Germany https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/6490/all cached version 19/02/2019 19:35:18 en Radical-right backlash against Games of Belonging: the case of Mesut Özil https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/zg-r-zvatan/radical-right-backlash-against-games-of-belonging-case-of-mesut-zil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Özil, like many others, has repeatedly stated that he would prefer to play for both national football teams if international football regulations made it possible.</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-37718513.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37718513.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Signboard replaced outside hometown of Mesut Ozil in Turkey, removing photo of him in a German jersey in July 2018. Gurkay GüNdogan/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>The recent case of Mesut Özil has shown a severe rupture in relations between German-Turks and German natives, which has been a long time coming, but went unrecognized while the football national team put it in the shade. However, it was precisely because of the earlier sporting success of the German squad that the Özil case escalated into a fierce conflict. Three crucial ingredients played a role in this escalation: the failure of political messaging on national football-team diversity, some setbacks in Germany-Turkey relations, and the rise of the populist radical right in both Turkey and Germany. </p> <h2><strong>The staging of <em>Games of Belonging </em></strong></h2> <p>International football events include <em>Games of Belonging</em> for immigrant footballers;<em> </em>a play that evolves in three acts. In the first pre-match act, an approaching international football fixture prompts the media to ponder whether immigrant players feel they belong to nation X or Y, Germany or Turkey. National belonging here is a zero-sum game: the more one belongs to nation X, the less one is able to belong to nation Y. </p> <p>In a matchday second act, nationhood is performed symbolically. A case in point is Özil’s 2010 handshake with German chancellor Angela Merkel in the locker-room after an international match against Turkey in Berlin, when he was booed by German-Turks. It was ironic that Özil scored against the national team of his “ethnic roots”, which demonstrated the zero-sum game impeccably. Here was a second-generation German-Turk opting for Germany and shaking off his ethno-cultural backpack with the goal that he scored. </p> <p>Act 3. In various after-match episodes separate from the event, those subjected to these belonging debates become active participants and insist that their choice for one nation does not fairly represent their transnational feelings of belonging to both Germany and Turkey equally. As many other immigrant footballers around the globe have proclaimed, Özil has also repeatedly stated that he would prefer to play for both national football teams if international football regulations made it possible. </p> <h2><strong>Disenchantment and the growth of a nativist backlash against <em>Games of Belonging</em></strong></h2> <p>In 2009, Özil forfeited Turkish membership, after he chose to play for the German football national team. He was framed as an “ethnic traitor”, a “Turk who had defected”, lost touch with his “roots”. On the other hand, Mesut Özil was celebrated as the poster boy for immigrant integration politics in Germany, where he was, for instance, awarded a national immigrant integration prize in 2011 and seen as one of the most influential role models to promote second- and third-generation German-Turks’ identification with Germany.</p> <p>After the 2018 photo with Erdogan, Özil’s reconciliation with his Turkish identity was widely recognized. On the other hand, Özil was denounced for paying court to an autocrat, which was framed as the one thing a “true” German would not do. In fact, as many pundits contended, native political and national football association representatives were very busy wooing autocrats themselves in former years. But <a href="https://www.zeit.de/sport/2018-06/integration-fussball-mesut-oezil-ilkay-guendogan-debatte-rassismus">immigrant national team footballers have to accomplish more than natives</a>. Any slippage, and immigrants’ full national membership is questioned. Natives on the other hand, may risk being banned from the national football team in a worst case scenario, yet their national belonging remains beyond question.</p> <p>Public <a href="https://www.faz.net/aktuell/sport/fussball-wm/deutsches-team/reaktion-auf-erdogan-fotos-symbole-deutschen-scheiterns-15668200.html">photos of Özil and Erdogan</a> have appeared regularly since 2011, and he always prayed before matches, sharing a post of his <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3604423/Mesut-Ozil-takes-trip-Mecca-Saudi-Arabia-holiday-Arsenal-star-takes-time-Euro-2016.html">pilgrimage to Mecca</a> before the 2016 European Championship. Özil was neither fully reconciled to his Turkish identity at that stage nor banned from German national identity, though the AfD party had unsuccessfully tried to create a scandal around events related to Özil before 2018. Why then was there no escalation before 2018?</p> <p>To begin with, the interplay of the rise of populist radical-right parties in Germany and Turkey with failed political messaging by traditional parties aggravated the political context for national football-team diversity. </p> <p>After ongoing blame-games from 2016 onwards, German-Turkish relations suffered a severe setback. Disenchantment with traditional parties grew after their promises to tighten the screws on Erdogan were not in the end delivered. When racial outnumbered economic concerns, segments of the national conservatives from right to left identified the AfD party as the only saviour capable of standing for “German values” (most notably, democracy) and defending them against “the Sultan of the Bosphorus” and his German-based Turkish supporters. </p> <p>Ever since the 2017 election campaign, traditional parties have pursued disenchanted national-conservative voters by raising a critical voice on the ”Turkish issue”. Özil could not escape the recurring nationalist German-Turkish blame-games expounded by the already established populist radical-right in Turkey and its consolidating counterpart in Germany. Failed political messaging by traditional parties, and unmet promises, facilitated the mainstreaming of radical-right narratives which defended secessionist expressions of nativist nationhood. </p> <p>Finally, the economic exploitation of national football-team diversity caused frustration among German-Turks. In his post-World-Cup statement, Özil lamented the racism against him because of his Turkish and Muslim identity. Özil sided with French Karim Benzema and Belgian Romelu Lukaku, stating: “I am a German when we win, an immigrant when we lose.” </p> <p>For Turkish immigrants, the case of Özil reflected the frustrating double logic they encountered over the decades. They were turned to enthusiastically when needed to rebuild the country (and its economy) but soon discriminated against once the work was done. German-Turks united against such an obvious anti-Turkish racism. And the repeated <a href="https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2017-09/tuerkei-eu-beitritt-recep-tayyip-erdogan-nazivorwuerfe">charges of Nazism raised by Erdogan against Germany</a> even made some identify ‘cultural traits’ of racism among Germans. The latter marked a dangerous trend, as such propositions very quickly “close down” ethno-cultural boundaries, resulting in ethno-cultural fragmentation and polarization. </p> <p>This frustration of immigrants can only be prevented if ethnic diversity is communicated, explicitly or implicitly, as a basic democratic right instead of a conditional economic promise of success. In fact, if ethnic diversity is linked to economic success, it may soon be connected to failure as well. Merkel’s “golden handshake” in 2009 and the absence of protection for Özil in 2018 are a good example of how easily “things have changed”.&nbsp; </p> <p>Failed messaging culminated in a frustrated backlash against immigrant integration politics, while the German majority and Turkish immigrants were on their way to “opening up” their horizons vis-à-vis each other. In 2018, the mainstreaming of radical-right narratives in Germany and Turkey exploited the Mesut Özil case and painted German-Turkish <em>games of belonging </em>in a nativist light. It seems very unlikely that international football will introduce transnational regulations for immigrant footballers in this current period of ‘ethno-national rebirth’.</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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </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"> 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Turkey Germany Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Özgür Özvatan Tue, 19 Feb 2019 12:28:13 +0000 Özgür Özvatan 121739 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On the need to shape the Arab exile body in Berlin https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/on-need-to-shape-arab-exile-body-in-berlin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A long essay on why the Arab intellectual community in Berlin needs to acquire a name, shape, and a mandate of sorts. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/1.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/1.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="220" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berlin is not just a city. It is a political laboratory that enforces a new type of beginning. Photo by Amro Ali.</span></span></span>This may include a school of thought, a political philosophy or even an ideational movement – all cross-fertilized through a deeper engagement with the Arab world.&nbsp;</em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/2.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/2.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“We need to find ourselves, and each other, on the streets, from human to human crowd.” Photo by Amro Ali.</span></span></span>“<em>These streets lose themselves in infinity … a countless human crowd moves in them, constantly new people with unknown aims that intersect like the linear maze of a pattern sheet.” – Siegfried Kracauer on Berlin, “Screams on the Street” (1930).</em></p> <p lang="en-AU">Dislocating the Arab future from the grip of the political bankruptcy and moral morass in the Arab world might appear remote and relegated to the domain of quixotic dreams. But does it need to be that way? As communities are unsettled, resistances triggered, a chorus of voices fired up, waves of bodies set in motion for justice, and a range of emotions roused even when they no longer have an appetite, can the continued onslaught on reality not also reinvigorate political thought?</p> <p lang="en-AU">The procession of dislocation that materialized in 2011 has been viciously derailed since. Now, to coherently embark upon a regenerated starting point in this long journey of political redemption, a “we” is required: This feeds from new political ideas, collective practices and compelling narratives that are currently re-constructed and brought to life in a distantly safe city.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Berlin is where the newly-arrived Arab suddenly (but not always) recognizes that the frightful habit of glancing over the shoulder – painfully inherited from back home – gradually recedes. All the while, a new dawn slowly sets in among the meeting of peers in this new city: As such, Berlin is not just a city. It is a political laboratory that enforces a new type of beginning, one that turns heads in the direction of matters greater than the individual; and it generates a realization that the grey blur that nauseatingly blankets the future can actually be broken up.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Following the 2011 Arab uprisings and its innumerable tragic outcomes, Berlin was strategically and politically ripe to emerge as an exile capital. For some time now, there has been a growing and conscious Arab intellectual community, the political dimensions of which to fully crystalize is what I wish to further explore.</p> <p lang="en-AU">When the storm of history breaks out a tectonic political crisis, from revolutions to wars to outright persecution, then a designated city will consequently serve as the gravitational center and refuge for intellectual exiles. This is, for example, what New York was for post-1930s Jewish intellectuals fleeing Europe, and what Paris became for Latin American intellectuals fleeing their country’s dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Against those historical precedents, the Arab intellectual community in Berlin needs to understand itself better, moving away from an auto-pilot arrangement, and become actively&nbsp;engaged with political questions that face it. In effect, there is a dire necessity for this community to acquire&nbsp;a name, shape, form and a mandate of sorts. With a vigorous eye to a possible long-term outcome, this may include a school of thought, a political philosophy or even an ideational movement – all cross-fertilized through a deeper engagement with the Arab world.</p> <p lang="en-AU">This is certainly not about beckoning revolutions and uprisings, nor to relapse into the stale talk of institutional reforms. If anything, there needs to be a move away from these tired tropes of transformation – away from quantifiable power dynamics that do not address matters that go deeper, into the existential level that shores up the transnational Arab sphere. This is the very area where the stream of human life animates a language of awareness and the recurring initiative helps to expand the spaces of dignity for fellow beings. Yet, this area is currently ravaged in a torrent of moral misery and spiritual crisis.</p> <strong>Freedom as wanderer</strong> <p lang="en-AU">So here we are: Between Berlin’s spirited idiosyncrasies and an Arab community maturing away from “ordinary” diasporic pathways lies the foment of the politically possible.</p> <p>“I was born in Tunisia, lived in Egypt, and gave my blood in Libya. I was beaten in Yemen, passing through Bahrain. I will grow up in the Arab World until I reach Palestine. My name is Freedom.” This popular streak, and variations of it, could be heard throughout the Arab world in February 2011 when hope for revolution was at its peak after the fall of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Within it, freedom is a wanderer that carries contagions as it roams across Arab borders.</p> <p>Syria was not yet in the verse. The revolutionary moment there would launch in March 2011 and it would be the Syrians that would pay the highest price of an ephemeral euphoria that evaporated into the terrestrial orbit of actual change. In its stead, wandering freedom turned into a dystopian monster as hundreds of thousands became themselves forced wanderers. The Mediterranean Sea, long celebrated for its grace and splendour, became a morbid burial ground of people fleeing for safety.</p> <p>Buttressed by the refugee waves, an intellectual flow of academics, writers, poets, playwrights, artists, and activists, among others, from across the Arab world gravitated towards Berlin as sanctuary and refuge. This took place against the backdrop of a long-established Turkish presence (initiated by the 1961 Guestworker Treaty) and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 refugee intake that partly shaped the post-2011 Arab transition.</p> <p>A&nbsp;unique Arab milieu began to take form as new geographic, social, and cultural conditions necessitated a reconstruction of visions and practices. The exile body built on the embers and mediated on the ashes of a devastated Arab public left burning in the inferno of counter-revolutions, crackdowns, wars, terrorism, coups, and regional restlessness. It was that public that authoritarian regimes had worked so hard to contain and that everyday people battled courageously to reclaim. Tunisia’s Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze at the close of 2010 and, ever since, opened possibilities for claims and struggles.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/3.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/3.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The pre-2011 ghost still haunts the Arab community that settles in Berlin. Photo by Amro Ali</span></span></span>The newcomers to Berlin were thrown under the weight of newfound political obligations to their countries of origin. They did, after all, depart with a guilt-ridden sense of unfinished business. The Arab uprisings brought about a hiatus between the “no-longer” and the “not-yet.”1 The individual transitioned from bondage to freedom that broke the chains of work and biological necessity. The result was an imagination unleashed to see humans thrive in freedom and exhibit their capacity to make a new beginning, only for the subsequent journey to be stomped upon by the weight of the jackboot and silenced by the thud of the judge’s gavel hammer.</p> <p> Yet in this gap of historical time, individual greatness and the passion of public freedom blossomed while a new character formed through the tear gas, streets, protests, and coffeehouses. In a marvellous transformation, they could “no longer recognize their pre-2011 self.”2 Hence, the arrival in Berlin not only came with an incomplete political consciousness, but an anxiety to resist a return to the “weightless irrelevance of their personal affairs,”3 as German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt conveys it. This denotes a pre-political spectre that rips the individual from group agency, and obliterates their biography from history. That is to say, the pre-2011 ghost still haunts the Arab community that settles in Berlin and learns to move within the terrain of hospitality and enmity.4</p> <p>On the one hand, this new community navigated between the support and collaboration of German institutions, civil society, universities, cultural spaces, left-wing politics, churches, mosques, the large Turkish community, and a fluctuating German sense of responsibility to the refugee crisis.</p> <p>On the other hand, the Arab community is menaced by local racism, a growing far-right movement in the form of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Arab embassies, foreign security agencies and reactionary sections of the diaspora. Moreover, its members are thrown down and disoriented by the modern malaise of the “Inferno of the Same”. This is how Berlin-based South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han aptly describes a world of unceasing repetition of similar experiences masquerading as novelty and renewal.</p> <p>Consequently, we are seeing love – with all its earmarks of commitment, intimacy, passion, and responsibility – struggle to swell through the ranks from relationships to community-building in a world of “endless freedom of choice, the overabundance of options, and the compulsion for perfection.”5</p> <p>Not only is fragmentation fomented by the upheaval caused by exile and transition, the individual in general struggles to flesh out a position towards a world that has become increasingly noisy and blurred. A world that has scrambled the once-relatable relationship between time and space, now under the neoliberal storm is turning responsible citizens into hyper-individual self-seeking consumers, discharging a plastic one-size fits all repetition of behaviour that precludes deeper forms of unity and a communal spirit.</p> <p>Nonetheless, even with the challenges it confronts, the Arab community is unfolding in the shadow of complex socio-political ecologies and wide-ranging entanglements that are arguably unprecedented in modern history. Hitherto, most forced Arab migrations have happened on a country by country and era by era basis, such as Libyans fleeing Gaddafi’s regime in the 1970s, or the Lebanese fleeing the civil war in the 1980s. Moreover, transnational Arab relocation to the Gulf was primarily spurred on by economic factors, to say nothing of their residency that hinged on the shunning of any hint of politics. In contrast, we are currently witnessing the first ever simultaneous pan-Arab exodus consisting of overlapping legitimacies – beyond culture, religion, nationality and economics – born of the Arab Spring.</p> <p> This new exile marvel is brewing in a cultural flux with questions that are only beginning to be raised. Exile is meant here, as Edward Said writes, as “the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home.”6 Additionally, exile transpires irrespective of one being banished from the homeland, living in legal limbo, studying at university, or even one who recently acquired German citizenship. We are talking about exile as a mental state,7 where even if you faced no political persecution if you chose to return to your country of origin, you would still feel alienated by a system that can no longer accommodate your innate or learned higher ideals.</p> <p>For example, in late 2015, I attended the screening of a Syrian film in Kreuzberg titled&nbsp;<em>True Stories of Love, Life, Death and Sometimes Revolution.&nbsp;</em>During the question and answer session, a fellow country man in the audience asked the film’s co-director, Nidal Hassan, “What can we Syrian artists even do now given that we are in exile?” Hassan replied entrancingly: “We were in exile even in Syria…we just have to continue to change the world through our practices.”</p> <p>From another angle, Dina Wahba, Egyptian doctoral researcher at Berlin’s Freie Universität, evocatively pens the exile consciousness: “I get out, look around, and realize how beautiful it is. I feel guilty that I’m here, while some of my friends are in dark cells. I also feel guilty that I’m here and not enjoying all this beauty. Crippling fear has crossed the Mediterranean and taken over my mind. Fear is a strange thing. I cannot go home, but neither can I make a home here.”8</p> <p>As such, the sense of exile in Berlin is deepened by a wide-ranging emotional spectrum: From an all-consuming survivor’s guilt vis-à-vis those that stayed behind down to a pleasant stroll through Tiergarten Park in which a nagging thought might arise that whispers, “if only back in Cairo we had such large free unmolested spaces to breathe in.”</p> <strong>Converging points into lines of meaning</strong> <p>Arab Berlin, since 2011, has sprang a swathe of energetic pockets of creativity and thought. Yet, there is something missing in these hyper-present moments: the dynamic spaces from theatre to academia to civil society volunteering are fragmented and rarely talk to each other, not to mention the disconnect from the wider Arab community. You cannot help but sense that the creative and intellectual efforts are hurled into a void rather than being taken up by a greater political current that can extract these experiences and marshal them towards a pre-eminent narrative.</p> <p>This problem, if we can call it that, is not unfamiliar to the city’s inherent contradictions. Strangely enough, it still echoes Siegfried Kracauer’s 1932 essay “Repetition”. The cultural critic and film theorist wrote that Berlin “is present-day and, moreover, it makes it a point of honour of being absolutely present-day… His [the inhabitant’s] existence is not like a line but a series of points… Many experience precisely this life from headline to headline as exciting; partly because they profit from the fact that their earlier existence vanishes in its moment of disappearing, partly because they believe they are living twice as much when they live purely in the present.”9</p> <p>The irony, therefore, is that the strength that makes up the Berlin tempest that unleashes the creative and intellectual Arab energies, also happens to be its dissolution as its intense present breaks with past and future. That is to say, the exile might pursue the present as a way to escape or numb the trauma or crippling melancholia haunting the past, and anxiety saturating the future. But this can often mean the self is reduced to individual interests with the exciting present acting no more than a euphoric smokescreen of collective advancement.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>How does one obstruct the trap that enmeshes the Arab Berliner? Photo by Amro Ali. </span></span></span> As the late sociologist David Frisby writes about Kracauer’s idea, the crux is this: “This moment of presentness itself, however, never remains present. It is always on the point of vanishing. Hence the endless search for the ever-new and the permanent transformation of consciousness of time in metropolitan existence.”10 This makes for the need to chase the next project or seek out the next donor, which is not simply driven by excitement as much as it is foisted upon today’s entrepreneur of the self. As they self-exploit in their respective enterprise, the individual is made into “master and slave in one.” 11</p> <p>Nonetheless, excitement is intimately tied to a never-ending present. Thus, the questions that arise: How does one interrupt this endless fluidity and “recycling” of presents? How can one address an animated present that seems somehow ruptured from building up on the past and navigating into the future? How does one obstruct the trap that enmeshes the Arab Berliner? How, that is, to alter the individual’s scattered series of points that Kracauer alluded to and move towards a meaningful line that elevates the exile’s relationship, not only to their life trajectory, but to an existential understanding in the body-politic that potentially pushes a narrative greater than the individual?</p> <p>One way to understand this body-politic and appreciate Berlin’s intervention in this novel community, as well as the attempts of its members to make meaning of their new-found roles and the political environment that shapes them, would be vis-à-vis other cities. This serves to examine the elephant in the room, however prudently: Why cannot other western cities with large Arab populations qualify as the intellectual exile hub?</p> <strong>The Berlin Anomaly</strong> <p>Western cities like London, Paris and New York would have been the expected post-2011 intellectual hubs given the large number of Arabs present within them. Yet, they have arguably all fallen behind Berlin. This cannot simply be explained in terms of dynamic diversity and cultural production, which is certainly not lacking in either of these three cities. Rather, they all appear to have a relative absence of ingredients that lead to the blossoming of a full-fledged political exile community like we are witnessing in Berlin.</p> <p>To start, there seems to be a common view among Arab and Muslim groups that London is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists, while Berlin offers more space for pluralism. But London’s biggest hurdle, in fact, might be the high cost of living. To take a simple example: One has to think twice before buying an expensive London tube ticket. In contrast, Berlin’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn are affordable, which alone speaks volumes for the necessity of mobility required in community building. The repercussions of Brexit also diminished the grand city of London in many eyes and worsened an already difficult visa entry.</p> <p>Paris, while popular with Algerian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Lebanese, and Syrian intellectuals, is generally viewed as closed off and limited to the Francophone world. Also, the historical legacy of colonialism will generally taint any initiative coming out of London and Paris. While New York is clouded by US foreign policy and the current administration, the security mesh makes it burdensome to enter the country. Moreover, high living costs and distance from the Arab world also complicate its appeal.</p> <p>To be sure, there are cultural trends that unfold across all these cities post-2011, which is why similar community formations should be encouraged. However, the cultural and political dynamics that materialise in Berlin, backed with intensity and creativity by wide-ranging institutional and grassroots support, summons Berlin and the Arab exile body to be assigned into a shared conversation.12 If one listens closely, the hoofbeats of Arab history are reverberating out of Berlin more than any other western counterpart.</p> <p>On this note, Istanbul is frequently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/10/13/why-dissidents-are-gathering-in-istanbul" target="_blank">touted</a>&nbsp;as the Arab exile hub, and indeed it could easily rival Berlin had it not been for some conveniently overlooked factors. Arab activities are largely permitted if they correlate ideologically with, or not speak against, Erdogan’s illiberal government. One might raise the question as to why would this be a problem if a gracious host is enabling an Arab community to thrive that would, in any case, only be concerned with external issues?</p> <p>For a start, this selfish approach deflects from the grim reality that sees Turkish academics and journalists censored or imprisoned, a grave matter that should raise concern among Arab democratic aspirations. It is one thing, and understandable, to be grateful to a majestic Istanbul that gives one abode and freedom to flourish. But it is an unsettling hypocrisy to trumpet the city as a free intellectual hub while ignoring its own Turkish citizens who are attacked for voicing thoughts that deviate from the official line. Fundamental values that are compromised, particularly this drastically, are no longer values but more like hobbies. A draconian environment that divulges its effect on Turkish skin will inadvertently skew Arab intellectual development and ultimately make it difficult to garner a better representation of exile voices and thought processes.</p> <p>In light of the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, one wonders if Turkey’s entangled relationship in the region does not furnish Istanbul with sufficient geographical and mental distance to render it beyond scrutiny. Had this gruesome act taken place in the Saudi embassy in Berlin, the consequence, one could reasonably speculate, would have come at a higher price for the Saudi crown prince. The weight of Germany and the EU might have been enough to abort or postpone a planned assassination.</p> <p>This is not to rule out the immense potential of Istanbul’s Arab community. After all, Khashoggi himself saw the city as a “<a href="https://apnews.com/5643bc71beaf43249527f1e0d14dd67b" target="_blank">base for a new Middle East</a>.”13 It is just that the current political incarnation comes with many bouts of wariness that need to be better understood, discussed, and thought through carefully. Thus, if current developments hold, we can expect in the distant future two competing Arab schools of thinking to emerge out of Berlin and Istanbul.</p> <p>Yet, unlike Istanbul, London, Paris, and New York (vis-à-vis the US) which cannot claim historical “neutrality,” the function of Berlin works strangely well as it is linked to a peculiar backdrop: The contemporary Arab approach towards Germany is premised on the notion that it was never a colonizer or invader of Arab lands. The 1941-43&nbsp;<em>Afrika Korps&nbsp;</em>is given little attention in Arab historiography (although this should not detract from the dark ties that some Arab elites pursued with Nazi Germany).</p> <p>In other words, Germany was never a colonizer like France or Great Britain, nor does it have an aggressive foreign policy like the US, let alone evokes ambivalence like Turkey does. Arab positions are then deducted from this negative admiration that is rarely questioned in the popular Arab worldview. However, this obfuscates the stealth colonial endeavour that lacks theatrics. German companies like Siemens and ThyssenKrupp have long been implicated in the “colonial dynamics of economic subjugation” that deepens, for example, Egypt’s chronic underdevelopment, corruption, and even the skewed “technological conception of modernity,” as Omar Robert Hamilton argues.14 Yet, Germany walks away unscathed and gets praised as the country of organisation, discipline, efficiency, and Mercedes Benz.</p> <p>The idea of Germany rarely arouses a divisiveness and antagonism that would aggravate Arab security officials or activists. The paradox of its power is that the savagery Germany committed in the first half of the twentieth century skirts around the Arab world. While German orientalism is not alien to Arab scholarship, this is not what is usually or immediately deplored in Arab scholarly circles and the Arab imaginary regarding Germany – to that country’s stroke of luck.15 Even strong German support for Israel does not elicit the same degree of Arab anger towards it as with the US and UK, partly because of the sound popular view that Germany is coerced by historical guilt. So, in a sense, Germany is conditionally, if not grudgingly, let off the hook.</p> <strong>The city above all</strong> <p>However, this endeavor is more about Berlin than Germany. A city not only telescopes political dynamics of community building, but it will always exist timelessly as “an important crystallization of human civilization and its discontents.”16 By coming to terms with Berlin as a political, social, and cultural laboratory, it will be possible to illuminate the current Arab community that is shaped by a historical pattern of sites of sanctuary and exile agency.</p> <p> The German art critic Karl Scheffler perhaps immortalized the essence of the German capital in 1910 with the words, “<em>Berlin dazu verdammt: immerfort zu werden und niemals zu sein”&nbsp;</em>(Berlin is a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being).17 What Scheffler thought to be a disadvantage because of the city’s “lack of organically developed structure” turned out to have hidden advantages.18 As German writer Peter Schneider observes, the word&nbsp;<em>werden</em>, “becoming”, encapsulates notions such as on the “cusp of becoming”, “up-and-coming,” “new Berlin,” the impeding effort to transform itself but not quite there yet.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/5.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/5.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berlin’s grotty pockets and incompleteness electrifies you with the truth about the world as it is. Photo by Amro Ali.</span></span></span>These themes of liminality strongly resonate with the self-perception of the growing Arab intellectual community’s idea of rebuilding, transforming and becoming. Berlin’s imperfection, sketchiness, and incompleteness, furnish a sense of freedom and growth which the compact beauty of London and Paris can never provide. If every space is “perfectly restored”, this then can lead to exclusion and a sense that all spaces are occupied.19 If Kracauer glorifies and mourns both the intense and disappearing “presentness” of Berlin, Scheffler inadvertently redeems it. He points to a realm of possibilities that presentness can eventually spill over into something by the simple fact that it is able to keep its thinking and creative residents within a sense of motion.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Compare this to other European cities (the cities of being?) where, for example, the element of surprise that traditionally accompanied travel is ironed out as tourism is homogenized, streamlined, securitized, and packaged into recognizable templates – English speaking locals, ease of WIFI access,&nbsp;<em>TripAdvisor</em>-determined accommodation. All this sees individual movements and curiosity follow predictable routes and rituals. Berlin is anything but immune to this, but the totalizing wave and façade is often punctured from the city’s anarchist protests to anti-establishment graffiti, and most importantly, a culture of political vibrancy and pluralism.</p> <p lang="en-AU">This phenomenon helps recalibrate the senses back to modern predicaments. Whereas Prague’s glistening Disneyfied streets and conventionally romantic spaces tells you reassuring lies about what the world wants to see, Berlin’s grotty pockets and incompleteness electrifies you with the truth about the world as it is. While the post-war Berlin story – that saw Cold War divisions, reconstruction, and reunification – is anything but straightforward, we can come, as a result of such past tensions, to appreciate the current political and intellectual landscape of Berlin in the way it accentuates the idea of human value.</p> <p lang="en-AU">The marriage between city and thought is critical in understanding the exiled Arab body politic undergoing a collective soul-searching struggle, beyond the initial wandering of freedom, which is evident in the intellectual and everyday subtext. There will need to be a deeper gaze into&nbsp;<em>maghfira&nbsp;</em>(forgiveness),&nbsp;<em>tasalah&nbsp;</em>(reconciliation),&nbsp;<em>inikas&nbsp;</em>(reflection) on past mistakes, as well as the notion that the nation-state that brought many ills to the Arab world no longer makes any sense. Therefore, the concept of the city will need to spearhead the decolonization of nation-state models and replace it with more humane ways of governance. As such, the Arab community’s exploration of forgiveness, reconciliation, and reflection comes with the aid of complementary themes embedded in Berlin’s code.</p> <p lang="en-AU">The concept of&nbsp;<em>Vergangenheitsbewältigung&nbsp;</em>means working through and coping. Here, the past is incorporated into present experiences. It was once used in a positive way, describing that you had to deal with the past, but has become increasingly ambivalent. The term&nbsp;<em>bewältigen&nbsp;</em>means not only confronting the past, but also getting over it or getting done with it (it can also mean mastering a task or learning to do something for the first time). It has been overused but still serves as a beneficial term. Perhaps the strongest instantiation is&nbsp;<em>Aussöhnung</em>, which means reconciliation. Connected to Biblical motifs and rarely used in everyday conversation, it can be employed to describe coping with the past by reconciling opposites or parties that have hurt each other. Berlin, therefore, is that paradigmatic backdrop and soundboard to the slowly maturing elements running through the political Arab community.</p> <strong>Reassembling the political</strong> <p> Towards that end, Berlin will need to be actively thought of and treated as one critical hub and safe space to reconstruct alternative narratives and futures20– a space that will require a physical presence and minimal reliance on the digital sphere of social media and communication technologies. A physical presence should be emphasised over any other collaboration, including the much-loved Skype conferencing. We have hopefully learned the lesson of 2011: The digital can only take us so far, and the communities existing in cyberspace will never be a match for the real world of organizing and politicking. Certainly, the digital will be complementary, but never its replacement.21 Han would argue, “it takes a soul, a common spirit, to fuse people into a crowd. The digital swarm lacks the soul or spirit of the masses. Individuals who come together as a swarm do not develop a we.”22 </p> <p> To reemphasize, this is about Berlin. A gifted Syrian poet in Hamburg or a lustrous Moroccan film director in Munich are of little use unless they physically make the trip to the German capital, disclose their identities and make their presence felt. Better put, “meet, merge, emerge” as Australian author Stuart Braun pithily states in his aptly named book,&nbsp;<em>City of Exiles: Berlin from the outside in.</em>23 No digital mechanism can ever be a viable substitute to the world of shadows. There needs to be a resistance to the levelling effect brought on by the digital topology that deceives with its pseudo-egalitarianism and smooth open spaces yet fragments responsibility. It does this by promoting arbitrariness and non-bindingness that undermine promises and trust that are required to bind the future.24 </p> <p>This stands in contrast to the real world’s nooks, corners, crannies, and alleys that filter and impede the information pollution and the armies of trolls, and permit slowness, mediation, and trust processes back into the collective fold.25 The orderly and measured disengagement from social media is one way to avoid the recurring problem of disintegration of one’s efforts, scattering of thoughts, and inability to hone in on matters down to their essence. Without going all out Luddite, it is to reign back the digital swarm that leads to the exile’s continued captivity between a sensationally feel-good-but-not-going-anywhere present and an open abyss that devours all efforts.</p> <p lang="en-AU">The political should thus not simply be understood as a destination where a Syrian has to wait for that momentous day to return to a post-Assad land (if the obvious needs reminding, even sinister dictators and their regimes cannot cheat mortality and the laws of history). Rather, it is to think and engage politically in the present and be tested within the society of Berlin.</p> <p>For example, I remember a few years ago, a group of Syrians started a charity “giving back to Germany” which handed out food to the homeless. While charity is always to be commended, justice needs to be at the forefront of one’s goals of becoming better acquainted with the political problem that not only leads to homelessness, but also to understand it in much more nuanced ways than what the political can popularly imply. To illustrate this, the German population is suffering from a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thelocal.de/20180323/two-thirds-of-germans-think-the-country-has-a-major-loneliness-problem" target="_blank">loneliness scourge</a>.26 The communal capital stored within many Arab spaces can be unloaded (through volunteering and specially-designed outreach programs) into these German voids. Loneliness, a growing phenomenon in this hyper-individualised world (and one that is making inroads into Arab cities), has political implications from the way people view minorities to voting patterns, and therefore it needs to be treated as a political problem. From this, a problem is recognised, engaged with, new lessons learned, adding further experiences and wisdom to the Arab body-politic repository.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/6.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/6.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A conference in perpetual motion. Photo by Amro Ali</span></span></span>There is something unsettling about attending a brilliant symposium on Middle East studies in Berlin, only to leave with the predictable knowledge that it will fall into a black hole. Even if publications and podcasts were produced, it reaches only a few, and certainly not the wider Arab civic body in question. A continual dialogue with the public needs to be fostered. Think of it as a conference in perpetual motion: To widen the net to young Arabs to engage in political thinking without the need to enrol them in formal structures of learning; to translate complex academic theories into digestible intellectual gems, which could be as simple as rewriting or summarizing conference notes to be pinned up on a board in an Arab café in Neukölln. The intellectual exile body will need to forge an intimate relation with café staff, barbers and other occupations critically-positioned within common social spaces. The “antiquated” flyer will hold more weight than a Facebook post as the mere act of handing it to someone restores an invaluable human transaction that makes bonding and togetherness more realizable than what social media can offer. </p><p lang="en-AU">It would be a delusion of utter proportions to think the mosque and church have no place in this endeavour. Any project to live out one’s secular fantasies is doomed. There needs to be a move beyond the spaces of smoke-blowing chatter over Foucault versus Deleuze and the echo chamber it entails. This is not a matter of merely tolerating faith because it is deeply rooted in the Arab community. Rather, it implies coming to terms with the constructive role faith can play in an increasingly alienating environment and, therefore, that it needs to be better framed and understood rather than overlooked by intellectual currents.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Put differently, the frequent sound of church bells should not be read as annoying (as I often hear Germans and visitors complain), but an encouraging sign that the church, along with worker’s unions, form a bulwark against neoliberal dehumanization. This is done by keeping shops closed on Sundays for leisure and holding the consumer-frenzy Black Friday and Boxing day type sales of New York and London at bay.</p> <p lang="en-AU">On a similar wave length, no Ramadan ever passes without the cynics moaning how the holy month slows down Muslim efficiency in the workforce. Apart from this generalization, we need to ask, is slowness a bad thing in this overheated world? In a system obsessed with sucking every last ounce of productivity from the workforce and running them down into complacent cogs in the hyper-capitalist machine, then along comes Ramadan throwing in a wrench and declaring: no, it is better to reach the outer limits of your humanness by reorienting attention back to the family, community, charity, sacrifice, and empathy with the poor and hungry, as all this has more depth and meaning than a cold abstract GDP. By carefully rethinking such facets and others through, we can gradually rehumanize the political.</p> <p>It must be remembered that whether one identifies as intellectual, activist, dissident, artist, filmmaker, and so on, one has chosen to operate more vividly within, what Czech thinker Václav Havel describes as, the “independent life of society.”27 This implies any expression that ranges from self-reflection about the world to setting up a civic organization with the aim of materializing the “truth” or living within the truth. Havel’s line of thinking was nurtured under authoritarian rule in 1970s communist Czechoslovakia, however it has some resonance to Arab Berlin, and certainly much more resonance in the current state of the Arab world in which it is a struggle to live creatively and with thought.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/7.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/7.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Merge the stream of evolving Arab politics with German progressive politics. Photo by Amro Ali</span></span></span>The Arab barber and Arab author in Berlin may have developed from the same background that brought them various shades of pain, except the latter is disproportionately more noticeable, given a special title, and a de facto voice to speak for others. The barber’s expression of truth is demoted as it is seen to fall below the boundaries of societal “respectability” and creative norms. The practice of faith might not only be his attainment of truth, but his coping mechanism. However, attaining truth can materialize in numerous other ways: If a Syrian barber is tending to a Palestinian customer, they might get into a conversation of a common struggle, evoking sympathy, empathy, and kinship. He might not let the patron pay if he sensed financial hardship. He could decide to put up a picture of Aleppo before the war as a reminder of what was lost but will someday be regained, even with its rubble. What looks like the everyday mundane is, in actuality, the desire to incrementally expand the spaces of dignity wherever one traverses. </p><p lang="en-AU">The Arab author is simply one manifestation of the same political spectrum that produced that barber. The author just happens to be one of the most visible, most political, most clearly articulated expression of Arab grievances. Yet the author should not forget that he or she developed, consciously or not, from the same background and reservoir as the rest of society and the upheavals of the Arab Spring. This is where they draw their strength and legitimacy from; and this society has a very large reservoir of pain, unhappiness, confusion, and uncertainty. But when the intellectuals and activists not only recognize the futility of separation from that background, but also return to and engage with it, not as shewerma-buying customers but as citizens-in-exile in an ever-expanding conversation with moral obligations, the securing of a steadfast future is aided.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Arab Berlin would need to build a reciprocal relationship with Arab cities, beyond the institutional level. Currently, the two candidates most receptive to new ideas are Tunis and Beirut.</p> <p lang="en-AU">These would form the intellectual bridgehead cities to the Arab world. It should not be presumed, however, that Tunis and Beirut will be painless to engage with simply based on the appearance of liberty. The Lebanese capital is extremely volatile and is prone to be the wildcard of Arab cities. Tunisian gains of greater freedoms are betrayed by a brain-drain and inertia in Tunis as a result of endemic corruption and the inability to push deeper reforms. Nevertheless, there is a reservoir of latent possibilities in this novel relationship with these two cities that needs to be explored.</p> <p lang="en-AU">This arrangement is needed, or is perhaps a first step, until Cairo, the only Arab city that can move ideas by its sheer weight, is someday restored back onto the path of political maturity and intellectual openness. Perhaps this approach is also a modest attempt to address a deeper problem: One of the causes of the tragic downward spiral in the region was the historical shifting of the ideological Arab gravity centres to Riyadh, hauled away from Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad. It is not that these three cities lost their cultural capital as much as their clout was reined in by the reckless vision of Gulf oil money. The ageless beauty and humility of Gulf Arab culture – one that was at the forefront of environmental care – was ripped apart as it descended upon an accelerated hyper-modernity devoid of politics, and the region keeps on paying the price in countless catastrophic ways because of the Gulf’s ineptitude and irresponsible adventures.</p> <p>This whole endeavor is under no illusion with regards to the obstacles faced. The cynics will assert the specter of the far-right and xenophobia will hamper the efforts of the Arab exile body. Perhaps, but rather than being spectators on the sidelines, the idea is to merge the stream of evolving Arab politics with German progressive politics, as well as to actively hold a mirror up to official German hypocrisy that preaches a human rights discourse yet sells deadly weapons to dictatorships (Egypt being the&nbsp;<a href="https://madamasr.com/en/2017/11/16/feature/politics/qa-with-german-mp-stefan-liebich-revealing-german-arms-exports-to-egypt/" target="_blank">top importer</a> of German armaments).28 Moreover, the world’s problems are interconnected more deeply than we could ever imagine and addressing this needs to be realized on a city, as opposed to national, level which is within human grasp.</p> <p lang="en-AU">The other evident challenge is the visa regime. To avoid being consumed by the consular labyrinth, a focus should not be placed on importing more intellectuals into Berlin, but rather, to make do with who is available, who is able to move there, and who is able to visit or pass through. More crucial even is to gradually raise a generation that thinks in new political ways. In this, the greatest challenge I believe will be the absence of a global momentum – that only shows up in rare cycles – to galvanize the community. Momentum versus little of it is the difference between a packed public lecture with audiences sprawled across the stairs and floor, sacrificing thirst and inconvenience, to feel part of something big, as opposed to a dozen regular attendees subjected to the speaker’s voice echoing in the room. The painfully long intervals between momentums will need to be filled with thinking, reading, writing, and gatherings, geared towards slowly building up the community. Because when the momentum arrives unannounced, there will be no time to finish reading a book or stay seated to the end of a theatre play.</p> <p>The manipulation of identity will be another obstacle thrown by the Arab skeptics, particularly in official capacities, as well as their supporters, who might insinuate that something coming out of a western city is not as authentic as an Arab or Muslim one – despite the political currency emerging from an Arab body. Remember, we are dealing with Arab regimes that decry western human rights as not applicable to them all the while, for some “inexplicable” reason, granting exceptions for Western arms, neoliberalism, consumerism, torture methods, higher degrees and so forth.29 The same regimes that sing tone-deaf nationalist rhetoric and loyalty to the homeland, and yet it is not unusual to see a growing number of the elite’s children studying, working, and living in places like London and Rome with no intention of returning home.</p> <p lang="en-AU">The identity neurosis underpins the same mentality that accepts being vomited upon by Gulf capital that turns the thriving Arab cultural realm into vast wastelands simply because, as one of the superficial subtexts hold, the finance is coming from a Muslim country, and therefore something must be going right. As if the insertion of an air-conditioned sleek mosque in a mega mall rights the wrongs of the eviction of local communities, destruction of age-old mosques, and state appropriation of their lands under the flimsiest of pretexts to build that mall. Progress does not come off the back of cement trucks. The shredding of a political value system in the Arab world is why Arab Berlin exists in the first place. In any case, the bridgehead cities partially address this identity concern by repelling the superficial charges that will potentially unfold in the future.</p> <strong>What is the contemporary Zeitgeist? What is our Ruh al-Asr?</strong> <p>We live in an era that is mostly nameless, faceless, and spiritless – compounded by the very neoliberal forces that strip people stark naked before the monster of mutant capitalism. This monster knows no vision, no direction, no narrative, no meaning, no choreography, and no conclusion.30 It only knows addition and acceleration that operates through consumer desires, emotional manipulation, and false promises that repeatedly drag humans away from the realm of authenticity.</p> <p>This beast of anti-politics has, not surprisingly, been eagerly adopted by liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes alike. Undoubtedly, much worse for the latter as the deliberate weakening of political pluralism, civil society, institutions, and freedom of speech, incapacitates the ability to hold back the deluge of socio-economic dehumanization. This is a crisis without the shrill dramatics of a crisis because it is quiet, smooth, seamless, and well internalized. But as with any crisis, only by naming it and giving it shape can we attempt to limit the formless threats that have yet to come. By determining something as a crisis, Jacques Derrida would argue, “one tames it, domesticates it, neutralizes it…One appropriates the Thing, the unthinkable becomes the unknown to be known, one begins to give it form, one begins to inform, master, calculate, program.”31 </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/8.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/8.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A city that feeds on its nerves? Photo by Amro Ali.</span></span></span>Perhaps one way to approach this is to return to an obscure article written in 1870 by Syrian intellectual Salim al-Bustani in the&nbsp;<em>al-Jinan&nbsp;</em>journal. Titled “<em>Ruh al-Asr</em>” (Spirit of the Age), it was most likely formulated as a response to the well-known German&nbsp;equivalent,&nbsp;<em>Zeitgeist</em>. Ruh al-Asr was a literary and philosophical theme that was constituted by a “metaphysical force in terms of its moral imperatives of liberty, freedom, equality, and justice.”32</p> <p> Like many of his Arab contemporaries, al-Bustani was clearly seduced by the “liberality” and “human progress” blowing from West, yet he implored his readers to defend local traditions and values as encroaching abstract principles would not make a tenable replacement. Specifically, he disdained Arabs selecting European customs for no other reason but simply because they are European33(a phenomenon that still protrudes its long arm into the post-colonial era). He grew concerned at the West’s peripheral extremes of nihilist and anarchist violence, a precursor to the modern Islamist variant, that would violate the moderation and disruption of the momentum of Ruh al-Asr. As illustrated through the role of heroines in al-Bustani’s stories, the momentum of Ruh al-Asr largely centered on intelligence, common sense, and decency, with the aim of helping and lifting the individual through reading and learning, and refining society away from corruption.34 Ruh al-Asr, hence, is a phrase we might need to revive and imbibe with new meaning.</p> <p lang="en-AU">This endeavor to breathe new life into Ruh al-Asr could have been better facilitated had Germany, or Berlin specifically, still had a strong altruistic Zeitgeist – a term which has regrettably been reduced, in a best-case scenario, to fashion trends and fads, and, worst-case, the purview of the far-right. I say this because a compelling Zeitgeist could ideally provide a backdrop and soundboard to its Arabic counterpart.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Zeitgeist, since the early nineteenth century’s era of romanticism, has often guided some sort of enlightening or dark spirit in the German public sphere. With Berlin at the epicenter of the Cold War, Germans could identify themselves, or sympathize, with ideological markers – Marxist, anti-Soviet, pro-US – that may have clarified where they stood regarding political matters. A Zeitgeist came in various incarnations. For example, in the 1970s, the left-wing Red Army Faction (Baader Meinhof) terrorist group could, despite the violence they inflicted, draw sympathy from large sections of West German society, particularly the intellectual and student scene. But Zeitgeist could also propel the same strata of Germans into supporting peaceful measures like the anti-nuclear protests and environmentalism of the 1980s.</p> <p lang="en-AU">While viewing a 1970s documentary on Berlin long ago, the English commentator’s closing words etched into my mind: “This is West Berlin. A city that feeds on its nerves, a town that has learned to live in isolation, to flourish under tension. In spite of Detente, still a frontier post, living in some sense from day to day. Truly a phenomenon of our times and a lesson for our generation.” That Berlin no longer exists. The welcome removal of the existential threat&nbsp;(however euphoric) has diluted collective forms of political spirits. A one-off massive demonstration against neo-Nazis is not a sustained political spirit as much as it is a political culture reactive against Nazi encroachment. The latter, however, should not be trivialized, as such a massive protest and discourse still puts Berlin ahead of the western pack who still struggle to build up a meaningful response to the wave of xenophobia and an angry far-right.</p> <p>In a reunited Germany and in a new unipolar world where the ascendency of the US cemented free market economics upon the debris of communism, a desperate RAF – the German century’s last controversial, political-turned-criminal child, disfigured by the Zeitgeist – issued a “discussion paper” in 1992 titled “We Must Search for Something New.”35 But it was too late, utopia had sailed away; not only for the RAF, but it seems for other German political currents, too, in tune with the rest of post-cold war Europe, if not the world. In turn, what would be considered “big” and “new” became the monopoly of technology and markets.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Big ideas have generally receded since the reunification of Germany, a matter that can be glimpsed in the current clinical management style of Merkel. This shows how far the country has come since, for example, the dynamic leadership of Willy Brandt (West German chancellor, 1969-1974). In fairness, leaders generally respond to the international environment of their times and frame their actions accordingly. But they do set the tone for public thinking.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Ask a German with non-immigrant roots in Berlin as to what inspires or moves Germans today, and you will be surprised not at the answer, but how long it takes to get an answer. As if the question is something that has not crossed their minds before. Understandably, the hesitancy seems to be governed by historical wariness of Germans being inspired in murky directions. But it is also because many will sincerely confess that individual self-interest has assumed the helm. When a worthy response does come out, it is usually akin to battling climate change or helping refugees. Consequently, the inability to mould a coherent and compellingly humane narrative has partly thrown Zeitgeist to the mercy of a resurgent far-right.</p> <p lang="en-AU">At times you do see flickers of a beautiful human spirit. In the summer of 2015, there was an upsurge against the increasing dehumanization of refugees and many Germans came on board to support the mass refugee intake; also revealing a transitory leadership quality in Merkel who proclaimed&nbsp;“<em>Wir schaffen das”</em>(we’ll get it done). Yet, this revived altruistic Zeitgeist barely lasted six months, it was ripped apart in the early hours of the new year 2016 in Cologne by drunk refugees who reportedly attacked German women. This, however, raises the hindsight point: there is something very problematic about a Zeitgeist and ideals that welcomes the refugee only to easily dismantle the whole endeavor upon being tested by one, albeit serious, incident.</p> <p lang="en-AU">Even if Arabs were to somehow reanimate Ruh al-Asr, they will still feel intellectually orphaned in a Europe that has lost its political imagination. Nevertheless, rather than being spectators, the Arab exile body needs to envision itself collectively engaged with the forces that are holding back the far-right tide. Together, they aid in reviving, however modestly, the better nature of the German imagination, contribute to battling the global depletion of political thought, and push out parallel democratic narratives against the germination of Arab authoritarian ones.</p> <p lang="en-AU">But before all this, it needs to be ultimately asked: What is our Ruh al-Asr? There is no easy response. In the revolutionary honeymoon days of 2011 and 2012, this could have effortlessly been answered heterogeneously, but today, it is wanting. It certainly is not to accept the continued drive towards entrenched repression in the Arab world. To engage with the question, it would need to go deeper, way beyond discussions of solutions to the Palestinian problem or Egyptian authoritarianism.</p> <p>It needs thinking at the existential level of our moral quagmire. Not only are our publics duped into cheering massacres or muted over the killing of a journalist in a consulate. The normalization of their lives toward biological and work processes also robs them of any higher attainment of the common good. We thus need to go back to basics and redefine every single word that permeate the lives among us: citizen, city, state, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Sunni, Shiite, exile, justice, happiness, education, Inshallah, and so on. To also ask, why do they matter? Questions need to be raised on the region’s Christian, Nubian, Berber, Amazigh, and other non-Arab and non-Muslim minorities, and how they can be raised to a dignified equality.36 It will require the ability to shed light on the refugee not simply or only as an object of sympathy, reform, or potential terror, but to elevate him or her as an intellectual producer. To understand what constitutes the better parts of our Ruh al-Asr is to delineate a new way of framing the world. To fight the freak reality of&nbsp;<em>maskh</em>&nbsp;(shapelessness) and be salvaged from the terror of the same.</p> <p>Rather than a prescription for an Arab utopian future, it is better to consider present realities to build a new manual of thought, drawn from the lived veracities of the Arab world along with the experience of displacement, migration, movement, exile, alienation and settlement in Berlin into the narrative. But it adds one key question – where to next? It is to compose a new story in a relatively secure space by building up partially, for example, on Arendt’s methodological assumption: “That thought itself arises out of incidents of living experience and must remain bound to them as the only guideposts by which to take its bearings.”37 In other words, whatever framework of thought develops should be an ongoing endeavour made responsive to our assessment and reconstruction as we confront shifting circumstances while voyaging across the treacherous terrain of memory, history, political imaginaries, narratives, and counter-narratives.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/9.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/9.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The grey blur that nauseatingly blankets the future can actually be broken up. Photo by Amro Ali.</span></span></span>Facing similar transcendental questions of his time, al-Bustani struggled to make sense of the Arab future in the shadow of colonialism. From his 1875 short story,&nbsp;<em>Bint al-Asr</em>, “Daughter of the Age”, he invokes the spectre of uncertainty following the influx of European influences: “These things are taking place at a time whose meaning, like the uncertain light of dawn, is yet unclear. Therefore, the minds of many people, too, are not clear. Even strangers (Europeans) are in the dark, like the natives. This state of affairs shows that the country is suffering under the burden of a cultural situation whose values are in an uncertain state of transition.” 38</p> <p>Al-Bustani faced a different moment of truth in which he wondered and wandered, as to what will eventually come out of this confusion for his fellow Arabs. Nowadays, we face that confusion again, just as we have faced it numerous times since al-Bustani’s day. For God knows what tomorrow brings, but the journey will draw from and humanize the symbolic capital that was born in 2011, as well as to reinvigorate it in novel ways that opens up new pathways. The galvanizing moments of 2011 was when desire and the imagination were given free reign until they were torpedoed by blood, remorse, despair, and exhaustion. More than ever, what is needed is to judiciously rekindle desire and imagination but, this time, to reign it in with knowledge and discipline.</p> <p>We need to produce new personalities and thinkers who will further aid in tapping into the curiosity, relentlessness, inventiveness, and ingenuity of a heartbroken community; to adopt emerging texts as guides, imbibe philosophical thinking into the heart of upcoming ventures, and to produce books worthy of inheritance to the generations yet to arrive; and we need to encourage not only the learning of the German language and refining our approach to the Arabic language, but to be constantly conscious that political thinking is inescapably structured by the words we use and evade, and therefore a revitalized vocabulary is needed to question and discuss the taxonomies of power. But above all, we need to come to terms with our mortality that humbles us into the awareness that our milestones are heirlooms of past struggles, and the fruits of our efforts might only sprout beyond our lifetime. One is not expected to do everything, but nor should one relinquish their responsibility to do something worthwhile for others.</p> <p>By breaking through Kracauer’s words of anonymity and aimlessness at the opening of this essay, we need to find ourselves, and each other, on the streets, from human to human crowd to an animated body-politic, becoming that new people on the Berlin scene with names, aims, and voices, that intersect with what is just and good. The surge of different rhythms harmoniously complementing the other will reveal larger than life meanings, sounding off a special melody that will be worth listening to.</p> <p><strong>Footnotes</strong></p> <ol><li> <p> Hannah Arendt, <em>On Revolution</em> (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973). 205.</p> </li><li> <p> Amro Ali, “The Hidden Triumph of the Egyptian Revolution,” <em>Open Democracy</em> (25 January 2016), https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/hidden-triumph-of-egyptian-revolution</p> </li><li> <p> Hannah Arendt, <em>Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought</em> (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977). 4.</p> </li><li> <p> “…the foreigner…has to ask for hospitality in a language which by definition is not his own, the one imposed on him by the master of the house, the host, the king, the lord, the authorities, the nation, the State, the father, etc…That is where the question of hospitality begins: must we ask the foreigner to understand us, to speak our language, in all the senses of this term, in all its possible extensions, before being able and so as to be able to welcome him into our country?” Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000). 15.</p> </li><li> <p> Byung-Chul Han, <em>The Agony of Eros</em> (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017). 1.</p> </li><li> <p> Edward W. Said, <em>Reflections on Exile and Other Essays</em> (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). 173.</p> </li><li> <p> As Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once put it: “Exile is more than a geographical concept. You can be an exile in your homeland, in your own house, in a room.” See Adam Shatz, “A Poet’s Palestine as a Metaphor,” <em>New York Times</em> (22 December 2001), https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/22/books/a-poet-s-palestine-as-a-metaphor.html.</p> </li><li> <p> Dina Wahba, “Diaspora Stories: Crippling Fear and Dreams of a Better Home,” <em>Mada Masr</em> (16 August 2018),&lt;https://madamasr.com/en/2018/08/16/opinion/u/diaspora-stories-crippling-fear-and-dreams-of-a-better-home/&gt;.</p> </li><li> <p> David Frisby, <em>Fragments of Modernity: Theories of Modernity in the Work of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin, Social and Political Theory</em> (Cambridge: Polity, 1985). 142.</p> </li><li> <p> Ibid. 141</p> </li><li> <p> Byung-Chul Han, <em>The Burnout Society</em> (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015). 49. As Han notes, neoliberalism has transformed the oppressed worker into a free contractor, and class struggle has given way to internal struggle within one’s inner being. This is set up so that anyone who fails to succeed has to feel shame and cannot blame anyone but themselves. Therefore, governments, institutions, society, and structural factors, are absolved of any responsibility.</p> </li><li> <p> A number of institutions and initiatives have been central to the German-Arab cultural exchange and collaboration. Among them: Free University, Humboldt University, Forum Transregionale Studien, the Goethe Institute (and its support of institutions such as the Arab Image Foundation); German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and its support of Arab artists and intellectuals (e.g. Akram Zaatari, whose films often show in the short competition of the Berlin Film Festival); Transmediale (which formerly ran the Arab Shorts Program); the Barenboim-Said Academy which is not only a site for Arab arts, intellectual exchanges and conferences but, perhaps, the largest scholarship program for Arab musicians in the world. Overall, the spectrum is wide, from the various foundations of the political parties and the Foreign Office, to the neighborhood dynamics in Neukölln along Sonnenallee street.</p> </li><li> <p> Sarah El Deeb, “Saudi Writer Saw Turkey as Base for a New Middle East,” <em>Associated Press News</em> (21 October 2018), https://apnews.com/5643bc71beaf43249527f1e0d14dd67b.</p> </li><li> <p> Hamilton frames his argument through the work of political scientist Franz Neumann who interestingly wrote in 1944 that “foreign trade may be a means of enriching a higher and better-organised nation at the expense of the less industrialized. This is the essence of foreign trade even under conditions of free competition… We believe that on the world market, commodities are not exchanged at their value, but that, on the contrary, a more industrialized country exchanges less labor for more. Foreign trade, under conditions of free competition, is thus the means of transferring profits.” See Omar Robert Hamilton, “Industrial Colonialism: Egypt, Germany and the Maintenance of the Modern World,” Mada Masr (5 July 2018), &lt;https://madamasr.com/en/2018/07/05/opinion/u/industrial-colonialism-egypt-germany-and-the-maintenance-of-the-modern-world/&gt;.</p> </li><li> <p> Perhaps two historical anecdotes can capture the essence of the Arab imagination’s complex juxtapositioning that endorses Germany over other European powers. When Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Damascus in 1898, he approached the tomb of Saladin and stated: “Let me assure His Majesty the Sultan [Abdulhamid II] and the 300 millions of Muslims who, in whatever corner of the globe they may live, revere in him their khalif, that the German Emperor will ever be their friend.” The Kaiser laid a wreath with the words “A Knight without fear or blame who often had to teach his opponents the right way to practice chivalry.” The speech was soon translated into Arabic, to great fanfare. The Kaiser’s speech made Saladin a political symbol in the Arab world (up until then he was seen only as an important historical figure). The Egyptian poet Ahmad Shawqi even composed an ode to the Kaiser. The perceived contrast was not lost on the Arab world when French General Henri Gouraud, reportedly, at the end of World War One, kicked the tomb of Saladin and proclaimed: “Awake, Saladin. We have returned. My presence here consecrates victory of the Cross over the Crescent.” This insult later seared into the memory of the Syrian resistance against the French. See Doğan Gürpınar, <em>Ottoman/Turkish Visions of the Nation, 1860-1950</em>(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 87; Anthony Billingsley, <em>Political Succession in the Arab World: Constitutions, Family Loyalties, and Islam</em> (New York: Routledge, 2010). 214.</p> </li><li> <p> Sharon M. Meagher, <em>Philosophy and the City: Classic to Contemporary Writings</em> (Albany: State University of New York, 2008). 4.</p> </li><li> <p> Peter Schneider, <em>Berlin Now: The City after the Wall</em>, trans. Sophie Schlondorff (New York: Macmillan, 2014). 7.</p> </li><li> <p> Ibid.</p> </li><li> <p> Ibid.</p> </li><li> <p> It was not a coincidence that Berlin-based Forum <em>Transregionale Studienheld</em> a conference in 2018 titled “Imagining the Future: The Arab World in the Aftermath of Revolution.” https://www.eume-berlin.de/veranstaltungen/workshops/workshops-seit-2006/imagining-the-future-the-arab-world-in-the-aftermath-of-revolution.html.</p> </li><li> <p> Coming from the Arab world where the physical public sphere is repressed, social media makes much sense. However, it is quite a sight to ponder when I look at my digitally-immersed (which I am not always innocent of either) Arab colleagues and the privacy-obsessed Germans.</p> </li><li> <p> Han, <em>In the Swarm: Digital Prospects</em>. 13.</p> </li><li> <p> Stuart Braun, <em>City of Exiles: Berlin from the Outside In</em> (Noctua Press, 2015). 13.</p> </li><li> <p> Han, <em>In the Swarm: Digital Prospects</em>. 52-53.</p> </li><li> <p> Ibid. 45.</p> </li><li> <p> “Two Thirds of Germans Think the Country Has a Major Loneliness Problem,” <em>The Local Germany</em> (23 March 2018), https://www.thelocal.de/20180323/two-thirds-of-germans-think-the-country-has-a-major-loneliness-problem</p> </li><li> <p> Václav Havel and Paul R. Wilson, <em>Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990</em> (New York: Vintage Books, 1992). 177.</p> </li><li> <p> Sofian Philip Naceur, “Q&amp;A with German MP Stefan Liebich: Revealing German Arms Exports to Egypt,” <em>Mada Masr</em> (16 November 2017), https://madamasr.com/en/2017/11/16/feature/politics/qa-with-german-mp-stefan-liebich-revealing-german-arms-exports-to-egypt/</p> </li><li> <p> Given Egypt epitomizes this duality, I recommend reading Mohamed Naeem’s translated essay: “Ever since its inception, the idea of Egyptian modernity was imagined as a choice between authenticity and modernity. In the popular consciousness, modernity had to be scrutinized by a lens of virtue and propriety. In short, we must take from the advanced West what suits us and abandon the rest — ‘we’ referring to the dominant classes, their interest and lifestyles. So things like ballet, malls and American consumption patterns are marks of advancement, but democracy and gender equality are alien concepts that undermine the identity and particularity of the nation.” See Mohamed Naeem, “Mother of the World, against the World and Outside of It,” <em>Mada Masr</em> (9 June 2016) https://madamasr.com/en/2016/06/09/opinion/u/mother-of-the-world-against-the-world-and-outside-of-it/.</p> </li><li> <p> Byung-Chul Han, <em>The Transparency Society</em> (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015). 30-31.</p> </li><li> <p> Jacques Derrida and Elizabeth Rottenberg, <em>Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews, 1971-2001</em> (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002). 71.</p> </li><li> <p> Matti Moosa, <em>The Origins of Modern Arabic Fiction</em> (Washington DC: Three Continents Press, 1983). 170.</p> </li><li> <p> Ibid. 167.</p> </li><li> <p> Ibid. 177-178.</p> </li><li> <p> Jeremy Peter Varon, <em>Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies</em> (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). 306.</p> </li><li> <p> It is not lost on me that an Arab exile body is already inherent with tensions that dislodges voices who do not easily subscribe to the Arab label.</p> </li><li> <p> Arendt, <em>Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought</em>. 14.</p> </li><li> <p> Moosa,The Origins of Modern Arabic Fiction. 166.</p></li></ol><div><strong><em>This Essay was originally published in the German <a href="https://www.alsharq.de/blog/need-shape-arab-exile-body-berlin">Alsharq.</a></em></strong></div><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="/north-africa-west-asia/ahmed-elsayed/battle-over-memory-of-egypt-s-revolution">The battle over the memory of Egypt’s revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maria-da-f/i-am-not-criminal-i-am-artist">I am not a criminal, I am an artist</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/arabian-street-artists/political-protest-not-for-sale">Political protest not for sale!</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"> 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"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Germany Culture Exile Berlin Arab uprisings Arab Amro Ali Mon, 18 Feb 2019 07:00:01 +0000 Amro Ali 121681 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can left nationalism stop the rise of the far-right in Germany? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/julian-g-pffarth/can-left-nationalism-stop-rise-of-far-right-in-germany <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Left-wing parties and movements across Europe employing anti-globalisation and anti-EU rhetoric are on the increase. In Germany, the new left movement Aufstehen has joined the trend.</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-38346575.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38346575.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'>Sahra Wagenknecht and Bernd Stegemann launching Aufstehen, September 2018. Bernd von Jutrczenka/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The return to the nation is a trend that marks the politics of more and more European left-wing movements and parties. Those many European social democratic parties that took the path of Tony Blair’s New Labour and embraced globalisation, European integration and economically liberal positions, have become objects of criticism if not outright hostility in recent years. Instead, there has been a return to a nationalist rhetoric.</p> <p>French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his movement <em>La France Insoumise</em> were trendsetters in this regard. Founded in 2016, the party deliberately adopted nationalist rhetoric in what they said was an attempt to regain traditionally left-leaning and anti-capitalist supporters who had moved their support behind the nativist Front National. In the years prior, the far-right Front National had successfully branded itself “France’s first working class party” and a sole voice against what it portrayed as a neoliberal EU dominated by German interests. Mélenchon did not shy away from using the same rhetoric during the French elections in 2017, a strategy gathering him almost 20 per cent of the votes in the first round.</p> <p>In the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn represents a softer strain of the same trend. His continued strength can at least partially be explained by his ambiguous position on Brexit and the EU, deeply rooted in left-wing Euroscepticism. Through the deliberate lack of a clear standpoint, Labour has managed to appeal both to working class leave-supporters many of whom are keen to reduce immigration by ending EU freedom of movement to the UK, and to younger, more liberal remain-supporters. Corbyn’s preference for national solutions over European ones is widely assumed.</p> <p>A similar convergence of classical left- and right-wing positions under the umbrella of anti-capitalism, anti-neoliberalism and neo-nationalism is currently emerging in Germany. Similar to the Front National, the far-right <em>Alternative für Deutschland </em>(AfD) has developed a strong social profile over recent years, slowly pushing aside the economically more liberal positions that dominated the party’s inception in 2013. This has allowed the party to become increasingly appealing to traditional left voters.</p> <p>Inspired by the Front National, AfD-strategists realised that the increasing weakness of the social democratic SPD and the stagnant performance of the far-left <em>Die Linke </em>offers them a prime opportunity. In the end, around a million former supporters of the SPD and Die Linke gave their vote to the AfD in Germany’s 2017 federal elections. The shift in voting patterns was particularly visible in the east of Germany. Much of the AfD’s more recent move to the economic left has been led by Thuringia’s AfD-leader Björn Höcke, around whom a circle with strong links to the far-right think tank <em>Institut für Staatspolitik </em>and its founder Götz Kubitschek has formed. Together with a group of young activists around self-proclaimed national-socialist Benedikt Kaiser, this circle initiated attempts to hijack labour unions with proposals for a more generous national pension, and books published on the utility of left-wing topics for the far-right – a move provoking intense debate at last year’s AfD party conference, where more moderate economic liberals clashed with economic nationalists.</p> <p>Höcke’s group is embedded in a European far-right network and works in close collaboration with actors from Italy and France, such as Alain de Benoist. Drawing on left theorists such as Karl Marx, but also more recent authors such as Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, their central aim is to pave the way for a critique of capitalism from the right and to reconcile it to far-right ethno- and anti-immigration politics.</p> <p>Another author applauded by Höcke’s group is Bernhard Stegemann, now close political friend of Sahra Wagenknecht and intellectual co-initiator of <em>Aufstehen</em>. In 2017, he published the widely received book “The Spectre of Populism” arguing the case for a leftist populism standing up against the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism – a book that was equally celebrated by intellectuals on the far-right. Together with Wagenknecht, the vocal and media savvy leader of the <em>Die Linke </em>faction in the German parliament, internationally renowned political economist Wolfgang Streeck and politicians from the SPD and the Greens, he declared the official start of <em>Aufstehen </em>in Berlin last summer. </p> <p>In the accompanying press conference, Wagenknecht claimed that German democracy is in a deep crisis, a crisis which, according to her, is also the driver behind last year’s violent clashes and far-right protests in Chemnitz. For her, the rise of the AfD is not a cultural but primarily a socio-economic question that has to be addressed from the left. More recently, she attempted to gain momentum from the “yellow vest” protests in France by posing in a yellow vest in front of the German chancellery and calling for a similar movement in Germany.</p> <p>Wagenknecht has repeatedly called for the limitation of immigration into Germany in order to stabilise the welfare state<em>. </em>While large parts of her own party attacked her for this position, she was applauded by Höcke’s group on the far-right, which called her an “isolated sign of hope in a leftist parallel society”. </p> <h2><strong>Electoral fortunes </strong></h2> <p>In the light of three upcoming regional East German elections in 2019, sending signals to the right on migration may seem an intuitive electoral move. Here the AfD has started to become a serious threat to <em>Die Linke’s </em>claim to be the obvious representative of East Germans. In Sachsen, Brandenburg and Thuringia recent polls see the AfD between 21 and 25 per cent, levelling with or even ahead of <em>Die Linke. </em>At the beginning of this year, the AfD’s persisting strength and its emphasis on a more generous pension system even pushed the CDU into calling for a reform of the pension system that would take into account those East Germans who lose their jobs after reunification. </p> <p>Giving frustrated voters a left-wing alternative for restricted migration became a key selling point for the <em>Aufstehen</em> movement<em>. </em>Combined with the first German attempt to start a non-partisan movement a la Macron’s <em>En Marche</em>, Corbyn’s <em>Momentum</em> and Mélenchon’s <em>La France Insoumise</em>, this it was hoped would mobilize non- and young voters yearning for new and alternative political options. But the first polls have already raised doubts about this, suggesting that <em>Aufstehen</em> so far primarily appeals to an older, more socially conservative and economically left-leaning electorate while largely meeting uninterest among young voters.</p> <p>However, the appeal it has to the far-right with its anti-immigration rhetoric is another matter. It is a &nbsp;dangerous game that could end up not weakening but strengthening the AfD. Rather than representing the genuine, forward looking and innovative movement it pretends to be, <em>Aufstehen </em>can also be seen as yet another sign of the normalisation of a new nationalism, this time in the German left – a nationalism driven by the nostalgia for allegedly better times before globalisation and Europeanisation took over, seen as the primary cause of the financial, Euro and migration crises that have shaken Europe over the past decade. </p> <p>In the long term, <em>Aufstehen </em>might have the chance to shake up Germany’s political landscape. Whether this is for better or for worse remains to be seen. What appears rather more certain is that the AfD strategy to adopt a leftist-anti-capitalist rhetoric will make the party one of the strongest competitors in the upcoming East German elections.</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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Julian Göpffarth Thu, 24 Jan 2019 16:43:14 +0000 Julian Göpffarth 121424 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Phantom foreign investors for an open new Uzbekistan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/opendemocracy-investigations/tashkent-city-project-uzbekistan-phantom-foreign-investors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">A high-profile <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent">urban development project in Tashkent</a> is designed to showcase the country for western capital. Our investigation suggests principal investors are from much closer to home.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 10.20.32.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 10.20.32.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Project design for Tashkent City's Lot 3, a shopping centre with two 30-storey buildings. Source: <a href=http://www.tcibc.uz/page/zone3>Tashkent City</a>.</span></span></span>Two years after the death of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s first president, the once impenetrable country has shown interest in opening up to international investors.&nbsp;<a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/21/uzbekistans-new-era-might-just-be-real/">Enthusiasts</a> regard this as the <a href="http://www.ponarseurasia.org/memo/how-western-disengagement-enabled-uzbekistans-spring-and-how-keep-it-going">“Uzbek spring”</a>, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/01/world/asia/uzbekistan-reform.html">new beginning</a> for the country under its new leader, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Others have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/luca-anceschi/modernising-authoritarianism-in-uzbekistan">pointed</a> to the sluggish and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bernardo-teles-fazendeiro/soft-power-under-mirziyoyev">inconsistent pace</a> of liberal reforms in the Central Asian state, which could just be used as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/kirill-buketov/the-democratic-future-of-uzbekistan">façade</a> to attract foreign capital.</p><p dir="ltr">Take Tashkent City, a government-sponsored project that aims to develop a high-tech business hub in Uzbekistan’s capital at a total cost of around $1.3 billion. British, Korean and German companies were awarded the main lots for construction. This flagship project seeks, in the <a href="http://voicesoncentralasia.org/who-is-tashkent-city-for-nation-branding-and-public-dialogue-in-uzbekistan/">words of analyst Dilmira Matyakubova</a>, to “rebrand Uzbekistan as a country interested in political reform, economic investment, and friendly relations with the rest of the world”. As Mirziyoyev, who is overseeing the project, <a href="https://regnum.ru/news/2339804.html">stated</a> in October 2017: “Tashkent City is a project which we will use to announce ourselves to the international community.”</p><p dir="ltr">But closer scrutiny into one of the foreign investors into Tashkent City reveals a complex network of companies and individuals closely linked to Central Asia, casting doubt on the positive news that Uzbekistan’s official media initially&nbsp;<a href="https://uznews.uz/ru/article/11932">trumpeted</a>. Hyper Partners GmbH, though heralded as a German investor for Tashkent City’s Lot 3, seems to belong to a network of Uighur businessmen, partnering with a Kazakh entrepreneur currently facing fraud charges. Neither this company, nor others associated with its public directors, has any record of experience of large-scale construction projects.</p><p dir="ltr">The Uzbek government’s desire to showcase its friendliness to foreign investors led journalists to <a href="https://ca-news.org/news:1471404">investigate the ownership of the companies that won the tenders</a> to develop Tashkent City, unveiling a complex network of companies and individuals which operate without a clear financial rationale. With the help of legal experts in Germany, we were able to disentangle the threads and highlight the network behind Hyper Partners GmbH, one of Tashkent City’s main investors and foreign contractors.</p><h2>The German front</h2><p dir="ltr">Hyper Partners, a company registered in Germany and contracted to develop Tashkent City’s Lot 3 – a shopping centre with two 30-storey towers – is everything but German. </p><p dir="ltr">Financial data shows that since 3 August 2018 the company’s sole owner has been Mustafa Palvan, who was 18 when he assumed the company’s directorship and 100% of the shares. The company’s capital amounts to €25,000, the minimum amount required to register a company in Germany. Research suggests that relatives and their business partners, not young Mustafa, could be the ones really in charge of Hyper Partners. There seems to be little justification or rationale for the Tashkent City project management in awarding a tender on a large project to a 19-year-old.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 12.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 12.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="234" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shareholder list for Hyper Partners GmbH shows Mustafa Palvan, now 19, as the main shareholder. </span></span></span>The founders of Hyper Partners are Waleri Wolf, 54, and Evgueni Rosenberg, 61. It’s not clear what nationality Wolf and Rosenberg hold, but the spelling of their names suggests a Russophone origin. Wolf and Rosenberg registered the company on 26 February 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The two had previously founded two other companies,<a href="http://wr-sector.de/"> W&amp;R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH</a> in November 2008 and<a href="https://statuswest.de/"> Statuswest GmbH</a> in August 2016. Since October 2018, all three companies have been registered at the same address: Assar-Gabrielsson-Straße 10-14, in Dietzenbach, Germany.</p><p dir="ltr">Judging by the financial statements of W&amp;R, the decade-long partnership between Wolf and Rosenberg has been a rocky road. The company mainly sold bathroom supplies. Data from the German State Trade Registry of Companies shows that W&amp;R piled up debts. </p><p dir="ltr">A German legal expert, who agreed to analyse the data on condition of anonymity, said that W&amp;R appeared to be on the brink of bankruptcy until a Kazakhstani shareholder appeared three years ago.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 1.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Data from German Trade Registry shows that Baurzhan Baimukhanov took a third of the shares in W&R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH in 2015. </span></span></span>In 2015, Baurzhan N. Baimukhanov, a Kazakhstani national, became a shareholder in W&amp;R, acquiring one-third of the shares. Following Baimukhanov’s investment, the company’s troubled finances were saved by a loan. </p><p dir="ltr">According to the records of the German State Registry, the company declared a €78,419 debt, marked “740 VB gg. Gesellschaftern”. The company’s previous debts towards Wolf and Rosenberg were always marked “730 VB gg. Gesellschaftern”. A shareholder (Gesellschaftern in German) provided the new loan.</p><p dir="ltr">While W&amp;R kept logging growing debt in its balance sheets in 2015, the following year the debt was slashed by around €70,000, without clarification in the income tables of the company’s balance sheet. According to the legal expert, this warrants further analysis:</p><p class="blockquote-new">“There are two possible scenarios here: either a shareholder gave the company a ‘credit’ of at least €78,419, or a contract was signed, without a cash transaction, but a promise of repayment. If a credit was given, it's strange that the money never showed up on the balance sheet. If this scenario is correct, the credited amount must have been spent immediately.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, W&amp;R’s debt was reduced to €156,336 from €245,462 the previous year.</p><p dir="ltr">“The company did not have the capital to reduce the debt in 2016, so the question remains: who paid in €89,126 to settle the debt? In other words, almost €90,000 circulated through the company without a public trace,” the expert concluded.</p><p dir="ltr">Wolf and Rosenberg’s associate Baimukhanov is a Kazakhstani businessman with close relations to Chinese business interests. In 2015-2016, Baimukhanov’s small construction company&nbsp;<a href="https://tenderplus.kz/organization/too-bazis-alatau">Bazis Alatau</a>, registered in Kazakhstan, worked with a Chinese company, Zhongfu, to bid for a <a href="http://kostanay.gov.kz/kz/akim-oblasti/intervyu/intervyu.php/?id_elem=142">regional government project</a> in Kazakhstan. We can confirm Baimukhanov’s identity from the Kazakh state registry of taxpayers, where his date of birth is consistent with the documentation from the German Trade Registry.</p><p>Earlier this year, Baimukhanov was&nbsp;<a href="http://prokuror.gov.kz/rus/novosti/press-releasy/moshennichestvo-na-territorii-mcps-horgos">arrested</a>. On 20 February he was detained together with his business partner G. Nabiyeva and charged with fraud of one billion tenge (€2.4 million) in relation to building contracts and leasing land, and with attempting to issue illegal gambling permits in the <a href="http://www.mcps-khorgos.kz/en">Khorgos International Centre for Border Cooperation</a>, a joint business project that stretches over both sides of the Chinese-Kazakh border. On 26 February 2018, Baimukhanov’s business partners Wolf and Rosenberg founded Hyper Partners GmbH.</p><h2>The Uighur connection</h2><p dir="ltr">Here, this story turns towards the border between Xinjiang and Kazakhstan, the geographic crux where ethnic identities merge and business connections intertwine.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2016, a Dubai resident, Kazakhstani national and ethnic Uighur with the name Abdukadyr Khabibula became a major shareholder in W&amp;R. Khabibula and Baimukhanov each took control of 40% of the company, leaving Wolf and Rosenberg with a 10% stake each. Two weeks after this transaction, Wolf and Rosenberg registered a new company, Statuswest GmbH, together with a resident of the German town of Dietzenbach by the name of Palvan Habibullah. The company was registered at the same address as W&amp;R. Palvan Habibullah owned €20,000 of the shares, or 80%, and Rosenberg and Wolf controlled €2,500 worth of shares each.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2018-12-17_at_12.28.10 (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen_Shot_2018-12-17_at_12.28.10 (1).png" alt="" title="" width="457" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The new Tashkent City project from above. Source: <a href=http://tcibc.uz>Tashkent City</a>. </span></span></span>Palvan Habibullah not only has a strikingly similar surname to Abdukadyr Khabibula, who took over W&amp;R – he was also born on the exact same day, 16 February 1964. Cross-referencing through different jurisdictions and the matching date of birth suggest that Palvan Habibullah and Adukadyr Khabibula could be the same person, though differences and mistakes in spelling in the German business registry make it difficult to establish this with any certainty. Several iterations of this person’s name appear in business registries around the world. Here we chose to use the official spelling of the Kazakhstani citizen Abdukadyr Khabibulla, as registered in the UK Companies House database.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, Khabibulla founded a new company,&nbsp;<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09268531">Palwan Limited</a>, in London. Palwan is the German spelling of the name Palvan, the name Khabibulla may be using as a German resident. But in the UK registry, Khabibulla figures as a UK resident. Palwan Limited has remained dormant, and counts possible relatives of Khabibulla among its shareholders: Aibibula Paliwanmuhaimaiti (born August 1991), a UK resident and Chinese national; Rezi Maliya (born April 1967), UK resident, Chinese national; Aibibula Yamimaiti; and Aibibula Nuerbiya.</p><p>Two of the shareholders in Palwan Limited, Abibulla Paliwanmuhaimaiti and Rezi Maliya, are also shareholders and directors of another company,&nbsp;<a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09847893">AKA London Trading Limited</a> (later renamed AKA London Limited). This company was registered on 29 October 2015 in the British town of Kingston upon Thames. Abibula Nuermaimaiti (born June 1989), a UK resident and Chinese citizen, is also listed among the company’s shareholders.</p><p>With companies registered in Dubai, Kyrgyzstan, London, Germany and Turkey, holding Chinese and Kazakh passports, and with a variety of residencies, these directors and major shareholders are part of an international <a href="http://respub.kg/2018/02/09/xitroumnyj-gorod-chast-ii/">Uighur community</a> that makes use of different jurisdictions and investment options across Europe and Asia. According to <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09847893">public accounts</a>, some time between in 2015 and 2016, AKA London Trading borrowed around £2 million from a man named Abdurkadyr Khabibula, in all probability a spelling mistake of Khabibulla’s full name, since it was disclosed in the accounts that he was a “related party to the directors” of AKA London Trading Limited.</p><p dir="ltr">This UK company also borrowed around £7.1 million from Palvan Insaat Turizm Lojistik San. TIC. Ltd, a Turkey-registered company related to the Uighur group, between 2015 and 2016. Aibibula Paliwanmuhaimaiti, a director of the UK company Palwan Limited, is registered as the head of this Turkish company, according to information from Turkey’s Yellow Pages business directory. The Palvan Insaat company is located in a residential area of Istanbul. A cursory look through Google Street View and a thorough search failed to return any details of business activity at the address.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 9.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 9.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The business address of Palvan Insaat Turizm Lojistik San. TIC. Ltd. Source: Google Streetview. </span></span></span>A Dubai subsidiary, AKA International DMCC, owned by Khabibulla and two other Palwan Limited shareholders, appears to be the only company among this network with an actual real estate portfolio. Indeed, this company invested in a high-tech project in Kyrgyzstan,&nbsp;<a href="http://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/newsbriefs/2018/02/09/newsbrief-02">Bishkek Smart City</a>. This government-led project aimed to install cameras for road safety and surveillance, utilising facial recognition technology to identify people of interest to the authorities. According to the Kyrgyz government, a Chinese state investment fund, Beijing China Veterans Lingxin Capital Management, is acting as the main investor, with Huawei Technologies providing implementation. According to the January 2018 deal, the Beijing China fund will provide $51 million of the investment. The Kyrgyz government was due to provide the remaining funds ($9 million), but backed out at the last minute. According to the director of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agency of Kyrgyz Republic, Huawei identified a new partner ready to invest these funds: a Kyrgyz-registered company, AKA Invest.</p><p dir="ltr">At this time, AKA’s investment and ownership came under scrutiny by <a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/01/25/investor-umnogo-goroda-s-ofisom-v-kafe-chto-izvestno-o-kompanii-aka-invest/">Kyrgyz investigative websites Kloop.kg</a> and <a href="http://respub.kg/2018/02/09/xitroumnyj-gorod-chast-ii/">Respublika KG</a>. When contacted by Kloop, AKA Invest admitted to being a subsidiary of the Dubai company AKA International DMCC, and stated that it is owned by three ethnic Uighurs: Abdukadyr Khabibulla from Kazakhstan and Aibula Nuermaimaiti and Aibula Palivanmukamiati, both from China. At the time, AKA Invest’s office was located at the address of a cafe in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital. The company’s clerk&nbsp;<a href="https://kloop.kg/blog/2018/01/25/investor-umnogo-goroda-s-ofisom-v-kafe-chto-izvestno-o-kompanii-aka-invest/">told</a> Kloop journalists: “You can ask your questions there [in the cafe] and they will pass them on to us.” It seems an unlikely base from which to make a $9 million investment in a high-tech urban development project, still more so given that these Uighur businessmen are also investing in another – Tashkent City.</p><p dir="ltr">While Wolf and Rosenberg served as the public directors for the German companies, Palvan Habibullah obtained 60% of the shares in Statuswest in 2016. According to data from the German State Registry of Companies, Statuswest took a loan of €500,000 in 2016 from an unknown source. Given the paucity of their assets, it is unlikely that the loan came from Wolf and Rosenberg. After the loan, Khabibulla/Habibullah appeared in the company’s documents as a 60% shareholder.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 5.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Picture 5.png" alt="" title="" width="160" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shareholders in W&R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH, according to German Trade Registry. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Between 2017 and 2018, control of these companies was ceded to family members of Khabibulla, Wolf and Rosenberg. W&amp;R is now owned by two men in their thirties named Wolf and Rosenberg. After the August 2018 buyout, Hyper Partners’ main shareholder is now 19-year-old Mustafa Palvan.</p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Mayne, an anti-corruption campaigner and author of a <a href="https://corruptionandhumanrights.org/app/uploads/2018/07/A-Case-of-Irresponsible-Return-Summary-Report.pdf">recent report on asset recovery and return</a>, said: </p><p dir="ltr">“This shows how easily it is to obscure the true owners of a project – the beneficial owners – using companies registered abroad. The project certainly raises many red flags: the source of the funds is unclear, and a 19-year-old is unlikely to be the true beneficial owner of the company responsible for the Tashkent City shopping centre project.”</p><p dir="ltr">With complex rounds of loans and cash, this network of German companies could be used as a shell for opaque investments. The difficulty of identifying the investors and shareholders of Hyper Partners GmbH, Abdukadyr Khabibulla and the other businessmen may be no accident. </p><p dir="ltr">Concealing their identity and affiliations in relation to this project would have been a plausible response to the scrutiny that arose following the investigations from Kloop.kg and other watchdogs. Similarly, Baimukhanov’s initial role in W&amp;R and the fact that Hyper Partners was founded less than one week after he was arrested on fraud charges in February this year could suggest that his role as the middleman between the project and the unknown beneficial owners of these companies was spoiled.</p><p dir="ltr">An expert with over a decade of experience in major financial crime cases in Europe and Central Asia, who agreed to comment on the case on the condition of anonymity, said the German front companies raised suspicion:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“The commercial rationale for funding a Germany-based company through unsecured personal loans originating from a high-risk jurisdiction raises eyebrows. Looking at the data, the money from such unsecured loans would then go from Germany to Uzbekistan. What would be the benefit of [this circle of transactions] other than guaranteeing a degree of anonymity for the ultimate beneficiaries of the investment?”</p><p dir="ltr">Funds are transiting from Central Asia through German companies back into Central Asia. These funds are now poised to be funnelled back into Uzbekistan through Hyper Partners’ investment in Tashkent City. Two key questions remain: why did the Uighur businessmen set their companies up in this way? And are these men the end of the chain or are they another front for other figures behind the money flows?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0736_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/DSC_0736_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Destruction of an apartment block for Tashkent City project. </span></span></span>Tim Stanley, senior partner for Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy, said: “This investigation into a potentially fraudulent investment scheme involving a flagship investment project is a timely reminder to investors and the donor community of the risks they run if they fail to conduct adequate due diligence or take the required steps to identify and mitigate their third-party risks.”</p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Mayne further stated: “[This information] also poses many questions for the German authorities, who should investigate the funds flowing through the German companies in question. If the Uzbek authorities are serious about attracting foreign investment, they should not only collect and verify full beneficial ownership information of companies bidding for such projects, but also make that information available to the public.”</p><p dir="ltr">In sum, it appears that not only did Tashkent City accept a teenage investor, the project also chose to work with a company closely associated with a Kazakh businessman currently facing significant fraud charges for 1 billion Kazakh tenge (€2.4 million) – and with Uighur investors representing a group of active and dormant companies, which issue personal loans of several million pounds. It might be high time to request a public audit of Rosenberg and Wolf’s companies. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Open Democracy contacted Hyper Partners GmbH, Statuswest GmbH, W&amp;R Handelsgesellschaft GmbH and International Business Center Tashkent City for comment, but did not receive a response.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Tashkent City is having human impacts on the ground. Read a personal account of dispossession <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent">here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></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="/od-russia/atkhan-akhmedov/dispossession-and-urban-development-in-the-new-tashkent">Dispossession and urban development in the new Tashkent </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/jessica-evans/in-uzbekistan-world-bank-is-masking-labour-abuses">In Uzbekistan, the World Bank is masking labour abuses</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/luca-anceschi/modernising-authoritarianism-in-uzbekistan">Modernising authoritarianism in Uzbekistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alisher-ilkhamov/how-to-return-one-billion-dollars-stolen-from-the-people-of-uzbekistan%20">How to return one billion dollars stolen from the people of Uzbekistan </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-buketov/the-democratic-future-of-uzbekistan">The democratic future of Uzbekistan doesn’t depend on the politicians, but whether workers can mobilise </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"> Uzbekistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> China </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Kazakhstan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tashkent </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tashkent Kazakhstan China Germany UK Uzbekistan Economics investigations openDemocracy investigations Uzbekistan Fri, 21 Dec 2018 09:52:31 +0000 openDemocracy investigations 121105 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May, Max Weber, Brexit, and political leadership https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/charles-turner/theresa-may-max-weber-brexit-and-political-leadership <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>May doesn’t believe in Brexit at all, but behaves as though she does, indeed as though it has been her burning ambition since she entered the House of Commons. &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/PA-40229610.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-40229610.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'>Theresa May continues difficult negotiations with the European Council at the summit after Brexit deal vote was postponed in her own country, Dec.14, 2018. NurPhoto/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Max Weber gave his lecture ‘Politics as a Vocation’ in January 2019, almost 100 years ago, in Munich.&nbsp;Germany was going through political ferment after a crushing defeat, and was about to be humiliated further when its neighbours set the terms for their future relationship.&nbsp;</p><p>I don’t know whether Theresa May has read it.&nbsp;Somehow I can’t imagine her stretching out on the sofa, kicking off her crocodile shoes, drying any crocodile tears she might shed occasionally for those on the receiving end of her policies, and having a butcher’s.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s not Machiavelli, there are no instructions on political tactics, and it’s very long.&nbsp;Towards the end though, Weber talks about politics and ethics, and about the type of person fit to put their hands on the wheel of history.&nbsp;I wish the prime minister would take heed of it, but am not holding my breath: it’s probably too late, not in the Brexit negotiations, which might last forever, but in her life.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Weber thought parliament should play a much greater role in the new Germany than it had hitherto.&nbsp;While free of the emperor, the Germans still had to escape the shackles of the unelected officials who had ruled in his name. That would not be easy because, the sociologist says, experienced officials had one advantage over politicians: they have specialized knowledge where politicians are mere dilettantes. There was no way around this, but one thing Germany could hope for was better leaders.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Weber admired the English political system – from a distance! – and so thought that one thing parliament could do would be to act as a proving-ground for leaders, the most able ones emerging only after testing their mettle in debate with their equals and rivals.&nbsp;</p><p>By the same token he disliked the sorts of extra-parliamentary politics that bad leaders thrive on, such as street-fighting, from revolution to referenda. These could be used by leaders already in post to seek mass acclamation, but ‘when it comes to creating any kind of technically complicated laws, the referendum is too prone to leaving the result in the hands of astute but hidden vested interests’.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Devotion to a cause&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></h2><p>How does May measure up?&nbsp;Political leaders need three qualities, Weber says: passion, a sense of responsibility, and judgment.&nbsp;By passion he means something that distinguishes them from the ‘sterile excitement’ experienced by intellectuals and other scribblers.&nbsp;Genuine passion in politics is devotion to a cause (eine Sache) greater than oneself. Responsibility is responsibility to that cause, and judgement involves ‘the ability to maintain one’s inner composure and calm while being receptive to realities, in other words&nbsp;<em>distance</em>&nbsp;from things and people’.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>So far so good, or not bad anyway.&nbsp;Nobody can question May’s devotion to the cause that has defined her premiership, and she is remarkably composed in the face of everything that is thrown at her, and on any version of it, scores high on the distance kept from other people.&nbsp;</p><p>The problems begin however when Weber resolves a long and complex discussion into the idea that, faced with the problem of means and ends, and the ‘ethical irrationality of the world’, political leaders can follow one of two ethics: an ethics of conviction or an ethics of responsibility.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>An example of the first would be the Christian pacifist who follows the Sermon on the Mount and says ‘the Christian does right and leaves the outcome to God’. But it also applies to revolutionaries who wish to ‘keep the flame of good intentions burning’ by keeping the future prize in view even while causing misery in the present.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>By contrast, to follow an ethic of responsibility is to take into account that one’s actions have consequences, and to be ready to accept total responsibility for them.&nbsp;Weber thought genuine political leaders were people who could somehow combine these two ethics, considering the consequences of their actions, if necessary compromising and therefore never really succeeding, but without having to dilute their convictions.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In a world where others have convictions that are just as important to them as ours are to us, his message was that all political careers are defined by failure.&nbsp;Politics is, in the best sense, tragedy – one from which he thought we can all learn something about life’s difficult choices.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Conviction politics</strong></h2><p>Weber can often make it look like he thought stubbornness and an ability to keep going in the face of adversity are what political leadership is about, and so May might score highly again. There’s only one problem: when he spoke of conviction, he meant that the first requirement of any politician is that they do actually believe in something, in a cause, which means in turn that responsibility isn’t just pragmatism.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>And here we are confronted by the horrible truth that May doesn’t believe in Brexit at all, but behaves as though she does, indeed as though it has been her burning ambition since she entered the House of Commons.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>At the same time, she tries to appear responsible, warning us of what could happen if we don’t accept her deal.&nbsp;People wonder how she can carry on in the face of the attacks she faces, what it must be like. But we should have realized by now that she can, not because of any inner steel or inner distance or fortitude, but because this cause is not hers.&nbsp;It literally doesn’t matter to her.&nbsp;</p><p>She can walk away like David Cameron did.&nbsp;&nbsp;Hard-working grammar school girl and geography graduate that she is, this homework, this project that requires her to sit up all night colouring in charts, was given to her by others, and she is determined to do it, regardless of whether it makes any sense, to her or to us.&nbsp;What we are witnessing is not a tragedy but a farce, from which are in danger of learning precisely nothing.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany UK Charles Turner Sun, 16 Dec 2018 14:51:35 +0000 Charles Turner 121007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The antisemitic turn of the “Alternative for Germany” party https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/samuel-salzborn/antisemitic-turn-of-alternative-for-germany-party <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The AfD wants to use Israel to exploit the false <ins datetime="2018-11-28T23:34" cite="mailto:Archie%20Henderson"></ins>notion that whoever is pro-Israel could not be antisemitic, and to find strategic allies in its fight against Muslim immigration.</p> <p><ins datetime="2018-12-09T10:36" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins></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-39753814.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39753814.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'>Alternative for Germany (AfD) elect candidates for the 2019 European Election, Nov.18,2018. Michael Kappeler/Press Asociation. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The relatively new party known as the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) and its relationship to right-wing extremism have been the subject of a great deal of intensive discussion among political and social scientists. While one stream of research focuses primarily on the strategic aspects of the AfD, such as its populist rhetoric and use of social media, another devotes more attention to the worldview of the AfD, and its increasing radicalization from a right-wing conservative party to a right-wing extremist one.</p> <p>It has become undeniable that the AfD has now adopted large parts of the far-right tradition, including racism and <em>völkisch</em> nationalism (a form of ethnonationalism) as central components within an ideology of inequality, alongside nationalist protectionism and anti-eu economic positions, an emphatic rejection of parliamentarianism and representative democracy, and a long-standing antifeminism and hostility towards gender equality.</p> <p>Nevertheless, somewhat less attention has been paid to the AfD’s handling of the Nazi past and its relationship to antisemitism. It is simply a matter of time before a party for antisemites ultimately becomes a decidedly antisemitic party. This trajectory is demonstrated by the obsessive efforts seen within the AfD to revive positive feelings for Nazi terms like <em>Volksgemeinschaft</em> and <em>völkisch</em>. Not only does this evoke the ethnonationalist and antisemitic extermination policy of the German <em>Volksgemeinschaft</em>, but these words also have a historical reality in the implementation of this extermination. The <em>völkisch</em> worldview represents the essential foundation of German anti-Semitism – and of the Nazi regime’s antisemitic extermination program.</p> <p>Furthermore, the evolution of the AfD since its foundation has demonstrated a steady radicalization towards the far right, so that classical conservative stances, let alone liberal ones, no longer exist at all in the AfD today, with the latest party infighting clearly about personal dominance and not about any real differences in political agenda. </p> <p>Even now, nobody of rank and influence in the AfD has ever publicly acknowledged, clearly and unequivocally, that representatives like Wolfgang Gedeon and Björn Höcke have been plainly antisemitic in their statements. Debates within the party are focused only on whether such statements might damage the party’s image – and so are only tactical in nature. The same equivocation applies to the lip service paid to Israel by the AfD. Its support is not based on fighting anti-Semitism – which the AfD clearly propagates in its treatment of the Nazi past, its inversion of perpetrator/victim roles, and its glorification of criminal institutions like the Wehrmacht. The AfD however wants to use Israel, firstly to deflect accusations of antisemitism by exploiting the false notion that whoever is pro-Israel could not possibly be antisemitic, and secondly to find strategic allies in its fight against Muslim immigration.</p> <p>Nevertheless, even the supposedly pro-Israel stance of the AfD has now become largely a myth, one based mostly on statements by politicians who have since left the AfD. More recently, during its 2017 federal party convention in Cologne, a motion to consider a clause entitled “strengthening German-Israeli friendship” for inclusion in its federal election platform failed to pass; in a speech against further consideration of this proposal, it was argued that there existed a problem with Israeli “war criminals.” A few months later, the leading AfD figure Alexander Gauland even questioned whether the championing of Israel’s right to exist, long an element of Germany’s national consensus, is actually in Germany’s “national interest.”</p> <p>In order to understand the party’s true nature and its progress towards right-wing extremism, one cannot overlook the antisemitism that has become an established fixture in the worldview of the AfD. The party would clearly prefer to downplay the antisemitism evidenced by many of its members and officials, since open acknowledgement of this would remove the last obstacle to recognizing the AfD as simply one more of the many far-right parties that have emerged in Germany’s postwar history – with the only difference being that the AfD has managed to profit from the middle-class image of its early phase, thus allowing it to achieve double-digit results in the federal elections of 2017, making it the first far-right party to enter the German parliament since the end of the Nazi era. </p> <p>For insight into the radicalization of the AfD, the result of a recent representative opinion poll is particularly enlightening. The renowned Allensbach Institute for Demoskopie showed in June 2018 how common antisemitism is among supporters of the AfD: 55 percent of the supporters of the AfD agree with the statement: “Jews have too much influence in the world.” By contrast, no more than 20 percent of the supporters of any other German party agree with the same statement. These results reveal that antisemitism unites not only the officials of the party, but also its supporters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Read more on the topic: Samuel Salzborn: “<a href="https://doi.org/10.3167/gps.2018.360304">Antisemitism in the ‘Alternative for Germany’ Party</a>,” <em>German Politics and Society</em> 36: 3 (2018), pp. 74–93. </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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Samuel Salzborn Sun, 09 Dec 2018 10:59:53 +0000 Samuel Salzborn 120920 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Terror from the far right in the Weimar Republic https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/barbara-manthe/terror-from-far-right-in-weimar-republic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The approval and performance of politically-motivated violence has been a core element of fascist or antisemitic activism for a 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/SBZ_1949_229_Karl_Liebknecht_und_Rosa_Luxemburg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/SBZ_1949_229_Karl_Liebknecht_und_Rosa_Luxemburg.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="368" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>German Democratic Republic stamp commemorating the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg, 1949. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>This month, the German public not only commemorated the centenary of World War One’s conclusion on 11/11, but also the foundation of the first democratic system on German territory – the Weimar Republic – which was proclaimed two days earlier, on 9 November, 1918. This republic only existed for a bit more than fourteen years and was threatened by radical right violence and terror from the very beginning, to which it ultimately succumbed.</p> <p>During the first months after the armistice, the country was in a civil war-like condition: unrest in Berlin was in fact the reason why the first elected parliament had to meet in Weimar (hence the initially pejorative name given to the republic). Different political factions had clashed in bloody conflicts in late 1918 and early 1919. The so called Freikorps, which largely consisted of former soldiers, fought against the revolutionary uprisings in the country, such as the shortlived ‘Munich Soviet’ in Bavaria. At the same time, anti-Republican army personnel committed massacres on prisoners, “summary executions” and murders of political enemies. </p> <p>The revolutionary politicians Kurt Eisner, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were among the victims of these radical right paramilitary groups during the so-called ‘Spartacist Uprising’. Whereas the birth of the Weimar Republic had been characterised by rather disorganised murders, the years 1921 and 1922 saw targeted assassinations of left-wing politicians and the so called ‘Systempolitiker’, namely representatives of the Weimar Republic. </p> <p>Radical right terrorist groups arose quickly, such as the Organisation Consul (O.C.), emerging from former Freikorps militants. This nationalist and antisemitic organisation murdered the former Reich Minister of Finance, Matthias Erzberger, a member of the Catholic Centre Party in August 1921; and Walther Rathenau, the German Foreign Minister, in June 1922. This prompted the famous <em>cri de coeur</em>, “Four years of murder – by God enough”, which Kurt Tucholsky inserted into his poem, “<a href="http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/-ganz-anders-1188/60">Rathenau</a>”, shortly after the assassination.</p> <h2><strong>Unpunished murder</strong></h2> <p>“Four years of political murder” was also the title of a book published in 1922 by the statistician <a href="https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/moerderische-statistik-gewalt-von-rechts.1310.de.html?dram:article_id=345863">Ernst Julius Gumbel</a> (1891-1966). Referring to the enormous rise in politically motivated murders that had taken place between 1918 and 1922, Gumbel collected his data with meticulous precision; he counted 354 murders committed by the radical right and 22 murders committed by the radical left. He also pointed out that the criminal prosecution of radical right and radical left murders differed fundamentally: 326 murders carried out by radical right perpetrators <a href="https://www.zeit.de/2012/07/Gumbel/komplettansicht">remained unpunished</a> whereas this was true for only four left-wing motivated murders. The average sentence for a radical right murder was four months imprisonment and a two Reichsmark fine, Gumbel computed. A radical left perpetrator typically faced 15 years in prison or a death sentence. <span class="mag-quote-center">Although the victims came from all parts of society and sometimes were, like Rathenau, even members of the acting government, the murders were accompanied by a climate of acceptance.</span></p> <p>The violence continued after 1922. The <a href="http://www.bernhard-sauer-historiker.de/sauer_marsch_auf_berlin.pdf">Schwarze Reichswehr</a> (‘Black Reichswehr’), an illegal military unit that existed alongside the official Reichswehr, became notorious for the assassinations of “traitors” in their own ranks. In 1923, Adolf Hitler along with the general Erich Ludendorff and their followers tried to stage a coup against the government in Munich which failed as a military move, but enhanced the prominence of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). The Republic was only granted a brief respite: starting in 1924, a few years of relative stability began, which ended with the Depression from 1929. </p> <h2><strong>Violence on the streets</strong></h2> <p>In the late 1920s, the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (Nazism’s SA) brought radical right violence onto the streets. Street fights, assassinations and brawls at political meetings claimed hundreds of victims. These violent struggles reached their climax in summer 1932 and shook the Weimar Republic to its very foundations. <span class="mag-quote-center">The usually conservative and even monarchist judiciary exercised a maximum of leniency concerning their crimes.</span></p> <p>The Weimar Republic was thus shaped by overt radical right terror, particularly in its first and in its final years. Although the victims came from all parts of society and sometimes were, like Rathenau, even members of the acting government, the murders were accompanied by a climate of acceptance. The Reichswehr, for example, supported the illegal units of the Schwarze Reichswehr with money, weapons and instructors; the usually conservative and even monarchist judiciary exercised a maximum of leniency concerning their crimes. </p> <p>These radical right murders succeeded in weakening left-wing and republican movements and sought to undermine the political stability of Germany’s republic. Not surprisingly, the National Socialists celebrated the perpetrators of murder after 1933 and granted them near exemption from punishment. A historical perspective on radical right terror in the Weimar Republic thus reveals that the approval and performance of politically-motivated violence has been a core element of fascist or antisemitic activism for a century.</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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</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/barbara-manthe/scenes-of-civil-war-radical-right-narratives-on-chemnitz">Scenes of ‘civil war’? Radical right narratives on Chemnitz</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nicola-bertoldi/are-we-living-through-new-weimar-era-constructive-resolutions-for">Are we living through a new “Weimar era”? Constructive resolutions for our future </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nafeez-ahmed/did-us-and-britain-collude-in-murder-of-jamal-khashoggi">Did the US and Britain collude in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/myth-of-weimar-europe">The myth of Weimar Europe</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"> 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Germany Barbara Manthe Wed, 21 Nov 2018 11:08:00 +0000 Barbara Manthe 120645 at https://www.opendemocracy.net PEGIDA turns 4 – will AfD be among the well-wishers? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/man-s-weisskircher/pegida-turns-4-will-afd-be-among-well-wishers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Some have spoken out against a rapprochement between the AfD and PEGIDA. The AfD leader in Saxony <ins datetime="2018-10-16T08:51" cite="mailto:Manes%20Weisskircher"></ins>insists: 'The AfD is the political arm of all non-violent, liberal-democratic citizen movements.' <ins datetime="2018-10-16T08:52" cite="mailto:Manes%20Weisskircher"></ins></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-38311507.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38311507.jpg" 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'>01.09.2018, Saxony, Chemnitz: Lutz Bachmann, founder of PEGIDA, makes a selfie in front of a photo of the murdered Iulia from Viersen during AfD demonstration. Ralf Hirschberger/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Four years ago on October 20, 2014, 'Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident' (PEGIDA) staged their first-ever demonstration in the city of Dresden. About <a href="http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/chronik-von-pegida-vom-facebook-protest-zur-feindseligen-bewegung-13862975.html">350 people</a> attended. Soon, the weekly PEGIDA protests turned into the most talked about issue in German politics. In the winter of 2014 and 2015, <a href="https://durchgezaehlt.org/pegida-dresden-statistik/">up to 20,000 people</a> joined the 'evening walks' in Dresden. While since then a political party, the AfD (Alternative for Germany), has become the key radical right player in German politics, PEGIDA still regularly mobilizes <a href="https://twitter.com/durchgezaehlt/status/1021459031297273857">more than 1,000 individuals</a>. By now, their Monday gatherings have become a '<a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-67495-7">protest ritual</a>'. </p><p>Every now and then, PEGIDA re-enters the spotlight, most recently this summer. In Chemnitz, another Saxon city about 50 miles away from the region's capital Dresden, a German-Cuban man was killed on August 26, with two individuals from Middle Eastern countries as suspects. What followed was mobilization by various far-right activists from in and outside Chemnitz, who entered the scene and exploited the death for their own mobilization purposes. Some protests involved <a href="https://www.raa-sachsen.de/newsbeitrag/hemnitz-eine-erste-bilanz.html">violence against immigrants</a> and the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/chemnitz-protester-convicted-over-hitler-salute/a-45475528">showing of the Nazi salute</a>.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>PEGIDA-AfD relations</strong></h2> <p>While initially, PEGIDA organizers were unrelated to the emerging Chemnitz protests, its founder, Lutz Bachmann, and others soon got involved. Key figures of the AfD, Germany's biggest opposition party, staged a '<a href="http://www.afdsachsen.de/files/afd/kreisverband-meissen/presse/2018_08/Schweigemarsch%20Chemnitz%20010918.jpg">silent march</a>' together with PEGIDA, with various other far-right activists present. This was the latest peak in a longterm public rapprochement between PEGIDA and parts of the AfD.</p> <p>The relationship between PEGIDA and the AfD has always been difficult, for the most part because of different views within the AfD on how to deal with the far-right protest group. Many AfD politicians from the west of Germany have been critical of close relations, fearing that they would endanger the party's legitimacy. But Dresden-born Frauke Petry, former AfD leader and the key figure of the party's radical right turn in summer 2015, remained distant. </p> <p>At the beginning of 2015, Petry, then regional leader of her party's branch in Saxony, rejected further cooperation with PEGIDA after having personally met with Bachmann, <a href="https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article136686553/Naehert-sich-Pegida-Frau-Oertel-der-AfD-an.html">whom she did not find trustworthy</a>. Over the following year, the AfD's national executive stressed their desire to keep their distance on several occasions. However, many within the party were not convinced of this official line. An event in 2017 underlines this point: on May 8, PEGIDA and AfD kept as little distance as possible; in Dresden, both organized two 'separate' demonstrations at the same square, registering their events for two different consecutive time-spots and using different stages.</p><h2><strong>Pros and cons</strong></h2> <p>In March 2018, reflecting the close relations between some AfD politicians and PEGIDA, the AfD national executive clarified that any member is free to appear at PEGIDA protests in Dresden. Most prominently, Björn Höcke, AfD leader in Thuringia, seized this chance. Höcke is well known for his far-right stances. In January 2017, for example, he denounced Berlin's Holocaust memorial, or at least its central location, thus demanding a '<a href="https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article161286915/Was-Hoecke-mit-der-Denkmal-der-Schande-Rede-bezweckt.html">180 degree turn</a>' in the country's politics of memory. In May 2018, he gave a speech at PEGIDA in Dresden – an event widely covered in German media. The AfD leaders of Brandenburg (Andreas Kalbitz) and Saxony (Jörg Urban) were also present. Together, all three <a href="https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2018-09/chemnitz-afd-pegida-kundgebung-rechtsextremismus">joined</a> the 'silent march' in Chemnitz</p> <p>In recent weeks, some within the AfD have spoken out against a rapprochement between the party and PEGIDA. Chemnitz-born Alexander Gauland, both co-leader of the national party and of the Bundestag parliamentary group, has made several positive remarks about PEGIDA in the past, but spoke out against close relations with Bachmann. Georg Pazderski, AfD leader in Berlin, supports this position, hinting at Bachmann’s criminal record: '<em>Solange bei Pegida ein Gewohnheitsverbrecher eine führende Rolle spielt, erübrigt sich jedes Nachdenken über eine wie auch immer geartete Verbindung</em>' ('<a href="http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/afd-und-pegida-streit-in-der-afd-ueber-den-trauermarsch-mit-pegida-a-1226454.html">As long as a habitual criminal plays a leading role at Pegida, any reflection on any type of link is unnecessary</a>'). And also in Saxony, after long debates at a party conference in September, a spokesperson emphasized: 'Es gibt keinen Schulterschluss - mit keiner Bewegung' ('<a href="https://www.sz-online.de/sachsen/afd-will-keinen-schulterschluss-mit-pegida-4014491.html">there is no closing of ranks – with no movement</a>'), with the practical implications of this statement remaining unclear. At the same event, Urban, AfD leader in Saxony, still stressed that '<em>die</em> <em>AfD ist der politische Arm aller gewaltfreien, freiheitlich-demokratischen Bürgerbewegungen</em>' ('<a href="https://www.sz-online.de/sachsen/afd-will-keinen-schulterschluss-mit-pegida-4014491.html">The AfD is the political arm of all non-violent, liberal-democratic citizen movements</a>').</p><h2><strong>This Sunday</strong></h2> <p>Next year, Saxony will hold regional elections. At last year’s federal election, the AfD became Saxony's most popular party, causing an upset by ending up 0.1 percent ahead of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Now the party also wants to challenge the longterm dominance of the Christian Democrats in the regional legislature. </p><p>The response of AfD Saxony's top figures to PEGIDA's fourth anniversary – scheduled to take place this Sunday, October 21, at the central <em>Neumarkt</em> in Dresden – may provide an indication as to whether they will regard emphasizing friendly relations with PEGIDA as beneficial or detrimental to that aim.</p> <p><em>This blog is based on the forthcoming chapter 'Remaining on the Streets: Anti-Islamic PEGIDA Mobilization and its Relationship to Far-Right Party Politics' (co-authored with Lars Erik Berntzen) in </em>Radical Right 'Movement Parties' in Europe<em> (Routledge), edited by Manuela Caiani and Ondřej Císař.</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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</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/maik-fielitz/truth-lies-in-chemnitz"> The truth lies in Chemnitz?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cynthia-miller-idriss-daniel-k-hler/united-german-extreme-right">The united German extreme right </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/barbara-manthe/scenes-of-civil-war-radical-right-narratives-on-chemnitz">Scenes of ‘civil war’? Radical right narratives on Chemnitz</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Manès Weisskircher Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:43:42 +0000 Manès Weisskircher 120128 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scenes of ‘civil war’? Radical right narratives on Chemnitz https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/barbara-manthe/scenes-of-civil-war-radical-right-narratives-on-chemnitz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Chemnitz case shows a Saxon city where the radical right has tried to establish itself for years, with some very concrete fantasies about a violent ‘overthrow’. </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-38670485.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38670485.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'>21 September 2018, Saxony, Chemnitz: Right-wing populist movement 'Pro Chemnitz' marching through the city. Press Association images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>In late August, the east German city of Chemnitz startled observers from all over the world. On 26 August 2018, 35 yr.old German Daniel H. was <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45328477">stabbed to death</a> after a quarrel had escalated at a city festival in Chemnitz (Saxony). Shortly afterwards, the police arrested two asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq as the presumed perpetrators of this crime.&nbsp; </p> <p>Tremendous repercussions ensued. </p> <p>Although the victim was neither a member of the radical right scene nor known as a sympathizer to any radical right organisation, neo-Nazis and hooligans misappropriated the crime to instigate violent mass demonstrations and riots in the following days and weeks. They were joined by the radical right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The events brought to the surface what the radical right in Germany is capable of, once operating jointly, while police forces were visibly overchallenged. <span class="mag-quote-center">The events brought to the surface what the radical right in Germany is capable of, once operating jointly.</span></p> <p>Furthermore, the radical right mobilization of Chemnitz affected the ruling coalition of the SPD and CDU/CSU in Berlin. The appraisal of the events caused a governmental crisis among this already beleaguered coalition. It eventually led to the removal of the domestic intelligence chief, <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/18/europe/germany-spy-chief-removed-from-post-grm-intl/index.html">Hans-Georg Maaßen</a> from his post, after he incorrectly labelled the coverage of the racist assaults, “fake news”.</p> <p>For well-versed observers, the radical right marches of Chemnitz did not come as a surprise. <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com/2018/06/21/whats-the-matter-withsaxony/">Saxony</a> has been the site of numerous far-right mobilizations over recent years. To understand the dynamics of these events, it is important to analyse the radical right narratives that came into effect in Chemnitz. Furthermore, it is crucial to embed these neo-Nazi actions into their historical context.</p> <h2><strong>Taking the historical context of racist mobilizations in Germany into account</strong></h2> <p>Journalists and eye witnesses have documented how participants in the neo-Nazi demonstrations <a href="https://twitter.com/heutejournal/status/1038177756763156480/video/1">hunted down</a> and assaulted <a href="https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2018-08/chemnitz-sachsen-roland-woellner-innenminister-ausschreitungen-pressekonferenz">immigrants and left-wing activists</a>, attacked a <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/chemnitz-attack-on-jewish-restaurant-it-is-five-past-midnight/a-45421920">Jewish restaurant</a> and publicly called for murder. The instrumentalization of a real or a supposed capital crime, committed by a ‘foreigner’ is a popular resource within the radical right scene as it works well to inflame racist sentiments and fuel fears. As the Chemnitz case shows, the concerns of the victims or their relatives meanwhile do not matter. </p> <p>Racist rioting has an almost 30-year history in Germany: In August 1992, rioters attacked an asylum hostel in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/lichtenhagen-riots-continue-to-haunt-many/a-16194604">Rostock-Lichtenhagen</a> (Mecklenburg Hither-Pomerania), while several thousand bystanders applauded them. As in these assaults, neo-Nazis and local residents attacked refugee hostels in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/01/world/a-wave-of-attacks-on-foreigners-stirs-shock-in-germany.html">Hoyerswerda</a> (Saxony) in 1991 and <a href="http://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=1582">Mannheim-Schönau</a> (Baden-Wuerttemberg) in 1992. More than twenty years later, in August 2015, hundreds of violent rioters besieged a recently-opened refugee hostel in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-germany-asylum-idUSKCN0QR0JP20150822">Heidenau</a> (Saxony). These sieges also lasted for several days or night in a row, with the police only hesitantly putting an end to them. <span class="mag-quote-center">These sieges also lasted for several days or night in a row, with the police only hesitantly putting an end to them. </span></p> <p>Given the fact that similar mass violence has occurred in the past, the radical right movement can be characterised by cyclical recurring mobilizations, David <a href="http://telegraph.cc/liebe-westdeutsche-freund-innen/">Begrich</a> says, who is an expert on the radical right in Eastern Germany. He and other scholars stress the relevance of the “<a href="https://www.bebraverlag.de/vzgesamt/titel/703-generation-hoyerswerda.html">Generation Hoyerswerda</a>” generation of neo-Nazis who experienced the early 1990s’ racist riots as an expression of significant political potency. That narrative not only had its impact on activists who were politicised 25 years ago, but it underwent a mutation that also allowed it to appeal to later generations. </p> <h2><strong>Chemnitz as the outcome of longterm developments in Saxony</strong></h2> <p>Alarmingly, more than 6.000 far-right protesters marched through the city of Chemnitz only one day after the murder incident. The radical right’s capability to react so quickly has astonished many observers. Credit for this can be laid at the door of social media and advanced communication technologies. But it was also the further consequence of a certain ”permanent propaganda from the far right” Saxony has been seeing for years, as sociologist and <em>head of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society (IDZ) in Jena,</em> <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/chemnitz-wie-rechtsextreme-mobilisieren-interview-mit-experte-matthias-quent-a-1225391.html">Matthias Quent</a> put it. Saxony is the homeland of the radical right <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-issues-in-a-nutshell-pegida/a-39124630">Pegida demonstrations</a> that have frequently been able to convene thousands of participants since 2014. Additionally, between 2000 and 2010, the capital city of Saxony, Dresden, was the site of one of the largest far-right demonstrations in Germany with up to 7,000 participants remembering the bombing of Dresden by the Allies on February 13, 1945. </p> <p>Since 2013, the radical right in Eastern Germany has significantly extended its regional and political range. In addition, the rise of the AfD has made far-right positions widely socially acceptable. <span class="mag-quote-center">The rise of the AfD has made far-right positions widely socially acceptable.</span></p> <p>Saxony is a region in eastern Germany that combines a well-connected and experienced neo-Nazi scene on the one hand and a high approval rate for radical right parties on the other hand. At the federal elections in September 2017, the AfD reached <a href="https://www.bundeswahlleiter.de/bundestagswahlen/2017/ergebnisse/bund-99/land-14.html">27 percent</a> of all votes in Saxony and became the strongest party, even ahead of the Conservative Party.</p> <h2><strong>The radical right narrative of a ‘people’s uprising’ in eastern Germany</strong></h2> <p>For the different factions of the radical right scene, the violent demonstrations in Chemnitz were a cause for rejoicing. Their comments and statements told us much about current far-right self-conceptions. Many activists consider themselves to be in a civil war fuelled by “(Muslim) foreigners” and approved by the government as the far-right blog “journalistenwatch” put it. But also the notion of a ‘revolution’ was widespread, even including positive invocations of the Nazi period. For example, an AfD county council faction in Hesse wrote on its <a href="https://www.hessenschau.de/politik/afd-hochtaunus-nach-entgleisung-auf-facebook-offline,afd-hochtaunuskreis-djv-100.html">Facebook page</a>: “During revolutions known to us the broadcasting studios and the publishing houses were stormed at some point and the employees were dragged into the streets. This is what media representatives should once reflect here in this country since when the mood is changing eventually it is too late.” This post related to the violent suppression of the free press in 1933 after the National Socialists had taken over power. <span class="mag-quote-center">This post related to the violent suppression of the free press in 1933 after the National Socialists had taken over power.</span></p> <p>The imagination of a ‘people’s uprising’ can also be traced to the popular narrative that eastern Germans had won out over the GDR government in 1989 and that the people in eastern Germany are in a similar situation today. In eastern Germany, the radical right milieu shares the collective storyline of overthrowing a political system – a regime change that can be repeated again, as <a href="https://www.freitag.de/autoren/sebastianpuschner/das-hat-die-in-einen-rausch-versetzt">Begrich</a> says. A chorusing of “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the people”), adopted from the 1989 Monday demonstrations, is frequently heard on <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-issues-in-a-nutshell-pegida/a-39124630">Pegida and other radical right demonstrations</a> for example. These narratives can be revived whenever the occasion seems convenient.</p> <p>The Chemnitz case serves as an example of a Saxon city where the radical right has tried to establish itself and to maintain hegemony for years. With the demonstrations in late August and early September, the scene that opened up was not only well organised and spontaneous at the same time, but it has also brought to light the fact that many far-right activists and sympathizers have some very concrete fantasies about a violent ‘overthrow’. </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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</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/cynthia-miller-idriss-daniel-k-hler/united-german-extreme-right">The united German extreme right </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"> Germany </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"> Democracy and government </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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Barbara Manthe Fri, 12 Oct 2018 12:07:59 +0000 Barbara Manthe 120067 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The truth lies in Chemnitz? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/maik-fielitz/truth-lies-in-chemnitz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We might see parallels between Rostock ’92 and Chemnitz ’18, but the impact and the political context today are fundamentally different – though not at all less dangerous.</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-14383095.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-14383095.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>German President Joachim Gauck and Premier of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Erwin Sellering at the 2012 event commemorating the pogrom against immigrants that took place in Rostock in 1992. Jens Büttner/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>“Germany to the Germans! Foreigners out” was the central slogan of the racist riots in the city of Rostock in 1992. For around three days, neo-Nazis controlled the streets in the <em>plattenbau</em> district of Lichtenhagen where the central registration for asylum-seekers (as well as a housing block of Vietnamese contract workers) were situated. </p> <p>With stones and Molotov cocktails they attacked the accommodation and hunted down those they marked out as foreigners. Local residents joined in the violent excesses and cheered when the house – with dozens of Vietnamese people inside – was set ablaze. It was serendipitous that there were no deaths recorded. </p> <p>The violent images and testimonies of politicians, perpetrators and victims were captured in the outstanding documentary, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mkop8UFIzs"><em>The truth lies in Rostock</em></a>. It reconstructs the normalization of neo-Nazism in the post-unification era in east Germany – but also in the west – and the absence of&nbsp; any strategy to push back against radical right influences. On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the riots in 2017, the documentary received renewed attention and opened up discussion: could similar events happen today? <span class="mag-quote-center">The most infamous slogans of Rostock were again shouted by a radical right mob in the east German city of Chemnitz. </span></p> <p>The answer seemed to come one year later when the most infamous slogans of Rostock were again shouted by a radical right mob in the east German city of Chemnitz after the fatal stabbing of a local citizen. In just a few hours, radical-right hooligans and militants were able to mobilize hundreds of people in the attempt of making the centre of Chemnitz a ‘no-go’ area for people with different coloured skin and a different shade of political opinion. They were joined by the anti-migrant initiative <em>Pro Chemnitz</em>, the PEGIDA movement, and the frontrunners of the völkisch wing of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) – in a dress rehearsal for a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/cynthia-miller-idriss-daniel-k-hler/united-german-extreme-right">closing of ranks of the various currents of the radical right movement in Germany</a>. </p> <p>The beacon of Rostock was hovering over Chemnitz among radical-right groups. As in the early 90’s, the happenings in this east German city again had ramifications at the top, political level and In public discourse and debates. But even though we might see parallels, the impact and the political context today are fundamentally different – which does not make it less dangerous.</p> <h2><strong>From Hoyerswerda to Chemnitz</strong></h2> <p>Growing up in east German cities in 1990s, the prospect of radical-right violence was the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAVrEgzXaVM">norm rather than the exception</a>. Neo-Nazis dominated various districts, took over youth clubs, opened their own meeting points and were constantly seeking confrontation with supposed ‘foreigners’ and political opponents. What propelled their confidence were the “successes” of Lichtenhagen and above all <a href="https://www.hoyerswerda-1991.de/">the events of the Hoyerswerda in 1991</a>, considered the starting point for racist mass rioting in the 1990s. In the small town of Brandenburg, radical-right extremists over several days physically attacked the accommodations of contract workers and asylum-seekers, leaving 32 people wounded. As the German police could not secure the safety of the migrants, they organized the evacuation of all the inhabitants with migrant background, making Hoyerswerda – in the jargon of the neo-Nazis – “foreigner-free” (<em>ausländerfrei</em>), a reference to the Nazi practice of “cleansing” the cities from Jews (<em>judenfrei</em>). <span class="mag-quote-center">The state of exception achieved and the mobilisation of local inhabitants joining their cause served them as a blueprint – and was repeatedly re-invoked. </span></p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.bebraverlag.de/vzgesamt/titel/703-generation-hoyerswerda.html">Heike Kleffner and Anna Spangenberg</a>, a whole ‘Generation Hoyerswerda’ of radical-right militants emerged from these events and pursued the same spirit in their daily activism and the underground movement. The state of exception achieved and the mobilisation of local inhabitants joining their cause served them as a blueprint – and was repeatedly re-invoked. </p> <p>In the context of Chemnitz, radical-right groups were consciously referring to the potential of ‘the good old days’ &nbsp;– reminiscent of the shows of force that coined the history of whole communities after unification. Already in 2015/16, attempts at a remake of racist riots by radical-right grassroots groups were directed against refugee shelters – catalysed by social media mobilisation. The small towns of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/taking-a-stand-against-neo-nazis/av-18681802">Heidenau</a>, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/neo-nazis-lay-siege-to-asylum-seekers-hostel-in-freital-as-race-hate-rears-its-ugly-head-once-again-10383943.html">Freital</a>, <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/clausnitz-mob-awaited-refugees-german-town-170530133408437.html">Claußnitz</a> and <a href="https://www.thelocal.de/20161103/refugees-hunted-through-notorious-east-german-town">Bautzen</a> are cases in point and are often forgotten in discussion of Chemnitz. Yet, we see a new dynamic in Chemnitz characterized by the AfD deliberately losing its distance from the militant neo-Nazis who have co-opted the ‘rage’ of these protest events.</p> <h2><strong>Manufacturing radical-right politics based on lies</strong></h2> <p>This rage is broadly manufactured and triggered through radical-right social media outlets. Before any evidence had been published by the authorities, these outlets presented the well-known narrative that Dennis H., the initial victim of the fatal stabbing, was allegedly defending German women from the sexual assaults of abusive foreigners. This ‘fake news’ catalysed the mobilisation in Chemnitz and resumed one central issue in the German radical-right campaigning in 2017/18: the protection of German women. This very same narrative was re-evoked in the city of Köthen a few days later when the death of an individual was again used <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/death-of-german-national-sparks-renewed-protests/av-45424389">as a mobilisation opportunity for radical-right forces</a>. </p> <p>In the same vein, the AfD took up this toxic narrative and attributed it to the failure of migration policy in Germany. The term “knife migration” (<em>Messermigration</em>) went viral, deliberately trying to portray all <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45324804">migrant men as violent perpetrators</a>. Standing demonstratively at the side of those who protested in Chemnitz, the AfD strategically polarised the debate to present itself as the only true alternative to the political establishment. </p> <p>They received some unexpected support from <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/german-domestic-intelligence-chief-hans-georg-maassen-removed-from-post/https:/www.politico.eu/article/german-domestic-intelligence-chief-hans-georg-maassen-removed-from-post/">Hans-Georg Maaßen</a>, the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic security agency. He said that uploaded videos showing the attacks on migrants <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45546012">were probably fake</a> and that, contrary to what the media had reported, there had been no manhunt. <span class="mag-quote-center">Parallel media investigations revealed that Maaßen was in steady contact with AfD cadres.</span>This in turn again fed into the radical-right ‘lying press’ narrative – another reference to Nazi propaganda (<em>Lügenpresse</em>). Parallel media investigations revealed that Maaßen was in steady contact with AfD cadres, explaining to them how to avoid legal persecution. Maaßen’s departure therefore duly caused a <a href="https://www.euronews.com/2018/09/23/german-coalition-hangs-in-balance-as-ex-spy-chief-saga-drags-on">political crisis</a> within the Grand Coalition, whose Minister of Interior had backed his expertise.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><h2><strong>Where the deep reasons lie…</strong></h2> <p>Racist riots have the capacity to stage a crisis of the state. And indeed, both the pogrom in Rostock-Lichtenhagen and the riots of Chemnitz had significant political consequences. Like today, the riots of Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen initiated a toxic debate on migration and citizenship in Germany that drew on generalizations, prejudice and resentment. And like today, we see that the increasingly polarized debate on migration changed the political trajectory of the German state. </p> <p>One direct material consequence in the 1990s was the curtailing of the right to Asylum in 1993 through the so-called “<a href="http://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/kurzdossiers/207671/asylum-law-refugee-policy-humanitarian-migration?p=all">asylum compromise</a>”. Today, we see that the radical-right interpretation of events in Chemnitz and beyond are being spread through public discourse. <a href="https://www.erklaerung2018.de/">The Declaration 2018</a> – a petition invoked by a coalition of public right-wing intellectuals to speak out against “uncontrolled migration” and the alleged “opening of the borders in 2015” – is a key to understanding how these racist mobilisations speak to widespread racist sentiments in the broader society. <span class="mag-quote-center">The real reasons for a radical-right surge lie in the crumbling distance between radical-right ideologies and key political figures.</span></p> <p>Hence, as in the 1990s, the real reasons for a radical-right surge lie in the crumbling distinction between radical-right ideologies and key political figures. As long as state and mainstream politicians remain ambivalent about racist mobilisations, the radical-right has an easy time implanting their ideas at the very centre of society. While the riots of the 1990s were much more violent, today these demonstrations have parliamentary backing from the AfD, which makes their demands more legitimate and presentable. This coalition of party politics and street activism shows a long-existing potential of radical-right ideas in Germany that are far from being marginal. And, in this regard: the truth lies in Chemnitz. </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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</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/johannes-filous/hashtag-analysis-clausnitz-and-bautzen">Hashtag analysis: #Clausnitz and #Bautzen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/hans-georg-betz/endgames-in-germany-bringing-down-merkel">Endgames in Germany: bringing down Merkel</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/barbara-manthe/scenes-of-civil-war-radical-right-narratives-on-chemnitz">Scenes of ‘civil war’? Radical right narratives on Chemnitz</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cynthia-miller-idriss-daniel-k-hler/united-german-extreme-right">The united German extreme right </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"> Germany </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> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Civil society Conflict Maik Fielitz Fri, 12 Oct 2018 12:00:01 +0000 Maik Fielitz 120069 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Feminism gone bad? Women’s organisations and the hard right in Germany https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/zg-r-zvatan-g-kce-yurdakul-anna-korteweg/feminism-gone-bad-women-s-organisations-and-hard-right-in-g <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What kind of campaigning could outweigh the increasing power of implicit and explicit alliances by far-right actors and certain anti-Muslim German feminists? </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/500209/640px--rpTEN_-_Tag_2_(26188178593).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px--rpTEN_-_Tag_2_(26188178593).jpg" alt="lead 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'>Kübra Gümüşay (2016).Wikicommons/re:publica/Gregor Fischer. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>The populist radical right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been working to get to the top of the party polls since its foundation in 2013. Currently, it is the second strongest party in Germany, with polls which estimate that if elections were held today, the AfD would receive 18 % of the vote (ARD, 21 September 2018). In its climb in the popularity stakes, AfD is forming a curious range alliances with political leaders. In the traditional political spectrum, feminists are often placed at the left end of the continuum. However, contradicting this, feminists and women’s organizations in Germany have of late been entering into implicit or unintended alliances with the AfD as they make common cause against the so-called “Islamization of Germany”. We have identified three strategies of feminist and far-right political actors that result in the articulation of overlapping goals. </p> <h2><strong>Strategy one: public defamation as a strategy of both the far right and German Muslim women </strong></h2> <p>Seyran Ateş is a self-defined female imam, the founder of a liberal mosque, and as a lawyer a long-standing fighter for women’s rights in Germany. She appears frequently in the media, and in public debates, and is well-known for her statements which aim to undermine what she sees as the regressive, anti-women, anti-gay stance of German Muslims. </p><p>Based on the well-known proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, the German far right is showing its solidarity with women like Ms. Ateş in the fight against so-called radicalization and political Islam in Germany – or, against the ‘Islamization of Germany’. &nbsp;Ironically, in supporting Ms. Ateş’s political stance in an open letter on its party website, the AfD aims to attract “native” Germans who fear Islam, using a strategy earlier adopted by public intellectuals as well as the Pegida movement (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident/West). </p><p>As the far right shows solidarity with certain women’s rights supporters to counter the so-called ‘Islamization of Germany’, one common strategy is to work to prevent the public engagement of specific Muslim women who are wearing headscarves by publicly defaming them. One of their targets has been young journalist and self-defined “intersectional feminist” Kübra Gümüşay, a German Muslim who wears a headscarf while being politically active. </p> <p>In a recent digital <a href="https://www.change.org/p/prof-klaus-vogel-gegen-rechts-ohne-den-politischen-islam-8352f001-2c24-4457-a636-2855287ff77e">petition platform</a>, Necla Kelek, from the women’s organization <em>terre des femmes</em> and Seyran Ateş announced that they wrote a petition together in order to remove Kübra Gümüşay from a public panel on <em>The New Mainstream – Far Right Ideologies and Movements in Europe</em> (17-19 September 2018) that was part of the German Hygiene Museum’s exhibition on racism in Dresden. They claimed that Gümüşay allegedly supported political Islam (in their words, “orthodox-conservative Islam”) (Note that the organizers announced that the accusations were unsupported in a public statement. They rejected this claim, and included Gümüşay in the panel.) </p> <h2><strong>Strategy two: “Saving Muslim women from Muslim men”</strong></h2> <p>Gender equality stands as a litmus test for immigrant inclusion in Germany. It has become an almost universally-held liberal value, central to current human rights concerns and dominant in policy-making language. However, gender equality is actually difficult to define, often deriving its meaning from the context within which it is used. <span class="mag-quote-center">Gender equality is actually difficult to define, often deriving its meaning from the context within which it is used.</span></p> <p>It is exactly this open-endedness of the concept that makes it seem so useful in political contestations: it signals a desire for liberation and freedom while it can be used in exclusionary ways. <em>Terre des femmes</em> (women’s earth), a non-governmental women’s organization in Germany, is deploying exactly this ambivalence between liberation and exclusion, in order to support an old-fashioned, homogeneous feminist agenda. <em>Terre des femmes</em> is the major women’s organization campaigning against violence against women in Germany, as well as sex-work and human trafficking. They represent a feminist voice that is attracting increasing representation from immigrant women or men who promote anti-Muslim politics, such as Seyran Ateş who we discussed above and sociologist Necla Kelek, who is on the executive committee of <em>terre des femmes</em>. Author of several books condemning the religious practices of Turkish immigrants in Germany, Kelek openly supported politician Thilo Sarrazin, who wrote two books on how Germany is ‘abolishing itself’ via the (alleged) threat of Muslim immigration and Islamization. (Both books became best sellers).</p> <p>On 6 March 2018, <em>terre des femmes</em> organized a film-viewing for Women’s Day whose main theme was to teach refugees about gender equality. Around five hundred people were in the audience, filling a cinema in central Berlin. During the panel discussion, the vice director, Inge Bell, was moderating four speakers, one of whom was an elderly Iraqi man who spoke only in Arabic. The Iraqi man said that the biggest problem in his country was that women are treated as slaves and that he did not want his daughter to be a slave. He concluded his speech with the declaration, “We need to be liberated.” </p> <p>The discussion finished with applause from the audience. Inge Bell the moderator, turned to the Iraqi man with a question on whether the film they had just viewed helped to transfer “our values” to immigrants – <em>our values</em> standing in for gender equality. Christa Stolle, the federal leader of <em>terre des femmes</em><em>,</em> then presented each of the participants with a copy of Brochmann and Dahl’s book on women’s anatomy <em>Viva la Vagina</em> (2018), including the Iraqi man who smiled shyly at the audience. </p> <p>Feminists engaged with <em>terre des femmes</em> in previous years have made tremendous inroads into formal politics, positioning themselves as the guardians of gender equality. But they are also coopted into a colonial language of “saving Muslim women from Muslim men”, which aligns them with the far right and denies agency to women who do not agree with their kind of feminism. Thanks to this current political stance, some of their members and supporters have left <em>terre des femmes</em> <a href="https://www.taz.de/Streit-bei-Terre-des-Femmes/!5420070/">in protest</a>. We see a further iteration of this “saviour” discourse, in the last decade, which is accusing Muslim women as being “perpetrators” of ‘Islamization in Germany’, as shown in the first strategy, above. </p> <h2><strong>Strategy three: evoking German nativism by creating moral panic</strong></h2> <p>This strategy is the most explicit alliance between feminism and far-right politics, as it appeals directly to a large voter base of both the radical and extremist right. In January 2018, a group of self-defined feminists founded the120 Dezibel (120 Decibels) campaign, which they introduced as a “genuine outcry” (wahre Aufschrei). In the summer of 2017, its leading actor, Paula Winterfeldt, stated at a rally held by the extremist right <em>Identitäre Bewegung</em> (Identity Movement) in Berlin that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WaiH6XA5VU&amp;frags=pl%2Cwn">she yearned</a> for a return to the “good old days” when German women carried “deodorant spray instead of pepper spray in their bags”. The group’s founding members now invoke this increase in everyday sexism against German women by calling themselves 120 Dezibel, the volume level of pocket alarms. For them, both pepper spray and 120-decibel pocket alarms symbolize the alarming risks of everyday sexism to German women since Northern African and Muslim refugees crossed the German border. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s inauguration of a German ‘welcome culture’ in late summer 2015 triggered the rumour that white German women are at an increased risk of violence. For instance, the far-right monthly Compact magazine headed its February 2016 issue, “Fair game woman: The bad ending of welcome culture”. </p> <p>The radical right AfD and other extremist right actors have subsequently spread the 120 Dezibel campaign via their online channels. The AfD politician Leyla Bilge, a convert from Islam to Christianity, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we8CL2GPZyU&amp;t=308s7frags%3Dpl%2Cwn">claims to have emigrated</a> from Idil (Turkey) in 1974 because Muslims were violently chasing Christians (in the pre-election period of the 1974 local elections the Aramean mayor of Idil was killed, allegedly by supporters of the Muslim contender). </p> <p>Reflecting the alliance strategy of coopting women who can claim first-hand experience as Muslims (even when converted or atheist), Bilge organized a Women’s March on February 17, 2018 in Berlin. She states that ‘the German’ has to be shaken into a rage against “the deluded elites” (media and politics) if the German nation (read: women) is to be protected from Muslim men. In this way, the 120 Dezibel campaign speaks to and very much reflects an overlapping populist discourse from the German far right, about the need to counter morally inferior elites in the name of the general national will. For them: German borders need to be sealed against any further entry of Muslim or North African immigrants and the internal ‘invasion by Islam’ halted immediately, if German women are to be safeguarded from Muslim men who pose a serious pollution threat to the pure German <em>Volkskörper </em>(the pure German body).</p> <p>Calling themselves, “The daughters of Europe”, the 120 Dezibel campaigns speak to an anti-Muslim discourse by creating public fear of Muslim men as criminals, while simultaneously promoting a victimized Muslim women stereotype. Their supporters tweet #No Hijab Day in German social media: “(there)…are still imprisoned in Iran women who defend themselves against forced veiling. Real solidarity would mean taking off the headscarf for a day.”</p> <p>While 120 Dezibel is appealing to German young women who connect to the world through social media, <em>Ring Nationaler Frauen</em> (the National Women’s Circle), the extremist right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD)’s women organization, try to bring back German nativism by referring to <em>Trümmerfrauen</em>, women who worked in the rebuilding of Germany after WWII. A number of the AfD’s 2017 federal election posters reduce women’s task to the topoi of reproduction, sexuality (as channeled via the liberal freedom of nudity as opposed to illiberal Islam), and nativist diversity (German regional folklore and history). Indeed, a look at the AfD party programme finds women’s issues associated with opposition to the headscarf, gender ideology and quotas, and reproduction framed as activism against ‘misled feminists’ who value working women, yet devalue the traditional family, i.e. women who deliberately chose to care for their family as housewives. </p> <p>On the extremist right end of the spectrum, we find accounts that essentialize women even further, by referencing their Germanic roots. This includes a romantic remembrance of Germanic times before Christianization, entering from ‘the Orient’, invaded the Occident (middle and northern Europe). Allegedly, Christianization infiltrated an Oriental women’s silencing culture into Germania. Such a view postulates that native women are images of the Germanic (female) god <em>Frauja</em>, powerful though loving wives and mothers who defend Germania “with shields and swords”. As such, it is unsurprising that the far right’s recent invocations of German women’s past largely circle around the myth of <em>the Valkyrie </em>– Germanic (Nordic) women generally portrayed as powerful, white, blonde and tall. </p> <p>Interestingly, radical and extremist streams of the German far right unite in an exclusionary oscillating between civic (liberal values-based) and nativist (ethnically-based) nationalism when addressing feminist politics, while the extremist right tends to revert to nativism more frequently. The third strategy focuses on the perceived victimization of white German women but then returns to anti-feminist tropes of women as carers of the nation, while asking them to recall their actual power as ethnic descendants of <em>Frauja</em>. If they accepted their Germanic roots, white German women would care for their ‘traditional family’ as loving mothers and wives, while defending the nation’s survival as their husbands’ comrades. </p> <p>Together, the sense of&nbsp; Muslim ‘pollution’ as a social threat combined with a female power exclusive to ‘us natives’, facilitates intense feelings of the need to act now, based on a ‘German’ value system or ethnic culture that&nbsp; celebrates Germany’s (and German children’s) festive rebirth. </p> <h2><strong>German Muslim women reclaim feminism</strong></h2> <p>German Muslim women have initiated a number of ways of countering these strategies. Journalist Kübra Gümüşay, the subject of the petition that aimed to prevent her from speaking out against the far-right, is an example of a new generation of young German Muslim women who disrupt the connections made throughout anti-headscarf arguments, in which feminism provides both a clear-cut analysis of the headscarf as oppressing women and a clear-cut solution, namely that it should be banned. She is not the only German Muslim woman who combines her religiosity with a new understanding of Germanness, a feeling of being at home in Germany, that is not based on blood or ancestry but based on civic participation to German society. </p> <p>Young German Muslim women like Gümüşay publicly confront feminists who claim a homogeneous understanding of feminism for themselves, without paying attention to other forms of feminism. For example, the high-brow German weekly newspaper, <em>Die Zeit</em> reported in 2011 that Saliha Kubilay, a young Muslim woman, asked veteran German feminist Alice Schwarzer during a public discussion at a university: “Where in the feminist movement did you stop progressing so as to fail to grasp to this day that Islamic feminism has been long present in Germany?”. Kubilay argued that Schwarzer’s brand of feminism ignored the diversity of feminist perspectives in Germany. In doing so, Kubilay showed how postcoloniality inflects Germany’s feminist debates. By claiming the feminist frame as her own, Kubilay suggests that feminism is not in the gift of white western women, but that there is a synergy between immigration, postcolonialism and feminism in Germany. People of color, Muslim women and others are claiming feminism for themselves. But they are often confronted with public defaming, as well as active protectionist and exclusionist strategies to prevent Muslim women from public participation in democratic events. <span class="mag-quote-center">People of color, Muslim women and others are claiming feminism for themselves.</span></p> <p>In her public struggle as the first woman to bring the headscarf debate before the German Constitutional Court in 2004, a history teacher Fereshta Ludin, offers yet another take on feminism, <a href="https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/fereshta-ludin-im-gespraech-ich-habe-nicht-fuer-das-kopftuch-gekaempft/8606454.html">arguing that</a> she did not fight to wear her headscarf, but for self-determination over her own body. She claimed her own liberation, refusing to be emancipated through a governance feminism that equates uncovering with freedom. Such varied articulations of feminism, postcoloniality and wearing headscarves do not resonate with an anti-Muslim or anti-Islamization feminism. See the veteran feminist <a href="https://www.emma.de/ausgabe/emma-juliaugust-2018-335899">Alice Schwarzer’s magazine <em>Emma</em></a>, which publishes articles associating headscarf-wearing women with radicalization and political Islam and ridiculing their feminism. In fact, Übermedien, a media-watch magazine, <a href="https://uebermedien.de/29269/emma-und-der-beifall-von-rechts/">reported</a> that this magazine’s readership had become increasingly far-right. </p> <h2><strong>Headscarves</strong></h2> <p>The headscarf continues to be the piece of cloth over which ‘whose feminism is right?’ battles are fought. Betül Ulusoy, a legal scholar who was denied an internship at the reception desk of a Berlin municipality because of her headscarf, is frequently asked why she still wears it. She denies doing so because she is a true-believer, or because her family is pressuring her to wear it. She frames her argument instead in the classic terms of feminist liberation: "This means that a woman must decide for herself, whether she wears a mini skirt or a scarf. This decision is then neither negotiable nor evaluated by outsiders. It is her freedom alone." (Ulusoy’s Blog). Contrary to the common media hype in Germany that Muslim women are wearing headscarves because they are pressured by their families to do so, Betül shows us that wearing the headscarf means her self-determination over her body as a woman. This controversy, denying employment to Betül Ulusoy in a municipality in Berlin state because of her headscarf, does not only appear from the outset as a controversy between religion and secularity, but also reverberates with the fundamental question of whether women have self-determination over their bodies in Europe.</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/500209/1024px-Re-publica_2015_-_Tag_3_(17223920299).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-Re-publica_2015_-_Tag_3_(17223920299).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'>Betül Ulusoy und Riem Spielhaus diskutieren, 2015. Wikicommons/re:publica/Gregor Fischer. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This controversy reverberates with the fundamental question of whether women have self-determination over their bodies in Europe. </p><h2><strong>The colonial gaze</strong></h2> <p>Women’s embodiment continues to be hotly contested in these struggles over feminism, liberation, and who get to stand for being German. Long-standing colonial tropes of unveiling women as liberation are clearly powerful in German debates. Many have argued that the nudity of colonialized women served as a spectacle for the European public during the colonial era; currently, in the German media, uncovering women is celebrated as a sign of Muslim women’s integration into a gender-equal European society. <span class="mag-quote-center">Women’s embodiment continues to be hotly contested in these struggles over feminism, liberation, and who get to stand for being German.</span></p> <p>As Michigan anthropologist Damani Partridge argues, in the German context, wearing headscarves is placed in sharp contrast with female nudity and sexual accessibility in public.&nbsp; Such a contrast is displayed in advertisements (the nude model ads in the subway stations that Partridge analyzes) and election campaigns in 2017, where the AfD posted gigantic posters of young slender women with tiny bikinis walking on the beach throughout the country with the slogan: “Burkas? We stand for Bikinis!”&nbsp; </p> <p>In May 2011, Sıla Şahin became the first Turkish-German film actress to pose nude in Playboy. Deutsche Welle (2011), Germany’s international broadcaster, asked whether this was the ultimate act of integration, and Şahin responded that she was, indeed, liberated by posing nude (“Breasts with Migration Background” Die Zeit, April 19, 2011). Playing on this desire to witness women’s unveiling, Fereshta Ludin’s autobiography was entitled “Enthüllung der Fereshta Ludin” (The Unveiling of Fereshta Ludin, 2015). On the cover, she pretends to take off her headscarf. Şahin’s appearance in Playboy and Ludin’s cynical book cover bring home to us how the colonial gaze on Muslim women remains a dominant trope that resonates well with the general public. </p> <p>Women’s organizations in Germany play a very important intermediary role in strengthening the far right’s strategies in the unveiling regime. In some ways, they play the role of mediating between two worlds; those who argue for strengthening a nativist German public understanding of women’s rights, such as the radical right politics of the AfD and those who are arguing for a diverse German feminism, which includes Muslim women with and without headscarves. </p> <h2><strong>Breaking down the cooptation – Inclusion and #No Excuses</strong></h2> <p>The perverse alliance of feminism and the far right clearly fails to address major ongoing relevant issues: 1) the historical colonial and exploitative relations between the global North and the global South – the destruction, appropriation in colonial and neocolonial contexts, the political support by the global north of corrupt political regimes in the global south, as well as the export of weapons that sustain highly destructive, never-ending wars; and 2) the ongoing, unaddressed, racialized sexism and sexual violence perpetrated by immigrant and nonimmigrant alike across European societies – violence against women, children, members of LGBTQI communities, heteronormativity, sexism, and gender inequalities. </p> <p>Following Deniz Kandiyoti’s (2016) plea in openDemocracy for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fateful-marriage-political-violence-and-violence-against-women">understanding violence against women</a> in its larger political context, feminism’s cooptation by the far right must be situated within the critical historical moment that finds us caught up in the debates on immigrant and refugee integration in Europe. A further question to ask is how anti-Muslim racism must be linked historically to other forms of racism and colonialism if we are to make sense of the alliance between feminism and the far right. Only through such a political framework will we be able to fully grasp the relations between contemporary racism and sexism and then to challenge them.</p> <h2><strong>Alternative feminisms</strong></h2> <p>Alternative forms of feminism should be strengthened, and encouraged to create spaces of equity and inclusion in Germany. A good example of this is the Internet campaign <em>#aufschrei</em> (outcry) started by a young feminist, Anne Wizorek and her friends in 2013.&nbsp; Similar to #metoo, the campaign started as a response to the everyday sexism they experienced in German society, calling on women to break their silence against sexist comments in Germany. </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/500209/1024px-Anne_Wizorek_-_re-publica_2014_(13945132697).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-Anne_Wizorek_-_re-publica_2014_(13945132697).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'>Anne Wizorek, 2014. Wikicommons/re:publica/Sandra Schink. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>But their public statements were downplayed by German men, including the previous German president, Joachim Gauck, who labeled their campaign against sexism “<em>Tugendfuror</em>” (literally, “virtue furore”), an obscure word which may be interpreted as <em>hysteria</em>, thus downplaying sexism and violence against women in German society, and playing up women’s over-emotionality. </p><p>Building on Wizorek’s 2013 <em>#aufschrei </em>campaign, journalist Kübra Gümüşay, along with several other prominent intersectional feminists from various fields, started a new internet campaign, <em>#</em><em>ausnahmslos</em> (without exception)<em>. </em>Gümüşay pointed out that while there is violence against women in Muslim communities, German society should be able to discuss this violence against women without resorting to the racializing discourse of the far right. </p> <p>Such a racializing discourse commonly stereotypes Muslim men as violent criminals and Muslim women as submissive victims, and more recently, portrays Muslim women as the agents of Islamization of Germany. What Gümüşay suggests is that everyone should be treated as though they are already full members of German society, including being punished for sexual violence and including having the right to protection from such violence, regardless of ethnic or immigrant background. </p> <p>The <em>#ausnahmslos </em>campaign thus called for full participation, with the rights and obligations of native citizens being extended to immigrants and refugees. The question is whether these campaigns and strategies will outweigh the increasing power of the implicit and explicit alliances by far-right actors and certain anti-Muslim German feminists.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Note: This paper was previously presented at the Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Conference on “Populism and Democracy” &nbsp;at Tuft University’s European Center in Talloires, France, 15-17 June 2018. We thank the conference organizers and participants for their feedback. </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="/5050/provost-whyte/women-far-right-movements-why-are-we-surprised">Why are women joining far-right movements, and why are we so surprised?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-and-anti-gender-far-right-politics-in-europe-and-be">Anti-feminism and anti-gender far right politics in Europe and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/heike-radvan-carmen-altmeyer/overlooked-and-underrated-women-in-rightwing-extremi">Overlooked and underrated: women in right-wing extremist groups in Germany</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/sara-garbagnoli/matteo-salvini-renaturalizing-racial-and-sexual-boundaries-of-dem">Matteo Salvini, renaturalizing the racial and sexual boundaries of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/hans-georg-betz/everything-that-is-wrong-is-fault-of-68-regaining-cultural-hegemony-by-trashing-left">Everything that is wrong is the fault of &#039;68: regaining cultural hegemony by trashing the left</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"> 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"> 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Germany Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Anna Korteweg Özgür Özvatan Gökce Yurdakul Wed, 03 Oct 2018 07:19:53 +0000 Gökce Yurdakul, Özgür Özvatan and Anna Korteweg 119907 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The united German extreme right https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/cynthia-miller-idriss-daniel-k-hler/united-german-extreme-right <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Chemnitz shows how collaboration across three rightwing sectors is a recipe for disaster, as the extreme right understands very well.</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-38304769.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38304769.jpg" 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'>September 1, 2018 demonstration by the AfD, Pegida alliance, and right-wing populist citizens' movement, Pro Chemnitz. Ralf Hirschberger/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Haunting video footage of groups of German right-wing extremists chasing, harassing and attacking ethnic minorities, journalists and counter-protesters circulated widely on social media last week, along with footage of overwhelmed police. “If the mob attacks,” a <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/if-the-mob-attacks-we-can-t-guarantee-your-safety-20180831-p500w7.html">policeman warns a Lebanese refugee counter-protester in one video</a>, “we can’t guarantee your safety.” </p> <p>Protests had developed rapidly in the east German town of Chemnitz last Sunday, after a German man died in a street fight stabbing and two Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers were arrested for the crime. What was originally a spontaneous crowd protesting ‘criminal migrants’ grew overnight – largely through social media recruiting – to 6,000 protesters. Far outnumbered, local police struggled to hold the line, and swathes of the city fell out of police control for two days, until police reinforcements arrived. </p> <p>The Chemnitz events horrified mainstream Germans and citizens across the globe, but they also brought the new face of far right extremism into sharp relief. More than ever, it is now clear that the tactics and strategies of extreme right-wing violent movements have changed. <span class="mag-quote-center">For decades, a small number of hard-core, militant neo-Nazi marches have taken place...&nbsp; violence was typically limited to clashes between left and right. </span></p> <p>Before Chemnitz, there were two types of right-wing street protests in Germany that operated separately. For decades, a small number of hard-core, militant neo-Nazi marches have taken place periodically, typically to commemorate Nazi leaders like Rudolf Hess and attended by fringe extremists. Anti-fascist counter-protesters almost always far outnumbered right-wing extremists at such events, and violence was typically limited to clashes between left and right. Since 2015, a series of separate, larger right-wing, anti-Islam marches throughout Germany and Europe have been led by the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) movement, bringing tens of thousands of ordinary citizens to the street in non-violent marches. </p> <p>The Chemnitz protests rapidly mobilized these two separate groups and more, showing a new level of cooperation across militant neo-Nazis, right-wing hooligans, newer subcultural groups like extreme right-wing martial arts fighters, and the thousands of ordinary, angry citizens (<em>Wutbürger</em>) who had been mobilized through movements like PEGIDA. A third sector of the extreme right-wing – the leaders of right-wing political parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD, now the third largest party in federal parliament) – and local elites added fuel to the fire by celebrating the Chemnitz protesters as revolutionaries, framing the riots as justifiable resistance that signaled the beginning of the end of a corrupt state. Extreme right-wing leaders even compared the riots to the youth- and citizen-led democratic protests of 1968 and 1989. This rhetoric further empowered ordinary citizens at the same time as legitimizing the violence. </p> <p>While there have been previous attempts to bridge these varied far right sectors – most notably in the 1990s during a similar wave of riots in Rostock and elsewhere, and through the right-wing extreme National Party of Germany (NPD)’s efforts – for the most part, each group dismissed the other. Far right parties and citizens were too establishment for the militants, the neo-Nazis too violent for ordinary citizens and elites. </p><p>The success of the Chemnitz collaboration – with militant extreme right, ordinary citizens and far right political elites marching together – illustrates a new cycle, in which street movements like PEGIDA become a breeding ground for radicalization, and vigilante violence is legitimized by elites. In this context, last Sunday’s death by stabbing was exploited as an opportunity for the extreme right to mobilize further – an ignition event for what is called “<a href="http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/resources/docs/INSS%20CCO-Right-Wing%20Extremism%20and%20Terrorism%20in%20Europe%20.pdf">hive terrorism</a>” – the mixing of ordinary citizens with hard core violent extremists, either in spontaneous bursts of violence or in planned attacks. <span class="mag-quote-center">“Hive terrorism” – the mixing of ordinary citizens with hard core violent extremists, either in spontaneous bursts of violence or in planned attacks. </span></p> <p>What should Germany do next? In the short term, there is a clear need for better assessment and planning by police and intelligence authorities. The failure to predict the scale of the protests or their potential for violence highlights how critical it is for the state to develop better predictive intelligence and a broader understanding of how ignition events – especially when amplified through social media – can rapidly mobilize large numbers of people. </p> <p>In the longer term, Germany has to reckon with the fact that its decades of work to ensure a strong democratic culture is being challenged by a triple threat: entrenched xenophobia and disenfranchisement among ordinary citizens, the expansion of far right subcultural scenes and militant extremist violence, and elites whose political rhetoric demonizes migrants, declares the media the ‘enemy of the people,’ and celebrates violence as resistance and revolution. Any strategy to address the extreme right has to consider all three domains. </p> <p>Above all else, Chemnitz shows how collaboration across these three sectors is a recipe for disaster. The question in the months to come will be whether this new coalition between right-wing parties (AfD), street protest movements (PEGIDA) and neo-Nazis will be able to sustain itself, or if it will follow the previous path of dissolution through internal dispute, like previous attempts to “Unite the Right” in Germany and elsewhere. </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-38302370.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38302370.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'>September 1 demonstration, Chemnitz. Ralf Hirschberger/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p><em>This article was <a href="https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2018/09/06/chemnitz-un-niveau-de-cooperation-inedit-entre-les-groupes-d-extreme-droite_5350930_3232.html">first published in French in Le Monde </a>on September 6, 2018.</em></p><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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR).</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/hans-georg-betz/endgames-in-germany-bringing-down-merkel">Endgames in Germany: bringing down Merkel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ashoka-mody/german-social-democrats-have-alienated-their-base-and-fractured-europe">German social democrats have alienated their base and fractured Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/sara-bundtzen/why-you-should-know-about-germanys-new-surveillance-law">Why you should know about Germany&#039;s new surveillance law </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/christoph-sorg/we-have-created-monster"> “We have created a monster”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/tragedy-of-cologne-and-its-aftermath-depletion-of-civility">The tragedy of Cologne and its aftermath – the depletion of civility</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/johannes-filous/hashtag-analysis-clausnitz-and-bautzen">Hashtag analysis: #Clausnitz and #Bautzen</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Daniel Köhler Cynthia Miller-Idriss Mon, 10 Sep 2018 05:46:06 +0000 Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Daniel Köhler 119599 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The lessons of the World Cup for our victim culture https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/samir-gandesha/lessons-of-world-cup-for-our-victim-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If these rebels hadn’t somehow found the courage to strike out in bold, new and, frankly, dangerous directions, we would all be the poorer for it.</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-37612103.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37612103.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'>Kylian Mbappe at the Elysee Presidential Palace, July 16, 2018, Paris. Blondet Eliot/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>That we are living in an age of victim culture is well-exemplified by an article recently published by the CBC suggesting that minorities “feel apprehensive about heading into the wild because they don’t see themselves represented in the outdoor media and industry.” The underlying premise is that a paucity of representations of members of these groups constructs the outdoors as a kind of “unsafe space” of which people from these communities ask, according to the African-American author of a book called The Adventure Gap, James Mills, “‘Do I belong here? And if somebody believes that I don’t belong here, will they do something to harm me?’”</p> <p>Now, evidence provided in the article is scant, relying mainly on anecdotes. I could easily provide many to the contrary. But, surely, even if the evidence did support the claim, the important question is to what extent does the article not simply reproduce a certain Catch-22 rather than pointing beyond it. </p> <p>The paradox is the following: There are no people who look like me engaging in activity X, so I don’t feel comfortable engaging in that activity. Because I don’t feel comfortable engaging in activity X, there will be no people who look like me engaging in that activity. What journalism such as this fails to address is how people from marginalized communities, historically, were able to take chances and strike out in new directions and, occasionally, placed themselves in real danger, but also experienced real satisfactions from breaking through barriers (real or perceived) preventing them from participating in certain activities or fields. Such a possibility seems to be ruled out by this kind of writing.</p> <h2><strong>“Victim culture”</strong></h2> <p>By “victim culture” I mean a constellation of assumptions, values and norms that suggest oppressed groups need to be sheltered in particular ways from prejudice, bias or worse. This has already been an increasingly common refrain in many institutions of higher education, although, happily, it’s one that doesn’t particularly resonate at my own, at least not yet. </p> <p>Such a refrain holds that students require protection from dangerously “triggering” literature or art works, where “safe spaces” need to be constructed exclusively for female or minority students where they won’t have to interact with menacing white men. And where students are increasingly shielded from having to actually make arguments in response to perspectives they may disagree with. Victim culture is a form of infantilization as feminist cultural critic Laura Kipnis has argued.</p> <p>This kind of rhetoric has spilled over into the public sphere. Not too long ago, for example, trans activists demanded that certain books be taken off the shelves of the now-defunct Vancouver Women’s Library because they made the space “unsafe.” A local bookstore that had the temerity to supply the VWL with books was threatened with a city-wide boycott. This was far from the worst of it.</p> <p>As the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argued, rather than being determined by a pre-given essence, we first exist in the world and then decide what sort of person to become. While there are clearly social and historical limits to such freedom, Sartre was on to something important. We are human to the extent that we take up freedom as kind of a project.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">We are human to the extent that we take up freedom as kind of a project.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>The heir of Camus</strong></h2> <p>Before their estrangement, Sartre was close to writer Albert Camus. Camus contended that human existence was “absurd,” that it entailed a Sisyphean search&nbsp;for order in a disordered world. The only defensible response was a perpetual act of rebellion at this condition.&nbsp;Significantly, Camus, one time the goalkeeper for the University of Algiers, famously stated that, “What I know most surely about morality and the duty of man, I owe to football.” As a keeper he was the quintessential outsider.</p> <p>While it’s possible to point to any number of courageous acts of rebellion from Spartacus, to Rosa Parks to “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square to Pussy Riot, in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup football might just hold some further moral lessons for us today. A French squad boasting some 18 players of African descent beat a feisty Croatia 4-2. One of their goals was scored by teenage sensation of Algerian-Cameroonian descent Kylian Mbappé.</p> <p>Mbappé is the heir of Camus. While Trump hailed the victory shortly after the game’s conclusion, he was oblivious of its irony coming only a couple of days after his statement that “immigration was destroying the fabric of European culture.” The chant resonating on the Avenue Camps-Élysées was equalité, fraternité and Mbappé!</p> <h2><strong>England, remarkable case</strong></h2> <p>France isn’t the only side to prominently feature immigrants in its squad, the same is true of teams like top-ranked Germany and semifinalists Belgium and England. England is an especially remarkable case insofar as, historically, its game has been particularly riven by virulent post-colonial racism and exclusion. It’s easy to think that black players — the so-called Windrush generation arriving in the UK from the Caribbean between 1948-1971 — have always dominated the English Premier League, but this is simply not the case. Only a short four decades ago did players like Laurie Cunningham, Viv Anderson and John Barnes break into the game against massive odds.</p> <p>The brutalities of football and race, I know intimately and first-hand. I first visited London in 1973 to meet my grandfather who had been expelled from Idi Amin’s Uganda and now lay dying. I recall quite vividly watching the FA Cup Final on the telly (Sunderland beat Leeds United 1-0), but also the fearful tones in which my relatives spoke of the very dangers posed to Asians around football stadiums. They lived close to the storied Wembley Stadium, the site of England’s first and only World Cup victory some seven years earlier.</p> <p>Despite my family’s emphatic warning, I fell in love with the beautiful game and would return less than a decade later on trials for Aberdeen and Leicester City Football Club. There certainly was no one who looked like me in British football, but I was oblivious. When I entered the dressing room I felt like a “brother from another planet;” Scotland great Gordon Strachan asked me point blank, “What are you doing here?” On the pitch I was targeted with racial epithets and intimidation and I recall vividly the way a Leicester City coach kept referring to me in training as “Abdullah.” I nearly didn’t survive the journey by night train from Aberdeen with a mob of “Paki-bashing” Arsenal supporters.</p> <h2><strong>Heroes and rebels</strong></h2> <p>Despite the racism of the early 1970s, black players persisted in England as elsewhere and the genuinely anti-racist effects of their heroic strides can hardly be overstated. When the racists of the English Defence League or the French Front National today seek to hold up their national team as the model of ethno-nationalist virtue they come up against what is for them embarrassing multicultural, civic representation of their respective nations.</p> <p>Black players endured brutal fouls from other players on the pitch, as well as verbal and other forms of abuse from the fans in the stands, and made names for themselves playing for the national team and, perhaps more importantly, opening doors for generations of players that followed in their footsteps. What if these players, in keeping with “victim culture,” had said to themselves: “I don’t see anyone out on the pitch like me, it’s not a ‘safe space,’ so I won’t play?” If these rebels hadn’t somehow found the courage to strike out in bold, new and, frankly, dangerous directions, the football world and, more importantly, anti-racist struggles around the globe would be all the poorer for it.</p><p><em>This article was <a href="https://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/samir-gandesha-the-lessons-of-the-world-cup-for-our-victim-culture">originally published </a>in the Vancouver Sun on July 27, 2018.</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="/samir-gandesha/in-defense-of-free-speech"> In defense of free speech </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/samir-gandesha/is-symbolic-politics-impediment-to-economic-equality">Is symbolic politics an impediment to economic equality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/samir-gandesha/understanding-right-and-left-populisms">Understanding right and left populisms </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"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> England </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> Belgium </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? Belgium Germany England France Samir Gandesha Thu, 02 Aug 2018 08:51:49 +0000 Samir Gandesha 119098 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Endgames in Germany: bringing down Merkel https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/hans-georg-betz/endgames-in-germany-bringing-down-merkel <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The CSU's position is weak – but unfortunately, not weak enough to not bring down Angela Merkel.</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-37404145.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37404145.jpg" 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'>06 July 2018, Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal Minister for Internal Affairs, Horst Seehofer (R) of the Christian Social Union (CSU) at a cabinet meeting. Kay Nietfeld/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Earlier this year, Angela Merkel finally managed to put together a grand coalition between Germany's traditional mainstream parties: the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU); and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). It is a coalition already living on borrowed time.&nbsp; </p> <p>This has nothing to do with the fact that the SPD has been sagging in the polls, further weakening an already declining party. It has far more to do with the CDU's "sister party," the Bavarian CSU.&nbsp; Traditionally, the two parties have been in a joint parliamentary group.&nbsp; This, however, has not prevented the CSU from repeatedly threatening to extend its reach beyond the borders of Bavaria, forming a "genuinely" conservative-national party to directly compete with the CDU.&nbsp; </p> <p>In recent weeks, the CSU has revived this threat. And with good reason. The CSU has always styled itself as the perfect expression of the Bavarian <em>Lebensgefühl</em>, that combination of "laptop and lederhosen" Bavarian politicians like to evoke.&nbsp; In Bavaria, the CSU considers itself an institution, on par with the Oktoberfest and Germany's serial football champion, the FC Bayern München.&nbsp; </p> <p>The CSU has ruled the state for most of the postwar period, turning it into a virtual one-party state. Challenges to its rule have been few and far between.&nbsp; To safeguard its dominant position it was paramount for the CSU to win majorities, enshrined in the magic formula of "50 plus" (i.e. more than 50 percent of the vote), which until recently was one of the CSU's central dogmas.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Majoritarian alarm bells</strong></h2> <p>It is hardly surprising if, after the disastrous results of last year's federal election, alarm bells started to ring in the CSU headquarters in Munich. The party lost more than 10 percent of the vote, ending up way below the 50-percent mark. The losses were particularly dramatic in former CSU strongholds in the eastern part of the state. It was here that the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Germany's version of radical right-wing populism, achieved some of its best results. </p> <p>With more than 12 percent of the vote, the AfD poses a fundamental challenge to the CSU. Ever since the mid-1980s, the CSU has insisted that there must not be a "democratically legitimated party to the right of the CSU." The author of this dictum was Franz-Josef Strauss, the party's quasi-mythical Übervater, uttered in response to the electoral success of the Republikaner, a right-wing protest party founded by a prominent political journalist and TV host.&nbsp; The success of the Republikaner was short-lived; its collapse, however, was more a result of internal dissent and infighting than CSU strategy.</p> <p>If the CSU switched into panic mode following last year's election, it was largely because of this self-declared claim. No one in the party leadership wants to be held responsible for failing to prevent the establishment of a radical right populist party to the right of the CSU. It would probably mean the end of his or her political career in Germany. In these circumstances, attack seems to be the best form of defense – even if that means attacking Angela Merkel.&nbsp; </p> <p>The reason is obvious: the CSU places its disastrous decline in the polls squarely upon Angela Merkel's course charted over the refugee question. Surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority of AfD supporters, and a significant majority of CDU/CSU voters, are deeply unhappy with the government's asylum policy. Accordingly, the demand for a fundamental policy reversal appears a safe bet to regain voters who have apparently gone astray.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>All or nothing</strong></h2> <p>This is particularly urgent in light of the upcoming Bavarian state elections in October this year.&nbsp; Current polls credit the CSU with not more than 40 percent of the vote – far short of an absolute majority.&nbsp; 50 percent plus thus appears to be a thing of the past. At the same time, the AfD continues to thrive, despite the CSU's rather clumsy attempts to steal its signature issue. Most recent polls have the AfD on the verge of overtaking the SPD – admittedly not much of a feat given the SPD's traditional anemia in Bavaria. </p> <p>To make things worse, recent polls also indicate that Bavarian voters are hardly sold on the CSU's anti-Merkel strategy. This suggests that the AfD's success in Bavaria has less to do with the refugee question than the state of the CSU. Even CSU voters appear to be thoroughly disenchanted with a party that spends more time and effort on internal scuffles for positions than on concrete policies.&nbsp; The image of the party's two leading politicians, Horst Seehofer (minister of the interior) in Berlin and Markus Söder (Bavarian premier) in Munich, is not particularly good either. Neither appears apt to fill the shoes of their illustrious predecessors, particularly Franz-Josef Strauss. &nbsp;</p> <p>The CSU's position is weak – but unfortunately, not weak enough to not bring down Angela Merkel.&nbsp; At the moment, the CSU leadership seems determined to play all or nothing – even at the risk of breaking up the coalition with the CDU and, with it, putting an end to Angela Merkel's chancellorship.&nbsp; The stakes are high, not only for Angela Merkel, but also for Germany, until recently a rock of stability in an increasingly turbulent sea.</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>Visit the <a href="https://www.radicalrightanalysis.com">Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right</a> (#CARR)<span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> Conflict </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? Can Europe make it? Germany Conflict Democracy and government International politics Hans-Georg Betz Tue, 10 Jul 2018 13:32:59 +0000 Hans-Georg Betz 118776 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Protesters hear echoes of the past in Germany’s new police laws https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/kate-laycock/protesters-hear-echoes-of-past-in-germany-s-new-police-laws <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">The hollowing out of this constitutional firewall represents a weakening of a legal structure born directly out of the German experience of state fascism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <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/PA-35951194.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35951194.jpg" alt="lead " 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'>Protest against Bavarian PAG Police Laws turning Bavaria's police into secret police with powers not seen since the Gestapo, April, 2018.Sachelle Babbar/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">Legal moves to increase police powers in the name of fighting terrorism are hardly new territory for Europe. The UK’s 2016 Investigatory Powers Act is one recent example; Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 antiterrorism law, which ended France’s state of emergency by writing many of its provisions permanently into law, is another. But when Germany starts granting its police sweeping new powers of surveillance, arrest and detention, the symbolic and constitutional implications are extremely concerning.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Region by region </strong></h2> <p class="Body">That is precisely what is currently happening, although Germany’s federal structure disguises the fact. Of the sixteen states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany, only one (Thüringen) has not announced any plans to tighten its police laws. In May, 30,000 people took to the streets of Munich to protest a new law giving the Bavarian police unprecedented powers of surveillance, undercover policing and – most eyecatchingly – the right to carry hand-grenades. To no avail: the law was passed by the CSU majority in the Bavarian parliament: the same majority that in recent weeks threatened to unilaterally instruct the police to defy federal government policy and turn away refugees at the Austrian border.</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/500209/20180707_150846.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/20180707_150846.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The FC Köln football fans among the unions, civil liberty groups and antifascists, lawyers and environmentalists at the Düsseldorf protest, 20,000-strong. Author's photograph.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">This Saturday, an estimated 20,000 demonstrators marched in Düsseldorf to protest a similar piece of police legislation in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous federal state. </p> <p class="Body">The Düsseldorf protest was notable for its diversity: unions, civil liberty groups and antifascists marched alongside football fans, lawyers and environmentalists. Placards from all corners of the spectrum displayed inscriptions referring to the lessons of Germany’s past – many of them referencing 1933, the year that the Gestapo (Secret State Police) was formed under the Nazis. </p> <p class="Body">“We in Germany know full well what happens when a state takes complete control,” explains Nils Jansen, the mobilisation’s youthful spokesperson: “that’s why we’re saying now that it must never happen again.” </p> <p class="Body">As in Bavaria, the crux of the new law hinges around the term ‘impending danger’. This legalistic formulation enables the police to act against an individual without having to produce concrete grounds for suspicion, meaning, Jansen argues, that “everyone” could potentially be a target: “strike organisers, demonstrators, whistleblowers, football fans, someone who clicks on the wrong website or happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – they could all end up in the police’s sights”. At the Düsseldorf demonstration it’s a message that seems to have resonated with everyone from the digital activists wanting the police to “stay out of our smartphones” to the football fans singing about just “wanting to get to the stadium in peace”. </p> <p class="Body">Alongside the problematic concept of “impending danger”, the NRW police law introduces a whole suite of restrictive policing measures such as the use of tasers as service weapons, dragnet controls such as stop and search, increased video surveillance of public spaces, telephone hacking and digital data collection, temporary injunctions limiting a suspect’s right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association, electronic tagging and preventative custody of up to a month on suspicion of terrorism or seven days for the purposes of identification.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Free citizens</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Christian Mertens is a Cologne-based lawyer whose clients include environmental activists engaged in an ongoing struggle to protect the Hambach Forest, an area of ancient woodland caught in the path of energy giant RWE’s mammoth open-cast mining operation. “It is clear,” he says, “that there has been a conscious political decision to roll out this legislation region by region.” </p> <p class="Body">Mertens sees environmental activists as being specifically targeted by the new law, claiming that the provision for seven day preventive custody for identification purposes is a direct response to tactics employed during recent anti-coal actions: “it’s not about ascertaining identity: they know who these people are! They do it as a punishment, or as a way of educating them. It’s like a kick in the backside to show them that they’re doing things the wrong way, and ninety nine per cent of the time it’s directed against environmental activists.” It is, Mertens speculates, likely to be “no accident” that the Kerpen police force, tasked with policing protest actions in and around the Hambach Forest, will be amongst the first to participate in a taser trial. </p> <p class="Body">Mertens’ concerns are constitutional as well as practical. The German Constitution was signed into being in 1949, a document designed to set out the values and mechanisms of a Germany in which the horrors of the Nazi era could never be repeated. One of the values or ‘basic rights’ is privacy of correspondence and telecommunications: a fact which is likely to prove key should the law be taken before the federal constitutional court. </p> <p class="Body">One of the mechanisms is the so-called “Trennungsgebot” or “separation order” which establishes a clear division between the executive powers of the police, and the surveillance powers of the federal intelligence agency. The hollowing out of this constitutional firewall represents a weakening of a legal structure born directly out of the German experience of state fascism. “The free citizen”, says Mertens, “should be allowed to do anything, as long as it’s not explicitly forbidden. The police should be allowed to do nothing, so long as it’s not explicitly allowed.”</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Imprisoning the innocent</strong></h2> <p class="Body">NRW’s hardline Minister of the Interior, Herbert Reul, sees things differently: “where there’s an impending danger of terrorism, it’s constitutionally possible to give the police increased scope of action,” he told the Rheinische Post, “now we’re saying: with other crimes too, we need to be able to act before they can take place.” It’s a claim he has repeated on camera, saying that it is “better to lock up one innocent person, than risk the lives of many more.” </p> <p class="Body">Lawyer Christian Mertens has a clear counter to that argument: “in the legal profession we have the saying: ‘better to let one hundred people go free, than imprison one single innocent’”. Verena Schäffer, spokesperson for the regional Green Party faction, puts it even more sharply: “Interior Minister Reul is himself a risk to freedom and to our constitutionally chartered rights.”</p> <p class="Body">NRW, however, is not Bavaria. Interior Minister Reul does not enjoy the support of a one party majority in the regional parliament. Instead, the CDU is part of a slim-majority coalition with the (economically) liberal FDP, who, under the growing wave of public pressure, have already voiced significant enough concerns to result in the CDU abandoning its previous plans to push the law through before the summer recess. </p> <p class="Body">There is, in other words, still all to play for and the consequences of Saturday’s showdown in Düsseldorf will reach far beyond the state of NRW. “The resistance”, says Nils Jansen of the No Police Law Alliance, “doesn’t stop here – it’s only just beginning”. </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/PA-36466382.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36466382.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'>Protest against the Bavarian Polizeiaufgabengesetz (PAG) through the city of Bamberg in Northern Bavaria.NuPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </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 Germany Kate Laycock Mon, 09 Jul 2018 07:17:05 +0000 Kate Laycock 118754 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Germany neither can nor should pay more to save the eurozone https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/why-germany-neither-can-nor-should-pay-more-to-save-eurozone <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>&nbsp;“I wanted a Germany that was hegemonic and efficient, not authoritarian and caught up in a European Ponzi scheme. That was in 2013.” Excerpt from the Munich Seminar.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QtrrN2uWUl8" width="460" height="345" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-style: italic;">This </span><a href="http://mediathek.cesifo-group.de/iptv/player/macros/cesifo/mediathek" style="font-style: italic;">CESifo group Munich seminar</a><span style="font-style: italic;"> took place on June 11, 2018 in Ludwig-Maximilian University, in Munich. The euro crisis has highlighted the urgent need for reform in the Eurozone. However, approaches to a solution can be divided into two camps. The disagreement, primarily between France and Germany, is reflected very clearly in their different attitudes towards fiscal union. While the French strongly support a fiscal union, which necessarily implies fiscal transfers by Germany and other donor countries, Germany absolutely rejects a fiscal union and favours a post-crisis write-off of bad loans instead. In his speech Yanis Varoufakis argues that both visions are flawed and potentially dangerous, going on to differentiate between the solution to the Eurozone’s structural problems and the zeal and ambitions of its political class.</span></p><p>In these trying times for Europe, our common home, opportunities like tonight’s to discuss honestly and frankly Europe’s crisis are priceless. </p> <p>When the title of my talk was announced, many of my critics were puzzled. Having portrayed me as a Greek politician who, back in 2015, came to Germany cap-in-hand demanding more money, they had difficulty explaining why I would be standing in front of you to argue that Germany neither can nor should pay more to save the eurozone. </p> <p>The puzzle of course disappears after a close look at what I was saying since 2010. Let me give you an example. On July 24, 2013 I published an article in <i>Handelsblatt </i>entitled ‘Europe needs a hegemonic Germany’. In that article I had, again, surprised many by arguing in favour of a strong Germany as the best way of leading Europe out of its difficulties. My criticism of the German government, and its attitudes towards the eurozone more broadly and Greece more specifically, was not that Berlin was not paying enough but that, in a sense, it was paying too much – except that it was wasting the German people’s money in perpetuating what I termed a gigantic exercise in fraudulent bankruptcy concealment.<span class="mag-quote-center"> Germany was paying too much… in perpetuating a gigantic exercise at fraudulent bankruptcy concealment. </span></p> <p>I added that Europe needs a robust Germany, an energised Germany, to lead the way, to use its money wisely – in other words to be genuinely hegemonic, as opposed to spending too many resources on concealing impossible bankruptcies. Indeed, back then, in 2013, I had warned that continuing to insist on hiding serial bankruptcies would cost all of us more and more and would require increasing degrees of authoritarianism to perpetuate and reproduce the policies of denial. </p> <p>In short, I wanted a Germany that was hegemonic and efficient, not authoritarian and caught up in a European Ponzi scheme. That was in 2013. Two years later, in March 2015, I wrote an article, while Greece’s finance minister, referring to the first and second bailout loans, of 2010 and 2012. Allow me to quote from it:</p> <p>“The fact is that Greece had no right to borrow from German – or any other European – taxpayers at a time when its public debt was unsustainable. Before Greece took on any loans, it should have initiated debt restructuring and undergone a partial default on debt owed to its private-sector creditors. </p> <p>But this “radical” argument was largely ignored at the time. Similarly, European citizens should have demanded that their governments refuse even to consider transferring private losses to them. But they failed to do so, and the transfer was effected soon after. The result was the largest taxpayer-backed loan in history, provided on the condition that Greece pursue such strict austerity that its citizens have lost one-quarter of their incomes, making it impossible to repay private or public debts. </p> <p>The ensueing – and ongoing – humanitarian crisis has been tragic... Animosity among Europeans is at an all-time high, with Greeks and Germans, in particular, having descended to the point of moral grandstanding, mutual finger-pointing, and open antagonism. This toxic blame game benefits only Europe’s enemies.”</p> <p>A personal note here, if you permit it: For me, nothing hurt more than my unfair portrayal as an anti-Europeanist Greek politician demanding more money from Germany, or arguing that Germany must pay more for Greece and for Europe. In fact the reason I resigned the ministry is simple: I was refusing to sign the third bailout, to take more of your money, because I was convinced that, when you are bankrupt you have no right to borrow more. What should we have done? Declare bankruptcy, suffer the pain together with the lenders that should not have lent to the previous governments, reform the country and move on. What happened instead? </p> <h2><b>Italy and Greece</b></h2> <p>A few weeks after my resignation, Mrs Merkel, Mr Tsipras and others agreed on another 85 billion euros loan to the Greek state. On that day I rose in Greece’s Parliament to denounce this as another extend-and-pretend loan – another mountain of money given to the bankrupt Greek state in order to pretend for a few more years that it is repaying its debts – and granted under conditions that guarantee that the Greek economy and our society would continue to shrink, that the debt would <span style="text-decoration: underline;">not</span> be repaid, and that Europe would move on to repeat the same mistakes in Italy – a country whose public debts and banking losses are just too large for Germany and other countries to sustain via Greek-like bailout loans.</p> <p>That is what I said in the summer of 2015. Today, I painfully observe the realisation of those fears. Italy has fallen to the forces of xenophobia and Europhobia that welcome the European Union’s breakup. How did that happen? It happened because the failed policies first tried on Greece were also implemented in Italy. </p> <p>Just like Greece, Italy had been ruled for decades by a corrupt oligarchy enriching itself from EU transfers and relying on a kind of ‘<i>establishment-populism</i><b> ’</b> that traded on the impossible promise that everyone would become better off as long everyone pretended to adhere to the EU, Maastricht &amp; Fiscal Compact rules – rules that could not be adhered to even if the government wanted to.</p> <p>When this promise was proven false, and the doom loop of bankrupt state and zombie banks caused per capita income to shrink and prospects for most Italians to wither, the electorate voted for a new government representing two opposing anti-establishment populisms<b> </b>(that of the xenophobic Lega and of the Five Star movement). The crucial difference, ladies and gentlemen, between this Italian government and the Greek one I served in is that <span style="text-decoration: underline;">we</span> were committed Europeanists – we did <span style="text-decoration: underline;">not</span> want to leave the euro even though we had, realistically, to consider a Grexit – especially when constantly threatened with it by the creditors. The main movers behind the new Italian government, however dream of being threatened with Italexit, a fact that guarantees a clash of gigantic enormity with Berlin, Brussels and Frankfurt. </p> <h2><b>A badly designed monetary union</b></h2> <p>These developments, ladies and gentlemen, are not the result of bad choices, of human frailty. They are the result of a badly designed monetary union. Germany is simply not rich enough to support this faulty architecture. The EU cannot, backed by Germany, extend and pretend Italy’s 2.6 trillion debt, as well as the losses of their zombie banks. At the very same time, Italy will continue to stagnate within this faulty architecture until some political event will cause its uncontrolled, very costly breakdown. It is the fate of an unsustainable system not to be sustained. The longer it is sustained by political stealth and authoritarianism, the more catastrophic its collapse will be, when it comes. </p> <p><b><b>What should we do?</b></b></p> <p>So, what should we do? What should Germany do? Some argue that we need the German treasury, and the treasuries of other surplus countries, to support the treasuries of the deficit countries. This is both infeasible and undesirable. Infeasible because the fiscal surpluses of the Germanies are dwarfed by the banking losses and debts of the Greeces and the Italies. Then there are those who propose the liquidationist approach – let public debt default if it must. While I sympathise with the logic, and I wish we had followed that approach with Greece’s public debt, liquidationism is inconsistent with the euro architecture: following such government bond automatic restructuring, our weak banks that rely on these bonds for collateral and repo operations will go under, demanding of the weakened states to refinance them – which defeats the purpose of liquidating part of their debt.</p> <p>Back to square one then: What should we do? I shall be arguing that:</p> <ol><li>The current rules cannot be applied, even if we were all desperate to apply them </li><li>Those who seek a fiscal union with the German federal government footing the bill of other governments are wrong: the German government cannot afford to finance the eurozone’s necessary reforms and, indeed, it should not have to </li><li>Those who propose the liquidationist route – e.g. that the ESM extends loans to states at the price of restructuring of their debt – are also wrong, because they do not take into consideration the doom loop binding together the insolvency of our states with the insolvency of our banks (e.g. Italy’s)</li><li>Proposing a new Treaty as a solution to the eurozone’s immediate problems only deepens the sense of pessimism in the heart of those who, correctly, estimate that the current political climate makes New Treaties impossible</li><li>In this eventuality, there are two courses of action that we must consider: One is the controlled dismantling of the current eurozone. The other is a <span style="text-decoration: underline;">simulation</span> of a federation using existing institutions and new policies based on a re-interpretation of the letter of the charters and treaties.</li></ol> <p>So, let me begin by explaining why the current rules cannot work within our asymmetrical monetary union (MU). Sure, the Maastricht rules and the ECB charter could have worked fine in a symmetrical MU, as long as governments wanted/were forced to stick to the rules: a symmetrical MU is one in which countries differ on productivity and endowments but every market in every country comprises exclusively pricetaking firms, customers and workers (in other words, no one has the capacity to influence prices). In such a symmetrical, perfectively competitive union trade surpluses and deficits, as well as different productivity growth paths, are auto-corrected through a process of devaluation in the country whose productivity growth lags behind and of internal revaluation in the ‘stronger’ country. Whether this devaluation is external or internal makes no difference. Whether we have the euro or separate currencies does not matter, except perhaps that under the euro we would have enjoyed lower transaction costs.</p> <p>However, things are very different in an asymmetrical MU. In a positively asymmetrical MU like our eurozone, financial markets are bound to destabilise our economy and cause a crisis that makes impossible the implementation of our rules.</p> <p>What exactly is an asymmetrical MU? It is a monetary union between: </p><p>1. National economies that comprise large oligopolistic manufacturing sectors, replete with economies of scale (as well as of economies of networks and of scope), with production units operating at excess capacity (that reflects their market power and their capacity to deter competitors), and concentrating much economic activity on the production of capital goods; <i>and</i></p><ul><li>2. National economies where the capital goods sector is atrophic, where production is much less capital intensive, and where economic rents are not due to economies of scale but due to corrupt practices and socio-political impediments to competition (e.g. restrictive practices, crony relations between authorities and particular business interests). </li></ul> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.003.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.003.jpeg" 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>When one nation, or region, is more industrialised than another; when it produces most of the high value added tradable goods while the other concentrates on low yield, low value-added non-tradables; the asymmetry is entrenched. Think not just Greece in relation to Germany. Think also East Germany in relation to West Germany, Missouri in relation to neighbouring Texas, North England in relation to the Greater London area – all cases of trade imbalances with impressive staying power.</p> <p>A freely moving exchange rate, as that between Japan and Brazil, helps keep the imbalances in check, at the expense of volatility. But when we fix the exchange rate or, even more ambitiously, introduce a common currency, something else happens: banks begin to magnify the surpluses and the deficits.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.006.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.006.jpeg" 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>They inflate the imbalances and make them more dangerous. Automatically. Without asking voters or Parliaments. Without even the government of the land taking notice. It is what I refer to as toxic debt and surplus recycling. By the banks.</p> <p>It is easy to see how this happens: A German trade surplus over Greece generates a transfer of euros from Greece to Germany. By definition! This is precisely what was happening during the good ol’ times – before the crisis. Euros earned by German companies in Greece, and elsewhere in the Periphery, amassed in the Frankfurt banks. This money increased Germany’s money supply lowering the price of money. And what is the price of money? The interest rate! This is why interest rates in Germany were so low relative to other Eurozone member-states. Suddenly, the Northern banks had a reason to lend their reserves back to the Greeks, to the Irish, to the Spanish – to nations where the interest rate was considerably higher as capital is always scarcer in a monetary union’s deficit regions.</p> <p>And so it was that a tsunami of debt flowed from Frankfurt, from the Netherlands, from Paris – to Athens, to Dublin, to Madrid, unconcerned by the prospect of a drachma or lira devaluation, as we all share the euro, and lured by the fantasy of riskless risk; a fantasy that had been sown in Wall Street where financialisation reared its ugly head. </p> <p>Crucially, the private capital inflows from a country like Germany to a country like Greece, alter the structure of B’s economy. A large, inefficient service sector develops in the Greece’s while periphery’s manufacturing wanes under the inexorable pressure of the surplus countries exports. While manufacturing wages collapse in absolute and per worker terms, the portion of the wage bill that comes from this parasitic, import-and-debt financed sector rises. And so does the corrupt oligarchy in the Periphery, house prices and a false sense of wealth. To sum this up in a vulgar but accurate manner, this is similar to buying a car from a dealer who also provides you with a loan so that you can afford the car. Vendor-finance, is the term used. Only in Europe we practised it at a macroeconomic level.<span class="mag-quote-center"> This is similar to buying a car from a dealer who also provides you with a loan so that you can afford the car.</span></p> <h2><b>Irresponsible borrowers and irresponsible lenders</b></h2> <p>I think you can see the problem? To maintain a nation’s trade surpluses within a monetary union the banking system must pile up increasing debts upon the deficit nations. Yes, the Greek state was an irresponsible borrower. But, ladies and gentlemen, for every irresponsible borrower there corresponds an irresponsible lender. Take Ireland or Spain. Their governments, unlike Greek ones, were <span style="text-decoration: underline;">not</span> irresponsible. But then the Irish and the Spanish private sectors ended up taking up the extra debt that their government did not. Total debt in the Periphery was the reflection of the surpluses of the Northern, surplus nations.</p> <p>This is why there is no profit to be had from thinking about debt or surplus in moral terms. And this is why my message to my German friends is simple: before the crash, we Greeks invested our loans and transfers unwisely. But you invested your savings, your surpluses, unwisely. </p> <p>Let’s take a dispassionate look at Germany’s current account: it is large, persistent, and extraordinary in international and historical comparison for a large country that is not focused on exporting raw materials. This means that your savings are increasingly entrusted to the hands of foreigners who do not have the capacity to look after them. Germany's net international investment position is over 50% of GDP, after discounting past investments that have lost about 15% of GDP worth in the crisis. Moreover, the German surpluses are mostly due to the non-financial corporate sector, followed by government, with only a modest contribution by households and financial corporations having actually turned to a net borrowing position. So, it is not the demographics that drive the CA surplus in this country. It is the euro’s architecture. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.007.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.007.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>When σ&gt;0 everywhere, and we push τ to zero, we are forced to a large trade surplus – which pushes the euro up and strengthens… Trump.</p> <p>Will σ not equilibrate in the periphery if wages and prices fall? Will internal devaluation – austerity not do the trick? No, because private and public debts and losses do not devalue – and investment is deterred by this loop of doom, by this recycling of state and private bankruptcies. Even in countries like Spain and Ireland, the growth we have been celebrating recently is due to another unsustainable rise of private debt. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.008.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.008.jpeg" 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>And this is where the rules become impossible and the EU's attempt to pretend that they still hold ridiculous. </p> <p><i>An example of Europe’s Ponzi schemes by which to pretend that the rules were adhered to:</i></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.009.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/Munich IFO 13 JUNE 2018.009.jpeg" 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><i>For the full lecture including the last 20 minutes, not on the wrong question, “How can we pretend that the rules still hold?’, but “the right question” which is, ‘ What must we do to stop this crisis from destroying us?’ – see the video above. In argument 5, Varoufakis outlines two stark options, the controlled dismantling of the current Eurozone or a <span style="text-decoration: underline;">simulation</span> of a federation. ( Video 58 minutes in all).</i></p> <p><i>For the subsequent Q &amp; A ( 23 minutes), see here:</i></p><p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/00BiiamS2f4" width="460" height="345" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </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 Germany Yanis Varoufakis DiEM25 Fri, 15 Jun 2018 11:14:41 +0000 Yanis Varoufakis 118411 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Germany's falling crime rates show the left should drop identity politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alessio-colonnelli/germanys-falling-crime-rates-show-left-should-drop-identity-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>AfD is a far-right party which has drawn a lot of strength over the past five years by banging on about how unsafe German streets have become.</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-36769609.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36769609.jpg" alt="lead 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'>31 May 2018: Stephan Brandner, AfD MP, Alexander Gauland, leader of the AFD, and AfD MP Beatrix von Storch at a press cobnference. Kay Nietfeld/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last year crime in Germany was at an all time low according to figures taken over the last quarter of a century. This is according to <a href="https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/publikationen/themen/sicherheit/pks-2017.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&amp;v=3">2017 statistics</a> released by the Home Office in Berlin.</p> <p>Yet, one citizen in four is worried about crime. Over twenty million Germans don't feel safe in their own country, one of the most secure and orderly places on earth. Striking numbers. Especially in the context of the highest crime-solving rates ever.</p> <p>Criminologist Bernd-Rüdeger Sonnen, professor of criminal law at the university of Hamburg, was asked by the <em>Süddeutsche Zeitung</em> why Germany is “such an anxiety-ridden <em>Republik</em>.” “A minority of people have had bad experiences. Fear is fuelled by talk down the local pub or through the media,” <a href="http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/kriminalitaetsstatistik-gewalt-unter-jugendlichen-nimmt-ab-aber-das-glaubt-mir-kein-mensch-1.3959492">Sonnen answered</a>.</p> <p>The worst crimes are disproportionately reported. “If you're continually confronted with harsh criminality, a distorted picture takes shape and fear levels go up,” the criminologist explained. So, whereas certain popular media like the <em>Bild</em> newspaper keep talking of a <em>Messer-Epidemie</em>, or <a href="https://www.bild.de/news/inland/messer/messer-angst-in-deutschland-55137456.bild.html">knifing epidemic</a>, actual killings have gone right down. <span class="mag-quote-center">Whereas certain popular media like the <em>Bild</em> newspaper keep talking of a <em>Messer-Epidemie</em>, or <span>knifing epidemic</span>, actual killings have gone right down.</span></p> <p>Statistics are always to be taken with a pinch of salt. When it comes to criminality, it's invariably difficult to depict the scenario at a certain moment in time. The newly published police stats include lots of suspects, but of course only courts have the last word.</p> <p>Nonetheless, Germany emerged in 2017 as a country where ordinary people can be almost guaranteed their lives will remain peaceful. It was also last year when Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the <em>Bundestag</em> for the first time. AfD is a far-right party which has drawn a lot of strength over the past five years by banging on about how unsafe German streets have become. It has won many votes from the centre-right, deemed as not being tough enough on non-white and non-Christian immigrants and actually guilty of inviting them in droves; but also, and crucially, from the left too.</p> <p>Social Democrats are – once more – the government junior partners of the Christian Democratic Union party. The radical Left party is stable, but also condemned to irrelevance. By now, it's crystal clear that even if progressives were to find the right words to say that Germany is indeed – on the whole – a safe place, the scores of voters they need just wouldn't listen.</p> <p>These crime stats are further evidence of a deep malaise inside the wider left-leaning movement. Not just in Germany. In the wake of Italy's recent general election which has spawned a government with marked xenophobic tendencies, <em>La Repubblica</em> newspaper asked Mark Lilla what the left should do to regain traction among the working class, the eroded natural basin. The Columbia University professor and <em>New York Times</em> political analyst has a strong opinion on this to offer.</p> <p><a href="https://rep.repubblica.it/pwa/generale/2018/06/04/news/crisi_sinistra-198136376/">The left ought to stop doing identity politics</a>; it need not defend every single recrimination by all minorities; it must not justify their extremism or, from time to time, acts of violence. “It seems as if [US] Democrats are not interested in regaining power,” professor Lilla told Rome's daily on 3 June. “They are into cultural values. They demand that every little group be accepted for what they are. Meanwhile, Republicans keep lording it over us.”</p> <p>Lilla thinks the right is more persevering; they've built a strong base over the past thirty-five years. They've listened to people from all over, even from the smallest of counties in the back of beyond. “All along, the left has focused on identity particular-isms; it doesn't have a strong project it can boast, nor a unifying story of our national history to tell. What's the point in being right on many specific issues if in the end it's your opponents running the country instead?” <span class="mag-quote-center">“What's the point in being right on many specific issues if in the end it's your opponents running the country instead?”</span></p> <p>In both Europe and America fewer and fewer people believe in the left. Many, taken up by fashionable post-ideological arguments, don't even bother calling it by its name. If the right says your country is not safe any more, even when evidence tells you the opposite, there's a tendency to believe such a narrative. In the absence of a reliable alternative, this was always bound to be the case. No wonder AfD managed to get into parliament eight months ago. With 92 seats, it's even the <a href="http://www.bundestag.de/en/#url=L2VuL2RvY3VtZW50cy90ZXh0YXJjaGl2ZS9lbGVjdGlvbi0yMDE3LzUyNzI4NA==&amp;mod=mod453306">largest opposition party</a>. With the groundwork already conveniently laid out, the task didn't require much effort anyway.</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="/samir-gandesha/is-symbolic-politics-impediment-to-economic-equality">Is symbolic politics an impediment to economic equality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ashoka-mody/german-social-democrats-have-alienated-their-base-and-fractured-europe">German social democrats have alienated their base and fractured Europe</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <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> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? United States EU Germany Alessio Colonnelli Wed, 06 Jun 2018 16:59:01 +0000 Alessio Colonnelli 118280 at https://www.opendemocracy.net German social democrats have alienated their base and fractured Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ashoka-mody/german-social-democrats-have-alienated-their-base-and-fractured-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unable to generate a domestic consensus and powerless to counter the priorities dictated by the euro, social democracy must continue to fail at home while divisions among EU nations deepen.</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-24205517.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-24205517.jpg" 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'>German Chancellor Merkel presents biography of her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, 2015. Kay Nietfeld/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></em></p><p><em>Because it embodies timeless values of equality, fairness, and respectful debate, social democracy bears a dual promise: domestic social justice and European unity. The postwar struggles of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) illustrate the difficulty in translating these admirable values into political practice. In a bid to keep itself electorally relevant, the SPD adopted policies that left many Germans behind. And once the euro was introduced, the SPD pursued a narrow national interest. Germany’s dominance in eurozone governance induced other European social democratic parties to follow the SPD’s lead. Inevitably, Europe’s social democrats lost domestic support and European solidarity eroded.</em></p> <p>In the closing years of the nineteenth century, the SPD’s Eduard Bernstein was in the vanguard of defining social democracy as a political movement that sought to achieve both material progress and social justice. The ground for such a political philosophy became particularly fertile after the upheavals of the Great Depression and World War II. But while other European social democratic parties, notably in Sweden, created national alliances and acquired political authority, after the war the SPD struggled for nearly a quarter century to gain the German chancellorship. Briefly, between 1969 and 1982, the SPD’s Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt were chancellors.</p> <p>But buffeted by two oil price shocks, in 1973 and 1981-82, and unable to stem the rapid rise in unemployment, the SPD lost electoral favor. For 16 years, from 1982 to 1998, the SPD was consigned to the political wilderness while Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the rival Christian Democratic Union (CDU) reigned supreme. Kohl also lured SPD supporters by adopting some of the social justice agenda: more generous unemployment benefits and new a child-rearing allowance.</p> <p>In 1998, the SPD experienced a modest revival under Gerhard Schröder as chancellor. In his second term, between 2002 and 2005, Schröder changed course. With little new to offer to promote social justice, he sought to attract the winners of rapidly spreading globalization, believing that traditional working-class supporters would never desert his party. Schröder announced this <em>die neue Mitte </em>(the new center) approach <a href="http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/suedafrika/02828.pdf">with British prime minister Tony Blair</a> (who called it the Third Way). Together, they promised to “modernize” their economies by allowing more room for the operation of market forces.</p> <h2><strong>Germany's “Hartz reforms”</strong></h2> <p>Schröder’s major initiative was the so-called Hartz reforms, which reduced benefits for unemployed workers and so pushed them harder to look for new jobs. As a result, workers who could not retain their privileged positions in Germany’s best-performing firms accepted low-wage temporary and part-time <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/mini-jobs-germany-britain">“mini” jobs</a> in the low-productivity services sector. Such workers fell into a trap of low earnings and increasing economic insecurity. Unsurprisingly, they steadily <a href="http://pure.au.dk/portal/da/publications/the-electoral-consequences-of-third-way-welfare-state-reforms(faa4cb07-ee0f-4646-8fe0-e0de9098f679).html">transferred their allegiance from the SPD to other parties, including what now is called the Left Party</a>, which promised to work harder for workers’ protections and rights.</p> <p>By creating divisions among different categories of workers, the SPD fractured the sense of “social solidarity and sense of shared national purpose,” crucial for the political success of social democracy, as the political theorist Sheri Berman has <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/02/01/europe-centre-left-risks-irrelevance/">pointed out</a>. &nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">By creating divisions among different categories of workers, the SPD fractured the sense of “social solidarity and sense of shared national purpose”.</span></p> <p>The Hartz reforms, nevertheless, acquired a crucial narrative strength, and its variants spread throughout Europe. Such reforms, German and other European leaders asserted, helped Germany strengthen its export competitiveness. Nothing, however, was farther from the truth, as I explain in my book, <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/eurotragedy-9780199351381?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;"><em>EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts</em></a>. <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1138528">German manufacturing companies remained internationally competitive because they deployed time-honored methods of innovation while outsourcing parts of their production to Eastern Europe</a>. But the mythology of the Hartz reforms’ magic took hold. Social democrats throughout Europe felt obliged to pursue the same politically divisive strategy and, inevitably, their own sense of collective national purpose steadily frayed.</p> <p>The “<em>neue Mitte</em>/Third Way”<em> </em>declaration also made a bold claim to pursue European solidarity (“We share a common destiny within the European Union”). Schröder, for his part, chanted a fuzzy mantra of European “political union” to lay claim to European credentials. Schröder’s vice chancellor, Joschka Fischer of the Green Party, called for a bold but completely unrealistic European vision. European nations, he proposed, should sign <a href="https://www.cvce.eu/en/obj/speech_by_joschka_fischer_on_the_ultimate_objective_of_european_integration_berlin_12_may_2000-en-4cd02fa7-d9d0-4cd2-91c9-2746a3297773.html">a constitutional treaty</a> to create a European federation. </p> <p>But Schröder aggressively promoted a narrow German national interest in European affairs. He fought for national voting rights in the Council of Ministers. To protect the German automaker Volkswagen, he blocked a European Union proposal for the reform of corporate takeover legislation. Schröder’s parochial interest was motivated by his allegiance to Volkswagen, on whose supervisory board he had sat as governor of the state of Lower Saxony.&nbsp; And while Schröder rightly opposed the European Central Bank’s excessively tight monetary policy and the European Commission’s mindless pursuit of fiscal austerity, he sought only a German exemption rather than a constructive change in rules. <span class="mag-quote-center">To protect the German automaker Volkswagen, he blocked a European Union proposal for the reform of corporate takeover legislation.</span></p> <p>Having alienated its domestic base, the SPD lost electoral ground in the 2005 election, and returned as the CDU’s junior partner in a grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel. When the global financial crisis erupted in 2007, nations of the Eurozone ­– those sharing Europe’s single currency, the euro – were faced with a crucial test of European solidarity. Tied together by the single currency, would the strong nations support the weak? </p> <p>The SPD’s Peer Steinbrück, as German finance minister, nixed proposals to create European financial firewalls to limit the spread of financial crises. Moreover, by then, Germans had overcome their temporary turn-of-the-millennium economic funk, and Steinbrück returned to the traditional German insistence on fiscal austerity. At the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, he <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/22e7ed04-c6f9-11dd-97a5-000077b07658">mocked</a> British prime minister Gordon Brown’s impassioned plea for globally coordinated fiscal stimulus. So poor was Steinbrück’s judgment that Merkel overruled him and joined the essential stimulus effort. </p> <p>In the 2009 election, with nothing to offer by way of either national or European ideas, the SPD’s vote share plummeted to a historic low of 23 percent. <span class="mag-quote-center">With nothing to offer by way of either national or European ideas, the SPD’s vote share plummeted to a historic low of 23 percent.</span></p> <h2><strong>Austerity across Europe</strong></h2> <p>As the eurozone’s never-ending crisis dragged on, weary citizens in member nations looked again to social democratic parties to jump-start an equitable growth process. Thus, the 2012-2013 election cycle gave Europe’s social democrats an opportunity for political revival. In a wave that started in France and then continued into Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany, social democratic parties either gained government leadership or emerged as important coalition partners. Besides promising domestic economic relief, social democratic leaders – French president François Hollande, Italian prime minister Enrico Letta, and German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel – stirred the hope that they would help reinvigorate an agenda of European unity.</p> <p>But notwithstanding their rhetoric, the social democrats did not deliver. The SPD’s failure is noteworthy. At home, in coalition with the CDU, the SPD did little to bring back its former supporters, many of whom, feeling abandoned, had stayed away from the polls. Although the German economy performed much better than other eurozone economies, real wages stagnated for too many Germans and economic inequality increased inexorably.</p> <p>On European matters, the CDU-SPD coalition remained an unrelenting advocate for fiscal austerity. French president Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi did put up a brave fight against the grinding austerity, but they fought for minor concessions rather than challenging German orthodoxy. With the European Central Bank offering only grudging monetary policy relief, the overall policy squeeze delayed economic recovery, which severely hurt Europe’s most vulnerable citizens.</p> <p>The SPD’s intellectual influence was particularly insidious in the area of “labor market reforms.” In October 2014, Renzi announced what was to be his singular achievement: the Jobs Act. Much like the Hartz reforms, the act weakened workers’ rights and, despite claims of protective provisions, reinforced the tendency toward jobs with insecure tenures. Italian governments before Renzi’s had implemented similar reforms, which indeed increased employment. But the evidence from the past reforms was that they <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cje/article-abstract/34/3/525/1714016">dulled the incentives for employers and employees to increase productivity</a> and, hence, contributed to the steady decline in Italian productivity growth. Renzi’s Jobs Act seems destined to prolong Italy’s near-zero productivity growth.<span class="mag-quote-center">Renzi’s Jobs Act seems destined to prolong Italy’s near-zero productivity growth.</span></p> <p>Social democrats thus threw away the opportunity presented to them in the 2012-2013 electoral cycle. They failed to promote a domestic agenda that brought hope to globalization’s losers, especially those who lacked necessary education and skills. Unsurprisingly, social democratic parties were clobbered at the polls in 2017-2018. They lost to protest parties that spoke more directly to voters’ economic and cultural anxieties. </p> <h2><strong>European “solidarity”?</strong></h2> <p>The social democrats’ European promise also continued to prove false. In a particularly jarring instance, in March 2017, the Dutch Labor Party’s Jeroen Dijsselbloem gave voice to a growing north-south divide in the eurozone. He <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/22/dijsselbloem-under-fire-after-saying-southern-europe-wasted-money-on-drinks-and-women.html">reprimanded</a> governments and citizens in southern eurozone countries for their profligacy: “You cannot,” he told them, “spend all the money on women and drinks and then ask for help.” In the ensuing outrage over the words he had used, Dijsselbloem <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/2498740e-b911-3dbf-942d-ecce511a351e">defended himself</a>. European “solidarity,” he insisted, required adherence to budget rules on debt and deficit limits.</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-30614787.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30614787.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'>March, 2017. Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos talking with Pierre Moscovici and the Dutch Minister of Finance, President of the Council Jeroen Dijsselbloem before a Eurogroup meeting. Thierry Monasse/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Germany, the SPD leader Martin Schulz flaunted an eccentric pro-Europeanism. In December 2017, he <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ec2a8982-db4a-11e7-a039-c64b1c09b482">pledged</a> that, as a key member of a prospective Merkel-led coalition government, he would enforce adoption of a European constitution by all member states. Not only was Schulz’s idea absurdly unrealistic, he misunderstood his domestic constituents, whose priorities lay in actions at home. When, at a party gathering, Schulz spoke of his conversation with French president Emmanuel Macron to promote a grand European strategy, the members <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/germany-merkel-schulz-spd-jusos-populist/551207/">groaned</a>. Schulz’s plans and political fortunes nosedived. </p><p>The SPD’s Olaf Scholz, the new German finance minister in the latest CDU-SPD coalition, has repeatedly reaffirmed his party’s commitment to unify Europe. But he has acted in the mould of the previous SPD finance minister, Peer Steinbrück. Domestically, Scholz has <a href="https://makronom.de/wir-brauchen-eine-positive-investitionsquote-26332">doubled down on the need for continued budget surpluses</a>, negating any hope that government investment and social spending will spur a broadly inclusive domestic growth process. On the call for a eurozone budget by French president Emmanuel Macron, Scholz has bluntly stated that a <a href="http://dipbt.bundestag.de/doc/btp/19/19023.pdf">German finance minister – no matter the party affiliation – must protect German taxpayer money</a> from fiscally irresponsible eurozone member country governments.</p> <p>Throughout Europe, social democrats are gripped by an intellectual laziness that risks turning into a terminal stupor. They can have little hope of retrieving lost support in new domestic alliances without an energetic agenda for national revival that creates more opportunities and fosters a sense of fairness. They need new ideas to raise taxes to pay for extending the reach and quality of education and health care to economically vulnerable citizens. </p> <p>This history also makes it clear that social democracy cannot be a unifying European force. Social democrats across Europe do share common values of fairness, justice, and an open society. But today, such values are subordinated to the requirements of economic policy coordination in support of the euro. And given Germany’s economic dominance, the <em>de facto </em>focal point of European policy coordination is German policy preferences. As such, the euro’s guiding ideology requires weaker workers’ rights and protections alongside a commitment to fiscal rectitude.<span class="mag-quote-center"> This history also makes it clear that social democracy cannot be a unifying European force.</span></p> <h2><strong>The euro</strong></h2> <p>The euro has proved to be fundamentally at odds with social democracy. In its most successful Swedish version, social democracy has been a nationally legitimate social contract to redistribute resources among those who share historical and cultural ties. The straitjacket of the euro ideology, however, places the burden of national competitiveness on lower workers’ wages; and it enforces ill-timed and excessive fiscal austerity measures that limit options in domestic economic policymaking. The euro, therefore, prevents the formation of domestic alliances that could create “a sense of national purpose.” The policy straitjacket is reinforced by the presumption that each national ship must face the risk of sinking to its own bottom, a presumption that undermines the Blair-Schröder call for a “common destiny within the European Union.” </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-36129000_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36129000_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'>April, 2018, Wiesbaden: Andrea Nahles, the new SPD party leader, presents former party leader Martin Schulz with a picture. Bernd von Jutrczenka/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>European social democrats have continued to haemorrhage support. The conclusion seems sadly inescapable. On its current course, unable to generate a domestic consensus and powerless to counter the narratives and priorities dictated by the euro, the political practice of social democracy will continue to fail at home while divisions among member nation states deepen. </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>Archive. See Ulrich Beck's debate about <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/german-europe">German Europe </a>on openDemocracy in 2013.</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/edmund-fawcett/daunting-task-of-repair">The daunting task of repair</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francesco-ronchi/liberals-year-zero">Liberals, Year Zero</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jan-zielonka/harakiri-italian-style">Harakiri, Italian style</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/michael-j-sandel/populism-trump-and-future-of-democracy">Populism, Trump, and the future of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jon-cruddas-response-to-michael-sandel">Progressive politics must rediscover its moral purpose: a response to Michael Sandel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/benjamin-tallis/offensive-liberalism-emmanuel-macron-and-new-european-politics">Offensive liberalism: Emmanuel Macron and the New European Politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/eunice-goes/portugal-s-eurozone-reform-proposals-can-renew-social-democracy">Portugal’s eurozone reform proposals can renew social democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/renato-miguel-do-carmo-andr-barata/contraption-and-future-of-social-democracy-gov">‘The contraption’ and the future of social democracy: the government experiment in Portugal </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"> Germany </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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </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 Germany Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Ashoka Mody Fri, 01 Jun 2018 19:15:12 +0000 Ashoka Mody 118209 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Darkest Hour: another film about 1940 https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/darkest-hour-another-film-about-1940 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is this film any better at history than<em> Dunkirk? </em>Does it matter when you have such a multi-faceted central character as this ‘real war leader ’? Review.</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/images.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/images.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'>Darkest Hour poster.</span></span></span>Quite why two films about the same few dramatic weeks in British history in 1940 should have been released in 2017 is one of the quirks of the movie industry. </p> <p><em>Dunkirk </em>was a massive box-office and critical success, and won three Oscars (all in technical categories). <em>Darkest Hour </em>cost much less – and earned much less – but snared a more coveted Oscar for Gary Oldman as best actor: his remarkable performance carrying the entire film, and fully compensating for his lack-lustre turn as Smiley in the big screen re-make of Le Carré’s <em>Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.</em></p> <p>How do the films compare as history? I was unimpressed by <em>Dunkirk</em>’s technical conceits but even more disappointed by the central historical errors, so puzzling in such a compressed time-frame. In point of fact, <em>Darkest Hour </em>covers a longer period, and commits far more errors: but even if the key historical events are consistently misrepresented, at least we have an impressively multi-faceted portrait of its central character, eschewing the clichés of jutting bulldog jaw in search of a deeper emotional truth. How true that portrait is to the real Churchill – and his behaviour in those crucial weeks – is another matter, but probably not one that will worry its cinema audience.</p> <p>John Lukacs – who was well into his 70s when he published “Five Days In London: May 1940”, nearly 20 years ago – is the historian who pioneered the focus on those crucial days, and the attempt, led by Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, to induce Churchill to open talks with Mussolini with a view to negotiating peace with Hitler. Lukacs is credited as an (or “the”?) historical consultant for <em>Darkest Hour</em>, but would surely cringe at the film’s opening and closing captions, not to mention the many howlers in between: that said, a 94-year-old can surely be forgiven. </p> <p>Less indulgence can be expected by Anthony McCarten, the film’s writer. He artfully injects into the script a wide range of Churchillian references and quotes, even if not always in the right context. But he also gives much greater emphasis to the Halifax manoeuvre (and supposed support for it from Neville Chamberlain, still in the War Cabinet after relinquishing the premiership) than it merits. </p> <p>Chamberlain actually largely supported Churchill’s policy, and the supposed option of persuading Mussolini to use his good offices to spare Britain from the fate of France had a minimal possibility of succeeding, reflecting essentially Halifax’s limited vision. </p> <p>David Owen’s recent book (<em>Cabinet’s Finest Hour</em>), incorporating all the relevant cabinet documents of those days, traces the genesis of the idea, but also exposes its unreality. Churchill was never really in any danger of being dislodged by “the holy fox”. He and Chamberlain enjoyed a good relationship. It was aided by his generosity in allowing his predecessor to stay on in 10 Downing Street, and in entrusting him with the chairmanship of the War Cabinet during frequent Prime Ministerial forays into France, as he attempted to bolster resistance to the nerve-shattering German invasion. </p> <p>Those documents debunk a risible scene in the movie where Churchill apparently watches a film presentation, ostensibly assembled by the chiefs of staff, demonstrating how the German army could successfully invade Britain, using high-speed motorboats, somehow evading the Royal Navy and the RAF. Of course, there was no such film, and the pessimistic briefing document that presumably inspired this invention was rapidly replaced by a more realistic version, as Owen’s assemblage reveals. </p> <p>McCarten’s script compounds the foolishness by blurring the difference between General Ironside, who had been involved in the drafting of the first document, and General Dill, who replaced him the next day as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and signed the amended text – which was itself immediately and vigorously challenged by Churchill for over-stating the favourable German ratio in fighter aircraft at 4:1 (Churchill argued that it was more like 5:3, and that British combat superiority would quickly even that out.) According to McCarten’s script, Ironside was still attending the War Cabinet a week after he had been replaced – and Dill is never mentioned.</p> <p>The problems of historical accuracy, of course, begin much earlier in the movie: right at the start, actually. Somehow, the German invasions of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark and Norway are merged with the impending assault on Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium and France, which has not yet begun, and about which British politicians knew nothing. Yet the script tells us that, on May 9, the “search is on for a new leader”, as “Hitler is poised to conquer the rest of Europe”. </p> <p>The captions in the film itself are actually a little different from those in the published script. “Hitler has invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark and Norway. 3 million German troops are now poised to conquer the rest of Europe. In Britain, Parliament has lost faith in its leader. The search for a replacement has already begun.” (The significance of the 3 million – other than to sound menacing, and match accompanying shots of marching German troops – is not clear: the combined totals of French, Belgian, British and Netherlands troops available to repel German attacks significantly exceeded 3 million.)</p> <p>We then come to one of the director Joe Wright’s favoured top shots, this time of a packed and stormy House of Commons debate, with Clement Attlee speaking on behalf of the opposition. Despite the caption telling us that we are already at May 9, what we are seeing in fact happened on May 7. The debate that day was about the failed British attempt to seize Norway, foiled by a pre-emptive German strike (turning Chamberlain’s taunt that Hitler had “missed the bus” against him). </p> <p>The Navy’s operation at Narvik had achieved significant success – arguably inflicting enough damage on the German fleet to make all the difference, in Admiral Raeder’s view, to his ability to assure Hitler that he could mount an invasion of Britain later that summer. The naval success had been Churchill’s responsibility, as First Lord of the Admiralty; but the Army assault on Trondheim had been improvised and muddled, and quickly failed. </p> <p>As it happened, it was Arthur Greenwood, not Attlee, who made the most effective speech for Labour on the first day of the Norway debate (just as he had on the eve of war, when Attlee was away ill, with his “speak for England, Arthur” speech); and it was Herbert Morrison who led for Labour on the second day. </p> <p>But the key speeches (ignored by the film) actually came from Conservative backbenchers, most notably Admiral Sir Roger Keyes and former Colonial Secretary Leo Amery. It was Amery who famously cited Oliver Cromwell, telling Chamberlain “in the name of God, go”. When the vote came, 60 Tories abstained, and 41 opposed their own leader, so reducing the government’s majority of over 200 to just 81. Chamberlain had appealed to his “friends” for support: the appeal backfired, as his friends deserted him.</p> <p>At one point, director Wright (or, more accurately, writer McCarten, as can be seen from the script, which is available online) chooses to show an empty seat next to Chamberlain, and we hear the question “where’s Winston?”, implying that Churchill had abandoned his leader. Far from it: Churchill intervened in the debate, and wound up for the government, so forcibly that Lloyd George advised him not to continue acting as Chamberlain’s air-raid shelter.</p> <p>The vote was taken at the end of the second day, May 8, and effectively torpedoed Chamberlain’s premiership. With Labour making clear it would not serve under him in any new, broadly-based national government, his fate was sealed. </p> <p>There are many versions of how Churchill came to succeed him: in episode 2 (<em>Alone</em>) of <em>The World At War</em>, I used R A Butler’s account of the meeting on May 9 between Chamberlain, Halifax and Churchill (Tory chief whip David Margesson was also there). According to Butler, Chamberlain assumed that Halifax would take over, but Halifax demurred (ostensibly because a peer would have difficulty in leading a government essentially answerable to the Commons, though Butler mischievously suggested he also had a stomach ache). Churchill, on advice, said nothing, and stared out of the window: he was, by default, the only alternative. </p> <p>The film’s version of the handover of power – far less dramatic and revealing – is a white tie dinner attended by Chamberlain and Halifax (but not Churchill), where Halifax sidesteps the question, saying his time has not yet come. In point of fact, Chamberlain briefly contemplated staying on, as news of the German attack on Luxembourg, Holland and Belgium came through on the morning of May 10, but he was dissuaded from doing so, and by the evening Churchill was Prime Minister. </p> <p>One of Wright’s best touches in the movie is a beautifully lit scene between the King (who has just recited to Chamberlain all the reasons why Churchill should be mistrusted – Gallipoli, India, the Russian Civil War, impaling Britain on the gold standard) and the man who had for so long urged his older brother not to abdicate the throne. </p> <p>What Churchill did not do – as portrayed in the movie – is move in to 10 Downing Street (he allowed Chamberlain to stay on, for more than a month, and continued to work from the Admiralty). Least of all did Anthony Eden – not even in the War Cabinet – greet him inside 10 Downing Street: why on earth would the Secretary of State for the Dominions do that? </p> <p>Nor – contrary to the film – did the War Cabinet at this time meet in the underground war rooms: that happened much later, once systematic bombing of London and other cities began. Downing Street was the normal location. But then, nor did Miss Layton – the ingénue typist through whose eyes we observe Churchill’s eccentric work habits – join his staff till some after the film’s time frame concludes.</p> <p>Not much of this matters, of course. Sensibly, McCarten and Wright choose where possible the dramatic over the actual. Even the most criticised scene in the film – an entirely fictitious encounter in the London Underground between Churchill (who never travelled on the tube) and a select bunch of ordinary passengers – has entertainment value that exceeds its absurdity. </p> <p>We do not see Churchill buy a ticket. He travels one stop on the District Line, the only passenger to get on at St James’ Park and get out at Westminster. And that journey, normally lasting barely sixty seconds, takes five minutes in the film, as he engages with this artfully chosen cross-section. </p> <p>One of them (the only black passenger), hearing Churchill quote Macaulay’s epic poem <em>Horatius</em> (“and how can man die better than facing fearful odds”), duly and improbably responds “for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods”. A mother, nursing an infant, allows the writer to inject another famous Churchill quote (“all babies look like me”). Collectively – and spuriously – they encourage him to stand up to the appeasers (as does the King, in another apocryphal scene). </p> <p>The truth was rather more prosaic. We see Churchill rehearse the speech he is about to give in the Commons (“we will never surrender”) on June 4 before a group of Conservative junior ministers and backbenchers (the actual meeting, in his Commons office, was just with the “outer” cabinet, and took place a week earlier). He is seen citing the non-existent people in the tube who had encouraged him to express defiance.<em> </em>We have watched Halifax and Chamberlain apparently trying to trap him into formally refusing to open a form of negotiation with the Italian ambassador, which would then be the trigger for their joint resignations and an expected ejection of Churchill from office.</p> <p>This, indeed, is the central conceit of the film, and does not really stand up to any close examination. The idea that Chamberlain was trying to force Churchill out within three days of his becoming Prime Minister, when his actual relationship with Churchill at this time was cordial and sympathetic, is far-fetched. It is true that Chamberlain remained (after discussion with Churchill) leader of the Conservative Party (not chairman, as the script says), and had great sway over his parliamentary colleagues. But when illness forced Chamberlain’s resignation in October, the Party duly elected Churchill in his place. It is easy to exaggerate the significance of the Party’s suspicions about Churchill in May 1940. And the notion that the Labour Party would accept Halifax as Prime Minister on May 14 when it had not called for his appointment on May 10 has no basis.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the film effectively deletes the Labour War Cabinet members – and other Labour ministers – from the action, though they do feature, briefly and inaccurately, in the script as “all having lost faith in Churchill” before the end of May: a complete fabrication. Even the scene where Chamberlain tells Halifax he is dying of cancer is wrong: the diagnosis of the cause of his “trouble with his insides” – as he described it to his sisters – was not made till two months later. </p> <p>As for talks with ambassador Bastianini, these had barely got past the preliminary formalities (which Churchill had reluctantly approved): anything substantial, involving Mussolini and then Hitler, was a remote gleam in Halifax’s eye – indeed, by June 4, Mussolini was less than a week away from joining the war, anxious to seize some territory in the south of France before Germany wrapped up the whole campaign.</p> <p>In other words, the underlying premise of the film is deceptively simplistic, and has been dragged out of context. The early exchanges between Churchill and Halifax over Italy had been quickly resolved, and the more heated debate actually took place in nine cabinet meetings across just three days, much later in the chronology, from May 26 to May 28. This debate was very much within the context of French appeals for Britain to join in trying to persuade Roosevelt to invite mediation from Mussolini before French resistance collapsed, or even for Britain to offer Italy major concessions, such as joint sovereignty over Gibraltar, in order to trigger such mediation. The former was just about imaginable: the latter, almost certainly unacceptable.</p> <p>Halifax wanted to support the French Prime Minister, Reynaud, by at least sounding out Italy. Churchill felt that any approach risked being seen as a sign of British weakness, but did not finally resist the idea. However, the surrender of the Belgian army on the morning of the 28th further imperilled the hundreds of thousands of British troops now surrounded at Dunkirk. He preferred to wait until the results of an evacuation operation were visible, as success there would indicate that we had good grounds for believing that British air superiority was sustainable.</p> <p>When Halifax’s draft to the Italian ambassador was discussed by the War Cabinet, even he conceded that an approach “holds out only a very slender chance of success”, and noted that his own ambassador in Rome judged “that any further approach would only be interpreted as a sign of weakness and would do no good”. Chamberlain’s concern was that France might blame Britain for its defeat if the idea of an approach were refused: or, as Churchill summarised that view, Chamberlain believed “nothing would come of the approach, but that it was worth doing to sweeten relations with a failing ally”. Churchill, by contrast, felt that France would be better served by Britain taking a firm stance, rather than “ruin the integrity of our fighting position” – “let us not be dragged down with France: if the French were not prepared to go on with the struggle, let them give up”.</p> <p>The debate between Halifax and Churchill was largely hypothetical (or “probably academic” as Halifax put it). Churchill had acknowledged that the key issue was retaining Britain’s independence. Suppose, said Halifax, Hitler guaranteed that, but, after a French military collapse, would not offer terms to France unless Britain was also involved. Would we still insist on “fighting to the finish”? Churchill’s reply: “if told what the terms were, I would be prepared to consider them”.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>By May 28, with a message from the Italian embassy that it was still waiting for Britain to indicate whether it sought mediation, the argument over a draft letter to Bastianini (seemingly prepared by Chamberlain) reached its climax. Greenwood dismissed Reynaud as “too much inclined to hawk around appeals – this was another attempt to run out”. Churchill wanted to avoid “the slippery slope”. After Mussolini had “taken his whack out of us”, Hitler’s terms “would put us completely at his mercy”: and if we started a negotiation, and then walked out, “all the forces of resolution which were now at our disposal would have vanished”.</p> <p>Halifax said “he still did not see what there was in the French suggestion of trying out the possibilities of mediation which the Prime Minister felt so wrong”. Notably, Chamberlain – far from being part of a plot to oust Churchill – disagreed with Halifax: “it was right to remember that the alternative to fighting on nevertheless involved a considerable gamble”. Halifax persisted: “nothing in his suggestion could even remotely be described as ultimate capitulation” – to which Churchill riposted that “the chances of decent terms being offered to us at the present time were a thousand to one against.”</p> <p>It was at this point that the War Cabinet adjourned so that Churchill could meet the outer cabinet. An hour later, at its third meeting of the day, Churchill reported to the War Cabinet that the outer cabinet “had expressed the greatest satisfaction when he had told them that there was no chance of giving up the struggle” – and they had done so “emphatically”. </p> <p>One of the ministers, Labour’s Hugh Dalton, described Churchill that day in his diary as “quite magnificent” – “the man, the only man we have, for this hour – no-one expressed even the faintest flicker of dissent”. He recorded Churchill’s hope that 50,000 – perhaps even 100,000 – troops might be evacuated from Dunkirk. According to Leo Amery’s diary, the meeting “left all of us tremendously heartened by Winston’s resolution and grip of things – he is a real war leader”. &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/Churchill_portrait_NYP_45063.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Churchill_portrait_NYP_45063.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'>Churchill portrait during World War II. Wikicommons/ British Government. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The script’s notion that the War Cabinet had lost faith in Churchill is nonsense. The Liberal leader, Sinclair, an old friend of Churchill’s, had now joined the War Cabinet, bringing the numbers up to six: he, Greenwood and Attlee clearly sided with Churchill, while Chamberlain evidently had doubts about the viability of Halifax’s position. Even Halifax’s top civil servant, Sir Alexander Cadogan, wrote in his diary that “Mussolini is not going to, and in fact dare not, make any separate agreement with the Allies, even if he wanted to...I hope we shan’t delude ourselves into thinking we shall do ourselves any good by making more ‘offers’ or ‘approaches’”. The argument was over. </p><p>Three hours later, Churchill telephoned Reynaud to say that the capitulation of the Belgian army that morning (which had barely been discussed by the War Cabinet) “makes it impossible at such a moment for Germany to put forward any terms likely to be acceptable”; that the prospect of an early German victory makes it “impossible for Signor Mussolini to put forward proposals for a conference with any success”; that the reply to Roosevelt’s message to Italy (as urged by France and Britain) had been “wholly negative”; and that the Italian ambassador had not responded meaningfully to Halifax’s approach three days earlier. “We cannot feel that this would be the right moment...for an approach to Signor Mussolini.” </p> <p>Halifax must have approved the sending of this message on behalf of the War Cabinet. Any thoughts he might have had of resigning would have been dispelled by strong urgings from Cadogan and by the good news from Dunkirk.</p> <p>The next morning, May 29, Churchill told the War Cabinet that 40,000 soldiers had been rescued. By the end of the next day, the total was over 120,000; and by the end of the following day, 258,000. At the conclusion of the operation Churchill could tell the Commons that 338,000 British, French and Allied troops had been brought to England. That is what he did in his speech of June 4 – but all reference to Dunkirk has been removed from the speech in the film. Instead, it is preceded by the meeting with the ministerial group (which actually happened a week before) and the invented tube journey.&nbsp; </p> <p>With such basic distortions of the facts at the heart of the project, it is hard to feel too critical of relatively harmless fabrications, such as locating the May 16 meeting between Churchill and the French leadership at an airfield, rather than in the Foreign Ministry in Paris; let alone having Churchill observe lines of refugees from his airplane (even if he could have seen such detail, there would have been no fleeing columns to notice at this point, flying as he was from London to Paris: the few Parisians abandoning the capital would have been heading south, not north). </p> <p>Unfortunately, director Wright is trapped by writer McCarten’s inanity: his script says “Winston sees long meandering lines of desperate humanity...a vast tragedy...amongst struggling vagabonds and columns of refugees, abandoned tanks and artillery stand in flames” – all complete fabrication.</p> <p>We could equally ask why the First Lord of the Admiralty, on May 10, would have been dictating telegrams to the French ambassador or General Ismay, or taking calls from that ambassador. We might even ask why Churchill is so “afraid it is too late” when the call from the Palace finally comes: after all, Norway was a setback, but not a disaster, and the implications of the German attack on Belgium and Holland were not apparent on the first day of that invasion.</p> <p>We also lose entirely in the film the lengths to which Churchill (who spoke reasonable French, contrary to the script) went to salvage the alliance with France, flying there six times, offering joint citizenship (an offer rejected by the French cabinet for fear that it might lead to Britain seizing all France’s colonies) and even (until the War Cabinet over-ruled him) agreeing to send six more fighter squadrons to join the failing defence against the German assault.</p> <h2><strong>Dunkirk as it never happened</strong></h2> <p>But perhaps the sleight of writer’s hand that is of most concern is the treatment of Dunkirk itself. Churchill is shown as being the author of the evacuation and of ordering Admiral Bertie Ramsay to recruit all the small craft he could find to assist the Navy with the Dunkirk rescue. But Churchill himself would have known, as a member of Lloyd George’s cabinet, that more than 30 years earlier<em> </em>the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War had had contingency plans to evacuate from Dunkirk. </p> <p>Churchill discussed possible evacuation with his senior colleagues whilst flying back from Paris on May 16. The commander of the 1940 version of the BEF, Lord Gort, was looking for an evacuation from Dunkirk as early as May 18. Ramsay had been appointed to his post at Dover in 1939 by Churchill when he was First Lord of the Admiralty: he would surely not have needed Churchill to tell him on May 25 to prepare such an operation, or even to recruit small craft to assist. Nor could the evacuation have commenced on May 28 if May 25 had been Ramsay’s first notice (as the film tells us).</p> <p>Oddly enough, the only glimpse we are offered of the Dunkirk operation is a 10-second shot of a flotilla of “little ships”: not a glimpse of the beaches. Perhaps the film-makers were conscious of the parallel production of <em>Dunkirk </em>(and Wright had devoted much screen-time to the evacuation in his film of Ian McEwan’s <em>Atonement </em>in 2007). </p> <p>As mentioned earlier, all reference to Dunkirk is omitted in McCarten’s version of the June 4 speech that concludes the film: even though Churchill’s description of the evacuation as a “miracle of deliverance” but also as a “colossal military disaster” actually constituted a substantial part of that speech, and formed the platform for his closing “never surrender” rhetoric. </p> <p>Instead, much is made of Churchill’s decision to allow the Calais garrison to fight to the bitter end, to the apparent shock and disapproval of the War Cabinet, without mention of his previous decision to evacuate 4,000 soldiers from Boulogne – a decision he regretted, in allowing the Germans to tighten the noose around Dunkirk itself. </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, the entire debate over Hitler’s “halt” order to the Panzer divisions that could have crushed resistance, which provided three days of relief (as did the Calais order), goes unmentioned. The “miracle” is largely attributed to Churchill himself.</p> <p>Misleadingly, the final caption of the movie says: “almost all of the 300,000 troops at Dunkirk were carried home by Winston’s civilian fleet”. In truth, 95% of the troops (over 338,000, to be more accurate) rescued from the beaches were carried to safety by the naval vessels of various nations, primarily British, primarily destroyers. Where the small craft were most helpful was in ferrying soldiers from the sand to the waiting larger ships that could not reach that close to the shore. But only 200 of the 900 boats involved could be termed “little ships”. And they played almost no part in the evacuation of nearly 200,000 Allied troops from ports west of Dunkirk later in June. (Did you even know there was such an evacuation?)</p> <p>Yet McCarten’s dotty script has a scene at Dover with Admiral Ramsay on the phone to Churchill on May 28 apparently observing “over 800 small boats, the little ships, arriving or moored: a rag-tag armada”. It never happened. “The biggest civilian fleet ever assembled,” Ramsay informs Churchill, according to the script. No he didn’t.</p> <p>Just as bizarrely, the famous quote from US commentator Ed Murrow – that Churchill had “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle” – is ascribed to Halifax (!) as he watches the Commons cheering the June 4 speech. Only slightly less odd is being shown the King, and Churchill’s wife, Clemmie, listening to the speech on the radio (there was no parliamentary broadcasting until 1975).</p> <p>In historical terms, the arc of the movie should have taken us to June 14, with the third of Churchill’s famous speeches of 1940 (the first, offering “blood, toil, tears and sweat” was made on May 13, the fourth came in August, paying tribute to “the few” fighter pilots who were fighting off the Luftwaffe). The June 14 speech conceded – more than a week before the actual armistice – the inevitable French surrender, leaving Britain and its empire alone in confronting Hitler. As Churchill said then, the battle of France was over, and the battle of Britain was about to begin – so let this be “their finest hour”. It was his country’s survival, rather than his own, which mattered most.</p> <p>Instead, the film chooses to concoct a narrative based on the issue of peace talks (which were never going to happen), the threat from Halifax and Chamberlain (which was actually a veiled threat, from Halifax alone), and Churchill’s own supposed (but actually minimal) doubts about the correct course of action. In the process, it greatly exaggerates the role of both Churchill and the “little ships” in the Dunkirk rescue. And it is hard to believe that any modern historian would give Chamberlain’s handkerchief a starring role in portraying those stirring days.</p> <p>Yet for those who neither know nor care about the real events, the production is highly effective. Joe Wright’s great skill is in bringing out nuanced performances and fine set pieces from his excellent cast – not just Gary Oldman, but Stephen Dillane as Halifax, Ronald Pickup as Chamberlain, Ben Mendelsohn as the King, Kristin Scott Thomas as Clemmie and Lily James as Miss Layton. And McCarten, too, at least deserves some credit for writing such persuasive dialogue for them. </p> <p>I cannot imagine sitting through <em>Dunkirk </em>again: but I thoroughly enjoyed watching <em>Darkest Hour </em>a second time, despite all my reservations about its misguided attempts to re-write history.</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/British-war-cabinet-1939-40-churchill-chamberlain.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/British-war-cabinet-1939-40-churchill-chamberlain.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'>British war cabinet 1939-40. Churchill standing. Front row: Halifax and Chamberlain. Wikicommons/Walter Bellamy. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> Conflict </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> </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 uk Germany France UK Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas David Elstein Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:17:21 +0000 David Elstein 117421 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gassing and selective applications of a ‘Red Line’: lest we forget https://www.opendemocracy.net/marijn-nieuwenhuis/gassing-and-selective-applications-of-red-line-lest-we-forget <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The gassing of people is considered exceptionally inhumane, officially a categorical “red line” dividing good from evil. This belief now threatens to trigger an escalation with unpredictable consequences.</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/500209/378dbc24dd67c8d14ec392f5f402ad84_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/378dbc24dd67c8d14ec392f5f402ad84_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Otto Dix, Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor). 1924. Tate Liverpool.</span></span></span>As new rockets fly into Syria, it is time to consider the legal grounds on which the bombing is legitimised. This is important because it threatens to destabilise the already precarious region and displace, yet again, thousands of victims that the west is reluctant to accommodate.</p> <p>The experience of chemical warfare in Britain has a complex history. British troops were one of the first to fall victim to chlorine gas attacks during the Battle of Ypres on January 2, 1915. Talented German chemists, among them the tragic Jewish Nobel Prize Winner Fritz Haber, were responsible for spearheading the chemicalisation of twentieth and twenty-first century warfare. <span class="mag-quote-center">British troops were one of the first to fall victim to chlorine gas attacks during the Battle of Ypres on January 2, 1915.</span></p> <p>The legacy of WWI continues to haunt present-day reactions to chemical warfare. It was not so much the case that German gas attacks caused many causalities or to deny that the deaths that did occur were excruciating; it is rather the case that they dealt a major psychological blow to army morale, whilst awakening dystopian nightmares among the general British public.</p> <p>The experiences of WWI would incentivise calls for laws against, what the German philosopher <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/terror-air">Peter Sloterdijk</a> calls, ‘atmospheric terror’. The Geneva Convention brought western countries together to formulate an international legal architecture on the prohibition of asphyxiating, poisonous and other gaseous and bacterial methods of warfare. This was not the first attempt to impose laws on gassing, but instead a continuation of a centuries-long effort to ban poison and gas from the battlefield. Some of the earliest proponents of international law, including Grotius, were keen to forbid poison in times of war.</p> <h2><strong>Signatories to the Geneva Convention</strong></h2> <p>Among the signatories at the time were France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. What is striking, however, is that the United States waited until as late as 1975 to deposit the instrument of ratification. 50 long years of delay allowed the US to deploy herbicide and defoliant chemical weapons in Vietnam, Korea, Laos among other places barely investigated or mentioned in conventional studies on the history of chemical warfare. <span class="mag-quote-center">The United States waited until as late as 1975 to deposit the instrument of ratification… The US, however, was not the only country that ignored or contravened international laws.</span></p> <p>The US, however, was not the only country that ignored or contravened international laws. It took until the mid-1990s for the Italian government to admit that it had used chemical weapons in its lethal colonial wars in Ethiopia and Libya. France, the country currently with the longest pointing finger, actively used methods of asphyxiating in its nineteenth century colonial campaigns in Algeria and the French Caribbean. When the issue was recently brought up, by the French historian <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/7naqki/french_writer_claude_ribbe_claimed_that_140_years/">Claude Ribbe</a>, its leaders refused to even discuss the possibility of having crossed the proverbial “red line” that they now actively seek to impose.</p> <p>Hold no illusion, Britain is not an exception. Churchill thought of using chemical weapons against Nazi Germany and earlier was involved in their deployment in the 1917 battle of Gaza and the 1919 aerial attacks on Bolshevik soldiers. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/sep/01/winston-churchill-shocking-use-chemical-weapons">He</a> was candid about his enthusiasm for the humanitarian potential of this new weapon: “Gas is a more merciful weapon than [the] high explosive shell, and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war.” France, Britain, Germany, the US, none seemed very concerned when private companies helped Saddam Hussein to construct the chemical weapons arsenal used in the Halabja tragedy. <span class="mag-quote-center">France, Britain, Germany, the US, none seemed very concerned when private companies helped Saddam Hussein to construct the chemical weapons arsenal used in the Halabja tragedy.</span></p> <p>The OPCW, the institution responsible for upholding the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is only the latest effort to regulate and ban chemical warfare. Its role in gas attacks, sometimes misunderstood, is not to point a blaming finger, but rather to analyse and identify the kinds of weapon that have been used. The issue of responsibility, instead, is shared by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, an organisation that was set up in 2015 in response to chemical warfare in Syria. It was prevented from continuation in late 2017 when the Russian UN delegation blocked its mandate. The organisation, however, even with a mandate, seems relatively powerless. </p> <p>The state of Israel, one of the biggest offenders of chemical warfare, never ratified the CWC, allowing it to deploy phosphorus in its 2014 Gaza campaign. It is ludicrous to imagine that the west would bomb Israel, or Saudi Arabia, another state known for its use of chemical weapons in Yemen. Only last year, the US-led coalition used phosphorus in the <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/06/13/532809626/u-s-led-coalition-has-used-white-phosphorous-in-fight-for-mosul-general-says">Battle for Mosul</a>.</p> <p>The image of poisonous gas clouds and its terrifying effect on respiratory failures historically has played a major role in placing chemicals and poisonous weapons central to laws on warfare. The gassing of people is considered exceptionally inhumane and officially is presented as a categorical “red line” dividing good from evil. </p> <p>This belief now threatens to trigger an escalation with unpredictable consequences. What is often forgotten, however, is that many of the governments that historically have deployed chemical weapons are the same that now try to uphold this truth. </p><p>The need to ban chemical weapons, both nationally and internationally, should not be posed as a question. However, neither should a ban be used selectively to provoke new wars.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-barnett/otto-dix-and-robot-soldiers">Otto Dix and the robot soldiers </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/ron-g-manley/iraq-and-chemical-weapons-view-from-inside-0">Iraq and chemical weapons: A view from the inside</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/bob-rigg/syrias-chemical-weapons-is-un-exceeding-its-mandate">Syria&#039;s chemical weapons: is the UN exceeding its mandate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dan-smith/syria-cw-disarmament-enters-critical-phase-as-hell-breaks-loose">Syria: CW disarmament enters critical phase as hell breaks loose</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"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <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> Russia Saudi Arabia Israel Iraq France Italy United States Germany UK Syria Conflict International politics Marijn Nieuwenhuis Wed, 18 Apr 2018 06:31:01 +0000 Marijn Nieuwenhuis 117362 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The guilt, dignity and pedagogy of shamelessness https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/adam-j-chmielewski/guilt-dignity-and-pedagogy-of-shamelessness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For centuries, Europe’s Christians have shut Jews behind ghetto walls. Now, Polish Christians intend to shut the voice of Jewish suffering into a ghetto of silence behind a legal wall.<em></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/P7217539.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/P7217539.JPG" 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'>Inscription at the gate of the Bełżec Holocaust Memorial. The Nazi extermination camp in Bełżec (pronounced [ˈbɛu̯ʐɛt͡s], in German: Belzec) in the Eastern Poland, operated from 17 March 1942 to the end of December. It is estimated that between 430,000 and 500,000 Jews were murdered at Bełżec. Photos by Adam Chmielewski. The author was born in the city of Łaszczów some 30 kilometres from the site.</span></span></span>The Polish Parliament, the Senate and the President all supported an amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance which bans references to the Polish nation’s participation in the Holocaust. </p> <p>This law has aroused controversy throughout the world and caused antagonism between Poland and its rapidly diminishing number of allies. The main objection to this law, as formulated in particular by Jewish communities around the world, is that it will prevent Holocaust survivors and the descendants of Holocaust victims from speaking out about the suffering inflicted upon them by persons of Polish nationality. </p> <p>The Jews perceive this law as an attempt to put a gag on their testimony to the truth. To their suffering, this law will add the pain of enforced silence. For centuries throughout Europe the Christians have been shutting Jews behind ghetto walls. Now, Polish Christians intend to shut out the voice of Jewish suffering behind the legal wall of this ghetto of silence.</p> <p>It is hard to imagine a more painful blow to the sensitivity of Jewish people. The book of Job (16, 18) says: “O earth, cover not my blood, and let my cry find no resting place!” These words are carved upon more than one monument commemorating the Holocaust victims. The Polish legislator wishes to suppress this cry. How could Jewish people agree with this law, tantamount to renouncing their holy book, the book that is also holy for Christians?</p> <h2><strong>Resurrected facts</strong></h2> <p>The amendment as adopted was erected on a structure comprising the terms “nation”, its “innocence” and “dignity”. The ideological rationale for the legal protection of the moral innocence of the Polish nation is made up of slogans about doing away with the “pedagogy of shame” and the restitution of national dignity. </p> <p>This construction is flawed. The ideological errors floating around this law include a questionable concept of “the nation”, a misunderstanding of the moral role of shame, and the misconception of dignity. The new law also deploys the term “facts” in a particularly controversial way.</p> <p>The Polish ghetto for Jewish words of suffering is to be built out of facts. The legislator has acted on the assumption that there is a closed set of facts that cannot be expanded any more. This assumption also conceals a value judgment according to which facts unquestionably speak on behalf of the heroism of the Polish nation.</p> <p>First of all, the whole notion of “facts” rests on a very risky concept. The basic commandment of the methodology of history is that what facts a historian is able to fish from the ocean of history will depend on the net that he uses. In this respect, the science of history does not differ from the study of nature: it is doomed to theoretical conjectures and empirical refutations. Moreover, theories are inspired by experience while the refutations are guided by theory. This self-reference, especially in the area of history, cannot be overcome, and cannot be abolished by any law.</p> <p>Secondly, the ocean of facts is immeasurable. There is no closed set of facts available to human cognition able to express the complete truth about past events. The prehistoric Homeric legend of Troy ceased to be a legend and became a collection of facts only in the nineteenth century. This example, along with countless others, indicates that the historian's work is never done. This is true regarding any past event.</p> <p>Furthermore, this is a truth that is particularly applicable in the context of the Holocaust. To reach back to the book of Job again. There have been numerous facts about the Holocaust which for a long time remained covered with earth, enclosed in milk cans, incinerated, imprisoned in the ghettos of archives. Recently they have been made to speak to us again. Thanks to the work of Holocaust researchers, including the Polish ones, they have been unearthed, discovered, opened and reconstructed. And they speak to us about what we did not know before.</p><p>Thirdly, the truth about Jewish and other Holocaust suffering is enriched with new facts and will continue to grow, mainly because many people, especially its main perpetrators, were very much keen on concealing the facts. The crematoria served this purpose. However, even burned, they left legible traces. The “facts” are therefore risky not only because of their indelible methodological ambivalence, but also due to their ability to rise from the ashes.</p><p>The three arguments above indicate that the set of facts about the Holocaust is not a closed set; the legislator cannot, therefore, build law on the assumption that it is.</p><h2><strong>Nation as a collectivity</strong></h2><p>Journalistic attempts to justify this legal-moral construct are dominated by an individualistic understanding of the nation which defines it as a “collectivity of individuals”. This usage is roughly consistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland which opens with a definitional statement: “We, the Polish Nation – all citizens of the Republic.” This is an inclusive understanding of the nation, based on the concept of citizenship. Defenders of the adopted law, adopting such an understanding of the nation, may admit that some members of the individualistically understood Polish nation did wicked things to Jews: they took away their lives, sometimes in an indescribably brutal manner. However, the individualistic concept of the nation allows them to claim that even if some members of the Polish nation committed crimes, this fact does not affect in any negative way the moral integrity of the other members of the nation.</p><p>Such a legal defense is counter-effective. However, even though the individualistic concept of a nation enables one to proclaim the innocence of the majority of Poles towards Jews during the Holocaust, it suffers from one irreparable fault. It invalidates the “quantitative” moral argument according to which the Poles are most numerous among the “Righteous Among the Nations”. Defenders of the controversial law interpret this statement as if the remaining part of the nation was entitled to a special moral satisfaction from the attitude of some of its members. In some interpretations one can even sense a suggestion that the number of the heroic Polish Righteous counterbalances, or even cancels out, the vile acts of some other Poles towards Jews, including 60,000 Polish Gestapo collaborators. The strength of this argument is further weakened by the fact that there have been 600 Righteous Among the Nations of the German nationality. If this fact cannot be taken as an acquittal of the remaining Germans, the Poles who committed crimes against Jewish neighbors cannot hope for a similar exemption.</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/PicturesSummer2005 215.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PicturesSummer2005 215.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>If the individualistic-aggregative understanding of the nation has the advantage of not allowing the transfer of blame of some members of the nation onto others, it also has the disadvantage that it does not allow the transfer of moral merit onto some members of the nation. From the point of view of the individualistic understanding of the nation, only individuals can be the carriers of merit, dignity and guilt. The concept of nation understood in this way is reduced to a propaganda stunt or, at best, a metaphorical abbreviation.</p><h2><strong>The nation as a whole</strong></h2><p>The defense of the adopted law would have more sense if it were based upon an essentialist-holistic understanding of the nation. In this sense, the Polish nation would refer to some unique supra-individual substance in which every Pole would somehow participate, and his or her Polishness would result from his partaking in this national substance. However, any such essentialist understanding of the nation as justification for the controversial law would not only be counter-effective but also dangerous.</p><p>It would be counter-effective because if the supporters of this law admit that there were Poles who committed crimes against Jews, they must also admit that their actions did affect this supra-individual national substance. In other words, they would have to admit that the vile acts of individual Poles morally poisoned this national substance: the entire nation and all its constituent parts. Moreover, the very fact that some Poles turned out to be capable of extreme human vileness could be read as a proof of the evil residing in that supraindividual national substance itself. If the legislator employed the essentialist notion of the nation, and not an individualistic one, then his intention would be better served by the adoption of a law ordering the disclosure and prosecution of those parts of the Polish nation which, by virtue of the crimes committed by them, have poisoned its moral substance. This would be necessary for its moral purification.</p><p>The justification for the law based on a substantive concept of the nation would also be dangerous. This danger comes from the fact that it would sound disturbingly analogous to the concept of “Deutsches Volk” used by Nazi German ideologists, the true instigators and perpetrators of the Holocaust which aimed at “Vernichtung des jüdischen Volkes” and the enslavement of the Polish nation. </p><p>The essentialist understanding of the Polish nation would be similar to the Nazi ideology in the (rather circular) conviction that no one else but the Poles can participate in this supra-individual substance of Polishness. In contrast to the individualistic perspective, the essentialist understanding of the nation is racist and exclusive because it denies others, especially Jews, membership of the Polish nation, even if they were citizens of the Polish state. The denial is the first step towards denying them other rights. </p><p>However, even if the current defenders of this amendment would certainly like to avoid any such association, in the heated debates taking place, the racist distinction between Poles and Jews surfaces unabashedly and uncritically even in the words of representatives of the Polish state, supposedly erected on an inclusive Constitution.</p><h2><strong>Shame and morality</strong></h2><p>Many educators claim that arousing feelings of shame is detrimental to individual development. Indeed, shame suppresses self-esteem and weakens the creative abilities. A woman who is ashamed of herself and for herself, of who she is, of her appearance, her thoughts, her goals, would not dare to say what she thinks, do what she wants, protest when she thinks that it is right. Shame leads to conformity, imitation, mediocrity and meekness. It deprives the human being of her sense of agency and her ability to act independently.</p><p>Criticism of the concept of shame, however, ignores its key role in the moral development of man. When I feel ashamed, it means that I am aware that I neglected my obligation, that I did not fulfill what was my duty, that I did not stand up to expectations, that I should try harder than I did. To be ashamed is to be aware that one deserves to be reprimanded or punished. The purpose of shaming is not to punish individuals with the punishment for wrongs committed but to instill in them the conviction that evil should not be committed. Shame therefore has educational and motivating power. Above all, shame has a moral force: shame inhibits human wickedness, because wickedness is disapproved by 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/P7217538.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/P7217538.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Undeniably, an excessive shame thwarts human development. But the inability to feel shame leads to an excessive self-satisfaction and is no less thwarting: a person unable to feel shame regarding his own shortcomings and wrongdoings falls into no less destructive complacency and has no motivation to improve.</p><h2><strong>Guilt and dignity</strong></h2><p>The amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance should also be considered in the light of an important development that occurred in the course of Polish discussion on this subject. It is the unequivocal acknowledgement of German guilt for the Holocaust by the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel.</p><p>The publication of the statement of official representatives of Germany, which publicly recognized German guilt, does not solve, however, the problem of the Polish emotional economy created by the proposed law. In the opinion of defenders of this problematic law, this statement did not make this legislation pointless. But also, it did very little to improve the intellectual credibility of those who want to prohibit the possibility of a conversation about the guilt of any Pole. This is because the reasserted admission of German guilt for the Holocaust by the high representatives of the German state, including their Nazi precursors, may be seen as an act that protects the dignity of the perpetrator of evil.</p><p>Confession is not the only way the perpetrator is able to protect his or her dignity. However, it is the most important one he or she has at their disposal. When a perpetrator denies his indisputable guilt, he denigrates himself. In doing so, while being condemned for the evil he has done, he condemns himself to two additional penalties: humiliation in the eyes of others, and in his own eyes. By denying his guilt, he demonstrates his own depravity and demoralization.</p><p>This leads to the conclusion that an integral part of human subjectivity is the ability to admit to one’s moral failures, to one’s guilt. Human dignity is about sincerity towards others and oneself. That is why dignity and responsibility are constitutive of human agency.</p><h2><strong>Polish non-agency</strong></h2><p>The Polish people were not the agents of the Second World War. They were its subjects. No more did they demonstrate their agency later on, when they did not want to admit to that part of the guilt which could truthfully be attributed to some of Poland’s members. </p><p>But the current legal attempt to prevent anybody from speaking about the possibility of Polish guilt is not a good way to defend the dignity of the Polish people. It is rather about avoiding the opportunity to regain dignity through entering a conversation, even if painful, about the possible guilt and responsibility of some of our ancestors. </p><p>Through supporting this amendment, some Poles demonstrate that they wish to continue to shun all talk of their agency. Undeniably, the repeated recognition of German guilt by the present Germans has been a dignified act. By defending the dignity of the Polish people by means of a misguided law, they are missing an opportunity to regain it. The attitude of the German dignitaries has shown us that they, descendants of the perpetrators of evil, have a greater capacity for dignity than some Poles engaged in a misguided attempt to defend it.</p><h2><strong>Encouraging wickedness</strong></h2><p>German guilt for the Holocaust cannot be questioned. Defenders of the controversial amendment to the law on the Institute of National Remembrance do not think that German recognition of their guilt makes the amendment unnecessary. None of them, however, took advantage of this opportunity to indicate that not only Germans bear the blame for the Holocaust. For there is one more guilt that rests upon their conscience. The key to understanding this second guilt is the moral truth that shame inhibits human wickedness, and a wicked example emboldens and encourages human wickedness.</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/P7217583.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/P7217583.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Despite the wickedness of the general anti-Semitism of the Poles before World War II, widespread dislike and hatred of Jews, various anti-Jewish incidents, the situation of the pre-War Poland cannot be compared with the murderous behavior of some Poles against Jews which erupted with the German aggression against Poland. Before the German aggression, the Poles had had sufficient shame, most of the time, though not always, for it to inhibit their display of wickedness towards Jews. The guilt of the Germans who invaded the Polish state is that they also set an example that emboldened human wickedness in some Poles and encouraged it.</p><h2><strong>Pedagogy of shamelessness</strong></h2><p>The moral task of a human being is to root out the wickedness of his or her own soul, or at least take command of it and not reveal it. One should be ashamed of one’s wickedness, not show it off. The law currently proposed is not only poorly constructed. It is also morally wrong because, for some Poles, it has become an example which, once again, releasing the brake of shame, emboldens anti-Semitism and encourages a renewed hatred towards Jews.</p><p>The defense of dignity cannot be reconciled with wickedness. By defending the dignity of the nation in a misguided way, representatives of the Polish state cultivate a shameless pedagogy.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Germany Poland Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Adam J Chmielewski Tue, 13 Feb 2018 17:30:25 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 116107 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Austrian passports for South Tyroleans are fine – or almost so https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alessio-colonnelli/austrian-passports-for-south-tyroleans-are-fine-or-almost-so <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is one thing calculated to diffuse Europe's nationalisms: the feeling a person can have – or develop over time – of belonging to more than one country.</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/500209/1024px-2016-09_Reinhold_Messner_(22).jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-2016-09_Reinhold_Messner_(22).jpeg" 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'>Reinhold Messner in September 2016. Wikicommons/ Ordercrazy. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2010, Hungary's governing Fidesz party offered Hungarian citizenship to all Magyars. <a href="https://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2010/05/slovakia_and_hungary">This caused outrage</a> in Romania, <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/71c844f8-504d-11df-bc86-00144feab49a">Slovakia</a>, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and even Ukraine.</p> <p>Today, it's Austria's turn. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/austria-shifts-to-the-right-as-new-coalition-deal-is-struck">newly elected government headed by Sebastian Kurz</a> has revitalised an old nationalist idea, never really embraced by Vienna: conceding the Austrian passport to the German-speaking minority of Italy.</p> <p>Not all South Tyroleans – half a million of them – use German at home. Sixty-nine per cent of them do. Others speak either Italian or Ladin, one of Europe's oldest languages, tucked away in the Dolomites.</p> <p>The conservative-and-far-right coalition of Kurz's Austrian People’s Party and Heinz-Christian Strache's Austrian Freedom Party wants to explore ways allowing most South Tyroleans to claim Austrian citizenship. These would be German and Ladin speakers, both subjects of the Habsburg empire. Italian speakers, also natives of South Tyrol, would be excluded. (A few thousand Italian ethnic also lived in Habsburg-ruled South Tyrol, mostly in the southern-most part of it.)</p> <h2><strong>Muddled families, no borders</strong></h2> <p>Many on the Italian right but not only there, regard this as an intrusion in their national affairs. Others, more interestingly, deem it unnecessary for South Tyroleans to have an Austrian passport. For two reasons: Italy and Austria adhere to the Eurozone and Schengen, and thus have no borders; plus, South Tyrolean society has been so long divided, it is only now admirably coming together, making the Viennese geopolitical brainchild look untimely.</p> <p>But there's another issue Vienna has not weighed up: how do you distinguish between native speakers when families have mixed so much since WWII? This is especially true in and around urban areas – the Bozen-Leifers conurbation, Meran, Brixen – and in the Unterland and Überetsch southern districts, where most South Tyroleans live. Like in any London borough, often you can't tell who belongs where. Can the <a href="http://www.provinz.bz.it/de/dienstleistungen-a-z.asp?bnsv_svid=1015344">bogus linguistic register</a> based on self-certification – which you can easily change to aid job prospects – be of any help? Sixty-nine per cent? How <em>pure</em> is that figure, anyhow?</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/Lilli_Gruber-1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lilli_Gruber-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'>Lilli Gruber,2013. Wikicommons/Caltagirone Group. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Many people inhabit two cultures, and are perfect bilinguals. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilli_Gruber">Lilli Gruber</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markus_Lanz">Markus Lanz</a> are locals who have become famous in Italy and Germany, respectively: they're both acclaimed TV presenters. South Tyrol in a nutshell. World-wide known climber <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2017/12/19/news/austria_il_cancelliere_kurz_frena_daremo_doppio_passaporto_solo_in_stretta_cooperazione_con_l_italia_-184592461/?refresh_ce">Reinhold Messner not only rubbished the Austrian passport idea</a>, but also stated he's happy with his Italian passport and looks forward to replacing it in the future with a European Union-only one. </p><h2><strong>Belonging to more than one country</strong></h2> <p>There's <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20633126">no real identity crisis</a> in South Tyrol, as many <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/30/south-tyrol-live-in-italy-feel-austrian">international media would want us to believe</a>. The overall indifference to Vienna's citizenship offer means South Tyrol has moved on from its past and is healing its own ethnic divisions.</p> <p>Yet, there's one aspect that would have made the Austrian passport more of a success: offering it to those local Italian speakers who are either born there or have lived there long enough, and can prove their German is proficient. (The locally awarded <a href="http://www.provinz.bz.it/bildung-sprache/zweisprachigkeit/zweisprachigkeitspruefung/niveau-a.asp">grade A bilingual certificate</a> could suffice.) The passport idea per se isn't bad; it's all about how you present it.</p> <p>For there is one thing calculated to diffuse Europe's nationalisms: the feeling a person can have – or develop over time – of belonging to more than one country. A more generous offer by Vienna could then turn a sectarian proposition right around, and make it pro-Europe. For this to happen, of course, we need to wait for another government.</p> <p>Meanwhile, locals keep enjoying their multicultural ways. “For many people in South Tyrol, [this] is yet another fringe, elite-level quarrel that has little to do with their everyday experience and concerns,” <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2018/01/10/granting-austrian-citizenship-to-german-speaking-italians-would-not-be-a-victory-for-south-tyrols-separatists/">minority rights researchers Stephen J. Larin and Alice Engl poignantly claimed</a> on a London School of Economics blog.</p> <p>Having lived through something similar, the millions all around the Hungarian borders may well agree with this. Europe-wide, a growing number of people swap environment at incredible ease. It wasn't always like this. Only the rich could do it in the past. Ultra-nationalists had better change their tack.</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/alessio-colonnelli/south-tyrol-distorting-mirror-for-vienna-rome-and-liberal-lond">South Tyrol – a distorting mirror for Vienna, Rome and liberal London</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"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Austria </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"> 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? Austria Hungary Germany Italy EU Civil society Culture Democracy and government International politics Alessio Colonnelli Fri, 02 Feb 2018 11:12:01 +0000 Alessio Colonnelli 115934 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anti-feminism and anti-gender far right politics in Europe and beyond https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-and-anti-gender-far-right-politics-in-europe-and-be <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The proclaimed support of the EU for gender equality is seen as one element in a wider programme of colonization, whereby what was once Marxism is now replaced by gender politics. Book review.</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-25352534.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25352534.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'>Christiane Taubira when she was French Justice Minister in 2013. Bernard-Salinier/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The rise, over the last two decades, of the neo-nationalist, populist right is now a well-established fact across the political landscape. But the precise permutations taken and modes of organisation and affiliations on specific issues such as anti-LGBTQ rights, which many of these groups have pursued, is often less well-known. Two recent books, one by Bruno Perreau titled <em><a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=27481">Queer Theory: The French Response </a>(2016 Stanford)</em> and the other edited by David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar titled <em><a href="https://www.rowmaninternational.com/book/antigender_campaigns_in_europe/3-156-7734fc12-00e3-47fc-8478-05897740ac19">Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe</a>,</em> (<em>Rowman and Littlefield</em> 2017) make significant inroads in filling this gap, each of them focusing on Europe, and in particular on questions of sexuality and gender. </p> <h2><strong>‘Natural order’</strong></h2> <p>It transpires that campaigns against civil unions, same-sex marriage and full parenting rights to LGBTQ people were initiated largely from within the Roman Catholic church dating back to the late 1990s. There is a good deal of traffic between lay conservative Catholic campaigners, members of Opus Dei, as well as clerics, who acted as intermediaries bringing to the attention of Vatican scholars, developments from feminism and subsequently queer theory, each of which are perceived as threats to the family and the ‘natural order’. </p> <p>Over the space of a few years feminism and queer theory has come to be subsumed by the term ‘gender theory’ which is then demonised as a ‘totalitarian’ force, for its attempts to undermine the differences between men and women and the sanctity of ‘holy matrimony’ as the only rightful institution for the bringing up of children. </p> <p>This invocation of the spectre of Stalinism is clearly a deliberate ploy to instil fear of the return of communism. Paradoxically, ‘gender ideology’ is seen as both American in its endorsement of communities of difference, and state-authoritarian (suggestive of East European socialism) in its attempts to impose a whole new coercive social order. This activity is most pronounced in France, as Perreau demonstrates. Here it finds fertile ground among right wing thinkers and writers, but also from some on the left. Well-known feminist writers like Sylviane Agacinski (married to the former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin) join this chorus of denunciation, characterising gender theory as something ‘monstrous’ emanating from American universities and threatening the very fabric of French society. </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-1565629.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-1565629.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'>Lionel Jospin and Sylviane Agacinski on holiday in 2001. ABACA/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The attacks on the French <em>Marriage for All</em> Bill of 2013 presented by the then Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, came first from Catholic campaigners including clergy and intellectuals and writers, but soon spread to various far right groups. </p><p>This culminated in the shockingly racist attacks by <em>Manif Pour Tous</em> on Christiane Taubira, a woman of French Guianaian origin, with posters depicting her ‘as a half-human half-Godzilla figure, a monstrous emblem of the destruction of the French family’ (Perreau p 60). </p> <p>Still, it is the machinations of the Holy See that underscore these activities. Various lay activists, writing in their Catholic blogs, claimed to have the ear of the Holy Father and especially that of the theologian and philosopher Joseph Ratzinger both before and after he became Pope Benedict XVI. Perreau traces the pathways of such figures as they provide their own take on queer theory, as the American Opus Dei member and writer Dale O’Leary who lampoons it in her book <em>The Gender Agenda.</em> Advocating gender identity, according to O’Leary is comparable to choosing one’s daily wardrobe and make up, a maliciously profound mis-reading of Butler’s influential <em>Gender Trouble</em> of 1990. Perreau says that these tracts by O’Leary and others were purportedly made available to the Pope, who, along with his Cura, in turn produced a number of philosophical responses, all published and widely distributed. </p> <p>The Vatican, from Pope Benedict XVI to the current Pope Francis goes to great lengths to hold at bay this idea of gender equality which they see as sweeping Europe and well beyond, undermining ideas of ‘human ecology’ which have preserved the anthropological nuclear family over the centuries. If feminism, from the late 1960s onwards, disturbs this idyll of happy family life by supporting divorce, birth control and rights to abortion, these more recent activities culminate, as the Cura sees it, in LGBTQ people assuming equal rights to those of the heterosexual majority, and in the dissolution of sexual difference. </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-2336069.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-2336069.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'>Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger elected as new Pope in 2005. Zabulon Laurent/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Perreau traces activities which connect upper middle-class Opus Dei Catholics with members of the Front Nationale and various other far right organisations including the fascistic <em>Bloc Identitaire</em>. At the heart of these mobilisations is <em>Manif Pour Tous</em> which borrows a good deal of its tactics from the left, including street demonstrations with silent marches and street pray-ins. These groups are constantly monitoring changes in French life, for example, lessons on gender equality in the school system which they see as eating away at the fabric of French life, in much the same way as they blame feminism for destroying romance.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>A class dimension</strong></h2> <p>Bruno Perreau has done a remarkable job in order to make the case that the nation itself was perceived as under threat by LGBTQ activists. He alludes to the fact that single women in France are not permitted access to IVF, thus showing the entire field of sexuality to be indisputably the prerogative of the heterosexual nuclear family. </p> <p>He also argues that a great deal of effort was made within these political circles in France, from the mainstream to the margins, to ensure that granting LGBTQ rights of marriage did not fundamentally disturb the seemingly harmonious and God-given union of family and nation state. Even the majority of feminists and supporters of the Socialist Party in France seem to have fallen into line with this deeply conservative stance. </p> <p>It goes without saying that the hundreds of thousands of people in France, especially of immigrant background, whose family lives for various reasons diverge from this pathway must then be envisaged as failed, and stigmatised as such. </p> <p>Likewise women without a partner and hoping nevertheless to be able to become a mother are forced to look outside France for IVF. They too must experience condemnation and condescension as single mothers. </p> <p>Inevitably there is a class as well as a racial dimension, since poverty and unemployment often make the nuclear family an unfulfillable reality for so many. Overall Perreau shows how antiquated fears of a gay conspiracy combined with fascination for this still ‘deviant’ sexuality, linger deep within the psyche of the white French political classes. And where the RC church heartlessly still disapproves of adoption for the reason that it ‘condones adulterous behaviour’ we can see why Perreau and the activist groups such as <em>Les Tordues</em> who in the context of these neo-nationalist upsurges have struggled for the full range of LGBTQ rights, feel the urgent need for a community of belonging.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>French and German common-sense</strong></h2> <p>In <em>Anti-Genderism Campaigns in Europe</em>, Paula-Irene Villa provides the most succinct account of what is now frequently referred to in Germany <em>as anti-genderismus</em>. This has a different lineage, and is less orchestrated by the Catholic church. &nbsp;Instead it emerges more directly from the mainstream as well as the populist right, but also from within the ranks of academia, and finds ample grounds across the German media, from quality press such as <em>Die Zeit</em> to feminist magazines such as <em>Emma.</em> This campaign works by appealing to the common-sense of the nation against what is claimed to be the extremes of ‘gender ideology’. </p> <p>What Paula-Irene Villa understands as ‘post-essentialist’ definitions of gender as ‘not determined by nature’ but rather by ‘complex socially instituted’ differences, has led to both outrage and ridicule, and within the university system to claims that gender research is not scientific. </p> <p>Although well-known German feminists such as the journalist Alice Schwarzer, founding editor and owner of Emma magazine, have controversially joined this <em>anti-genderismus</em> chorus, there is at the same time a deep connection between anti-feminism and the anti-LGBTQ campaigns. </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-22738609.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-22738609.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'>TV host with guests including Alice Schwarz, second left, on TV talk show on the topic 'Sexual variety: Man, woman, whatever?', April, 2015. Horst Galuschka/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The informal and deeply conservative settlement reached in what was then west-Germany from the late 70s in response to feminist demands for equal access to labour markets, was to make a full professional working life more or less antipathetic to having children. Lack of quality child care and the school day finishing at 13.30 required costly and elaborate arrangements, again a clear disincentive to women to the point that being a feminist and /or lesbian meant in effect not being a mother. </p><p>Post re-unification the right and its allies in the press and on TV easily invoke the spectre of ‘forced labour’ and of the GDR working women into the ground, in order to promote the ideal of the stay-at-home mother (as does incidentally the well-known Marxist sociologist Wolfgang Streeck). </p> <h2><strong>Honest speaking out</strong></h2> <p>There are various other voices who join this cacophony of outrage including for example many with grievances against the feminist left such as the journalist Bettina Rohl, daughter of Ulrike Meinhof. Rohl’s right wing stance leads her to blame the EU as over-interventionist especially in regard to its ‘gender mainstreaming’ policies. </p> <p>Villa reports how after decades of feminism still the image of the working mother is routinely disapproved of. ‘For many Germans, working mothers do not therefore embody an appropriate social model’. This kind of public discourse finds wide readerships and audiences by affecting a simultaneously heroic and purportedly honest stance, one that suggests the author is daring to speak out, (echoing Trump when he declares that he tweets what others think but dare not say). </p> <p>Across many other member states, the EU is blamed for endorsing this ‘gender agenda’ to the detriment of traditional family life. Indeed the proclaimed support of the EU for gender equality is seen as one element in a wider programme of colonization whereby what was once Marxism is now replaced by gender politics. </p> <p>This again reflects increasingly evangelical Vatican fears about losing its grip amongst Catholics across the world, especially the young. In Italy it is reported that parents are encouraged to phone an anti-gender helpline to report ‘indoctrination’ of their children at school, in what is seen as an ‘anthropological emergency’ even by leading figures from the left. </p> <h2><strong>European sexual politics</strong></h2> <p>Above all, these volumes speak to the dangerous convergences of interests from the RC church, the far right, the neo-fascistic right, to the mainstream parties of the right, while also finding some traction within the left and within strains of liberal feminism. </p> <p>They converge on a specific vocabulary which envisages new feminisms and LGBTQ politics as embodying a profound threat to national culture and to social reproduction. If such alliances and cross-fertilisations have not found the exact same opportunities in the UK, for example, this should neither blind us to the distinctive contours which anti-feminist hostility and anti-LGBTQ opposition take, nor should it permit any basking in some badly-needed respite of temporary solace. (I am not immune to grasping onto shards of hope. The need for fantasies of ‘progress’ is sometimes irresistible.) </p> <p>The UK government is less vindictive in the policy environment it has put in place for transmen and women, especially youngsters. A historically more progressive youth and pop culture contribute to a ‘common culture’ which in turn has a more socially mixed audience and readership than in many other parts of Europe.&nbsp; </p> <p>But against this many have pointed out that after the Brexit vote was reported, hate crimes against non-white people, against white east Europeans, and against LGBTQ people rose remarkably. This is undeniably the case. Perhaps one lesson also emerging from these discussions is the added effort needed on the part of British ‘remainers’ to find ways of maintaining full participation in European sexual politics. </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>Two recent books on&nbsp; questions of sexuality and gender:</p><p><br /> <em><a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=27481">Queer Theory: The French Response</a> (2016 Stanford) by Bruno Perreau</em> <em></em></p><p><em><a href="https://www.rowmaninternational.com/book/antigender_campaigns_in_europe/3-156-7734fc12-00e3-47fc-8478-05897740ac19">Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe</a>,</em> (<em>Rowman and Littlefield</em> 2017) edited by David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> 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? UK Germany France EU Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Science World Forum for Democracy 2017 World Forum for Democracy Angela McRobbie Thu, 18 Jan 2018 14:55:37 +0000 Angela McRobbie 115715 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Appropriation and de-politicization: the uncomfortable discussion on Umm Kulthum in Berlin https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/leil-zahra/cultural-hegemony-and-appropriation-on-umm-kulthum-in-berl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An open letter about intellectual and artistic spaces being used to quash a side of the debate, to delegitimize voices and valid criticism instead of engaging in much needed intellectual debates.</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/562712/Umm_Kulthum_funeral.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Umm_Kulthum_funeral.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Funeral of Umm Kulthum, 1975. Middle East Broadcasting Center. Public domain. </span></span></span>This is a response to&nbsp;<a class="profileLink" href="https://www.facebook.com/HAUBerlin/?fref=mentions">HAU Hebbel am Ufer</a>'s statement regarding the criticism surrounding their event "Diva: Celebrating Oum Kalthoum // Ariel Efraim Ashbel &amp; friends"; and <a href="http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/lieder-von-oum-kalthoum-am-hau-das-schwierige-erbe-einer-aegyptischen-antizionistin/20814290.html">the article appearing in Der Tagesspiegel</a> where HAU director&nbsp;Annemie Vanackere&nbsp;dismisses the criticism as "identity politics", portraying a "theatre" of "multiculturalism" and "bridges".&nbsp;</p><p>I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Vanackere when I participated in a panel at HAU that centred (in part) around some currents in the "white left" and European art circles refusing any criticism towards Islam in the context of fighting Islamophobia. Something I am against. Islamophobia is a serious form of discrimination, and it should be faced, but it shouldn't become a lazy argument to discredit critical voices within Islam or around it. Back then I also spoke about the complexities in my own personal experience of being a Queer, Muslim, Atheist, Migrant living in Germany with a set of privileges (lighter skin, artist stature..etc).&nbsp;</p><p>I think there will be a letter that is being prepared by Arab and non-Arab artists to respond to the event, and to detail the criticism. But I decided to speak up as the article in&nbsp;<a class="profileLink" href="https://www.facebook.com/tagesspiegel/?fref=mentions">Tagesspiegel</a>&nbsp;is quite dangerous and to be honest, offensive. Above all, it is offensive to the intellect of those who have engaged in discussion with the artist and HAU to detail the reasons for why this event is problematic.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Germany has a particular condition when criticising anything that has to do with Israel</p><p>Germany has a particular condition when criticising anything that has to do with Israel. The same line of lazy thinking that I was against during the HAU panel: using Islamophobia (which is existing and rampant) to discredit criticism. Allusions of anti-semitism (which is existing and rampant and should be faced) to discredit any type of criticism towards the Israeli government. Many artists/academics in Germany are afraid to speak when it comes to such topics. I do of course risk ostracisation and being "blacklisted" from funding or from spaces to work - similar to what various friends from Jewish Israeli artists and activists based in Berlin are suffering as consequences of their criticism of the Israeli government or Zionism.&nbsp;</p><p>This particular case is <em>not</em>&nbsp;about HAU, and this is <em>not</em>&nbsp;about this event. This is about intellectual and artistic spaces being used to quash a side of the debate, to delegitimize voices and valid criticism instead of engaging in the much needed intellectual debate about appropriation, depoliticization, re-appropriation, colonial discourses and an intentional cognitive dissonance to protect a hegemonic self-congratulatory /theatre/ space of openness.&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new">“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief.” <span>Frantz&nbsp;Fanon - Black Skin White Masks</span>.&nbsp;</p><p>What HAU and Ms. Vanackere seem to intentionally miss - as I have full confidence in their intelligence and intellect; is that this goes beyond the Middle East and what they discredit as "identity politics". Despite various people and artists writing to HAU, they decided to reduce the argument to the following statement:</p><p class="blockquote-new">"In the Arab world Oum Kalthoum’s work is of deep significance and how it is interpreted is followed with critical interest: Is an Arab, Jewish Israeli, working with Arab musicians, allowed to interpret the songs of an Egyptian icon? In order for a work, which can doubtlessly be considered world heritage, to retain its vitality and even expand its reach, it should be open to interpretation. Ariel Ashbel has already done this during the first version of "Diva: Celebrating Oum Kalthoum" last year at the Berliner Uferstudios. The concert there brought together people from the neighbourhood, making Oum Kalthoum’s music accessible to them and giving life to the idea that a concrete encounter between individuals is still possible despite any political tensions and conflicts. We consider it important to give space to this idea and invite all of you to attend on January 6 and 7 at HAU Hebbel am Ufer."</p><p>Instead of addressing the political and intellectual arguments presented, HAU rather opt to feed the very same liberal narrative the event was criticized for. This white "laissez-faire" artistic space that is void of a critical approach and that fails to address key complexities.</p><p>The criticism is not about an "Arab Jew" working on Umm Kulthum per se. It is rather about an Israeli working on Umm Kulthum <em>and</em>&nbsp;striping her, forcefully, out of the politics she represents. I will not delve into the sexism of depoliticizing such a political female voice as that is a whole set of other points. Umm Kulthum was and still is an iconic singer <em>and</em>&nbsp;a key political figure that enjoyed massive political power - too nationalist for my taste, but nevertheless. It is about a (self-identified) Israeli artist who despite denouncing the crimes of his government (check his statement on his personal page), fails to see the implications of his art.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Om_Kolthoum_Nasser_Sadat.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Om_Kolthoum_Nasser_Sadat.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Umm Kulthum alongside Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anouar Al Sadat. (CC BY 4.0)</span></span></span>There are much bigger postcolonial implications of this beyond the Middle East. In an earlier comment, I mentioned similar problems if I was as an Arab artist to tackle Amazigh or Kurdish topics or art (to name a few). Similar if a Spanish artist was to tackle Mexican art. Just like the artist, I too have left to "laissez-faire" in Berlin. But I do take responsibility for the hegemony of the Arabic identity on the cultures that have suffered from its colonialism. When I want to "build bridges", I start by my own side of the bridge, by <em>listening&nbsp;</em>and learning. </p><p>HAU uses the Mizrahi identity to give the artist a carte blanche. The debate could be richer if we dissect both the Mizrahi and the Arab identities and engage in dialogue around them. We can also talk about the Israeli construction of a Mizrahi identity, and the Arab identity in relation to the Israeli. Both culturally and politically. A rich discussion. The artist is the product, by choice or not, culturally and economically, of the very power that Umm Kulthum was resisting, "remaking" her to fit a narrative she didn't subscribe to. To work around all those complexities require a space for discussion, not an imposition.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Umm Kulthum raised funds for the resistance against Israeli colonialism</p><p>The artist himself/themself doesn't speak a word of Arabic and in his previous presentation he couldn't even translate the titles of the songs he worked on and was presenting. He lacks the necessary understanding to make anything about Umm Kulthum "more accessible". And by doing so, he and HAU are risking to present an erroneous image of an icon that encompasses issues of high cultural, political and social importance. Take for example the singer, with due respect to her efforts; she fails at the most basic of the ins and outs of Arabic Tarab and her Orab (عُرب) are a miss. This is key to understanding Umm Kulthum to make her "accessible". If you take away the politics, the Tarab component, the figure she was/is, what is left? A reduced gentrified image of an icon.&nbsp;</p><p>Umm Kulthum raised funds for the resistance against Israeli colonialism and was a militant in nationalist politics at the time to resist worldwide imperialism. She played an active political role both on state and public levels. I can of course include my criticism of the power she enjoyed and some of the politics she portrayed, but that is not the point here. Rewriting her to feed a narrative she vocally resisted is unfortunate. Umm Kulthum didn't subscribe to "music for music" or "art for art" (to be honest I don't know anyone who does).&nbsp;</p><p>The criticism is about a discourse of cultural hegemony and appropriation that is very well known and which many of us non-white artists are witnesses to and sometimes victims of. It is also about token representation that aims to evade the responsibility rather than embrace the dialogue and the complexity. There are organized efforts worldwide between Israeli and non-Israeli artists to collaborate and work in ways that do not feed the narrative of power and respect the plights of the oppressed. I invite you to educate yourselves on that. It is more constructive than being on the defensive. All sides learn from a constructive discussion.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Multiculturalism and bridges, if they are to be constructed with respect, require discussion and care - sometimes painful, at times uncomfortable, but nevertheless necessary.</p><p>Your response is unfortunate. I do give you more credit than that. The artist wrote a much better response on his personal page and though he failed to address a good chunk of the criticism; he understands the complexity to better extents. I again recommend a Fanon reading, even Amilcar Cabral.&nbsp;</p><p>I invite you to engage in debate. It is not a win/lose situation for anyone, it is a chance for an important intellectual and artistic dialogue and discussion to happen. Multiculturalism and bridges, if they are to be constructed with respect, require discussion and care - sometimes painful, at times uncomfortable, but nevertheless necessary. Be the space to embrace it, not the space to quash it.&nbsp;</p><p>“Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” Bertolt Brecht</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="/north-africa-west-asia/are-litmus-tests-on-culture-spreading-from-israel-to-berlin">Are litmus tests on culture spreading from Israel to Berlin?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/moritz-pieper/infallibility-of-david-on-anti-semitism-and-criticising-israeli-foreign-policy">The infallibility of David? On anti-semitism and criticising Israeli foreign policy</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </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 Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Israel Germany Culture hegemony art Leil Zahra Mon, 08 Jan 2018 17:17:12 +0000 Leil Zahra 115538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we living through a new “Weimar era”? Constructive resolutions for our future https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/nicola-bertoldi/are-we-living-through-new-weimar-era-constructive-resolutions-for <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It has been argued that progressives should drop the 1930’s analogy altogether, on the grounds that this risks identifying the threat posed to democratic societies as inherent in the very demos itself.</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/500209/640px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S38324,_Tag_von_Potsdam,_Adolf_Hitler,_Paul_v._Hindenburg(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-S38324,_Tag_von_Potsdam,_Adolf_Hitler,_Paul_v._Hindenburg(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'>The end of the Weimar Republic. Adolf Hitler greets President Paul von Hindenburg, in Potsdam, Germany, on March 21, 1933, in a pose designed to project an image of Hitler as non-threatening to the established order. Wikicommons/US Holocaust Memorial Museum; US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of B. I. Sanders. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/kasia-narkowicz-bolaji-balogun/what-motivated-60000-who-joined-far-right-polish-i">infamous “March of Independence</a>” that took place in Warsaw on November 11, last year, has raised once again the question of whether we are living through a new version of the 1930s. While commentators, scholars and politicians are making extensive use of this historical analogy, its meaning remains ambiguous. It has been argued that progressives should drop it altogether, since it risks fostering a conservative interpretation of the current economic and political crisis, which identifies the threat posed to democratic societies as existing in the very demos itself. </em></p> <p><em>However, the problem lies less in the analogy than in the way in which the latter is framed. Although it can be used to uphold technocratic policies, it can also serve democratic and progressive purposes. DiEM25’s proposals, such as our ambitious “European New Deal”, are precisely the living proof that the lessons from our dark past can be learnt and transformed into constructive resolutions for our future. Now, it is time to prepare for translating such resolutions into action, starting with the next EU parliamentary elections. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><p>As widely reported by media outlets worldwide, tens of thousands of far-right nationalists and neo-fascists flooded the streets of Warsaw on Poland’s Independence Day. Demonstrators displayed old fascist symbols and chanted slogans such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/12/white-europe-60000-nationalists-march-on-polands-independence-day">“We want God”, “White Europe of brotherly nations”, “Remove Jewry from power”</a>. Such a march is the clear sign that <a href="https://diem25.org/fascists-marching-in-warsaw-another-sign-of-europes-growing-far-right-problem/">Europe is facing a serious threat posed by the growth of far-right movements</a>, which has been so far downplayed, or outright ignored, both by the conservative and the liberal wings of the establishment. </p> <p>Moreover, the rise of neofascism and far-right extremism cannot be discounted as a symptom of the immaturity of East European democracies, given that <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2017/03/rise-nationalists-guide-europe-s-far-right-parties">West European ones have proved not at all immune to the same menace</a>. Since this surge is clearly related both to the “Great Recession” into which the world economy has sunk since 2007 and to the crisis that has been crippling the very foundations of modern liberal democracies in recent years, we are left to wonder whether <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/01/are-we-living-through-another-1930s-paul-mason">“we are living through another 1930s”</a>. If so, in which sense is this historical analogy correct?</p> <h2><strong>Elite syncopations</strong></h2> <p>DiEM25 is built precisely on <a href="https://diem25.org/what-is-diem25/">the assumption</a> that the steady disintegration of the European Union is threatening to push our continent back to those years. Such an analysis seems now commonplace, as commentators, scholars and politicians have started to make extensive use of it. It has been argued, for instance, that the election of Donald Trump has brought the USA into a <a href="https://weimarstudies.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/trump-and-weimar-germany/">“Weimar phase”</a> in their history. However, as argued <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/12/trump-hitler-germany-fascism-weimar-democracy/">by Daniel Bessner and Udi Greenberg in the Jacobin Magazine</a>, seeing our own predicament “through the lens of the Weimar Republic, then, comes with considerable peril”, since this might fuel élitist and technocratic responses, based on the assumption that “democracy’s survival depends on restricting the people’s power and on forming an unelected, bureaucratic elite shielded from public scrutiny”. </p> <p>Such an assumption is clearly spelt out in <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html">Andrew Sullivan’s short essay on why America is ripe for tyranny</a>. In this essay, Donald Trump is depicted as a quasi-fascist rabble-rouser whose success is to be imputed to the undoing of the “large, hefty barriers between the popular will and the exercise of power” that had been constructed by the Founding Fathers, as well as to the frustration inflicted on white working-class Americans by the excessive demands of “minorities”. Therefore, instead of highlighting the dangers posed by the insurgence of neo-fascist movements, this conservative interpretation of the “back to the 1930s analogy” ends up amalgamating those movements with all other expressions of discontent with the current <em>status quo</em>. Such a narrative, however, is both analytically fallacious and politically misleading, and this for four main reasons.</p> <h2><strong>Four arguments from Hitler and Mussolini to Arendt and Marx</strong></h2> <p>First, historically speaking, the Nazi regime cannot be viewed as the result of an “excess of democracy”, since Adolph Hitler never received an absolute majority in the ballots and his rise was made possible by <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler/Rise-to-power">the support of conservative elites</a>, who were willing to use him as an extreme measure against the “Red peril”. The same could be argued for the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy: the March on Rome, which persuaded king Victor Emanuel III to appoint him as Prime Minister, was the culmination of a mobilization of fascist “black shirt” squads against left-wing parties, trade unions and workers’ councils, while his first cabinet included <a href="https://www.britannica.com/place/Italy/The-Fascist-era#ref319028">“nationalists, two Fascist ministers, Liberals and even…two Catholic ministers from the Popular Party”</a>. </p> <p>Second, such a narrative overemphasizes the mass support that neo-fascist and far-right movements can gather. The problem with those movements lies less in their electoral and militant strength than in the fact that their ideas <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/18/more-girls-fewer-skinheads-polands-far-right-wrestles-with-changing-image">“are seeping into the mainstream”</a>, thus pushing rightward the entire political spectrum. </p> <p>Third, as Bessner and Greenberg further observe, the thinking that underpins this interpretation of the insurgence of neo-fascism risks exacerbating, rather than to mitigating, the threat that it is supposed to avoid: “while xenophobia and racism remain critical to understanding populism’s appeal, the sense that people have no control over their own government and that too much power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable elites also fuels popular outrage”.&nbsp; </p><p>Fourth, such a use of the “back to the 1930s analogy” exclusively focuses on the pathological and conjunctural aspects of fascism, while overlooking the “structurally” fascist, or even Nazi, features of our own democratic societies. <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1963/02/16/eichmann-in-jerusalem-i">As Hannah Arendt argues in Eichmann in Jerusalem</a>, there exist very plausible reasons why we should fear “a repetition of the crimes committed by the Nazis”, the most important of which is the fact that our societies constantly render large sections of their populations “superfluous”. Just to name two examples, on one hand, technological progress is threatening to exacerbate what Karl Marx deemed to be the human cost of economic production “under the rule of private property”: <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/needs.htm">“production of too many useful things produces too large a useless population”</a>; on the other hand, the complex factors that are causing the so-called “refugee crisis”, which is in fact a structural feature of the current state of the world, also contribute to transforming human beings into “superfluous things”, which must be allocated their place in a “sustainable” manner.</p> <h2><strong>Two resolutions for the future</strong></h2> <p>Should we thus conclude that any analogy between our predicament and the crisis of the 1930s is doomed to be misleading? According to Bessner and Greenberg, progressive forces should retire all references to the Weimar Republic and the 1930s. In their view, this is a necessary precondition for persuading people to reject “technocratic politics and the close collaboration between the government and economic elites”, while building “viable coalitions” committed to “distributionist policies” and to addressing “the needs of the many”. </p> <p>However, they overlook the two main lessons that those analogies can still teach us. First, it would be dangerously delusional to expect that the total collapse of the European Union would bring forth a radical, progressive alternative to neo-liberalism. Quite the contrary, it could only exacerbate the structurally fascist features of our imperfect democratic order. That is why, for a start, the European Union must be saved from itself: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/18/yanis-varoufakis-how-i-became-an-erratic-marxist">“Not out of love for European capitalism, for the eurozone, for Brussels, or for the European Central Bank, but just because we want to minimize the unnecessary human toll from this crisis”</a>. </p> <p>Second, our current predicament requires solutions that must both be bold and pragmatic, such as DiEM25’s proposals for a <a href="https://diem25.org/end/">“European New Deal”</a>, which combine the lessons of Roosevelt’s New Deal with the necessity of tackling such pressing issues as the ecological transition and a bold “post-capitalist” outlook on the future. Moreover, such proposals are tightly related to the political effort to identify a <a href="https://global.ilmanifesto.it/varoufakis-wants-a-european-new-deal-and-a-constitution/">“third space”</a>, beyond the establishment (both liberal and conservative) and national-populist forces, which aim to recover a past that never existed in the first place, in order to foster democratic control and participation across the whole Europe. </p> <p>For all those reasons, it might be argued that the problem does not lie in the analogy itself, but in the way in which the latter is framed. Although it can be used to uphold technocratic policies, it can also serve democratic and progressive purposes. </p> <p>DiEM25 is precisely the living proof that the lessons from our dark past can be learned and transformed into constructive resolutions for our future. Now, it is time to prepare for translating such resolutions into action, starting from the next elections to the European Parliament. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&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/etienne-balibar/europe-in-crisis-which-new-foundation">Europe in crisis: which ‘new foundation’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kasia-narkowicz-bolaji-balogun/what-motivated-60000-who-joined-far-right-polish-i">What motivated the 60,000 people who joined the far-right Polish Independence March?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/can-europe-make-it/thomas-weyn/arendtian-approach-to-post-truth-politics">An Arendtian approach to post-truth politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/krystian-woznicki-michael-hardt/struggling-with-state">Struggling with the state</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nicola-bertoldi/left-is-dead-carpe-diem">The Left is dead, carpe DiEM! </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/seren-selvin-korkmaz-alphan-telek/origins-of-populism-bogus-democracy-and-capital">The origins of populism: bogus-democracy and capitalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/seren-selvin-korkmaz-alphan-telek/left-transformation-versus-left-populism-why-it">Left-transformation versus left-populism: why it matters</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </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 Germany Nicola Bertoldi DiEM25 Wed, 03 Jan 2018 18:27:10 +0000 Nicola Bertoldi 115494 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Germany’s dystopian plans for Europe: from fantasy to reality? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/thomas-fazi/germany-s-dystopian-plans-for-europe-from-fantasy-to-reality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For Germany, the idea of Europeanism has provided the country’s elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration'.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.diveris.org/habari/%CF%84%CE%B1-%CE%B5%CF%86%CE%B9%CE%B1%CE%BB%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AC-%CF%83%CF%87%CE%AD%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%B3%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%BC%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%AF%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%B5%CF%85%CF%81%CF%8E%CF%80%CE%B7-%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%8C-%CF%84%CE%B7-%CF%86%CE%B1%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B1%CF%83%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CF%80%CF%81%CE%B3%CE%BC%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%84%CE%B1"><em>Ελληνικά</em></a>.</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-33424856.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-33424856.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The German government prior to 24 September 2017 elections. The results of the elections were inconclusive and a new government has yet to be formed as of the publication of this article. Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>After Emmanuel Macron’s election in France, many (including myself) claimed that this signalled a revival of the Franco-German alliance and a renewed impetus for Europe’s process of top-down economic and political integration – a fact that was claimed by most commentators and politicians, beholden as they are to the Europeanist narrative, to be an unambiguously positive development.</p><p>Among the allegedly ‘overdue’ reforms that were said to be on the table was the creation of a pseudo-‘fiscal union’ backed by a (meagre) ‘euro budget’, along with the creation of a ‘European finance minister’, the centre-points of Macron’s plans to ‘re-found the EU’ – a proposal that raises a number of very worrying issues from both political and economic standpoints, <a href="http://www.progressiveeconomy.eu/system/files/papers/Fazi-Iodice-Progressive-Economy_DEF_June9.pdf">which I have discussed at length elsewhere</a>. </p> <p>The integrationists’ (unwarranted) optimism, however, was short-lived. The result of the German elections, which saw the surge of two rabidly anti-integrationist parties, the right-wing FDP and extreme right AfD; the recent collapse of coalition talks between Merkel’s CDU, the FDP and the Greens, which most likely means an interim government for weeks if not months, possibly leading to new elections (which <a href="http://time.com/5032864/angela-merkel-germany-coalition-talks-election/">polls show</a> would bring roughly the same result as the September election); and the growing restlessness in Germany towards the 13-year-long rule of Macron’s partner in reform Angela Merkel, means that any plans that Merkel and Macron may have sketched out behind the scenes to further integrate policies at the European level are now, almost certainly, dead in the water. Thus, even the sorry excuse for a fiscal union proposed by Macron is now off the table, according to most commentators. </p> <p>At this point, the German government’s most likely course in terms of European policy – the one that has the best chance of garnering cross-party support, regardless of the outcome of the coalition talks (or of new elections) – is the ‘minimalist’ approach set in stone by the country's infamous and now-former finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in a <a href="http://media2.corriere.it/corriere/pdf/2017/non-paper.pdf">‘non-paper’</a> published shortly before his resignation. </p><p>The main pillar of Schäuble’s proposal – a long-time obsession of his – consists in giving the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which would go on to become a ‘European Monetary Fund’, the power to monitor (and, ideally, enforce) compliance with the Fiscal Compact. This echoes Schäuble’s <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/5565f134-2d48-11e4-8105-00144feabdc0">previous calls</a> for the creation of a European budget commissioner with the power to reject national budgets – a supranational fiscal enforcer. </p><p>The aim is all too clear: to further erode what little sovereignty and autonomy member states have left, particularly in the area of fiscal policy, and to facilitate the imposition of neoliberal ‘structural reforms’ – flexibilisation of labour markets, reduction of collective bargaining rights, etc. – on reluctant countries. </p><p>To this end, the German authorities even want to make the receipt of EU cohesion funds <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-rule-of-law-europe-germany-berlin-looks-into-freezing-funds-for-eu-rule-breakers/">conditional on the implementation of such reforms</a>, tightening the existing arrangements even further. Moreover, <a href="https://mainlymacro.blogspot.it/2017/10/a-european-monetary-fund.html">as noted by Simon Wren-Lewis</a>, the political conflict of interest of having an institution lending within the eurozone would end up imposing severe austerity bias on the recovering country. </p><p>Until recently, these proposals failed to materialise due, among other reasons, to France’s opposition to any further <em>overt</em> reductions of national sovereignty in the area of budgetary policy; Macron, however, staunchly rejects France’s traditional <em>souverainiste</em> stance, embracing instead what he calls ‘European sovereignty’, and thus represents the perfect ally for Germany’s plans. </p> <p>Another proposal that goes in the same direction is <a href="https://www.sachverstaendigenrat-wirtschaft.de/presse-jahresgutachten-2016-17.html?&amp;L=1">the German Council for Economic Experts’ plan</a> to curtail banks’ sovereign bond holdings. Ostensibly aimed at ‘severing the link between banks and government’ and ‘ensuring long-term debt sustainability’, it calls for: (i) removing the exemption from risk-weighting for sovereign exposures, which essentially means that government bonds would no longer be considered a risk-free asset for banks (as they are now under Basel rules), but would be ‘weighted’ according to the ‘sovereign default risk’ of the country in question (as determined by credit rating agencies); (ii) putting a cap on the overall risk-weighted sovereign exposure of banks; and (iii) introducing an automatic ‘sovereign insolvency mechanism’ that would essentially extend to sovereigns the bail-in rule introduced for banks by the banking union, meaning that if a country requires financial assistance from the ESM, for whichever reason, it will have to lengthen its sovereign bond maturities (reducing the market value of those bonds and causing severe losses for all bondholders) and, if necessary, impose a nominal ‘haircut’ on private creditors. </p> <p><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/12158626/German-bail-in-plan-for-government-bonds-risks-blowing-up-the-euro.html">As noted by the German economist Peter Bofinger</a>, the only member of the German Council of Economic Experts to vote against the sovereign bail-in plan, this would almost certainly ignite a 2012-style self-fulfilling sovereign debt crisis, as periphery countries’ bond yields would quickly rise to unsustainable levels, making it increasingly hard for governments to roll over maturing debt at reasonable prices and eventually forcing them to turn to the ESM for help, which would entail even heavier losses for their banks and an even heavier dose of austerity. </p><p>It would essentially amount to a return to the pre-2012 status quo, with governments once again subject to the supposed ‘discipline’ of the markets, particularly in the context of a likely tapering of the ECB’s quantitative easing (QE) program. The aim of this proposal is the same as that of Schäuble’s ‘European Monetary Fund’: to force member states to implement permanent austerity. </p> <p>Of course, national sovereignty in a number of areas – most notably fiscal policy – has already been severely eroded by the complex system of new laws, rules and agreements introduced in recent years, including but not limited to the six-pack, two-pack, Fiscal Compact, European Semester and Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP). </p><p>As a result of this new post-Maastricht system of European economic governance, the European Union has effectively become a sovereign power with the authority to impose budgetary rules and structural reforms on member states outside democratic procedures and without democratic control. </p><p>The EU’s embedded quasi-constitutionalism and inherent (structural) democratic deficit has thus evolved into an even more anti-democratic form of ‘authoritarian constitutionalism’ that is breaking away with elements of formal democracy as well, <a href="http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue62/Elsner62.pdf">leading some observers to suggest</a> that the EU ‘may easily become the postdemocratic prototype and even a pre-dictatorial governance structure against national sovereignty and democracies’. </p> <p>To give an example, with the launch of the European Semester, the EU’s key tool for economic policy guidance and surveillance, an area that has historically been a bastion of national sovereignty – old-age pensions – has now fallen under the purview of supranational monitoring as well. <a href="http://www.euvisions.eu/pensions-european-supranational/">Countries are now expected to</a> (and face sanctions if they don’t): (i) increase the retirement age and link it with life expectancy; (ii) reduce early retirement schemes, improve the employability of older workers and promote lifelong learning; (iii) support complementary private savings to enhance retirement incomes; and (iv) avoid adopting pension-related measures that undermine the long term sustainability and adequacy of public finances. </p><p>This has led to the introduction in various countries of several types of automatic stabilizing mechanisms (ASMs) in pension systems, which change the policy default so that benefits or contributions adjust automatically to adverse demographic and economic conditions without direct intervention by politicians. Similar ‘automatic correction mechanisms’ in relation to fiscal policy can be found in the Fiscal Compact. </p> <p>The aim of all these ‘automatic mechanisms’ is clearly to put the economy on ‘autopilot’, thus removing any element of democratic discussion and/or decision-making at either the European or national level. These changes have already transformed European states into ‘semi-sovereign’ entities, at best. In this sense, the proposals currently under discussion would mark the definitive transformation of European states from semi-sovereign to <em>de facto </em>(and increasingly <em>de jure</em>) non-sovereign entities.</p><p> Regardless of the lip service paid by national and European officials to the need for further reductions of national sovereignty to go hand in hand with a greater ‘democratisation’ of the euro area, the reforms currently on the table can, in fact, be considered the final stage in the thirty-year-long war on democracy and national sovereignty waged by the European elites, aimed at constraining the ability of popular-democratic powers to influence economic policy, thus enabling the imposition of neoliberal policies that would not have otherwise been politically feasible. </p> <p>In this sense, the European economic and monetary integration process should be viewed, to a large degree, as a class-based and inherently neoliberal project pursued by <em>all</em> national capitals as well as transnational (financial) capital. However, to grasp the processes of restructuring under way in Europe, we need to go beyond the simplistic capital/labour dichotomy that underlies many critical analyses of the EU and eurozone, which view EU/EMU policies as the expression of a unitary and coherent transnational (post-national) European capitalist class. </p><p>The process underway can only be understood through the lens of the geopolitical-economic tensions and conflicts between leading capitalist states and regional blocs, and the conflicting interests between the different financial/industrial capital fractions located in those states, which have always characterised the European economy. In particular, it means looking at Germany’s historic struggle for economic hegemony over the European continent. </p> <p>It is no secret that Germany is today the leading economic and political power in Europe, just as it is no secret that nothing gets done in Europe without Germany’s seal of approval. In fact, it is commonplace to come across references to Germany’s ‘new empire’. <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-power-in-the-age-of-the-euro-crisis-a-1024714.html">A controversial <em>Der Spiegel</em> editorial</a> from a few years back event went as far as arguing that it is not out place to talk of the rise of a ‘Fourth Reich’: </p> <p>"That may sound absurd given that today’s Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism – and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word ‘Reich’, or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?"</p> <p>More recently, <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/why-greece-is-germanys-de-facto-colony/">an article in <em>Politico Europe</em></a> – co-owned by the German media magnate Axel Springer AG – candidly explained why ‘Greece is de facto a German colony’. It noted how, despite Tsipras’ pleas for debt relief, the Greek leader ‘has little choice but to heed the wishes of his “colonial” masters’, i.e., the Germans. </p><p>This is because <a href="https://www.socialeurope.eu/public-debt-eurozone-political-problem-financial-one">public debt in the eurozone is used as a political tool</a> – a disciplining tool – to get governments to implement socially harmful policies (and to get citizens to accept these policies by portraying them as inevitable), which explains why Germany continues to refuse to seriously consider any form of debt relief for Greece, despite the various commitments and promises to that end made in recent years: debt is the chain that keeps Greece (and other member states) from straying ‘off course’. </p> <p>Even though the power exercised by Europe’s ‘colonial masters’ is now openly acknowledged by the mainstream press, it is however commonplace to ascribe Germany’s dominant position as an accident of history: according to this narrative, we are in the presence of an ‘accidental empire’, one that is not the result of a general plan but that emerged almost by chance – even <em>against</em> Germany’s wishes – as a result of the euro’s design faults, which have allowed Germany and its satellites to pursue a neo-mercantilist strategy and thus accumulate huge current account surpluses. </p><p>Now, it is certainly true that the euro’s design – strongly influenced by Germany – inevitably benefits export-led economies such as Germany over more internal demand-oriented economies, such as those of southern Europe. However, there is ample evidence to support the argument that Germany, far from having accidently stumbled upon European dominance, has been actively and consciously pursuing an expansionary and imperialist strategy in – and through – the European Union for decades. </p><p>Even if we limit our analysis to Germany’s post-crisis policies (though there is much that could be said about Germany’s post-reunification policies and subsequent offshoring of production to Eastern Europe in the 1990s), it would be very naïve to view Germany’s inflexibility – on austerity, for example – as a simple case of ideological stubbornness, considering the extent to which the policies in question have benefited Germany (and to a lesser extent France). </p><p>Germany (and France) have been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/thomas-fazi/troika-saved-banks-and-creditors-%E2%80%93-not-greece">the main beneficiaries of the sovereign bailouts of periphery countries</a>, which essentially amounted to a covert bailout of German (and French) banks, as most of the funds were channelled back to the creditor countries’ banks, which were heavily exposed to the banks (and to a lesser degree the governments) of periphery countries. German policy, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13563467.2015.1041476">Helen Thompson wrote</a>, overwhelmingly ‘served the interests of the German banks’. </p> <p>This is a telling example of how Germany’s policies (and the EU’s policies more in general), while <em>nominally</em> ordoliberal – i.e., based upon minimal government intervention and a strict rules-based regime – are <em>in reality</em> based on extensive state intervention on behalf of German capital, at both the domestic and European level. </p><p>As Andy Storey notes, not only did the German government, throughout the crisis, show a blatant disregard for ordoliberalism’s non-interference of public institutions in the workings of the market, by engaging in a massive Keynesian-style programme in the aftermath of the financial crisis and pushing through bailout programmes that largely absolved German banks from their responsibility for reckless lending to Greece and other countries; German authorities have also been more than happy to go along with – or to encourage – the European institutions’ ‘exercise of unrestrained executive power and the more or less complete abandonment of strict, rules-based frameworks’ – Storey is here referring in particular to the ECB’s use of its currency-issuing monopoly to force member states to follows its precepts – ‘to maintain the profitability of German banks, German hegemony within the Eurozone, or even the survival of the Eurozone itself’. </p> <p>Germany (and France) are also the main beneficiaries of the ongoing process of ‘mezzogiornification’ of periphery countries – often compounded by <em>troika</em>-forced privatisations –, which in recent years has allowed German and French firms to take over a huge number of businesses (or stakes therewithin) in periphery countries, often at bargain prices. A well-publicised case is that of the 14 Greek regional airports taken over by the German airport operator Fraport. </p><p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-08/france-inc-s-italian-binge-raises-roadblocks-from-milan-to-rome">France’s corporate offensive in Italy</a> is another good example: in the last five years, French companies have engaged in 177 Italian takeovers, for a total value of $41.8 billion, six times Italy’s purchases in France over the same period. This is leading to an increased ‘centralisation’ of European capital, characterised by a gradual concentration of capital and production in Germany and other core countries – in the logistical and distribution sectors, for example – and more in general to an increasingly imbalanced relationship between the stronger and weaker countries of the union. </p> <p>These transformations cannot simply be described as processes without a subject: while there are undoubtedly structural reasons involved – countries with better developed economies of scale, such as Germany and France, were bound to benefit more than others from the reduction in tariffs and barriers associated with the introduction of the single currency – we also have to acknowledge that there are loci of economic-politic power that are actively driving and shaping these imperialist processes, which must be viewed through the lens of the unresolved inter-capitalist struggle between core-based and periphery-based capital. </p><p>From this perspective, the dichotomy that is often raised in European public discourse between nationalism and Europeanism is deeply flawed. The two, in fact, often go hand in hand. In Germany’s case, for example, Europeanism has provided the country’s elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of ‘European integration’. Ironically, the European Union – allegedly created as an antidote to the vicious nationalisms of the twentieth century – has been the tool through which Germany has been able to achieve the ‘new European order’ that Nazi ideologues had theorised in the 1930s and early 1940s.&nbsp;</p><p>In short, the European Union should indeed be viewed a transnational capitalist project, but one that is subordinated to a clear state-centred hierarchy of power, with Germany in the dominant position. In this sense, the national elites in periphery countries that have supported Germany’s hegemonic project (and continue to do so, first and foremost through their support to European integration) can thus be likened to the <em>comprador bourgeoisie</em> of the old colonial system – sections of a country’s elite and middle class allied with foreign interests in exchange for a subordinated role within the dominant hierarchy of power. </p> <p>From this point of view, the likely revival of the Franco-German bloc is a very worrying development, since it heralds a consolidation of the German-led European imperialist bloc – and a further ‘Germanification’ of the continent. This development cannot be understood independently of the momentous shifts that are taking place in global political economy – namely the organic crisis of neoliberal globalisation, which is leading to increased tensions between the various fractions of international capital, most notably between the US and Germany. </p><p>Trump’s repeated criticisms of Germany’s beggar-thy-neighbour mercantilist policies should be understood in this light. The same goes for Angela Merkel’s recent call – much celebrated by the mainstream press – for a stronger Europe to counter Trump’s unilateralism. Merkel’s aim is not, of course, that of making ‘Europe’ stronger, but rather of strengthening Germany’s dominant position vis-à-vis the other world powers (the US but also China) through the consolidation of Germany’s control of the European continental economy, in the context of an intensification of global inter-capitalist competition. </p><p>This has now become an imperative for Germany, especially since Trump has dared to openly challenge the self-justifying ideology which sustains Germany’s mercantilism – a particular form of economic nationalism that <a href="https://www.amazon.it/Paradox-German-Power-Hans-Kundnani/dp/1849044155">Hans Kundnani has dubbed</a> ‘<em>Exportnationalismus’</em>, founded upon the belief that Germany’s massive trade surplus is uniquely the result of Germany’s manufacturing excellence (<em>Modell Deutschland</em>) rather than, in fact, the result of unfair trade practices. </p><p>This is why, if Germany wants to maintain its hegemonic position on the continent, it must break with the US and tighten the bolts of the European workhouse. To this end, it needs to seize control of the most coveted institution of them all – the ECB –, which hitherto has never been under direct German control (though the Bundesbank exercises considerable influence over it, as is well known). Indeed, many commentators openly acknowledge that Merkel now has her eyes on the ECB’s presidency. This would effectively put Germany directly at the helm of European economic policy. </p> <p>Even more worryingly, Germany is not simply aiming at expanding its economic control over the European continent; it is also taking steps for greater European military ‘cooperation’ – under the German aegis, of course. <a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/22/germany-is-quietly-building-a-european-army-under-its-command/">As a recent article in <em>Foreign Policy</em> revealed</a>, ‘Germany is quietly building a European army under its command’. </p><p>This year Germany and two of its European allies, the Czech Republic and Romania, announced the integration of their armed forces, under the control of the Bundeswehr. In doing so, the will follow in the footsteps of two Dutch brigades, one of which has already joined the Bundeswehr’s Rapid Response Forces Division and another that has been integrated into the Bundeswehr’s 1st Armored Division. </p><p>In other words, Germany already effectively controls the armies of four countries. And the initiative, <em>Foreign Policy</em> notes, ‘is likely to grow’. This is not surprising: if Germany (‘the EU’) wants to become truly autonomous from the US, it needs to acquire military sovereignty, which it currently lacks. </p> <p>Europe is thus at a crossroads: the choice that left-wing and popular forces, and periphery countries more generally, face is between (a) accepting Europe’s transition to a fully post-democratic, hyper-competitive, German-led continental system, in which member states (except for those at the helm of the project) will be deprived of all sovereignty and autonomy, in exchange for a formal democratic façade at the supranational level, and its workers subject to ever-growing levels of exploitation; or (b) regaining national sovereignty and autonomy at the national level, with all the short-term risks that such a strategy entails, as the only way to restore democracy, popular sovereignty and socioeconomic dignity. In short, the choice is between European post-democracy or post-European democracy. </p><p>There is no third way. Especially in view of the growing tensions between Germany, the US and China, periphery countries should ask themselves if they want to be simple pawns in this ‘New Great Game’ or if they want to take their destinies into their own hands.</p><p>----</p> <p><em>Some portions of this article previously appeared in </em><a href="https://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/the-reforms-that-europe-doesnt-need/"><em>this article</em></a><em> published by Green European Journal. Thomas Fazi is the co-author (with William Mitchell) of </em><a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745337326/reclaiming-the-state/">Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World</a> <em>(Pluto, 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/ernesto-gallo-ernesto-gallo-and-giovanni-biava/eternal-chancellor">The eternal Chancellor</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/krystian-woznicki/violence-from-future-on-logics-of-g20-state-of-emergency">Violence from the future: on the logics of the G20 state of emergency </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"> 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> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Germany Thomas Fazi Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:31:16 +0000 Thomas Fazi 115057 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 Are cities the key agents of integration? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/irena-guidikova/are-cities-key-agents-of-integration <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While helping others is a powerful motivation in the early stage of migrants’ and refugees’ arrival, it is not a good basis for genuine integration. Institutions should help refugees build social capital and agency in their cities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic1_23.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic1_23.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body">Souad has a medical degree from Syria. She arrived in Germany in 2015 but found it difficult to find a job in the health field. In the first weeks and months after the end of her dangerous journey, she was filled with both relief and anxiety: Will she ever fit into her new environment? Will she ever lead a normal life and cease being “the refugee?”.</p> <p class="Body">Life was scary and lonely at first but eventually, thanks to local NGOs and clubs, she met other women who were not just relief workers and refugees. She also began learning German in a social context, which was a welcome change from the dry, sterile manner of language classes. Staff and volunteers at the ‘refugee hotel’ where she first lived helped her with the paperwork, residents permit, finding schools for the children, booking hospital appointments and advising how she could ask for her qualifications to be assessed and recognised – not a straightforward process, as she quickly understood.</p> <p class="Body">She seized the opportunities coming her way. She trained as mediator in her refugee accommodation centre; offered to help child victims of violence through “Give something back to Berlin” and welcomed the ‘city mothers’ visiting her home to teach her how education, health, transport and every other system in the city works.</p> <p class="Body">Her children attended welcoming classes - a long-standing institution in Berlin schools which is now inspiring others in Germany, a country where most schools are unaccustomed to diversity. Many offices, cafes, NGOs that display the sticker “Refugees welcome” gave her the courage to open the door and step in, overcoming her own fears and lack of linguistic and cultural fluency. <br /> She engaged with the “Voice Refugee Forum” network which strives to give refugees dignity and a true place in the community as citizens, not as victims.</p> <p class="Body">While helping others is a powerful motivation in the early stage of migrants’ and refugees’ arrival, it is not a good basis for genuine integration. If in the long term everyone sees you only as a person in need, this makes you doubt your capacity to succeed and gain agency in life. It is ultimately dehumanising.</p> <p class="Body">The Voice Refugee Forum express their mission through the words of Lilla Watson, Aboriginal activist in Australia: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”</p> <p class="Body">These words hold an amazing wisdom: human connections sometimes start with compassion and empathy. But a long-term relationship cannot thrive on this basis alone, or it will become pathological. Similarly, when welfare, education, support institutions operate from a place of pity, not potential, they do not empower but perpetuate inequality and subordination.</p> <p class="Body">The goal of support institutions should be to build and maintain social capital – the dense network of relationships which forms the backbone of a functioning society. Social research has proven that the density of such network is at the core of all societal well-being – from health, to safety, creativity, longevity, economic growth and personal happiness. Human networks are powerful because individuals forming them are interdependent – each human brink brings value and none is subordinated to the other.</p> <p class="Body">Networks emerge organically of course but people naturally gravitate to those who are like them – culturally and socially. It takes longer for networks to form organically across greater cultural distance, or when large groups of stranger move into existing communities. People need reasons to connect to others beyond their comfort zone. There are many barriers – in the way our cities are built as physical spaces – which make such interaction difficult. Left alone, human communities often segment and fraction alongside division of kinship, language, faith and social class, leading to segregated neighborhoods and schools.</p> <p class="Body">When human mobility accelerates as in our globalised age, we need to invest in the social infrastructure which will increase communities’ capacity to overcome the natural resistance to difference and form a dense fabric of relationships across these natural dividing lines. In very practical terms, this means that we need more civil society organisations and sports clubs, community and women’s groups, interfaith councils and neighborhood fests.</p> <p class="Body">We need more intercultural competent community developers and mediators, as well as police officers, social workers, teachers and civil servants who act as node in purposeful networks that nudge people into positive, productive, creative, trust-building interactions and relationships. Providing the resources and the framework for this work is a new but already indispensible task for public authorities, and in particular cities.</p> <p class="Body">We need more <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/dani-de-torres/antirumours-strategy">Anti-rumours campaigns</a>&nbsp; which help lower barriers to cross-cultural relations by telling the true story about migrants, their impact on society, their aspirations and lives, to create a positive human dynamic.</p> <p class="Body">Our liberal democracies have been built upon the concept of equality of all human beings - a concept which in its legal interpretation is fundamentally individualistic and rights-based. If we are struggling to make equality a daily reality because we have invested very little in the understanding and practice of relational equality - the one that makes is treat the other as equal because we experience the value they bring to our lives. Only this kind of experiential equality can ensure the sustainability of rights-based equality.</p> <p class="Body">Cities are the places where relational equality forms and operates, even more so in societies where cultural diversity increases social distance and barriers to interaction. The intuition of the original <a href="https://www.bookdepository.com/Intercultural-City-Phil-Wood/9781844074365">Intercultural city</a> research by Phil Wood and Charles Landry which underpinned the <a href="http://www.coe.int/interculturalcities">Intercultural cities programme</a> of the Council of Europe, was that in times of intensive human mobility, cities need to purposefully take up the task of nurturing relations and building social capital across cultures. After almost 10 years of developing and putting this intuition into practice in partnership with 120 cities across the globe, we have solid research evidence that the intuition was correct, that the <a href="https://rm.coe.int/168048da42">Intercultural approach</a> to integrating diverse societies yields results.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic2_17.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic2_17.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic3_6.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic3_6.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="196" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body">A study released in November 2017 (<a href="https://rm.coe.int/intercultural-to-the-core-how-the-intercultural-cities-index-can-be-be/168076631b">see summary</a> of the results) by the Migration Policy Group focused on the interdependence between the adoption of the intercultural integration approach by cities and citizens’ perceptions of quality of life. Its conclusion was that in cities with stronger intercultural policies the majority of people had positive attitudes to migrants, thought that their city was safe and good for finding jobs, the presence of immigrants was good and services were trustworthy and efficient.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic4_4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic4_4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="381" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="Body">The study also found that&nbsp;local intercultural policies are the strongest factor for local well-being, just as significant as citizens’ age or education level, and more significant than national policies. Co-designing inclusion/integration policies with local and national authorities is likely to improve overall policy results on inclusion.</p> <p class="Body">The future of cities is certainly diversity – managed in an intercultural way.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic5_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/pic5_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="438" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 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="/dani-de-torres/antirumours-strategy">The antirumours strategy and multi-level learning</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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> </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"> 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> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Germany Irena Guidikova Mon, 27 Nov 2017 18:01:18 +0000 Irena Guidikova 114935 at https://www.opendemocracy.net German-Turkish tensions in a collapsing Jamaica coalition https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/zg-r-zvatan/german-turkish-tensions-in-collapsing-jamaica-coalition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While the Turkish narrative in the close-alliance-cum-uneasy-stand-off between Germany and Turkey remained constant over the past decade, momentous changes have now occurred to the German political system.</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-33667328.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33667328.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'>Federal chairman of The Greens, Cem Oezdemir in conversation with chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) during failing exploratory talks between the CDU, CSU, FDP and Green Party in Berlin, Germany, 10 November 2017. Gregor Fischer/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>After the September 2017 federal elections in Germany, the conservative Union parties, CDU/CSU, the liberal FDP party and the Green party set out to form the so-called Jamaica coalition government, which have failed after the liberal party withdrawal in mid-November and may lead to a minority coalition government (CDU/CSU and Green party). Ever since the 2002 federal election campaign, when the then German chancellor Gerhard Schröder was reelected, mainly because of his game-changing refusal to support the US’s Iraq invasion, contention over foreign policy has been absent from Berlin’s political competition. Hence, the Bundestag has predominantly seen largely unified positions, also with regard to Ankara. The political situation in Turkey and the combination of an electorally soaring populist radical-right challenger party and a deliberately oppositional Social Democratic party prophesy stormy times ahead for German-Turkish relations. </em></p> <p>In the last decade or so, German foreign policy has been largely characterized by a broadly unified stance towards Turkey. Berlin perceived the first ten years of AKP rule as moderately positive. On the EU level, EU accession negotiations with Turkey commenced in 2005 and Germany, holding vast leverage in EU politics, proved to be far from vetoing the opening of accession talks. However, the authoritarian suppression of the 2013 Gezi protests in Istanbul darkened Germany’s view of Turkey; and its image of the then prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was accordingly impaired. </p> <p>From 2013 onwards, German politics has increasingly presented a united, critical shoulder-to-shoulder stance against the Turkish government concerning the unhappy state of democracy in Turkey. However, we now witness a significant deepening of EU-Turkey trade relations and political collaboration (EU-Turkey migration deal) in the framework of a recent and most salient political issue, namely migration and integration; while on the other hand, transnational blaming – to name some: mutual ‘Nazi’ accusations, the blocking of public appearances of AKP MPs in western European countries, the Armenian Genocide resolution of the German <em>Bundestag</em>, the Jan Böhmermann case – between Berlin and Ankara has flourished ever since the EU-Turkey migration deal was agreed in March 2016. </p> <p>As of then, Turkey was expecting an imminent happy ending in terms of an EU visa-waiver deal for Turkish citizens. However, the EU wanted Turkey first to stick to the remaining criteria, one of which includes reforming Turkey’s highly contested anti-terror laws, which the AKP has abstained from liberalising. Apart from that, in light of the rise of a populist radical-right party in Germany and the (political) detention of German citizens in Turkey, the visa-waiver deal gathered huge symbolic weight in German domestic as well as foreign policy. Being left unresolved, this issue sparked many other political conflicts between Berlin and Ankara.</p> <p>On the Turkish side, pro-European stances are based on a prolonged history across the Turkish political spectrum. Indeed, the Turkish narrative of marking a historical ‘bridge’ between Europe and Asia implies the notion of Turkey belonging, politically and culturally, to Europe. Especially, opposition parties have been keen to mobilise the electorate through a sound anti-governmental pro-Europe claim, habitually claiming that the government party would thwart Turkey’s relations with Europe or the West. Substantial pro-European (and pro-German especially) sentiments have been predominant in the past 50+ years within Turkish society.</p> <p>The perceptions of Germany (also the EU), however, have changed rapidly in recent years. Before that, the historical German ally in the heart of Europe was esteemed the ‘old friend’ who will lobby within the EU in favour of Turkey’s EU accession. This image of Germany shifted drastically after vocal critics of Erdoğan arose. Nowadays, German chancellor Merkel is widely portrayed as a threat to Turkey and an insincere (western) foreign-power leader who claims to give democracy lectures but is herself resorting to anti-democratic political practices against Turkish politicians (e.g. the prohibition of election rallies in Germany), which, according to Erdoğan, stem from Germany’s bitter racist Holocaust past.</p> <h2><strong>The Sèvres Syndrome</strong></h2> <p>Ever since the AKP gained political power in Ankara, party leaders have injected a single dominant narrative into the Turkish public sphere, i.e. the Turkish people’s glorious resurrection story. One fundamental characteristic of political narratives is that they paint heartwarming romantic imagery of both the past and the future. Under AKP rule, the Turkish nation has been narrated as marching towards a bright and prosperous future; and, in fact, economically, Turkey has been prospering for some time. On the cultural level, neo-Ottomanism came into romantic bloom boosted by AKP leaders who interlaced neo-Ottomanism with Turkey’s most influential (foreign) policy driver: the Sèvres Syndrome. The latter runs parallel with and in contradistinction to substantial pro-European (and pro-German) stances in Turkey. It displays a popular belief in Turkish political culture that (western) foreign powers permanently forge sinister plans to undermine the rise of the Turkish nation. In such a political context, strong (not to say authoritarian) foreign-policy charges against western authorities engender strong emotional attachments to the nation among (reluctant and radical) nationalistic voters. </p> <p>In fact, the Turkish government has been in constant need of domestic voter mobilization as, in recent years, one election after another has followed more referendums. In light of the Sèvres Syndrome, Turkish politics has always been tempted to diffuse conspiracies about domestic political opponents’ collaboration with (western) foreign powers that together aim to sell out the Turkish nation. After the step-by-step undermining of democratic checks and balances, and the detention of influential oppositional leaders, the AKP leaders have maintained a tight grip on defining internal and external threats to the Turkish nation. </p> <p>They have made this target move in various directions in recent decades, while some aspects intersected: such as, the notion of some (former or current) elites, i.e. the Turkish military (Ergenekon case), the Kemalist elite and the Gülenist movement (especially in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt). Holding an absolute monopoly on the definitions of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ guys, and the bad guys’ (foreign) accomplices, AKP rule aggravates Berlin’s desire to reach out to Turkey and domestic German-Turks. Yet, any support for democrats in Turkey can be narrated as “western foreign power infiltration through Turkish collaborators”. </p> <p>Logical reasoning suggests a preference for a sober over an optimistic approach to German-Turkish relations, since no less than three elections await the Turks in 2019. Among others (the federal and local elections), a possible game-changing presidency of no less than 15 years will be at stake. </p> <p>How can Germany revise its foreign policy in relation to Turkey in such a contested and polarised political situation which, depending on whether you support or criticize the AKP leaders, may be depicted as either for or against the Turkish people? In a broader sense, in what direction are these trends in the national political context and mutual perception leading German-Turkish relations? </p> <h2><strong>Cem Özdemir</strong></h2> <p>AKP politician Mustafa Yeneroğlu recently got to the heart of what many experts believe: if a possible minority coalition government includes the Green party co-leader Cem Özdemir becoming the German foreign minister, then hard times for German-Turkish relations lie ahead. </p> <p>In the past, Cem Özdemir has repeatedly come forward as a vocal critic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in several contexts. In 2016, he played a key role when the German Bundestag voted on the Armenian Genocide resolution. Referring to those German-Turkish MPs in the Bundestag who voted in favour of recognition of the Armenian Genocide (with an unambiguous and specific focus on Cem Özdemir), Erdoğan called their Turkishness into question, charged them with possessing ‘defective blood’ (‘kanı bozuk’) and accused them of being no less than Germany-based extensions of domestic terror organisations. </p> <p>If Germany chooses Cem Özdemir as its foreign minister, Turkey will frame that as a direct political affront. In Turkey’s view, such a move by Germany would mark an intentionally aggressive step against the Turkish people which fits the overall assumption, actively boosted by AKP leaders in the recent years, that the West is forging plans to impede the Turkish nation’s rise. </p> <p>The second perception is interrelated with this first aspect: compartmentalising domestic politics is futile when both countries are so interwoven. Maintaining firm transnational trade or economic relations between Germany and Turkey is but one part of the multifaceted story. A more decisive part concerns the transnational political identities that emerged in the post-guestworker-treaty era. Hence, a major point is that Germany (or the EU) does not simply play out its soft power role vis-à-vis Turkey by requiring the latter to meet the Copenhagen criteria as it would do with regard to other EU member candidates. Rather both Germany and Turkey must necessarily take into account the fact that some three million Europe-based (1.8 million Germany-based) Turkish citizens are eligible to vote in Turkish elections – that is roughly 5 per cent of the general vote.</p> <p>Some argue that there is a plausible rationale for Turks in Europe to support AKP rule: for a long time, they faced discrimination in western Europe, which is why Erdoğan’s glorious resurrection story of Turkey rising up against ‘the West’ keenly provokes their ethnic-cultural pride on an emotional level. True, this might apply to many. Yet, the other ‘48 per cent’ (a prominent political number in recent referenda) bonds well emotionally with oppositional Turkish groups in Europe (or Germany) since, in their view, Turkey is actually (and unfortunately) facing severe anti-democratic and cultural doom. </p> <p>In any case, 2016 was evidence of the fact that Turkish immigrants in western Europe, especially in Germany, challenge obsolete clear-cut national distinctions between domestic and foreign policy. These people transnationally bond with the politics of their country of origin as well as their country of residence – either in favour of or against the leading Turkish government. </p> <p>Ultimately, Mustafa Yeneroğlu is right in assuming German-Turkish relations will suffer if Cem Özdemir leads the German foreign ministry, since he would resonate in Turkish domestic politics as he has done in the past. However, Yeneroğlu deceives himself in believing that Turkey might be capable of protecting domestic policy from the involvement of Turks living abroad. Cem Özdemir, like many others, lives abroad yet has political rights in Turkey. </p> <p>Germany and Turkey have to come to terms with these hard transnational facts; for manifold reasons, political rights transcend nation-state boundaries in many directions and, as part of ‘two peoples’ (Germany and Turkey), individuals and public actors own and make use of these political rights, such as participating in political debates and elections in both countries that they legally, politically and culturally belong to. </p> <h2><strong>Pandora’s box</strong></h2> <p>Thirdly, recent changes in the German political system provide fertile ground for heated German-Turkish political conflicts. In Turkey, AKP voters have been broadly mobilised by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strong (masculine) leader image along with his radical nationalistic narrative, i.e. he has attracted voters by banging on the table in the name of the Turkish people against the West (and internal ‘others’). Basically, the combination of these elements seems likely to exacerbate rather than allay Turkish foreign policy relating to the EU. </p> <p>However, while the Turkish part of the story has remained constant over the past ten years, momentous changes have occurred recently in the German political system. On the one hand, the German far right has positioned itself anew in the form of a populist radical-right party (AfD) represented in the German Bundestag, while on the other hand, the Social Democrats (SPD) promptly opted out of building the next Grand Coalition after having achieved a miserable vote share. </p> <p>Both the SPD and the AfD will scratch the surface of Berlin’s shoulder-to-shoulder stance vis-à-vis Ankara. During the electoral campaign, SPD party chairman Schulz clearly pronounced that Germany has to (and will) pursue a hawkish policy as regards Turkish President Erdoğan. At present, it seems very likely that the Social Democrats, if leading the opposition, will question any past and future deals with Turkey under AKP rule, and they will thus induce heated political contention over German and EU foreign policy related to Turkey. Moreover, the SPD might vocally align with democrats in Turkey against Turkish President Erdoğan, which runs strongly counter to the grain of the latters’ expectations from Berlin. </p> <p>It seems highly possible that both phenomena will pose a litmus test for the minority coalition government, which is, on the one hand, dependent on trade arrangements and the migration deal with Turkey, while on the other hand, especially the Green party will push for sanctioning Turkey’s anti-democratic progress. </p> <p>And the German political system’s new dissenter, the AfD party, is set to cater to ultra-conservative, reluctant radical-right and far-right voters on this political issue, as well. That is, AfD leaders will make strident calls for cutting all German ties to Turkey based on cultural justifications that display flourishing and well-established anti-Muslim discourses circulating within western Europe’s far right, i.e. alleged claims that Islam is incompatible with (western) democracy or that Turkey is a supporter of the IS cultural war against the Judeo-Christian West. </p> <p>To complicate things, we can be sure that Turkish President Erdoğan will feel himself invited to join heated German foreign policy debates whenever Turkey is portrayed as anti-democratic since, in his view, democracy in Turkey came into force anew with the AKP party because his, and only his, party fully represents ‘the Turkish people’.</p> <h2><strong>Vicious circles</strong></h2> <p>How will Merkel navigate a heated foreign policy related to Turkey, notwithstanding noisy dissent that stems from within the minority coalition (CSU and Green party), the leading opposition SPD party, Germany’s new dissenter AfD party, transnational German-Turkish actors and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? </p> <p>Will she be able to maintain her sober differentiated integration approach towards Turkey, i.e. boosting trade and economic relations while approaching Turkey more flexibly with regard to the Copenhagen criteria, since Turkey’s membership hardly seems heading soon for cultural integration into the EU? So far, this relationship has been regarded as merely a close trade and political alliance. </p> <p>Will Merkel’s dialogue and cooperation-oriented approach have to bite the bullet on such a contested battlefield of German-Turkish affairs or will she manage to maintain her reconciliation approach? Going beyond what all the combatants involved believe, German-Turkish (foreign) affairs will, crucially, be dependent on how German chancellor Angela Merkel succeeds in holding back all the belligerent men from banging their fists on the table and instead minimizing the drama which, in recent years, has repeatedly resulted in momentous vicious circles in the mutual casting of German-Turkish blame. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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? Turkey Germany Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Özgür Özvatan Mon, 20 Nov 2017 10:46:08 +0000 Özgür Özvatan 114759 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The world comes closer together as it falls apart https://www.opendemocracy.net/ingo-g-nther/world-comes-closer-together-as-it-falls-apart <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">People living under unjust administrations hope for an open world and membership in the global club of humanity, infusing the wilting, erstwhile European notion of global citizenship with new aspirations and purpose.</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/sassa-dox-352cm-wallSM.sm_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/sassa-dox-352cm-wallSM.sm_.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>On November 3 the Berliner Gazette‘s </em><a href="http://berlinergazette.de/friendly-fire">Friendly Fire conference</a><em> asks: Who Claims Global Citizenship? Two prolific speakers will discuss this question: the journalist Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, whose book "The Cosmopolites" has triggered a debate about the commodification of citizenship, and the media art pioneer Ingo Günther, whose project "Refugee Republic" envisions a global network of refugee shelters. The highlight of day two of the three-day conference, this public talk will reflect on global citizenship from the points of view of both the super-rich and the underprivileged. Here, Ingo Günther reflects on the notion of against the backdrop of his longterm hands on engagement with the subject. </em></p> <p class="Default">World citizenship is not gained by applying for a world passport, despite the availability of several schemes issuing documents that draw their purported legitimacy from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. World citizenship entails an effort, it is work, it is an emotional and intellectual task. And it is a duty and an acceptance of responsibility, even if that is not always done consciously or voluntarily.</p> <p class="Default">Historians, philosophers and anthropologists have long declared that humans have the capacity to be aware that we all share the same planet. They confronted us with the attendant responsibility, as well as seduced us with exotic “a man of the world” romanticisms. An understanding of our interdependency has led to the development of the building blocks of superregional and global institutions, however slow to act or clearly inefficient these may be. A sense of global citizenship is part of this, at least as a secondary identity.</p> <p class="Default">A nineteenth-century paper pocket globe may be the clearest personal manifestation of this complacent awareness. The twentieth-century illuminated globe appears to be the expression of a well-intentioned, benevolently totalitarian and modernist mindset.</p> <p class="Default">On this super-simplified version of the world reduced to a scale of 1: 40 million, the size of a human head, everyone seems able to agree (at least in aesthetic terms.) The world has been turned into an anthropomorphic and abstracted representation of globality that makes it easy to grasp and quick to engage. The world as a whole is barely conceivable without this kind of Cartesian and cartographic representation. As the author of a series of more than a thousand versions of illuminated globes of such dimensions, I try to present the status of our planet in macroscopic, manageable units.</p> <p class="Default">One might consider the cosmopolitanism of the Enlightenment as an ideological prerequisite for colonialism, and to see links between internationalism and a form of solidarity that claims to want to save the world. Heartland theorist Halford John Mackinder, (British geographer, 1861–1947) inspired the geostrategic prospects of the Axis powers (and American post WW2 Cold War ideologues). As early as 1942, Allied strategists were demonstrating their war-winning worldview of a global air and sea network to the American public. The exhibition, “Airways to Peace” was presented at NYC’s MoMA—in the form of a walk-in globe.</p> <p class="Default">My earliest “Worldprocessor” globes, dating back to the days of the pre-internet Cold War, were first intended as a critical compendium of globalisation, aiming to provide a global dimension as an additional context to local and national reporting. While they were not directly accusatory, they offered data and perspectives that would enable people to register injustices and abuses.</p> <p class="Default">I did not expect that during the 1990s, within barely a decade, it became necessary to redraw most of my globes. But every five years thereafter, this was the case. Now, they must be revised annually. The world is changing that fast - even at the scale of 1:40 million.</p> <p class="Default">If we are to believe western media, both mass and social, then the world is in a very poor state. Humanist ideals have failed (again), and the inefficient international institutions with their cosmopolitan notions and globalist agendas have in some cases even contributed to a future apocalypse. But global data do not confirm that narrative, and in fact (still) tell a very different story – a story of gradual, continuing progress.</p> <p class="Default">The daily flow of news of catastrophes large and small obscures all the long-term successes that the world has seen over the past fifty years. It has to be noted that we are at the most successful phase of development of humanity’s history, not least thanks to humanistic and cosmopolitan goals.</p> <p class="Default">For example: During the past fifty years the world economy has grown fivefold. Child mortality has sunk dramatically, life expectancy has increased on average from just above fifty years to over seventy years, birth rates have dropped from 5 to 2.4, and never have fewer people died in wars than today. People’s awareness of these truly spectacular successes seems to be drowned out by ubiquitous news of catastrophes, while a satisfying review of achievements requires a somewhat brutish macroscopic perspective, and a form of emotional detachment, which even politicians struggle with. &nbsp;Acknowledging these positive changes would also undermine the self-image of those who pride themselves on their criticism of the status quo, fearing they would seem to be conformist yes-men. The problems associated with rapid growth are also individually tangible in the limits of our cultural habits, which no longer seem to fit. Growing rifts inside every civilization point to the failure of culture - its analog nature cannot keep up with the digitally driven change. The data tell a success story that cannot be reconciled with any individual ethics.</p> <p class="Default">In 1992, Benjamin Barber described the technology-driven dynamics of a massive shift in human identity and demographics. On the one hand, ubiquitous personal media access creates a globalised individual (MacWorld), while at the same time the decentralising, anti-hierarchic nature of networks nurtures splinter groups (such as jihadists). The world comes closer together as it falls apart.</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/GUNTHER_Ingo_Refugee_Republic-47.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/GUNTHER_Ingo_Refugee_Republic-47.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="754" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Worldprocessor</span></span></span>Globalisation may have brought many great advantages, but we see a peculiar sensitivity, especially in Europe and the United States, towards the undesired side-effects of this seismic shift and consequent warping of the socioeconomic landscape. The US and Europe have already passed peak-world citizenship.</p> <p class="Default">Right now, when the globalised world needs informed and aware world-citizens more than ever, it seems that believers in the nation state are again on the rise, while cosmopolitans are exhausted and in retreat. We are under the impression that global citizenship is a decaying ideology that fails to meet the tests of reality. In many parts of the world, governments are still desperately trying to establish nation state structures by force, while in other regions the &nbsp;concessions to &nbsp;the older nation state’s sovereignty are met with populists’ counter movements.</p> <p class="Default">In the developing world, sometimes called the Global South, things look different. Particularly in states with poorly developed democratic institutions, there are sizeable segments of the population that have to survive with more or less limited rights of citizenship. This includes refugees, ethnic minorities, nomads, stateless people, illegal immigrants, seasonal migrants, and others. Eight percent of the US population are not citizens, half of these are illegal residents. In Latvia twelve percent of the population, so called nepilsoņi, who lost their Soviet citizenship overnight more than twenty years ago are still non-citizens. Officially communist China has residency laws (Hukou = residency control), that do not prohibit migration to the cities outright but nonetheless create a de-facto second-class citizen who is excluded from social benefits. In Japan there are Korean non-citizens (a third of whom have North Korean citizenship but were almost all born in Japan) and there is also an outcast group known among the Burakumin, the lowest social ranked group, who are even termed hinin (非人), non-people.</p> <p class="Default">It is much more likely that from these classes of non-citizens a new generation of world citizens will emerge rather than through the expansion of classical single-state citizenship. The present refugee situation and the comparably inhuman working conditions of migrant labourers will also contribute to a new type of world citizenship. Instead of withdrawing from their potential planetary identity and blaming globalisation for their misery, the majority of people living under unjust regimes hope for an open world and membership in the global club of humanity.</p> <p class="Default">According to a wide-ranging recent study, the average citizen of this world is both an aspirational world citizen, and at the same time someone who adheres to their own native and religious sources of identity.</p> <p class="Default">In fact a clear majority of non-OECD states’ populations see themselves more as world citizens than as citizens of their own country. Around 17 percent of the global population sees world citizenship as the decisive identity criterion – eclipsing their nationality.</p> <p class="Default">While this trend toward more global citizenship has been declining (particularly in Germany and Russia since 2009), it is in the quickly growing urban zones of Africa and Asia where a cosmopolitan identity is expanding. In countries like Nigeria, China, Peru, and India we see the strongest desire for an internationalist identity. Conversely, nationality is also named as a decisive criterion of identity. Here wishful thinking, protest and realism may clash conceptually but illustrate the contradictory nature of identity concepts. The potential for and openness towards global citizenship is clearly on the rise in the non-western world, indicating a more hopeful scenario than that which is prompting OECD citizens to retreat to national nativism.</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/GUNTHER_Ingo_Refugee_Republic-36.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/GUNTHER_Ingo_Refugee_Republic-36.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="754" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p class="Default">Since the 1990s, state-like projects have been arising all over the world, adaptive zones that wish to allow easy interaction with the system of planetary trade. These special economic zones (SEZs) also bear a still unredeemed potential as experimental fields for new forms of social contract, while they are supposed to also protect local citizens from too much otherness and alienation. Networking these extra-territorial global zones is conceivable, akin to the global networks of refugee camps - an idea I laid out in 1994 in <a href="https://ingogunther.com/%252523/refugee">my paper on the chances of a Refugee Republic</a>.</p> <p class="Default">The risky attempt to step beyond one's own cultural and instinctively drawn borders, to recognize and make good use of the added value inherent in the heterogeneity of people, notwithstanding all the inherent contradictions and conflicts, is still an ongoing project, the&nbsp;protagonists of which no longer come from Europe.</p> <p class="Default">The indicators are thus not all that bad for the Global Citizen 3.0 in the next fifty years. All of this could develop critical mass in the very near future<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>…</p><p> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/sassa-passport.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/sassa-passport.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="754" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Refugee Republic passport</span></span></span></span></p> <hr size="1" /> <p class="Funote"><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a>… especially when humanity comes to define itself as “trans-human” as a result of rapid biotechnological<strong><em> </em></strong>enhanced evolutionary optimization.</p><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/500209/145330057_acf4667edd_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/145330057_acf4667edd_o_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Matias Jaramillo passport jacket design (1990 - 2006) provides a protective (both figuratively + real) and enhancing layer for any “pre-existing” nationality, preserving the original passport’s validity. With the author's permission, Ingo took this concept to create a passport cover for the Refugee Republic.</span></span></span><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><em>The talk will take place at ZK/U – Center for Arts and Urbanistics (Siemensstraße 27, Berlin-Moabit) on Friday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m. and it will be moderated by Harsha Walia, a Vancouver-based activist, who is co-initiator of No One Is Illegal Vancouver and the author of "Undoing Border Imperialism" (2013). </em></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><span>The talk took place at ZK/U – Center for Arts and Urbanistics (Siemensstraße 27, Berlin-Moabit) on Friday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m., and was moderated by Harsha Walia, a Vancouver-based activist, who is co-initiator of No One Is Illegal Vancouver and the author of "Undoing Border Imperialism" (2013).</span></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> Can Europe make it? Germany global south Europe Ingo Günther Fri, 03 Nov 2017 01:12:04 +0000 Ingo Günther 114429 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why you should know about Germany's new surveillance law https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/sara-bundtzen/why-you-should-know-about-germanys-new-surveillance-law <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The controversial law allows government authorities to install a malware, the so-called ‘state trojan’, on smartphones, tablets and computers during a criminal investigation.</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/500209/15041056055_238d0fc403_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15041056055_238d0fc403_z.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smartphone. Flickr/Christian Hornick. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the end of its eighteenth electoral term, the German Bundestag voted in favour of a controversial law that allows government authorities to install a malware, the so-called ‘state trojan’, on smartphones, tablets and computers during a criminal investigation. </p> <p>Failing to attract sufficient public debate so far, it is now important that we talk about how the new legislation facilitates extensive surveillance as a potential standard practice in law enforcement, in which way it compromises Germany’s national cybersecurity, and to what extent it complements EU legislation.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Mainly unnoticed in plenary debate </strong></p> <p>The new bill passed with support of the grand coalition of Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) on 22 June 2016. It was hidden in an amendment to an apparently uncontroversial law that advocates a more effective and practical criminal code. This is one reason why it remained widely unnoticed until its adoption. </p> <p>During the plenary debate,&nbsp;<a href="http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btp/18/18240.pdf#P.24594">Bettina Bähr-Losse (SPD) argued</a>, “Twenty years ago, terrorist or criminal acts were planned in flats, whereas today they are organised in chatrooms.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.csu-landesgruppe.de/themen/wirtschaft-und-energie-infrastruktur-bildung/zugriffsmoeglichkeit-auf-messenger-dienste-wie-whatsapp-beschlossen">Michael Frieser, member of the CSU declared</a>, “This is how we facilitate efficient, cutting-edge law enforcement that’s keeping us all safe.” Members of the Green Party and the far-left Die Linke opposed the law.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gruene-bundestag.de/presse/pressestatements/2017/juni/konstantin-von-notz-und-hans-christian-stroebele-zur-online-durchsuchung-der-quellen-tkue-und-dem-zugriff-auf-messengerdienste-22-06-2017.html">Konstantin von Notz, deputy faction leader of the Greens, criticised</a>&nbsp;the law as “a radical and disproportionate violation of civil rights.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.linksfraktion.de/parlament/namentliche-abstimmungen/detail/joern-wunderlich-der-ueberwachungsstaat-laesst-gruessen/">Left party whip, Jörn Wunderlich, deemed</a>&nbsp;it to be one of the “most invasive surveillance laws of recent years.”</p> <p><strong>What is a state trojan and when is it used?</strong></p> <p>The state-owned malware, officially referred to as Remote Communication Interception Software (RCIS), is still running through various test phases.&nbsp;<a href="https://netzpolitik.org/2017/geheimes-dokument-das-bka-will-schon-dieses-jahr-messenger-apps-wie-whatsapp-hacken/#Bericht">According to a leaked document published on netzpolitik.org</a>, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) considers it should be fully operational by the end of this year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Simply put, once the malware is installed on a suspect’s device, it will allow investigators to monitor messages before they are encrypted and thus, read communications on messenger services such WhatsApp. Whereas previous surveillance measures were limited to a few serious crimes, the new bill allows the use of malware in various other cases such as subsidy fraud, tax evasion, sports betting fraud or falsification of documents. The government claims that investigators are only supposed to read ongoing conversations similar to conventional phone-tapping, not gain access to stored messages. In this way,&nbsp;the government believes&nbsp;fundamental data protection rights to be&nbsp;guaranteed. </p> <p>However, their argument&nbsp;is probably not technically feasible, as the malware would be required to&nbsp;capture a particular set&nbsp;of&nbsp;sent or received messages, while simultaneously&nbsp;excluding all other keystrokes, drafts or messages from previous chats. In either case,&nbsp;it must&nbsp;be argued that data protection&nbsp;rights are applicable to the entire communication.</p> <p>So, while this position most probably challenges fundamental data protection rights, its technical implementation is highly disputed. The legislation further permits remote online searches in more severe cases, i.e. investigations of murder and treason but also corruption, money laundering, extortion, or drug offences. Hence, federal authorities may exploit this access to read and process the entire data stored on the computer memory and hardware. If necessary for the investigation, even third parties’ devices may be hacked.</p> <p><strong>What are the controversies?</strong></p> <p>The new bill constitutes a serious expansion of the surveillance measures that can be deployed by the German government. Unsurprisingly, the law is most probably in violation of the constitution.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bverfg.de/e/rs20080227_1bvr037007.html">A ruling by the German Constitutional Court in 2008</a>&nbsp;recognised the confidentiality and integrity of IT systems as a basic right. Hence, remote access to a citizen’s computer is permissible only if there is a concrete threat to an exceedingly important and legally protected good that is the people’s life and freedom, or critical public goods whose hazard affects the existence of the state.&nbsp;</p> <p>On top, there is a dangerous catch. To install the malware, German authorities must make use of existing security holes and weaknesses in operating systems. A logical consequence of using the tool is the uncalculated risk of deliberately maintaining identified vulnerable points in national IT systems. Moreover, the government’s own interest in gaining access to devices effectively assists potential unauthorized access such as foreign cyber-attacks.</p> <p><strong>European cyberspace as a digital battlefield</strong></p> <p>In view of the increased use of hybrid warfare including state and nonstate cyberespionage and sabotage activities such as the global ransomware attacks on critical infrastructures and businesses (i.e.&nbsp;<em>WannaCry </em>and&nbsp;<em>ExPetya</em>) or Kremlin-funded disinformation campaigns on various social media or news media such as&nbsp;<em>RT Deutsch</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Sputnik</em>, cybersecurity has risen to the top priority on European agendas.&nbsp;<a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-17-3165_en.htm">In his 2017 State of the Union address at the European Parliament</a>, Jean-Claude Juncker declared, “Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks … [which] can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks.” Ironically, the interception or theft of personal data using tools such as the state trojan is clearly understood as cybercrime.</p> <p>Despite the emerging focus on cybersecurity, the effectively destructive German state trojan is compliant with recently adopted EU law. In April 2016, the European Parliament adopted&nbsp;<a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32016R0679">a regulation covering the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data</a>, and the free movement of such data; however, it excludes the processing of data “by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, including the safeguarding against and the prevention of threats to public security.” Hence, the regulation does not deter Germany’s expansion of surveillance by means of malware during criminal investigations.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Incoherent approaches</strong></p> <p>The current political debate on internal and external security threats is ambiguous. The EU and its member states propose to counter emerging cyber-threats posed by state and nonstate actors. However, the use of malware as a national approach to advance surveillance will foster inverse effects on national cybersecurity capacities, whilst jeopardising citizens’ basic rights. To conclude, it is highly uncertain whether the German state trojan or the EU’s gap in legalisation that tolerates such an extension will provide any added value to our security environment.&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/500209/9873781113_8278d0766a_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/9873781113_8278d0766a_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>iOS7 Homescreen blurred (DSC_0719). Flickr, Jan Persiel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </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"> Net neutrality </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> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? EU Germany Net neutrality Sara Bundtzen Mon, 30 Oct 2017 13:14:49 +0000 Sara Bundtzen 114354 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The New York Declaration on refugees: one year on https://www.opendemocracy.net/amanda-clarkson/new-york-declaration-on-refugees-one-year-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The New York Declaration called for states to ease pressure on less-developed countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Ethiopia that host the most refugees.</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-31086557.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31086557.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'>Some of the around 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees who recently fled from violence in Myanmar to the UNHCR-run camps in Ukhia, Cox's Bazar, waiting in a long food queue on March 5, 2017. </span></span></span>650,000 from South Sudan. Half a million Muslim Rohingya. These are the numbers that make up more than 2 million people who have joined the ranks of the world’s refugees this year. Unfortunately for them, according to the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-refugees/ranks-of-worlds-refugees-swell-as-asylum-space-shrinks-u-n-idUSKCN1C718Q">UN’s refugee agency</a> (UNHCR) and to a new Amnesty International <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-refugees/amnesty-international-urges-halt-to-afghan-refugee-returns-idUSKBN1CA001">report</a>, they face stricter asylum policies in Europe and the US than ever before. </p> <p>In a move that scored as a dismal underscore to their announcements, only days later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20171009-merkel-agrees-limit-refugees-entering-germany">agreed</a> to limit Germany’s formerly liberal refugee intake to less than 200,000 a year.</p> <p>Perhaps the biggest irony embodied in this global policy shift is the fact that it comes one year after 193 UN member states adopted the <a href="https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2017/09/18/new-york-declaration-on-refugees-a-one-year-report-card">New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants</a>, which the UNHCR called a “game changer” at the time.</p> <p>It’s true that the four objectives laid out in the declaration’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) represented a major achievement by consecrating basic principles of refugees’ rights and by securing commitment to cooperate more on refugee issues. The CRRF called for states to ease pressure on less-developed countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Ethiopia that host the most refugees; to increase efforts to boost refugees’ self-dependence; to expand resettlement; and to foster ways for refugees to return home.</p> <p>One year on, despite the good intentions embodied in the declaration, the goals agreed upon in New York will be hard, if not impossible, to achieve without deeper action to leverage refugees’ full potential. For one thing, potential host countries, above all the US but now even Germany, are becoming more and more resistant to calls to lower the burden on developing countries like Lebanon – which already host some 85% of the world’s refuges and are buckling under the weight of the surge in new arrivals. </p> <p>According to the UNHCR, a total of almost 1.2 million refugees need resettling globally to third countries, but only 100,000 openings are expected to be available this year – a drop of 43% from 2016.</p> <p>In the past, the US has taken the most refugees classified as most vulnerable, which involves about 10 western host countries. However, the new administration has been chipping away at that legacy with gusto. In late September, Trump <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/us/politics/trump-plans-45000-limit-on-refugees-admitted-to-us.html">announced</a> new plans to limit admissions at only 45,000 over the next year, setting a historically low ceiling. </p> <p>And European states, which normally set the moral standard on such issues, haven’t only been restricting the number of admissions – they have been actively sending back even those set to face persecution in their countries of origin. The number of Afghans returned from Europe, either through forced deportation or “assisted voluntary return,” has nearly <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-refugees/amnesty-international-urges-halt-to-afghan-refugee-returns-idUSKBN1CA001">tripled</a> from 3,290 in 2015 to 9,460 in 2016, even as violence in Afghanistan has been escalating. <span class="mag-quote-center">The confounding aspect of this trend is the fact that, despite stereotypes, refugees deliver considerable returns on the small sums that host countries pay for resettlement.</span></p> <p>The confounding aspect of this trend is the fact that, despite stereotypes, refugees deliver considerable returns on the small sums that host countries pay for resettlement. Post-resettlement, they also continue contributing substantially to their home states through remittances: in 2016, the estimated $429 billion in remittances received by developing countries was <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/development-aid-rises-again-in-2016-but-flows-to-poorest-countries-dip.htm">three times</a> the total foreign aid sent by wealthier governments. </p> <p>Unfortunately, despite the contributions that refugees make in both their adopted and former homes, those who are lucky enough not to be forcibly deported still see their full potential stifled by two main factors: slow integration and exorbitant fees charged on remittances.</p> <p>For wealthier states like Germany, recognizing their responsibility to mitigate the burden on host states, to accept a higher number of refugees, and to stop the inhumane process of forced deportation to war zones is a critical first step.</p> <p>Beyond that, there are two concrete courses of action that host countries should take to maximize refugees’ potential. First, they should make greater efforts to achieve CRRF’s Goal 2, “Building refugees’ self-reliance.” The <a href="http://www.opennetwork.net/step-get-refugees-work-quickly/">Open Political Economy Network</a>, in collaboration with the Tent Foundation, has laid out a number of ways to accomplish this in a new report, <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55462dd8e4b0a65de4f3a087/t/573cb9e8ab48de57372771e6/1463597545986/Tent-Open-Refugees+Work_VFINAL-singlepages.pdf">Refugees Work</a>. </p> <p>They call for creating efficient, fair asylum systems to process applications, allowing asylum seekers with substantial claims to work immediately, and investing in language and skills training. Key to establishing these kinds of new integration policies will be emphasizing to host countries this simple fact: investing one euro in welcoming refugees can yield nearly twice that in economic benefits within five years.<span class="mag-quote-center"> Investing one euro in welcoming refugees can yield nearly twice that in economic benefits within five years.</span></p> <p>To accomplish goals one and four – easing pressure on host countries and fostering the conditions to allow refugees to return – European states should coordinate with less-developed governments, especially in Africa, to maximize the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/aug/18/global-remittance-industry-choking-billions-developing-world">power of remittances</a>. Currently, refugees and migrants across the world rely on two main firms, MoneyGram and Western Union, to send and receive remittances. However, these companies enjoy unreasonably high market shares that they have established through the use of anticompetitive, exclusive agreements with local banks and agents. These agreements have stifled the rise of potential competitors and kept transfer fees painfully high – as costly as 14.6% in Southern Africa. </p> <p>While multilateral moves to reduce these fees have <a href="http://blogs.worldbank.org/peoplemove/remittance-reality-getting-3-and-beyond">stalled</a>, a few African governments have made progress by revoking exclusivity agreements and opening up the remittance market for competition. If their example were followed across the continent, the conditions that push refugees to leave in the first place would be mitigated.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unless the developed world takes more concrete steps to achieve these goals, and acknowledge their responsibilities towards the world’s displaced, the New York Declaration will remain nothing more than just that.</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="/beyondslavery/safepassages/cameron-thibos-michele-klein-solomon/interview-is-rights-based-good-migration-governan">Interview: is rights-based ‘good migration governance’ possible?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/pia-oberoi/protecting-human-rights-of-migrants-in-time-of-fear">Protecting the human rights of migrants in a time of fear</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Jordan </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"> 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> Jordan Germany United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Amanda Clarkson Wed, 18 Oct 2017 07:43:36 +0000 Amanda Clarkson 114085 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The curtain falls on the occupation of Berlin’s historic Volksbühne https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/monisha-caroline-martins/curtain-falls-on-occupation-of-berlin-s-historic-volksb- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>" It means stage of the people and that’s what it is supposed to be. It has never really been that.”</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/vbprotest4.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/vbprotest4.jpeg" 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'>Luis Eckenberger plays his saxophone on the lawn outside Volksbühne in Berlin hours after police ended a six day occupation of the theatre. Monisha Caroline Martins. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Sitting perched on the edge of the lawn in front of the Volksbühne, Luis Eckenburg played a jazzy serenade on his saxophone as a crowd of 100 people milled around behind him. </p> <p>Their six-day occupation of the historic east Berlin theatre had been brought to an abrupt end by police hours earlier. </p> <p>“They took this dead theatre, they made it alive again,” said Daniel Sekanina, a street artist, as he cavorted shirtless on the lawn making huge soap bubbles. He did not want to leave.</p> <p>On Friday, Sept. 22, the collective Dust to Glitter claimed the Volksbühne building for the people. They took over every space, staging a 60-hour long dance party, film screenings, writers’ workshops, concerts and debates. </p> <p>The peaceful sit-in gave Berlin’s artistic and anti-gentrification community a glimpse of what the Volksbühne could be. </p> <p>Although hundreds streamed in through during the occupation, the theatre was left unscathed; save for two small graffiti tags and a tiny chip in the flooring. </p> <p>“We will talk. We will talk for months,” said spokesperson Sarah Waterfeld on Tuesday. She was thoroughly optimistic and dismissed the suggestion that the police might shut it down. </p> <p>“This is so beautiful what’s happening here,” said Waterfeld, a novelist and mother of two. </p> <p>The activists wanted the theatre to be operated by a collective, with a two year-interim council put in place to work out exactly what that would look like. </p> <p>In their initial statement, they lamented the changing face of Berlin whose vibrant art scene is being threatened by rising rents and the closure of cultural spaces. They planned to occupy the building for three months, staging performances for free. </p> <p>“We really fear the future,” said Waterfeld.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>An acrimonious start </strong></h2> <p>Plans to take over the building first surfaced nine months ago as fears heightened that the fabled theatre was headed towards a wholly commercial fate under the helm of new artistic director Chris Dercon.</p> <p>Founded in 1890 with a mission to bring art to the working classes, the Volkbühne am Rosa-Luxembourg Platz has mostly stayed true to its scrappy socialist aesthetic. It is highly subsidized by the city and operates with a core staff. </p> <p>Former artistic director Frank Castorf is credited for bringing the theatre international renown by staging experimental, controversial and protracted productions, which could last seven hours.</p> <p>With relatively little theatre experience, Dercon’s appointment as his successor had been controversial from the start. Dercon suggested he wanted to refocus the theatre’s direction by bringing in more international, interdisciplinary acts. This year’s diverse playbill reflects that. The season kicks off in November with a work by Syrian playwright Mohammad al-Attar. It also features an evening of one-act plays by Samuel Beckett and performances by Berlin-based artist Tino Seghal, as well as the premier of Susanne Kennedy’s episodic drama <em>Women in Trouble</em>. </p> <p>In 2015, just months after Dercon’s nomination, theatre staff penned an <a href="https://conversations.e-flux.com/t/volksbuhne-staff-on-chris-dercon-we-fear-job-cuts-and-liquidation/3911">open letter</a> decrying the change in direction. They viewed Dercon’s appointment as “an irreversible turning point” and a further break from the theatre’s storied history. Dercon also received letters of support from prominent figures in the art world but he failed to calm the brewing mistrust. As months went on and he officially took over this year, the debate became more acrimonious. A petition with more than 40,000 signatures asking officials to reopen the discussions about the future of the Volksbühne was ignored. </p> <p>Dercon and his staff were barred from entering the building at one point. For two weeks this summer, piles of faeces were dumped outside his office door. Many in Berlin’s artistic community saw Castorf’s departure as an opportunity to reclaim the space. This belief and what they viewed as a lack of engagement from those in-charge culminated in the occupation of Volksbühne on Sept. 22. </p> <p>“There are a lot of unspoken issues in this city and theatre should be a place where this stuff becomes visible so you can address it,” says dramaturg Dietrich Töllner. He characterized the occupation as six “very inspiring days”. It wasn’t about removing Dercon but rather a progressive process toward the opening up of the theatre. “It’s about the current meaning of Volksbühne. It means stage of the people and that’s what it is supposed to be. It has never really been that.” </p> <p>Whilst inside, the collective staged an artistic but “true-to-the-original reconstruction” of the atomic bomb “B61-12.” A symbolic explosion of the theatre’s current status. They invited artists, activities, theatre staff, pensioners, musicians, DJs and rebels to share and discuss ideas. </p> <p>On Tuesday, Dercon offered the protestors the use of theatre’s Grüner Salon and Volksbühnen-Pavillion so rehearsals for the new season could begin in other areas. But negotiating through consensus and chaotic plenaries takes time so Dercon’s offer was never discussed. Other concerns such as those of the theatre staff took centre stage. The occupiers didn’t take stock of the fact that it was perhaps more pertinent to respond to Dercon. </p> <p>He got tired of waiting, said Töllner.</p> <p>“If we had reacted sooner, it could have been different.”</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_3076_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3076_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'>Volksbühne interior: the bar, 2016.</span></span></span></p> <p>On Thursday, Berlin police sent 200 officers to clear the building. Of the 50 protestors who were inside when police arrived, most left voluntarily. Only 21 had to be accompanied out. </p> <p>In a statement, Dercon said asking police to intervene was a difficult decision. He added that the squatters had rejected his offer as well as that of the Senate to use another performance space.</p> <p>“We could not find a common path.”</p> <p>Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for cultural policy, expressed support for the underlying concerns of the activists but criticized their methods.“The Volksbühne was and is a public cultural institution, which belongs to all Berliners alike,” Lederer said. “It can continue to be a place for urban and social discourse. However, this must not be carried out in a manner seen by the employees of the house as an unfriendly act, if not as a hostile takeover.”</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_3067.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3067.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'>Outside the Volksbühne Berlin 2016.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>The curtain falls</strong></h2> <p>On Thursday as the people who were tossed out of the theatre regrouped on the lawn for a plenary, there appeared to be a prevailing consensus. Everyone still wanted to talk. </p> <p>Töllner even believes Dercon can redeem himself in the eyes of the artists and activists. Just a few years ago, Dercon was on a jury that awarded <a href="http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/31417/teatro-valle-occupato-and-teodor-celakoski-win-the-2014-ecf-princess-margriet-award/">the Teatro Valle Occupato</a>, a European Cultural Foundation award. The theatre in Rome had been occupied for a similar reason.</p> <p>Calling the police was a no-go and he should fix it, Töllner said.</p> <p>“This was about pushing people out and building a fence. That’s the opposite of what a person who is leading a theatre should be doing,” he added:</p> <p>“If he finds a way to make peace with everybody here, and also include them in the creative process, he would be such a winner. He would be victorious.”</p> <p>UPDATE:</p> <p>On Saturday, the group behind the Volkbühne occupation <a href="https://pastebin.com/PEaFiyYV">announced</a> it was dissolving. </p> <p>“It retreats into clandestinity, back to the contradictions, the unspectacular edges and crannies of this city.&nbsp;No glitter, but the sadness of grey, everyday life, not the theatre,” the group said in a statement. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </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"> Ideas </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 Germany Ideas Monisha Caroline Martins Thu, 05 Oct 2017 15:46:17 +0000 Monisha Caroline Martins 113841 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russian-Germans and the surprising rise of the AfD https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/odr-editors-tatiana-golova/russian-germans-and-surprising-rise-of-afd-germany <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The right-populist AfD party is soon to take its first seats in the Bundestag. What was the role of Germany’s Russians in that unprecedented electoral success? <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/redaktori-odr/v-poiskah-chuzhogo-germanii" target="_self"><strong><em>RU</em></strong></a>, <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/redaktionelles-odr/auf-der-suche-nach-dem-anderen" target="_self">Deutsch</a></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/553429/rsz_14040027143_a905be03fd_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/rsz_14040027143_a905be03fd_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“A people’s decision, not politics against the people!” AfD members out campaigning before Bundestag elections. Photo: CC-by-NC-2.0: strassenstriche.net / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On 24 September, Germans voted for a new Bundestag. Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched an historic fourth term, with her party, the centre-right CDU (Christian Democratic Union), and its sister party the CSU (Christian Social Union), topping the polls. Her victory was, however, marred by the hard-right populist AfD winning its first seats in parliament. </p><p>Alternative für Deutschland, or to give the party its full name: Alternative for Germany, holds an openly xenophobic attitude to immigrants and refugees and precious little in the way of policies on other issues. Much of Germany’s media have no doubt where the blame lies: AfD’s votes, they say, must have come from the “Russians” – or rather, recently repatriated ethnic Germans from the former USSR. But is this really the case – and where did the idea come from in the first place? oDR talked about the situation with sociologist Tatiana Golova, a Research Associate at Berlin’s <a href="https://www.zois-berlin.de" target="_blank">Centre for East European and International Studies</a> (ZOiS).</p><p><strong>Two repatriates from the former USSR, or Russian Germans as they are also known, have just won seats in the Bundestag. There’s also a common perception of the AfD (encouraged by its leaders) as the party of the Russian-speaking Diaspora. How true is this? Does the AfD really represent their interests?</strong></p><p>I’m going to answer your question with two more – what is the Russian-speaking Diaspora and who are these “Russian Germans”? If we mean post-Soviet immigrants, the 2015 census gave their number at around three million (and the structure of the census was such that the number of second-generation repatriates recorded was lower than is actually the case). A majority of them are, of course, ethnic Germans from the former USSR. In Germany they are officially described as “late resettlers”, meaning people of German ancestry who repatriated after the fall of the Iron Curtain. About 2,300,000 of them, together with their families, resettled in Germany between 1990 and 2015. Many of them have since had children in Germany, so there is now a second and a third generation. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">About 2,300,000 people with German ancestry from the former Soviet Union resettled in Germany between 1990 and 2015</p><p>There are, of course, other groups of settlers. The second largest belongs to the Jewish emigration from the former USSR, mainly from Russia – about 200,000 people from this group settled in Germany over the same period. Since 2015, highly qualified immigrants have also been arriving under the aegis of the <a href="https://www.apply.eu/" target="_blank">Blue Card scheme</a>, the EU equivalent of the US Green Card programme. And then there are family members, refugees and Russian nationals who have been living in Israel, the USA or other European countries. </p><p>The AfD is keenest to reach “late resettlers”, because they have the right to vote in Germany. Other immigrants from the former USSR face considerable difficulty in gaining these rights, and not all of them are successful. Thus, post-Soviet migration is divided not only along cultural lines but also by potential participation in German political life. </p><p>As for their interests and political leanings, a 2016 publication by the <a href="https://www.svr-migration.de/en/" target="_blank">Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration</a> revealed that just 4.7% of late repatriates, with or without German citizenship, supported the AfD (the figures reflect a poll conducted in 2015, before the party’s open drift rightwards). For comparison, the figure for its support among the “indigenous” population was a mere 1.8%. </p><p><strong>How do the political views of people from the former USSR compare with those of other immigrant groups in Germany? Do late repatriates differ from other groups in this respect?</strong></p><p>They share much, but much divides them. Turkish immigrants, gastarbeiters and their families, have always supported the Social Democrats and still do. For a long time, the CDU were the party of choice for Russian Germans, with 65-68% supporting them, but by 2016 this figure had fallen to 40-45%. German sociologist Andreas Büst, however, notes that the same thing is happening with Turkish immigrants – a broadening of political preference. The longer people live in the country, the more diverse their political views. The left-wing Die Linke are gaining popularity among them, as are the Greens and other 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/553429/Merkel_EEpresidency_Feb17_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/Merkel_EEpresidency_Feb17_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Germany’s latest elections saw a shift in the balance of power, but chancellor Angela Merkel has held on for a fourth term in office. Photo CC-by-2.0: Arno Mikkor / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In terms of elections, how do you find out what party Russian Germans voted for? Well, you can look at districts where they live with a high population density, a result of both a short-sighted housing policy in the 1990s and individual preferences. The Russian German faction within AfD is always crowing about its results in areas of high density housing – take Maibuche in the town of Waldbröl in North Rhine-Westphalia. It’s a small constituency with a high concentration of Russian Germans, where 50% of voters support AfD – though their 124 votes had little influence on the local result. The turnout was only 44%, much lower than the German average of 78%. This pattern is similar to many other places, including larger population centres with a high proportion of post-Soviet immigrants with the right to vote – in the Buckenberg district of Pforzheim in Baden-Württemberg, for example, AfD got 37%. </p><p>A more interesting question is to what extent one can extrapolate the views of all Russian Germans from these results. There are, after all, people who don’t live in areas of high immigration and are not immersed in more or less closed Russian-speaking communities. However, there’s little quantitative analysis of voluntary segregation of such groups. </p><p><strong>So what’s the origin of this supposed connection between Russian Germans and the AfD? Why is it assumed, and why has the AfD identified them as potential voters?</strong></p><p>Remember that the story of Russian Germans in the twentieth century was one of deportation and repressions. But the repressions have become a background issue – after all, anybody who considered it seriously would find it difficult to support a political party that is demanding a restrictive policy towards asylum seekers. The main factor now is how they perceive a common future: “We returned to our roots in Germany, and expected it to be like this and like this. We work, we earn money, we provide for ourselves. If you want to do well here, you work hard; you have a traditional family; you have strong intergenerational links and of course you adopt German cultural norms, you live like a German among Germans”.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Migration has a particular resonance for Russian Germans: “we waited so long, then these refugees turned up and they let them in straight away!”</span></p><p>There is also an ethnic component to this – “we were persecuted as Germans; we want to live in our German homeland” and so forth. On the other hand, this is a generic picture of Russian Germans’ way of life in small towns and villages in Siberia and Kazakhstan before they repatriated to Germany. The Russian Germans’ “return to the homeland” in the 1990s didn’t play out quite as it’s remembered today.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/AfD_Rus_Advert_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/AfD_Rus_Advert_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Defend your children from the consequences of uncontrolled migration and the teaching of perversion in schools!” reads this Russian-language AfD newspaper advertisement. Photo: Ayder Muzhdabayev / Facebook. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>That return was a potent story, and it was exploited by the CDU. The attraction of AfD, for its part, lies in disenchantment: “we returned to our homeland and found it completely different”. Russian Germans discovered that that Germans didn’t actually see them as fellow Germans. They felt discriminated, even as they underwent a process of assimilation that led them to a variety of political positions. And today you have AfD, ready to exploit the disenchantment, and not just on issues close to Russian Germans, but to those like the refugee question which remain highly charged among the wider population.</p><p>Russian Germans are particularly sensitive on this point: “we waited so long [and many of them did wait several years] and then these refugees turned up and they let them in straight away – why was it all so unfair?” What they don’t mention is that once the “Russians” did arrive, they were presented with considerably more rights and opportunities, and a fast track to German citizenship. We can say that the AfD gains traction on the back on wider issues, but cleverly tailors its statements to resonate with the attitudes of Russian Germans.</p><p>Importantly, AfD is a new party, and its members are not all former Christian Democrats. In Germany, if you want to end up in the Bundestag you need to get involved in politics from an early age – say, at school. That wasn’t common among Russian immigrants 20 or more years ago. But the AfD, as a young party, allows you to skip all the preliminary steps in your political career. That often has mixed results. Waldemar Herdt’s was the seventh name on the AfD candidate list in Lower Saxony at this election; Anton Friesen (born 1985) was fifth on the list in Thuringia. They, with their good German names, were both elected, but others were not so fortunate. Sergey Chernov was eleventh on his local party list, and Yevgeny Schmitt, another Russian German, was seventeenth. AfD supposedly wants Russian German support, but is not keen on putting Russian names high enough on its lists for them to be actually elected.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">AfD supposedly wants Russian German support, but is not keen on putting Russian names high enough on its lists for them to be elected</p><p>At the same time, a new generation of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and others is also on its way up through the ranks, having started at the bottom. Things should be getting interesting.</p><p><strong>The growth of right-wing movements like the AfD is hardly confined to Germany. The Russian-speaking community in its various incarnations has a powerful rightist potential in both the USA and Israel. Yet the ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of people emigrating to Germany is very different from that of those who emigrated to those countries. Nevertheless, we see similar processes taking place. How can we explain this?</strong></p><p>I can’t say much about the USA and Israel, but I can about Germany. Russian Germans’ desire to emigrate to Germany and to belong there is based on their ancestry – that is a conservative principle. If they were to argue against that, they would be arguing against themselves. It didn’t start with the AfD – which was hardly the first rightist party to start mobilising Russian Germans. Just looking at the election results in Saxony, we can see that although nationalist and “patriotic” parties once had a lot of support, they weren’t as popular as the AfD is today. After all, not everyone was prepared to vote for the openly extreme right-wing NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany). Since the AfD didn’t have its roots in classic right-wing extremism, it got votes from ordinary people who had little interest in politics. And although many Russian Germans had right-wing views, they preferred not to vote for radicals – they generally had a more traditionalist outlook. </p><p><strong>You say that AfD’s strategy is to appeal directly to those immigrants who have the vote. Do you think other parties are equally interested in their views? Have the established democratic parties made any attempts to set up a dialogue with the Russian-speaking Diaspora? </strong></p><p>Somewhat, but they haven’t been successful and have perhaps started on the wrong foot. It seems to me that Russian Germans rarely get involved in the typical grassroots party work of knocking on doors in your local community. At the same time, distancing oneself from politics is a particularly strong phenomenon among post-Soviet people. Most wouldn’t touch political party meetings with a bargepole. But there are projects out there which aim to raise political consciousness among both Russian Germans and other Russian-speaking communities. The <a href="http://www.bvre.de/o-nas.html" target="_blank">Union of Russian-speaking Parents</a>, for example, attempts to involve post-Soviet immigrants in political life by organising a series of discussions before the elections in places like Leipzig and Marzahn, a dormitory suburb of Berlin.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The AfD chooses to speak to Russian Germans as “real Germans” - in Russian!</p><p>These events took place in Russian, and representatives of different parties were invited. It was really interesting and it was good that they took a different approach from the “oh, we can’t invite the AfD”. </p><p>The key question is, how specific are the problems of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and to what extent can their concerns be met by existing parties? The Greens are working on this – they’ve been raising question of full recognition of people’s earlier pension contributions before they came to Germany (this is especially relevant for Jewish immigrants). Other parties are also running discussion sessions, but I wouldn’t say they had met their full potential.</p><p>And last but not least, parties should be speaking to immigrants in Russian. It’s not a question of people not being able to speak German: the second generation speaks it well, the older generation with various levels of fluency – but when you speak Russian to people, you acknowledge their distinctiveness. How the AfD approaches this is fascinating, because they speak to them as “real Germans” – in Russian!</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/553429/rsz_35023461874_6ac0d21828_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/rsz_35023461874_6ac0d21828_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Two candidates from repatriate backgrounds (or as they’re still known, “Russian Germans”) have won seats in the Bundestag. Photo CC-by-2.0: Andy Blackledge / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Electoral rights are just one aspect, albeit an important one, of the experience of Russian speakers in emigration. Quite apart from the Russian Germans in Germany, there are a larger number of people who keep their Russian passports for years, don’t apply for citizenship in their new country for one reason or another but have nevertheless settled and live a normal life there. </strong></p><p><strong>Meanwhile, nationals of other EU states resident in Germany have at least local voting rights (they can elect members of their local council but not vote for a Chancellor), but citizens of post-Soviet states have no such rights. If they were given the same rights, would we see a different election result? And could such a reform increase the electoral potential of Germany’s democratic parties? </strong></p><p>The 2016 report I mentioned earlier found no significant difference in voting patterns between people with German citizenship and those without. Also, it’s not just Russian Germans who are conservative in their attitudes, but also the highly educated immigrants who have arrived under the Blue Badge scheme. So I’d like to look at other forms of political participation. There is electoral legislation, but in principle one can join a party and be a political activist without having citizenship. </p><p><strong>And do former Russian or Soviet citizens avail themselves of this kind of participation?</strong></p><p>To a limited degree, to put it mildly. There’s a certain distrust of public politics. The liberal immigrant community in Berlin is active in raising consciousness of what’s going on in Russia, but only in Russian-speaking circles (it would be good to do the same thing in German). Nevertheless, they do also discuss Russia’s attempts at interference in the German elections and the general political situation in Germany. There is a liberal Russian-speaking community, not only from Russia, that actively debates the situation in Crimea, for example. So discussion exists, but it’s a question of what concrete political forms it can take: whether people should take to the streets or not. After all, there are rarely many protesters in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin.</p><p><strong>Our columnist Nikolai Klimeniouk <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/merkel-victory" target="_blank">believes that the true victory of the right is that it now sets the political agenda</a>, despite lacking any coherent manifesto. The AfD has succeeded in getting everyone talking about immigrants and refugees, while other issues have been put on the back burner. Even the extreme right is setting an agenda for political participation. Given that, during the election campaign a supposed link between “Russians” and the German right suddenly started making the headlines, this is very relevant. So why did AfD’s opponents go along so easily with this idea that Russian-speaking immigrants were some kind of enemy within? </strong></p><p>This isn’t the first stigma to have been attached to settlers from the former Soviet Union. Back in the 1990s they were often not acknowledged as Germans and were on the receiving end of nasty xenophobic jokes; then they acquired a criminal reputation: young guys spreading Russian prison culture in German jails, alcoholics without a future and so on. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Russian Germans are now “the AfD voters”, which is very convenient: responsibility for the rise of the right can be shifted onto the shoulder of foreigners</p><p>Now they are “the AfD voters”, which is very convenient: responsibility for the rise of the right can be shifted onto the shoulders of foreigners. The stereotype that Russian Germans are not real Germans is still very strong. </p><p><strong>In a word, they’re seen as some kind of hicks from the sticks?</strong></p><p>That’s it – they’re behind the times. And Russian Germans “obviously” voted this way on orders from Putin. But they didn’t vote for AfD because someone from outside had brainwashed them. They didn’t need propaganda to convince them of some of the party’s policies – restriction on refugee entry, for example. But the enlightened German public found it very convenient to believe that Russian Germans were responsible for AfD candidates winning Bundestag seats – even though Russian Germans have only two parliamentarians out of AfD’s 94. </p><p><strong>So all German politics revolves around the harassment of the “Others”? AfD stigmatises Muslim refugees, while liberal Germans lash out at the “Russians” who vote for this same AfD. It seems to be a vicious circle, with everyone looking for enemies.</strong></p><p>I think this will stop soon. There are other issues on the agenda, and I hope that this hunt for the “Others” will end. But that depends on how AfD behaves in the Bundestag. In the long term, these election results might encourage people in the Russian community who don’t share the party’s positions to become more politically active. </p><p><em>Translated by Liz Barnes</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="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-ilya-budraitskis/dreams-of-europe-refugees-and-xenophobia-in-russia-and-ukra">Dreams of Europe: refugees and xenophobia in Russia and Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andriy-portnov/germany-and-disinformation-politics-of-ukraine-crisis">Germany and the disinformation politics of the Ukraine crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nikolai-klimeniouk/how-operation-liza-failed">How “Operation Liza” failed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/polina-aronson/you-re-better-than-you-think">You’re better than you think</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ivan-grinko/why-moscow-will-never-get-museum-of-migration">Why Moscow will never get a museum of migration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kaja-puto/second-hand-europe-ukrainian-immigrants-in-poland">Second-hand Europe: Ukrainian immigrants in Poland</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"> 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> oD Russia oD Russia Germany Tatiana Golova Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia Migration matters Russia Wed, 04 Oct 2017 15:52:50 +0000 Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia and Tatiana Golova 113799 at https://www.opendemocracy.net