Aya: </strong>Pretty much. One hundred Syrian refugees have come into this area, but there are very few resources for them. No-one speaks Arabic. I am the first Arab-speaker that they have encountered here, and it is just a fluke that I took on this project! </p> <h2><strong>Level playing fields</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0013.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0013.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>RB: Well actually that dovetails rather well into what we were hoping to talk to you about, Aya, which was the Safe Spaces discussion you took part in last June in Barcelona. &nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>More specifically, the distinction that arose in your group between safe spaces which seek to reassure one cultural grouping, like a US student sorority house for example, and safe spaces bringing people together from different backgrounds to resolve their differences and negotiate a better way of living together? Has that proved to be an important distinction in your work as an artist?</em></p> <p><strong>Aya: </strong>It was Sunny Hundal I think who made that really good point that you can be trying to create a safe space by targeting one group and preserving the culture within it, but the danger is just excluding everyone else – so what is safe about that? But where I was coming from in that discussion was how important it is nowadays in our societies to create a space where people with a common interest can come together and anything can be voiced and anything can be shared. </p> <p>As an artist, what prompted that thought was my sense that, like a lot of artists, there is a lot I don’t know about how to make a living out of this career in the arts. That is not something that you are taught at art school. Creating a space where information can be shared and opportunities are transparent could be very useful. A network of artists is really important, for example, especially for community projects where you are trying to tap into different needs and skill sets.</p> <p>Having lived in places like Saudi Arabia where I worked for two years, where open dialogue is non-existent, and if you are outed as gay your life is immediately at risk, seeing that there are other people in the same boat as you allows you to breed strength in numbers, and movement can happen. LGBT rights, mixing of gender in one communal space, certain forms of artistic expression or even freedom of written expression in some countries – these things are taboo in some parts of the Middle East. If you are gay, or a woman or a minority fighting for labour rights – whatever it is –and you have an underground movement like that, where people can talk about how they feel, in a space you have created where you are socially accepted, then something is born, a seed is planted. And I believe that this is a really strong way forward for any kind of change to happen in society.</p> <p>In our discussion, I insisted that these movements have to be completely separate from the state. They rely on people in society rather than any kind of facilitator ‘from above’.</p> <p><em>RB: So was it important for you that the Team Syntegrity process also centrally relies on the self-organisation of groups of people?</em></p> <p><strong>Aya: </strong>Absolutely, and what I found really interesting was how every single person in that whole group was different from the others. You had a group of artists, sure, but representing very different realms of the creative industries – experts in the spoken word, or theatre, or painting, or weaving. But then you also had people who worked in finance, scientists, politicians, including some people who I felt were part of the problem, all advocating from different vantage-points in society, really multilateral, top down, bottom up. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0158_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0158_0.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aya at Team Syntegrity 2017. openDemocracy/Cameron Thibos.</span></span></span>So there was lots of intense discussion and I really liked the fact that none of it was ‘facilitated’ by anyone – it was us and very much owned by the people taking part in that discussion, who themselves flipped or jumped between the different roles of ‘critic’, the people talking and the people who were just listening. You wore different hats and you had your own input, even in subjects that had been chosen seemingly out of the blue, where initially I thought, “I’m in no position to say anything on this.” But as the process unfolded, I began to feel that actually my position on this was just as valid as the people whose whole career had probably been spent working on that. There was a very level playing field for everyone in a way, and I thought that was really, really important. </p><h2><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0014_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0014_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong>Jeddah</strong></h2> <p><em>RB: When you </em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/aya-haidar/letter-from-recovering-team-syntegrity-2017-participant"><em>wrote to us</em></a><em> after the event, you said that you had, “</em><em>3 international exhibitions coming up and all have a basis around what was discussed during the forum.”&nbsp;Tell us more!</em></p> <p><strong>Aya</strong>: One just finished at the <a href="http://www.ayahaidar.com/page4.htm">Athr gallery</a> in November in the Abu Dhabi Art Fair, and I have two coming up in February. One of them is in Saudi Arabia, curated by the assistant curator of Tate Modern, Vassilis Oikonomopoulos: and the other by an amazing curator, <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/may_el_khalil_making_peace_is_a_marathon">Maya El-Khalil</a>, again in Jeddah. All of these I would say are very political shows in parts of the world where they are not allowed to be political.</p> <p><em>RB: So these too are safe, creative spaces in a way, and maybe places where art can do things that politics couldn’t?</em></p> <p><strong>Aya: </strong>Absolutely. For me, in these exhibitions, it is not as if you are allowed to say whatever you want, but, for example, for Vassilis and the Jeddah artweek, 21.39, I’m making a work around labour rights in Saudi Arabia. There are so many issues I would love to explore in Saudi Arabia, women’s rights for sure, border politics and the wide geopolitics of the region. But something that struck me so forcibly when I was living there was the lack of minority rights and lack of voice – for Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Filipino people living in that country. And then there is the pecking order based on ethnicity. </p> <p>I am interested in the value that we put on art, and also the value that we put on labour. So I am collaborating very closely with a Pakistani embroiderer who works locally in Saudi Arabia. And I have developed a work contract with him where he sets the terms. And these are very humane terms. For example, “ Can you please refer to me by my own name which is Alamdar and not Sadiq”, a racist generic term often applied to people of Pakistani or Indian origin. We negotiated his salary and that is in the contract. Having 24-hour access to electricity to maintain an air-conditioned working space, in contrast to the incredibly inhumane conditions of so many sweatshops there. Being able to attend the VIP preview of the exhibition – the people who do the labour are never ever seen. They are always behind closed doors! So this is a set of clauses in a written contract that we have signed, and it will be translated into urdu – his native language – and his job then is to hand embroider this actual contract in black thread onto white cotton. Next, I am designing the pattern for the border around it, so that this embroidered tapestry of the social contract between me and this migrant labourer, will constitute our exhibit.&nbsp; </p> <p>It speaks directly to the value of art, since if he is earning x amount, and I am selling it for y amount – then why is it that the value of the artist is so much higher than the labourer? Or why is it that you are OK buying the work for three times that amount because I have got my name on it? The piece humanises this person who is otherwise completely dehumanised, and it is a really interesting negotiation in a country where contracts don’t really exist between migrant labourers and their employers! Also it subverts the usual hierarchy: it is very much him putting down his list of demands – something you’d never normally see. So it challenges quite a lot of everyday assumptions.</p> <p><em>RB: Isn’t something rather extraordinary happening here with gender and class roles?</em></p> <p><strong>Aya: </strong>The men of course generally do have the upper hand in that society. But yes, obviously in this case it broke a lot of rules, in that I was in close confines with him, meeting him, sitting, talking to him, documenting what he said and trying to understand him and learn more about his family background and so forth. At first, he was obviously thinking, “What the hell is this?” But once I broke down the barriers, conversation flowed and I learned a lot about him having this little chat. But legally in that country I would not be able to be in that room alone with a man not related/married to me. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0021.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0021.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>RB: So you really had to create a safe space, through your art, to be able to do that.</em></p> <p><strong>Aya:</strong><em> </em>Yes. With this art work we had to create that safe space where it was allowed, to take that control back to ourselves.</p> <p>Maya El-Khalil, meanwhile, is looking at society in the region, and how the narratives of politics and the media, the ‘news’, affect our daily lives and futures. Did you see <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/gvmbny/wolfgang-tillmans-on-why-brexit-is-the-most-monumental-event-in-modern-history">Wolfgang Tillmans</a>’ summer exhibition in the Tate Modern… where there was one particularly fascinating table installation, the ‘Truth Study Centre’, covered with the images and debris of all sides of the Brexit propaganda. They showed how easily pulled and swayed we are by these stories that surround us in society. She is interested in that: in story-telling that shifts the narrative in societies.</p> <p>One of the works I am putting forward for that is specific to Saudi Arabia, where a ‘family tax’ was introduced by the government in July, which charges non-Saudis 100 riyal extra per dependent every month. Next year this will double and the year after triple. </p> <p>The aim is to get rid of migrants and ‘return jobs and healthcare to native Saudis’. This ‘Saudisation process’ has some obvious flaws, not least since all the people doing the hard labour in that society are non-Saudi. They are to be driven ‘back home’ but many of them are second or third generation Saudis who haven’t been able to become Saudi nationals. But they know nothing about Sudan, say. They don’t speak the language. Home is Saudi. One commentator called this “financial ethnic cleansing.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0004.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0004.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I have been collecting their narratives about the human cost of all this, hearing from men who say that their family is all that they have but they have had to send them away; or that their family is now reduced to eating only five days a week! These stories are not in the mainstream at all, but the mainstream is quite split over this. If you are queuing up for something and there are a lot of non-Saudis getting ahead of you in the line at school or whatever, that can be annoying. And of course non-Saudis should make a contribution to their society. But the general consensus I think is that the way that tax was brought in was not right, because it should have been done incrementally an as a proportion of someone’s wage, whereas now a road-sweeper is getting taxed exactly the same as someone who is earning millions at the head of a corporation. It’s unfair. So although I don’t feel it is my responsibility to offer a platform for the voiceless, I do think it is a massive injustice, and these voices are being completely stifled. Maybe no-one wants to know really. </p><p>So I will print excerpts from these stories on small little rubber stamps screwed to the wall, and visitors to the gallery will have an opportunity to press these stamps carrying these extremely powerful one-liners that mean something because they came from people who are directly affected by what the human cost of this is, onto their own bank notes. So it reintroduces that human cost back into the financial system. A tiny act of infiltration and dissemination – seeing how far it can go.</p> <p>But I really believe in participatory work: that for people to have any ownership over some sort of change they need to participate in it. It’s illegal to deface bank notes so they don’t have to. Or they can stamp their hands, or a book, or the wall, or photograph them or do nothing at all. The messages will be in Arabic in tiny fonts, so very subtle on the banknotes. But it is up to them if they want to take that risk. Making that mark, that physical stamp though, creates the space for a bit of rebellion maybe, and people will be able to choose between five or six different stamps which quote they relate to most. Not just to glimpse this injustice, but to do something about it by diffusing an otherwise silenced voice.</p><h2><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0020.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0020.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong>Huntly</strong></h2> <p>But the third and biggest piece of work that I’m doing for this show is heavily informed by this current arts residency I am working on, with the incredible Deveron Arts up in Huntly in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. They received funding for a community arts project with the hundred Syrian refugees who have been introduced into five or six towns across Aberdeenshire. We are to develop a project that engages the marginalised members of the community, including these Syrian refugees and I am the only Arab speaker in the place.</p> <p>The Syrians are incredibly grateful for the way they have been taken care of: they are well-housed and receiving benefits. But although there are measures in place to help them learn English over time, it will take a lot of time. They were people chosen to come here because of the trauma they have undergone, and may be suffering physically and mentally. But there is no translation for counselling, and anyway, how can you feel part of a place if you are silenced indirectly in this way and can’t even talk to people? </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0006.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0006.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>So I am creating a massive body of embroidery work by collecting the old, torn, battered shoes that they came here in when they fled from Syria in the clothes they were standing up in, and I will tell their stories that they <em>can</em> tell me and bring them into the light of day, by embroidering them on the soles of those shoes. Again, no-one it seems wants to hear these personal stories: we hear the number of people who died coming over by boat, or the number of migrants in our country. But actually, these people have names, and have lost something and they have their own fears and this is about humanising them, telling these stories that people don’t know, and will never fully know. But giving them a small glimpse into what has happened to them, and who they are. </p><p>And this brings me to the residency itself. We have decided to focus this residency on a food programme, because it is such an amazing way to bring a community together, sharing a table, and in a way making an offering. You can learn a lot about culture, about heritage through food, and about identity, giving and generosity. Arabs show their love through their food and it says a lot about them. You can say so much without the verbal exchange which is such a challenge.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0016.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>RB: This reminds me of </em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=364&amp;v=YM3HJHPGJNY"><em>the poem</em></a><em> about sharing ‘free food’ that Vanessa Kisuule wrote and performed for us in Barcelona. (4.22 – 6.00 mins.). &nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>Aya: </strong>It was indeed a very powerful poem. And you see, for me as a Muslim Arab woman, I am so tired of people identifying with where I am from only in terms of bombs, and wars and terrorist threats. I feel a deep pride in the integrity of our culture, the incredibly rich food culture of where I am from, the music, the architecture, literature, the language, the landscapes, all of it. And this is a feeling echoed by the communities we work with here. They say, “ Look, we don’t want pity from our host communities. We want them to see that we come from an incredibly diverse and rich part of the world.” But they can’t prove that except with their food. Because this they can make with their own hands, and really take it and place it in someone’s heart.</p> <p>Moreover, the fact is that when we talk about marginalised members of society here, the local Scottish community have a very poor relationship with food: it is all processed food, fast food, high sugar, high fat, high salt.&nbsp; There is a very high level of obesity. Whereas the local Syrian community, although they don’t have much, their food is very diverse and very healthy, and they cook everything from scratch. Nothing is bought pre-made.</p> <p>So we thought this would be such a good way to bring these two communities together, so that they could also share in the learning. Our Scottish community wouldn’t be the only people showing people the ropes, and maybe not getting that much back for themselves in the process. Instead it would be a two-way engagement. All the local people who have eaten this Syrian food have been completely amazed by it – floored by the sheer abundance of it and by the generosity involved. &nbsp;So food is really central to this project, I believe.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/aya2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/aya2.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inverurie church</span></span></span>But let me tell you about the church in Iverurie, a town a little larger than Huntly where there are maybe five or six Syrian families. There is only one mosque in Aberdeen which is over an hour away, and the expense of all the coming and going is too much for them. A lot of them volunteer in the church in Iverurie, with the washing up and the cleaning, or work in charity shops like Christian Aid. It is rather humbling. But the local church has been the same. The Church has opened up a permanent space within it for these Muslim Syrians to worship and hold their own meetings, as well as the facilities Muslims need to wash themselves before they worship. All those who can’t travel meet up every week for Friday prayer and that brings them all together. They are so grateful. They say, “They have welcomed us into their home, into their church, into their community.” They are full of praise, especially for the acceptance and for the trust. For them, it reinforces what is written in the Quran about all people in the world being brothers and sisters under one God. And a lot of them feel terrible about being on benefits. They say, “We are able-bodied but we can’t work because we don’t speak the language” and they are trying hard to learn English so that they can make a contribution in return.</p> <p>So you can see that in Iverurie, there is such a beautiful brotherhood of friendship in that community, which is so very different from what I read about in the news.&nbsp; There reality isn’t that, but instead such an open door mentality where Syrians have been welcomed. They tell me neighbours will knock on the door to make sure they are OK when they first arrive, and then the Syrians bring them food, and they wave and say hello and are very patient with these new arrivals they don’t understand as well, and there is this sense of warmth and acceptance. Acceptance I think is the big thing for them. </p> <p>A lot of this will inform my artwork for the foreseeable future, well beyond the exhibitions. There is a lot here and I am constantly documenting what is happening, trying to sit with it and make sense of it all. I’m on this residency on my own with my two young kids, so it is pretty manic till 7pm when thy go to bed. At night is when I can really work. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0003.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0003.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>RB: I am wondering how all of you on this project will get all these marvellous stories out into the wider Scottish community…</em></p> <p><strong>Aya: &nbsp;</strong>We have been thinking that we would like writers to come and maybe help us make up a little book where these stories could be told firsthand or maybe make up a newspaper – they do need to be told and shared.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0009.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0009.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>RB: When we contacted you it was prompted by your tweet on the safe space opened up by Inverurie church – we thought that was a perfect image for our follow-up. But in fact, as we now learn, as an activist and an artist, your work has also been creating a series of safe spaces, and maybe you have saved one of your very favourite examples to talk about last?</em></p> <p><strong>Aya:</strong> Yes, the main aim of this project is the space that we have hired. It is called Number 11, as it is located at Number 11 Gordon Street in Huntly! It is a multifaceted space&nbsp; – our office, a café, a community center, an indoor garden, a classroom… <span>.</span>What it is in fact is an amazing, multifaceted space which contains the office we will be working from, but also a language class, a performance space and a café, with the help of our Syrian friends, that serves food and coffee to people at all times, to encourage members of the local community to come and share. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0017.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0017.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>When I say local members of marginalised communities, I don’t just mean refugees or poor people, but I also include mothers – Scottish mothers with young kids, and Syrian mothers who can’t go out to work and would otherwise be keeping their kids indoors. We have a little box of toys for the kids, so that these mothers can get together in this space. We can, for example, close the shop and have a breast-feeding session where Syrian mothers can sit and talk to Scottish mothers who are also having problems breast-feeding. </p><p>We feel we are changing some of the models of ‘integration’ with our work. For example, it is great that the Council put on language courses for the Syrians, but those courses are not that good for putting language into practise. What we do is run ‘language in the wild ‘ sessions, where we take our Syrians on trips to the pharmacy or the supermarket, introducing them into the contexts most relevant to them.</p> <p>It is also a space where local people can come and share their grievances and they might say, “Well why are these people here?” And we say, “Well this is why they are here. You know what, the coffee that you are drinking was made by Hayat over there who also has three children, and who made this journey…” And this puts a face to the name and can break down any barriers that are bound to be there, say with the older members of a community for whom this is an encroachment into their town. We are all leftwing maybe in Deveron arts, but we asked ourselves – what about the others? </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0019.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0019.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>So why don’t we literally invite them into our shop, and say, “Come and have a cup of tea and a baklava and share this culture first hand.” Especially after going out on my field research and listening to what all these communities want, I’m really excited about it. I believe that is what this amazing space is going to be able to do. </p><p>Last night we had this huge event called ‘Practices of Peace’ put on by Deveron in this space. I posted something on Instagram, because the Syrians cooked Arabic food, which was delicious, and the local Scottish people were there and we had this ceilidh. So there was music and dancing and the bagpipes, as they were all tucking into houmous! It was just beautiful to see these two very disparate communities and cultures coming together in this space.</p> <p>In the daytime, we all sit at this large round table: with local writers who have dropped in, or local mums wanting to send a quick email, sitting with us who are trying to develop this project and Syrians who want to practise their English, with children playing around, old people, alcoholics, the homeless. All sharing at the same table. It is all donation-based, so if a homeless person round the corner wants a cup of tea and can only afford ten pence or nothing, she or he can have that. If someone wants to donate a tenner, he can. It is all about inclusion. We are not barring anyone based on gender, colour, race, religion, money – anything. </p> <p>So it is just this open space which doesn’t exist anywhere else in this Tory stronghold where people are set in their ways and everything closes at 4pm and opens at 10 am, and everyone is white and they like their routine. We are open from 9am to 10pm every day including the week-ends. </p> <p>The first thing we did when we moved in here was to strip the disgusting wallpaper, and paint the whole of one wall in this amazing space black. So we are all occupied at this massive chalk board: I’m up there doing the planning for the week, and my two sons are sitting a bit lower down drawing with the chalk, and you have Syrians trying to translate something elsewhere on the board. So everyone is using the huge chalkboard, and it is just incredibly engaging and fun. </p> <p>I can’t rate it highly enough. For me this is the safe space I was talking about. It is a totally open space that people can feel safe in, because stories are shared, discussion is encouraged, barriers are broken and everyone is welcome. That inclusion is key!</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0012.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG-20171121-WA0012.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Apart from Team Syntegrity 2017, all the photographs are of Aya's Huntly arts residency.</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="/rhiannon-white/future-of-civil-society-is-dependent-on-space">The future of civil society is dependent on space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wiebke-hansen-rosemary-bechler/change-in-consensual-way">Change in a consensual way</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/richard-bartlett/4-things-that-struck-me-after-visiting-political-spaces-in-14-us-cities">4 things that struck me after visiting political spaces in 14 US cities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings">The politics of feelings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</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"> Scotland </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </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> North-Africa West-Asia Germany UK Syria Saudi Arabia Scotland Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Aya Haidar Mon, 04 Dec 2017 13:13:25 +0000 Aya Haidar and Rosemary Bechler 115024 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Change in a consensual way https://www.opendemocracy.net/wiebke-hansen-rosemary-bechler/change-in-consensual-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Because often when it comes to politics, I am sort of a leader. But here I was a follower: and it was a <em>good</em> experience.” An interview on thoughts arising from Team Syntegrity 2017.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0208.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0208.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity 2017</span></span></span></em><em>Wiebke Hansen was one of 30 participants from Europe and beyond who took part in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a> – or non-hierarchical conference – held in Barcelona on 18-22 June 2017. This is part of a series of follow-up conversations on that event's themes, recommendations and relationships.</em></p><p><br /><em>Rosemary Bechler (RB<strong>):</strong></em><strong> </strong><em>We were wondering how you got involved in Srecko Horvat’s documentary film, </em><a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/02/business-colonisation-170219113145085.html"><em>Europe’s Forbidden Colony</em></a><em>?</em></p> <p><strong>Wiebke Hansen (Wiebke):</strong> I helped initiate a referendum process, not from the top down but from the bottom, the grass roots. We won the referendum in the end, which was on the remunicipalisation of the energy grids in Hamburg to bring them under public ownership – with a very slim majority, but we won it. And there was a lot of international interest in this story. Srecko was by no means the first to ask us to tell our story, but he was the first to come after us with such a big film crew! They were looking for footage on the crisis in Europe, but also for solutions to that crisis, and they saw our initiative as one such possible solution, mainly I think because this was direct democracy in which everyone was involved in the decision-making – everyone was asked. And also because this remunicipalisation addresses the need that everyone has to be supplied with public services, so it directly addressed the issue that his documentary was exploring. He had contacts in various European countries who looked for interesting examples. For me being filmed that afternoon was like stepping back into a former life, because it was the first time I had been away from the baby since he was born.&nbsp; That interview was a great afternoon: it was exciting. It was for me the beginning of being once again interested in everything that was happening outside this little home of mine.</p> <p>The referendum was my first experience of democratic ideas and concepts as they were being deployed in the energy revolution. I came across lots of people who were deeply committed to democratic ideas, as is my partner, by the way. So this was very influential in moving me in this direction too. Mine is a very personal story in many ways.</p> <p>I had never thought much about democracy before this referendum: it was just a method by which people organise themselves in society, and there could be better and worse ways, but generally-speaking this was a pretty dry topic to be skirted around. Now, when I had to use this instrument of democratic control, it suddenly came to life for me. My role was an interesting one: I was the campaign leader and was right in the middle of everything and connected to everybody since we had nearly 1,000 activists who were working for us during the years and I also&nbsp; was part of the strategic group, running things. I also got very good advice from a group of very experienced people in Hamburg, More Democracy, who had succeeded in getting Hamburg’s government to buy into some great rules on how to run referenda democratically. It was thanks to their advice and the rules they enforced that we were able to pull off the initiative we were working on; how to plan the schedule, how to collect the signatures, and so on.&nbsp; We also got on well together! So when I had my baby, I worked a bit from home for them and wrote some articles for them. So we stayed involved. It is all about these personal contacts… <span class="mag-quote-center">My role was an interesting one: I was the campaign leader and was right in the middle of everything... since we had nearly 1,000 activists who were working for us during the years and I also was part of the strategic group, running things. </span></p> <p>As an activist I started out working on Germany’s ‘energy revolution’ at various stages in its evolution.&nbsp; I think I learned the ‘green heart’ and responsibility from my parents, and in my mid-twenties, like many others, I turned to Greenpeace as an opportunity to make a contribution.&nbsp; As climate change became more of a concern to the environmental movement we worked on this and the ‘energy revolution’ – very much a citizen-led initiative in Germany over two, nearly three decades. I was very interested in the relationship of the economy to the environment. I also worked in an anti-nuclear organisation, and that was how I met my partner, standing in front of a nuclear power plant demonstrating for its closure after a nuclear accident at the plant. I remember thinking, “What a nice guy!”&nbsp; </p> <p><em>RB:&nbsp; You said in expressing your hopes for Team Syntegrity 2017 that “at best”, you hoped to emerge from it, “part of an international movement for democracy”. What form do you hope that movement will take?</em></p> <p><em>You mentioned Srecko’s interest in the direct democracy of your campaign. DiEM25, however, has just decided, while remaining a movement for the democratisation of Europe, to develop an ‘electoral wing’ to enable it also to participate as a pan-European party in the European elections in 2019.</em></p> <p><strong>Wiebke: </strong>&nbsp;I heard something about the organisation for democratising Europe that Srecko is involved in, DiEM25, much later – actually at the Team Syntegrity. It was Agnieszka Wiśniewska from Poland who told me about this and also Emma Aviles from Spain – she was interested in it as well. Some weeks after our Barcelona encounter, there was the G20 summit in Hamburg and I met DiEM25 people at the alternative conference I attended there, some of whom knew me from the referendum campaign. I also met Srecko again, probably on the same day that his <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPFAhhEtl-Q">DiEM25 meeting</a> was almost sabotaged by someone setting off a fire alarm. There was some idea about doing something together with the Hamburg people, but so far there has been no further contact between us. I’m still interested. I have some doubts about the success of an ‘electoral wing’. I have some experience of a small political party with very similar ideas for Europe as DiEM25, and they tried to have some impact in the German national elections in September. It was a very hard time for little new parties. Unfortunately they even failed to cross the threshold for state support. </p> <p>Of course, a political party has advantages because it is a familiar format. If you are successful you can achieve a lot. But it also may exclude a lot of people who do not feel comfortable in parties and who do not have a high regard for how people behave in parties. A movement without these encumbrances seems more open to everybody, although of course there might be other people who feel better in parties!</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0054.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0054.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In the past I was mainly involved in non-parliamentary democracy where I feel at home, but it also seems very interesting to me to have responsability in a parliament. </p><p><em>RB:&nbsp; The sudden rise of the AfD convinced many of us that it was vital to be visible with a European alternative politics in 2019. At the very least the interface between parties and movements needs to be explored in much more breadth and depth – would you agree?</em><strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Wiebke: </strong>You know for a month I worked for the Democracy in Motion Party, and I had the chance to see a lot. I saw people with a huge commitment, fighting and striving to do some really important things. They achieved a culture of communication which was a pleasure to see. But directly in proportion to the extent that people fear the AfD, they do not see any point in electing a small party that has little chance of traction in the elections. That has not much past and is little known. They would maybe prefer the Green Party, simply because its place in the parliament is assured, and they will at least be able to reduce the number of AfD candidates who come through, even if that means losing this small new voice in their parliament. </p> <p>So I see the point of an electoral wing, but if there is not a real movement underpinning these new entrants to the field, then they will have little chance to succeed I think. It was the same with my party. They were founded by a few people who mainly are engaged in online petitions. Many people in Germany take part in these online petitions. So maybe this gave them hope for more &nbsp;support than they were likely to be able to muster.&nbsp; But this was not a movement where many people got together for a special reason, and had been demonstrating in the streets together and then decided, together, that many of them should establish something which would allow them to have more of an impact in the future.&nbsp; It was instead a foundation hoping to acquire a movement. And I think that could be the same problem for DiEM25. In Germany, only a few people belong to DiEM25 and will be building a party. It is an idea in the head of a few people who hope to build a movement in the process. This is hard. Especially if you start by aiming for national or international elections rather than local elections. <span class="mag-quote-center">In Germany, only a few people belong to DiEM25 and will be building a party. It is an idea in the head of a few people who hope to build a movement in the process. This is hard...</span></p> <p><em>RB: Your feeling is that there is no short cut to a genuine grass roots movement – its commitment, enthusiasm and learning from self-organisation?</em><strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Wiebke: </strong>This sounds a bit harsh. There have been short cuts in very special circumstances, the right idea at the right time, so one could try. But you also need the plan to take it one step at a time without the short cut. Take Podemos in Spain. People met each other and there were huge demonstrations throughout Spain that contributed directly to the formation of this party. These people share a common challenge. Maybe, in the UK, Brexit will in time constitute just such a common problem for the people. And then this might be the basis for a bigger movement for something new. But in Germany, this fear of the AfD leads people to Die Linke or to the Green Party, although indeed this reaction against the AfD among progressives was not as extensive as I had hoped. </p> <p><em>RB: So who else did you meet at Team Syntegrity 2017 who interested you?</em><strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Wiebke:</strong> I loved the way that Pavlos Georgiadis talked about the way he works: with a lot of courage, and a willingness to try something new in agriculture, to roll it out and scale it up at the same time as monitoring the results scientifically. That was really something! And that at the same time he also thought about how the farmer felt embarking on such a process of experimentation: what his or her experience would be. </p> <p>At the beginning of the year, I had attended a seminar over several weeks in order to help me find out what I wanted to do in terms of work over the next few years.&nbsp; As an unemployed person, these seminars are designed to help people to be self-employed. This made me take a rather good look at myself, as well as my motives for a change of direction. I remembered an older idea that really touched me: that I would like to foster and strengthen the dissemination of certain species of fast-growing trees. These can be cultivated in special ways that allow them to solve a range of major problems in one go. Pavlos’ way is exactly the kind of approach I had been thinking about for these fast-growing trees.</p> <p>I am a campaigner by profession, and so up till now when I have worked in organisations where &nbsp;the goal was set by others . I am very good at organising these campaigns and I like it, but it also seems very attractive to me to be my own boss and be driven by my own vision. </p> <p>For now I want to work half time to spend time at home with my little boy, but in a few years, when he is a little older, why not work on this? I love putting my hands in the earth: this is in my genes somehow. Yes, I love this idea, but I am not ready for it yet and have done nothing so far to make it a reality. For now I just love visiting my sister on the family farm every month or so and watching my son running around with the pigs and the hens and so forth. It is a little glimpse of paradise. But when I do make this step to start working on this idea, I will surely contact Pavlos!</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0204.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0204.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Several of our fellow participants inspired me in the way they think about the lives we lead now. When David Mallory talked about men and women and the relations between them, I was very impressed. I felt that he was talking about what was happening inside me, and I was impressed by his empathy for women. With other people, I just had so much fun – Lofa and I ( we called him Swansea!) got on like a house on fire and we talked for hours and hours with Joan Pedro – very charming-, propping up the bar. Kate Farrell had a sensitivity that touched me. Richard has such a big heart: his topic was talking about feelings, which he did really well. I liked Marley, the way that he organised his ideas. Then there was Birgitta – such a special person with a lot of power and self-confidence.&nbsp; I thought: OK I can learn from her. What Democracy in Motion had wanted to achieve – she had already achieved, founding her parties from scratch. Her idea of a party was so similar to theirs and I learned a lot from her, thinking OK – I could be a bit like her! This could happen for me in another time! </p><p>That was what was so interesting about this Team Syntegrity. In other circumstances I am often the capable strong person who knows how to talk and how to lead, that other people look to. In this circumstance with 30 such powerful people, I felt rather different – a little vulnerable, because in these five days I got in touch with a lot of things inside myself. It also is a question of language, as I am not a native speaker and sometimes had a difficult time trying to understand or express myself, an experience I exchanged with some other participants I talked to about it. On the last day, I almost felt a palpable pain at all the things that I could do and wanted to do to be effective in my society and in the environment – but given my situation in my daily life, that I am not ready to do yet for a while. I have to put my home first. That’s just it.</p> <p><em>RB: This Team Syntegrity was particularly full of people who for three and half days seemed to be able to bare themselves to the choices they had made in their lives…</em><strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Wiebke: </strong>Yes, and that was painful, because I was realising what was not possible for me. Since June I have been even more aware of this gap in my life. But I have my son and my first duty is to be there for my son while he is small. </p> <p>But I am very glad that I had this experience. It was so strange going home to Germany, because it was like stepping back into real life! I had a stopover in Brussels and had to wait for some hours surrounded by businessmen, with a view, a wonderful view, of a nuclear power plant from the windows!! Oh God! I really appreciated my fellow Team Syntegrity participants then even more! I thought, sometimes it is easier to meet people from other countries whose heart beats for the same thing, than to dwell among people in your home city. </p> <p>It was great to meet so many people who thought so carefully about the humanity and social consequences of how we live now and what it would take for things to change, and also the responsibility for initiating change. It’s great to talk to people who have this idea of “I am a changer!”&nbsp; It's not so usual! Sometimes it was hard for me to realise in those moments that I was not quite comfortable in this group because of the constraints in my life. But by the end, I thought “What a great experience!” Because often when it comes to politics, I am sort of a leader. But here I was a follower: and it was a <em>good</em> experience.</p> <p><iframe width="460" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U0QEOUMpzQw" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><em>RB: I don’t know if you remember saying that one other outcome you hoped for from this event was a message to take back to people engaged in the social change activities that matter most to you. Was your idea of a ‘little home’ for everyone that message?</em><strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Wiebke:</strong> Since Barcelona, I have often thought back to the idea I had of this ‘little home’. This idea came to me when I was listening to Richard telling us about how his house burned down when he was six years old. I had just come from one of the sessions discussing the far right, and there we were talking a lot about how the people who are driven to join the far right are often lacking something in their lives, like secure prospects of future welfare, for example. It is too easy to treat them like bad people. But if you could talk to them as normal people, not as enemies, and their needs, and what could fulfil them and make for a more balanced life for them in society – then that connection came to me, simply the idea of a little home that everyone deserves. When I say to you that I have a duty to look after my son, I am thinking to myself, this is the ‘little home’ of my son, and it is up to me to take care of it. That’s my life. </p> <p>But when I talk to people in my country now about current problems like finding homes for refugees, or homes for homeless people, I do use this picture of a ‘little home’. And by this I do not only mean the building. I mean food and water and a bit of love, and security and education, not as a luxury but as the basic needs that should be fulfilled for everybody. </p><p>Another message I carry with me now, which may or may not stem from those few days of discussion, is the feeling that I am under less and less pressure to find the one way in which things will be successful, one way for organisations or people in which things should be done. I am more open to the fact that people will do it in the way that they think is right; and that there might very likely be a good result! Even if it is not the way I would do it.&nbsp; <span class="mag-quote-center">I am under less and less pressure to find the one way in which things will be successful, one way for organisations or people in which things should be done. I am more open to the fact that people will do it in the way that they think is right...</span></p> <p>I am more open to this, and maybe it has to do with seeing all those people there doing their thing and seeing that this leads to good results. This helps me very much to live more in peace with myself ! (Laughs).</p> <p>I am still looking in the meantime for an answer to the question of what I can do now. It’s not so easy. It is like a blank sheet of paper, my professional future, and this feels not very comfortable. But from everything I have learned to date – both as a result of that first referendum campaign, and from this Team Syntegrity in June, I have a certain idea of how to initiate changes in a consensual way.&nbsp; </p> <p>Before launching into a campaign I would talk to many different kinds of people about whether my concept was a really watertight one. I would elaborate my idea much more concretely and in detail with their help, and also talk with those who should be putting it into practise later on, and including those who are currently against that idea. I would do all that before I launched a referendum, because for me the referendum should be the last step.</p> <p>I am so alienated now from the pathway that simply blasts ahead creating enemies that I know it is not right for me. I talked a lot in the Team Syntegrity about how we should not turn those counterposed to us one way or another into an enemy image. And I really believe this.&nbsp; </p> <p>The AfD rely on this polarising rhetoric all the time. But after the first excitement over any issue, there should be time to calm down and reconsider. Then you can talk normally. In the first stage, when everything seems black and white, all is extreme and there is no chance to investigate each others’ ideas. Not saying, “You are bad and that’s why you think that.” That just forces people to dig themselves in even further into their position. </p> <p>I have been in Barcelona again, for a conference on solidarity economies, linked to this remunicipalisation idea, and I got to know this very nice woman from an initiative interested in applying these ideas to the energy grids in Catalonia too. But now they have to wait and see what on earth is going to happen to them! This was again interesting, to talk to people about the referendum and independence. There too it is the same All of a sudden a referendum: yes or no in very polarised circumstances! It is very difficult there.</p> <p>So I want to thank you very much for the Team Syntegrity and for inviting me and all the others for this great time together. We all need less fear. We need to talk to each other. We should be more open. I really enjoy thinking about that event, so thank you for asking me to talk about it. I hope to stay in touch with you all.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0289.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0289.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></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 Team Syntegity 2017: &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Meet the participants</a> –&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">Results so far &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; –</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process">The process in their own words.</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="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rhiannon-white/future-of-civil-society-is-dependent-on-space">The future of civil society is dependent on space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/aya-haidar-rosemary-bechler/safe-spaces-bagpipes-and-houmous">Safe spaces, bagpipes and houmous </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"> Germany </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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Science </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> Germany EU Civil society Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Science Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Wiebke Hansen Mon, 04 Dec 2017 12:03:17 +0000 Wiebke Hansen and Rosemary Bechler 115023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The European Left in times of crises: lessons from Greece https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/andreas-karitzis/european-left-in-times-of-crises-lessons-from-greece <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The prospect of government did not generate or impose novel thinking, practices, or behaviours within the Greek left.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-33232173.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-33232173.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his cabinet. PAimages/NurPhoto/SIPA USA. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>The following is an extract from&nbsp;</em>The European Left in times of crises: lessons from Greece<em> by Andreas Karitzis, published by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Ecuador's Institute of National Higher Studies (IAEN)</em></p><p>The prospect of government did not generate or impose novel thinking, practices, or behaviours within the Greek left. </p><p>It revived and enhanced (and simultaneously shrank and marginalised) elements inherent in political parties, institutions, and organisations that are <em>de facto</em> an extension of the state in the broadest sense of the term. But which of these elements were bolstered and which were diminished? Indicatively, we could note that in the road towards national government:</p><p>• collective processes were dismantled and individual or factional strategies were reinforced even within political currents;</p><p>• executive-level planning and ‘spaces’ for consultation collapsed while departmentalisation, superficial political handling, and a media-oriented culture within the party were reinforced;</p><p>• communication among sectors of the party apparatus and the dissemination of information were dismantled, thus boosting the emergence of multiple centres that gradually became isolated and developed competitive tendencies;</p><p>• the operational alignment of the emancipatory forces underpinning a comprehensive plan was neglected in favour of personal ambitions and the corresponding strategies. </p><p>But what was the driving force of this transformation? The above mentioned changes reflectthe transformation undergone by the state and the institutions of political power in the currentframework of institutionalised neoliberalism. This institutionalisation has resulted in:</p><p>• The transformation of the state functionsand their alignment with a market-driven rationale with regards to content and modality of decision-making. As a result, inclusive qualities, democratic functions, and operational capabilities for planning and implementation based on criteria other than profit have decreased, with a parallel increase in the qualities that render state functions compatible with a market rationale.</p><p>• The shift of the political power’s centre of gravity to European institutions that are designed to be beyond citizens’ reach. Thus, many state functions have atrophied and been reduced to regional mechanisms of a far broader system of administration and rule.</p><p>These developments have resulted in the decline of the democratic profile of state institutionsand functions. It is a decline organically linked to the transition from an inclusive strategy by the elites to a strategy based on exclusion. Correspondingly, the qualities and characteristics that collapsed within SYRIZA during the period before its rise to government are the same that have collapsed at the level of state power in recent decades. </p><p>Similarly, the elements reinforced are those which characterise the decline of state functions during this same period. As an opposition party, SYRIZA, in spite of many difficulties, had explored various ways of reconstructing its political operations, but as the official opposition, it was unable to meet the increased demands of its impending engagement with political power and the functioning of a state that had been operationally amputated and organisationally weakened in line with neoliberal views of the state. Faced with this anticipated development, SYRIZA, as a collective body, appeared unable to offer a multi-level strategy to reverse the trend. </p><p>Even worse, this was not even attempted, as the true field of battle had not yet been understood. SYRIZA was subjected to a counter-transformation because of the lack—or fragility—of offsetting actions that could have internally changed the balance of forces. If we add the fact that the party was comprised largely by left currents that did not reject the rise to government as part of their strategy, then it becomes evident just how obsolete and incompatible some traditional left’s perceptions of government are today. We could extrapolate that SYRIZA’s weak but present trend of adapting to the new circumstances before emerging as the main opposition—the position that offered the opportunity for renewing its political approach and making it more open to social processes and ultimately rendering it the vehicle for a political overthrow—was unableto withstand the increased demands of the 2012-2014 period. </p><p>Without having sufficiently developed the operational qualities and mentalities that would make it a sturdy political force capable of withstanding the intensified social and political struggles that had put it on a path to government, SYRIZA took a transformational course. </p><p>From a force for change towards a new direction as a result of its stronger position on the political stage, SYRIZA itself became the object of change. Furthermore, we live in a time of tectonic shifts taking place on several levels. The economic crisis is a symptom of a deeper decline and is unfolding against the backdrop of a multifactored destabilisation of contemporary societies.</p><p> Acceleration on several levels (new technologies, environmental instability, depletion of natural resources, reordering of the geopolitical balance of power, etc.) is changing the traditional way of apprehending the type of social and political struggle in which we are engaged. Europe’s restructuring and the rise of nationalist and fascist trends, as well as the dissolution and relapse of state structures in the southeastern Mediterranean basin give rise to obligations and demands that transcend everything taken for granted a decade ago. </p><p>The fast pace of developments has led the elites to adopt a destructive strategy, hoping to close a broader cycle that began two-and-a-half centuries ago with the people’s entry onto the social and political stage.The Greek and European left, if it wishes to be relevant to this period, must rise to the occasion and develop a matching strategy for societies’emancipatory course.</p><p>We have entered a transitional phase of grave threats but also immense possibilities. We will not further expand upon the tectonic changes taking place around us, but it is worth underlining that SYRIZA was not in a position to follow the broader changes and utilise the underlying potential during the period it was on the path to power. But a force that hopes to become an agent for social change cannot overlook social changes underway or be indifferent or hostile to the potential emanating from human activity in many fields today.</p><p>In conclusion, we would like to reiterate that:</p><p>• Utilising the embodied capacities of thepeople would have allowed SYRIZA toswiftly change the broader negative framework.</p><p>• Adopting a political rhetoric that focuses on the deeper questions regarding what kind of life, community, and set of values we want would have allowed SYRIZA to build stronger bonds with a society that sensed the threats to its existence.</p><p>We are living in a period that requires a radical modification and updating of the political imaginary and the organisational principles and methodologies of social and political mobilisation.To make this possible, we must combine the incredible current output of new ideas, practices, regulations, rationales across the spectrum of human activity—which often are not directly linked to the disputes of the social and political struggle but which, under certain conditions, could shape the ground for producing social power that allows people without economic power to acquire the muscle to influence developments—with the conclusions drawn from the weaknesses and impasses of the traditional political left. </p><p>Without, however, losing the central idea it bestows upon us, which is none other than the fact that the party function is the condition of possibility for people without economic power to become an autonomous emancipatory force capable of influencing political, social and economic developments.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/andreas-karitzis/radical-left-strategies-in-era-of-collapse-of-actually-existing-">Radical left strategies in the era of the collapse of &#039;Actually Existing Liberalism&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ioannis-kampourakis/political-disillusionment-in-greece-toward-post-political-state"> Political disillusionment in Greece: toward a post-political state?</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"> Greece </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? Can Europe make it? Greece Team Syntegrity Andreas Karitzis Fri, 24 Nov 2017 18:02:56 +0000 Andreas Karitzis 114885 at https://www.opendemocracy.net While the sun shines https://www.opendemocracy.net/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">A conversation with Ashish Ghadiali, film-maker, party activist, autonomous individual, about reinventing politics through culture and democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0769.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0769.JPG" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ashish Ghadiali, Barby Asante, Ken Loach, Lowkey and Rhiannon White in The World Transformed ( TWT) session on the role of the political artist in September, 2017. TWT. </span></span></span>Ashish Ghadiali, first <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/rosemary-bechler-ashish-ghadiali/portrait-of-artist-and-confession-part-one">interviewed </a>on openDemocracy in 2016 during the launch tour of his film, </em>The Confession<em>, was one of 30 participants from Europe and beyond who took part in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">Team Syntegrity</a> – or non-hierarchical conference – held in Barcelona on 18-22 June 2017. This is one of a series of follow-up conversations on that event's themes, recommendations and relationships.<br /></em></p><p class="Body"><strong>Ash:</strong> I’m living right on the coast in Devon at the moment. I have a view of the sea out of all my windows and I get out for a swim a few times a week. I have only been here for a couple of weeks. I’ve just had a new baby, a daughter. There’s so much work I need to get done, but I’m still just trying to ease into the flow of it all… </p> <p class="Body"><em>Rosemary: So what are you working on now?</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash:</strong>&nbsp; A lot of screenwriting mainly. I’ve been part of a team of writers developing an eight-part drama with Riz Ahmed for the BBC. It’s about a British-Pakistani family from the late 70s to the present day. Riz has been working on it for years, and he’s put together an amazing team of emerging British Asian writers to support him. It’s amazing to be part of that team. </p> <p class="Body"><em>R:&nbsp; So you are back at work with the BBC?</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>Yes. To my surprise. Making <em>The Confession, </em>in 2016, about <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/moazzam-begg-and-confession-part-two">Moazzam Begg</a> was a risk for the BBC, and it wasn’t the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/rosemary-bechler-ashish-ghadiali/portrait-of-artist-and-confession-part-one">easiest ride</a> for me personally. The diversity agenda and the role of being a minority artist or storyteller in Britain or anywhere is a complicated thing to navigate. But I thought it was important to make that film with the BBC, to bring that conversation into the mainstream.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">In terms of diversity – and I’m not the biggest fan of that word, but it’s the word they use – in the media, there has been a lot of movement in the past couple of years. I don’t know if <em>The Confession</em> came about because of that movement – but we certainly got funding at various stages because the film made a strong case for the points of view we were representing.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">In that interview that you and I did for openDemocracy, and in other interviews I did at the time on <em>The Confession, </em>we discussed how my own intervention was consciously in response to the bludgeoning of multiculturalism as a concept, first towards the end of the New Labour era then even more so under David Cameron. Interestingly, at the same time, I was aware that people like Riz Ahmed were making very similar interventions on exactly the same point.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Work I have been commissioned to do by the BBC in the last year has derived largely from a couple of speeches in the House of Commons, one by Idris Elba and one by Riz Ahmed, both facilitated by Oona King. Respectively, they both put forward the case for diversity in broadcasting and in culture more generally, as a key space for the representation of all experiences. Both those speeches were picked up by the BBC, who then gave Idris and Riz opportunities to do something that wouldn’t ordinarily get done. Idris was given a week to curate BBC3. Riz is embarking on this very ambitious drama series. Both of these initiatives are out of the ordinary. I’ve been fortunate to be invited to participate in both. </p> <p class="Body">So there is a shift going on, and these are new opportunities that I am experiencing as a beneficiary. But the diversity agenda is a cyclical business, I know that. I’m 38, and have been engaged in the media in one way or another since 2003 and I would say that this is the third cycle of interest I have seen. When that happens there is work. When it loses its currency, there isn’t. The important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is to make hay while the sun shines…</p> <p class="Body"><em>R: Let’s go back to your experience of the Team Syntegrity week in Barcelona last June.</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash:</strong> Sure. For me what was striking about the group of people you and Alex had brought together [to address the role of civil society in a time of global crisis] was how many of them were very aware of not knowing why they were there. </p> <p class="Body">Some of course did know why. They knew they belonged among the invited. But others didn’t and knowing you a little bit, I imagine that you made a conscious decision to bring a group of artists into that conversation.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">I suppose I saw myself as allied to both sides of that divide if I can call it that, in that I am an associate of Compass, an editor of Red Pepper, I do have a more obviously political role, but I am also an artist, a film-maker.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">I remember at the end of Day One just being overwhelmed by all the incredible ideas, the dynamism, the people in the room, and the authority with which they talked about food politics, the inalienable rights of the planet, conversations around the feminisation of politics, digital democracy, the military industrial complex. All these things were extremely interesting to me, but in a very cerebral way. I remember filling a notebook and by the end of the day just having a headache, and thinking, “I’m overwhelmed.”&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">So that was my experience of it, but looking around the room, that same experience led other people to feel intimidated, wondering even more why they were there, what it had to do with them, and what they could contribute. Because if you could be very fast and very fluent with the ideas, you might be able to keep up with it. But everyone was going to be pushed to their limit and beyond it. </p> <p class="Body">What I then noticed was that the process of requiring people to come back to the same table and the same conversation meant that each time you came back, each day you came back, you were forced to forget about the ideas that seemed so important in your head and actually find ways to keep the conversation running amongst the people there. </p> <p class="Body">Even more important was the presence in the room of people who would say, “Well you know, I’m no expert in this, but until it is meaningful for me, I won’t really be participating in that conversation.” Artists do that. The way an artist thinks is just very different from the way a policy-maker thinks. An artist tends to think with their whole being, I believe, and until they’ve “got it”, they can’t do anything with it.&nbsp; So there were different synergies with different people.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body"><em>R: Did you talk to Marley at the event, who is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, for example?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>We were on the plane together coming back and I gave him a lift to London actually. The conversation we ended up having was a more local one about the UK Labour Party. He’s been a member for a lot longer than I have and for people like Marley, who positions himself, as far as I understand, as a centrist, this moment of Corbyn can seem incompetent and threatening. But then we meet on a personal level and talk. He’s a bit younger than me. I believe it’s our generation that is speaking right now, so when we talk, the connection between us turns out to be a clarifying one on both sides.</p> <p class="Body"><em>R: We recorded one interview with you and Aya after the opening sessions of “Parenting the Planet” and you were quite clear there about the need to “unite the head and the heart” if we really wanted to move things forward. Would it be fair to say that?</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>I asked Aya to come with me for that video conversation so that it could be a continuation of what had been quite a sparky process going on in those opening sessions of “Parenting the Planet”. </p> <p class="Body">On Day One, Richard had come through with what I now see, though I’d never met him before, was probably a pure Richard Bartlett move. We were in Barcelona and I was very interested in learning more about the whole area of “the feminisation of politics”, inspired by Ada Colau’s leadership in that city. But there was a second theme that had been combined with the first in the evolution of this group, around the military industrial complex, and I think it was me who proposed putting these together. That seemed like fertile territory. I was thinking about the Hillary Clinton campaign and the idea of the glass ceiling; but also the hawkishness of Clinton’s politics and the impossibility, as far as I was concerned, of seeing any kind of feminist emancipation in the bombing of Libya. </p> <p class="Body">That was where I thought the conversation was heading and then Richard stopped the conversation dead and started talking about his blue finger nails and how he wanted everyone in the group to start sharing their feelings. He wanted to know how we as individual men had encountered patriarchy in our own lives. At the time I didn’t really know what he wanted and was left a bit perplexed, but curious. In that first meeting, I encouraged him to tell us more, so that we could respond. But at the same time, there was this voice from observers in the room commenting that it was ridiculous from the outset that the group was made up of four men, chosen by the computer programme, to have this conversation about feminism.</p> <p class="Body">In the second session, Richard’s heartfelt account of his own experience of the difficulties he had in forming meaningful male relationships, were met by responses from Aya and Kate Farrell that were not, I felt, really from their own experience. Their responses were expert-driven. They brought up issues like women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. I found their interventions frustrating. I expressed that frustration.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Because if you take gender out of the equation, what had occurred was that someone had spoken honestly, from their heart, and wanted to get things into a space that was less heady and more felt, and the response from people who wanted to express their opinions, had been to railroad them. It seemed to me at the time that this is in many ways what we are struggling against.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body"><em>R: Moving from your individual experience there, to what conclusions you drew about the way you would like to see politics reinvented, at the end of that video, in discussion with Aya, you say and she agrees, “I’m really only interested in a politics that comes from the heart.”</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>I find it very difficult to divide or compartmentalise myself. I think that’s probably the reason why I do the kinds of things that I do. That was one reason why it used to be impossible for me to engage in mainstream politics. At university, that whole thing about joining a political party and having to then step into a game whose rules I didn’t want to learn, was off-putting.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">I haven’t really worked my way up through any industry or hierarchy. I’ve never really given time to learning someone else’s rules. The politics I have developed has been developed with the idea of an autonomous individual as a given. What is interesting about the present moment is that space seems to be opening up for people like me, so that I find myself able to go to political meetings and feel quite comfortable because there are many people who seem to have similar inabilities to take on conventions as their own, to divide themselves. Probably, that’s where most people in my generation live, actually.</p> <p class="Body">In our first interview we talked about the politics of what I was doing as a film-maker. There was politics in my choosing to live in Jenin refugee camp and set up a film unit there. There was politics in deciding not to work in TV and go instead to live in India or Palestine. </p> <p class="Body">The question now is over structures, inclusive structures. Certainly for the UK Labour Party, the crisis of our times is over inclusion, right? That was the great flaw in New Labour. They could win election after election, but they could only do that whilst presiding over a massive decrease in voter turnout. </p> <p class="Body">It was only when that turned into – “Well now you have lost Scotland, and now you are losing your support base in the north of England” – that this system of exclusion was exposed as not a winning formula after all, but something deeply destructive. </p> <p class="Body">The political response to neoliberalism has to find a way of including those diverse constituencies: those who have lost touch with the political structures. I think people naturally want to be autonomous. I think the political structures that properly reflect this have yet to be invented.</p> <p class="Body"><em>R: What was your experience in organising sessions for “<a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/">The World Transformed”</a> (TWT), the festival of ideas and debate accompanying the UK Labour Party conference in September in Brighton? And how was it influenced by this Team Syntegrity?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>I spoke a lot with Emma, with Birgitta, with Richard, during that Team Syntegrity week in June, and during the same week I was getting e-mails asking if I would be interested in organising some sessions on culture and cultural policy for TWT. That was definitely an interesting confluence. </p> <p class="Body">When you and I first talked, last year, I was just getting on with my film-making. While I was on tour with <em>The Confession</em>, I was meeting Momentum groups with a view to developing something cultural. But I only really got more engaged around the time of Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership campaign. </p> <p class="Body">So dipping my toe in this kind of party-based politics is, for me, as it is for many people at the present time, very new. When we went out to Barcelona I had just done my first issue of <em>Red Pepper</em> as its Race Editor, which I had been since January. June, post-election, though, was a moment when I felt like I was being invited to make a certain kind of new political commitment.</p> <p class="Body">I was chatting to Birgitta about how they were doing crowdsourced policy-making in Iceland’s Pirate Party. And so I wrote up notes on that, that week, as the beginning of a methodology. I was thinking that we might start up something similar through a series of consultations. At the same time I was talking to Emma a lot about the experience of 15M, the social movement, the influence of these movements and their relationship with Barcelona en Comu. They coalesced in my mind as something I could take straight back to a discussion about process within TWT.</p> <p class="Body">TWT’s process at that time was also a work-in-progress. There were thoughts about how it should perhaps be more focused on arts and culture than the year before; or that policy and the manifesto were something we might begin to take on. So the document I drafted came in useful at those meetings where we were trying to start a conversation around a participatory cultural policy event.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Over that summer, what was driving us was the idea that there was an inherited notion of arts and culture which might as well go back to the feudal court, where the artist is patronised by the court and civilises us from the top down. That really needs to be pulled apart. </p> <p class="Body">In its stead, what we were looking for was a notion of culture that took in but went beyond Jenny Lee and the Arts Council tradition that has defined Labour Party policy since the Second World War. The logic of that tradition, it seems to me, is art for everyone, admittedly, but the art it’s talking about is still that received idea of art from above – high culture. </p> <p class="Body">What I kept hearing, as I talked to more and more people over the summer – was the possibility of a more radical definition of culture, rooted in the writing of Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall and other thinkers of the New Left.</p> <p class="Body">That idea is that culture is something we all do. We all create. Only a policy built to reflect that fact can challenge the systemic inequality of the funding systems that we now have. </p> <p class="Body">What we were trying to engage with in the session you attended at TWT was how we begin to shift that received idea of culture away from one that is the first thing to be cut when times are hard, because it is a non-essential luxury, to one that understands that culture is the thing we all do all the time everywhere in order to make our lives meaningful. </p> <p class="Body">How can we begin to facilitate <em>that </em>conversation?</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0752.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0752.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The World Transformed: Drawing on the traditions of Jennie Lee, Raymond Williams, those who see culture as a basic human aspiration, this session re-launched Arts For Labour as a participatory rethink of what culture is. TWT.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Body"><em>R. Let’s linger on that very vibrant TWT session for a moment – thanks for inviting me! – because it seemed to me that there were two things going on and maybe a paradox in the format. We had a series of good speakers, policy experts who were tracing the history of the Labour Party’s arts policy and its evolving impact and its values. Then there was a gulf in time represented by the rise of Thatcher and neoliberalism and its grip on both policy and values. Meanwhile your audience came from either side of this gulf. There were the older people like myself who could remember the histories and some who had been involved in them, and the younger people who had never lived under that system. </em></p> <p class="Body"><em>The second thing that you were doing, also very interestingly, was to say, “Let’s all organise into small groups so that we can talk to each other and hear from everybody because we all have things to say, because we all do culture and we all care about it, and our voices should be heard.” </em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><em>Inevitably, there was a judder between these two things – apart from anything else there simply wasn’t time for both. But there always is a judder in this transitional period we are now living in. You could say it is between the vertical and the horizontal. The minute you set up a panel of speakers, a top table so to speak, you have a “we” who are doing the right thing on behalf of everyone else, and the everyone else who they are trying to get to do the right thing for themselves. </em><em></em></p> <p><em>I think one compelling aspect of Team Syntegrity is that radical equality of very 'unequal ' people in the format which, as you will remember, is quite rigid including, if you like, equality between the people who know why they are there and those who don’t.&nbsp; </em><em><br /></em></p> <p class="Body"><em>I just wondered if that experience had entered in any way into your calculations over this whole question you were wrestling with: the premise of culture being a central aspect of meaningfulness for all people – and how we bring that principle into our political formats?</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash:</strong>&nbsp; I agree with your point about the judder. We wanted to move away from the standard curated panel discussion in a static room with a Fordist block of an audience. We discussed doing away with the speakers altogether and asked ourselves if they performed a useful function. In the end we had a lot of speakers and they served a very useful purpose when you organise an event like that in the programme, because that list of names is all the audience has to go on when they decide to make the effort to attend… The room was packed.</p> <p class="Body">Also, if we are going to try to engage in discussions around policy, you do have to bring stakeholders into the mix, and you are curating politically to serve a wider purpose. The point you are making is that everyone is a stakeholder in the process we are trying to achieve. That’s true and we will have to get there. But we made a beginning. </p> <p class="Body">The plan we laid out initially, interestingly, would have been a lot more anarchic and chaotic.&nbsp; Facilitators posted at four corners of the room, where anyone could go and write things down and speakers would have to compete for attention with some of these. At the same time, you have a room full of people who are actually being encouraged just to meet one another for one minute, three minutes, five minute slots. I probably was influenced by that first market place of ideas session at the Team Syntegrity. Maybe I didn’t communicate the idea I hoped for well enough. </p> <p class="Body">What happened in the end is that our two facilitators came into the conversation quite late on, and they both had a lot more experience of Occupy-style organising, and were not convinced about the chaotic approach we were proposing. So then we moved to the circles of eight, where in the event I was worried that one or two people were doing most of the talking…</p> <p class="Body">It’s part of where we’re at, in this process of democratisation, that a lot of different kinds of people are interested in different models, with different ideas of what would be a disaster and what could work. It’s going to be an ongoing process for most of our lives isn’t it?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4393.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4393.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>TWT session in a packed room from where Rosemary was sitting.</span></span></span><em>R: Yes – and a fascinating one to grapple with. Do you think the Labour Party is in a good place to advance these experiments about how to enable everybody and anybody to be more themselves in the process of change? </em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>I don’t see why not. I can see that what we are trying to do is a part of that conversation. I understand that there is a lot at stake, so there will be a lot of resistance. The question is how does it happen? Was it yesterday or today that we saw the launch of the Party Democracy Review? </p> <p class="Body">Labour party meetings are frustrating things to go to. There is a form and a format which channels conversations and processes in a certain way. But that is being thought through, and I have met people sitting in the strategic comms office or the digital organising office and have interviewed front bench shadow ministers who are not wedded to the problem, but looking for the solutions. I find myself more frustrated by the people who sit outside and say, “Oh, the Labour Party is never going to change!”</p> <p class="Body">There is a generational effect going on. The new voice coming into politics from a lot of people under 40 like myself, shared a great antipathy towards New Labour but were solidly anti-Tory, didn’t agree with the war in Iraq, are anti-austerity and didn’t agree with the decades of privatisation of public services. That constituency has been voting tactically since 2001, and would probably have identified strongly with the green surge in 2015, but would be first and foremost committed to removing the Tories from government. The 2017 Labour Manifesto did reflect a lot of that politics. That wasn’t the case of the Labour Party in 2015. </p> <p class="Body"><em>R: So where do you stand on the idea of a Progressive Alliance?</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash:</strong> I joined Compass at exactly the same time as I joined the Labour party and voted for Corbyn. The idea of a progressive alliance, a tactical coalition designed to end Tory rule for the foreseeable future, is basic common sense to me. But this election campaign was interesting. A kind of internal contest played out between the Corbyn leadership and the likes of Compass who were pushing the progressive alliance (which the Liberal Democrats also rejected). The Labour leadership won that contest. That was a surprise to me, but a happy surprise. If a Corbyn-led Labour party can form a government without the support of the Liberal Democrats then so much the better. </p> <p class="Body">But long term there is a bigger issue and one always needs to be open to the best way of reversing austerity, or nationalism, or xenophobia, or militarism or whatever it is, at any given time. In order to create the kind of society that we want to create in the 21st century, pluralism, I believe, sits at the heart of that. </p> <p class="Body">Democratic reform is an essential. The party democracy review is about internal democratic structures, but we are not going to change the way Britain functions until we take local democracy seriously and devolve power in a considered way to the regions. We urgently need to change our voting system. Once those shifts take place, the Labour Party is obviously going to have to learn how to work well with other parties.</p> <p class="Body">I have just moved from Hackney North to Totnes CLP where I recently attended my first meeting. It’s a really interesting seat – a safe Tory seat where Sarah Wollaston won comfortably in 2017, but Labour surprised everyone by taking second place for the first time in 47 years. The importance of the rural marginal is something Jeremy Corbyn makes interesting noises about. Totnes is the home of the decidedly non-partisan <a href="https://www.transitiontowntotnes.org/">transition movement</a>. It’s an interesting question whether the political energy of something like the transition movement can find any common ground with a local Labour Party? Should it? How do people best organise themselves to overturn a Toryism which has this country by the throat and has done for as long as I have been alive? That’s the question isn’t it?</p> <p class="Body"><em>R: Is it essentially the same question – one of inclusive, pluralist political organisation?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash:</strong> The event you attended was one of a series of three I put on as part of a team at TWT. The first, which we’ve talked about, was about shifting the broader debate on the nature of culture in a participatory format. The third one picked up on a lot of that discussion in a smaller room, with forty people, flipcharts, marker pens, a hothouse of ideas that are catalogued and will contribute towards a draft policy that reflects what came out of those TWT sessions. </p> <p class="Body">The <a href="https://theworldtransformed.org/sessions/political-artists-in-the-age-of-the-social-movement/">middle session</a> did something a bit different. It presented a more traditional panel of speakers. In many ways it broke all the rules we’ve been discussing. It put the artists on a pedestal. It harnessed the power of celebrity – with names like Ken Loach and Low-Key getting the audience queuing around the building. It played as less of a participatory experience than as a show to an audience that was seated and static. To paraphrase Hilary Wainwright, not participatory democracy exactly but a populist form which of course we’re seeing emerge all over the world on the left and the right. </p> <p class="Body">What I want to say about this is that there is nothing progressive about the populist form in itself. There is no guarantee that it will lead to anything more democratic…</p> <p class="Body"><em>R: So why do it?</em><em></em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ash: </strong>Participation is a complicated idea. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is driving a lot of participation, a lot of active interest in the possibility of change. This year’s party conference was a real reflection of this. As part of what Jeremy Gilbert has called the age of ‘<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/jeremy-gilbert/epochal-election-welcome-to-era-of-platform-politics">platform politics</a>’, hopefully the coming years will see the emergence of this idea, of a movement-party, where high profile figures, commanding a lot of media space, can in turn help to bring people in and drive the movement forward and inspire new forms of participation. </p> <p class="Body">The idea of the social movement is inextricably linked with social media, isn’t it? It’s about profile and network, right? Ken Loach and Lowkey drew people in, sharing their power to help build a space where they and other artists were talking and sharing stories of political voice and that, in turn, moves through the audience and inspires participation which feeds back and creates new kinds of possibility.</p> <p class="Body">It was great to bring artists into the mix who are doing work that is political in really interesting ways but who the audience members might not have known about already – artists like the Director of Common Wealth, Rhiannon White, who I also met at Team Syntegrity. I managed to see Rhiannon’s play – <a href="https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/were-still-here">We’re Still Here</a> – which she put on in Port Talbot. It’s an amazing piece of theatre. </p> <p class="Body">The next day, at TWT, I met someone who had been at the event and it was Rhiannon she was asking about. She had come to see Ken Loach, and Ken was great, as were all the other speakers, but for that one woman it was Rhiannon she had taken away with her and whose political creativity she said would soon be reflected in her own work. Rhiannon, on the other hand, was talking to me about Ken Loach, and Barby Asante, and Low-Key, and then throwing herself into the mix at the Monday morning manifesto-writing session before making her way back up to Port Talbot to share the love and get back to her show. </p> <p class="Body">How can I put it? Participation seems to me like a kind of pyramid and it doesn’t really happen until the energy is moving around it and through it in all directions. What I found myself trying to do this summer, as an artist and a citizen, as an autonomous individual working with others who think the same way was, for a moment, to try to activate that whole pyramid, from the base to the apex, from the apex to the base and back again.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0784.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0784.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The World Transformed.September 2017.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler-ashish-ghadiali/portrait-of-artist-and-confession-part-one">Portrait of the artist and The Confession, Part One</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/moazzam-begg-and-confession-part-two">Moazzam Begg and The Confession, Part Two.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-birgitta-j-nsd-ttir/system-is-reflection-of-who-we-are-interview-with-birgitta-j-nsd">‘The system is a reflection of who we are’: an interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir</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> Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Ashish Ghadiali Wed, 22 Nov 2017 10:32:40 +0000 Ashish Ghadiali and Rosemary Bechler 114825 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Re-thinking strategies for social change in Transeuropa https://www.opendemocracy.net/joan-pedro-cara-ana/re-thinking-strategies-for-social-change-in-transeuropa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>One of the most controversial elements of the strategy proposed by European Alternatives, Transeuropa and DiEM25 has to do with understanding the role of the nation-state.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171028_164800.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171028_164800.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>TRANSEUROPA WHAT’S AFTER THE NATION STATE? Thoughts for a future below and beyond the nation on Saturday 28 from 16:00 to 21:00 in Madrid. Joan Pedro-Carañana. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Activists from around Europe met at <a href="https://transeuropafestival.eu/">Transeuropa</a> festival in Madrid, 25 – 29 October to discuss projects of pan-European solidarity. What can be expected from the strategy for social, cultural, political and economic change it promotes? What can be done with the nation-state? What can convergence achieve? What about the working class?</p> <h2><strong>Multiple crises</strong></h2> <p>The forces on the left around Europe have been in deep crisis since neoliberal globalisation took off in the 1980s. Progressive and radical forces have been unable to respond effectively to the transformations in the structure of capitalism and the elite control of ideological institutions. </p> <p>The result has been an intense concentration of the “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/06/bernie-sanders-paradise-papers-leak-international-oligarchy">international oligarchy</a>” and the development of more unequal power relations. The consolidation of new sources of power in the financial and technological systems has promoted further consent on the part of a large section of the middle and working classes to the established system. As the left(s) and the working class moved further away from each other, neoliberalism and nation-states provided what Raymond Williams called “<a href="http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9780631207535_chunk_g978063120753522_ss1-37">structures of feelings</a>”, the lived experience of the shared culture of global, monopoly capitalism mediated by national, often jingoistic cultures.&nbsp; </p> <p>The economic crisis opened a window of opportunity for re-thinking the objectives and strategies for democratic change, but it also generated conditions of inequality that have helped right wing forces achieve further hegemony by promoting struggles among the popular classes within and between nations. </p> <p>The Occupy and the 15-M movements as well as new political parties and social movements have tried to shift the axis of conflict by directing social unrest against economic and political elites. Today’s hope for the future lies in the capacity of these alternative forces to articulate viable solutions to confront the international oligarchy, austerity and the rise of the far right, address the refugee crisis, counteract climate change, reduce the risk of nuclear war and envision projects of egalitarian transformation that a majority of the population can find attractive, inclusive and realistic. </p> <p>However, the left(s) remain in crisis and the right(s) are gaining strength, especially among the working class. Populations are increasingly identifying with conservative and reactionary conceptions of the nation-state, while the lefts are incapable of providing an attractive, egalitarian and democratic project for the nation-state. </p> <p>At the same time, the transformative capacity of municipal governments is being strongly limited by the forces of the nation-state, the European Union and economic power.</p> <p>Many of the problems affecting populations at national and local levels have European and global dimensions. This means that the solutions also demand an international dimension. Therefore, a necessary and urgent task is to build, from scratch, a pan-European historical agent of change that does not exist right now. This is an extremely difficult objective to achieve, but it is the only chance of transforming (and possibly saving from itself) the European Union to build more egalitarian societies which can offer democracy and security to its people, including the newcomers. </p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>Transeuropa in Madrid</strong></h2> <p>One such project is promoted by Transeuropa, a transnational artistic, cultural and political festival organised by European Alternatives since 2007. This year, Transeuropa met on 24-29 October in Madrid and brought together activists from around the continent and beyond to promote pan-European (and global) processes of solidarity through a variety of talks, workshops, exhibitions and concerts.</p> <p>An important array of discussions took place around immigration and the crisis in the welcoming refugees. Participants shared a commitment to oppose nationalism, racism and Islamophobia by promoting solidarity among Europeans and with the populations of other continents that are forced to flee their homes. Transeuropa wants to confront the exclusionary logic that is gaining momentum in Europe by connecting cooperativism and municipalism with Europeanism through the Commons that the cities of change are trying to put into practice. This involves re-thinking urban politics, the tax system, redistribution policies as well as the transformation of other material sites of struggle. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Euroalter_saturday_19.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Euroalter_saturday_19.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marina Garces and Niccolo Milanese on 'Thoughts for a future below and beyond the nation, October 28,2017. Transeuropa Festival, Madrid. Photo: Elisa Sánchez Fernández.All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Pan-European transformations also require a re-framing of the cultural wars through the development of new communication strategies that promote solidarity and unity from below. Transeuropa proposed innovative communication practices through artivism, digital technologies and civic video games. Cybersecurity for activists was also discussed in detail. </p><p>Feminism was agreed fundamental in the transformation of both the material and the cultural sites of struggle, because a de-patriarchialisation of politics is deemed necessary to distribute power and transmit values of mutual support that can bring people together around common, humanistic goals. Intersections of gender, “race”, disability, sexuality and class were explored as a framework to connect struggles for social justice through practical, everyday intersectional organising.</p> <p>In this way Transeuropa engaged in practices of <a href="https://books.google.es/books/about/Cultural_Politics_in_the_Age_of_Austerit.html?id=xsqRDgAAQBAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">cultural politics</a> by opposing emancipatory cultures to the authoritarian and exclusionary logics imposed by the EU and nation-states. More and more spaces like this for grassroots exchange are needed in today’s context of multiple, interconnected crises. A multiplication of these spaces would contribute to developing an informed, militant hope one day able to harness international support. As the EU moves into a deeper crisis in the future, the intervention of pan-European projects for egalitarian change like Transeuropa, European Alternatives or DiEM25 may become increasingly attractive in the face of the possible fragmentation and disintegration of the EU. </p> <p>These projects are very welcome. But to become hegemonic in a context of rising authoritarianism and unequal power relations, the forces for pan-European change will have to carefully rethink their strategies. As reactionary forces get stronger, egalitarian movements really need to hit the mark by weighing the opportunities and limitations of the possible strategic alternatives. So, what were the key strategic lines of Transeuropa? </p> <h2><strong>Convergent spaces</strong></h2> <p>The festival was conceived as an open space for convergence of political, artistic and civil society actors. It was a call for dialogue and exchange of ideas and projects not only focused on resistance, but also on building alternatives. Transeuropa, thus, attempted to bring together a plurality of dispersed forces around Europe to help them work together at a transnational level. </p> <p>The idea of convergence has of course been explored in the past, for example by the <em>Red de Convergencia Social</em> since 2011 or the political projects to articulate different left-wing forces for “popular unity” in Spain (for example, the <em>confluencias</em>). So far, this strategy has been insufficient to confront the immense power of right wing forces at the level of the nation-state. One important limitation of convergence is that it has not been sufficiently appealing for a majority of the population (the ‘outsiders’), which rejects left identity and ideology, as fast as they are dressed in new and popular clothes. </p> <p>For example, after attempting a populist strategy and due to internal fights, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana-simona-rentea/glimpse-into-key-party-debate-deciding-future-o">Podemos</a> tried to articulate the convergence of already existing left-wing forces and social movements, but with deteriorating results. The leadership of Podemos then decided to address the conflicts within the confluent forces by adopting an oligarchic model that silences plurality and imposes a monolithic party line from above.</p> <p>Strategies of confluence and popular unity played an important role in winning the municipalities of major cities of Spain like Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, but hit important limits as their transformative capacity was constrained by the Spanish state and the EU. Moreover, convergence has faced its own limits as the historical tendency of the left to engage in factional fights has generated divisions that make it difficult to confront the huge power of national and international elites.</p> <p>These dual difficulties in attracting outsiders and the development of internal factionalism can also jeopardise any potential for a trans-European convergence. However, this is another approach that could be a starting point for internal discussion that leads to strategies to reach wider sectors of society. The strategies of convergence, as well as transversality, populism and oligarchy have all demonstrated their insufficiency when it comes to transforming power relations. An alternative approach may be to follow a class analysis, promoting alliances between the middle and the working classes.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Disconnect</strong></h2> <p>The crisis of the left is deeply connected to its difficulty to reach the popular classes, due to this lack of a clear and viable proposal, but also due to sectarianism, élitism, and obscurantist language. Forces for egalitarian change have been disconnected from the majority of the population for decades and especially from the working class, the “losers of globalisation”. With the defeat of the working class over the last 40 years, progressive forces have lost a key actor for resistance and change. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Euroalter_saturday_3_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Euroalter_saturday_3_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>TransEuropa Festival, Madrid. Elisa Sánchez Fernández. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Today, social and political forces for democratic change are mainly composed of middle class, young people. However, socio-political change only seems feasible through an alliance of the working and the middle classes against the international oligarchy. The current disconnect between both classes was also reflected in Transeuropa and continues to be one of the main problems the left(s) are facing. If egalitarian social movements are not with the working classes, it is easy to imagine who is keeping them company. </p><p>The absence of the “white”, manual working class is indicative of the split between progressive forces and their traditional supporters. Therefore, it is clear that a key objective of egalitarian movements must be to re-connect with the working class. Working class people often find left wing activities paternalistic towards them and pulling the heartstrings most strongly for other people. So open spaces really need to be inclusive of different classes, identities, mentalities and cultures. And social movements need both to include more working class people and to conduct further class analysis to accompany the analysis of gender, race, sexuality and migration.</p> <h2><strong>Below and beyond the nation-state</strong></h2> <p>One of the most controversial elements of the strategy proposed by European Alternatives and Transeuropa has to do with the understanding of the role of the nation-state. The premise is that nation-states are no longer able to influence the global trends that affect people’s lives and, therefore, that it is time to look at what comes after the nation-state. The proposal is to look below and beyond nation-states to build a model of joint governance between the municipal and the European level.</p> <p>This strategy of bypassing the nation-state contains important limitations which have dramatically reduced the transformative capacities of social movements since the anti-globalisation protests of the 1990s. There is a problem in the diagnosis, because nation-states continue to play a fundamental role in the promotion of globalisation and the organisation of societies. With the demise of the welfare state, nation-states have ceased to provide a reasonable degree of security and wellbeing to citizens, precisely because they have changed their role to drive the processes of deregulation, privatization, financialisation, militarism and austerity that characterise globalisation.</p> <p>The proposal to bypass the nation-state undervalues the power of state structures to maintain the social order. Moreover, there are few current examples of the nation-state being successfully challenged from below. On the contrary, we see how the nation-state imposes its power upon municipal governments seeking change in fundamental respects, including democratic decision-making, the refugee crisis, house evictions, austerity budgets, freedom of speech and the health system. </p> <p>At the same time, the EU is also imposing limits on national and local governance. Therefore, transformation at all three levels is required if we are to avoid voluntarism – the naïve belief in the omnipotence of ideas. Ideas can only be materialised when they are rooted in actual existing conditions; when these conditions make possible the agency that can bring about real change.</p> <p>Moreover, this approach undervalues the capacity of employing the state to protect people and redistribute wealth and power. States are authoritarian power structures, but they can also contribute to protecting citizens and even improving the conditions of freedom and equality that allow people to take some control over their lives. </p> <p>As Chomsky has emphasised, basing his arguments on the thoughts of workers’ organisations in Latin America, we should “<a href="https://chomsky.info/199704__/">expand the floor of the cage</a>” to protect ourselves from the predator outside, namely the economic powers. Once sufficient strength has been accumulated, the cage of the nation-state may be dismantled, but not before. &nbsp;While the idea of bypassing the state may only generate more vulnerability, &nbsp;developing democratic states can contribute to both a redistribution of wealth and a decentralization of power. Recent reforms in favour of equality by the coalition government in Portugal show that there is a margin of action for nation-states, even within the current EU.</p> <h2><strong>Working on nationalism</strong></h2> <p>Nationalism surely has to be confronted, but the mobilising capacity of nation-states, as well as their power to make societies more democratic or more authoritarian cannot be left in the hands of the right. If we are focused on the municipal and European levels, the right will be able to strengthen its grip on the feelings and the power structures of the nation-state, thus preventing any possibility of municipal and European democratic governance. Progressive movements would only become more disconnected from the general public and the working class.</p> <p>In today’s adverse context, social movements should not renounce to any site of struggle for hegemony and transformation. There is a need to engage in transformations below and beyond the nation-state, but also at the nation-state itself in a multilevel strategy. Social and political movements should avoid further wishful thinking that is not appealing to a majority of citizens or leads to setbacks. They have to operate from existing conditions that provide opportunities and establish limits.</p> <p>It would be a mistake to dedicate the limited resources available to engage in projects that are not able to include the working class and the national framework that is so important for many people. Progressive movements should not leave them in the hands of the political adversaries since it is clear that one of the reasons why the right is winning is because the left has not been able to propose attractive projects for the nation-state. They should identify objectives for which appropriate means are available. They should transmit clearly that they know how to achieve their objectives.&nbsp; </p> <p>The possibilities of transforming societies in Europe in a more egalitarian and democratic direction are limited, but there is room for manoeuvre at every level. This is why it is fundamental to follow a multidimensional strategy that focuses on the different scales of social change – local, national and international – and on the different dimensions of oppression and emancipation – class, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. It is furthermore necessary to connect the local, national and international levels to produce egalitarian changes in all three levels. This brings us back to the transformation of both cultural and political-economic realities.</p> <h2><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p>Amidst a deep crisis of the left(s), a plurality of organisations are attempting to promote new projects of solidarity to re-invent the cultures, politics and societies of the twenty-first century along democratic and egalitarian lines. As oligarchic power continues to concentrate and the European Union imposes a unidimensional societal model based on neoliberalism and austerity that exacerbates inequality and reduces democracy, the hope for rebuilding Europe lies in the hands of initiatives such as Transeuropa.</p> <p>A strong, pan-European social and political movement is needed to confront the regional and global challenges that societies are facing today. But this can only develop by connecting it to local and national processes of transformation. Each space has its own rhythms and priorities. Changing the power relations at the nation-state level can contribute to promoting both municipalism and Europeanism. A possible, future unity of several progressive governments and social movements from different countries may be able to build sufficient strength to attempt the transformation of the EU and confront the international oligarchy. </p> <p>To achieve this, middle class socio-political movements should connect again with the working class and build interclass and intersectional alliances that can compete against the 1%. The difficult alliance of the working class and the interculturalists could provide sufficient strength to transform power relations and lead to democratic and egalitarian transformations. But this alliance remains a huge, multilevel challenge.</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 here for the <a href="https://transeuropafestival.eu/">Transeuropa Festival</a>.</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>See more on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/andreas-karitzis-birgitta-j-nsd-ttir-michael-chessum-felix-weth-nikos-odubitan/reinventing-politics">Reinventing Politics</a> at <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">Team Syntegrity 2017</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/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings">The politics of feelings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/richard-bartlett/4-things-that-struck-me-after-visiting-political-spaces-in-14-us-cities">4 things that struck me after visiting political spaces in 14 US cities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana-victor-fleurot/video-games-and-socio-political-change-intervi">Video games and socio-political change: interview with Victor Fleurot (2084/) </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</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> Team Syntegrity Joan Pedro-Carañana Sun, 19 Nov 2017 13:04:07 +0000 Joan Pedro-Carañana 114750 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Video games and socio-political change: interview with Victor Fleurot (2084/) https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana-victor-fleurot/video-games-and-socio-political-change-intervi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why not use a medium at the heart of technological changes to express critical ideas on socio-political developments? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot_2017-05-23_17.05.17_p5phzl.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot_2017-05-23_17.05.17_p5phzl.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Games for the Many – 'a UK non-profit workers cooperative of games designers, developers and artists trying to make a differenceæ, created the viral election game CorbynRun in 2017that reached over two million people.</span></span></span></em></p><p><em>Victor Fleurot, co-founder of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/2084online/">2084/</a> and the <a href="http://civicgamejam.com/">Civic Game Jam series</a>, delivered a <a href="https://medium.com/@vf2084/civic-games-workshop-in-madrid-collective-outputs-from-interactive-learning-6826eb733eb6">workshop</a> on video games and socio-political change in the <a href="https://transeuropafestival.eu/">Transeuropa</a> festival, which took place on 24-29 October in Madrid. In the festival’s context of promoting pan-European processes of solidarity, participants in the workshop were able to plan the design of video games with a focus on activism and civic innovation using the new formats and interactive mechanisms offered by digital games.</em></p> <p><em>Joan Pedro-Carañana (J.P-C.) Could you explain the main idea of the Civic Game Jam? </em></p> <p><strong>Victor Fleurot (VF):</strong> The Civic Game Jam brings together game developers and activists to make video games on social and political issues. The third edition will take place in Berlin on 18 November at the BTK University of Art and Design. We want to show that games can raise political awareness, challenge existing practices and open new channels for civic engagement. </p> <p><em>J.P-C. What organisations are behind this initiative? Could you explain the process that led you to come together for this? </em></p> <p><strong>VF:</strong> The series is a joint initiative by visual activism platform 2084/, game community website Berlingamescene.com and the BTK University of Art and Design in Berlin. The dedicated team of ten volunteers also includes game designers, workshop facilitators, students and civic games enthusiasts. </p> <p>We all share an interest in exploring video games as a medium for political narration and civic engagement. As it turned out, late 2016 and early 2017 was a time of intense political soul-searching for many. This made it easier to bridge the gap between activists and game developers. </p> <p><em>J.P-C. What brought you to video games in the first place? </em></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>Many different reasons. Video games offer a level of immersion and interaction that few other forms of creative expression can match. Like films, it has taken time for games to be taken seriously as an artform, but that is finally happening. Political theatre and documentaries can find a digital extension through games. We are constantly debating the influence of technology on our societies and politics. Why not use a medium at the heart of technological changes to express critical ideas on these developments? </p> <p><em>J.P-C. Could you provide some examples of video games that have been developed to promote social and political change?</em><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>Early influential figures in this field include game designer and researcher Gonzalo Frasca as well as Paolo Pedercini, founder of Molleindustria. Their political games cover topics from the war in Afghanistan to the unsustainability of the food industry. Another classic example is “Papers, Please”, a game about an immigration officer at a fictional border crossing. The game’s success exposed a large audience to its mix of geopolitical and personal ethical questions. Thanks to the work of game educators such as Tracy Fullerton, a new generation of developers is working on inclusive, non-mainstream games that are pushing the medium's political boundaries. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171026_124435.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171026_124435.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civic Game Jam presentation at the Transeuropa festival. Joan Pedro-Carañana. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">A new generation of developers is working on inclusive, non-mainstream games that are pushing the medium's political boundaries. </span></p> <p><em>J.P-C. What are the key elements to consider in the development of video games for social change?</em></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>From our experience with Civic Game Jam, the most powerful games are those that combine social and political awareness with effective game mechanics. For this to happen you need people with advanced game design skills to translate political issues into intuitive and provocative experiences. Like novels and films, it's a very fine balance between profound stories that lack engaging mechanics and works of high entertainment value that only skim the surface of political issues. When the balance is right, the results can be eye-opening. It usually takes a mixture of confidence and humility for people with different skill sets to get the most out of their creative potential. </p> <p><em>J.P-C. I was very interested in your explanation about how video games often give an illusion of agency. Could you explain this for our readers? </em></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>This is particularly true for political and civic games, although it may apply to some extent to games in general. </p> <p>There is a strong element of manipulation by offering choices that have pre-defined outcomes. When you watch a Michael Moore documentary or an investigative report, you may get the feeling that logical steps are being taken that you would personally question. If you feel a clear disconnect, the conclusions and overall message will not resonate with you. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is a strong element of manipulation by offering choices that have pre-defined outcomes.</span></p> <p>But in a game, these logical constructs can feel much more intuitive because you are given the choice of how to proceed at different points in the game. So the outcome feels like the logical consequence of your personal decisions, which is much harder to question or disentangle. Another aspect is the manipulation through reward mechanisms that nudge people into taking certain actions. Just like Orson Welles and Guy Debord did with film and TV, those powerful tools that can also be addressed critically through games.</p> <p><em>J.P-C. What are the current power relations between the development of alternative video games and the big corporations that dominate in the industry? </em></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>I do not have enough experience and inside knowledge of the industry to answer this question. But it is clearly a very sensitive topic that will impact the development of video games as a diverse, inclusive medium. The hope would be that the more people value games' cultural contribution, the more game developers will be able to explore different genres and production models. </p> <p><em>J.P-C. Do you think it is possible to reduce the power of corporations so that alternative games may become more important? How? </em></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>As with the arts in general, state funding and support can help to maintain a level of diversity and experimentation. Interestingly, while some of the new right wing anti-establishment movements have tried to use video game forums and aesthetics for their cause, it is radical left wing politicians who have openly talked about their cultural potential. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171026_145151.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171026_145151.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Talking about the potential for video-games at Transeuropa festival.</span></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Mélenchon in the 2017 French elections… vowed to develop a national video game agency if elected.</span></p> <p>This was the case of Mélenchon in the 2017 French elections, as he vowed to develop a national video game agency if elected. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn's supporters have launched “Games for the Many” to make political games and bring together politically active game developers. </p> <p><em>J.P-C. What plans do you have for the future? </em></p> <p><strong>VF: </strong>It has been an amazing first year for the Civic Game Jam with three editions in March, July and November in Berlin. We are planning the 2018 series and establishing contacts to build a network of European cities and expand the concept beyond Berlin. Everyone with an interest in the topic is welcome to get in touch and join the civic game community as we expand to cover more themes and broaden the range of formats.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171026_133424.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20171026_133424.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Victor Fleurot at Transeuropa festival. Joan Pedro-Carañana. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></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 here for the <a href="https://transeuropafestival.eu/">Transeuropa Festival</a></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>See here for <span class="st">the social think tank <a href="https://twitter.com/2084online?lang=en"><em>2084</em>/ twitter</a>, based in Berlin, the European hub for participative process tools, and here for <a href="http://civicgamejam.com/">Civic Game Jam</a> – "We don't need more facts, we need better stories." <br /></span></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="/teresa-buczkowska/in-ongoing-war-between-fake-news-and-evidence-based-information-facts-do-not-matte">In the ongoing war between fake news and evidence-based information, facts do not matter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/anna-krasteva/facts-will-not-save-youth-from-fake-citizenship-will">Facts will not save (the youth) from Fake. Citizenship will</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? World Forum for Democracy 2017 Team Syntegrity Joan Pedro-Carañana Victor Fleurot Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:49:52 +0000 Victor Fleurot and Joan Pedro-Carañana 114676 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 4 things that struck me after visiting political spaces in 14 US cities https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-bartlett/4-things-that-struck-me-after-visiting-political-spaces-in-14-us-cities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I call my homeland Aotearoa New Zealand. Where I’m from, biculturalism is not a radical position, it’s a common experience.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/highwire.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/highwire.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Earlier this year I spent 9 weeks&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/why-im-heading-to-the-usa-when-my-friends-are-all-leaving-aef7f2ee5d18">touring the US</a>&nbsp;with my partner. We stopped in Boston, Providence, Indianapolis, New York City, Washington DC, Tucson, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Oakland, Eugene, Portland, New Orleans, and Asheville.</p><p>We met folks in many different political spaces. Many of them do not self-identify as “left”, or even as “political”, but I’d say they’re all “organising”, and all of them share the “values of the left”: social justice, environmental justice, racial justice, etc.</p><p>I don’t know the collective noun to describe what they have in common so I’ll just list some of their keywords: grassroots, social entrepreneur, community development, cooperative, anarchist, activist, civil servant, journalist, consensus, sociologist, organisational development, movement building, artist, permaculture, non-hierarchical, cohousing, think tank, network, researcher.&nbsp;<em>Part of the struggle is that we’re lacking good names for what to call “us”. The new political actors in Spain call themselves “organised citizens” which I really like.</em></p><p>This trip was a huge experience. I’ve been digesting for two months and still feel like I’m just getting started. I have a strong urge to share some of my reflections, even the ones that are only half-digested. If you don’t have capacity for a long read, you can skip to the end to see my conclusions :)</p><p>I may turn a nice phrase now and then but please keep in mind that I’m not a journalist. This is a highly subjective snapshot of my current thinking. I’ll try to not masquerade as a social scientist or pretend to be objective.</p><p>I’m a White male outsider, so my sample is skewed and my biases are large. It was a high-speed long-distance trip, so most of my encounters were shallow. I’m going to say a bunch of challenging stuff, so if any of it triggers your rage button, my invitation is for you to take a breath, assume positive intent, and if possible, share constructive feedback to help me learn.</p><h2>1. The welfare state makes a much bigger difference than I imagined</h2><p>I grew up in a welfare state. After 30+ years of uninterrupted neoliberal economics, it is a pretty threadbare and punitive kind of welfare these days. But still, our socialised healthcare and unemployment systems protect a huge number of people from the worst consequences of bad luck or bad decisions.</p><p>Let me give you an example: my collarbone was broken in a traffic accident recently. I was evaluated in the field by an emergency first responder, shuttled to hospital by an ambulance, X-rayed and diagnosed by a specialist, and prescribed painkillers, a sling, and rest. I was back home within about 3 hours start-to-finish, and I think I had to pay a total of $3, for the drugs. We have a “no fault” socialised accident insurance scheme, which means the cost of accidents is covered by taxes, and nobody gets punished for honest mistakes. So that night, the driver of the car who hit me visited my house with a hot meal and a genuine apology. Everything about this story is ludicrously fantastical to my friends in the States.</p><p>Until I visited the US I didn’t appreciate just how much difference the welfare state makes to people’s choices. Social welfare makes it safe to fail. When you’re safe, you can try risky things, like starting a co-op, prototyping a community currency, or running for local office. I felt the economic forces in the US pushing people into self-preservation mode, with little left over for creative or social endeavours. Frankly, I didn’t find as much practical, local mutual aid work as I expected.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/hallgatoi halozat.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/hallgatoi halozat.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="147" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The logo of Hungarian student organisers Hallgatói Hálózat showing a big fish eaten by a swarm of little fish.</span></span></span></p><p>We’ve known forever that organised workers have more power than the fat-cat boss. Organised citizens have more power than the oligarch. But you can’t organise hungry people: first they need to be fed. This is why it is so important for organisers to work in the economic plane. Trade unionists know this. The Black Panthers knew it too. It’s old news, but it was brought into stark focus for me as we encountered hunger and homelessness on a scale I couldn’t imagine existing in a wealthy country.</p><p>So if I were organising in the US, I’d&nbsp;<strong>focus on material needs first</strong>: improving the economic security of members and agitating for political change to shift the playing field for everyone. In practical terms, this could be traditional workplace organising or fresh approaches like starting&nbsp;<a href="http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Savings_Pool">savings pools</a>&nbsp;to wipe bad debt, or&nbsp;<a href="https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Livelihood_Pods">livelihood pods</a>&nbsp;to mutualise the income of precarious workers. I saw signs that some social justice movements are heading in this direction, e.g. see&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cooperationjackson.org/">Cooperation Jackson</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="https://policy.m4bl.org/economic-justice/">economic justice policy of the Movement for Black Lives</a>, and the work of the&nbsp;<a href="https://neweconomy.net/about">New Economy Coalition</a>.</p><p>Silicon Valley could be a massive leverage point here, if you can drag entrepreneurs’ attention to solving real material problems (which means dragging investors away from their obsession with 100X returns). See&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/@sexandstartups/zebrasfix-c467e55f9d96">Zebras Unite</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.indie.vc/">Indie.VC</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://platform.coop/">Platform Coop</a>&nbsp;for optimistic signs on that front.</p><h2>2. The “race awareness” I have from growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand does not translate into the US context at all</h2><p>I call my homeland Aotearoa New Zealand. That’s two names stuck together, representing my understanding that we are&nbsp;<strong>two societies </strong>stuck together by Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the founding document of our country). Where I’m from, biculturalism is not a radical position, it’s a common experience.</p><p>In addition to te tiriti, there’s te reo (<em>the language</em>), whakapapa (<em>genealogy traced back to the first arrivals</em>), tikanga (<em>protocols and ways of being</em>), marae (<em>meeting grounds</em>), and many more tāonga (<em>treasures</em>) for Māori and Pākehā (<em>foreign</em>) people to draw strength from.&nbsp;<em>By the way: as a result of decades of language activism, it’s really common for Pākehā folks to know these words.</em></p><p>I don’t want to gloss over the ongoing harm done to Māori by the arrival of Pākehā. Colonisation leaves many of the same bruises wherever it grips around the world. Māori population was literally decimated as their land was expropriated by White immigrants. Within these brutally constrained boundaries though, Māori culture, language, identity, and values are thriving.</p><p>Many of the most potent organisers I know in Aotearoa New Zealand are Māori. They have a kind of credibility and tireless energy that I interpret as the result of having their roots planted in a living breathing alternative to capitalist modernity.&nbsp;<strong>Their political demands are grounded in lived experience of a different social order.&nbsp;</strong>One of the tragedies of genocide and slavery in the US is that it has cut off most Black and Native folks from that source of energy.</p><p>Before I visited the US, I thought about slavery mostly in terms of&nbsp;<strong>racist subjugation</strong>: the horror of having one people forced to serve the will of another. I hadn’t considered the trauma of&nbsp;<strong>cultural dislocation</strong>, of being ripped from your land and ancestry, often with no way of tracing your bloodlines back home.</p><p>In Aotearoa New Zealand it is comparatively easy for me to encounter another self-governing autonomous culture. Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) is visibly distinct from Te Ao Pākehā. From time to time I’m invited to visit. The invitations come more frequently as I learn how to be a good manuhiri (<em>guest</em>). The closer I come to Te Ao Māori, the more I’m able to imagine an alternative to the individualistic, disconnected, suicidal society I inherited.</p><p>I believe there is so much to learn when autonomous cultures encounter each other, without one trying to consume the other. These lessons are particularly urgent with the current rise of nationalist authoritarianism.</p><p>If I were working in the US I’d need new methods to make these encounters. I guess the first step would to be work with Black-led organisations, like the Kheprw folks&nbsp;<a href="https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/american-grief-9575b678c83d">I wrote about in April</a>. I knew while I was in their spaces I was invited into a different logic, to use different language and tactics in pursuit of different aims. The&nbsp;<em>feeling</em>&nbsp;at Kheprw was unique among all the spaces we visited: encouraging, inclusive, optimistic, alive, connected. That is what “autonomy” feels like to me.</p><h2>3. Activist spaces are weakened by self-censorship</h2><p>I was quite disturbed by my experiences in some activist spaces. I’ve been chewing on it for weeks, and the best way I know how to describe it is&nbsp;<em>censorship</em>: the feeling that there are important things not being said. I’ll try to explain…</p><p>Over the past decade, as I started to understand my role in patriarchy, one of the first things I learned was&nbsp;<strong>how to stop talking</strong>. This is a great step! Wow, when I’m not talking, I can listen! I don’t think anyone can be an effective ally to feminists without completing this first challenge.</p><p>So it is good to learn how to share space, but there is much more to being a good ally than shutting up. In my understanding of justice, it’s not enough for me to stop participating in oppression and violence,&nbsp;<strong>I have to get in the way.</strong></p><p>Coming to terms with oppressive systems like patriarchy and white supremacy is really hard work for anyone. It takes a lot of study, self-interrogation and conversation. As a White man, it’s really easy for me to mess up. The conversation can feel like walking a high-wire: one false step from me and we all topple down into this immense chasm of historical trauma.&nbsp;<em>Ah fuck sorry, what I meant to say was “I respect you and I have your back” but I can see how you heard “I want to be your White Knight”.</em></p><p>Even with the best intentions, I know I’ve done a bunch of harm by showing up to a traumatic conversation without enough knowledge or consideration to keep it safe for everyone. The only way I’ve learned how to do that less, is by&nbsp;<em>practice</em>. Over the last few years I’ve found a few people that are&nbsp;<em>willing</em>&nbsp;to have those clumsy conversations with me, so I don’t have to inflict my learning experience on whatever activist meeting I happen to be in at the time.</p><p>I think that’s what I mean by the&nbsp;<em>censorship</em>&nbsp;I picked up in some of the political spaces we visited. Folks don’t seem to have good spaces to learn in, so they shut their mouth to avoid causing harm. If I’m not comfortable talking about sexism it’s safer to say nothing.</p><p>At best, censorship results in reduced capacity. People with more privilege have more opportunity to shape the world, so we need to learn how to talk about oppression unapologetically.</p><p>At its worst, censorship turns to rot, resentment and shame, which is a resource that neo-fascist recruiters know how to exploit. Trump said it is cool to be sexist again, and I’m sure a ton of men breathed a sigh of relief.</p><p>This one is not constrained to the US, so I have a sense that it might be my work for the next few years. Just as&nbsp;<a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow noopener" href="http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/about" target="_blank">SURJ</a>&nbsp;is hosting spaces for mostly White folks to learn and organise against White supremacy, I’m thinking I want to host spaces for mostly men to learn and organise against patriarchy.</p><h2>4. I’m no help to anyone when I’m in&nbsp;shock</h2><p class="graf-after--h4 graf--p graf">In the States I found myself repeatedly saying “Y’all don’t know how to grieve!” Time and time again I met people who were&nbsp;<em>organising</em>, when I think the best thing they could be doing is&nbsp;<em>recovering</em>. When we left Indianapolis, I wrote&nbsp;<a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" href="https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/american-grief-9575b678c83d" target="_blank">this piece about grief, trauma and shock</a>.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf">It took me weeks to appreciate the irony:&nbsp;<em>ohhhh, I’m in shock too!</em></p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf">I left the US behind me the way you leave a wildfire: sprinting in terror, not looking back. I was invited to Barcelona for the&nbsp;<a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow noopener" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity" target="_blank">OpenDemocracy Team Syntegrity</a>. A couple days into the event, I was knocked over by a massive wave of feeling, crying on the couch as I tried to explain some of what I’d seen in the US.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf">The place is so fucking terrifying! We&nbsp;<a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" href="https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/life-and-death-in-la-frontera-ea78aae5e840" target="_blank">met folks in Arizona</a>&nbsp;who are working against border militias, people who are openly&nbsp;<em>hunting for humans</em>&nbsp;the way other folks hunt for deer. The day after we left Portland two people were&nbsp;<a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow noopener" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Portland_train_attack" target="_blank">murdered on a train</a>&nbsp;in broad daylight after confronting a racist loudmouth. In California (a state with a multi trillion dollar economy), we saw thousands of people living in tents and makeshift shelter. The situation is fucking drastic, with many indicators that things are going to get worse.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf">The sheer scale of injustice and suffering stunned me. I could only start to make sense of it once I got far far away. With the privilege of distance, I could escape the daily assault and start to process the experience. There’s no way for me to reckon with this kind of stuff without first feeling the sting of hot tears, the ache of empathy, the despair of powerlessness. I need to&nbsp;<em>feel my feelings</em>&nbsp;first, before I can act strategically.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf"><em>For a more informed perspective on the role of trauma and therapy in political organising, I hugely recommend this article by liberation psychologist Megan Clapp:&nbsp;</em><a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow noopener" href="https://prefigurology.blogspot.pt/2017/02/harnessing-pain-and-burning-it-as-fuel.html" target="_blank"><em>Harnessing Pain and Burning It as Fuel for the Revolution</em></a><em>.</em></p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf">One of the most brutally effective techniques of the Trump administration is to keep the resistance in shock: if you keep lashing people with&nbsp;<em>urgent</em> concerns, they’ll never get to the&nbsp;<em>important</em>&nbsp;work of building counter-hegemonic alternatives.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p graf">So if I were organising in the US right now I’d be looking for spaces to&nbsp;<em>grieve</em> and to&nbsp;<em>heal</em>. I’ve heard phenomenal things from people who have engaged with&nbsp;<a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow noopener" href="https://workthatreconnects.org/foundations-of-the-work/" target="_blank">The Work That Reconnects</a>&nbsp;so I’d start there.</p>Phew…<p class="graf-after--h4 graf--p graf">I’m feeling a degree of clarity I’ve been struggling for since last November. I have a set of bullet points I can hold in one hand:</p><ul class="postList"><li class="graf-after--p graf--li graf">Follow the leadership of women and People of Colour.</li><li class="graf-after--li graf--li graf">Focus on material needs. (Make allies in Silicon Valley.)</li><li class="graf-after--li graf--li graf">Practice having difficult conversations without traumatising people.</li><li class="graf-after--li graf--li graf">Find space to deal with my own trauma.</li><li class="graf-after--li graf--li graf">Break out of urgency and into dreaming, scheming, strategising mode.</li></ul><p class="graf-after--li graf--p graf">What strikes me now in writing this, is just how extraordinarily privileged I am to have the peace and space for contemplation and dialogue. My clarity is the product of thousands of miles of travel, hundreds of conversations, days of writing. The major question I’m left with is&nbsp;<em>how on earth can folks in the US find the&nbsp;</em><em>peace</em><em>&nbsp;to make sense of the present and dream of a future worth fighting for?</em></p><p class="graf--trailing graf-after--p graf--p graf">And shit, I’m crying again.</p><p class="graf--trailing graf-after--p graf--p graf"><em>This article was <a href="https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/4-things-that-struck-me-after-visiting-political-spaces-in-14-us-cities-c1dceb1e8cb4">originally published</a> on Medium on August 4, 2017.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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> United States Team Syntegrity Richard Bartlett Wed, 16 Aug 2017 12:25:41 +0000 Richard Bartlett 112887 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The future of civil society is dependent on space https://www.opendemocracy.net/rhiannon-white/future-of-civil-society-is-dependent-on-space <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s hard to cross the threshold of a place that doesn’t feel like it’s for you.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3984.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3984.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Artchimboldi, plenary room for Team Syntegrity 2017, Barcelona.</span></span></span>We’re losing space; the spaces where we used to come together to talk, to dance, to debate, to play, to make love, to form new ideas about the world. </p> <p>And not just spaces in the physical sense (community centres, youth clubs &amp; nightclubs) but metaphysical spaces – from the gulf that exists between people to the amount of space we physically take up; our space is at breaking point and for civil society to flourish we need to address how to reclaim it. The <a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/">future of civil society</a> depends on it. </p> <p>It’s a time of overwhelming isolationism, as borders go up people sink further into their shells; doors shut with algorithm screens that feed us our future. Social media lulling us into a false sense of community – one that we design ourselves, hearing what we want and filling the void of the need for human connection. </p> <p>With the loss of this space; we mourn the loss of human interaction. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0105.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0105.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Discussion room 1, Team Syntegrity 2017.</span></span></span>On a recent trip to Birmingham I visited a homeless shelter for young people, a small, run down church on the edge of an industrial estate. Inside young men crammed in, sat out of the cold, a space they knew was for them, a place for them to go. Around the corner from the centre I also visit a newly refurbished café and art space. It reminds me of the old colonial buildings in Cairo, massive open plan, fresh, indoor garden and a coffee shop selling perfect coffee. It’s empty. A man sits at his laptop, alone, chairs and tables abandoned – not a soul in sight. He sits alone because that space isn’t made for everyone, over-priced coffee and fancy décor creates a boundary that keeps others out. It’s hard to cross the threshold of a place that doesn’t feel like it’s for you. Perhaps it’s about attitude, or confidence or maybe it’s about the physical walls we put up and what colour we paint them. </p><p>These parallel worlds exist side by side, parallel streets, parallel lives. They don’t see each other. This use of space divides us, pushes us further apart, it magnifies difference, fuelling social stigma. Dependent on your social status you inhabit society differently: how much change you have in your pocket determines what space is yours and how much room you take up. </p> <p>We need spaces for encounter, whether that’s reclaimed space or space that needs to be built. </p> <p>These spaces have to be accessible, they have to be free and they have to be worth going to. If we want a progressive and fair society then we have to find and establish this space with the guidance and knowledge of the community that it serves. </p> <p>It has to belong to the people, they have to have a stake in it. It is in the creation and running of these spaces that we will realise human potential and begin to start shaping a future that puts people at the heart of society. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0240.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0240.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At work in Team Syntegrity 2017.</span></span></span>If we want a society where we can build relationships, integrate, understand and share we have to fight for spaces where those interactions can take place. </p><p>Historically we played our part in building these; the miners halls in South Wales became central spaces where people grew in knowledge and power. These environments have given birth to some of the most monumental visions of our time, the NHS is one. </p> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Parc_and_Dare_1894(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Parc_and_Dare_1894(1).jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Parc and Dare Miner's Institute in 1894. Located in Treorchy, Rhondda, South Wales. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>In Treorchy, South Wales, in 1892 the miners built a working man’s institute called the Parc and Dare. They built <a href="http://www.creucymru.com/member/park-and-dare-theatre-treorchy/">this space</a> by donating a penny from every pound of their wages, they saw value in it and what it meant to come together. It was here that exchanges were had and ideas formed. </p> <p>In today’s society have we lost the notion of what is valuable about space? Where are the spaces where people regardless of circumstance come together? Do they exist? and if they don’t how can we build them? We need to start building.</p> <p>If the miners did it back in 1892, can’t we? </p> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3057766877_70fbf976d1_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3057766877_70fbf976d1_z.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Billy Bragg with a cup of tea on stage at the end of the gig at the Parc and Dare Theatre in Treorchy in 2008. Flickr/ Mark Hillary. Some 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>National Theatre Wales &amp; Common Wealth present <a href="https://nationaltheatrewales.org/were-still-here">"We're still here"</a>, September 15 - 30, 2017.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/">Civil Society Futures </a>- an English conversation.</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="/team-syntegrity-2017-participants/i-am-safe-space">I am a safe space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nikos-odubitan-aya-haidar-rhiannon-white-ana-segovia-rebecca-fitzgerald/creating-safe-spaces-in-soci">Creating safe and inclusive spaces in society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/niels-jongerius/what-happened-in-hamburg">What happened in Hamburg?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/protest/josie-appleton/protest-and-public-space">Encroachment of public space in the UK: how does it restrict our right to protest?</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> Team Syntegrity Rhiannon White Sat, 12 Aug 2017 19:36:46 +0000 Rhiannon White 112833 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of feelings https://www.opendemocracy.net/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A meditation on the ‘millennials’ and several of the discussions at Team Syntegrity 2017. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31811987.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31811987.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the crowd from the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset. Yui Mok/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><blockquote><p><em>I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,</em></p><p><em>dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, </em></p><p><em>angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,</em></p><p>Allen Ginsberg. <strong>Howl</strong></p></blockquote> <p>Feelings have always played a role in politics. In many ways, politics is the art of persuasion and reasonable arguments can only mobilize people to a limited extent. In struggles, such as electoral disputes or a union organizing a strike, one will find a complex mixture of rational arguments and sentiment-infused discourses. No successful politician has ever managed to rise to the top solely on cold argument.</p> <p>Nonetheless, there are reasons to believe that the importance of feelings in politics has reached a level seldom seen in modern history.</p> <p>Put together a group of middle-class well-meaning young people from the northern hemisphere to discuss the recent events overcoming the world: xenophobia, Brexit, Trump, feminism, the future of the European Union, capitalism, etc., and the relevance of the politics of feelings will immediately arise. Some have called this emotional, well-meaning generation the “millennial” generation. There has been a lot of discussion about the impact of this concept, commonly found in marketing lingo. On the other hand, their influence has a mostly negative connotation for some, as being too “soft”, and even “lazy”. This article aspires to shed some light, beyond a judgmental view, on the millennial generation, on how politics can and has adapted to its cultural context, and the challenge it entails for us in struggling to defend a progressive political view.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0050.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0050.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity 2017, Barcelona. Cameron Thibos.</span></span></span>There are reasons to believe the millennial generation has an important revolutionary potential. It is bizarre because one of the characteristics of this generation is its deep immersion in consumer culture. However, to understand the way it interacts with politics, one of the most important aspects to consider is its main driver. Much like the epic hippie movement of the 60´s, the hunger for profound, pure and radical connection with the “other” seems to be its main motivation. </p><p>What another generation sought in rock, hallucinogens, and new esotericism, this generation craves and explores through the internet and pop culture. It is ironic that when society seems to have achieved a level of connection like never before, the hunger for connection has only grown.</p> <h2><strong>The politics of goodness</strong><strong> </strong></h2> <p>“An enemy is someone who´s story we still have not heard” is the aphorism, made famous and criticized by Slavoj Zizek, which sums up a certain value underpinning millennial multiculturalism. For the last few decades, the issue of identity has defined the debate in cultural politics. One could talk of two ways of understanding the public sphere in the cultural politics of a liberal democracy: on the one hand, a traditional view which emphasizes equality, and, on the other hand, a view which emphasizes diversity. </p> <p>The first one, related to processes which gave birth to the modern nation state, intends to consolidate and protect public space as one where citizens can integrate into the community as equals. The relation of each citizen with the state is individual. Every individual is king in his private space and an obedient follower of the nation state in the public arena. The second one, multiculturalism, adds complexity to this relationship by recognizing a series of intermediate groupings, between the citizen and the state, which may adhere to their own set of rules and conventions. A classic example of the tension between these is the debate about the use of the burkha and other religious symbols in public schools. While a liberal non-multicultural view would tend to defend the equality with which every citizen integrates into the nation state and, therefore, would forbid the expression of religion in public schools, a multicultural view would defend the expression of religious diversity in schools, to make articulate the different groups (religions) that form the national community.</p> <p>Multiculturalism itself tries to juggle this tense balance between an ideal of universal comprehension of the other and a radical differentiation from that same other. Zizek cites the case of Haiti as an example. As the young nation acquired its independence it was infused with both a strong black identity, as recently emancipated slaves gained their freedom and were ready to govern for the first time, as well as the influx of the French Revolution liberal and universalist views. The result materialized in the 1804 constitution which firstly defined Haiti as a black republic and, subsequently, defined all inhabitants of Haiti as black, no matter what the colour of their skin was. </p> <p>It is relevant to mention that the multicultural view, over recent decades, especially since the 80´s, is linked to one cultural struggle in particular: the rebellion against the hegemony of white, straight, first world, man. This is in the context of important achievements by anticolonial and anti-discrimination social movements. This struggle has been fought around issues of symbolic violence executed upon non-hegemonic groups (women, non-white, not straight, etc.). However, some have argued that behind the “politically correct” effort of multiculturalism a dose of racism and first world views imposition may lie. Possible evidence of this is the emergence of a xenophobic, anti-Muslimism right, portraying themselves as defenders of gender diversity (such as Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands). In any case, as Edward Said so brilliantly showed in the case of western representation of the east, no matter how good the intention might be, the representations of the other tend to show more of one's intimate drives than the actual people being represented. In this difficulty to “comprehend” the other lies the main difficulty of millennial multiculturalism. Political correctness might be enough when what is sought for is simple tolerance or peaceful existence, but it seems to completely miss the point when what is looked for is a deep connection to that other.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 18.12.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 18.12.19.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A good example of this difficulty can be shown in pop culture through the Netflix series Sense 8. In this science-fiction story, the “superpower” protagonists have a supernatural empathy within their group of eight people. Eight individuals, distributed all over the world (Mexico, USA, England, South Korea, Kenya, India, and Germany), represent human diversity, with special emphasis on LGBT diversity. As these people discover, they belong to a species different from <em>homo sapiens</em>, the <em>homo sensorium</em>. They start to explore the implication of knowing and feeling everything the other one does. In this millennial multiculturalist utopia, a Mexican homosexual actor, a German jewellery thief, and an African bus driver´s differences are mere superficial marks all of which enrich a sublime interior encounter. </p><p>So one of the main questions underlining the plot is how did&nbsp;<em>homo sapiens&nbsp;</em>overcome the empathetic apes, and gain control of the world? The unsettling innuendo is that the answer lies in individualism, egotism and the invisible hand – that is to say, capitalism. The reason this is unsettling is that liberal multiculturalism, brought to its logical extreme, seems to challenge the capitalist basis on which it originally formed and tend towards a form of radical communitarianism. Paradoxically, the millenial consumerist notion of instantaneous profound connection with each other, can eventually subvert&nbsp;the faith in capitalism´s capability to bring forth truly emancipatory identities. In that sense, it seems there is a revolutionary potential in millennial multiculturalism. For those trying to build a political platform, from the left and in the first world,&nbsp;this potential may be crucial.</p> <h2><strong>Brexit</strong></h2> <p>There are many reasons why Brexit won, but undoubtedly a lot of it had to do with the incapability of traditional politics to engage with the youth. Young people, even though overwhelmingly against Brexit, simply did not go to vote that day. Traditional politics lacked that new grammar necessary to translate this hunger for deep connection with its revolutionary potential.</p> <p>This draws a sharp contrast with what Jeremy Corbyn achieved in the last general elections where youngsters voted in the masses. Again, there are many reason for this, but perhaps Corbyn´s speech at Glastonbury may give us a hint of this capability to engage with millennial youth and its revolutionary potential.</p> <p>As Jeremy Corbyn took his place in front of the thousands of young people who assisted the festival (a festival originated back in the 60´s), among major pop icons like Radio Head or Ed Sheeran, the Labour leader touched base on at least three major issues in a ground-breaking speech.</p> <p>Firstly, politics are something close to everyone, or as he put it “Politics is actually about everyday life. It’s about all of us, what we dream, what we want, and what we want for everybody else”. In other words, a clear reference to the politics of feeling, grounded in our day to day life, and the relationship between individuals.</p> <p>Secondly, he made a clear call for multicultural inclusion, by appealing to the common universal link between all human cultures: “When people across the world think the same, cooperate the same, maybe in different languages, in different faiths, in different cultures, peace is possible, and must be achieved”. </p> <p>And, finally, the truly millennial touch, the possibility of sublime connection with the other:</p> <p>"It's that sense of unlocking the potential in all of us that I find so inspiring, and I'm inspired by many poets and many people, and I think we should adopt a maxim in life, that everyone we meet is unique, everyone we meet knows something we don't know, is slightly different to us in some ways.</p> <p>Don't see them as a threat, don't see them as an enemy, see them as a source of knowledge, a source of friendship, and a source of inspiration.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31811201.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31811201.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The crowd hold up banners at the Pyramid stage as they wait for Jeremy Corbyn to appear on stage at Glastonbury Festival, 24 June, 2017. Yui Mok/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>However, there is a limit to how much the politics of goodness on their own can fuel a political project. It may be really hard for the progressive liberal to comprehend, but it is perfectly possible for a national inhabitant to feel absolutely empathetic with immigrants, and yet support Brexit if he believes it will somehow improve his living conditions or those of his family or immediate community. </p><p>In that sense, perhaps there is something to learn from Haiti's experience, in their notion of inclusive patriotism. Examples of this discourse are to be found in the national popular thesis of Iñigo Errejon in Podemos, and certainly in the proud French discourse both of Mélenchon and Macron. In these cases, nation state identity is linked to a community that embraces differences. The Podemos notion recognizes the internal national diversity of Spain while at the same time reinvigorating the patriotic feeling which is perhaps paramount. This discourse has another advantage, it opens the communication between the millennial views and the more traditional sense of national communities. The future of progressive politics, despite many progressives, seems to be patriotic, and struggling with the far-right xenophobic nationalists for what the “nation state” means. As Pablo Iglesias once put it: “the nation is, above all, our public hospitals, and public schools”.</p> <h2><strong>The politics of anger</strong></h2> <p>The politics of anger move. They tend to mobilize an important portion of the population in very intense and short-lived movements. It is not a force that can steadily push a project, but it is vital to understand key moments of change in scenario. Basically, this type of politics can be summarized by the notion of perceived injustice caused by someone. Someone, somewhere is having a party to which we are not invited.</p> <p>There is nothing inherently leftist in this feeling. In fact, these last few years have seen the rise of proto-fascist movements feeding on it.</p> <p>One could, therefore, make the distinction between two types of politics of anger: one directed upwards, towards the elite, and one downwards, towards the immigrant population. It is a dangerous explosion of energy that can shoot any which way, and has become increasingly relevant in a set of decisive events that have occurred in recent decades.</p> <p>As the world came to be ruled by politicians defending the Third Way, some started to dream of an ‘end to history’, where political discussions could be reduced to minor administration of private interests, without any sort of radical change horizon. Under the idea of achieving a limitless consensus, traditional left and centre left parties implemented a pro market agenda even more brutally than the right parties. These parties sought to overcome class struggles, substituting left and right economics with wrong and right public policies, and ended up enabling a huge financial market that hypertrophied until, in 2008, it imploded.</p> <p>For the first time in centuries, a generation was going to be poorer than the generation that preceded it, with an important decline in middle income. Those traditional blue-collar voters of the leftist parties started to turn their back on the parties that had abandoned them. And they are angry.</p> <p>The debacle of the Third Way parties, abandoned by their historical voters, has left these parties incapable of containing the emergence of a neo-fascist populism. Right-wing populism stands for the real malaise of blue collar workers and points its finger at migrants, even poorer than those workers themselves, as responsible for their sufferings. Where the second to last in line is forced to struggle with the last in line, xenophobic fascism soon emerges. The true parents of the emergence of this popular neofascism are the leaders of the Third Way, who with their indifference and opportunism did not hesitate to sacrifice the middle classes and the social tissue, suffocating any glimpse of social organization and solidarity in attempts to resist their neoliberal reforms of the 80´s and 90´s.</p> <p>A clear example, few are more responsible for Donald Trump´s victory than the Democrat establishment blocking Sanders´ alternative. This was another example of the Third Way paladins, seduced by the promises of TTP or TTIP, who were then surprised by its crashing fall when faced with the worker class reaction. Those who disguise themselves in a discourse of responsibility, while demolishing the democratic foundations of countries with their centre-wing fundamentalism, are the ones responsible for delivering governments to neofascism.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26556042.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26556042.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bernie Sanders. Cliff Owen/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>What then can the left do in such a scenario? How can we give an answer to the mayhem of the radical free market without falling into xenophobic frenzy? How to answer the suffocating nationalism of Trump or Brexit? </p><p>Part of the answer must be the notion of inclusive patriotism already discussed in the politics of goodness. However, this approach has a very limited effect. Right wing nationalism feeds off an essentialist view of the nation. The nation under this discourse does not require individuals with agency, socially constituted alongside their networks and local communities. It is an identity plea which is nurtured by the very lack of grassroots organization. What allows it to set the poor local worker up against the poorer immigrant worker, is its refusal to recognize the category of worker class uniting both.</p> <p>Faced with the growing consolidation of xenophobic nationalism, the alternative of the left is to deepen democracy by recognizing and strengthening social movements and citizenship in general, in the struggle against those few who have benefited from their impoverishment. </p> <p>There are real reasons to be angry, but not towards the fellow worker. Both Trump and Sanders had the same diagnosis: a small elite, whose interests were defended by Third Way leaders behind both party lines, have enjoyed an increase in their gains never seen before, while the middle classes suffered. The difference was the answer they gave to this diagnosis. While Trump pointed his finger at immigrants, Sanders called for fairer distribution of the wealth hoarded by the élite. </p> <p>The lesson for the left, in terms of the politics of goodness, is the notion of inclusive patriotism. In terms of the politics of anger, the lesson for the left is the deepening of democracy, the importance of democratic tissue, through the empowerment of social movements. </p> <p>And once again, something similar can be said of Corbyn´s campaign. He himself, in that same Glastonbury speech put it like this: </p> <p>“But what was even more inspiring was the number of young people who got involved for the first time. Because they were fed up with being denigrated, fed up with being told they don’t matter. Fed up with being told they never participate, and utterly fed up with being told that their generation was going to pay more to get less in education, in health, in housing, in pensions and everything else.”</p> <p>“…. Is it right that so many people live in such poverty in a society surrounded by such riches? No, it obviously is not. And is it right that European nationals living in this country, making their contribution to our society, working in our hospitals, schools and universities don’t know if they’re going to be allowed to remain here? I say, they all must stay and they all must be part of our world and part of our community, because what festivals are about, what this festival is about, is coming together”.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the politics of anger remains a danger. On the one hand it is inherently fleeting, but more importantly, it is a loaded gun that can shoot in many directions. As Walter Benjamin said, in every emergence of fascism there is a failed revolution. It is of the utmost importance that we are capable to construct a movement beyond anger, to ensure that its fruits are not more anger, but a more solid democracy.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 18.29.38.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 18.29.38.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>The politics of reason</strong></h2> <p>The politics of goodness and anger may seem opposites, but, in reality, they are deeply related. They are both politics of exceptionality, politics of the moment of outburst. &nbsp;They have little to say about the more boring aspects of politics-as-usual. The true opposite to both the politics of goodness and anger are the politics of reason. And in these times when good old-fashioned political reasoning is discredited, here is the case for its defence.</p> <p>The left lives in times of few certainties and many questions. Perhaps recognizing this should be one of the main issues at hand. The lack of answers in the left is especially clear in the question of “the day after”. As Zizek has put it,&nbsp;the left has overcome some of the tendency to marginality which marked the 90´s, but is still faced with few answers about how to approach the day after winning the elections. One example of this is the case of Syriza, where inclusive nationalism, attempting to defend popular sovereignty against the extreme austerity measures imposed by the EU, and supported by a strong democratic basis, shown by the referendum, was simply not enough.</p> <p>Faced with this void, is the only option for the left to defend liberal advances and resign from its historical structural struggles? On the one hand, as the contradiction between the egalitarian promise of democracy and market instrumental logic becomes increasingly evident, it seems undeniable that the left of our times must recognize and defend the basis of liberal democracy. But, on the other hand, there can be no relinquishing of the horizon of a radically different social order, if we are not to succumb to Third Way hypocritical pragmatism. </p> <p>In any case, as Chantal Mouffe has stated, our socialism is becoming increasingly similar to that (unfulfilled) promise of radical equality which underlines democracy, while the defenders of the free market are becoming increasingly blunt in their disregard for popular sovereignty and democratic standards. </p> <p>To be yet more explicit, I believe there is a case to be made not only for democracy, but specifically for the democratic republic, to recover the republic for the left, as the institutionalization of popular will. Certainly, the democratic republic and the law are fundamental for the poor. The struggles of workers, all along our history, as of all social struggles, are inscribed in the ink of law. As Iglesias once stated, they are written in the blood of those who fought for the recognition of those rights. </p> <p>Law in the service of majorities is one of the main weapons in the fight for a more democratic society. The powerful need no rule of law: the only rule they need is superior strength. There is still so much to defend from the Enlightenment and modern values. There is something essential to be learned from the Spanish revolution in the potential of republican ideals against the emergence of fascism. Faced with the populist right nostalgia for the past, and the Third Way obsession with renovation, our proposal should be for the future. We should, in the most complex sense of the word, be <em>for development</em>. Namely, faced by the market nation, we must defend the citizenship nation. Not the one with the idealizing and sanctifying capital “N”, but rather we should defend a modest and concrete nation that is born out of grass roots organization and empowerment of civil society. Our nation is our schools and hospitals. It is, to sum up,&nbsp;that nation of the welfare state and the entrepreneurial state, beyond the exacerbation of tribal identity. </p> <h2><strong>Ye are many – they are few</strong></h2> <p>A lot has been written about why different projects of the left have failed. The notion of recuperating the modern values of the republic may help, but it is still a vague notion.</p> <p>Yes. There is something to be said for the left learning from its many failures. But perhaps the time has come to start thinking about possible victory and what this would look like. Corbyn´s speech ends with the following quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘The Masque of Anarachy’: “Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you: ye are many – they are few!” Only by hope turning plausible will the “many” eventually overcome the “few”. For the time being, as we awkwardly try to find a way, let us know when to lead and when to listen, when to feel, and when to reason.Is the new left a space for radicalism or transversality? Is it a vindication of the tradition of the left, or the emergence of new unprecedented forces and social groups? </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/733px-Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_by_Alfred_Clint_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/733px-Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_by_Alfred_Clint_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1819, by Alfred Clint. National Portrait Gallery. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As Errejon expressed, either of those categories of the adversaries are traps. The only answer that can impregnate the playfield and give us any chance of victory is “neither and both”. Opposite to what the populist right and the Third Way pretend, there is no contradiction between deep and open democracy and republican popular sovereignty. Those who have consolidated a low intensity democracy with a huge concentration of power, are responsible for endangering the republican rule of law. An inclusive nationalism, a deep and radical democracy, and a republic which embodies popular sovereignty are some key ideas in that struggle.</p> <p>The time has come to rethink and reshape our comfortable trenches. In times dominated by the politics of feelings, we who believe in a different, more just, way of organizing society must walk a thin line, recognizing the importance of feelings, avoiding any temptation to intellectual disdain towards the millennial generation, while still defending the values of the republic. </p> <p>Up to a point, it is a game of numbers. In order for the left to outnumber its adversaries, broad alliances are needed. That is why an astute combination of the politics of goodness and of anger, of discourse appealing to new millennials and to traditional blue collar voters is necessary. This alliance seems to be one of the challenges of our time. The other one is what to do the day after. And that is a major challenge. </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 revised version of this essay in Spanish (called <a href="https://www.planetadelibros.cl/libro-juntos-pero-no-revueltos/267980">"Revisiting the Politics of Feelings")</a> was published as a chapter in a book, alongside different leaders of social movements and the Chilean left, March 2018. </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="/rosemary-bechler/diary-of-organiser-team-syntegrity-2017">Diary of an organiser: Team Syntegrity 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/epochal-election-welcome-to-era-of-platform-politics"> An epochal election: welcome to the era of platform politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paolo-gerbaudo-antonis-galanopoulos/populism-with-no-leaders-rise-of-citizenism-a">Populism with no leaders: the rise of &#039;citizenism&#039; and how to understand it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/chantal-mouffe-i-igo-errej-n/from-resistance-to-state-latin-american-experience"> Latin American conquest of the state</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/richard-bartlett/more-mouthy-male-feminists-please">More mouthy male feminists please</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Greece Spain UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Noam Titelman Wed, 02 Aug 2017 16:38:12 +0000 Noam Titelman 112664 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Diary of an organiser: Team Syntegrity 2017 https://www.opendemocracy.net/rosemary-bechler/diary-of-organiser-team-syntegrity-2017 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I have been a qualified facilitator for more than two decades, but had almost forgotten what this extraordinary three-and-a-half day process was like. Would it be different in the twenty-first century?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3961.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3961.jpg" 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'>Barcelona Town Hall, June, 2017</span></span></span><strong>Day one, Sunday</strong>: It is great to be back in Barcelona. Last week-end I bumped into a group of residents protesting that they wanted more refugees in their city and calling on the state to lift their dishonourable blockade! </p><p>But the heat is a disincentive for any extra sightseeing – everyone assures us that we have arrived during the year’s hottest spell so far. Besides, I’m still digesting my last visit, to “the incredible Fearless Cities” conference as Jamie Kelsey-Fry christened it in the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjOFgTbvXXs">little video</a> Sunny Hundal put together for me to accompany a fine essay by Oscar Reyes’ sometime collaborator, Bertie Russell and Plan C on ‘<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical municipalism’</a>. I have invited <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/oscar-reyes-bertie-russell/eight-lessons-from-barcelona-en-com-on-how-to-take-bac">Oscar Reyes</a> to come and watch some of our proceedings in Artchimboldi – our beautiful conference venue. I hope he makes it.</p><p>That was only last Friday, but now, already, it is time to move on. Our twenty-nine guest participants of Team Syntegrity 2017 – the self-organising procotol for non-hierarchical conferencing invented by the cybernetician, Stafford Beer – are heading towards the Hotel Astoria and my editorial colleague, co-organiser and fellow-facilitator, Alex Sakalis and myself, will have our first glimpse of the participants we have been wooing and awaiting for what feels like months on end! Those of us who are Syntegrity veterans only know marginally more than they do what to expect, and they know very little indeed…</p><p>I have decided I will pinch Ada Colau’s quote for my welcoming speech. The Mayor of Barcelona’s tone has just the right sense of imaginative urgency, encouragement and opportunity, and you never know – it might trigger off a topic on the aforementioned ‘radical municipalism’, one of my current obsessions. She says: “ We are living in extraordinary times that demand brave and creative solutions. If we’re able to imagine a different city, we’ll have the power to transform it.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3903.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3903.jpg" 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'>Ada Colau on screen at the Fearless Cities launch in Barcelona.</span></span></span>We have twenty-nine and not thirty participants despite Alex’ and my every effort to replace the people who inevitably pull out at a late stage, either because very busy people have only just managed to look at the draconian length of the three working days at a Team Syntegrity, and we have not been able to reassure them that this is worth the effort, or because something – a health check-up, a sick child, a failed visa application, has gone wrong. </p><p>We are particularly sorry to have lost two interesting conservative voices who potentially were going to make things much more alert, and a South African trade unionist, maybe the sole representative among us of a movement that is surely an important stakeholder in the democratic transformation we are seeking, not to mention a country that has raised and dashed more hopes than most in our lifetime. </p><p> However, thanks to our partners pointing out the omission, we now have a marvellous participant for whom religious commitment is a central driver in her life; and our delivery team have miraculously come up with two last minute recruits who happen also to be complexity theorists. That should be interesting: I’m glad that they too seem excited to get the chance. Someone has tweeted openDemocracy to say that seeing Team Syntegrity back on the radar “proves that good ideas don’t die”. That makes me feel better about my twenty years of hanging in here…</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 20.44.43.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 20.44.43.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="605" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Infoset plus some of the delivery and evaluation team.</span></span></span>Mid-afternoon we manage to get together with the whole delivery team, including with Eva Lange, our Operations expert from Malik Management.&nbsp; Everyone is interested in the different ways the protocol has been developing over the intervening years: we will have sophisticated new name badges for all participants that give them their own complicated schedule on the reverse side – the discussions they will be responsible for, the ones in which they are critics and the ones they may observe if they don’t want to take a break in the busy summer streets of Barcelona. So we can all relax a little on the timing front.</p> <p><strong>Sunday evening: </strong>Thank goodness (and the quietly supportive Diana Guererro and her team) – we have not been obliged to have a formal, three-course sit-down dinner this evening. The Hotel Astoria has rallied itself and provided the most delicious buffet bar, our participants are trickling in and out sociably, as we wished. </p> <p>One or two of them are gleefully reunited with people they know – I now remember that Ashish Ghadiali interviewed Birgitta Jonsdottir for us last year – but others are cautiously getting their bearings in the hubbub. So it is a good thing that we have taken over the restaurant, and can proceed to make our icosahedrons out of wine gums and cocktail sticks. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3966.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3966.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="511" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>I should explain. There is no doubt about it that if you wish to venture into Stafford Beer’s viable systems model, there are highly intellectual adventures to be taken in many different disciplines: but the man himself was alert to all sorts of intelligences, and very early on those who were to be initiated into his Team Syntegrity, were duly enrolled in the physical ritual of putting together the beautiful three-dimensional shape which underpins the protocol, using 30 struts for the participants whose overlapping participation in 12 nodal themes, guarantee a high degree of shared knowledge. </p> <p>It is no accident that the minute before you stick the last cocktail stick into the last wine gum, you have a messy, flailing jumble of ill-suited ingredients. The moment it comes together, it is a solid and elegant little universe that can be thrown across a crowded bar, and land in someone else’s grip, intact. </p> <p>Vanessa Kisuule exercises a small victory dance at this moment, and is not alone. David Stefanoski turns out to be very good at this. Leonie Solomons has to remind me how it is done – she has a two-hat theory which, at least initially, she is sure is a short cut. Joe Truss, our geometrician extraordinaire is very helpful. We all get there in the end. Very pleased with the convivial evening, like everyone else, I imagine, I’m glad to turn in.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3963.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3963.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p><strong>Day Two Monday </strong></p> <p>‘Raring to go’ is the phrase that kept coming to mind this morning. Artchimboldi is a thing of beauty when empty and curls itself gloriously around everyone as they settle in, with nooks and crannies, balconies and sofas as well as the three main discussion rooms and operations hub. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3975.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3975.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Once I work out the quickest way back to the main plenary room from the office where Eva is installing her software (it takes a few goes – and some surprise at where the entrance is, as more of our participants stroll in), we discover that we don’t have the essential musical instrument for ringing when it’s time to begin. Someone is dispatched for a bell, and wisely returns with two – Sunny Hundal is put in charge of time-keeping. Over the three days he will begin to resemble a figure out of a medieval morality play, or Bergman’s Seventh Seal. But he starts off with an endearing air of concentration. People are quick to assemble themselves and this is where we first sense that they are raring to go.&nbsp; </p> <p>Allenna dives into the introductory details. A few explanations are given, enough to set things in motion, but not too much to absorb. She is an intelligent and calming presence from the off, deft about what has to be done and entirely unfussy about what is not essential. </p> <p>You have to be very careful about what you say at the beginning of these processes because the ‘infoset’ – our marvellous twenty-nine guest participants – are all super alert to any indications of what they are meant to be doing. </p> <p>A new element probably for all of us facilitators is having the representatives of three foundations who have supported us in making this event possible also eager to say a few words about why they are involved. In different ways they perceive a crisis in our democracies that people can only address by coming together in unusual and unusually receptive combinations. Thomas Maettig, for example, is interesting on the realisation that any assumptions that social democratic Europe was somehow exempt from the main threats to democracy had been well and truly peeled away in recent years. Very different people in the room feel as if they are somewhere on the same page. That’s the right feeling for this type of event. So let’s begin. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0078_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0078_0.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The first stage proliferates pastel-shade post-it notes all over the walls: significant short statements that address the blue skies opening question in a way that someone else might quarrel with… in the three and a half days given to us, there is no time for motherhood and apple pie sentiment. </p> <p>And we do have a lot to get through today, the market place of ideas in which participants take clusters of statements to elaborate longer themes for discussion and persuade four of their fellow participants to support their chosen debate; the ‘hexadic reduction’ which wrestles around 20 of these into the magic twelve topics, having included what we can of all successful candidate themes, and resolved to kick out others. We have allotted a long time on the schedule for this, because our participants on the whole don’t know each other. It’s not so easy under those circumstances to agree what will be useful to discuss together, and it is noticeable that one or two topics are vehemently rejected by one or two people without thought that they might be in a minority, but without others feeling able to defend them. I may be imagining it, but generally-speaking this group of participants seems to me less used to collective decision-making, simply more individualistic and less mutually deferential, than the infosets of yester-year – we are talking about the last century after all! I tell myself it is a little too early to tell. </p> <p>But the impression consolidates over the afternoon and the first ‘iteration’ of our twelve topics. The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">twelve topics</a> are good ones. I suspect we could have done with more time, not on the ‘hexadic reduction’, carried out to general satisfaction after a few heated exchanges that are par for the course. No, but in the market place of ideas, I noticed that participants were eagerly signing up to single-word titles rather than elaborated statements. We had five signatures for ‘revolution’ without any elaboration at all and had to check that there was some kind of qualifying sentence or two to inform the choices of the next stage. It still sailed through regardless… and in its first ‘iteration’ this afternoon has already proved a headbanger of a subject for its five discussants to define. </p> <p>Getting people used to the hard work of formulating a subject for discussion is a useful precursor to the skills involved in formulating their conclusions at each subsequent stage – a source of frustration in the whole process which can also be the pearl in its oyster. So I worry that we haven’t managed this quite as well as early on as we might have done today.&nbsp; I feel I can detect the results in the sliding scales of topic themes in two or three clusters&nbsp; – ‘reinventing politics’, ‘ rebuilding and transforming the left’, ‘revolution’; ‘reinventing politics’, ‘communication and media’, ‘the internet’…. Perhaps if we’d dwelt on these a little longer we could have either differentiated them more clearly or combined them to leave space for completely new topics. But our Lead Facilitator is much more sanguine about trusting the process… so we shall see.</p> <p>Well, this afternoon, we have had our first run through all the topics in parallel session in our two discussion rooms – only 45 minutes each. It will be 75 minutes, thank goodness, for the next two days. 45 minutes is not enough time to do more than introduce one’s-self to the topic and each other. This is compounded by the fact that we have clearly not ‘got through’ on the subject of the role of the critics. It is a crucial role, but crucially different from the discussants. The discussants should be facing each other, working together, taking on the responsibility for the outcome together, and very glad to turn to the critics at a convenient point in their deliberations to ask for an outside view on their progress.</p> <p>Our discussants are ignoring each other and addressing the critics’ panel as if they were judges in The X-factor. Individual discussants are locked in conversation with individual critics – despite our mentioning that there should not be ‘to and fro’ of this kind. Perhaps we only mentioned this to each other as facilitators – I can’t remember. And after all this is a bit schematic since actually this too is OK, once the different roles and essential dynamic has been set up. But the critics are meant to go down the row with concise comments – “You seem to be going round in circles on that point – why don’t you pick up your earlier suggestion…”, or, “one of you has said nothing, why can’t they get a word in?”, before handing the task back to the discussants. Especially in such a short session, shouldn’t they notice that they are taking up far too much of the discussants’ time? Apparently not. Our ‘critics’ leap in at the deep end with gusto and whole new theories about how to interpret the topic for discussion. In forty-five minutes this adds up, it seems to me, to more complexity than some of the groups will ever be able to deal with. I must remember to mention this to Allenna… </p> <p>At the facilitators debrief this evening, Allenna raises the very same issue. I suggest that we should repeat the ‘critic role’ definition, but perhaps give examples like the ones above. Allenna counsels against this, precisely because the facilitating process can be so suggestive and drive people in directions they themselves don’t actually need to go in.&nbsp; She’s right. I can see the need to strengthen this message through facilitating but without adding in extraneous criteria. It’s a delicate balancing act. </p><p>I recollect my ambivalent feelings this morning, when a brief anecdote I told in my opening welcome about pleasure in politics instantaneously proliferated into several pink and yellow post-it notes all over the walls… Well, tomorrow is another day. Tonight – we are going off to have our first supper all together.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0064.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0064.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p><strong>Day Three – Tuesday</strong></p> <p>It’s only this morning that I discover that we have driven away our first participant! After her first discussion on Monday she had approached me with a sense of urgency which I didn’t fully rise to, thinking, quite wrongly, that we had time! Soon afterwards, she’d made a personal statement in the religion and secularism discussion. She announced that she felt it to be true that ‘religion is the opium of the masses’, but that she had nothing further to say, and then left the building, never to return. </p> <p>In the computer programme which sorts out people’s preferences to distribute the specific role they will play, each participant is given two topics they are responsible for as discussants, two in which they are critics, and two options for observing if they wish. Her point to me had been two-fold and, she believed, unarguable. Her immediate distress had been prompted by the discovery that one group in which she had cutting edge expertise contained others whose ideas she felt she had wrestled to the ground some years previously; while she claimed to know nothing about the second topic allotted by the algorithm, and was adamant that those who did know and care about religion should not have to put up with her! </p> <p>This participant had flagged up from the beginning that what she hoped to take away from the Team Syntegrity was, “organised groups for direct non-violent action on the parliamentarian and judicial level”. But it is only now that I hear what she was saying about her hopes for a high degree of consensus from the outset. </p> <p>But this of course was not at all what we had planned: if anything the reverse. </p> <p>Would I have been able to persuade her to stay if we had exchanged her strut for one with two topics more germane to her ? Had I not been facilitating as well as organising, would I have leapt into action and complained to the delivery team on her behalf, instead of hoping that she would change her mind after a fruitful discussion, a process that has often overcome initial reservations in the past? I don’t think so. The basic Team Syntegrity “dynamic” as she referred to it, of listening and persuading, that makes the renewal of democracy such an appropriate target for its debates, was one that she immediately knew was not for her at this juncture in her life, as she later explained, adding that she admired my ”patience”. </p> <p>One other person is clearly disappointed with the topic selection, having championed a successful topic in the market place of ideas, only to be locked into two aligned but significantly different topics by the algorithm and relegated to observer status in ‘Rebuilding the left’. He is noticeably frustrated by this exclusion and can’t help trying to recreate the missed opportunity in the two other groups where for various reasons, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work. In retrospect, we should have swapped him over early on. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0232.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0232.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Allenna Leonard, facilitator, transcribing for the group on Biosphere politics. </span></span></span>I’m facilitating the following topics, all of which are grappling with questions of scale and what level they should concentrate on: <em>Education of global citizens </em>where, at a time of lowering nationalisms, there are committed people for whom this discussion is a real chance to articulate new forms of internationalism they have yearned for for years, sitting alongside a different generation that is one way or another highly sceptical about major prospects for change; <em>Reinventing politics – </em>strung between the tensions of form and content, on a subject towards which all the other topics tend, where the group is gradually groping its way towards a wiki for the entire infoset – to reinvent politics for and through each other; and <em>Money and funding civil society – </em>where everyone seems rather amused to find themselves sitting around a table together. This is a mood that will survive the difficulties of defining civil society or deciding about a basic income, to produce the one great comic performance of the final presentations. Once they have worked out that, “The key resource for civil society is people’s time. How do you free up people’s time?” – there is a real conversation in the room. </p><p> In all three arenas in different ways mini-dramas are in progress, and I don’t feel I can help them much at all. The biggest problem is arriving at a common statement when they barely know each other… They don’t use the notes I am transcribing so far as I can see. The only thing I can do when they hit a rough point is suggest that we bring the critics in, and here the situation has improved. The critics are supportive but not intrusive. They know from their own experience as discussants that ultimately these are the people in the hot seat who need to work through it for themselves.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0235.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0235.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Biosphere politics critics.</span></span></span>I hear afterwards that the ‘religion’ group has been galvanised by the early departure of a team member: it rather confirms their suspicion that feelings run very deep about their topic, a force for division, but what else?</p> <p>Tonight at dinner, I am still buoyed by the levels of passionate commitment in these rooms, and am taken aback when one of the participants I have been keenest to have in Barcelona confides in me that he has taken a decision not to talk about the extraordinary transnational movement that he personally has been so instrumental in empowering. He doesn’t want to offer this experience up for public consumption, a life choice and a commitment intimately tied to his hopes for the future. </p> <p>“You have to share what you care about,” I urge him, “nothing else makes sense of the effort and time for all concerned, for yourself first and foremost.” But he has made up his mind, and suddenly I remember how often he asked Alex and myself in the run-up to the event, whether we were sure that he was the right person to participate in our Team Syntegrity. Once again, I seem to have missed the obvious thing – it wasn’t our non-existent reservations he was talking about, but his own, and it is these he now wants me to understand.</p> <p><strong>Day Four – Wednesday</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0281.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0281.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong>The most important thing to say about this last full day is that it is very hard work for all – the last discussion in each topic, the last formulation of a recommendation, a statement, what they want to share, and a brief 30 minutes for each team to talk about how to present their findings to their fellow participants.</p> <p>The pressure on the enthusiasts and the skeptics considering <em>global citizenship</em> comes to a head. There is the dreadful moment when both sides with differing amounts of regret realise that no amount of sheer enthusiasm however well argued is going to carry the day. And it is at this point, the nadir, that interesting things begin to happen – one-on-one conversations away from the table, last minute ultimatums from critics that get roundly ignored in a way that I can’t help feeling is healthy at this juncture. What emerges, miraculously, from this feverish midwifery is a fully-costed pilot proposal for a global social service for 100 apprentice global citizens with ways of involving local decision-making and a lottery to ensure that privilege will have no advantage, plus sources of funding in mind as well as a fully scaleable programme which takes into account its ecological footprint. </p> <p>Even better, the enthusiasts have worked out who they could go to to make this happen. A new project enters the world, maybe screaming and kicking, but with lungfuls of air and the will to flourish! It may be less than the enthusiasts wanted, but it has sufficient moral high ground, through all this travail, to make everyone listen afresh to its guiding principle, as enunciated by Rui Tavares, who is the first to concede that this proposal has been generated not despite but through hefty criticism, <em>“</em><em>And the core is the idea that ‘global citizenship’ is a bit of a pleonasm, in the sense that being a citizen is having certain inherent rights that should not be interrupted just because you cross a border, or that should already be there even if you are born in an unlucky place that is at war… So citizenship should immediately be understood as global citizenship and the qualifier should more and more be when we talk about ‘national citizenship’ in fact – a local qualifier.”</em></p> <p><em>Funding civil society</em>, meanwhile is going through its own bad patch, with Magda apparently almost ready to throw in the towel. The critics have been sympathetic and helpful.&nbsp; But the discussants know they are running out of time, and ironically have just realised that time is not the only resource they should be discussing – “it is of course <em>one </em>of the key resources…”. As the clock ticks, I keep taking notes, but frankly I can’t quite see where they go from here either. And then I notice something that maybe they don’t. Later one of them comments that one begins on Monday with everyone making speeches, which by Wednesday gradually turn into “genuine conversations”. But in each case it takes such unexpected forms. What happens here, now in the last five minutes, is that the smallest breakthrough by one participant has them all responding, like the sudden blooming of a floribunda rose in a spray of buds and blooms. </p> <p>In no time at all, they have come up with seven types of funding and ordered them by the criterion all agree is vital, independence, with membership fees serving as "a gold standard that is still not enough". Sunny Hundal comes and goes unnoticed as in a split second, a second floral display is produced on all the other components essential for civil society flourishing – what people care about, political freedoms, the space to protest, right-wing civil society, cultural blindness to civil society as in more family-oriented cultures… I am still finishing off the notes when they have left the room, jovial enough but hardly sanguine about what they have achieved. None of us at this point anticipates the triumph that is to come…</p> <p>And then there is <em>Reinventing Politics</em>. Here, they still are wrestling with issues of scale and at what level to focus their intervention.&nbsp; The critics keep asking: “Which citizens most interest you, and what sort of democratic decision-making, on what and at which level – local? state?&nbsp; Decide this and then the strategy will surely follow…”, “Your discussion has a problem of scale and I think you should go for the local/global commons approach…”. As for the discussants, it seems to me they are curiously blasé about the obligation to focus. At the beginning of this ‘third iteration’, instead of returning to a promising discussion around the emotional commitment in our societies to democratic practise, they decide to go around the table summarising all the other Team Syntegrity discussions they are involved in which are directly relevant to the task in hand. Do they really have to do this? This leads to further conversation on, variously, the relevance of a call for global oversight of the <em>internet</em> by an elected body; expanding the idea of sanctuary cities as prompted by the <em>safe spaces</em> discussion; open source inclusive spaces to engage communities in prefigurative politics; the choice of which language and which words to use in <em>internet </em>communication; how the <em>far right</em> have been combated successfully by a politics that empowers by really listening; not demonising all politicians as corrupt; and the inspiring joint female and male mayors of Rojava. </p> <p>They are currently revisiting the global right to vote where you live or work (prompted by one of the discussants complaining that the right to vote is surely a very limited version of rights to democratic participation). Aren’t we further away from shore than ever? At the nth hour, in the last contribution, for anyone still closely following the process, Birgitta casually brings the entire strand together and answers all the questions about what their deliberations are about and who for, with her proposal for a wiki: “In the first instance this wiki is for us – and is designed to embrace the whole infoset so that we can investigate further better ways to involve people”… Mysteriously, everyone seems to agree. That could be so neat!…</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0229.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0229.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>With all this going on, I realise that I have not spent nearly as much time as I had hoped in the discussions that I am not facilitating, as they approach their conclusions. I venture into the white group on ‘Transforming and rebuilding the left’ to find another group buzzing with energy. It transpires that this had not been the case on the previous day, when the two women participants had had less and less to say for themselves, amid the more cerebral exchanges of three veteran progressive activists from Chile, Greece and Spain, including my friend from the transnational movement. </p> <p>What had changed that dynamic was the combustion of a young theatre director who finally managed to complain, bitterly, that she simply couldn’t connect with anything that was being said. The facilitator had enabled a change of pace and focus by inviting everyone around the table to respond to this cri-de-coeur by sharing something of their own commitment. And this had taken off, or at least that is what the critics seemed to think when they were invited to comment. The final critic began by congratulating them on this renewal of the conversation, with the exception of my friend. For some reason, he said, this discussant had resisted and was still resisting the chance to share his experience and what he cared about, while others had generously responded, enabling a freshly inclusive exploration to go forwards. I was amazed that the previous night’s conversation had so quickly returned to haunt the process, and sorry for my dinner companion. Trusting the process, as Allenna recommends, can be pretty merciless at times. Through its non-hierarchical dynamics, it leaves few places for people to hide. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0226.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0226.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong>Final Day – Thursday</strong></p> <p>This morning, several people have to leave us before midday which is a shame, because this is really our first and last opportunity to have an overview on what everyone has achieved together. I’m glad Cameron has his tripod here and is filming proceedings. The delivery team is looking reasonably fresh for once, which is more than can be said for the ‘infoset’, most of whom seem to have been up till 3am and ‘on the town’ for the last three nights. This is one of the elements that sets apart the facilitators, though not all, from the ‘infoset’. This is not due to an overzealous concern for ‘process’ on our part. Occasionally indeed one hears one’s-self adopting an authoritarian maiden aunt role responding to rumours of a ‘latenight roof party’ by requesting people not to fall off the roof. But this is just part of the ‘fun’: we encourage every liberation that we can.</p> <p>No. It’s just a fact that the socialising of Team Syntegrity participants, driven by a different order of compulsion from the rest of us, is a vital contribution to the whole experience completely outside our control. On Day 4, this reverses our relationship to the infoset, who now know considerably more than we do about what is about to happen.&nbsp; So, I find myself wondering quite how these slightly ragged teams are going to fare through 12 presentations – each with ten minutes on the clock and Sunny Hundal on alert! </p> <p>I need not have worried. Vanessa Kisuule has written two beautiful poems for the first two teams, <em>Religion and secularism</em> and <em>Biosphere politics</em>. A preponderance of artistic temperament in the first group fills it with communicative power, and the audience is now urged to, “listen carefully to words chosen very carefully”, which indeed they are: “We as organized citizens, can host carefully designed spaces where we encounter difference in a way that shifts our attitudes... When I hear you tell your own story, in your own voice… &nbsp;<em>then</em> I am invited to empathize.&nbsp;I and they become ‘we’.” </p> <p>Vanessa’s second poem, too, has a refrain which sums up for me so much of what we have been discovering together, “Put that one in the soil, let it grow…”. &nbsp;Throughout this feedback session, whether we are talking about the dialectical organisational space that needs to be created between parties and movements, or the tension between needing ‘people like us’ and ‘difference’ in safe spaces, the very form and characteristic features of the Team Syntegrity process often seem embedded in the content.</p> <p>When Pavlos, who on Monday had given the distinct impression that he already knew everything, picks up the Olympic torch for the red team, I resign myself that his is to be the dominant voice. But, not for the first time this week, I am completely wrong. The emphasis in his report-back is on “balance”, the values of the “commons”, on the importance of “respect for far cultures” as he throws the presentation open to the rest of his team to supply any key terms that he may have forgotten. When they as amiably concur, there is one biosphere goal in particular he turns out to be waiting for, the location of: “Minimum viable consensus.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 14.56.35.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 14.56.35.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Sybil Society and the consummate narrator.</span></span></span>Now it’s the turn of <em>funding civil society. </em>I facilitate this group but have not a clue what they will come up with as Michael and Magda and Marley disappear behind the beautiful double doors of the Artchimboldi plenary room having coopted Alex, armed with a large lamp, into helping them stage an entire shadow-play, starring Magda as the passionate and eventually triumphant Sybil Society, Marley as a speedily banished Mr.Corporate and government inspector before his heroic turn as “Matthew Ember, Mr. M.Ember” – with Michael as our consummate narrator…“And Sybil was happy…”. </p> <p>How this came together, I still have no idea. It is one of many small miracles to take place this morning. Later, there will be time to consider the central notion, this “new form of community shareholding model that ranks shareholder influence not in terms of how many shares are owned, but by what type of stakeholder they are, so the biggest payer isn’t necessarily the most influential… .” Later as well, the full irony of Magda’s starring role in dumb show will take on fresh significance when it emerges just how much this eloquent Polish contributor has had to struggle with language problems in our process. But for now there is no time, since Marley is back up, with Noam and Wiebke before us on the subject of the structural foundations of the <em>far right</em>: “ the almost poorest people having to compete with the poorest people”. Wiebke’s insistence on the need for “everyone to have the little we really need, safe and for the longterm” seems pretty unanswerable and her conviction that many people would agree that this was only right, even more so.</p> <p>I could go on through the next eight topics, but will leave this to other voices (and you can <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">check them out</a> for yourselves), just adding how glad I am that Barcelona gets a good mention in <em>Reinventing politics: “ One thing we have is a very interesting example in this city, the city of Barcelona. And so we came to the conclusion that we have all these examples but we just don’t know about them because they are so ‘not newsworthy’ – because it is about cooperation and collaboration and stuff like that that is not really dramatic enough.”</em></p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4102.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4102.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> </em>It feels as if we are moving from strength to strength, and in a last round where participants share their ‘most significant moments’ there is an accumulated sense of collective pride and personal satisfaction. There is also a lot of mutual trust in the room and a lot of emotion, which comes as a surprise to many, including some of those most affected. These are most productive perhaps in the <em>safe spaces</em> and <em>politics of patriarchy</em> outcomes, but are pretty universally present. There has been much thinking, including in some unlikely quarters and with some challenging criticisms of the process itself, about the relationship of body to mind, writing to communicating more generally, and rationality to emotion. </p><p>Here again, I am impressed by the dreamlike but thorough way the process notices things. It is not just that seeds once planted will grow in this series of overlapping exchanges, but as I put it later in my follow-up message to everyone:</p> <p>“<em>the process itself, like a large ocean, seems to throw up at some stage or another everything that has gone into it. The character of the participants can reappear as a theme, themes can start happening to participants, conversations at supper morph into lines that are drawn or stoppages that are unblocked, the next day. ( I wonder if it is an accident that Aya brought her baby, and that the Purple group suddenly started addressing 'the working woman', albeit in Poland, and the centrality of having time for one’s-self as the central challenge for civil society. Maybe, but maybe not! ) Nothing ever seems quite accidental in a TS process, or even if it is – it can reappear as integral to some other process twenty minutes later</em>…” </p> <p>Nothing is quite lost. For example, Nikos left early, but his influence was scarcely dimmed. I hope someone has pointed out to him that there was a special moment “in his honour” in the <em>Reinventing politics </em>presentation, where Felix and Birgitta return to the floor to emphasise that if there was one thing we should all go away and do, it is to circulate a petition looking for one million signatures to demand voting rights for people who live and work in our supposedly democratic societies – rights they are too often shamefully denied.</p> <p>I won’t pretend that everything is happy ever after. There are huge frustrations and constraints involved in these encounters that surface in some exit interviews, some of them as participants pointed out, fully intended in the protocol; many arising from its very successes; and no doubt more from perfectly remediable mistakes. The frustration that strikes me most forcefully today is the inequality caused by the predominance of English in a room of many different native languages. More than one facilitator has noted that the participants most alert to class, race or gender inequality can simply ride roughshod over the extra time and care it takes to properly include non-native English speakers. Birgitta, who is a superb English speaker, has the confidence to spell this out in most detail, including the inevitable impact on the emphasis on written statements that the organisers should have taken into account from the beginning, a part of the process about which she is scathing.</p> <p>Well, it is challenging, but we must look into this, and many more constructive criticisms. For now, I want to wrap up by returning to one of the questions that I brought into the process with me. How different is Team Syntegrity in the twenty-first century? </p> <p>Of course one event is no basis for generalisation. But I took away two very revised conclusions with me that Thursday. They both had their foundation in my early suspicion that this infoset was more individualistic, less mutually deferential and less used to a collective than its twentieth century variant. What I hadn’t anticipated is the sheer energy and delight with which so many of these slightly isolated individuals for precisely this reason, leapt into connection, seizing every available opportunity to bond and to exchange, to make friends and to work together. In one fell swoop many of them seem to have noted their deprivations and overcome them before you could say – Team Syntegrity. </p> <p>My second conclusion falls into the same pattern. Every one of these events I have been involved in has accomplished something of this effect of the rise of a solid icosahedron of connectivity up through the middle and into the space between the participants, linking them and their themes all together. But I don’t think I can remember a group of participants who were so sensitive to that development and so glad not only to see it happen, but to help make it happen. </p> <p>Of course the people conversant with complexity theory are always aware of this process. But this was a much more widespread effect, as if people have become more alert to their need for rapid and comprehensive meaning formation, but much less sure that it is possible, and correspondingly more delighted to welcome every bit of evidence to the contrary, and moreover to celebrate their own contribution to this effect. Participants expressed this in many different ways and in all of the exit interviews there are some <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process">really exciting and eloquent formulations</a> of this. </p> <p>But Birgitta just happened to unite my two conclusions in her account of witnessing: “ how things have just been connecting together, and the more we connected these ideas, and thoughts and passions, the more trust we started to experience that had its climax here in the circles. That method of experiencing that even in such very diverse groups we are all driven by the same – it’s difficult to find the right word for it – but we are all driven by the same currents…” &nbsp;To experience this, articulate it and have others nodding in recognition of their own, different experiences, in three and half days, is a stupendous achievement. As we step back out into the sun of Barcelona, I take my hat off to them all! </p><p><em>Stills by Cameron Thibos and the author.</em></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="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">The participants</a></p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">Results so far,</a> + 3 presentation videos</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process">The process in the participants' own words</a> - exit interviews, discoveries, frustrations</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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Mon, 31 Jul 2017 11:35:15 +0000 Rosemary Bechler 112609 at https://www.opendemocracy.net More mouthy male feminists please https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-bartlett/more-mouthy-male-feminists-please <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">Team Syntegrity 2017</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/michael-weatherhead-richard-bartlett-ashish-ghadiali-david-mallery-rui-tavares/parenting-planet">light blue group</a>: “It would be strategic to create feeling spaces where we can explore the masculine experience of patriarchy. Real democracy now!”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.07.16.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.07.16.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Author on twitter.</span></span></span>'What are the 'potentials and needs for current and future-oriented "reformations"?'</p><p>Feminist movement advances on many fronts. I’ve visited many progressive spaces in the west, and discovered men taking sexism seriously. If somebody says, “there are sexist dynamics in this group”, it’s common to find at least one or two men in the group whose first reaction is humility rather than defensiveness.</p><p> Humility is a great place to work from. From a position of humility, I can pay attention to the experience of others, start to undo my sexist programming, and build new habits that bring my behaviour in line with my values.</p><p> However, to challenge patriarchy, I believe we need more than humility: we need courage too. I want to hear the voices of men, boldly explaining to other men how everyone would be better off without patriarchy.</p><p> I have heard many stories from women and trans people’s experience of patriarchy: personal stories of oppression and resistance.<br /> Cis men have personal experiences of patriarchy, but we’re not sharing our stories. How does it feel to be raised to dominate others? How did you overcome the guilt and shame of your complicity? How do you challenge your friends’ sexism and still have friends? How does it feel to carry around this heavy fragile mask of strength all day?</p><p>I know similar conversations are happening in “men’s groups”, but I’m hungry to connect those conversations to feminist theory, and then to the feminist movement.&nbsp;</p><p> <a href="http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html">As Carol Hanisch explained in 1969</a>, the personal becomes political when we 1) identify patterns in our individual experiences, 2) discover the root causes of those patterns, and 3) rally collective power to demand structural change.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> It’s wonderful that men are learning to shut up, make space, and listen. But next we need to learn how to raise hell.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0271.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity 2017 Light blue group.</span></span></span></p><p><em>This was <a href="https://www.goethe.de/en/kul/ges/eu2/grf/21023358.html">a response</a> to a Goethe Institut invitation to comment, July 2017. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aya-haidar/letter-from-recovering-team-syntegrity-2017-participant">Letter from a recovering Team Syntegrity 2017 participant</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/piers-purdy/team-syntegrity-emergent">Team Syntegrity emergent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Richard Bartlett Thu, 27 Jul 2017 10:49:56 +0000 Richard Bartlett 112560 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Letter from a recovering Team Syntegrity 2017 participant https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/aya-haidar/letter-from-recovering-team-syntegrity-2017-participant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"In this exercise, we were forced to sit side by side and face to face and discuss diverse issues reasonably, coherently, and cohesively. It was smart and it was intimate."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0158.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0158.JPG" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The author and Joe Truss, Team Syntegrity 2017 facilitator. </span></span></span></p><p><em>In Team Syntegrity 2017 which took place in Barcelona this June, participants addressed&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">the opening question</a>&nbsp;– by choosing twelve topics to discuss over a period of three and a half days. Here are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">some of the results</a> so far. This is a protocol of overlapping sessions, designed to take a comprehensive, fresh look at a complex topic in a space highly organised for self-organisation to occur, by exploring multiple perspectives and integrating ideas together. Our next page will be on The Process in the participants own words, participants like Aya…</em></p><p>Hi Rosemary,&nbsp;</p> <p>It so good to hear from you and please accept my radio silence since the trip. I have been following the exchanges but too busy to put word to paper (or screen....)</p> <p>I have 3 international exhibitions coming up and all have a basis around what was discussed during the forum.&nbsp;</p> <p>The time spent in Barcelona was quite eye opening for me. Yes, the topics discussed were interesting and i learnt new things along the way, some i will remember and some i may forget, but what really stuck with me, however, is the true power of such a network of individuals. Of STRANGERS more specifically.&nbsp;</p> <p>Before then, i was very skeptical about the power of 'the people' per say. I felt a very strong social disengagement in my day to day which i feel has led to the inevitable failing we see around us. Nevertheless, the experience that we had, showed me how the mere grouping of 30 individuals leading the program themselves and carving out their own issues and points of discussion can actually lead to a movement.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nowhere would you ever spend 5 consecutive, intensive days (and nights) with 30 strangers and speak about such personal issues that affect each and every one of us, have to listen, question, challenge, respect, understand and resolve together.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0216_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0216_0.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aya defending her topic.</span></span></span>For the first time, i see such a model being a solution for the trouble across the Middle East which is so divided in itself. Not only between Israeli and Palestinians but also within a place like Lebanon too, which is incredibly divided.&nbsp; </p><p>We harbour a lot of grievances and many people are raised to discriminate without ever having met or LISTENED to the other side. Supposed solutions are created on one side without discussion or transparency. This forum, amidst all the structured and factual elements, introduced a very important HUMAN element which is missing with division. The first thing two opposing groups do is segregate and dehumanise the other side and far too many rely on what the media says about the other.&nbsp;</p> <p>In this exercise, we were forced to sit side by side and face to face and discuss diverse issues reasonably, coherently, and cohesively. It was smart and it was intimate.&nbsp;</p> <p>I would be keen to be involved or witness a program like this within an exclusively Middle Eastern context because i believe the journey is far far more valuable than the outcome. The way the world is today i think it is irreparable as it is. Yet, the world is developing and new generations are coming and if we can instill this form of constructive dialogue then i think for the first time in a long time, we may just be ok.&nbsp;</p> <p>Those are my initial reflections.</p> <p>Thanks again for involving me. I look forward to hearing from you soon and carrying on the conversation!&nbsp; </p><p>Warmly yours,&nbsp;</p> <p>X AYA X</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0263.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0263.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aya ( right) looks on at the all-male Politics of Feeling discussion under way.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/piers-purdy/team-syntegrity-emergent">Team Syntegrity emergent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/team-syntegrity-2017-participants/i-am-safe-space">I am a safe space</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? Can Europe make it? Lebanon Palestine Israel Spain UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Internet Team Syntegrity Aya Haidar Tue, 25 Jul 2017 16:22:13 +0000 Aya Haidar 112510 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Team Syntegrity emergent https://www.opendemocracy.net/piers-purdy/team-syntegrity-emergent <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If creativity is born from bringing different perspectives together, the group’s diversity was a positive sign from the outset.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0275.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0275.JPG" alt="lead " 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'>Team Syntegrity participants in Barcelona in June, 2017.</span></span></span>“Inside the word <em>emergency</em> is <em>emerge</em>; from an emergency new things come forth”, wrote Rebecca Solnit as she reflected on the staggering achievements of unarmed civil society in recent decades. And in 2017, it seems that with governments across the world introducing more restrictive laws on civil liberties, clamping down on independent media and turning a blind eye to the persecution of social activists, civil society and the new ideas that emerge from within it are needed more than ever.</p> <p>So when 30 participants met through Team Syntegrity, guided (or perhaps un-guided) by the cybernetic method of non-hierarchical participation, there was much anticipation at being tasked with the question: <em>In the context of several major interconnected global crises, how can civil society help to renew our democracies to rise to the challenge? </em></p> <p>Certainly, in the event, if creativity is born from bringing different perspectives together, the group’s diversity was a positive sign from the outset. In fact, with such varied professional backgrounds, personal styles and interests in the room, I would struggle to group them in any way other than by labelling them as participants from civil society, united by a profound and challenging question.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic2_16.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic2_16.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vanessa Kisuule reads one of her original poems written during the Team Syntegrity.</span></span></span>On reflection, what stands out from my time with the group is that this diversity – unrestrained by any prearranged thematic agenda for the three days, or over-restrictive ‘rules of the game’ – was immediately engaging. Sometimes reassuring, often thought-provoking and occasionally frustrating, watching such a large group communicate, organise and challenge one another’s ideas was a very rare sight for me. So rare that I think the last time I saw a group of 30 people group themselves, work together and present their findings was in a secondary school science class. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/pic2_13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/pic2_13.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="241" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Emergence of the far right' group presentation.</span></span></span>But upon watching the video of the presentations which were the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results">culmination of three days’ work</a>, the value of this diversity is immediately visible – to give a few examples: a thoughtful, well-prepared presentation on the emergence of the far-right; some <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM3HJHPGJNY">wonderfully spoken verse </a>on how in times of social crisis hostile parties can find common ground by sharing a good (free) meal together, and an ingenious shadow-play deploying Artchimboldi’s elegant double doors to call for an innovative use of shares to fund and energise civil society organisations.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic2_9[1].png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic2_9[1].png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shadow-play presentation: "Sybil Society was happy...".</span></span></span>Some of the many ideas will be taken forward by the group, I’m sure, and tried in the real world, either with success or failure. Other ideas will simply rest in the back of our minds until they’re needed for inspiration or motivation.</p><p>Change doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes it isn’t even visible – but it is constantly occurring, and it is the big <em>and </em>small ideas that come out of gatherings like Team Syntegrity that ultimately feed the changes we need to resolve the global challenges that we face.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0203.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0203.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Piers Purdy Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:48:10 +0000 Piers Purdy 112350 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From civil society to political society https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Textbody">“You can avoid paying attention to politics only until politics starts paying attention to you.” Thoughts gathered at Team Syntegrity 2017 in Barcelona.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0261.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0261.JPG" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Agnieszka (right) in the row of 'critics' in the foreground. Team Syntegrity 2017, Artchimboldi, Barcelona. </span></span></span>For many years now I have been meeting activists in Poland and in Europe – people working in NGOs, social movements, informal environments and cultural institutions. Some are embedded in professional western NGOs that resemble corporations, some occupy theatres or take over factories. We keep on talking about our actions, engagement, about our goals. Recently, we have started talking more about politics, because it looks as if the time when civil society ran in parallel or completely separately from politics is coming to an end. <span class="mag-quote-center">It looks as if the time when civil society ran in parallel or completely separately from politics is coming to an end.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>Maintaining virtue in NGOs</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">Civil society is a great idea. In a perfectly liberal-democratic world, where parliament really represents society and its diversity, where politics (and the space between politics and business) is not always populated by the same people, and where political parties articulate interests and develop ideas (or at least take seriously what think tanks are telling them), instead of just serving citizens the daily pulp called ‘message of the day’ – that’s where civil society can do a lot. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3964.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3964.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Making an icosahedron.</span></span></span>It can create a space to engage people in defending different values, in scrutinizing those in political power (in such an arrangement, guardian, ecological, feminist or social equality organizations deliver a wake-up call if problems arise, and mobilise citizens so that politicians, enlightened or not, have to deal with a given topic). It can also organize people with hobbies or those who love their local area. All of this can be done by civil society in a perfect world. But as it happens, we do not live in one.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">In our world, and this is clearly visible in Poland, social organizations, i.e. those that formally constituted the NGO sector, but also those working informally, have been reduced to playing the role of patching up holes in places on which the State has given up. Activists work with kids from difficult neighbourhoods, care for those with handicaps and bridge educational inequalities. The city halls or ministries sometimes even help them by providing some money – because this is good business for both cities and the State. Activists usually do more for less. </p> <p class="Standard">At the same time, in our world, we have been persuaded that politics is ugly (or maybe it has itself shown us its ugly face, so that no decent person ventures there?). Civil society was to be strictly non-political, and to keep politics at a healthy distance. This even makes sense, since back in the 90s in Poland we had an opportunity to have true politics, democratic elections and local authorities that were close to the people… And so we understood the division of labour. It was theoretically sound. </p> <p class="Standard">Unfortunately, something went wrong. Politics has become a media spectacle, and the social associations and foundations have succumbed meanwhile to an ailment known as grantoid NGO-isation. Law and Justice’s rise to power tipped the balance in our country (and Orban’s in Hungary). That ‘innocent’, apolitical time is now over. </p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>The City is Ours, Zagreb is Ours</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">People working within social movements and organizations abroad tell me about many years of striving for the current conditions in which their actions can take place. Friends from Croatia managed to create the <a href="http://kulturanova.hr/zaklada/o-zakladi"><em>Kultura Nova</em></a> foundation, which supports social organizations working in the culture sector. They convinced the Ministry of Culture to support them. In Zagreb, they created <em>Pogon</em>, an independent culture centre which is a non-profit public cultural institution, based on an innovative civil-public partnership model. The founders and managers of <a href="http://www.upogoni.org/en/"><em>Pogon</em></a> are activists from the union called <a href="https://operacijagrad.net/"><em>Operacija:Grad</em></a> (Operation:City) and the city of Zagreb. </p> <p class="Standard">I was so envious of the team from the Croatian capital as they showed me all those organizations and all those independent spaces – such as <em><a href="https://www.timeout.com/croatia/clubs/pogon-jedinstvo">Jedinstvo</a></em> – places created to host festivals, debates, expositions by all those who wish to organize one. After a while it turned out, however, that even though my friends worked themselves to the bone, there was always a risk that a takeover by new authorities could turn all they achieved to dust. <a href="http://www.total-croatia-news.com/politics/2369-croatian-artists-protest-against-new-culture-minister">They told</a> me: “Everything which the artists and cultural sector representatives have accomplished in recent years has been trashed in a matter of just one week”.</p> <p class="Standard">So in the spring, I met a friend from Zagreb. Excited, he told me that a team of activists are going to take part in the elections: that it was not enough to ‘do civil society’ any more. In May <em>Zagreb je naš</em>! (Zagreb is OURS!) got almost 8% of the votes in local elections. </p> <p class="Standard">I heard similar stories from friends in Barcelona. In their case, mobilization was facilitated by the economic crisis. Today, some of them are running local politics after their <em>Barcelona en Comu </em>made it into the local authorities. The team from Zagreb was inspired and supported by their friends in Barcelona. After years of joint work in this environment, our contacts and mutual support are on the rise. </p> <p class="Standard">A friend from DiEM25, <a href="http://krytykapolityczna.pl/swiat/ue/zagrzeb-juz-prawie-lewacki/">Srećko Horvat told Krytyka Polityczna</a> (Political Critique): “Influenced by the experience of <em>Barcelona en Comu</em> and so called 'rebel cities', this coalition is not only bringing new and radical politics back to Croatia, but they have succeeded in something which was until now unimaginable in the Balkans: by bringing together 5 new progressive green and left political parties, <a href="https://diem25.org/diem25-members-agree-to-support-zagreb-is-ours-ahead-of-elections/"><em>Zagreb je naš</em>!</a> has proved that only by creating a broad front of progressives is there a chance to get out of our current deadlock.”</p> <p class="Standard">In Romania, the <em>Demos </em>platform wants to enter party politics. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/claudia-ciobanu/romanias-new-kids-on-block">Andreea Petruț from Demos</a> said: “Additionally, we think that to implement our political agenda, we need both channels: the political party and civic activism in support of our values”. Then she added: “many members of our platform have been organising, participating in or at least supporting those protests.” Why do they bestir themselves? Because “the political environment in Romania is starting to become more toxic”.</p> <p class="Textbody">I remember Polish urban movements participating in the local elections in 2014. They entered the fray when some of the activists there also felt that it was the only way to bring about change, to move one’s proposals from the basket labelled “good ideas” to the one called “zoning plan”. </p> <p class="Textbody">The problem there was that some of the urban movements in Poland really badly wanted to remain ‘non-political’. They stood in local elections, but they wanted to work ‘alongside politics’, and it was difficult to tell what they meant by that. Maybe it was all about avoiding conversations about politics, i.e. seriously discussing one’s views. In the end, the city council members in Warsaw, elected from the list of Miasto Jest Nasze (The City is Ours), one by one abandoned Jan Śpiewak their leader.</p> <h2 class="Textbody">It won’t do itself </h2> <p class="Textbody">We all know a neoliberal story about the rich getting richer and the affluence trickling down, magically, or at least automatically, onto those less rich, and even entirely poor. But this is not what has happened, nor will it ever happen. </p> <p class="Textbody">The same goes for waving a magic wand when it comes to civil society. We can create hundreds, or even thousands of excellent local initiatives – in culture, in remembering forgotten history, or testing alternative economic solutions. But these experiences, or effects of these actions, will not automatically go anywhere near the parliament, where the law is written, nor the city hall, where city planning is carried out; nor will it go into the European Parliament or European Commission, where the legal framework for the EU and its members is being forged. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0074.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0074.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity 2017 opening question.</span></span></span>I told the European Commons Assembly the same thing in November last year in the European Parliament. Brussels was then a meeting point for activists dealing with the “commons” (one of the <a href="http://www.eurozine.com/culture-with-people-not-just-for-people/">hottest topics</a> of the last few years – it is all about common goods, such as city spaces, but also available housing, culture or all those skate parks built by local communities, or city gardens planted by activists). Since the European Parliament has created an intergroup focusing on the “commons”, it was possible to hold this large meeting in Brussels. </p><p class="Textbody">Of course, we talked a lot about our experiences, we showed pictures of all those excellent initiatives, but by the evening something had snapped. The organizers invited myself and Lorenzo Marsili to meet the participants of the Commons Assembly. We are both members of DiEM25 Coordinating Collective. The evening meeting showed that those who had so far been talking about individual ‘activist’ experience, now wanted to speak about the looming Brexit, Trump winning the elections, populism gaining momentum – and what to do about it. Many said, over and over again, that they do not ‘do politics’, that the ‘commons’ are neither left nor right-wing (but let’s face it, they are definitely left). It was clear that we could not avoid talking politics any more. The old wisdom has it – <em>you can avoid paying attention to politics only until politics starts paying attention to you.</em></p> <p class="Standard">Poland is similar. In spring 2017, a coalition of NGOs started demanding that the European Commission applies Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. The head of Amnesty International Poland, Draginja Nadażdin, <a href="http://krytykapolityczna.pl/kraj/nadazdin-smiszek-przywara-ejchart-dubois-pora-na-bunt-instytucji/">when speaking to Krytyka Polityczna said</a> “We won’t be silenced and we won’t be intimidated by the accusation that we are telling on the government. We criticize the situation that needs critical appraisal.” </p> <p class="Standard">Organizations which had so far not criticized the authorities, even though they tried to assess the impact of the situation in the country, this time unequivocally stood against the policies of the Polish government. The authorities then launched a counterattack against the NGOs. This is typical of the populists, as documented by Jan-Werner Müller in his <em>What is Populism?</em>, and as illustrated by Victor Orban and his recent ‘Foreign Agents’ law.</p> <p class="Standard">I believe that, for years, the arrangement between politicians and civil society in Poland was clear. Politicians did not pick on the NGOs as long as NGOs did their work – work which the State did not want to do. And NGOs did not pick on the politicians too much, because it was clear that sooner or later, one would have to find ways to work together. This was convenient for politicians – the smaller organizations, which often financed their activities from money assigned by a given ministry or the local authority, could barely afford to wage a war with those in power. This characteristic division of labour has been in operation since the1990s, even though it finally turned out that the NGOs took upon themselves more than they should have. </p> <p class="Standard">Finally, the political situation that, as Romanians said, turned ‘toxic’, the disillusionment brought by lack of change, and the general dissatisfaction took over. How long can one ‘do’ debates, workshops, festivals, write reports? 25 years of work and very little to show for it. We in Poland have been given some little bits – participatory budgets, election lists quotas, Culture Pact. Some people amongst us got jobs in public institutions and in city halls. Great! Local authorities can learn a lot from activists, and vice versa. But this is all too little, considering the challenges. And when Law and Justice came to power even these little bits became unreliable, and the third sector – excluding the part deemed ‘proper’ – became no longer a nagging petitioner, but an open enemy of the authorities. </p> <h2 class="Standard"><strong>Challenging the ‘apolitical’</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">There is an interesting discussion going on within the Polish NGO portal ngo.pl – should the NGOs go into politics or not? In it, <a href="http://opinie.ngo.pl/wiadomosc/2061264.html">Jan Mencwel, an activist from Warsaw, reminded everyone</a> that, “there is a false and disturbing conviction, damaging not only for the third sector but also for the form of public debate, that there is a clear moral distinction between social and ‘political’ actions – the former is pure, impeccable and altruistic, the latter being a dirty game.”</p> <p class="Standard">The discussion about NGOs and their ‘political turn’ is not necessarily about each and every NGO setting up a political party or joining one, or about all civil society representatives now having to run for public posts. It is about – as Mencwel duly noted – “questioning the ‘apolitical’ as the major virtue of a social activist.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0078.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0078.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Such challenging of the apolitical stance is well under way – in Barcelona, Zagreb and, as we see, in Poland. What we witness is what we, in Krytyka Polityczna, inspired among others by Paweł Załęski’s <em>Neoliberalism and Civil Society</em>, would like to call a transition from civil society towards a political society. </p><p class="Standard">When last year the Friedrich Ebert Foundation invited us, among other NGOs, to co-create one of the topic sessions in the Academy for Social Democracy – which was supposed to teach and to network various progressive activists, both members of political parties, as well as people working for NGOs and informal groups – our colleague <a href="http://www.eurozine.com/authors/michal-sutowski/">Michał Sutowski</a> suggested that we focus precisely on ‘political society’. By that we meant all the different kinds of people’s organizations – including parties, NGOs, campaigns and many others. We asked: how can they respond to current politics challenges, share their experience and create a practical synergy in changing political reality?</p> <p class="Standard">When we published the first issue of <em>Krytyka Polityczna</em> 15 years ago, using the bad word ‘political’ in the title, people thought we were crazy. Politics is confined to political parties – we heard. Maybe that was why, for the next 10 years, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/slawomir-sierakowski">Sławomir Sierakowski</a> has had to answer the question: when are you going to set up a party? We never did. But some of us went into politics. We are in political parties, we work in city halls, we run in elections. Both then as now, we conceive of the ‘political’ to be broad – to be a sphere of influence, exerted by different means, over public and social life.</p> <p class="Standard">Three months ago in Rome, DiEM25 presented the New European Order program. A month ago in Berlin, Yanis Varoufakis announced that, should the need arise, people from DiEM25 were ready to run in elections with this program. <span class="mag-quote-center">It is now a conversation about going into politics, following new rules, as they are sketched by citizens. </span></p> <p class="Standard">DiEM25 is not a think tank which just writes a programme, publishes it on their webpage and waits for somebody to use it. It is up to its members to decide if DIEM25 should establish an international party. When I talked to them in Berlin, some are having doubts, some quite the contrary. It is clear, however, that a conversation about changes in Europe is no longer one in which the words ‘politics’ and ‘citizens’ cannot be used in the same sentence. It is now a conversation about going into politics, following new rules, as they are sketched by citizens. </p> <p class="Standard">The idea of an apolitical civil society made some sense back in the 90s. In Krytyka Polityczna, since its inception, we have made a fuss about it, considering the ‘apolitical’ to be a scam. Today, the idea of a civil society has run out of juice. It does not fit the zeitgeist. </p> <p class="Standard">Political society is making its entry on stage. In parts of Europe it already sits in local authorities, where it is getting ready for parliamentary elections. Igor Stokfiszewski once wrote about <a href="https://wydawnictwo.krytykapolityczna.pl/zwrot-polityczny-igor-stokfiszewski-247?search_query=stokfiszewski&amp;results=7#.WUo8N4Wygfo">the ‘political turn’ in culture</a>. It is time to write about the political turn in civil society. </p> <p class="Standard"><em>This text was written during the Team Syntegrity meeting organised by openDemocracy. Conversations with people attending the meeting were most inspiring and I heartfully thank everyone who contributed.</em></p> <p class="Standard"><em>Translated by Katarzyna Byłów-Antkowiak</em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/eu-cannot-survive-if-it-sticks-to-business-as-usual">The EU cannot survive if it sticks to business as usual</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/boaventura-de-sousa-santos/podemos-wave">The Podemos wave</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/slawomir-sierakowski-tristan-sechrest/put-vaclav-havel-in-any-election-today-and-">Put Vaclav Havel in any election today and he would lose. Is that OK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Agnieszka Wiśniewska Thu, 13 Jul 2017 13:26:33 +0000 Agnieszka Wiśniewska 112241 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Collaborating, competing, contradicting, negotiating, accommodating and compromising, all took place to different degrees in one symbiotic process. Our first participant report-back.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0025.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0025.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity participants in Barcelona in June, 2017.</span></span></span>The Team Syntegrity (TS) sessions held in Barcelona on 19-22 June provided a space and a method of hope in which a variety of social powers unfolded through association and combination. </p> <p>The objective was to think collectively about how civil society may be able to confront the main global crises and democratise our societies. Since the results will be made public shortly, I will focus in this piece on the method that allowed us to come up with concrete proposals and the processes that helped us to advance and build a sense of belonging.</p> <p>One of the key strengths of the sessions was the cybernetic method of non-hierarchical participation that set the rules for constructive and efficient dialogue and decision-making. This approach was based on 12 teams comprised of five members from a variety of backgrounds. Each team was in charge of discussing one specific topic and developing concrete statements, proposals or recommendations that set the path for strategic action. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0282.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0282.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Topic discussants (at the table) and a row of "critics". Behind them, some"observers".</span></span></span>They received feedback from the "critics", who contributed to improving the discussions and the proposals. In addition, the "observers" moved information from one team to another in informal conversations, helping to develop further synergies. All participants were involved in each of the three roles, thus providing different inputs. </p><p>Fundamental to the method was relating the different topics in order to address the interconnected crises that are generating so much suffering at a global level, such as the economic, environmental, educational, media and ethical crises. Since everybody participated as a member in two teams, we were able to integrate bilateral learnings. For example, participating in the Internet and the Biosphere teams helped me reflect on the environmental consequences of the current models of production, distribution, consumption and disposal of communication technologies and contents. </p> <p>The TS method therefore helped us analytically to connect multiple levels of reality. It provided the perfect organisation for efficient, individual and collective self-management. Although the method included several more aspects that I haven't mentioned, the following icosahedron is really helpful as it shows the different connections between topics and participants.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 00.25.36.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 00.25.36.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The icosahedron for Team Syntegrity 2017 in Barcelona.</span></span></span></p> <p>The methods of collective participation, although extremely rich opportunities for the exchange of ideas, are never easy to complete successfully in practice – challenges and difficulties always arise. This is why the frameworks for discussion and decision-making that we established spontaneously were so fundamental. We had to decide on the fly the processes we wanted to promote and those we wanted to discourage. </p> <p>For example, it was important to manage time wisely so that each team member would have the same opportunities to express ideas. Equally important were the processes of individual self-management, which worked great, as demonstrated not only by the high-quality contributions of participants, but also by the ways of contributing: the respect for others, the language, the tone, the demonstrations of support, the reorientation of discussions that went off-track... </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0197.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0197.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The author and fellow participants.</span></span></span>We managed to deal individually, severally and collectively with misunderstandings, dissatisfaction, irrelevant conflicts that distract us from the main effort, and even with the all too common problem of swollen egos, which had very little presence in these days. </p><p>In the face of dominant values of rugged competition, selfishness and the sick obsession with capital accumulation, we foregrounded the principles of cooperation, mutual trust and support, free sharing and empathy. However, we did not do so through simplistic binaries, but rather through an empirical, imaginative and creative orientation of these natural human traits. This way, competition ceased to be understood in the negative way that capitalism promotes, i.e., as a zero-sum game in which one side wins to the detriment of the other side. Instead, we practiced a healthy approach that allowed us to question, criticise and contrast ideas, discard, refine, piggyback or develop them as a team to reach the optimal level in what we may call a process of competitive collaboration. This is the kind of highly effective process of individual and collective improvement also to be found in team sports. </p> <p>All of this was accomplished by treating others as human beings with intrinsic dignity. Acknowledging the value of each of us was fundamental in opening our minds to listening, learning and cooperating with others while still defending our own point of view. Collaborating, competing, contradicting, negotiating, accommodating and compromising, all took place to different degrees in one symbiotic process. Consensus was often reached, but it was not a necessary outcome since the statements and the proposals could also include differing views.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0101.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0101.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In contrast to the perverse logic of labour exploitation and consumerism that affirms the principle of "tomorrow, corpses, you will enjoy life", we experienced the joys and pleasures of engaging in practices of and for social justice. Against the loneliness that the system creates, we continued to build networks grounded on friendship, affinity, community and trust that can grow with time. </p><p>This is the logic of taking care of ourselves and of others, since we acknowledged that individuals fulfil themselves collectively and that the community requires individual freedom and creativity. This approach allowed for the crystallisation of a philosophy of practical love to different kinds of people; a potential that we all have inside us. This is love as the practice of freedom because liberty can only be expanded through genuine solidarity. </p> <p>If the Enlightenment showed the power of rationality while excluding the power of emotion, Romanticism showed the power of passion while excluding reason. The exclusionist pattern has continued until today, when perspectives on the power of affects preclude the power of reason. However, social change requires a combination of affects and rationality. There is nothing more rational than the emotions that push us towards justice, freedom, fraternity and equality. In this vein, we engaged with the politics of feelings through a systematic TS method that helped us develop the concrete proposals and plans that we will shortly deliver. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0077.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0077.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The opening question.</span></span></span>This approach of rational passion involved the diagnosis of classism, racism, sexism, LGBTI-phobia and other types of oppressions, as well as the therapy. First, understanding reality, to then develop the tactic of <em>being change</em> at an individual and community level, within a strategy to change concrete social realities and, eventually, achieve the objective of macro-social transformation. </p><p>The TS is one of the many practical examples developing around the world that provide a real demonstration that other forms of life and sociability are not only desirable, but also possible. In other words, massive oppression is not unavoidable, there are many alternatives taking place and we can learn from all of them. </p> <p>The event showed that of course we can, when many people are dedicated to social justice and that, as Antonio Machado wrote, "the path is made by walking". The TS experience was one more step in building the "We" — based on informed hope, collective struggle and mutual trust and support — that is needed to face the multiple crises looming over humanity and the environment. And to create a more liveable world by and for the majority of the population.</p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HNGm4qaQtyM?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>&nbsp;</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>Meet the participants of Team Syntegrity 2017 oganised by openDemocracy this June in Barcelona, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity">More here.</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="/node/611">Stafford Beer: the man who could have run the world</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </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 class="field-item even"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </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? Can Europe make it? Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Internet Science Team Syntegrity Joan Pedro-Carañana Fri, 07 Jul 2017 23:30:42 +0000 Joan Pedro-Carañana 112157 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What the hell is going on in Macedonia? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/david-stefanoski/what-hell-is-going-on-in-macedonia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A maelstrom of scandals, drama, violence and anger has seen Macedonia sliding towards collapse in recent months, with serious implications for the Balkans as a whole.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-26499116.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-26499116.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Macedonia's triumphal arch, a legacy of the Skopje 2014 project, was attacked with dyed water balloons as part of the Colourful revolution. PAimages/Jacopo Landi/NurPhoto. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The past few years have been increasingly turbulent for the Republic of Macedonia. The country has been stuck in a deep crisis since 2014, with the rare glimmers of hope being quickly extinguished, and few people in the country seeing a future for themselves at home. So how did we get here?</p> <p>Macedonia has been ruled by the conservative Macedonian VMRO-DPMNE party and their coalition partner, the self-proclaimed “Marxist-Leninist” Albanian party, DUI, since 2006. Although DUI has nothing to do with the Marxist-Leninist ideology, their partners do employ some conservative thought into creating a new faux culture and identity for the Macedonians. This new identity is mostly based on nationalism, inclusing the revival of lesser known and lesser revered figures from the past such as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andon_Kyoseto">Andon Kjoseto</a>, a hitman that lived through the anti-Ottoman rebellion. </p> <p>This self-stylized reinvention of the national identity has been the bane of many critics for its crudeness and for being based on “alternative facts”, however it had a financial drawback as well – the government began an initiative to reinvent the national identity, which included a project called “Skopje 2014”, among other things. This initiative has cost hundreds of millions of dollars - some estimates even going as far as 700 million - and it has delivered in a big way, putting up hundreds of monuments, mostly in the centre of the capital, Skopje, but also in other cities around the country. </p> <p>This nationalistic wave was dulled by the protest movements that started to appear in the fall of 2014. First, as usual, came the students, then the teachers, professors, high school students, part-time workers and pretty much everyone else that had a bone to pick with the uncontrolled “reforms” the government was making. All of these new movements used antinationalist rhetoric, and some of them (Student’s plenum) even negotiated the government into submission after a two week long occupation of the universities. Thus, the cracks in the rock-solid power of VMRO-DPMNE and DUI began to form. </p> <p>Following the students, the main opposition party, the SDSM started publishing audio recordings of wiretapped officials. It was a huge scandal, revealing that the national intelligence agency had wiretapped the entire government, opposition, media, all political figures, foreign diplomats and embassies, as well as thousands of other people. It is still unclear who ordered this to be done, and where the recordings would go, but somehow they came into the hands of Zoran Zaev, leader of the SDSM. </p><p>He published them one by one from his party headquarters until 5 May 2015, when a recording of the then-head of the ministry of interior and her spokesperson talking disparagingly about a boy being killed at the victory celebrations after the elections was released.</p> <p>The recording sparked a public revolt that had been lacking for years, where a few thousand people, unorganized and unprepared, tried to storm the government building. After a few hours and a few dozen injured, riot police dispersed the crowd. Four days later, the police engaged in a firefight with a terrorist group in the second largest city, Kumanovo, and eight police officers died. This sparked a period of mourning and the protests were either transformed or called off. </p> <p>In the following months, the four major political parties at that time, the VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DUI and DPA signed the Przhino agreement, implementing a special public prosecutor to investigate the crimes implicated in the audio recordings. The SPP has brought up dozens of new cases over the following months, and while no sentences have been brought yet, the prosecution is working on several cases against high government officials and businessmen. </p><p>According to the big picture presented in opposition media, Macedonia has been ruled by a criminal elite instead of a political party and it is hard to not see the evidence, especially after you’ve literally heard it on leaked recordings. Meanwhile in 2016, a protest movement called the “Colourful revolution”, spearheaded by the SDSM alongside dozens of NGO’s and initiatives raged on for over two months, gathering tens of thousands of supporters. </p><p>The cause for this was the general decree that the President of the Republic, Gjorgje Ivanov proclaimed in April, giving amnesty to any and all politicians in Macedonia from the cases initiated by the special prosecution. After a while, the President withdrew his amnesty and the protests settled down.</p> <p>The next big thing that happened were the parliamentary elections in December 2016, where the ruling VMRO-DPMNE fell to 51 MPs, and the SDSM rose to 49, while the main Albanian parties DUI and DPA both lost MPs to the new Albanian parties Besa and the Albanian Alliance coalition. </p><p>After a lot of pressure from all sides and the obvious fact that VMRO-DPMNE could not assemble a majority to form a government, the SDSM provided proof to the public and the President who had asked for it, that it had formed a parliamentary majority of 67 out of the 120 seats. </p> <p>SDSM had assembled this majority with the signatures of the representatives from DUI, who turned on their coalition partner, and the new Albanian parties. A small, but important detail here is that a new far-right movement called Tvrdokorni (a name meaning something between “hardcore” and “hardliners”) sprung up and marched through the capital, condemning both SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE as traitors to the national Macedonian interests. </p> <p>Amazingly, the President refused to give a mandate to the opposition leader Zoran Zaev saying that, through his coalition with the ethnic Albanian parties, he was following the agenda of neighbouring Albania and thus threatened the territorial integrity of Macedonia. Meanwhile, an initiative supported by VMRO-DPMNE appeared, mimicking the methods of the Colourful revolution in its entirety, protesting in over 20 cities and with thousands of people. </p> <p>The only difference between the Colourful revolution and the so-called “Black revolution” is that the latter stands for Macedonian national pride, against foreign influences and Albanian domination, while the Colourful revolution stood for multi-nationalism and rule of law. Both protest movements encapsulate some degree of violence – the Colourful revolution practiced soft violence, throwing water balloons filled with all kinds of colors on government symbols and buildings, while the new movement has started by attacking prominent opposition politicians, supporters and media. This is where we are today. </p> <p>However, over the last period, things started to get a bit blurry. The main subject in the media is no longer the crime that had sparked this whole crisis, or the wiretapping scandal. Now, the media is concentrated on nationalism and the erosion of the state.</p><p> This is because of the latest developments in the political situation, where all of the ethnic Albanian parties went to Tirana and created an Albanian political platform that seeks to implement bilingualism in Macedonia, making Albanian the second official state language. </p> <p>The VMRO-DPMNE responded harshly to this platform, but DUI officials repeatedly stated that in negotiations for the new government between the current coalition in power, the ruling Macedonian party accepted all of the terms except for the continued existence of the special public prosecution. </p> <p>Thus, nationalism from both sides soars after years of silence. One as a veiled irredentist political statement and the other as a self-proclaimed defender of the unitary character of the state, while at the same time being against the opposition and a supporter of the current parties in power. </p> <p>Although the situation is incredibly convoluted, there are still positive sides. One of these is in regards to the failure in the rise of the far-right. VMRO-DPMNE, with its infinite wisdom, has sidestepped their only chance at reforming their party into one that would become more powerful, by subduing the Tvrdokorni movement and replacing it with a Colourful Revolution-type one. </p> <p>The Tvrdokorni gathered a decent number of supporters in a relatively short period of time, partisan and non-partisan nationalists alike. Through this far-right movement that shares its ideology with the ruling Macedonian party, DPMNE could have reformed into a much stronger and more concentrated force based on ideology instead of the loose technocracy and organized crime base which it has become. On the other hand, the SDSM’s peaceful and reformist ways of non-violence have brought it within grasp of coming to power after 11 years in opposition. </p> <p>After all that, we have to pose the question “What effect will this have on the situation in the country and the region?”</p> <p>First, we have to take into consideration the cultural standpoints. Macedonia has two major ethnic groups – the Macedonians and the Albanians, but only the Albanian political parties are connected with their peers in Albania and Kosovo. This necessarily implies support from those states and therefore interference in domestic affairs, however it also necessitates caution as all of these parties are very close. </p> <p>President Ivanov in his address to the nation, declared that Albania had meddled in the country’s domestic affairs. He received a response from Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama which denied this, however the diplomatic incident stands. Macedonia has been plagued by diplomatic incidents as the VMRO-DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski called for the removal of foreign-funded organizations and nosy ambassadors, referring mainly to US Ambassador Jess Baily who has had frequent talks with all party leaders. </p> <p>Furthermore, Ivanov mentioned in a subsequent statement that the army of the Republic of Macedonia is ready to defend its borders should need arise, prompting responses from neighboring nations. Newspaper articles fly about, stating that Kosovar forces are on the border, that terrorists are forming in Macedonia and so on, aggravating the situation even further. </p> <p>Statements were made by NATO and EU high representatives to calm the situation down and ask Ivanov to give the mandate to Zaev per democratic principle, but the situation still remains unclear. Thus, even though Macedonia is at the centre of the clash of power and cultural differences between its indigenous people, as well as the struggle between globalist, pro-western cultural influences and the local traditions, I would say that the attempts of the ruling party to turn Macedonia’s situation from a “state under occupation by a criminal group” into one of ethnic conflict, have been relatively unsuccessful. </p> <p>What is clear though is the support that the Russian government is giving to the current party in power, saying that VMRO-DPMNE is fighting irredentism and foreign influences, instead of the obvious struggle to stay out of prison for the billions of dollars extracted from the state treasury through various means over the last 11 years. Zaev has repeatedly said that all criminals from all parties, including SDSM but primarily VMRO-DPMNE must answer for any crimes they have committed, and that everything can be debated if it is within the constitution. </p> <p>With the Russian influence and the American domineering position coupled with the EU’s (uncertain at times) support for the rule of law and democracy, the country is well on its way to change. We can expect a new government soon, as President Ivanov has no power to keep the country in chaos by withholding the democratic mandate from the parliamentary majority. </p><p>Sooner or later, he will have to reverse his decision because the country is already falling apart – the government is currently not doing anything, instead choosing to hibernate until disbanded, the parliament has not assembled for two and a half months and the judiciary is experiencing major shake-ups and resignations as SPP cases start to flow in. </p> <p>Even more troubling is the postponing of local elections that were supposed to take place in May, but were not called for by any party within the legal time limits. No local government means no paychecks for those employed by it, and these are the thousands of people that will starve should this come to pass. </p><p>So very soon, if nothing changes, Macedonia could have no executive body, no legislative body, weak judiciary bodies and illegitimate and powerless local authorities. It is very unclear what would come from the midst of the chaos, but with the current flow of events, it can’t possibly be good. </p> <p>Will it be a nationalist resurgence in far right parties, or a major left uprising through the newly formed leftist party? Will it be an inter-ethnic or an intra-ethnic conflict being perpetuated by the media? Will the rumors of a nationalist Macedonian paramilitary group come true, or will Macedonia just slip back into the mantra of “Euroatlantic integration, peace and cohabitation”? </p> <p>Surrounded by the NATO on three sides it is clear that the organization wants this territory in its control, however the question is how are they going to drive the social factors to implement this wish? </p><p>In the end, hope dies last, but right now it is dying quickly, with only one of the possible outcomes being positive – that the new government forms as quickly as possible, shuts down the country’s organized crime which has occupied it, and no blood flows in the process, because we all know, once the Balkans get going, Europe trembles.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/roland-gjoni-timothy-less/macedonia-s-elections-how-eus-continues-to-fail-western">Macedonia’s elections: how the EU continues to fail the Western Balkans</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/lana-pasic/democracy-25-years-after-yugoslavia">Democracy, 25 years after Yugoslavia</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"> Macedonia </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? Can Europe make it? Macedonia Team Syntegrity David Stefanoski Mon, 03 Apr 2017 14:18:15 +0000 David Stefanoski 109859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Countering xenophobia through story-telling https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/cameron-thibos-vanessa-kisuule/countering-xenophobia-through-story-telling <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Story-telling and communal art are powerful tools in the fight against xenophobia. In the age of the echo chamber we need to learn to listen again.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/31936691793_599613b8cf_k.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Alisdare Hickson/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)</p> <p><em>Vanessa Kisuule, a Bristol-based word artist, was invited to speak at the Global Forum for Migration and Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh in December 2016. openDemocracy caught up with Vanessa to discuss her inspiration and background, as well as the power of art to combat rising anti-migrant sentiment. Read her thoughts and hear her poems below.</em></p> <p><strong>Cameron Thibos (oD): You&#39;ve given me the basic sketch that you are British-born and Ugandan by descent. But what brought you into this whole field of spoken word art and to talk about things like migration, integration, and identity issues?</strong></p> <p><strong>Vanessa Kisuule:</strong> I was in Uganda just before I went to university. I stayed with my family, and one of my cousins who lives out in Canada and I were bonding over the fact that we were second generation kids, raised in western countries and that we were going back to this country of ‘origin’ or ‘roots’ and not quite feeling this sense of being at home that you are supposed to feel. </p> <p>It&#39;s quite a unique situation to be in, in terms of that clash of identity and history and heritage, so we bonded over that. At some point he told me, &quot;You know, back home, I go to a lot of these poetry nights&quot; and I was like &quot;What&#39;s that? I&#39;ve never heard of anything like that&quot;. And he said: &quot;It&#39;s like this spoken word slam thing&quot; and he was explaining that to me. I thought, oh, I don&#39;t know, it sounds quite pretentious. I don&#39;t know if I like the sound of that. Then he showed me some YouTube clips of Def Jam poetry, which has long since discontinued. I remember thinking, wow, this is amazing. I watched loads of it, just binged it on YouTube, but I didn&#39;t think this was my career path. </p> <p>Then I came home, and had a few months to kill before university started. I&#39;d written a little poem and went to an open mic in London to see what that was like. And that was it, really, I got the bug from there. I&#39;d always written, I always loved creative writing, but poetry and performing had nothing to do with it – it was mostly short stories that I wrote. So the concept of going up and reading a poem about me, or my life, or my opinion was kind of revelatory actually. </p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Pne_gfXzrJI?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><strong>Cameron: Some of your work speaks to the themes of the Global Forum for Migration and Development – where you were commissioned to speak – identities, migrant integration, being an immigrant, etc. Are these simply some of the themes in your work, or are they a particular focus for you?</strong></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">What tends to happen with under-represented voices is that we co-opt their voices and we tell their stories for them.</p> <p><strong>Vanessa:</strong> I try to avoid being didactic and I try to avoid sitting down and thinking, “Ok, in this poem, I am going to write about this issue”. I invariably end up having to write in that manner because I get commissioned to write about feminism or immigration. But, I think sometimes when you have that going through your head too much, that can drown out the nuance of the story and the nuance of the situation, particularly if you are passionate about something. And the way you want your audience, your reader, or listener to see it, that starts to swallow everything up.</p> <p>As much as I can, I like to present the humanness as much as possible, and leave the audience to make up their own mind. Obviously, I know that my opinion and my lens is always going to be there. You can&#39;t ever completely detach yourself like that as a writer. The issues that I address are never more important than the stories or the people in my poems. So if migration is there, or identity is there, it&#39;s never to make an overarching point. If anything, I like it when people end up reflecting on their own situations, or their own lives.</p> <p><strong>Cameron: So we live in a post-Brexit referendum Britain, xenophobia is palpable, and Europe is going through what some call a migration crisis and others a reception crisis. Where do you see potential for migrants to gain a platform to counter this xenophobia? How do you see the arts, migration, and integration meshing together?</strong></p> <p><strong>Vanessa:</strong> That&#39;s a big question and a very good question. In schools at the moment, there&#39;s this programme that is being enforced by our wonderful government of instilling British values. It contains things like retaining our heritage, maintaining tolerance. All of these things seem very flimsy, and I think its just about imprinting this idea of British-ness in kids’ heads from a very young age. It is indoctrination, in my opinion. That is happening and we are having these kids coming in, I imagine, bewildered, traumatised, and trying to make sense of this new environment they are in. It&#39;s going to be very interesting how we integrate this with this new spike in patriotism and nationalism. </p> <p>I am hoping that we really do find space to let people tell their stories in their own way. Because what tends to happen with underrepresented voices is that we co-opt their voices and we tell their stories for them. We think we are doing people a service by doing that, but really we are projecting our own ideas and presumptions and giving ourselves a saviour narrative that is really about us and isn’t very helpful.</p> <p>When you come to a new country, it&#39;s hostile and you may not speak in English or your English might be very poor, so how do you get a sense of self or the bravery to go &quot;Everyone listen to me&quot;. You might need someone to say “let&#39;s listen”, but its not for other people to paraphrase your story and tell everyone else. </p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hIJ79omKfhc?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>This happens across the board; it happens in arts, in journalism: people speaking for the unrepresented. We need to find a way to facilitate people who want to speak or who feel able to speak. I&#39;ll give you an example. Bristol Refugee Rights have an organisation called VOICE, which is asylum seekers and refugees going into areas that are more rural and less progressive and just speaking about their experiences. This is very powerful because they are speaking and telling their story and its not being co-opted by middlemen or by the media.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">We need to facilitate as many different story-telling sessions as possible.</p> <p>People are so much more likely to engage with one single person standing in front of them, a human being just like them. That&#39;s a really beautiful, potent example of how powerful one person telling their story can be. But, the difficulty with that is that people in the position of being an asylum seeker or a refugee are in danger of being exposed or deported. They might not be able to be as vocal in their experience. They may be here under circumstances that make it hard for them to be out here in the open.</p> <p>So it&#39;s hard. We need to hear their stories, but we also need to be aware of their safety, mental well being, and their need to have their identity protected. So it&#39;s a complicated one and I don&#39;t have all the answers for sure. But from what I&#39;ve observed, it seems to me that we need to – wherever we can – facilitate as many different story-telling sessions as possible, where we can just sit and listen to each other. </p> <p><strong>Cameron: You’re much more clued into the Bristol arts scene than I am, but from the posters on the wall there seem to be a lot of art projects going on to try to increase empathy for new arrivals. In other words, how much do you think this is already happening?</strong></p> <p><strong>Vanessa:</strong> This is the great thing about what we could very tentatively call &quot;street art&quot;, more so than a piece of refugee theatre – where even the term theatre has this elitism and classism around it that is hard to shake. For the most part, theatre was a middle or higher-class activity. But a piece of graffiti that all walks of life walk through everyday, that is a really powerful thing.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Graffiti is a very powerful example of how communal art can create a general sentiment in a city as a whole.</p> <p>You get this a lot in Bristol and in cities like Berlin as well: graffiti murals in support of refugees. If you pass by them every day, they’re seeping into your subconscious whether you realise it or not. That creates this background sentiment, where the city has this sentiment that we are wearing quite literally on our walls. That&#39;s why I love Berlin, and it history of street art as a form of political resistance and a storytelling of refusing to be silent.</p> <p>I feel like graffiti is a very powerful example of how communal art, or street art – art for everyone – can create a general sentiment in a city as a whole. If you pass by it every day, it&#39;s a constant reminder of where we&#39;ve been and where we are now. It gives you that context as to what has made this city into what it is. I think that&#39;s more powerful than all manner of museum exhibits or radio 4 shows. All these things only appeal to a certain demographic. Universality is really powerful and important.</p> <p><strong>Cameron: We need more truly public art.</strong></p> <p><strong>Vanessa:</strong> Absolutely. And that to me is something that can and should be funded. It&#39;s part of a much bigger tapestry of things that need to be happening, but I don&#39;t think that you can deny the power of that one element. I think it could seem very frivolous to push for it, especially in times of economic austerity. But I would argue that we probably need that boost now more than ever. We need the color, we need the light relief, we need the expression. We need that sense of release of it all.</p> <p><strong>Cameron: What was the focus of the poems you presented at the Global Forum for Migration and Development?</strong></p> <p><strong>Vanessa:</strong> Language is very powerful. Trump has used rhetorics to get in people&#39;s heads, all leaders have used rhetorics to that. When I use language that is persuasive, emotive, and manipulative to get to people, it could be used for good, but it could also be used to massage my ego or to control people.</p> <p>As much I use language that is compelling and puts pictures in your mind, I don&#39;t want to feed into this culture of shoving opinions down people&#39;s throats or feed into this reactionary opinion machine. And if I do express a strong opinion, I always preface it by &quot;This is my very strong opinion and you have every right to disregard it, argue with it, give me a reason why I might have a different perspective on it if I had experienced this&quot;. </p> <p>I really don&#39;t want to be putting my opinions on pedestals anymore. The poems that I performed at the Global Forum for Migration and Development were just stories told with as much honesty and fallibility as I could give them. I think that&#39;s a really powerful thing, vulnerability and fallibility. </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="/vicki-squire-bern-o-donoghue/5083-boats-dead-reckoning">5,083 boats: a dead reckoning</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/frances-grahl/at-crossroads-homeless-and-undocumented-people-in-paris">At the crossroads: homeless and undocumented people in Paris since the Calais evictions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/mana-aliabadi/snapshots-of-other-asylum-seekers-at-oinofyta-refugee-c">Snapshots of the ‘other’ asylum seekers at Oinofyta refugee camp</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/ludek-stavinoha-vanessa-marjoribanks/send-us-to-moon">Send us to the moon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/susanne-asche-cameron-thibos/when-refugees-appear-we-take-them-to-art">When refugees appear, we take them to the art museum</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> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery GFMD 2016 Team Syntegrity Cameron Thibos Vanessa Kisuule Thu, 30 Mar 2017 05:59:49 +0000 Vanessa Kisuule and Cameron Thibos 109780 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Glimpse into a key party debate: deciding the future of Podemos https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana-simona-rentea/glimpse-into-key-party-debate-deciding-future-o <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Podemos is locked in passionate debate in the run-up to its second state-wide assembly, next weekend. It must build its internal democracy and its social base in Spain. But how? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/simona-rentea-joan-pedro-cara-ana/decidir-el-futuro-de-podemos-introducci-n-al-deb">Español</a></em></strong><em><strong></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26723224.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26723224.jpg" alt="lead lead " 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'>Unidos Podemos: Errejon, Bustinduy, Iglesias, Montero, Garzon, Mayoral, Bescansa after the results of Spain's national elections in June, 2016.Jimenez Rodrigo/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Following decades of social mobilization throughout the 1990s and 2000s premised on the idea of “changing the world without taking power”, through building progressive alliances in autonomous spaces, at a distance from the state, the emergence of 15-M in spring of 2011 placed the unique character of the post-Franco ‘78 regime firmly on the table. </p> <p>This movement brought to a popular and global consciousness not only the deep and damaging social effects of the economic crisis in Spain, but a considerable political and regime crisis. Both mainstream political parties (PP and PSOE) and the entire political class were duly charged with a complete inability to represent the people so mobilised (<em>No nos representan</em>). In this way 15-M had the dramatic effect of reconnecting the question of institutional change with social transformation. It aroused the desire to make institutions work in the interest of a social majority. </p> <p>The emergence of Podemos in January 2014, and its surprising success in the 25 May European elections, were seen as the long-awaited arrival of a project committed to channelling the transformative spirit of 15-M into the institutional arena. Podemos’ European elections program combined anti-austerity proposals with a critique of “bipartisanship” to produce one of the most ambitious political programs it had formulated. The unexpected electoral success and freshness of the message generated a wave of optimism that culminated that summer with the creation of nearly 1,000 local and sectorial assemblies (<em>circulos</em>) across Spain. This early phase was characterized by a lack of formal representation, a horizontality and decentralization, which saw the assemblies (some naturally developed out of the neighborhood assemblies that came out of 15-M) functioning completely autonomously.</p> <p>This movement<em> </em>phase of the party came to an abrupt end at the first state-wide assembly in Vistalegre (I) in October 2014, where the formalization of the party’s structure became imperative and a choice between models necessary. The model of the <em>party-movement</em>, supported by Pablo Echenique and the <em>anticapitalitas</em>, proposing a more horizontal formation, was defeated in the face of a united effort from the main leading figures around an alternative. A more centralized and hierarchical proposal, supported by both Iglesias and Errejón, built on the latter’s hypothesis of the<em> electoral war machine, </em>which placed the question of structure and efficiency before that of internal democracy. This won out with an overwhelming majority (80.7%). Faced with a rapid sequence of local, autonomic and general elections, this majoritarian current justified a more centralized structure as better suited to maintaining consistency, and able to respond more rapidly to the complex game of electoral competition. </p> <p>With their eyes firmly set on winning the general elections, this short-term, blitzkrieg strategy of electoral assault determined a series of key decisions: embracing transversality over a more left-identifiable program of social demands; reduction of politics to the electoral contest; a head-on confrontation with the Popular Party and adoption of the rhetoric of war; a self-imposed insulation from social movements and the attempt to bypass social conflict in proposals and programs. In short, organisational and communicative verticality. </p> <p>The effect of these decisions was the subordination of the local assemblies and other structures to the centre and increasingly vocal discontent among the broader social movements in favour of a more bottom-up strategy and a broader understanding of politics and social transformation. This exclusion of plurality made unfeasible the development of effective <em>counter-powers</em> capable of counteracting the pernicious influence of oligarchic tendencies within the party’s organisation (illustrating the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy">iron law of oligarchy</a>”). </p> <p>In our previous<strong> oD <span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/simona-rentea-joan-pedro-cara-ana/introducing-this-week-s-theme-smile-at-indignados-podemos-struggle">series on Podemos we</a></span></strong> looked, among other things, at the resistance to this process of centralisation and loss of internal democracy from both the rank and file and social movements. The sense then was that the undemocratic “deal” of Vistalegre I was only ever accepted on the premise of a contract: handing over to the centre the strategic and communication initiative in exchange for a win. But the electoral success never arrived, in 20 December 2015 or 26 June 2016. That devolution of power has yet to take place.</p> <h2><strong>Vistalegre II</strong></h2> <p>So we arrive at the second state-wide assembly of Podemos, taking place next weekend, 11 and 12 February, in Vistalegre (II). The question that this assembly puts on the table is that of the continuing suitability of a structure created to fight in <em>electoral wars</em> for the new political cycle of both institutional, parliamentary opposition, and necessary re-vitalisation and engagement with the party’s base. It is also a chance for a collective reflection on the previous model’s success (given its costs). There’s a declarative consensus, from all sides of the debate, that <em>a new model</em> for the new cycle is needed, and that a level of internal democracy and decentralization needs to be restored. But it is hard to imagine in practice what this entails from the debates so far. The interventions collected here illustrate the positions of three of the main currents in Podemos today: the sector around Iglesias, the group around Errejón and the <em>anticapitalistas</em>. We have also invited contributions from the wider social movements, such as the <em>municipalist movement,</em> as their plans and their impact are often deeply felt within the party. </p> <h2><strong>Schism</strong></h2> <p>The main difference between the assembly two years ago and today is that Iglesias and Errejón are leading two different sets of documents and candidates’ lists: <a href="http://podemosparatodas.info/"><em>Podemos for All</em></a><em>,</em> supported by the former, and <a href="https://recuperarlailusion.info/"><em>Recovering Illusion</em></a><em>, </em>promoted by the second. </p> <p>This schism between the two most visible figures has recently taken on intense manifestations in the media and social networks in Spain, with both declaring the vote decisive for who will end up leading and continuing to shape the direction of the party. This may create the suspicion that Podemos’ leading project has always had at least two visions which coexisted only through a considerable effort on both sides, united by the imperative of “winning” alone. A recent vote on the procedures for next weekend gave Iglesias’ proposal a very narrow victory, indicating a split vote and the open-ended nature of next weekend’s proceedings. </p> <p>A third important proposal (with less support) is that of the <em>anticapitalistas</em> (<a href="http://podemosenmovimiento.info/"><em>Podemos in Movement</em></a>), whose support appears to be decisive for the success of either of the other two, (although they seem much closer to Iglesias’ group, if their recent alliance for winning over the leadership of Podemos Madrid is anything to go by.)</p> <h2><strong>Four days of debate</strong></h2> <p>Our contributions to openDemocracy over the following four days offer a glimpse into this key debate and show what is at stake in Vistalegre II: the collective capacity to build unity from within a plurality of visions; or the distinct possibility of further division, disenfranchisement and even fragmentation. The main question is: will Podemos find the right model to continue to be a determining political force for change in Spain, able to mobilise the social majority? Or will it turn into an ABC that is beginning to miss some of its key letters? The membership will decide this week.</p> <p>Tuesday’s trio of viewpoints asks <em>on what basis should Podemos approach the new post-electoral, political cycle?<strong> </strong>Podemos’ relation to the post-Franco ’78 regime</em>. This discussion raises fundamental questions about the terrain&nbsp;of the political battle, the nature of the forces opposed and the forms of organisation needed. The debate is structured by a series of key contrasts between the three most visible sectors (around Errejón, around Iglesias and anticapitalistas). The key terms are: middle class vs. working class; consensus vs. conflict; relying on a plural language vs. using more left-identitarian markers; simple “opposition to the PP” vs. “opposition to the ‘78 regime”; institutional work vs. social mobilisation and “recovering the streets”. The first group embraces the first series of terms, while the latter two espouse the second series of terms, but differ on the specific weight and articulation of those elements considered necessary for a successful social transformation. </p> <p>Wednesday, we ask: <em>Can the party be democratized at the upcoming party congress (Vistalegre II)? If so, how?</em> The week’s decisions have huge implications for the way the party will be organised for years to come. Here the key debate is between the Errejón sector’s thesis of “winning normality” and the <em>movementist</em> idea of opposing the exceeding focus on governance and institutional management with an agenda for creating a counter-power and deepening democracy at the local level. Given the difficulty in reversing Vistalegre I, some contributions question any possibility of democratizing Podemos in this week’s process.</p> <p>Thursday tackles: <em>How to expand Podemos’ social base?</em> The very fact that this question is being asked accepts not only how detrimental the <em>electoral war machine</em> was to Podemos’ internal democracy, but how isolated both leadership and the party itself became, once separated&nbsp; from its wider social base. All contributions seem to agree that an expansion of the social base is necessary while they diverge over their understanding of <em>where this expansion should be</em> and what are the necessary means of reaching<em> </em>“those who are still missing” without losing “the ones that are already there”. </p> <p>Are those likely to be attracted to the political centre, or those on the progressive left, the ones to be pursued? Should the mothers and the elderly, the people in the rural areas with their specific realities, or those who “were once there” but were driven away by a strategy of centralisation and moderation come first? Will they be won by a discourse of moderation, or by stressing the social demands that must produce antagonism and even fear across the body politic? Can this social base be reached single-handed, or only by building alliances with other transformative forces? </p> <p>The final selection this coming Friday looks at:&nbsp;<em>What communication strategies are needed for this new, post-electoral cycle</em>?&nbsp;Podemos has always been leading, and praised for, their innovative communications developed on the basis of different interpretations of populism. Contributors on Friday look at the options: appropriating the “winning signifiers” by expressing a proposal for an open identity; reforming the media system to promote independence, pluralism, transparency, professional empowerment, community media and cooperatives; or taking into account the current limitations for the successful implementation of a communication strategy based on an integrative diagnosis and narrative. Is any of this now even possible ?</p> <p><em>Joan Pedro-Carañana and Simona Rentea (editors) would like to thank Livia Gasparini, Katherine García, Lucas Asnis, Lucía Sendargorta, Sofía Blanco, Elan Pinedo, Pato McKelligang and Pedro Candela for their help and support with putting together this selection.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/simona-rentea-joan-pedro-cara-ana/introducing-this-week-s-theme-smile-at-indignados-podemos-struggle">Introducing this week’s theme: &#039;Smile at the Indignados&#039;: Podemos&#039; struggle for a new politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/germ-n-cano-pedro-honrubia-hurtado-isabel-serra/special-glimpse-of-key-debate-deciding-future-of-pod">Glimpse of a key debate : deciding the future of Podemos, Day 1</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jos-enrique-ema/glimpse-of-key-debate-deciding-future-of-podemos-day-2">Glimpse of a key debate : deciding the future of Podemos, Day 2</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/emmanuel-rodr-guez-emilia-sanchez-pantoja-kiko-garrido/glimpse-of-key-debate-deci">Glimpse of a key debate : deciding the future of Podemos, Day 3</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/miguel-lvarez-peralta-jos-luis-villaca-as-guillermo-fern-ndez-v-zquez/glimpse-of-">Glimpse of a key debate : deciding the future of Podemos, Day 4</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"> Spain </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 class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Spain Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Team Syntegrity Simona Rentea Joan Pedro-Carañana Sun, 05 Feb 2017 23:55:28 +0000 Joan Pedro-Carañana and Simona Rentea 108610 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Loomio and the problem of deliberation https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/marco-deseriis-richard-bartlett/loomio-and-problem-of-deliberation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">One of the frustrations within the current political system is that most people are alienated from deliberation. The founders of decision-making software Loomio want to give everyone access to that essential skill.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Madrid_-_Podemos_-_La_marcha_del_cambio_-_31012015_120055.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Wikimedia Commons/Barcex. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Madrid_-_Podemos_-_La_marcha_del_cambio_-_31012015_120055.jpg" alt="lead " title="Wikimedia Commons/Barcex. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wikimedia Commons/Barcex. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><a href="https://www.loomio.org/">Loomio</a> is a decision-making software developed by a group of activists and programmers based in Wellington, New Zealand, since 2012. Widely used within the Circles of Podemos in Spain as well as hundreds of cooperatives, social enterprises, municipalities, and activist groups around the world, Loomio’s main feature is to nudge groups towards consensus. After discussing a proposal, every member of a Loomio group can in fact make one of four choices: agree, disagree, abstain, or block. The latter is a form of <em>veto power</em>, which forces the group to reconsider the initial proposal and amend it until consensus has been reached. </p> <p class="normal">Even though endowing individuals with such power in an online environment can be risky, Loomio groups are often extensions of preexisting offline relationships, and thus of preexisting networks of trust. Indeed, Loomio had been originally conceived by activists involved in Occupy Wellington in 2011 as a tool that could help turn the open-ended meetings of assemblies and working groups into action-oriented proposals. The four-hand signs that appear in the Loomio interface are in fact borrowed from the hand signals adopted by the Occupy movement around the world.</p> <p class="normal">“Ben Knight and I were in the communications working group [at Occupy Wellington],” recalls Richard Bartlett, a co-founder of Loomio. “We had a lot of people and work to manage, so we were looking for project management software, but everything we could find was based on a hierarchical attitude to organising.” Thus, together with Hannah Salmon and Jon Lemmon the two decided to contact <a href="http://enspiral.com/network-overview/">Enspiral</a>, a network and incubator of social enterprises based in Wellington. In 2012, Knight, Barlett, Lemmon, Alanna Krause, Aaorn Thornton and Vivien Maidaborn went on to found the Loomio cooperative, which is part of Enspiral, and currently employs <a href="https://www.loomio.org/about">eleven worker-members</a> who have made a long-term commitment to the project.</p> <p class="normal">In this interview, which was first conducted on Skype and subsequently co-edited, <a href="http://blog.loomio.org/2013/08/27/our-people-richard-bartlett-director-of-autonomy/">Rich Bartlett</a> revisits the early stages of the project, unveils the political values embedded in the design of the Loomio interface, and discusses the attempt made by a group of Spanish activists to use Loomio to scale up the deliberative processes and grassroots initiatives of the Podemos Circles from a local to a national level.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Marco Deseriis: Why was your encounter with the Enspiral network important?</strong></p> <p class="normal">Richard Bartlett: Because Enspiral is a network of social enterprises that are organised non-hierarchically and has many affinities with a movement like Occupy. At Occupy we had all these enthusiastic volunteers. The main question for us was how to coordinate them, keep them on task, have them deliver reliable work, without using a hierarchical method. When I went to look for project management software, I quickly realized that the majority of project management is designed for the hierarchical method, in the sense that you have someone in charge, who is allocating all the tasks, and that you have a predetermined plan of what the future is going to look like. We were looking instead for a nonhierarchical method, where no one has more rights than anyone else and where the plan can emerge organically from the bottom up. We were really stuck with that basic project management challenge. For us that was the real fodder for the conversation with Enspiral. And Alanna Krause was really good with that stuff.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD:</strong> <strong>Can you tell me a little bit about her role in the early stages of the project?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Soon after we met, we started a series of weekly meetings about developing a democracy software. During the meetings, Alanna was taking notes, noting the actions that we said we were going to do. So the following week the collective could look at those notes and check whether everyone had followed through. “Let me see, Jon have you done this? Ben, have you done that?” This is very basic, but I just hadn’t been exposed to such a good organizing practice before. Alanna also introduced us to <a href="https://trello.com/">Trello</a>, a project management application that you can use in a highly democratic way as everyone can move the cards around. Out of those first meetings emerged the idea of building Loomio as a minimal decision-making tool that would complement other tools such as Slack, Trello, Google Docs, calendars, and the like. As soon as we had a very basic prototype, we started to see a lot of demand from many different sectors, not just activists and radical social entrepreneurs, but city councils and traditional businesses too. So we decided to formalise as a worker cooperative and dedicate ourselves to the project.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: What is the added feature of Loomio as compared to the other software you mentioned?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: All these software allow you to have a discussion but none of them has a bias towards concluding.&nbsp; When you have a large group of people, it is extremely common for a small minority to get highly involved in the discussion while everyone else is standing back. In Loomio a discussion comes to an end when someone decides to turn it into an actionable proposal. The proposal <em>functions as a fresh invitation</em> for everyone in the group to participate again. At that point, it is really common for those who had not participated in the discussion&nbsp; to come back and express their opinion about aspects of the conversation that had been neglected or downplayed. The added value of Loomio is that the deliberation and the conclusion are displayed side by side. The disagreement is visualized through a pie chart, in a way that you must pay attention to it, so that the concerns can be resolved. This is the difference with polls and other voting mechanisms: you can change your mind as you discuss the proposal. So it becomes almost like a game, participants have to work through the concerns and get them to change.</p> <p class="normal"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Loomio1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Loomio1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>MD</strong><strong>: Can you explain how you came to design the user interface the way you designed it?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Because we are a small company, we do not have the resources to develop a comprehensive piece of software that can satisfy everything a group needs to organize. It is just too hard for us. But the idea that we have everything<em> your group needs to make a good decision</em> is something that is small enough and we have a credible shot at doing. One of the things we learned from Enspiral is lean, agile development practices. In both Enspiral and Occupy there is a lot of communication happening, but it is more difficult to make a decision. So the first thing we came up with was the pie chart with the four buttons. Initially, there was no discussion and no group, just a decision. And you could put that decision anywhere you wanted. If you were chatting on <a href="https://slack.com/">Slack</a> [a messaging app for teams], you could just drop a link to the decision and then people would use it as the final record. Then users started suggesting that it would be useful if we could put the discussion and the decision in the same place. And then we realized we needed to keep track of all these discussions, we needed to put them in the same place, so we embedded the group functionality.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: Still, it seems to me that a pie chart with four buttons gives users a limited set of options. Have you ever been subject to working groups that have demanded more flexibility?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: This is a design challenge. You can give users fewer options, as in the case of the Apple OS, or you can give them more freedom. We have decided to offer a reduced set of options, which of course is not always welcomed. For example, we often hear from people who want to be able to write multiple proposals at the same time. But we do not offer that option, because <em>a proposal is designed to have the undivided attention of the group</em>. That functionality would be diminished if we would have multiple proposals running at the same time. You are in a different set of mind when you ask yourself what the group can agree on. We want to push people towards convergence, without frustrating them and allowing for a certain degree of flexibility.<strong> </strong>Indeed, the minimal approach to design means that Loomio is extraordinarily adaptable to different groups, with different decision-making protocols. For example, some groups use formal consensus, some use majority rules, and others just use it for consultation and deliberation.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: Can you give an example of how a group customized the Loomio interface to meet their particular needs?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Yes, I remember one particular change that came from one of the Pirate Parties. They added a fifth purple button, that says “I am committed, I am committed to do something.” When our group wants someone to take action, we simply use the Agree button and then add a text that says “agree to this proposal if you want to join a working group.” So we kind of do it without building the commitment into the interface. The Pirates decided to create an ad hoc button, which is really cool. But other than that, we haven’t seen much innovation on this level. And to be fair, it is only now that we are getting a plug-in system in place that is mature enough to allow people to experiment with alternative decision-making protocols. Now we have got the architecture where we can tolerate lots more experimentation without upsetting anyone who is expecting Loomio to work the way it has always worked.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: What programming language is Loomio written in?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: The backend is in Ruby on Rails. About 18 months ago we built a frontend in Javascript. Both codes are released on <a href="https://github.com/loomio/loomio">GitHub</a>. Ruby on Rails handles the databases and the logic and Javascript handles the user interface. Ruby on Rails is designed for quick prototyping, it is really easy to build a block from scratch, it’s like a scaffolding language. It also has a very supportive community around it. Then later on we decided to add the frontend in Javascript to stay current with user expectations of what an interface looks like. Facebook has lots of things changing on a page, JavaScript is the best way to handle that kind of complexity. Because JavaScript is so common now, it is also really easy for us to build a package for iOS and Android.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: Have you developed a mobile version of Loomio yet?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: We do not have an app of Loomio yet, but the interface has always been designed to work well with mobile. You can use Loomio via a browser on your phone, but you cannot go to the app store and download Loomio, not yet.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: Are people developing their own derivative versions of Loomio?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: We do not track it so it is hard to know. GitHub says that the code has been forked about 1,000 times. And periodically people talk on Twitter of their own version of Loomio. It is definitely out there, but we do not keep a close eye on it. And that is by design. We are aware of the security implications of activists using cloud software. It is way more secure to have many instances of the same software than to have one big central repository.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: Why do you think it is more secure?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Security is always a tradeoff. You always have people saying “you should encrypt everything.” We could encrypt everything, but then you could not search the conversations because you would need first to decrypt them. Most users are happy to make that tradeoff. They would say that they prefer to have the user experience to search things than to have this rock-solid, totally impregnable security. Because Loomio.org is supporting thousands of groups we do the best we can to strike a balance between security and usability. But if you are in a different context, e.g. if you are an activist working at the border between Turkey and Syria, you might have different needs than the average. In that case, you can have full control over who has access to Loomio, you can even disconnect it from the internet and have your own internet running it. If you run Loomio on your own server you have got complete agency over the decisions that go into how to run it, rather than having to trust us, with our limited resources. Further, I suppose that any spying program is more attracted to a large target than a small one. Even though I have no evidence for this, it is probably more likely to be subject to spying if you have a million users than if you have fifty users.</p> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/1560679_617516151686979_2786530804898599954_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Loomio&#039;s Ben Knight. #LoomioLab, Medialab-Prado in Spain, via Lab O Demo/Facebook, 2014. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/1560679_617516151686979_2786530804898599954_n.jpg" alt="Loomio's Ben Knight. #LoomioLab, Medialab-Prado in Spain, via Lab O Demo/Facebook, 2014. Some rights reserved." title="Loomio&#039;s Ben Knight. #LoomioLab, Medialab-Prado in Spain, via Lab O Demo/Facebook, 2014. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Loomio's Ben Knight. #LoomioLab, Medialab-Prado in Spain, via Lab O Demo/Facebook, 2014. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><strong>MD: I see your argument for decentralisation. So let’s assume that the software is now resilient enough to allow for different kinds of decision-making processes to converge. As you know, many Circles of Podemos have been using Loomio to extend meetings that happen mostly at a local level. One way for the Circles to build power from below could be to use Loomio to make some common decisions. To your knowledge, has anyone tried to use Loomio to scale up decisions from a local to a regional and national level?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: I should give a disclaimer that I am not involved with Podemos, I have only been in Spain for a couple of weeks. But I can tell the story from the perspective of the conversations that I have had. In Madrid there is a small group of activists called <a href="http://labodemo.net/">Labodemo</a> who run experiments in democracy. They research technologies, test them, and then offer them to social movements as they arise. Labodemo discovered Loomio and tested it out very early on. They understood its capability and communicated it to others and in particular to the Podemos Circles. Just to give you a sense, Loomio usage in Spain accounted for 5% of our total traffic in 2013, jumped to 54% in 2014, and is currently around 40%. I think that this is because the cultural, historical, and political context is way more consensus-oriented in Spain than in most parts of the world. In January 2015, we received a request from Miguel Arana Catania, one of the activists in LaboDemo, and currently the Director of the <a href="https://decide.madrid.es/participation">Madrid City Council Participation Project</a>. Miguel told us that they were aware of the massive use of Loomio within the Circles of Podemos and asked us whether there was some way to bring this together and take it to the next level.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: What was the next level?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: We know that somewhere within the Loomio vision there is something that goes beyond groups of a couple of hundred people. Was this our opportunity? I personally do not believe in large groups, I only believe in small groups. In the Podemos context, however, you have a cultural milieu that comes from the direct democracy experiments of the Indignados and a more strictly political layer, which launched Podemos as a brand name under which to assemble an alliance of multiple subjectivities. In my understanding, back in 2015 this political layer asked the party base (the Circles) to trust the direction for a few months, at least until the general election of December 2015. The rationale went roughly like this: “At the moment we do not have the technology nor the methodology for connecting the Circles to the institutions of power, and we all know that this is a problem. So why don’t you just trust us for a few months, we’ll do a little centralization, and we know it is going to be a compromise but at least we will get a few seats. And once the elections are over we will grow the technology to map the circles to the institutions.”</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: So nobody thought about connecting the Circles among themselves and to the Podemos’ ruling group until the general election of December 2015.</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Not really, because we decided to follow through with the request we received from LaboDemo in January 2015. We searched the database for groups that had the word Podemos in it. We found 2,500 groups that had been started by 2,500 individuals. That’s already a very peculiar situation. You have all these different groups of people who share some a sense of collective identity, but that have been independently motivated to start a Loomio. That’s a very promising social condition that I do not expect to see again anytime soon. So we thought to give these groups mutual visibility by creating something we called “The Network,” which was just a name for an invented architecture. Then we created an index of all the discussions and the decisions that were happening within the Network. That’s as far as we got. The intention was to get the location information for all of these groups because so many of them are geographically organised. Then we imagined the figure of a Network coordinator, who could put out a proposal to all of the circles to discuss collectively certain topics. Each Circle would then be able to see everyone else’s discussion but only the locals could have talked to each other. For example, a Podemos member would be able to see what has been decided in Barcelona and she could share that information manually with others in her Circle, but there was no General Assembly space.</p> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Loomio2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Loomio2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="476" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong>MD: You were trying to create a Loomio of Loomios to scale direct democracy from the local to the national...</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Exactly!</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: Were you able to implement any part of this plan?</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: No, because political reality got in the way. The Party got more and more hungry for power, and pushed itself further and further away from the Circles. So the Circles became this place of militant energy, which aspired to take the power back from the Party. For me this is not a failure, it is just a mixed experiment, a very peculiar experiment, and something we are going to learn from. More in general, I think it is very attractive to think about large-scale digital democracy and imagine that the right technology will give us a fundamentally different approach to government. It is really enticing to think in those terms. My perspective is that you are always going to wind up with the problem of deliberation regardless of the system of government you have. You can implement a very complex system of proxies and delegations, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jan-behrens-axel-kistner-andreas-nitsche-bj%C3%B6rn-swierczek-marco-deseriis/liquid-de">as in the case of LiquidFeeback</a>, but you are still going to wind up with deliberation, that is, with how you get a small group of people to negotiate, organize, make compromises, and build consensus. That’s why we put our focus on how to train and support people in the heart of deliberation. Because this is what democracy is ultimately all about.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: But there is a difference between the kind of deliberation you can have within a Loomio Circle and the deliberation of Podemos’ ruling group.</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Yes and no. Podemos’ political direction is made up of a group of people who are deliberating all the time. One of my frustrations with the current political system is that most people are alienated from deliberation, they don’t ever have a chance to practice deliberation. We don’t do it in school, we don’t do it in the workplace, and we don’t do it in our political system. We don’t learn the skills on how to do it. So you have people in the streets with really naïve expectations about how government should operate. Because they have never practiced making a compromise, making a negotiation, coming to a “good enough” consensus between disparate parties. That is the work of democracy, and most people are excluded from practicing it <em>ever</em>. And then you have people working inside the government who are practicing deliberation all the time. And they look at the citizens and they go like “ah, you are really naïve, you are irrational, you don’t really know what you are talking about. You can’t be trusted and that’s why we need to have a vanguard, we need to have professional decision-makers.” In response to this attitude, at Loomio we say<em> let us give everyone access to the skills of deliberation</em>. This is what was transformative with the General Assembly at Occupy. People realized that every single person has a different subjectivity and that if you put a great deal of trust, empathy, and good process, you can identify the intersection between those subjectivities and build a thing called consensus. This was mind-blowing to people as they never had a chance to practice it before. It is difficult to transform our political structure without lots of people practicing deliberation in their everyday lives.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>MD: I see your point. At the same time, we could say that the deliberations that go on within the central committee of Podemos have the power to affect everybody else in the party, but not vice versa. By deciding not to listen to the instances that were coming from the party base, Podemos’ leadership syphoned out a lot of enthusiasm that existed within the party. So their internal deliberations had a negative effect on all the other deliberative processes, which were deprived of their capacity to have a real impact on the party’s strategic direction.</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: I agree, the Podemos leadership shot itself in the foot and a lot of energy got syphoned out of the party. But what you cannot syphon out is the experience that people had, and the expectations that they now have to see their direct participation have a tangible outcome. In my understanding, in Spain so many activists now look at Podemos and say “we don’t care.” I was there last February and saw this wonderful graffiti that read <em>Podemos (sin Podemos)</em>, “We Can (without Podemos).” They have given up on the national level and they are putting all of their energies into the city level. These radical coalitions all over Spain are getting real traction, they are getting things to change. And there is a loose alliance between them, but not an overarching label. For me that is extraordinarily promising.</p> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Loomio3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Loomio3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong>MD: Yes, but the professional class of politicians that makes up the national level will keep mediating between the local realities. It is all to be seen whether the municipal experiments can scale up without this professional class of mediators. Whereas I am enthusiastic as everyone else about the municipal experiments, I am not going to be satisfied as long as the national and even the supranational layers remain insulated from these participatory processes.</strong></p> <p class="normal">RB: Yes, of course, I am never going to be satisfied. But I am in this for the pursuit, the sense of progress, the struggle. If there are people now living in cities where they have a drastically increased level of participation in their day-to-day life, that is going to leave them with a sense of expectation on how their country and the world should operate. And of course I do not expect to see a linear progression. It is entirely possible that these processes in Spain are over, or that Podemos has done more harm than good. But look for example at <a href="http://civichall.org/civicist/vtaiwan-democracy-frontier/#.V631iUBXPVs.twitter">what is happening in Taiwan</a>, which is currently the most advanced experiment in the world in democratic participation: it’s common practice for citizens there to have direct participation in law-making now. This is thanks to a little bit of technology and a lot of activism. The activists in Taiwan learned a great deal from those in Spain. They learned from people in Tunisia, and now they’re <a href="https://medium.com/@richdecibels/occupiers-from-tunisia-spain-new-zealand-taiwan-and-france-compare-notes-5c6cc6d3afd3#.hr8eippjr">passing their lessons on</a> to people in France. All around the world, there are local incarnations, new experiments in participation. This supranational network already exists, and it is evolving faster than any institutions. We just need to keep making friends across borders, sharing experiences, and learning from each other.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jan-behrens-axel-kistner-andreas-nitsche-bj%C3%B6rn-swierczek-marco-deseriis/liquid-de"> Liquid democracy, its challenges and its forebears</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/barry-hindess/against-concept-of-populism">Against (the concept of) populism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/antoni-guti-rrez-rub/democracy-and-city-new-geographies-new-geometries">Democracy and the city: new geographies, new geometries</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaLiberties/marco-deseriis/adhocracy-helps-create-future-of-political-engagement">Adhocracy helps create a future of political engagement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/marco-deseriis-guido-vilari-o/simplicity-openness-and-modifiability">Simplicity, openness, and modifiability</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kate-shea-baird/beyond-ada-colau-common-people-of-barcelona-en-com%C3%BA">Beyond Ada Colau: the common people of Barcelona en Comú</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/antoni-guti-rrez-rub-francesc-badia-i-dalmases/ecosystem-of-open-democracy">The ecosystem of an open democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/plan-c/radical-municipalism-demanding-future">Radical municipalism: demanding the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/oscar-reyes-bertie-russell/eight-lessons-from-barcelona-en-com-on-how-to-take-bac">Eight lessons from Barcelona en Comú on how to Take Back Control</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/marianne-maeckelbergh/experiments-in-democracy-and-diversity-within-occupy-movements">Experiments in democracy and diversity within the Occupy Movement(s)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/commons-sense-you-either-see-it-or-you-don-t-0">&#039;Commons sense’: you either see it or you don’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bernardo-guti-rrez/open-source-city-as-transnational-democratic-future">The open source city as the transnational democratic future </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/carlos-delcl%C3%B3s/towards-new-municipal-agenda-in-spain">Towards a new municipal agenda in Spain</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> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Politics of Code WFD2016: educating for democracy Team Syntegrity open2017 Marco Deseriis Richard Bartlett Fri, 02 Dec 2016 01:34:03 +0000 Richard Bartlett and Marco Deseriis 107321 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘The system is a reflection of who we are’: an interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir https://www.opendemocracy.net/ashish-ghadiali-birgitta-j-nsd-ttir/system-is-reflection-of-who-we-are-interview-with-birgitta-j-nsd <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Default">“It's not only about us versus the system. The system is really us.” As Iceland’s radical Pirate party approaches the gates of power, we speak to its figurehead Birgitta Jónsdóttir.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-29032667 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Frank Augstein/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-29032667 copy.jpg" alt="lead " title="Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Frank Augstein/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Frank Augstein/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><strong>Ashish Ghadiali: </strong><em>What is happening in Iceland right now? It’s really weird, right? You’ve got a</em><em>&nbsp;prosperous nation, the economy has&nbsp;recovered&nbsp;out of a terrible collapse, and suddenly, led by the Pirate Party, you've got this most radical reformist government&nbsp;within&nbsp;an inch of power…&nbsp;</em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="Default"><strong>Birgitta Jónsdóttir:</strong> So, Icelanders are 333,000, and this means that you reach critical mass about things much quicker. Truth and lies become the norm much quicker. Xenophobia or tolerance become the norm much&nbsp;quicker&nbsp;in small communities. Anyone that's lived&nbsp;in a&nbsp;village knows what I'm talking about. So in the wake of the collapse, Icelanders realised that everything they had put their trust in had failed them. Not just politicians. Also media and academia and so forth, and there was this sort of tremendous shock, anger, grief.</p> <p class="Default">Then we went into the austerity that you would do in an IMF programme. We were the first prosperous country to go into that programme for a long time. And that meant that the left-wing government that was elected to clean up the mess was under tremendous pressure and they did lots of things right, but they did a lot of things wrong, because they basically wanted to do everything.&nbsp;So people started to distrust them as well. Then Icelanders decided to vote again for the parties that were responsible for the mess. And we were lucky enough to get all the tourists and new fish that made us prosper in spite of the fact that we were coming out of a very heavy collapse.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">One has to question the masters who calculate everything.</p> <p class="Default">It is important that people understand that because we are so few, our economy is like a little pond.&nbsp;When you throw a pebble in a little pond you see the ripples. It naturally has an impact on the surface and also below. When you&nbsp;throw a pebble into a big lake you don't see anything. That is like the bigger countries. So everything that happens here has much more visual impact than in other countries and when all of a sudden you get lots of tourists, even if it doesn’t compare to other countries in numbers, it’s a lot compared to how many would come before to Iceland. That’s what’s happening and it’s actually creating a bit of a bubble in property.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">Then we've got the mackerel coming in, and that is also making us more affluent, but at the same time, because of the way the tax havens are used by the so-called one percenters of&nbsp;Iceland, and the way we have allowed big corporations, like aluminium giant Alcoa, to abuse a loophole in the laws and not pay any taxes, it means we don't get&nbsp;our fair share from&nbsp;collective resources like fish and energy, and that means our healthcare&nbsp;and our education system and the roads are all crumbling even though we're&nbsp;prosperous. So one has to question the masters who calculate everything, that calculate what is a prosperous country and what is not, on which values that is being calculated.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>So within that&nbsp;</em><em>context, </em><em>what has been the journey of the Pirates, from essentially a protest group to&nbsp;an organisation very close to forming government?</em></p><p class="Default"><strong>BJ:</strong> Well, it's so wild, all of it. None of us expected to be in a position of having so much trust from people in our society when we founded the party. Our main focus was to continue with the work, facilitating direct democracy and to really bring awareness about the importance of human rights and the cyber. We've just been lucky with the people that got into parliament. We were only 3. But we still managed to do lots of stuff. Eventually, people started to say we will vote for the Pirates because we can't trust any of the other parties.&nbsp;And then we started to get all these people that wanted to join us. All of a sudden we went from just having a few volunteers to, you&nbsp;know, hundreds of people that wanted to be part of it.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>This was before the Panama Papers?</em></p> <p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>Yes.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>So what was driving that?</em></p> <p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>Okay, that was really interesting. You can see if you look at the curves where we started to go up in the polls. We were usually around 10% in the polls, and then all of a sudden we started to go up and it just goes up and up and up and up until like 30-something, and that was the day the foreign affairs minister decided to bypass not only the nation, but also the parliament. The governmental parties had promised a national referendum to find out whether the nation wanted to carry on with the EU application or not. He [the Foreign Affairs minister] had tried to take it into the parliament, but his attempt was not very successful. He felt that he would draw too much attention to the issue, I don't know. It was just very weird, the behaviour of the government and how they tried to justify this bypass of parliament and the nation, so he just went on his own to Brussels to say we are no longer applying. And that created a lot of fury. And that also raised people's awareness to the fact that if we had actually had our new, crowd-sourced constitution, he could not have done this without consulting with the nation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We want to draw on the wisdom of the masses.</p> <p class="Default">The Pirate Party doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. We have been very clear that we want to draw on the wisdom of the masses. And we want to make sure the general public has access to information, so that they are better equipped to make informed decisions. I think this is critical. If you campaign for direct democracy, then you have to make sure that you have an independent institution that actually provides non-biased information, that drafts the questions. There is so much we can learn from Brexit because that entire campaign was allowed to run its course with all this false information&nbsp;and there seemed to be no way to provide a factual critical mass awareness about what the EU was. It was scary. You were reading the news the day after and there were all these people going to Google to search for ‘What is the EU?’. So people were not making an informed decision.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>Can you talk me through the&nbsp;proposed new&nbsp;constitution? What is this new constitution that the pirates are going to bring into effect?</em></p> <p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>In the wake of the crisis, there were four demands, and everybody knows about three of them. One was that the government would resign. One was that the central bank managers would resign. The third was that the financial regulatory board would resign, and the fourth one was that we would get a new constitution. The current constitution is a draft that the Danish king gave Icelanders when we got independence from Denmark in1944, and it was always a draft, and based on the Danish Kingdom. That 's why we have a president that is like a monarch rather than like the US president. The parliament has tried to change this for 70 years but it's not been capable of doing it, because when you have people in power taking and making decisions about diminishing their power, of course it's impossible.</p> <p class="Default">So there was this demand that the nation would get to write it's own constitution. This of course had been in the debate for many years but it came very strong to the surface in the wake of the crisis. And so the newly elected government put it into process. First, there was actually an NGO that had a meeting where a thousand people were invited to come and talk about the values that they wanted to have in a constitution. Then there was another meeting where people were randomly selected from our national registry. One thousand people from all over&nbsp;Iceland came and had a cafe-style debate about what they felt had to be in the new constitution. And then all of this data was taken to the other special committee, and they put together two different scenarios that were later handed to the constitutional parliament.</p> <p class="Default">Anybody could run to become a member of the constitutional parliament. We had 5012 people running, so many normal people that were just passionate about our constitutional rights. Everybody thought that it would just be academics but it wasn’t. And so, in four months, they drafted this new constitution that was then handed over to the parliament. Parliament took it to a referendum that was similar to Brexit, a non-binding referendum because we don't have binding referendums yet. (We will once we have this new constitution.)&nbsp;The majority of Icelanders said yes, we want this draft to be the backbone of our new&nbsp;constitution. Then we had it for a year in the parliament and in the last days it was obvious that the government did not have the majority to take it through and they caved in, and we still don't have it.</p> <p class="Default">In March last year, when we started to go up in the polls, I said in a widely broadcasted news hour that I wanted to challenge other parties, that we would put this as the first bill of a new parliament and the parties that would be willing to do this should form some sort of coalition. I said that we should start to work together on a plan so that people could know what they're getting in the next elections. Because I really think it is important whenever you are trying to normalise something that you have to start to talk about it at times when it still seems weird. I had already gotten answers from all the&nbsp;party leaders and they had said they are willing to look into it and now we are having negotiations before the elections about putting this as the first bill.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">This is a massively inclusive new approach to running Iceland.</p> <p class="Default">There are so many brilliant new things in this new constitution. If 2% of Icelanders put forward a request to put an item into process in the parliament, they can. It will be a constitutional right. If 10% of Icelanders request or put forward a demand to put a bill on the agenda, the parliament has to do it. Parliament could put their own bill up against it, but then it would have to go to a referendum. This is a massively inclusive new approach to running Iceland and of course there are provisions in it about net neutrality, freedom of information, the constitutional right of a nation to benefit from the profit of our natural resources.&nbsp;It's probably not perfect, nothing's perfect. But if there are errors in it, then fine. they can be fixed later.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>Can you tell me more&nbsp;about&nbsp;what you mean by direct&nbsp;democracy?</em></p><p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>Direct democracy is just accessibility of the general public to have influence on bills, to draft policies, to have the ability to, for example, recall representatives who are shown to have been unethical, or done something that people are outraged with. They have that in California, in Canada I think. We still have two ministers in Iceland that had accounts in the Cayman Islands: the tax minister and the interior minister, the minister for justice. There was no way for us to fire them.</p> <p class="Default">There are many different forms of direct democracy. You can have direct democracy in your community which I think is very important, and I often say to people, when we're talking about democracy, do you know your neighbour? If you don’t, all direct democracy and community&nbsp;building starts in your neighbourhood, so why don't you go over and say hi, and introduce yourself, as an exercise in direct democracy – because it's not only about us versus the system. The system is really us. They system is a reflection of who we are.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Democracy is work. It's sort of insane to think that 63 people can fix everything.</p> <p class="Default">John Lennon was talking about this in an interview a long, long time ago, around the campaign, “War is over”<em>. </em>He basically said, war is over, if you want it, not if they want it. If I want it, the war is over. He was talking about this tendency of looking at governments, you know, big daddy, and you can blame father if everything goes wrong instead of starting to take on the responsibility that comes with living in a democracy. Democracy is work. It's sort of insane to think that 63 people can fix everything.</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>You've outlined that actually it was the government U-turn on EU membership coupled with the work that you had been doing on the new constitution that led to&nbsp;your rise. Actually once the&nbsp;Panama Papers revelations were out there and that protest&nbsp;movement was mobilised,&nbsp;actually your popularity began to drop. As of one or two weeks ago, the ruling In</em><em>depend</em><em>ence party pulled back against you in the polls. It's still very much in the balance. In terms of the narrative that I think is out there, I think many people think that the Panama Papers revelation was synonymous with the rise of the Pirate&nbsp;Party. What happened actually?</em></p> <p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>We don't know. We actually started to go down in the polls around the Panama Papers and I think that's when people realised&nbsp;that there might have to be elections soon and maybe they feel&nbsp;uncomfortable that we are inexperienced, that we don't have friends in high places. I’ve told people that exactly because we are inexperienced, it gives us the ability to recognise that ourselves, so that we are better prepared. I don't think any party has put as much effort into preparing itself for service at a governance level, and no other party has as many international connections with experts in modernising society and dealing with corruption. Iceland has a lot of friends from all over because&nbsp;many people think of us as a kind of&nbsp;democracy laboratorium. You know, it is difficult, we have not been able to get any clear answers about either our popularity’s rise or fall. I don't know.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>I've heard 2 main charges.&nbsp;One is on the economy, nobody knows what you're going to do on the&nbsp;</em><em>economy.</em><em>&nbsp;And obviously most elections, in most&nbsp;democracies, are ultimately decided on that one issue. The other is that I mean there's kind of a mixed picture. On the one hand you talk about&nbsp;the extreme activity of the three MPs but I also hear from, albeit from members of the Independence Party, that actually in the parliament, when it came to most things, you didn't vote.&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>That's complete bollocks. The fact is that the parliament is constructed around bigger parties and this is something I have tried to change in the parliament in the nearly 8 years that I've been there. But they have never been willing, and particularly this government, to take into account that we are only 3 and that means that we can't cover all committees.</p> <p class="Default">So on the issues that we were elected to look after, we have really gone all in, and we managed to stop a very dangerous law&nbsp;on student&nbsp;loans because our MP just really dug into it and got all the data and made the data available to the general public. Eventually it made all the others who were fighting against it more confident in their speeches, and she had just entered the parliament. There is no way we can make ourselves informed about everything. We have had to prioritise. I totally trust the left-greens when it comes to environmental issues. I trust both them and the social democrats when it comes to welfare issues. When it came to the bill on agricultural change, we didn't know who to trust and we didn't have a policy. It was being made, but we didn't know who to trust and we couldn't put a person into the committee because that person was working&nbsp;on the immigration bill which we felt was more important because we had done a lot of work on it and we knew it.</p> <p class="Default">So when they say this, if you look at the record of their MPs and how many times they come and show up or vote then you notice that most of them are hardly there. They're just like the MPs and Lords that never show up in your palace, you know, what is it called... the Westminster.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default"><strong>AG: </strong><em>Westminster Palace.&nbsp;</em></p> <p class="Default"><strong>BJ: </strong>Exactly. (laughs) When it comes to the finance stuff I mean it's like, we're very clear, we don't want to be messing too much with moving taxes up and down yet again because it is really bad for small and medium sized companies when you are constantly shifting and changing taxes with VAT. This is something that they are always doing. You have the left-coalition and then you have the right-coalitions and they're always messing with basic little things that are very heavy on people with little companies, so we rather want to go and change the fisheries system, so that we can get more money for the fish so that we can actually resurrect the health-care sector.</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/phil-england/rebuilding-democracy-in-iceland-interview-with-birgitta-jonsdottir">Rebuilding democracy in Iceland: an interview with Birgitta Jonsdottir</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/phil-england/iceland-pirate-party-birgitta-jonsdottir">Preparing for power: Can Iceland&#039;s Pirate Party change system from the inside? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/phil-england/changing-way-politics-works-interview-with-katrin-oddsdottir">Changing the way politics works: an interview with Katrin Oddsdottir</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"> Iceland </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> <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> Iceland Civil society Democracy and government Team Syntegrity Birgitta Jónsdóttir Ashish Ghadiali Fri, 28 Oct 2016 23:03:14 +0000 Ashish Ghadiali and Birgitta Jónsdóttir 106320 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Portrait of the artist and The Confession, Part One https://www.opendemocracy.net/rosemary-bechler-ashish-ghadiali/portrait-of-artist-and-confession-part-one <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">An interview with the director of <a href="http://theconfessionfilm.com">The Confession</a>, Moazzam Begg’s story commissioned by BBC Storyville and the BFI - one of the most resonant modern stories for our times.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/CpmiUSdWEAE1ZDr.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/CpmiUSdWEAE1ZDr.jpg" 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'>Ashish Ghadiali,Tariq Ramadan and Moazzam Begg in studio conversation about 'The Confession', 2016. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rosemary Bechler (RB): This summer you have been on tour around Britain with showings of your documentary film, </em><a href="http://theconfessionfilm.com/">The Confession</a>, <em>followed by studio chats with Moazzam Begg – what drew you to this man and this process?</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish Ghadiali (Ashish)</strong>: I set out to make a cinematic documentary. I felt it was important to get this story and this character into a space where it wasn’t being cut down to 10-second soundbites. </p> <p class="Body">When I asked Moazzam if he would be interested in participating in this project, I said to him that my sense was that although he was ubiquitous, he had become a kind of cardboard cut-out within the framework of contemporary media, someone who was wheeled on to represent a point of view that was already pre-packaged and formulated. </p> <p class="Body">I thought it was important to give space to the experience and to the humanity of the man in order to understand better what I think has been a cultural shift in Britain and around the world, under the heading of the ‘war on terror’. <span class="mag-quote-center">It was important to… understand better what I think has been a cultural shift in Britain and around the world, under the heading of the ‘war on terror’.&nbsp; </span></p><p class="Body"><em><strong>RB:</strong> Is that something that has concerned you for a long time, Ashish?</em></p> <p><strong>Ashish:</strong> Yes, instantly. Because my life changed, maybe slowly from 9/11 to 7/7, but there was a sense of something in the air. After the July 2005 terror attacks, I was suddenly being stopped and searched maybe once, maybe twice on the way to work, and that was upsetting because it was very clearly racial profiling. I would go into work in situations where I was the only non-white person in the room, and express that feeling of different treatment, and find that there was often sympathy, but often something less than sympathetic, a sort of growing sense that maybe it was OK that extra precautions were being taken, and that it wasn’t the end of the world, was it? People were scared, and they thought it was an understandable reaction. I too understood all of that. But it was a rupture in my own sense of identity.</p><p>There I was, a very confident British citizen, being asked by my Oxbridge-educated peers, people with ambitions to be the establishment, to get my head around accepting this different sort of treatment. With that acceptance, of course, they were entering a different way of thinking that basically denies my equality. I reacted really strongly. I was working in television at the time and my job was to develop ideas within factual entertainment and I was the only brown face in the team. For me it became essential that we now started to reflect on these issues that were going on, on the ground. The idea that this experience was my niche experience and not part of our collective experience was damaging. </p><p class="Body">Up until that point British multiculturalism was something that we were proud of. This was before Trevor Phillips, who was made Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, became a pioneer of the shakedown. I was close to that whole thing. I used to work for one of his close friends, the company that made the recent Trevor Phillips film about ‘what British Muslims really think’. At the time, I remember his criticism of multiculturalism seemed outrageous, the ambition of someone trying to work his way deeper into the establishment. But it didn’t feel threatening. It didn’t seem to threaten my multiculturalism, which was simply hegemonic.</p> <p class="Body">After 7/7, however, one instantly entered a different world, of living in someone else’s paranoia. I tried to push that experience through within my work and it was immediately bounced back at me as being ‘niche’. Token efforts not to shut it down would quickly descend into farce. The closest I did get to expressing anything on the subject, I remember, was talking to an Evening Standard reporter about it outside Whitechapel tube station on the way to work. That ended up with a photo of me in the paper and a strapline saying, “I feel like a pariah” – which then became a running joke.&nbsp; The response in the workplace was to get that, and stick it up on the wall! All in all, the experience of that time made me distrust the media establishment as a place where I would be able to express my voice. <span class="mag-quote-center">The idea that this experience was my niche experience and not part of our collective experience was damaging.</span></p> <p class="Body">At this point, one has to foreground the fact that the BBC commissioned this film, <em>The Confession</em>. It would not have got off the ground had it not been for them!</p> <p class="Body">But in 2005 I quit my job in TV and left the UK, because of my very strong reaction to this. By chance, in between the two terrorist attacks I went on a holiday to India and there was another terrorist attack there. But nobody suspected me of being part of the problem in India. </p> <p class="Body">So up till then I had been speaking about this issue of race in optimistic terms – that is for 25 years – as a British Asian. It had always seemed to me that my identity was something that the culture embraced, as represented in the novels of Hanif Kuresihi or Zadie Smith, the works of Talvin Singh or Nitin Sawney. This was something I was very confident about – despite the fact that there had always been a whisper that says, “You are not the same as the white majority and they don’t think of you as the same.” But up till then it was not a voice I gave much time to. All of a sudden it was a takeover, a wakeup call, you know! It’s time to think about race – it really is time for me to understand myself through the lens of race. <span class="mag-quote-center">It filled me with a great desire to understand the experience of non-white people in the world.</span></p> <p class="Body">And it filled me with a great desire to understand the experience of non-white people in the world. There are many borders dividing them and it is a fragmented world, but it is one in which I can sit in a tourist site in Iran and until I speak, people are convinced that I am Iranian. In Egypt or Palestine, Singapore&nbsp; or India, it is the same. For ten years my experience was across all of those spaces, and I really needed that to build up a new rooted sense of self. That is what I had to do at the time. </p> <p class="Body">To be honest, it was probably an artist’s journey, in search of identity, much in the same terms that Moazzam Begg frames his story about travelling out across the Islamic world in quest of <em>his</em> own identity as a Muslim. And there were mirrors of the same sort of quest undertaken by relatively privileged people that I read along the way. </p> <p class="Body">At some point along that journey, I wasn’t sure if I was coming back to the UK. I could see the way that things were turning&nbsp; – like the concerted declaration of the failure of multiculturalism – that didn’t fill me with any sense that something good was going to come out of all this. The reports from back home were of the rise of the EDL, of UKIP’s progress across England, and I was thinking about the ongoing legacy of colonialism and wondering about an authentic way of living in the world.</p> <p class="Body">I went to film school in Singapore for three years and then I started looking around for opportunities. It was about economic opportunity as much as anything, and ambition, wanting to make the films I wanted to make, and looking around for a place to make those films where I wasn’t ‘niche’.</p> <p class="Body">I worked in Bollywood for a year. I set up a film unit in Jenin refugee camp. I was a peripatetic screenwriter for a while living between Berlin and the south of Italy and working on commissions for an Austrian producer, so there were various experiments. <span class="mag-quote-center">Eventually I came to the realization that I was longing for Britain, wet weather, Derbyshire where I grew up.</span></p> <p class="Body">Eventually I came to the realization that I was longing for Britain, wet weather, Derbyshire where I grew up. So in the year before I started this project with Moazzam Begg, I ended up living in the house that I grew up in and clearing it out, clearing out thirty years of ‘stuff’, and realizing how much more polarized things had become, how deeply undermined the language of multiculturalism had been, how real the rise of UKIP was. We didn’t know that Brexit was imminent, but we did know that there had been a material change.</p> <p class="Body">One thing that really did that for me was the 2012 Jubilee! Suddenly I lived in Royalist Central. That had never been the case previously – so much fanfare and flag-waving took place that summer. I felt kind of removed from it. But as I was really trying to understand that question of identity, it also became absolutely clear to me that Britain <em>was </em>my home, and that multiculturalism wasn’t just an idea, but a lived reality for all of us. Our ability or inability to digest that is very much the battleground of the twenty-first century.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">It became very, very clear to me that my role, my artistic journey, demanded of me that my voice express that reality. And that actually if you looked at it with a long lens – that little blip – you know, Robin Cook’s <em>chicken tikka masala</em> moment, switched off by Cameron’s ‘failure of multiculturalism’, is simply not the story. <span class="mag-quote-center">Our ability or inability to digest diversity is very much the battleground of the twenty-first century.&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="Body">The story is ultimately the story of human history, and the migrations of the twentieth century are really only the seeds of a new way of living collectively, that must emerge. But the culture for that process hasn’t yet been created, and that is our job.</p> <p class="Body"><em><strong>RB:</strong> I have been talking to Nando Sigona from Birmingham University about </em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/Can-europe-make-it/nando-sigona-rosemary-bechler/on-superdiversity-in-crisis-mood">superdiversity</a><em> in the UK and everywhere else. It seems remarkable, given the rapidly evolving levels of mixture by no means confined to London, that we are so in denial, and trapped by an ascendant, monocultural National Us.</em></p> <p class="Body"><strong>Ashish: </strong>There is a direct line, I think, from the rhetoric of ‘integration’ to the bombing of civilians in Syria. That kind of liberal interventionist muscle comes from the same place as that call for ‘integration’ meaning assimilation. Nobody calls for the ‘integration’ of Etonian Cabinet ministers – they should do! – but the sheer arrogance of that call for you to ‘integrate’ with me – this is obviously not a viable offer, and so it is always going to be disappointed, and so the result is always going to be violence. </p> <p class="Body">Anyway, I spent that year in the house of my childhood, and in the summer of 2014, at exactly the same time, ISIS conquered Mosul. Videos started to appear of British foreign fighters in the Middle East and a new wave of hysteria rose up. And I had a different lens on it. I was now engaging with the media as a construct and not as my reality.</p> <p class="Body">Let’s be clear, the war on terror was an utter failure. Terrorism is a much much greater problem now than it was in 2001, and there is a fairly clear line of causality running from the responses of the American and the British governments to the roots of the terrorism on the ascendant now. Why this is, is a difficult thing to talk about, because we live in an era of epic secrecy. We don’t know. And it is very important not to be mistaken for a conspiracy theorist when dealing with this material. But it is also really important to my bigger project that I don’t want more polarisation. I want more collective thinking and more rationality. <span class="mag-quote-center">Nobody calls for the ‘integration’ of Etonian Cabinet ministers – they should do!</span></p> <p class="Body">So there are two ways of looking at it. There is the great conspiracy theory that a bunch of neocons sat around and realised that if they go for the oil, create chaos in the Middle East, then that is basically an opportunity to consolidate the military industrial complex and dominate the twenty first century.</p> <p class="Body">There is a second way of looking at it, which is that in a unipolar world, asymmetrical warfare was always likely to escalate as a strategy, and that you are dealing at some level with consciousness, and degrees of consciousness. </p> <p class="Body">On the project I was working on in the Jenin refugee camp where I lived, the idea was to give an opportunity for self-expression and voice to a community that had been devastated by the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, which was, at the time, the location of the highest concentration of suicide bombers in the world. </p> <p class="Body">In a place like that, what is it that appears to a young teenage boy living in those conditions as a political act ? What it is might be entirely counter-productive. It might sow the seeds for the total decimation of his people, of his way of life, and it might feed into the spectacle that counter-insurgency requires to justify its own excesses. </p> <p class="Body">But the fear that comes from terrorism, while it is also manufactured, is also real. And so it simply leads to a process of escalation. This account says that there is no great mind behind it all. But that what we are witnessing is actually a failure of mind.</p> <p class="Body">So my conclusion is this. Let’s assume the latter. Because the problem with the war on terror and the problem that it has made dominant, is that too many people make unfounded accusations, accusations not founded in evidence. <span class="mag-quote-center">I was now engaging with the media as a construct and not as my reality.</span></p> <p class="Body">Let’s assume it is the latter and that one thing has led to another and is spiralling out of control. What do we as concerned citizens need to worry about? What is the course of action that we need to start pursuing ? </p> <p class="Body">To my mind what we need to address is that this is leading towards the destruction of our civil liberties and our basic freedoms, and the rise of a new authoritarianism that is increasingly taking over aspects of western democracy, Donald Trump not being the least of these threats. </p> <p class="Body">That new authoritarianism is seeking in all kinds of ways to limit the space for political oppositional forms, whether it is through trade unions, forms of freedom of expression in schools or universities, whether it is the right of health workers to maintain the confidence of their patients, or social workers to maintain the confidence of their clients. All of these aspects of civilization as we know it are up for grabs at the moment. </p> <p class="Body">And so the rational attitude that I feel we need much more of now is just to look at that and say – OK, well, first of all, is this what we want? I believe that the majority of British citizens don’t want to live in a world where they are less free. That this is not the arc that is desired for the twenty first century. So, then we must ask, what is the narrative that has been driving this? And why? And I think art might be a key protagonist in all this. </p> <p class="Body"><em>Next week: Moazzam Begg and </em>The Confession.</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="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/moazzam-begg-and-confession-part-two">Moazzam Begg and The Confession, Part Two.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-thomas-ted-cantle/prevent-and-antiextremism-education">Prevent and anti-extremism education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-mills-narzanin-massoumi-david-miller/apologists-for-terror-or-defenders-of-human-righ">Apologists for terror or defenders of human rights? The Cage controversy in context</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/victoria-brittain/dangerous-game-reply-to-gita-sahgal-and-her-supporters">Dangerous game: a reply to Gita Sahgal and her supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-institutions_government/moazzam_begg_3328.jsp">Guantánamo and back: an interview with Moazzam Begg</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/democracy-and-belonging">Democracy and belonging </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</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"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <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? North-Africa West-Asia uk EU Syria Iraq UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Ashish Ghadiali Sun, 23 Oct 2016 10:48:46 +0000 Ashish Ghadiali and Rosemary Bechler 106158 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Think Project, Brexit and the urgent need for better citizenship education https://www.opendemocracy.net/rocio-cifuentes/think-project-brexit-and-urgent-need-for-better-citizenship-education <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Think Project in Wales, born from a project to combat home-grown Islamic extremism, demonstrates that open discussion can effectively draw at-risk youth away from far-right ideologies as well.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/PA-7708644_920.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">A man watches anti-fascist protesters at the British National Party's Red, White and Blue festival in Codnor, Derbyshire, in 2009. Rui Vieira/Press Association. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The recent momentous decision by the majority of the voting UK population to leave the EU was shocking, but, in retrospect, not surprising. It is now glaringly obvious that too many people for too long have been without prospects, without education and without hope. For these people, the benefits of the EU – including the possibility to live and work in one of 27 countries, or the many jobs it funded, were simply never considered as relevant or accessible to them. The imagined disadvantages however – of too many immigrants, and EU bureaucracy – were shouted out to them daily for more than a decade through the populist mainstream media, and legitimised more recently by opportunist mainstream politicians anxious to seem in touch with their concerns.</p> <p>Indeed Brexit is just a moment on a journey which arguably began after the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11 and London on 7/7. This is when historical dichotomies of east vs west and narratives of anti-Islam were energetically revived, quickly evolving into anti-anyone-who-looks-Muslim as we saw with the mistaken killing of the Brazilian Jean DeMenezes on the London underground. The global financial crash and acceleration of austerity measures in the UK offered the perfect storm in which foreigners, asylum seekers and Muslims could all be blamed for ‘taking all the jobs and all the houses’. </p> <h2>Preventing extremism with dialogue</h2> <p>In this UK context of increasing racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, the Ethnic Youth Support Team – a charity established in 2005 to support young ethnic minorities living in Wales – saw a need to do something more practical than simply support victims of, or condemn or report racist hate crime. We knew from our experience delivering projects to address Islamist extremism that young people’s resilience can be increased by simply allowing them to air their grievances and concerns in a safe and respectful environment, coupled with giving them facts and ideas to counter extremist narratives. We also knew, from 10 years of working with a wide range of young people that, given the time, space and opportunity, most have a huge capacity to learn and to change. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">I’ve always been a bit racist, I’m not gonna lie, but this project has changed the way I look at things, I see everything completely differently now – it’s changed my life.</p> <p>Consequently, we developed the ‘Think Project’ – a practical educational programme designed to engage with and educate the most ‘disadvantaged’ young people. These are arguably those most vulnerable to far-right messages, and they include those excluded from mainstream schools in alternative education, and those in the youth offending system, youth prisons, and so on. It was designed as a three-day educational programme giving young people the truth about immigration, about asylum and about Muslims, and changing their views on these issues for the better.</p> <p>Delivered by ethnically diverse and engaging youth workers, its uniqueness stems from the fact that it combines facts about immigration, Islam and asylum, with a positive first-hand experience of diversity. Also central to its success is its emphasis on open dialogue and debate, allowing young people to say openly how they really feel about migration and Muslims, before those views can be debated and challenged.</p> <h2>The proof of the pudding is in the eating</h2> <p>Following a successful pilot, the Think Project was funded by the Big Lottery Innovation Fund, and between 2012 and 2015 438 young people completed the three-day programme. The project’s formal evaluation found a 95% success rate in radically changing young people’s views from being anti to pro-diversity. As one young man from Merthyr Tydfil said: “I’ve always been a bit racist, I’m not gonna lie, but this project has changed the way I look at things, I see everything completely differently now – it’s changed my life”. </p> <p>What stood out was the degree of misconception surrounding the issues of immigration, asylum and Islam. At the beginning of the programme, 96% of young people did not know what an asylum seeker was, and those who tried to define it understood it as ‘someone who comes here to take our jobs and benefits’. By the end 83% did know what the term meant, and could link it to the human right to be offered sanctuary from war and persecution. One of the most valued parts of the programme, which was mentioned repeatedly by project participants, was the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand the experiences of someone who had sought asylum in the UK, which they said was something they would never forget. </p> <p>Crucially, and illuminatingly in light of the Brexit decision, the vast majority of young people grossly overestimated the number of people from a different ethnic background to themselves living in Wales – over half of the young participants estimated that this was more than 50%, and about a quarter thought it was over 75%. By the end of the programme 89% correctly put the figure at under 10%. Distorted perceptions of reality chime perfectly with the message of the Brexiteers; the UK is being over-run with immigrants, who are here to take jobs, houses and benefits, and that we are indeed at a ‘breaking point’. However, our programme shows that given the opportunity to learn the facts, and given a positive first-hand experience of meeting and talking to Muslims and refugees, all this can be changed, making these young people significantly more resilient to the messages and ideology of far-right extremists. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Our programme shows that given the opportunity to learn the facts, and given a positive first-hand experience of meeting and talking to Muslims and refugees, young people can become significantly more resilient to the messages and ideology of far-right extremists.</p> <p>The shame is not that the popular press has been allowed to peddle these myths and misrepresentations for so many years, nor that opportunist politicians have capitalised and exploited these stereotypes, turning vulnerable groups into scapegoats for austerity. No, the greatest shame has been that educational institutions, charged with giving young people the tools to become positive and active contributors to society, have failed to give such a large proportion of young people a clear understanding some of the biggest issues and challenges facing contemporary societies. And of course there have been personal tragedies and victims along the way, including most recently the murder of MP Jo Cox at the hands of a far-right terrorist. If we are to avoid more tragic murders, we need to stop such home grown terrorism in its tracks, and prevent it from taking root in the minds and hearts of our young people.</p> <p>Citizenship, diversity and democracy all need to become core parts of the national curriculum taught to all young people at every stage of their education. However this should not be the preserve of the high-flying elite. Such programmes rather need to reach out in a more targeted and proactive way to those young people who arguably need it the most, including those who miss out on mainstream schooling, and whose life prospects are limited due to other complex factors linked to poverty and deprivation. </p> <p>There are much wider challenges involved in addressing the entrenched and inter-generational poverty facing many young people today, and it is no wonder that many feel aggrieved. However, it is essential that schools and educational institutions in particular work proactively to counter and challenge the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim narratives which have been enjoying a resurgence in the UK and across Europe in recent years, and equip young people to question and critique the media, politicians and extremist groups. </p> <p><a href="http://www.thinkproject.org.uk/">The Think Project</a> is one example of such an approach which has been shown to be effective.</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="https://opendemocracy.net/brexit2016">oD's complete Brexit coverage</a></p><hr /><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope">Mediterranean Journeys in Hope</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="font-size:120%;font-weight:bold;"><span style="color:#20518b;">Cities of Welcome,</span><span style="color:#dfe452;"> Cities of Transit</span></p><p>Rocio Cifuentes will be speaking at the 'Cities of Welcome, Cities of Transit' conference, to be held on 14-15 July in Barcelona. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/info/cities-of-welcome">More information...</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/rocio-cifuentes/new-way-of-challenging-racism-and-farright-ideas-in-young-people">A new way of challenging racism and far-right ideas in young people</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rocio-cifuentes/so-is-it-refugee-crisis">So, is it a refugee crisis?</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"> Wales </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? Wales Education for democracy Brexit Team Syntegrity Build Bridges Rocio Cifuentes Fri, 08 Jul 2016 10:07:11 +0000 Rocio Cifuentes 103739 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An open letter to #NuitDebout from the Indignados’ districts of the internet https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/simona-levi/open-letter-to-nuitdebout-from-indignados-districts-of-internet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This open letter is against the manipulation of 'new ' parties. Let's be radical, demand what's possible. <em><strong><a href="http://back.ctxt.es/es/20160511/Firmas/6012/15M-NuitDebout-Izquierda-Unida-Podemos-Espa%C3%B1a-Tribunas-y-Debates-Cincoa%C3%B1osdel15M.htm">Español</a>. <a href="https://blogs.mediapart.fr/joboussion/blog/140516/lettre-ouverte-aux-nuitdebout-depuis-les-quartiers-dinternet-des-indignados">Francais</a>.<br /></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Dear citizens of #NuitDebout, </p> <p>Having witnessed the way in which they try to manipulate you and the inaccuracies of the media about our experience here in Spain, I’ve decided to write to you. </p><p>The news about your struggle is being distorted by the media before it reaches us in exactly the same way as during the 15M movement, and as it usually is with all r-evolutions.&nbsp; I’m writing to offer some notes that I’ve picked up along the way of my experience, with the hope that it might be useful to avoid the pitfalls that we fell into and that they could help taking your movement further than we managed to go. </p> <p>I'd like to talk about what lessons people took away from our experience in Spain.&nbsp; I’m sure that your opinion will have been tainted somewhat by the omnipresent image of Podemos.&nbsp; Clearly, Podemos should not be an objective: nor should it be an example to follow.&nbsp; Podemos does not represent the transformation that 15M symbolised, despite co-opting ideas from the experience.&nbsp; Not only is Podemos not something to strive for, it is the worst possible outcome for the Indignados movement and for 15M.&nbsp; </p> <p>And you shouldn’t be surprised that it isn’t an example: the majority of its founders weren’t in the squares when 15M took place and have no idea what was really happening. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/19802209995_6a293f41bd_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/19802209995_6a293f41bd_z.jpg" 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'>15-M, May, 2011.Flickr/InnMotion Simona Levi. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Sooner or later, it’s inevitable that a good number of you will come to the conclusion that we need to take over the institutions, and not in the sense of becoming a part of them, but of being capable, as citizens, to govern ourselves.</p> <p>No doubt, we can’t govern ourselves from the squares of cities and towns, and, at the same time we can’t leave the structures and the money that is used to manage all of our lives, from our jobs to housing, as well as common resources such as schools, hospitals, energy, security, infrastructure, and more, in the hands of the system.</p> <p>For this reason, sooner or later, inevitably, there will have to be a conversation about which devices will have to be organised to take over positions of power, and who should manage them. </p> <p>The strength of r-evolutions like #NuitDebout or 15M lies in: </p> <p>(1) decentralization and a distributed leadership according to expertise, not according to media visibility; these new ways of organising will overcome the limits of the horizontal governance of assemblies and will transform into networks.</p> <p>(2) Our abilities, well above those of the institutions and political parties, to resolve specific problems with specific solutions that are derived from the specific experiences and expertise of each of us, and not from ideologies.&nbsp; It’s about &nbsp;collaboration between people with different skills and abilities, not about merging under a single banner or a unique trade mark. The strength of a federation based on diversity. </p> <p>(3) Shared responsibility: we want grown-up, adult societies that don’t need a parental figure whose proclamations are fanatically observed, or in the same vein, a leader for whom we are the critical current, and who we legitimise ‘democratically’ through our disagreements.&nbsp; </p> <p>We’ve already got that; we’re already the critical current of a system that doesn’t work.&nbsp; </p> <p>We, citizens, organised in groups by our abilities, interests and expertise, we can direct the governance of our lives together.</p> <p>In summary: - Decentralisation – Federation – No unification – Diversity – No uniformity - Responsibility</p> <p>What structures such as Podemos are seeking is nothing new: to co-opt our collective efforts so that they can control the reins of power and send us home again. The dogmatic left has always done this; it’s nothing new.&nbsp; In Spain, PSOE (Socialist Workers’ Party) did so after the dictatorship, and then came Izquierda Unida (the United Left) in the ninety’s, and now it’s not only the CRS (police) that wants to send the Indignados home, Podemos does as well.</p> <p>It’s ok to leave the squares and to go to other places: to your neighbourhood, to the workplace, to the internet, to courtrooms, to Europe, or anywhere you must be to fight (we can’t stay in the squares forever after all); but we need to make sure that our fight does not go back home. In this sense, Podemos could do more harm than the CRS.</p> <p>In contrast, we can build leadership networks based on expertise (groups or nodes that focus on topics such as labour and renters' rights, education or economics), in which one of the nodes is responsible for institutions.&nbsp; This is the no-political-party way, the opposite of an all-encompassing structure. </p> <p>This means that a party is nothing more than one node amongst others, and as such it isn’t any more important than the others, and, above all, it doesn’t focus on issues that don’t fall within its scope.&nbsp; Political parties should only grant access to institutions for solutions designed by organised groups from civil society. </p> <p>These forms exist in Spain. The first, and my favourite because I helped to create it : ), is the X-Party (<a href="http://partidoX.org/">http://partidoX.org</a>), but working along the same lines are EnComú, which govern Barcelona, Marea in Galicia, CUP in Catalonia and more.</p> <p>These are devices, mechanisms, projects that propose to occupy institutions in the service of an active, organised and mobilised society that doesn’t have to surrender its identity, and which puts solutions into practice through governance.&nbsp; Without the false idea of digital participation (the opiate of the masses), but with the real participation of organised citizens on land, at sea and in the air, and, of course, online without any party mediation.</p> <p>Structures like Podemos are exactly the opposite of this, but they rise easily since the system adores them, and, when we radically apply pressure to a system, they are needed so that everything can go back to normal.&nbsp; Podemos doesn’t recognise any civil society group that hasn’t accepted “affiliation”.&nbsp; They erase the issues of unaffiliated groups and appropriate their work.&nbsp; The result, as you might expect, is more of the same: a r-evolutionary process that comes back into the system as a party -&gt; a party that simulates being a movement, but which is centralised, uniform and based on a lack of critical spirit and an ample, passive, and dependent majority. Nothing new, really. </p><p>For this reason, I think the only possible step forward for the struggles of new r-evolutions is the combination of groups, all working on the same level, which will dedicate themselves to opening institutions, and to nothing else, along with civil society groups organised to solve different problems.</p> <p>Despite the fact that Podemos has tried to silence all other voices with its constant and monolithic media presence (Podemos is basically a product of television), 15M/Indignados continues in Spain, in cities such as Barcelona, A Coruña, Madrid, and many others, where its members are working to insert permanent solutions, derived from civil society, into institutions for collective problems, through groups like PAH (Platform for Persons Affected by Mortgages), which works on housing, or 15MpaRato, which focuses on corruption.</p> <p>The effort is enormous because Podemos, and the idea of Podemos that has been created by the press, keeps public opinion from noticing that we are moving forward thanks to 15M: we’ve achieved new policies on housing, transparency, public debt, we’ve advanced on the issue of healthcare, and we’ve shaken up webs of institutional corruption.</p> <p>I’m writing you with the hope that you won’t allow a “Podemos” to steal your imagery and your actions only to once again bind them within the corsets of a magnificent leader and an adolescent citizenry.</p> <p>I wish you strength in your struggle - we haven’t finished yet but we’ll get 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="/geoffrey-pleyers/nuit-debout-citizens-are-back-in-squares-in-paris">« Nuit Debout » : citizens are back in the squares in Paris</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"> Spain </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? Can Europe make it? EU Spain Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Team Syntegrity Simona Levi Fri, 20 May 2016 22:06:37 +0000 Simona Levi 102280 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The capitalism tribunal https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/pavlos-georgiadis/capitalism-tribunal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At the 'Capitalism Tribunal' in Vienna, c<span style="line-height: 1.5;">itizens from across the world are invited to prosecute or defend capitalism. The charges are then transferred from the digital sphere to physical space, in a real trial.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/CapitalismTribunal.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/CapitalismTribunal.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The capitalism tribunal. Photo provided by author.</span></span></span><span>On the aftermath of the leaks related to the </span><a href="https://panamapapers.icij.org/">Panama Papers</a><span> and the </span><a href="https://ttip-leaks.org/">secretive TTIP negotiations</a><span>, an important dialogue is maturing in Europe, with respect to the past, the present and the future economy.</span></p> <p class="Default">Many voices are now openly challenge the Union’s neoliberal model, as they witness capitalism’s great unkept promise to make life better for everyone. The current political dynamic is fuelled by a sense that activities stemming of the current mainstream economic system, pose a direct threat to the survival of our and other species.</p> <p class="Default"><a href="http://capitalismtribunal.org/en">The Capitalism Tribunal</a>, that takes place in Vienna these days, is yet another sample of this dialogue, looking for answers to the critique against the system. It is a virtual, though fair and open tribunal, based on 250 charges submitted online since 1 May, 2015.</p> <p class="Default">Citizens from all over the world were invited to prosecute or defend capitalism. The charges are now transferred from the digital sphere to physical space, in a real trial. This first tribunal investigates cases against European capitalism related to labour, property, education, the media, institutions and the planet’s ecosystems.</p> <p class="Default">Can the economic system influencing the lives of billions of citizens be criminal? Is it guilty or innocent? Does it support or undermine healthy social progress?</p> <p class="Default">These are the questions that the jury is trying to answer, on the basis of a coherent methodology that examines several cases against legal entities (<em>ie. </em>a corporation of government body), individuals or a particular civil code. Two committees, one prosecuting and the one defending each charge, analyse and debate. An experienced judge presides over the tribunal, which will decide on the legitimacy of the charges.</p> <p class="Default">According to Alix Fassmann, who has co-organised the project, the tribunal is based on the assumption that the cases under examination are controlled by certain legal rules. “These are not just accusations, but we are trying to create a dialectic atmosphere to analyse case-specific arguments against and for capitalism. The verdict of this fair tribunal will attempt to better understand what should not be part of the future economic system”.</p> <p class="Default">The leader of the prosecution team, Hendrik Sodenkamp, claims that it is the very economic system of capitalism to be blamed, which stems from private property and aims to capitalise profits from anything. “The environmental destruction and the dire situation that millions of people are going through all over the world, are direct results of the economic system in which we are obliged to live”, Sodenkamp says. </p><p class="Default">While for Dr. Luis Klein, leader of the defence team, “by blaming everything on the economic system itself, we are risking to overshoot all the rest of factors that emerge after a deeper look in each of the cases we are analysing in this trial”.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Default">The first tribunal lasts 7 days. The court will issue its decision and, where the verdict constitutes guilt, will impose sanctions. Although these are not legally binding, the results will be published extensively, encouraging debate and promoting a much-needed policy debate on the future economy.</p> <p class="Default"><em>The Capitalism Tribunal is livestreamed online <a href="http://capitalismtribunal.org/en/pages/the-tribunal/livestream">here</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy-dawn-paley/is-capitalism-fuelling-war-on-drugs">Is capitalism fuelling the war on drugs?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opencitydocs/interview-harold-crooks">Havens of the one percent: a video interview with Harold Crooks</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"> Austria </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? Can Europe make it? Austria Team Syntegrity Pavlos Georgiadis Tue, 10 May 2016 17:13:18 +0000 Pavlos Georgiadis 101991 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The BBC is failing to ask the big questions about the EU referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/michael-chessum/bbc-is-failing-to-inspire-public-to-vote-in-eu-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain's public service broadcaster must do more to communicate this historic vote beyond the narrow agendas of the official campaigns.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/PA-26032405.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/PA-26032405.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"the cause of refugees and migrants should, by rights, be the great civil rights cause of our time". Image: Amel Emric / Press Association Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>The referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU may yet mark a new high in the detachment between voters and the political and media elite. While the nation’s institutions and political classes sharpen their arguments about the viability of export yields and sovereignty, the sentiment among the wider public around the campaign – an event which will shape Britain’s political landscape and place in the world for decades – remains flat and uninspired. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/02/eu-referendum-young-voters-brexit-leave">Barely half</a> of the 18-34 year olds say they are certain to vote. </p> <p>Watching Newsnight’s <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/eqbxj5/live/cdj38g" target="_blank">first special programme on the referendum</a> on Monday night, we were all reminded of why there is so much disenchantment in the referendum: the debate is politically narrow, and shrouded in a consciously constructed web of complexity. While we watched as Evan Davis was winched onto Sealand – the microstate on a concrete island in the English Channel – we were told that the main things we needed to understand were not competing narratives about society, but simply more facts from experts. So the BBC’s first flagship coverage of the referendum debate consisted of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc5HBrnCkJ4" target="_blank">a head-to-head </a>between Blairite Peter Mandelson and Tory Chris Grayling, and a panel of establishment figures – senior civil servants and lawyers – who held forth about EU trade legislation and the (never properly explained) jurisdictions of various courts.</p> <p>As with the mainstream media’s coverage of the general election, the basic underlying message is: this is complicated, only we can really understand what is happening, and you should vote for one side or another of the establishment position, on its terms – for the national interest, for competitiveness, for the ability to exploit foreign markets and labour. The mystification of important issues, and their reduction to a series of wrangles over detail, has always been a key method for the establishment to frame and reinforce its position. Tuesday's Newsnight coverage featured Ken Clarke and Daniel Hannan, two Conservatives, arguing about IMF growth forecasts.&nbsp; </p> <p>The problem for this version of political journalism is that it has already unravelled repeatedly in full public view. Twice last year, common sense administered from on high by the commentariat and political heavyweights did not match reality or the public will, and in the most spectacular style: first when a hung parliament failed to materialise and then when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour leader. Deep underneath British politics, among the general public, there is an insurgent force which the political and media elite does not understand. Lacking any sense of irony, this same elite insists at every juncture that the public cannot understand the EU referendum debate, wheeling out the very same roll call of centrist and right wing politicians to talk technicalities. </p> <p>The result is a hopelessly narrow discussion, in which most voters have no particular stake or sense of affinity with the protagonists or their ideas. When those on either side of the debate talk about what is best for the economy, they are really talking about what is good for the profits of a tiny elite. When they talk about global influence, they are really talking about the ability of the political elite to influence other political elites. Sovereignty is a moot point when both Westminster and Brussels are remote and unaccountable. Without breadth the debate lacks imagination: no-one is given air time to talk seriously about any democratisation of the EU’s institutions, or to propose alliances with fellow Europeans fighting austerity, tax avoision and poverty. </p> <p>There is no doubt as to which side of the referendum is being hurt most by this lack of imagination. In years gone by, restricting the terrain for debate, keeping sights aimed low, and focussing voters’ minds with the fear of the unknown might have been a competent strategy for protecting the status quo. Now, however, politics in Britain is characterised by an anti-establishment insurgency on both left and right. That mood – combined with the almost total lack of self-awareness from the business-dominated official Remain campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe – is making Brexit more likely with every passing day. The key demographics of the campaign – Labour voters, working class voters – are the most likely to back and anti-establishment, anti-status quo position; and young voters, overwhelmingly in favour of Remain but also largely progressive, might simply not show up. </p> <p>The left should regard the state of the EU debate with dismay and alarm. While the May elections are a pivotal moment for Jeremy Corbyn’s new Labour Party – and are worthy of a hard-fought ground campaign – the result of this referendum will define Britain for decades. A Brexit under these circumstances would be a mandate for political forces to the right of the current government, however populist and anti-establishment much of their rhetoric may be. Defeating that surge is, ultimately, a defensive battle – but it is one which will require us to formulate a clear understanding of what this referendum is about, and what kind of Europe we really want to see. </p> <p>While the media insists that the issue is complex, the crux of it is relatively simple: it is the culmination of a decades-long social and political process, which has seen a supposed immigration “problem” rise to the top of the political agenda, with all major parties attacking and demonising migrants. The referendum is taking place because a section of the British Right views EU membership as the core of a cosmopolitan, socially liberal modernity that needs to be expunged and replaced with fortress Britain. If Brexit happens, freedom of movement between Britain and most of Europe will be dead for a generation. To shape the debate, the left must own and champion migration, not as an economic issue but as a human one; the cause of refugees and migrants should, by rights, be the great civil rights cause of our time. </p> <p>Radical Remain campaigners – like <a href="http://www.anothereurope.org/" target="_blank">Another Europe is Possible</a> – have their work cut out. With almost no resources and little public attention, we will have to put life into the campaign. If the mainstream media wants its coverage to be more than a series jousting matches about trade law and economic growth targets, it might just have to give us some air time. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/niccol-milanese-marina-prentoulis-federico-campagna-ulrike-guerot-james-schneider">Talk Real London: &quot;Exit Europe?&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/mike-berry/british-are-dangerously-ill-informed-about-eu-referendum">The British are dangerously ill-informed about the EU referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/oliver-daddow/what-are-bbc-guidelines-on-eu-referendum">What are the BBC guidelines on the EU referendum?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/brexit-or-not-left-looks-skewered-content-and-process-of-blimey">Brexit or not, the left looks skewered</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> OurBeeb OurBeeb uk Brexit Brexit and the BBC Team Syntegrity Michael Chessum Thu, 14 Apr 2016 06:57:48 +0000 Michael Chessum 101333 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The ‘SYRIZA experience’: lessons and adaptations https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/andreas-karitzis/syriza-experience-lessons-and-adaptations-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>SYRIZA did what the traditional way of doing politics dictates: supported social movements, built alliances, won a majority in the parliament, formed a government. We all know the results.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/tsipras.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/tsipras.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexis Tsipras. Wikimedia. CC.</span></span></span></p><p>The impact of the strategic defeat of last year is still very strongly shaping various reactions within the Greek left. Some people seem content with superficial explanations of what happened and return to habitual ways of thinking and acting; others sense the strategic depth of the defeat and turn inwards to disappointment and demoralization. Still others are trying to learn from the “SYRIZA experience” in order to make themselves more useful to people in the future. All of us sense the dangers lurking in front of us but we are far from having a common and feasible strategy. </p> <p>In a situation like this, political priorities change and ‘novel’ tasks emerge. For example, people far beyond those affiliated with the traditional left are scattered and in disarray, but also full of energy, determination and skills. What should they do? Another urgent task is how to transmit the 'SYRIZA experience' abroad, facilitating the left in other countries in the fight against neoliberalism and increased hostility of the elites. ‘Novel’ tasks require a different mentality and operational qualities from the ones we used to deploy through traditional political action. </p> <p>But first we need: (i) a thorough understanding of the positive and negative aspects of the 'SYRIZA experience', and (ii) an open, bold and innovative process of arriving at the new conditions of doing politics. These are some preliminary thoughts in this direction. </p> <h2><strong>The failure</strong></h2> <p>SYRIZA failed to stop austerity and neoliberal transformation in Greece. One could argue that SYRIZA also betrayed the hopes and aspirations of the popular classes and those fighting against financial despotism. It chose to remain in power, thereby ‘normalizing’ the coup we witnessed last summer and accepting neoliberal coordinates that shape governmentality today in Europe. </p> <p>SYRIZA's choice deprived the people of a crucial ‘tool’ in this fight by its painful defeat: the political representation of non-compliance with financial despotism. SYRIZA eliminated the chance of a ‘tactical withdrawal’, a collective process of reassembling our forces that could take into account the escalation of the fight provoked by elites - and forming a more effective and resilient ‘popular front’ that would build its resources to challenge neoliberal orthodoxy in the future. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The choice SYRIZA made is – among other things – a symptom of the deeper, structural weaknesses of the left.</span></p> <p>The experience of the SYRIZA government in the months after the agreement, shows that there is no middle ground between financial despotism and democracy and dignity; if you try to reach such middle ground, you are quickly converted into an organic component of the biopolitical machine aimed at dehumanizing our societies. Arguing that the implementation of the agreement is the only way out of the present situation is just a reformulation of the neoliberal core-argument that There Is No Alternative; no strategy for continuing the fightback against financial despotism. </p> <p>However, there is a danger of underestimating the brutal strategic defeat that we all suffered in 2015, hiding from ourselves the extent of our current impotence as regards any serious challenge to financial despotism. We must dare to perform an extensive reassessment of our methodology and tools if we want to be relevant in these new conditions. And to do so, we should not preoccupy ourselves with the self-evident negative nature of SYRIZA's choice and comfort ourselves that this is the source of our&nbsp; problems. The choice SYRIZA made is – among other things – a symptom of the deeper, structural weaknesses of the left.</p> <p>Today in Greece a ‘Left government’ is implementing austerity, leftwing people are confused and ‘The Left’ is turning into a pro-memorandum political force in people's minds. Nationalists and fascists have remained the only "natural hosts" of popular rage and resentment, the expected emotional outcomes of the burial of hope we witnessed last summer. Greeks are sensing that the future of their society is severely compromised.<span class="print-no mag-quote-left"> Nationalists and fascists have remained the only "natural hosts" of popular rage and resentment.</span><em> </em></p><p><em></em>The majority of Greeks have been sentenced to misery and despair through the imposition of newer harder austerity measures without any real hope for the future. If we add to the economic and social disaster that austerity is inflicting on us the huge waves of refugees that are entering Greece - especially the complex and contradictory ways in which their drama impacts on the abused psychic economy of the Greek population - and add also the fear of increased geopolitical instability in the region, then it seems certain that prosperity, stability and peace has left Greece for the identifiable future. </p> <p>These are exactly the suffocating conditions that prevail in a society before it explodes – due to a random incident – deepening even further the decline, and plunging existential depths. It is like we are walking on thin ice from now on in Greece. In moments like this we have to remain calm and think clearly if we want to arrive at what is needed to adapt and to be effective.</p> <h2><strong>The sad case of Europe </strong></h2> <p>The neoliberal EU and Eurozone has transferred a bundle of important policies and powers that once appeared to belong to the nation state out of the reach of the people. At the same time, a vast array of neoliberal regulations and norms govern the function of the state. In the EU and Eurozone today, the elected government is no longer the major bearer of political power. In the case of Greece, democratically electing a government is like electing a junior partner in a wider government in which the lenders are the major partners. </p><p>The junior partner is not allowed to intervene and disturb decisions on such crucial economic and social issues as fiscal policy, banks, privatizations, pensions etc. If it does intervene and demand a say on these issues, then the people who appoint it are going to suffer the consequences. The elites –<em> </em>by extracting important powers and decisions on crucial issues from the democratically structured institutions of the bourgeois state – have managed to gain unchecked control over the basic functions of the society. It is up to their anti-democratic institutions to decide whether a society will have a functional banking system and sufficient liquidity to run or not. </p> <p>That's what happened to Greece; that's the core argument of the president of Portugal behind his initial decision to appoint a pro-austerity minority government: ‘I am preventing unnecessary pain.’ Pain that will be caused by the naivety and dangerous ignorance of the people and political powers that still insist on people's right to have access to crucial decisions, while at the same time they do not have the power to shape these decisions. </p> <p>It is evident today that the EU is an openly anti-democratic institutional structure. The left must embrace the crude reality: in Europe a new kind of despotism is emerging fast.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/jun_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/jun_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tsipras and Juncker. CC.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>The time lag of the left </strong></h2> <p>In western societies, the left, but not only the left, of a robust democratic constitution has been trained to do politics within the coordinates of a post-war institutional configuration. We assumed that the elites were committed to accepting the democratically shaped mandate of an elected government. If they did not like the policies that it promoted, they had to engage in a political fight; opposition parties must convince the people that this policy is neither desirable nor successful and use the democratic processes for a new government of their preference to be elected. </p> <p>But was this ever truly the case even for western societies after the Great War? This is surely a debatable issue. However, it is sufficient to assume that this was at least the dominant conception of political functioning that shaped the methodology and strategy of political agency over the last decades, even if it does not correspond fully to reality.&nbsp; </p> <p>According to this conception, the post-war global balance of forces inscribed in state institutions a considerable amount of popular power, so that people without considerable economic power nevertheless have access to crucial decisions. Of course, the quality and the range of the access was a constant issue of class struggle. The elites were obliged to fight according to the rules (or at least to appear to do so) and at the same time they were working deliberately to diffuse a kind of institutional configuration contaminated by popular power. In recent decades (not accidentally after the fall of the Soviet Union) they made decisive steps towards diffusing this kind of power and hence limiting the ability of the popular classes to influence crucial decisions. Today the elites feel confident enough to openly defy democracy. Democracy is no longer a <em>sine qua non</em>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Based on the premise that the framework in which politics is being performed hasn't changed significantly, SYRIZA did what the traditional way of doing politics dictates: supported social movements, built alliances, won a majority in the parliament, formed a government. We all know the results of such a strategy now. The real outcome was totally different. There was virtually no change of policy. </p> <h2><strong>Prepare for landing</strong></h2> <p>A strategy that wishes to be relevant to the new conditions must take on the duty of acquiring the necessary power to run basic social functions. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">A strategy that wishes to be relevant to the new conditions must take on the duty of acquiring the necessary power to run basic social functions.</span> No matter how difficult or strange this may sound in light of the traditional ways of doing politics, it is the only way to acquire the necessary power to defy the elites' control over our societies.</p> <p>Is this feasible? My hypothesis is that literally every day human activity – both intellectual and practical – is producing experiences, know-how, criteria and methods, innovations etc. that inherently contradict the parasitic logic of profit and competition. Moreover, for the first time in our evolutionary history, we have so many embodied capacities and values from different cultures within our reach that we are bound to progress our collective intelligence in this regard if we put our minds to it. </p> <p>Of course we are talking about elements that are not developed sufficiently yet. Elements that may indeed have been nurtured in liberal or apolitical contexts often functionally connected to the standard economic orthodoxy. However, the support of their further development, their gradual absorption in an alternative, coherent paradigm governed by a different logic and values, and finally their functional articulation in alternative patterns of performing the basic functions of our societies is just a short description of the duty of any left that wishes to take up a clear, systematic and strategically broadbased orientation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Based on people's capacities, proper alignment, connection and coordination it is possible to acquire the necessary power to at least be in a position to assume the basic functions if needed. We can do this by ‘extracting’ the embodied capacities of the people and putting them into use for the liberation of society. </p> <p>For those who are frankly skeptical of the possibility of laying the groundwork for such a process, let's see the potential in the stark case of Greece. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Plenty of people were available to help SYRIZA with their expertise if there had been suitable processes to “extract” their embodied capacities in an efficient way (which was not the case).</span></p> <p>SYRIZA at its peak had approximately 35,000 members, the various solidarity networks included thousands of people and from experience we know that plenty of people were available to help SYRIZA with their expertise if there had been suitable processes to “extract” their embodied capacities in an efficient way (which was not the case). Furthermore, massive unemployment provides us with huge numbers of people who would be willing to participate in networks of a different nature as long as we can build and expand processes of this kind in a systematic way. So, it is possible to pursue such a path as long as we apply the proper methodological and organizational principles in our way of doing politics. </p> <p>In the worst case scenario, we will achieve some degree of resilience; people will be more empowered to defend themselves and hold their ground. In the best case, we will be able to regain the hegemony needed: people could mobilize positively, creatively and massively, even decisively to reclaim their autonomy.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/image2[1].JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/image2[1].JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffiti in Athens. Photo by Carl Packman. Used with his permission.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Redesign the 'operating system' of the left</strong></h2> <p>We know that the popular power once inscribed in various democratic institutions is exhausted. We do not have enough power to make the elites accept and tolerate our participation in crucial decisions. More of the same won’t do it. If the ground of the battle has shifted, undermining our strategy, then it's not enough to be more competent on the shaky battleground; we need to reshape the ground. And to do that we have to expand the solution space by shifting priorities: from political representation to setting up an autonomous network of production of economic and social power (NESP). </p> <p>We must modify the balance between representing people's beliefs and demands and coordinating, facilitating, connecting, supporting and nurturing people's actions. Instead of being mainly the political representative of the popular classes in a toxic anti-democratic European political environment designed to be intolerant to people's needs, we must contribute heavily to the formation of a strong 'backbone' for resilient and dynamic networks of social economy and co-operative productive activities, alternative financial tools, local cells of self-governance, democratically functioning digital communities, community control over functions such as infrastructure facilities, energy systems and distribution networks. These are ways of gaining the degree of autonomy necessary to defy the control of elites over the basic functions of our society. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">It is not only in Greece that there is a growing exclusion of people from having a job or a bank account, having a ‘normal life’.</span></p> <p>It is not only in Greece that there is a growing exclusion of people from having a job or a bank account, having a ‘normal life’. Modern society in general is in decline. From history we know that societies in decline tend to react in order to survive. It is up to us to grasp this and start building networks that can perform basic social functions in a different way – one that is democratic, decentralized and based on the liberation of people's capacities. First, this would allow people who are being excluded today to survive. Second, this could begin a transition towards a better and more mature society. And last but not least, there are no empty spaces in history, so if we do not do this, the nationalists and the fascists – with their own militarized ways of performing these basic functions – may step in to conclude the decline.</p> <h2><strong>Shifting the battlefield</strong></h2> <p>Our opponents have already spotted the shifting nature of the battlefield and have moved to new unclassified ways of organizing and acting. They develop new kinds of institutions (a Greek example <a href="http://www.corallia.org/en/">http://www.corallia.org/en/</a>) compatible with the emerging environment of fast flows of information, digital frameworks of action and production etc. They also explore new methods and models; for example, “<a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/new-frontiers-in-open-innovation-9780199682461?cc=gr&amp;lang=en&amp;">open innovation</a>” models have emerged in the last few years to enable the R&amp;D departments of big multinational companies to cope with the current distributed nature of knowledge and expertise that exceeds past means of control and usurpation of human intellectual creativity and innovation. </p> <p>We have to create new popular power if we want to bring about substantial change or make ourselves resilient instead of just handling the remaining, seriously depleted if not already exhausted popular power inscribed in the traditional institutions. The question is what does it look like to do politics in order to produce popular power without presupposing traditional democratic functioning – to restore it by newly transforming it? In other words, what are the modifications needed in our political practice for the constitution and expansion of NESPs?<span class="print-no mag-quote-left"> What does it look like to do politics in order to produce popular power without presupposing traditional democratic functioning – to restore it by newly transforming it?</span></p> <p>These modifications may be classified in three categories: political imagination, methodology and organizing principles. From my experience, the very same people who energetically claim that we need to be more innovative, better adapted and more efficient, when they actually do politics, reproduce priorities, mental pictures, methods and organizational habits that they already know are insufficient or inadequate. There are ingrained norms in terms of methodological guidelines that decisively shape the range of our collective actions, rhetoric, decisions and eventually strategy. In the same vein, we believe in and fight for the promotion of the logic of cooperation and democracy against the logic of competition, but in practice our organizations suffer severely in terms of cooperation and democracy on the operational/organizational level. We need to recognize these blind spots and set up a process of identifying best practices, methods and regulations – both from the experience of our collectivities and from expertise in management, leadership, organizational complexity and network systems theory etc. – in order to operationally upgrade our forces.&nbsp; </p> <p>Furthermore, our actions and initiatives are not properly connected up, but fragmented and isolated, destined to face the same difficulties again and again. We need to upgrade our operational capacities through appropriate nodes of connection, facilitating smooth flows of know-how and information, transferring best practices, building databases and accumulating knowledge and expertise in an easily retrievable and useful way. Actually, this is the advantage of multinational and large corporations in general, in comparison to others: they have a vast social network and powerful databases that gives them the necessary tools to plan and pursue their goals while their smaller competitors seem in disarray in a global environment of rapid changes. We need these qualities if we want to be really useful today.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/8376707-2[1]_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/8376707-2[1]_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Greek Red Cross helps refugees trapped at Idomeni on the Greece-Macedonia border. Demotix/Giorgios Cristakis. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><span></span></p><h2><span>What about political representation?</span></h2> <p>The function of political representation is a fundamental one in complex societies. It's the function that political parties mostly perform and that shapes everyday thinking regarding what ‘politics’ is about. The task here is not to revive neglected aspects of politics - like building popular power - or to reinvent collective and individual qualities; the aim is to explore novel ways of performing the function of political representation in order to upgrade significantly the political leverage of the people.</p> <p>Of course, building popular power will also invigorate and possibly transform the institutional framework, giving substantial meaning back to political representation. But, the expansion of a network of the sort we are discussing here and the changes it could generate at various levels of the social configuration must be reflected on the function of political representation itself. We need to evaluate and explore concepts like the “commons”. Advancing a project to shape political representation as “commons” could give us valuable insights into new ways of performing vital functions that transcend the traditional, institutional framework of representative democracy. </p> <h2>Democratising the state?</h2> <p>The left talks too much about the democratic transformation of the state. In practice, the driving concept is the restoration of state functions as they were before the neoliberal transformation. But the expansion of a network of economic and social power under people's control could unlock our imagination towards more advanced and better targeted reforms of state institutions. In theory this is an old idea: the transformation of the state is a complementary move to the self-organized collectivities of the people outside it, driven by these forms of self-governance. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">This is exactly the “mechanics” of transformation that various intellectuals and leaders of the left described in detail a long time ago.</span></p><p>Actually, this is exactly what our opponents did consistently and persistently during the last decades: they were designing and implementing reforms in various levels of state institutions based on the methods, the criteria and the functioning of their own “social agents”, namely the corporations and their own understanding of the nature of public space, namely the market. This is exactly the “mechanics” of transformation that various intellectuals and leaders of the left described in detail a long time ago. Perhaps, by shifting our priorities we will be able to revive old but useful ideas that have been forgotten in practice.</p> <h2>Mind the gap</h2> <p>The “SYRIZA experience” will be worthless if we do not resist the temptation to replace one mistake with another. The failure of SYRIZA - the failure of focusing solely on traditional electoral politics to radically change the dominant neoliberal framework - creates favorable conditions for notions like “self-referential alternativism” and “vanguard isolationism” to emerge and preoccupy the minds and hearts of those who are willing to continue fighting. </p> <p>But choices like these just repeat what SYRIZA did, justifying fully the threat of our opponents: either you will be marginal or you will become like us! The existential threats and crucial questions regarding their future that our societies face today have nothing to do with a strategy of building “arcs” that aim to safeguard the “Left” or any other identity. </p><p>Entering the ominous battlefield of the twenty-first century, the left will either be relevant and useful for the defense of human societies, or it will be obsolete.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/anthony-barnett/introduction-to-diem25-manifesto">The DiEM25 manifesto: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/sofiane-ait-chalalet-chris-jones/open-letter-to-dimitri-sevastakis-newly-elected-">An open letter to Dimitri Sevastakis, the newly elected Syriza MP for Samos</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/bernardo-guti-rrez/open-source-city-as-transnational-democratic-future">The open source city as the transnational democratic future </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/britta-acksel-johannes-euler-leslie-gauditz-silke-helfrich-birgitte-kratzwald-stefan-meretz-flavio-s">Commoning – perspectives on conviviality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/pedro-kumamoto-bernardo-guti-rrez-gonz-lez/wikipol-tica-or-quest-for-total-innovat">Wikipolítica, or the quest for total innovation</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"> Greece </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Internet Team Syntegrity Andreas Karitzis Thu, 17 Mar 2016 16:38:56 +0000 Andreas Karitzis 100694 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Renewing the Latin American connection https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondthesquares/stephanie-erin-brewer-noam-titelman-jean-tible-rosemary-bechler/latin-america-conversation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>All the countries of those sitting around this table were born in genocide. In the case of Brazil, we were the world champion of slavery. So we are based on that! Sweet but violent. <em>From the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondthesquares">Squares and Beyond</a> partnership.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondthesquares"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SquaresBeyond-Banner-final_0.png" alt="beyond squares" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><em>Rosemary Bechler (RB): Stephanie, what do you think you will be able to take back with you to your colleagues in Mexico – I believe your organisation has its AGM shortly?</em></p> <p><strong>Stephanie Erin Brewer</strong> <strong>(Stephanie)</strong>: Yes, our human rights centre is having its three year strategic planning meeting, and I was&nbsp; just reflecting on our mid-term elections when the invitation arrived. It is perfect timing and a great breath of fresh air to be forced to stop thinking about Mexico all day every day, and to seize on comparative experiences and to hear stories of hope as well. </p> <p>Because several people mentioned that they do see a real change arising from the positive impact that some of the strategies that we have been discussing can have. We know that not all models can be applied in all places, but the fact that something good can happen somewhere is a very positive sign. </p> <p>International human rights ngo’s, for example in the inter-American system of human rights, do talk to each other of course. Centroprodh is currently working alongside other similar Latin American ngo’s specifically on the right to social protest and laws that seek to outlaw or limit social protest and marching, documenting abuses against protesters. All of that focuses on the means rather than the end, but it is a problem we have in the wider region and we have a regional thematic hearing on that subject at the Inter-American Commission that we are collaborating on.</p> <p><em>RB: That clampdown seems to be happening worldwide…</em></p> <p><strong>Jean Tible</strong> <strong>(Jean)</strong>: It’s greater maybe in Latin America for historical reasons. We elected Lula for example, in 2003. Since Lula was elected, one indigenous has been killed in Brazil every week. Whether you talk about the countryside or urban violence, we are killing a generation of citizens and people engaged in struggle. All the countries of those sitting around this table were born in genocide. In the case of Brazil, after that we were the world champion of slavery. So we are based on that! Sweet but violent.</p> <p><strong>Stephanie:</strong> What we heard from Robin about the referendum moment in Scotland was very inspiring in terms of occupying not just spaces and streets, but imaginations – the need to focus on pushing people to think of the adjacent possibility, the future that is possible. </p> <p>Because in Mexico, something we do a lot which it is necessary to do, is to document and denounce all the terrible acts of violence and oppression and the violations of human rights that are happening, and that the people are actually living directly. So it is easy to project horror and negativity. But that can just overwhelm people and cause them to shut off rather than mobilise. When you focus on giving them something positive they can visualise themselves working towards, that is going to have more chance of rousing them to action. It’s great to have such a forceful reminder of that part of the equation.</p> <p><em>RB: You are talking about how best to counter the major piece of work that regimes do to maintain the sense that ‘there is no alternative’, as we see in the treatment of Greece at this moment, and that this has to be a profound work of the imagination as well as a set of concrete actions…</em></p> <p><strong>Noam Titelman (Noam)</strong>: I have the feeling that when the <em>indignados</em> movement started in Europe and similarly with the Occupy movement, to be completely honest, Latin American activists and leftists viewed it with some scepticism. In some Latin American countries, they were embracing different versions of twenty-first century socialism, or more traditional movements, such as the Chilean movement or the Workers Party approach, where the basic principles were still the same albeit with a certain amount of renewal. </p> <p>And what has happened I think in the last six months or a year is that the pendulum of the rising left in Latin America has started to turn around. More and more of the left leaders in Latin America feel themselves getting weaker and with them the leftwing projects.&nbsp; We are looking with more interest at what is happening in Europe - at Podemos for example, but also other initiatives. We are starting to rethink, perhaps with more openness, some of the ideas being discussed here. This is interesting because the <em>indignados</em>, I believe, were largely inspired by Latin American movements… so it is a very interesting dialogue in that sense.</p> <p>It is of course a mistake to think of the left as a homogenous force. But in all its different varieties it is starting to encounter difficulties in Latin America, whereas in Europe, the crisis of the centre left parties is pretty clear, but what is appearing in their stead is less clear. Some monsters are appearing in that shadowy time when what is dying hasn’t quite finished dying and what is being born has not yet emerged.</p> <p><strong>Jean:</strong> In a way the left that emerged in South America was a bit of an exception in the world. Because wherever you look, apart from Chile which is maybe an exception in this exception – in the rest of the world the inequalities were increasing, but not actually in South America. </p> <p>But Brazil is now facing something more similar to the European crisis. It is useful to think in terms of struggle cycles I think.&nbsp; We have one cycle which was that of the ‘new social movements’ at the end of the 70’s and in the early 80’s, including the Workers Party, the trade unions, the black movement, feminist movement, student movement and so on, and this cycle had an institutional outcome in the victory of Lula. </p> <p>But the good things that Lula as a collective person brought about led to a good problem – it helped to produce a new generation of the newest movements who find themselves acting both with and against the ‘new social movements’. We have an old left and a new left. The division is not good, but union between them is not possible because they come from different worlds. </p> <p>Some of us have tried to bridge the gap – I’ll give you an example. With the Arab Spring, some of the Latin American left were against the Arab Spring and made their stand with Gaddafi or with Assad, not of course with Mubarak. We have to understand that Gaddafi, despite all his awful traits, and with a thousand quotation marks, was to them a “”Third world leader””, and that Mandela, when he left prison, chose to make his first visit to Libya. </p> <p>We have to understand that the leftwing government in Venezuela thinks of all these global uprisings as a conspiracy against the left, in Ukraine, in Syria - wherever. So it is interesting listening to Noam. The situation in Brazil is very interesting in this regard, because the new generation of movements seems to want more. We have just begun in fact to struggle against the inequalities – which in Brazil are racial inequalities first and foremost.</p> <p>If you go to a restaurant, or a university, or a hospital or a big company in Brazil, you know immediately who is working in a high position and who in a lowly one by the ‘chromatic’ of skin colour. We have a new generation who wants to go further in changing this, but we are facing some profound difficulties.&nbsp; We have been distributing new money in Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil through the increased sale in commodities, but now we have to start taking money off the rich. This is not easy in countries where the powerful elite has all the power. Even if you don’t like the <em>Guardian</em>, you have to recognise what a difference it makes if you don’t have anything like this, or the BBC. &nbsp;So if you want to take the imaginary of the Brazilian debate – we are in a very difficult situation.</p> <p>Of course, thanks to the internet, we have a sort of democratisation of the public debate. But we are struggling in a very unequal feud. Because in the country as a whole, Brazil still has a slave mentality, even today.</p> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/1226769.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Noam Titelman, 2012. Demotix/Mario Tellez. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/1226769.jpg" alt="Noam Titelman, 2012. Demotix/Mario Tellez. All rights reserved." title="Noam Titelman, 2012. Demotix/Mario Tellez. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Noam Titelman, 2012. Demotix/Mario Tellez. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></em><em>RB: There seems to be a different quality of class solidarity, for example in Chilean demands in 2013 for a free quality education system for all… ?</em></p> <p><strong>Noam:</strong> It is interesting to see a graph of wealth in Latin American countries. Basically there is very little difference in income between the poorest ten per cent and the richest of the 90%. The real difference is the wealth of the richest 1 – 10%. When one talks of middle class, it is not so different from lower class – they are just better educated and they have better access to debt. This was interestingly in fact one of the things that initiated mobilisations and the uprisings in Chile in 2011. </p> <p>There is a strong tradition of the left in Latin America which perhaps doesn’t have to manifest itself quite so dramatically, because it doesn’t live quite so closely to the problems as the left does in Europe. But for us the paradigm of extreme left, good or bad, is Cuba, whereas in Europe it is the Soviet Union. One can disagree with the kind of government Cuba has but it obviously isn’t the same as that of the Soviet Union. So in Europe, the left is always having to explain something, to answer for the genocidal history of the Soviet Union. </p> <p>Secondly, the income distribution in Latin America is so unequal that perhaps that facilitates solidarity in a sense even though, as Jean said, that means that the elite has even tighter control over the mass media. In Chile for example, there are two main political groupings, both of them right wing and they own all of the major newspapers. </p> <p>The other factor I think is that during the last decade, when the big subprime crisis that rocked Europe and the United States didn’t hit Latin America – I remember seeing that part of the world undergoing the same situation that Latin America had gone though in an earlier period, with a certain degree of satisfaction, remembering the enormous amount of advice that we had to endure at the time, and here they were with the same problems. That was really amazing. And it was accompanied by the boom in commodity prices that helped the rise of the Latin American left in all its variant versions. But now that that is gone, a whole new question arises about the next phase.</p> <p>Latin America has to face head on the middle income trap, whereby the very same institutions that enabled us to pass from being low income to middle income countries, are now today making it difficult for us to continue on this path. They have been coopted strongly by an elite who simply don’t want to share their power with anyone. That is today’s struggle and they have a lot of force on their side.</p> <p>Zizek has this story about a father telling his sons to visit their grandmother on a Sunday. One way the father could say this would be, ‘Look you have to go and see your grandmother. I don’t care if you want to or not. And if you don’t go, I’ll punish you.”&nbsp; The other way is to say, “Look, go see your grandmother. You know she loves you and that it would make her happy. But only if you want to.” Both, Zizek says are relationships of force between the father and the son. But the second is even stronger because it involves not only having to go and see your grandmother but having to want to go. This is how ideology in society works, and one becomes one’s own prisonkeeper in society as a result, defending the system as it is. Power works like that in our societies. That is the hardest barrier to pass. It is even stronger perhaps than power as an outright enemy. That too is what Jean refers to as the Brazilian imaginary.</p> <p><em>RB: On the question of your interest in Podemos, what did you make of Simona Levi’s rather critical view of that party’s approach to hegemonic leadership – given the huge prestige of Ernesto Laclau’s thinking in Latin America (also in Spain)?</em></p> <p><strong>Noam</strong>: A very healthy experience for every left activist, militant or whatever is to attend many assemblies, and see what it feels like when an entire assembly goes against you – whether because they think you are too radical, or too moderate – but it is a very useful experience, and allows you to understand better that the true enemy is not the one inside, the guy one milimetre different from you – but the enemy out there. There is a tendency on the left to overestimate the relevance of the adversary next to you in comparison to the one on the other side. When I heard Simona talk I thought there weren’t that many differences between her and Podemos, but that she felt that the main obstacle to the changes she was formulating was in Podemos. But I disagree – that is not where the main adversary is. </p> <p><strong>Jean</strong>: That is one of the key questions of the generations. Podemos is very interesting. It is a reading of the Latin American governments. The leading team of Podemos have all paid a visit either to Bolivia or Ecuador or Venezuela. But a friend of mine jokes that Podemos captured the worst out of all of them! </p> <p>Podemos is of course interesting because it places before us the challenge of political organisation – how to deal with the common citizen. For they are talking to everyone in Spain. That is populism of course. And they are telling the Spanish people, “We want to govern. We want to be the majority. We want to change the country.” Sometimes the left doesn’t even dare put to themselves this objective or this goal. Without the 15M Podemos would not exist. But Podemos is not the 15M. 15M announces a sort of savage democracy in the good meaning of the term. But that cannot survive – you have to have some form of mediation. It is the challenge of representation. In political philosophy, I am against representation. But in real life, you can’t avoid it if you want power, as you have also publicly stated, national power. That is interesting because Simona, while being critical of Podemos, was telling us that Barcelona en Comu was a good thing. But you cannot disassociate completely Podemos and Barcelona en Comu - that’s the point! Or Podemos and Ahora Madrid.&nbsp; That is interesting. Because as yet we don’t have an answer to this matter of political organisation. </p> <p>Those guys were in the student movement and they created a party. They had an alliance with Bachelet on one topic, education. That is interesting because they are not in the government. But they are in the government. So as a generation we have to find our equilibrium, our balance between not being in an institution, and yet creating something tangible.&nbsp; You have to have this mediation.</p> <p><strong>Noam:</strong> What I find most interesting in Podemos is that the left had to find an answer to the defeat it has experienced over the last thirty years or so. And it has found two roads, two ways of doing this. The first was the third way, the renovation of socialism – what happened with social democracy, which was basically renouncing the left to save the left – which ultimately didn’t save much of the left – but it did renounce the left. The second way to confront this defeat which also failed to do anything but confirm it, was to overemphasise its symbolic relevance – enclosing one’s-self within the small battle which one knows one can win – or even if you lose – to remain with your sense of purity intact in losing the good battle.</p> <p>What I like about Podemos is that it doesn't want to go along with either of these defeats. They want to get something done. I saw a very interesting interview between them and Chantal Mouffe, who wasn’t too sure about their ‘renunciation of left and right’ – but she said that she understood why they might say that, since so many movements have called themselves ‘left’ and have done anything but left politics. But she said, that the most important thing was to understand that even if you stop calling yourself left – that doesn’t mean that there is no left and right any more, any more than there is an end to good and bad economics, and you mustn’t renounce the fundamental conflict, the agonism in politics. </p> <p>I found that very interesting, which of course doesn’t mean that every country in the world has to follow the same path as Spain, that again would be reductive. It does mean that there is an option which doesn’t fall into either of those two traps which constitute a defeat while trying to avoid defeat – and that is something that I do take away with me.</p> <p><em>RB: So Stephanie, a last question I’d like to ask you since you spend a lot of time helping people in Mexico – what does empowerment look like to you? </em></p> <p><strong>Stephanie</strong>: This forms part of our core philosophy and we love to talk about it. As a starting point, surely we have all heard the phrase ‘strategic litigation’ – it can be good, but in Centreprodh we have a different philosophy&nbsp; – we don’t do strategic litigation. The reason is that those who do pursue this start with a plan for a case they’d like to litigate and go looking for a victim that they can use to achieve their end. </p> <p>So, our model is called ‘integral defence’, and it is based on putting the person, or the community or the group at the centre and that person being the one who determines what his or her priorities and needs are, what strategy he or she wants to pursue, and so our role is to inform and to provide a range of tools. </p> <p>People also arrive in our office usually, unfortunately, after suffering not only the original human rights violation in a context of whatever other structural violences that they were already living, but they then also don’t have access to justice. If they file a criminal complaint the case is not investigated, or maybe they are threatened for filing a complaint. They go to their national human rights commission and maybe the commission closes the file of their case without investigating. If it is a person who has been arbitrarily detained and tortured and put in prison for a crime they did not commit, they probably have a sentence they have appealed, they have filed a constitutional challenge, the public defender doesn’t answer their calls. </p> <p>And so it is in those conditions of being denied their rights and their personhood that they then show up in Centroprodh. So we certainly hope to provide a completely different relationship and experience. And we consider that we accompany those people. They grant us the chance to accompany them in the struggle that they are leading in their own lives. And we aim to discuss their situation with the person to see what they want to do.</p> <p>So we don’t necessarily like the term ‘empowerment’ – we are very picky but some people think it has a paternalistic connotation. It maybe implies that they have no power and that you somehow do have it and are injecting the power into them: but the people who come to us have the most important power which is amazing bravery and perseverance, because simply defending your rights puts your own life at risk, and so that is the most important thing. We can’t do any of our work without those people. They could fight their fight without us, although they wouldn't have any of the tools that we can supply them with. But they would still be struggling. But we couldn’t do anything without those people. So that is our vision of how we relate to, and how we accompany the survivors who come to us.</p> <p><strong>Jean:</strong> I’m talking about Brazil, but it may go wider than this. What is important in the last three decades is that we have an empowerment of the poor people on the bottom of our societies. The situation is still awful. Now, young black people are still being killed. 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