Can Europe make it? https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/9711/all cached version 14/12/2018 13:17:35 en Digital parties on the rise: a mass politics for the era of platforms https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/paolo-gerbaudo/digital-parties-on-rise-mass-politics-for-era-of-platforms <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The old party system appears in serious distress, faced with challengers using digital technology as a means to achieve the utopian goal of a more democratic society. </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-36230160.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-36230160.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'>Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses party activists at The Hub in Grimsby ahead of the local elections, April,2018. Danny Lawson/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In these times of profound crisis and political disorientation an organisational revolution is striking at the heart of western democracies and upsetting the party system. </p> <p>Political parties seemed, of all the organisations inherited from modernity, the most impervious to the digital revolution that for good and many times for worse has infested all areas of society, as has become all too apparent at the time of Facebook, AirBnB, Uber and Tinder. </p> <p>Yet, eventually under the combined pressure of a huge wave of discontent at neoliberal politics, and of the disruptive effect of technological change, which has contributed in eroding the competitive advantage of traditional parties, the old party system appears in serious distress, faced with challengers which are threatening to substitute the old parties with a generation of new organisations.</p> <h2><strong>New digital parties and campaign organisations</strong></h2> <p>This transformation of political parties is most clearly seen in Europe, where many traditional social-democratic and conservative parties, such as the SPD and the CDU in Germany, the Socialist Party in France and the Italian Partito Democratico now appear in serious trouble. Some old parties fear to go down the same way as PASOK, the Greek social-democratic party, that went from winning over 40% of the vote in the general elections of 2009, to 6% in the 2015 elections, leading to the coining of the term “pasokification” to express the disappearance of old social-democratic parties converted to neoliberal centrism. </p> <p>However, as traditional parties are struggling for survival, a new generation of political parties, which I describe in my new book&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745335797/the-digital-party/">Digital Parties: Political Organisation and Online Democracy</a></em>&nbsp;as “digital parties”, or “ digital populist” parties, because of their conjoining of populist discourse and digital organisational techniques, has been emerging. <span class="mag-quote-center">At the heart of this wave of political parties there is a promise of transformation that is not just technological but also political.</span></p> <p>Digital parties can be seen to comprise such formations as the Pirate Parties that have emerged in many Northern European countries, eclectic internet-parties such as the Five Star Movement and new left populist movements such as Podemos in Spain and France Insoumise in France, but also new campaign organisations such as Momentum, that have been key in driving the surge in popularity of Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom. </p> <p>These formations have taken analysts and sociologists by surprise, achieving impressive growth and sometimes stunning success, as most notably seen in the trajectory of the Five Star Movement that is now in power in alliance with the right-wing party Lega.&nbsp;</p> <p>At the heart of this wave of political parties there is a promise of transformation that is not just technological but also political, where digital technology is seen as the means to achieve the utopian goal of a more democratic society. </p> <p>Digital parties share the promise of a delivering a “new politics” supported by digital technology; a politics that professes to be more democratic, more open to ordinary people, more immediate and direct, more authentic and transparent than the one offered by the old political behemoths.&nbsp;</p> <p>But how are new parties proposing to mend this gap? What are the organisational innovations that are introduced to sustain this new politics? How do these parties integrate digital technology in their internal forms of organisation? And are they really more democratic than traditional parties?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>When a party becomes a platform</strong></h2> <p>Looking at the activities of formations such as the Pirate Parties, the Five Star Movement and Podemos, and in particular at their internal organisational processes, it soon becomes apparent that what these organisations propose is a translation into politics of the operational model that brought such success to figures like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. </p> <p>Social media have been instrumental in enabling movements like Podemos, the Five Star Movement and Momentum, skilfully utilising these channels, to become some of the most popular political organisations on social media in their countries. This is well known. In so doing they have managed to exploit the window of opportunity that always opens up as information and communication systems transition from one phase to the next, outperforming traditional parties only used to operating in a television and press-dominated political communication environment.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">Movements like Podemos, the Five Star Movement and Momentum, skilfully utilising these channels… are outperforming traditional parties only used to operating in a television and press-dominated political communication environment.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>However, the transformation facilitated by digital technology runs much deeper than a change in political communication. The signature innovation of digital parties and what allows to think of them as a new “party type” is the way in which they have established their own platforms, variably called ‘participatory platforms’ or ‘participation portals’&nbsp; into opportunities for registered users to conduct a number of different activities: participating in discussions about current events; attending online training events; voting in online primaries or on internal officers; and donating money to the movement. These are some of the typical functions that are available on such platforms as&nbsp;the Five Star Movement’s Rousseau platform, Podemos’ Consul participation system and the Pirate Parties’ Liquid Feedback democracy app. Already it seems that no new or renewed party can do without such ‘participatory platforms’.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Free membership model</strong></h2> <p>While it is wise to be suspicious of the hype, and critical of the (often disappointing) results of the introduction of participatory platforms into new parties, it would be wrong to regard them merely as a curiosity, some sort of weird gadgetry that is adopted only for propaganda purposes in order to make digital parties look as brand new and digital as possible. </p> <p>These platforms are indeed very important to the organisational processes of emerging parties, and carry important implications for the way in which political parties operate. As I demonstrate in my book, they have by and large taken over the role of the party’s “intermediate element”, what Antonio Gramsci described as a “third element” between the leadership and the membership that was usually performed by the party’s bureaucracy and by its most militant cadres; figures who now stand under threat of following the same course as the bookshops forced to shutdown by Amazon, or the cab companies sent to ruin by Uber. It may be said that in this way the party-form becomes the party platform.</p> <p>This transformation carries important implications for the definition of membership. Digital parties operate with a free registration model that is very similar to the free sign-up of social media firms, with little information required for the account to be created. For example, in the case of France Insoumise, it is sufficient to write one’s email address and post code, and hit the button ‘je soutien’ (I support) to become a member. <span class="mag-quote-center">In the case of France Insoumise, it is sufficient to write one’s email address and post code, and hit the button ‘je soutien’ (I support) to become a member.</span></p> <p>This ease and gratuity of registration implies a disconnection between membership and donorship. While in traditional parties, members were expected to pay periodic dues, in the new parties there are no membership dues to speak of, meaning that parties need to rely on other sources of funding, including donations from members. In the case of Podemos it is not even necessary to be a Spanish citizen: also the criteria of citizenship and residency are abandoned. This opening up of membership has important consequences for the way in which political parties operate, and for the new mass politics that they bring to the fore.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>A new mass politics?</strong></h2> <p>The free membership model adopted by digital parties in imitation of digital companies entails a radical lowering of the barrier to entry, meaning that it is far easier for sympathisers to become full members. This lowering of the barrier has had evident consequences for these formations as seen in their impressive capacity for rapid&nbsp;growth, reminiscent of the explosive rise of the few successful start-up companies that survive beyond the embryonic state.</p> <p>The Swedish Pirate Party managed to attract 13,000 members in its first three months of existence. Coinciding with the 2006 protests in support of Pirate Bay, the Pirate Party tripled its member count to 42,000 members, to become the third largest party in Sweden. Podemos of 2018, just four years since its foundation counts over 500,000 members, just four years since its foundation in 2014. France Insoumise managed in a very short span of time to recruit thousands of people and claimed 533,566 supporters as of May 2017, over ten times the membership of the Front National and the Parti Socialiste, both standing at around 40,000 members. Digital parties are now among the largest parties in their respective countries, and this fact alone constitutes a major achievement.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">Digital parties are now among the largest parties in their respective countries, and this fact alone constitutes a major achievement.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Amidst a post-crash era marked by grotesque social inequality that goes hand in hand with growing political polarisation, digital parties have managed to act as a point of attraction and accumulation for masses of individuals who were aggrieved by the economic crisis and felt unrepresented by existing parties. They have been impressive in terms of the quantity or scale that they have managed to muster, putting into the shade the membership numbers of more traditional parties, who have instead seen their membership eroding.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>What kind of mass participation?</strong></h2> <p>This mass character proceeds from the very platform logic these parties have adopted. Like commercial platformism, political platformism is chiefly concerned with quantity and scale. It is geared towards gathering ever-increasing numbers of members in its ‘stack’. Using the polling and rating mechanisms built into the architecture of social media and online platforms more generally, they not only constantly accrue new members or better members/users, but also constantly engage them in all types of mass consultation, extracting data from their interactions, and adapting to their shifting opinions, with the ultimate aim of adapting to their evolving tendencies, in ways not too dissimilar from those practiced by digital companies and their data science teams.</p> <p>Faced with this success in terms of growth and electoral results, the question to be asked is what kind of participation is the mass participation that is on offer in these parties?&nbsp;At face value what these parties promise is a participatory democracy doing away with the most problematic aspects of representative democracy, a democracy in which people can “participate rather than delegate” to quote the Five Star Movement’s digital strategist Davide Casaleggio. <span class="mag-quote-center">At face value what these parties promise is a participatory democracy doing away with the most problematic aspects of representative democracy, a democracy in which people can “participate rather than delegate” to quote the Five Star Movement’s digital strategist Davide Casaleggio.</span> </p> <p>A similar discourse is proposed in Podemos in whose statute the word “participation” is repeated almost obsessively, and in other formations such as Pirate Parties and France Insoumise. </p> <h2><strong>Limited participation</strong></h2> <p>However, what is delivered in practice differs rather significantly from this lofty promise.</p> <p>In reality the room of intervention of the membership in decisions and discussion is very limited, and seems to reflect the oft-decried shallowness of many social media discussions. </p> <p>It mostly takes the form of a “reactive democracy”, reminiscent of Facebook reactions, and very limited in terms of its qualitative intervention on the content of decisions, rather than the participatory democracy of deep involvement that is promised on the tin. Participation in more deliberative activities, those where people can have a qualitative say on content, as seen for example in the context of policy development, has been often limited to a very small number of participants, an “aristocracy of participation”, whose views are often not necessarily representative of the views of all members. </p> <p>Furthermore, elections and referendums conducted by digital parties have been very plebiscitarian in character. They have almost invariably returned supermajority results in favour of the view promoted by the leadership, sometimes making them look like mere show elections, ratifying from below decisions already taken from above. Rank-and-file rebellions have been extremely rare and hence the party leadership has mostly got its way. <span class="mag-quote-center">Elections and referendums conducted by digital parties… sometimes look like mere show elections, ratifying from below decisions already taken from above.</span></p> <p>So it is important that, at a time when digital parties are eventually bidding or already managing government power, we ask difficult questions about both the potentials and risks of the new organisational templates they have introduced. </p> <p>It is true that these parties offer a new model of mass participation that is very effective and could be geared towards progressive ends. However, their digital democracy has so far mostly proven a sham, with participatory platforms being used more a site where the leadership constantly checks and verifies its consensus, rather than a space for authentic decision-making and pluralism. </p> <p>Therefore it is necessary to approach digital parties with a mix of enthusiasm about their democratic potentials of mass involvement, but also conscious of their plebiscitarian distortions.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span>The article is based on Paolo Gerbaudo's <a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745335797/the-digital-party/">new book </a></span><a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745335797/the-digital-party/"><span>&nbsp;</span><span>on digital parties<span>&nbsp;</span></span></a><a href="The Digital Party Political Organisation and Online Democracy"><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></a><span><span><span>, published by Pluto Press, December 2018.<br /></span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paolo Gerbaudo's new book, <a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745335797/the-digital-party/"><strong>The Digital Party - Political Organisation and Online Democracy,</strong></a> is published by Pluto Press, December 2018.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk Paolo Gerbaudo Thu, 13 Dec 2018 10:43:37 +0000 Paolo Gerbaudo 120983 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Demand the impossible": what the left should learn from 1968 https://www.opendemocracy.net/vasyl-cherepanyn/demand-impossible-what-left-should-learn-from-1968 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The legacy of 1968 is about the future of a united Europe and the left.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/deam.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/deam.jpg" alt="An Occupy Wall Street protest march in New York in 2011." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An Occupy Wall Street protest march in New York in 2011. Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/blaineo/6192635103/" target="_blank">Blaine O&#39;Neill</a> (CC BY-NC 2.0) </span></span></span>In order to understand the legacy of 1968, we have to first consider its differing meanings for the west and east of Europe. For the west, May 1968 remains a symbol of liberation and rebellion against entrenched power structures and a landmark cultural moment. But in eastern Europe it is associated with the Prague Spring and Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia. On the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, this split continues to define political and cultural divides across the continent. Today, Europe is being confronted by many challenges: the refugee crisis, Brexit, terror attacks, the rise of far-right populism, and conflicts in the east and the Middle East. All of which confront us with the most burning questions: How can we sustain freedom and human rights when the state and international cooperation fall short? What could a new and just solidarity look like?</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Nation states are behaving like gated communities.</p><p>Europe is not just facing problems, it is also part of the problem. But if we are to counter right-wing populism, first we need a European political coalition brave enough to be critical of the European Union. As one of the leaders of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) youth organisation said at its party congress in June: “The European Union must die so that Europe can live.” By not addressing the EU’s failings, the left has allowed the right and far right to fill the vacuum. We are still defending the present political status quo when this status quo itself has to be questioned.</p><p>The dominant type of EU governance today is externalising problems beyond Europe’s borders, pushing conflicts to the outside to keep the interior safe. As a result of this strategy of bordering conflicts and punishing the peripheries for the Union’s own crisis, we are observing the return of the repressed – the EU is actually surrounded by a belt of wars in its south and east, unavoidably accompanied with an influx of migrants fleeing conflict. The logic of borders is being multiplied inside what was supposed to be a borderless zone; a new European tribalism is on the rise defining the political agenda. Nation states are behaving like gated communities and migrants are being used as scapegoats for problems that predate their arrival.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It’s time we acknowledged the sacred cow of the present state of affairs: liberal democracy.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s time we acknowledged the sacred cow of the present state of affairs: liberal democracy. Isn’t it symptomatic that a common negative signifier of all the political trends that we usually dislike or are frightened with is called “illiberalism” today? The only ideological name liberalism is able to find for its political opponents or enemies is simply “non-liberal” – as if the political spectrum solely contains something that is liberal, and “the rest”, which is not. What a reduced perception and lowered horizon of politics dominate nowadays! Democracy itself has entered a populist modus operandi which conceals political alternatives.&nbsp;</p><p>Whenever we face ideological polarisation, discontent, fear or anger, our typical strategy today is to go back to the “norm”, to the political center that can save us from the extremes. That was, in particular, a recipe of Macron’s success, billed as the “great savior” of Europe, an anti-populist populist proposing “an alternative” from the heart of the establishment. But the root of the problem does not actually lie in the extremes, it is in the center. A populist extreme is a result of the political center’s inability to deal with inequality. The reason why the AfD could unprecedentedly enter the German Bundestag is not because of the country’s strategy of accepting migrants has backfired, as many commentators have come to assume. But because of the political center’s post-ideological “gut und gerne leben” (“live well and happy”) agenda, to quote from Merkel’s famous electoral slogan in 2017. If there is no alternative, one will get Alternative (for Germany).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The left has abandoned utopia – and now the far-right have become the visionaries proposing a dystopian future.</p><p>Politics is foremost about dissensus, and the center is currently able to propose only a “non-ideological” “neutral” consensus, with all dissensus and critique taken up by right-wingers. After 1968, we have observed a striking crash of the left. First, it abandoned the working class, then the proletarised middle class. Ultimately, the left has abandoned the people, populus as such – and now it is the far-right who claim to speak “in the name of the people”. The left has abandoned utopia – and now the far-right have become the visionaries proposing a dystopian future. The extreme right has learned lessons from the left, and is even trying now to create a kind of nationalist International. Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is attempting to unite Europe’s far-right populists by the European Parliament elections in 2019 on the basis of an organisation in Brussels called The Movement (sic!).</p><p>The basic political lesson to be drawn from the 20th century for the left today is that it’s over. There is no recipe from the past to follow, we have to formulate new responses to the challenges of today. But what unites the revolt of 1968 and the recent “square movements” throughout the globe is that the political action in both cases took the form of occupying the public space. The problem, then as now, is the lack of a longer term vision for taking power.&nbsp;</p><p>Any progressive movement would do well to remember the famous motto of the Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organisation: “Be prepared! – Always prepared!” The problem today is that the far-right is getting ready and the left is not. Realpolitik is conducted not on the squares, but by organised structures and institutions after the revolution. The very notion of revolution has been fetishised, which overlooks that hard-won victories can be reversed without a proper political structure to implement its agenda and incorporate it into society.</p><p>At a time when authoritarian and fascizoid pathologies are cynically pretending to be the new norm, what we need is not a pseudo-liberal “balanced objectivity” – which is not just simplistic but also harmful – but a new political subjectivity. The great value of the notion of subjectivity – both in philosophical and political terms – is that by employing it we also are immediately reinstating and emphasising the existence of truth. We live today not in the post-truth world but in the pre-truth world – in a world where truth has not arrived yet. And truth is not only concrete, as Hegel put it, but also always partisan and subjective. There is no other genuine politics than the politics of truth.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The only realistic political strategy is indeed to demand the impossible.</p><p>If there is any basic political principle necessary to follow today, it is the most famous slogan of May 1968 – “Be realistic – demand the impossible!” The most dominant ideology at present is a fusion of neoliberalism, austerity and nationalistic hatred. Militarism, xenophobia, social and economic discrimination, isolationism, impoverishment are not just possible, they are welcomed. While welfare, affordable housing, living wages, free healthcare are deemed “unrealistic”.</p><p>The boundaries of the possible have radically shifted, and what was hard to predict even a decade ago – wars in Ukraine and Syria, ISIS, extreme right-wing populism on such a scale, Brexit, Trump – became not just possible, but normalised. In such difficult political times, it’s not enough to defend what little we have, hoping for moderate reforms. On the contrary, reforming the existing system is becoming harder and harder to the point where a complete transformation may be more feasible.</p><p>That’s why the only realistic political strategy is indeed to demand the impossible. In other words, the impossible is a disruption, in which politics becomes possible. If we don’t demand the impossible, we will lose what seems to be still possible today.&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="/transformation/gregory-leffel/revolution-that-will-not-die">1968: The revolution that will not die </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/giorgos-charalambous/left-radicalism-fifty-years-after-1968-capitalist-state-and-political-science">Left radicalism fifty years after 1968: the capitalist state and political science </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/madeleine-davis-and-ross-speer/rebirth-of-small-dark-stranger-black-dwarf-british-new-left-and-19">Rebirth of a small dark stranger: The Black Dwarf, the British New Left, and 1968</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hilary-wainwright/spirit-of-1968-inextinguishable-50-years-later">The spirit of 1968 is inextinguishable – even 50 years later</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? 1968 Vasyl Cherepanyn Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:49:00 +0000 Vasyl Cherepanyn 120974 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A very English take on Denmark https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alessio-colonnelli/very-english-take-on-denmark <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Here’s also why Brexit happened. Europe is a mystery. Europeans come from a faraway land. Australia is nearer.”</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/Screenshot 2018-12-12 at 10.59.30.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-12 at 10.59.30.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot. Danish for kids. YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p>To understand what the English are about, read&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2018/11/cold-comfort-copenhagen-denmark">Matthew Engel reporting on his trip to Denmark</a>&nbsp;this week in the&nbsp;<em>New Statesman&nbsp;</em>(30/11, print issue). It’s great; but most importantly, it’s honest. He could not avoid mentioning the Brits’ obsessions about Scandinavia –&nbsp;<em>hygge</em>&nbsp;(cosiness),&nbsp;<em>smorgasbord</em>&nbsp;and a few more (yes, and Hamlet, of course). The three benchmarks of Danishness for the Brits. It made me chuckle. Good writing indeed.</p> <p>However, parts of it saddened me too. Engel explained things about Denmark, which could’ve been applied to any other European country. Obvious things that I always thought didn’t need mentioning. But Engel was right in bringing them up – they need to be explained when addressing a varied British readership.</p> <p>Engel wasn’t being sloppy. In fact, the 67-year-old didn’t get certain things himself, before travelling there; he admitted realising them only now. Let’s look at three key passages.</p> <p>First, Engel said that “the Scandinavians certainly don’t see themselves as part of some amorphous Euromass.” Well, who does? The Spaniards think of themselves as distant. The Italians too, almost cast away on a leg-peninsula that tickles Africa with its toes. Ukrainians feel Russia is breathing down their necks and would only be too pleased to be part of a so-called Euromass. The list could go on and on. But maybe, as seen from England, we do all look the same.</p> <p>Secondly, Ben Rosamond, a British professor of politics at the University of Copenhagen, was asked about Danish society. Rosamond sees&nbsp;<em>hygge</em>&nbsp;as being about “companionship and bonds”, but also as an exercise of “Danishness” with a “dark side” to it “because if you can’t get in, it’s a bit of an issue. This is a society where the entry barriers are quite high.”</p> <p>The similar remark was made by an English expat whom Engel also talked to. The article puts emphasis on this exclusionary feature of Danish society (<em>hygge</em>), implying that Britain is luckily free from it. But as a non-Briton very familiar with Britain, this makes me think otherwise.</p> <p>What about the English class system, then? A system whose negative repercussions are felt not only by foreigners living in the UK, even long-term residents, but by many ordinary Brits as well. Think of those excluded from the&nbsp;<em>right</em>&nbsp;circles, those not on the grapevine when it comes to non-advertised jobs. Think of the Oxbridge connection. (Engel studied at Oxford.)</p> <p>Thirdly, Engel mentions how well the Danes speak English, especially younger people. He said that in the rest of northern Europe this is pretty much the same, “though Denmark may be the most extreme case. I had always assumed this was to do with the brilliance of their educational system and/or a national awareness that the English – or American – language was for them the key that unlocked the world.” He continues in the same vein; he’s grasped something new. “Somewhere in Denmark, I realised something. What do children do before they can read? They watch TV. What do they watch? Cartoons. Where do most cartoons come from? The US. In larger countries … foreign programmes get dubbed but that’s not financially viable in smaller markets. Even if there are subtitles, the kids can’t read them. So what happens? They become naturally bilingual, which can then be reinforced in school.”</p> <p>Again, by implication Engel must’ve always believed countries like Italy, Spain and others – where people on the whole still struggle with English – have school systems that don’t function. Second-class nations. (English and Danish are Germanic languages, i.e. similar to one another, just as other Nordic tongues are. This was never mentioned.) As for the cartoons, Engel is certainly right, but – as I mentioned earlier – it strikes me as odd that he’s only thought of this now. He writes this passage robotically, in logical short steps, to make sure you understand his ground-breaking pattern of thinking.</p> <p>One final consideration, arising from this compelling read. English: Europeans want to learn the American version. There’s hardly any interest in British received pronunciation or spelling. (I don’t follow this major trend, but my personal taste here doesn’t count. And anyway, I shall be loyal to British English till I die. With the occasional US concession, of course.)</p> <p>So, maybe I’m exaggerating, but I couldn’t help thinking of this as I read Engel’s gripping account (no sarcasm intended): here’s also why Brexit happened. Europe is a mystery. Europeans come from a faraway land. Australia is nearer.</p> <p>In the collective British imagination, Europe is light years away from home. You can tell that by the amount of stuff Engel had to explain or came to realise himself. And he’s doing a whole series for the&nbsp;<em>NS</em>, from each one of the remaining EU27. I can see why, and the need for it.</p> <p>(Written by&nbsp;<a href="https://alessiocolonnelli.wordpress.com/about/">Alessio Colonnelli</a>&nbsp;on <a href="https://alessiocolonnelli.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/a-very-english-take-on-denmark/">4 December 2018</a>.)</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"> 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 UK Brexit Alessio Colonnelli Wed, 12 Dec 2018 11:00:20 +0000 Alessio Colonnelli 120966 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yellow fever in France https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/bernard-dreano/yellow-fever-in-france <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Almost everyone agrees on the analysis of what caused this movement: the growth of inequalities, the marginalization of certain regions and social categories, austerity and neoliberal politics. Then accounts diverge.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3083.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3083.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'>Yellow and Green in climate march.</span></span></span></p><p>What is this yellow fever that has seized France since mid-November? Wearing these yellow safety vests (that every European motorist must have in his car), the <em>Gilets Jaunes, </em>by day and often night, have been occupying motorway interchanges, highway intersections, &nbsp;roundabouts and shopping centers all over France, and going out into the streets every Saturday. With the apparent general approval of French public opinion (80% according to polls). </p> <p>They are members of the white lower middle-class, driven by a diversity of motivations, generations and backgrounds. An unprecedented involvement of pensioners, a significant number of women. They are nurses, shopkeepers and artisans, employees of small businesses, farmers or jobless persons. They come mainly from suburban and rural areas, and very often from small towns.</p> <h2><strong>A deep sense of injustice</strong></h2> <p>As has happened so often in France – and elsewhere –&nbsp; this movement started as an anti-tax movement, against the rise of a tax on gasoline and diesel. Was it also an anti-ecological gesture, since directed against a carbon tax? The historian of social movements Gérard Noiriel<a href="http://blog.agone.org/post/2018/11/21/Les-gilets-jaunes-et-les-%C2%AB-le%C3%A7ons-de-l%E2%80%99histoire-%C2%BB"> has pointed out that </a>this type of anti-tax struggle <em>always reaches its climax when people have the feeling that they have had to pay without getting anything in exchange. The feeling, widely shared, that the tax serves to enrich the small caste of the ultra-rich has fuelled a deep sense of injustice in the lower classes</em>. <span class="mag-quote-center">Most of the <em>Gilets Jaunes</em> revolt less against the tax than against its unjust distribution.</span></p> <p>Most of the <em>Gilets Jaunes</em> revolt less against the tax than against its unjust distribution. The fuel taxes were the last straw that broke the camel's back. The movement is particularly strong in areas where the withdrawal of public services is most obvious, where people are condemned to using their cars to find, beyond the moribund sub-prefectures where they live, access both to public services and jobs. They are defending what holds a society together: schools, hospitals, police stations, transport, free of charge education, and so forth. </p> <p>The initial response of President Emmanuel Macron, and the government of Edouard Philippe was that of contempt (towards his people who “understand nothing”) and an added provocation. This was an answer they had already deployed in opposition to the hundreds of thousands of people (workers and civil servants – that is categories other than the <em>Gilets</em>) who had taken to the streets at the behest of the main unions, against laws reforming the labor code in 2017.</p> <p>After the first big demonstration of the <em>Gilets </em>in Paris on November 24, and a few incidents on the Champs-Elysée avenue, Christophe Castaner, the Minister of interior spoke about the “brown plague” in reference to the supposedly fascist character of the movement. This was in line with Macron's own strategy to proclaim himself and his policy "progressive" in contrast to the fascists-populists that, the government began to explain, were drowning out the Yellow Vests from the ultra-right. Macron duly spoke of “scenes of war”, a self-fulfilling prophecy, since on the following Saturday (December 1) there were spectacular scenes of violence in the Arc de Triomphe and the rich neighborhoods surrounding it.</p> <p>Here, before proceeding with our story, we must make two remarks.</p> <p>First about the “political character” of the <em>Gilets</em>. Historically extreme-right parties have always been rooted in the social movements of the poor “white petit-bourgeois” social classes. And it is also the case with the new national-conservative populism of today. This time, the Rassemblement National (RN, former National Front) of Marine Le Pen, or Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s smallest party Debout la France, immediately supported the movement, and RN or radical-rightist groups were soon to be spotted as active in certain rallies and demonstrations. We've also seen people from the ultra-right spreading fake news, conspiracy theories and racist themes in the Yellow Vest gatherings and on social media. </p> <p>But this movement is horizontal, locally self-organized, with no leaders or representatives emerging (until now). The <em>Gilets</em> are anti-party, (and also anti-trade-union). In their many and sometimes confusing speeches and claims, racist and anti-migrant themes are not very visible. And we will also see that the Left is not totally out of the game.</p> <p>Second remark. When Gilets Jaunes come to a demonstration, particularly in Paris, it is striking to see how they do not have the traditional codes and skills of demonstrations. They&nbsp; do not go to the east of Paris, traditional location of all popular manifestations, but congregate in the Champs-Elysée, because it is the most famous place. The majority of the protesters have never been to any demonstration before and are coming "from the provinces" (as the Parisians say). Such people constitute the great majority of those arrested and convicted "for violence" after the demonstrations of December 1 and 8. <span class="mag-quote-center">The majority of the protesters have never been to any demonstration before and are coming "from the provinces" (as the Parisians say). </span></p><h2><strong>Yellow and Green vests together?</strong></h2> <p>At the forefront of <em>Gilets Jaunes,</em> what are the positions of the left and progressive forces? There has been, and there still is a lot of contestation over this, even if almost everyone agrees on the analysis of what caused this movement: the growth of inequalities, the marginalization of certain regions and social categories, austerity and neoliberal politics, etc. </p> <p>The trade-unions initially maintained their distance, noting the anti-unionism of many <em>Gilets</em>. Only Solidaires (minority and radical union) supported the movement, the CGT (the main union) remaining more cautious, although some of its activists participate in the actions, and &nbsp;the CFDT (the second most powerful, moderate union) proposed its "mediation services" with the government (which was initially refused). </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_3078.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3078.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>NGOs and the social movements (and especially ecological campaigns) perceived the importance of the movement from the outset. In a tribune published on the November 22, leaders of the alter-globalist movements ATTAC and Fondation Copernic<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> wrote:&nbsp; </p><blockquote><p>The "yellow vests" are also the product of a succession of failures of the social movements. (…) We organisers, activists and leaders of the political, trade union and left networks, are all a part of these failures.<br /> Two questions are posed by this movement: that of growing social misery, especially in the popular neighbourhoods of metropolises and rural or ultraperipheral deserts; that of the rise of an ecological and climatic crisis which threatens the conditions of existence even of a large part of humanity beginning with the poorest ones.<em> </em></p></blockquote> <p>December 8 was the 4th Saturday of demonstration for <em>Gilets Jaune</em>s and was also the international day of climate protest. Was there a risk of a clash between Green and Yellow? Overly zealous Préfets even arrested the leaders of the march for the climate in Nancy and of the yellow vests in Grenoble, since "potential confrontations" could disturb the public order. The number of "yellow" and "green" demonstrators that day were roughly equivalent (15/17,000 in Paris). In the climate march there were a significant number of “greens” with yellow vests, bearing slogans such as: &nbsp;<em>End of the world and end of the month, for us, it's the same fight!</em> Or <em>No climate justice without fiscal and social justice!</em> In some towns, like in Lyon, “Greens” and “Yellows” joined together and a significant number of Gilets Jaunes expressed their concern about climate change.</p> <p>This does not mean, however, a unity of the people or a convergence of these struggles. We have seen that the <em>Gilets Jaunes</em> are rather white and lower middle class. Those who joined the climate marches are mainly young urbans (like those who occupied places during the <em>Nuits Debout</em> movement in March-June 2016) or traditional leftist activists. </p> <p>And what about inhabitants of the <em>banlieues</em>, those populated neighborhoods where especially the youth from Arab or African origin reside? There was debate, some groups called on others to join the protest or support the yellow vests against their repression, but as the Collectif Rosa Park underlined in their response: </p> <blockquote><p>There will be no broad front against the Macron regime or the fascism that is coming if immigration and the suburbs that make up a few million souls are ignored. </p></blockquote> <p>In early December, high school students, and to a lesser extent university students, also began to move. High schools in the <em>banlieues</em> are particularly mobilized and have been particularly repressed by the police in places such as Aubervilliers or Mantes la Jolie where the spectacle of young people, stopped and arrested, kneeling at the foot of the police, has became a symbol taken up even by the yellow vests (kneeling hands on their head in protest in front of the police). And by mid-December the movement had spread to many high schools in large cities or their suburbs. </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/capture Mantes la jolie.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/capture Mantes la jolie.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>High school students and police in Mantes la Jolie.</span></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">And by mid-December the movement had spread to many high schools in large cities or their suburbs.</span></p> <h2><strong>Social and political crisis</strong></h2> <p>Is there a political way out of this social crisis? One of the problems is the extreme polarization of the debate. In the political system of the French’s Fifth Republic there is a concentration of symbolic and real power assumed in the hands of the President of the Republic.&nbsp; </p> <p>The call <em>Macron resign </em>! is extremely popular among Yellow Vests. For the French editor of the popular leftist website Mediapart, Edwy Plenel, Macron is paying for his <em>irresponsible unconsciousness</em>, added to <em>a personal exercise of power woven out of scorn and contempt. </em><a href="#_ftn3"><em><strong>[2]</strong></em></a><em>. </em>Esther Benbassa, Member of the Senate for the Green Party (EELV) walking on December 1 alongside a group of youth from the banlieue of leftist activists and trade-unionists, to join up with the <em>Gilets Jaunes</em>, <a href="//www.huffingtonpost.fr/esther-benbassa/ces-gilets-jaunes-et-pacifiques-mon-raconte-leur-colere-noire">described in her blog:</a> </p> <blockquote><p>All along the way, the yellow vests I met told me about the "king's head" they wanted. Macron's. The tone was hard, angry, whole. We did not speak of the President of the Republic but of the King. </p></blockquote> <p>But the king is naked. Trust is destroyed. The possibility of a “party of fear“ supporting Macron (like De Gaulle in 1968) does not exist… Macron will keep the instruments of power and parliamentary majority but is no more the wonder-boy elected eighteen months ago. <span class="mag-quote-center">The possibility of a “party of fear“ supporting Macron (like De Gaulle in 1968) does not exist.</span></p> <p>The government has retreated on the increase of fuel taxes and some other measures, and desperately seeks a "framework of negotiation". It calls to its aid those Macron has previously treated with disdain: unions, local elected representatives, associations. And <em>the King </em>(Excuse me, President Macron) spoke to his subjects on December 10 (Pardon, the French citizens). He announced some measures in favor of low wages and poor pensioners, but no fundamental change in social or ecological policy. &nbsp;However, it is going to be difficult for Macron to pursue the neoliberal demolition of the French social model at the same pace as before.</p> <p>On the political field, the opposition parties, leftist Jean Luc Melanchon’s France Insoumise (LFI) and Ultra-right Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National are asking for new legislative elections (without really believing that it can happen). The Parti Socialiste has not yet recovered from its 2017 defeat. The centre-right conservative party Les Républicains, hesitates, especially because if they were in power, they would enact the same neoliberal “modernising” policy as Macron, while their leader, Laurent Wauquiez, took up the themes of the extreme right. </p> <p>The next election deadline is the European elections next spring. We can expect a considerable number of abstentions, and the success of europhobic and xenophobic extreme right-wing forces, as elsewhere in Europe. </p> <p>Some of the yellow vests going to the polls will no doubt be tempted by this far-right populist vote. Could others support a progressive, social and environmental alternative? The aspiration to find such an alternative has also been expressed in the yellow-green fever of recent weeks.</p> <p>At the level of programmes of “ the left of the left" parties, the convergence on social and ecological objectives, (if not ecosocialist), seems, on paper, possible, between La France Insoumise (LFI), the Greens (EELV), the movements Génération.s of the former socialist Benoit Hamon, the French Communist Party (PCF) and even the popular Trotskyist leader Olivier Besancenot. </p> <p>But this unity will not take place for these European elections, because these different forces are divided on Europe. Even more, because they are in competition, and because Jean Luc Mélanchon and the LFI are persuaded that they alone embody "the movement of the people".</p> <p>Pity. But we may not have to miss out on the next instalment entirely. The municipal elections of 2020 or multicolored alliances are both possible ... if the crises afford us sufficient time... </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="#_ftnref2">[1]</a> Annick Coupé, Patrick Farbiaz, Pierre Khalfa, Aurélie Trouvé, In Le Monde, November 20th </p><p><a href="#_ftnref3">[2]</a> Edwy Plenel&nbsp;: The battle of equality, Mediapart December 2.</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_3068.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_3068.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'>All photos courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/france-bleu/demands-of-frances-yellow-vests-as-uploaded-by-france-bleu-november-29">Demands of France&#039;s yellow vests as uploaded by France Bleu, November 29</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 France Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Bernard Dreano Tue, 11 Dec 2018 14:43:56 +0000 Bernard Dreano 120958 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Marching with Dabrowski – what the centenary of Polish Independence can tell us about the radical right? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/balsa-lubarda/marching-with-dabrowski-what-centenary-of-polish-independence-can-t <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“I could not think of a better way to grasp what is behind the nationalist frenzy than to take part in their public events. On November 11, Poland celebrated National Independence Day.”<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39655809.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39655809.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'>November 11, 2018, Warsaw - celebrants of National Independence Day centenary marching with a banner of Polish national symbol. Attila Husejnow/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Some weeks ago, an&nbsp;<a href="https://lithub.com/fascism-is-not-an-idea-to-be-debated-its-a-set-of-actions-to-fight/">article</a>by Aleksandar Hemon instigated an interesting debate about the merit of ceasing all ties with those who consider themselves nationalists, equating them with fascists. However, the hostility of certain radical right and nationalist groups towards national-socialism (for example, in Poland)complicates matters.&nbsp;</p><p>While I cannot chastise Hemon for his strong opinion based on personal experience, the fact that his piece was shared by many of my friends in academia – some of whom occupy positions at renowned universities in the west – felt counterproductive. Using the label ‘fascist’ cantankerously and a little too often, in order to avoid contact with such actors, at least for researchers of the phenomena, cannot greatly enhance their understanding of what it is that the radical right offers many resentful individuals.</p><p>Having this in mind, I could not think of a better way to grasp what is behind the nationalist frenzy than to take part in their public events. On November 11, Poland celebrated National Independence Day, this year marking a centenary of (re)established freedom following the First World War. I joined The March of Independence held that day, often depicted as an annual uproar of nationalist, far-right, and extremist actors. This year, Warsaw’s outgoing mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, banned the march, citing security concerns. However, the ban was overruled by the court only two days before the march took place.&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, Polish President, Andrzej Duda, took the opportunity to invite nationalists to join his official march at the venue Rondo Dmowskiego (named after a leading figure of Polish Catholic nationalism in the 1900s), thus hoping to incorporate the nationalist march into the ‘Presidential’ one.&nbsp;</p><p>The main organizers of the march were two movements, The All Polish Youth (MW) and National Radical Camp (ONR), and one political party, The National Movement (RN). It was also supported by a vast number of other radical right groups. Interestingly enough, the march also had an international aspect, as it gathered nationalist parties and groups from all over Europe, including Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Serbia, and Croatia.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>An alien among the nationalists: imagining a symbolic community</strong></h2><p>Although seeing groups of skinheads and football hooligans chanting around the venue portended trouble, there were no major incidents. In fact, Rondo Dmowskiego on 11 November was an apt example of what Czeslaw Milosz, Polish writer and Nobel Prize Laureate, once called ‘the gratification of collective warmth’ – a sea of Polish flags, and the endless repetition of the national anthem (Dabrowski’s Mazurka, written during the Napoleon wars).&nbsp;</p><p>Peculiarly, armbands commemorating The Home Army of 1944 (the Polish resistance movement), were worn by both skinheads and small children brought to the march by their parents. What remains remarkable are the organizational capacities; the official rules of the march forbade the use of alcohol, as well as antisemitic or xenophobic messages. Seldom violated, the Polish radical right showed noteworthy command of the situation if they were, excluding those intoxicated from the main marching groups.&nbsp;</p><p>Memorabilia of the ghastly interwar fascist movements could be purchased by interested supporters at the ‘Patriotic Stands’, which also invited an opportunity for researchers and journalists to approach the organizers. Taking part in the march as an ‘outsider’ allowed me to capture some of the almost tribal moments within the groups. Specific handshakes, sharing food, money, but perhaps most importantly, companionship in the feeling of a generalised distrust, was of utmost importance if we wish to understand the gratification and affection one obtains as someone belonging to these groups. Seeing the tired, yet steadfast youngsters in Falanga hoodies or ‘Defend Europe’ t-shirts saying goodbye to one another after the march, reminded me of the insights of Arendt and Bauman into just how banal and mundane such potentially dangerous encounters may look. Deliberately ignoring these more nuanced observations and stories, even in the name of a greater good, means painting a picture that looks quite different.&nbsp;</p><p>There are at least two important implications arising from the picture I saw. The first is quantitative: the event gathered more than 200,000 attendees, which is the absolute record. The second points to a more substantial concern: seeing Polish families and small children side by side with extremists signalled the mainstreaming of the radical right. Right-wing President Duda’s move to ‘unite the Nation’ by merging the marches only underscored the fact that the two sides, if not of the same coin, certainly belong to the same currency. The leading populist Law and Justice (PiS) party, as the mainstream manifestation of the radical right, is proving successful in absorbing most of these voters.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Is there a lesson to be learned?</strong></h2><p>Nevertheless, it is important not to overstate the influence of the radical right in Poland. Albeit its record numbers, the march should be seen rather as an annual spark than confirmation of the overall popularity of the radical right. Nationalists, particularly those who can be considered extreme, are not very likely to gain electoral support in the country; for example, RN has only one representative in the Polish Lower House, or Sejm (out of 460). The Polish far-right lacks well-developed political strategies for the upcoming EU Parliament elections.&nbsp;</p><p>Despite their redoubtable organizational capabilities, radical right parties remain hesitant to cooperate.&nbsp;</p><p>Nonetheless, this does not mean that such actors are not worth talking to, especially in a country which is considered a stronghold of Catholic nationalism (more than 85% of Poles are Roman Catholics). While the line is always to be drawn, the radical right plays, even if on the fringe, on those empty spaces that our liberal democracies have left behind. Through grassroots activism and contact with the ‘ordinary’ people, they create space to embellish the national memory with references to the pride of the imagined community. After all, when MW or ONR organize a charity event in a village far away from the eyes of decision-makers, the content of their propaganda remains secondary to those who received their help.&nbsp;</p><p>Lifting the ban on the march has only gone to prove that, despite the intention to keep radical right ideas away from contemporary politics, being aware of the historical and political context means that forbidding such messages ultimately proves counter-productive.&nbsp;</p><p>Moreover, it gives leeway to the ruling party to voice such views in a slightly qualified manner, effectively normalizing these messages. The radical right in Poland or elsewhere, has not much to contribute to policy nuances, but remains an important ‘pressure group’ for its ability to sway the public debate in a certain direction.&nbsp;</p><p>Therefore, inviting such actors to the decision-making processes must be done with caution, but remains instrumental in exposing the shallow ground on which exclusionary, identitarian thought is based. If nothing else, direct encounters with both those who loudly voice and timidly support such arguments is not, as Hemon subtly argues, to endorse them, but a move that merits understanding when our own visions and practices of democracy fail.</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/tickers-of-terror-crisis-of-polish-media-as-told-by-news-crawls">&quot;Tickers of terror&quot; – the crisis of Polish media as told by news crawls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/dan-davison/unsettling-denialism-in-poland-s-national-remembrance-law">The unsettling denialism in Poland’s ‘National Remembrance’ Law</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-chmielewski/unsympathetic-people-and-overwhelming-success-of-polands-exclusi">Unsympathetic people: the overwhelming success of Poland&#039;s exclusionary agenda</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"> Poland </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> </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 Poland Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Balsa Lubarda Tue, 11 Dec 2018 11:10:28 +0000 Balsa Lubarda 120951 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Labour's Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/laurie-macfarlane/left-brexit-trilemma <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">The great irony of Brexit is that most outcomes will lead to a loss of sovereignty and democracy. But there is a route forward.</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-40157268.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-40157268.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks following PM's statement in the House of Commons deferring tomorrow's "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal. PARBUL/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>This week, MPs were due to vote on whether to endorse Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement. However, the vote was deferred in the face of fears that the deal would suffer a disastrous defeat and bring an end to Theresa May's tenure as Prime Minister. The decision may have bought Theresa May some time, but it has not quelled the mounting dissatisfaction over her deal and her leadership.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also a critical time for the Labour Party. Up until now Jeremy Corbyn’s team have played a careful balancing act – respecting the result of the referendum on the one hand, while making occasional gestures to those who want a second referendum on the other. But now it’s decision time: with the political calculus in parliament balanced on a knife-edge, the decisions taken by the Labour Party leadership over the coming weeks could have huge repercussions for the party, and for the country. </p> <p>There is no easy route forward. The European Union has long been a source of division on the Left, and the Brexit vote has brought these divisions to the fore. One of the reasons Brexit is so difficult is that it bundles together various complex issues – trade, regulation, migration, democracy, etc – into a single, binary choice. Many of the issues at stake are mutually exclusive, therefore arriving at a Leave/Remain position involves making a series of difficult trade-offs. By attaching slightly different weightings to different priorities, it is possible for two people who otherwise agree on most political issues to arrive at opposing views on the EU.</p> <p>A helpful framework for untangling these issues is Dani Rodrik’s <a href="https://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2007/06/the-inescapable.html">impossibility trilemma</a>. This states that democracy, national sovereignty and cross border economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full. In the context of Brexit, it means that we can do any two of the following: </p> <p>a)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Retain the benefits of economic integration that come via membership of the EU’s single market and customs union; </p> <p>b)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Reclaim national sovereignty by returning powers to the British parliament that currently lie with the European institutions; </p> <p>c)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Uphold democratic principles by ensuring that we have a say over all the laws we are subjected to. </p> <p>Theresa May’s plan partially achieves a) and b), while sacrificing c). Her strategy has been to retain some of the benefits of economic integration to avoid the damage resulting from a cliff edge, while reclaiming national sovereignty over certain key areas (immigration, agriculture, fisheries etc). However, the price of this strategy is that EU institutions will still have considerable influence over our laws and regulations.</p><p>The Labour Party’s position has become clearer over time. In a <a href="https://labour.org.uk/press/jeremy-corbyns-full-speech-scottish-labour-conference/">speech</a> delivered earlier this year, Jeremy Corbyn stated that Labour’s priorities were as follows:</p><p>–&nbsp;Negotiate a deal that gives full “tariff-free access” to the single market;</p><p>– Negotiate a new customs union with the EU, while ensuring that the UK has a say in future trade deals;</p><p>– Not accept any situation where the UK is subject to all EU rules and EU law, yet has no say in making those laws;</p><p>– Negotiate protections or exemptions from current rules and directives “where necessary” that push privatisation and public service competition or restrict the government’s ability to intervene to support domestic industry.</p> <p>The first two of these seek to keep the benefits of economic integration that come via the single market and customs union. The third is about maintaining democracy, while the fourth is about reclaiming national sovereignty. Labour is trying to have all three ends served at once. This is an internally contradictory position that falls foul of the Brexit trilemma, meaning that trade-offs will likely have to be made.</p> <p>Labour’s official line is that Theresa May should “step aside” and let a Labour government negotiate an improvement on her deal. While this might be a savvy political move, the chances of Labour being able to significantly improve on Theresa May’s deeply unsatisfactory deal are extremely slim – as the EU have already <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-46339684/brexit-this-is-the-only-deal-possible-says-juncker">made clear</a>. </p> <p>The EU’s red lines have been clear from the beginning, and there is little reason to expect any more concessions from Michel Barnier – particularly if the general strategy adopted is similar to that of Theresa May’s (i.e. attempt to retain some of the benefits of economic integration, while reclaiming national sovereignty over certain areas such as immigration and agriculture). In order to strike a deal along these lines, Labour would inevitably have to compromise on a number of their priorities, which would most likely involve accepting a situation where the UK will be subject to some EU rules and EU laws while having no say in making those laws, and accepting EU State Aid and competition directives.&nbsp;</p> <p>Importantly, it is not clear if such an approach would win the backing of parliament. Given the significant criticism that Theresa May’s deal has received, including from the Labour Party benches, it would be difficult for the Labour leadership to successfully sell anything that looks remotely like Theresa May’s deal. </p> <p>Some MPs have backed a so-called <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46490642">‘Norway plus’ option</a>, which would see the UK remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) and joining a customs union with the EU. However, with the exception of a car crash disorderly Brexit, this represents the worst of all worlds – sacrificing both democracy and national sovereignty in order to maintain the benefits of economic integration with the EU. It amounts to “all pay, no say” – accepting all EU laws and regulations while sacrificing any democratic say over them, while also contributing to EU budgets. </p><p>It is hard to imagine a world where our politicians and electorate – who voted for Brexit in order to “take back control” – would stomach such an outcome. In any case, Norwegian leaders have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/07/norwegian-politicians-reject-uks-norway-plus-brexit-plan">made it clear</a> that they would oppose Britain’s application to join such an arrangement. </p><p>This leaves two possible options which, on the face of it at least, do not involve a significant loss of democracy and sovereignty. Firstly, Labour could favour a harder Brexit which seeks to reclaim national sovereignty and take back control of our rules and laws, while sacrificing economic integration with the EU – and incurring whatever economic cost that might carry (hereafter referred to as the ‘Lexit’ option). This effectively combines options b) and c) in the list above, while sacrificing a).</p> <p>Secondly, Labour could favour a second referendum and campaign to remain in the EU, and seek to transform it from within – and incur whatever political cost this might&nbsp;carry (hereafter referred to as the ‘Remain’ option). This effectively combines options a) and c) in the list above, while sacrificing b). </p> <p>These are not black and white options – there is some room for nuance between them. But they represent two important strands of debate that are currently jostling to influence the Labour Party. As the ‘Lexit’ option represents a radical break with the status quo, it is important to consider its implications carefully, and assess these against the case for remaining in the EU. </p> <h2><strong>The case for Lexit</strong></h2> <p>The case for Lexit relies heavily on four key assumptions. The first is that EU membership places significant constraints on key levers of domestic policy that would prevent a left-wing government from implementing its agenda. The second assumption is that these constraints can only be escaped by leaving the EU (i.e. reform within the EU is impossible). The third assumption is that once outside the EU, the UK will be able to exert sovereignty over these areas of policy as an independent country. The fourth assumption is that the benefits of this will more than offset the economic and political costs of leaving the EU. In the following sections, each of these will be examined in turn.</p> <h3><em><strong>1. The constraints placed on domestic policy by EU membership</strong></em></h3> <p>Few would dispute that membership of the EU places constraints on domestic policy, or that some areas of these constraints are problematic. The Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, for example, are widely criticised across the political spectrum for being badly designed. </p> <p>For the Left, two of the most contentious areas are State Aid and competition policy, which have been the subject of intense debate. While <a href="http://www.renewal.org.uk/blog/kiss-goodbye-to-nationalisation-if-we-stay-in-the-single-market">some</a> argue that these rules would prevent a Labour government from being able to implement certain policies, such as taking industries into public ownership and intervening to support domestic industry, <a href="http://renewal.org.uk/blog/eu-law-is-no-barrier-to-labours-economic-programme">others</a> argue that these claims are highly exaggerated. As is often the case, both positions contain elements of truth. </p> <p>EU rules do not prohibit public ownership per se. Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) states that “This Treaty shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.” However, over time new liberalisation directives have required governments to open certain sectors to market competition, such as gas, electricity, postal services, telecommunications, and (more recently) railways. In these cases, public sector companies are allowed to exist, but must compete alongside private firms (or the public sector companies of other countries) in a market on a “level playing field”. </p> <p>Similarly, while EU rules do not prevent states from providing support to domestic industry, they do prevent forms of support that are likely to ‘distort’ market competition. Where states wish to provide support to firms, they must do so on a commercial basis (i.e. on the same terms and with the same risks and rewards that a commercial private investor or lender would invest or lend at). Importantly, however, there are a number of exemptions to this which do allow states to provide support to industry on a sub-commercial, or ‘promotional’, basis. </p> <p>The first of these is the ‘De Minimis Regulation’, which sets a threshold figure below which State Aid will not apply because it will be assumed that the aid will not distort competition. The current De Minimis threshold for aid granted to any one organisation is €200,000 – meaning that the European Commission does not need to be notified of any support that is below this limit.</p> <p>State Aid support is also permitted in areas that fall within the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). These are activities that have been exempted from State Aid rules due to certain social, development or environmental objectives, and include things like regional aid, support for SMEs and start-ups, support for environmental protection and aid for research and development. There are also exemptions for social services such as education and healthcare. </p> <p>For any interventions that do not fall within De Minimis limits or a block exemption regulation, states must provide the European Commission with an ex-ante analysis of the ‘market failure’ that is being addressed – which can be a difficult and laborious task.</p><p>Whether or not these rules are a barrier to Labour’s economic agenda depends on the scope of the Party’s aspirations. Labour’s 2017 manifesto was very much in the vein of moderate European social democracy. Nearly all of the flagship policies already exist in other northern European countries such as Germany and the Nordic countries, and it would be possible to implement most of these within the EU’s State Aid and competition regimes. The reason these policies have not been implemented in the UK so far is not because of any EU rules – it is because successive UK governments, including Labour governments, have been ideologically opposed to them. As the chart below shows, the UK has consistently <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/scoreboard/index_en.html">spent significantly less</a> on State Aid expenditure relative to other Northern European economies. </p> <p><em><strong>Total State Aid expenditure as a % of GDP in 2015</strong></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/563544/Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 23.40.52_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563544/Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 23.40.52_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="253" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: European Commission</span></span></span></p><p>However, while the EU’s State Aid and competition regime is relatively accommodating of social democracy, it is less accommodating of democratic socialism. At a basic level, the EU’s State Aid and competition regime is fundamentally rooted in the idea that goods and services are most efficiently produced by private firms operating in a competitive market, and that the state should only intervene in markets to ‘level the playing field’ or to correct certain identifiable market failures. </p><p>If Labour plans to mount a serious challenge to this logic, and move beyond the moderate social democracy implied by its 2017 manifesto, then it is likely that this would place a Labour government on a collision course with the EU’s State Aid and competition authorities.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Labour’s 2017 manifesto was very much in the vein of moderate European social democracy. Nearly all of the flagship policies already exist in other northern European countries such as Germany and the Nordic countries.</span></p><p>A final area of concern for many of the Left is around capital mobility. Some have argued – rightly in my view – that allowing capital to flow seamlessly across borders has imposed many costs on society while generating few benefits for ordinary people. As Grace Blakely explained in a <a href="https://novaramedia.com/2018/12/06/another-europe-is-unlikely-why-socialist-transformation-wont-happen-within-the-eu/">recent article</a>:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“Since the crisis, there has been a growing recognition amongst economists that capital inflows and outflows affect both the structure of the economy and the risk of financial crises. As such, capital controls are now recognised as an important macroprudential tool for promoting financial stability.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>However, because the free movement of capital is one of the “four freedoms” that is codified in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), introducing any controls on capital mobility would again probably place the government on a collision course with European authorities (although so far Labour has not expressed support for introducing capital controls).</p> <p>For the most part, however, the key source of division on the Left is not whether there are areas of EU policy that are problematic. Instead, the division is over what the best strategy for overcoming these problems should be.</p> <h3><strong><em>2. The impossibility of reform within the EU</em></strong></h3> <p>For Remainers, the best way to overcome the problems with the EU is not to leave it, but to reform it from within. For Lexiteers, the problem with this strategy is that the EU lacks the democratic structures to achieve meaningful reform: the European Commission is unelected, while the European Parliament lacks teeth. According to many Lexiteers, the entire architecture of the EU has been set up in such a way as to make it impervious to democratic pressures. The tragic events in Greece are often held up as an example of why a ‘remain and reform’ strategy is destined to fail.</p> <p>The lack of democracy across the EU institutions is certainly a legitimate cause for consternation, and the EU’s actions towards Greece deserve universal condemnation. But Greece is very different to the UK, in two key respects. The first is that Greece is a small peripheral state, whereas the UK is one of the most influential member states that is predicted to have <a href="https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm">the largest economy by the 2030s</a>. </p> <p>This is important, because the EU is not the rigid and uncompromising bureaucracy that it is often portrayed to be. In reality, it is a young and fluid institution that is constantly being remoulded and reformed around its internal power dynamics. EU laws and regulations are not permanent lines in the sand, but social constructions that are constantly being bent, broken, contested and revised over time ­– especially by the larger, more powerful states. </p> <p><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/angela-merkel-germany-breaks-more-eu-rules-worst-bottom-class-a8198271.html">Recent statistics</a> on enforcement actions against member states show that Germany is by far the biggest breaker of EU rules, and that the Germans have also been incredibly successful at shaping EU rules to suit its own interests. The UK has also been successful at influencing EU policy to suit its own interests, particularly in the areas of competition policy and financial services – two areas of EU policy now being cited by Lexiteers as evidence of why we need to leave. But we should not underestimate the UK's power to reshape EU policy in these areas once again.</p><p>The second reason why the UK is not like Greece is that the UK is not a member of the Eurozone. The importance of this cannot be emphasised enough. In the event of a confrontation between a country that uses the euro and the EU, the bargaining power will always be firmly in favour of the EU. This is because if push comes to shove, the European Central Bank can suffocate disobedient governments by letting bond vigilantes punish them on financial markets, and by failing to provide the banking sector with liquidity. This is why SYRIZA’s strategy failed in Greece, and it is also why the Italian government’s current confrontation with the European Commission will probably end in failure too.</p> <p>But this is not the case with the UK. The UK is one of the few countries in the world that is in the privileged position of having its own currency, its own central bank, a freely floating exchange rate, and the ability to borrow fully in its own currency. This means that the worst that could happen in the event of a confrontation with the EU would be a fine and diplomatic row. Similarly, while Eurozone countries face legal sanctions if they breach the deficit and debt limits contained within the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact, the UK is exempt from such sanctions.&nbsp;It is perhaps ironic that among all member states, the UK is the best placed to weather the consequences of non-compliance with EU policies and spearhead a campaign of ‘remain and reform’ – and yet it is the one state that has unilaterally decided to leave. <span class="mag-quote-center">It is perhaps ironic that among all member states, the UK is the best placed to weather the consequences of non-compliance with EU policies and spearhead a campaign of ‘remain and reform’ – and yet it is the one state that has unilaterally decided to leave.</span></p> <p>The story is similar with regard to capital controls: while it is true that the free movement of capital is a fundamental principle codified in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), again the picture is more nuanced. The TFEU states that non-euro countries can “take the necessary protective measures” including introducing capital controls, for example if a sudden balance of payments crisis occurs. Iceland, which is not a member of the EU but is a member of the European Economic Area, imposed capital controls in 2008 and kept them in place for nearly 10 years. </p> <p>Eurozone countries do not have such legal leeway on capital controls. However, in practice two Eurozone countries ­– Greece and Cyprus – have imposed capital controls in contravention of European treaties, again highlighting how EU rules are often bent and broken.</p> <p>This highlights a wider point, which is that many arguments for Lexit are often rooted in a critique of the Eurozone. Often these critiques, such as that offered by Costas Lapavitsas in his recent book <a href="http://politybooks.com/author-books/?authid=Costas%20Lapavitsas">‘The Left Case Against the EU’</a>, are clear and convincing. But many of these arguments do not apply to the UK, and therefore they do not amount to an argument for Brexit. </p> <p>To make a convincing case for Brexit, it is also necessary to substantiate the third and fourth assumptions – that the UK will be able to exert sovereignty over new areas of policy as an independent country, and that the benefits of this will more than offset the economic costs of leaving. This is where we turn next. </p> <h3><em><strong>3. The UK’s ability to exert sovereignty in key policy areas as an independent country</strong></em></h3> <p>The EU has made it clear that alignment on issues such as State Aid is a red line for any free trade agreement with the UK after Brexit. Were the UK to enter into a free trade agreement with the EU, there would be very little wiggle room to bend or break these rules. As a third party, the European Commission would enforce strict compliance, and terminate the agreement if the UK tried to deviate from them. The UK’s bargaining power would be extremely weak. </p> <p>Lexit therefore demands a hard form of Brexit, where post-Brexit arrangements with the EU are kept to a bare minimum. Any softer form of Brexit would mean that the UK government would not have control over the various policy levers that the case for Lexit relies on. Under such a scenario, the UK would have more flexibility over areas such as State Aid, although it would still be bound by WTO rules, which are narrower in scope compared with EU state aid rules. It would also be able to introduce capital controls if an elected government so wished. </p> <p>However, a Labour government would also find that it has less sovereignty over some areas of policy than it had before. As others have <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/05/brexit-lexit-remain-eurozone-membership-labour">pointed out</a>, in a world where production takes place through global networks and intra-industry trade dominates, so-called ‘non-tariff barriers’ such as regulatory standards play an incredibly important role in everything from the medicines we take, the food we consume and the safety of the flights we board. </p> <p>It is here where the EU’s key power lies. As Sir Ivan Rogers has <a href="https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/blog-sir-ivan-rogers-speech-text-in-full/">pointed out</a>: </p> <blockquote><p><em>“The correct way to think of the EU in economic terms is as a “regulatory union”, with the appetite and ability to extend its rules extraterritorially: the so-called Brussels effect. The EU is a superpower in no other respect. But in this critical one, it is. And the idea that, on its own, the UK, can compete with massive regional trading blocs – the EU, the US, China – as a standard setter, on industrial goods to data, is an illusion.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>As Anthony Barnett has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">noted</a>, there is no way out of the EU’s regulated space for the UK. Even in a Lexit scenario, the UK would have to comply with European regulations and standards if it wants to maintain and expand its global production chains, but will have no say over these rules. For the same reasons, after Brexit the UK will be less able to hold multinational corporations to account compared with being inside the EU. An independent UK is simply not a large enough economic power to exert influence on large foreign-owned corporations. This is why Mark Zuckerberg agreed to appear before the European Parliament, but didn’t bother to respond to the invitation from the UK parliament. </p> <p>An independent UK – socialist or not ­– cannot fully insulate itself from the forces of global capital. The left-wing belief that it can shares a common trait with the right-wing fantasy that Brexit will create the conditions for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/08/empire-fantasy-fuelling-tory-divisions-on-brexit">“Empire 2.0”</a> – both are rooted in a failure to come to terms with the UK’s rapidly diminishing power in the world. When it comes to regulating these forces, the reality is that an independent UK will be reduced to a “rule taker” that has to abide by decisions taken by the EU, China and the USA. So while Lexit might enhance national sovereignty over some policy areas, it will also reduce the amount of influence that the UK has over other policy areas. <span class="mag-quote-center">The reality is that an independent UK will be reduced to a “rule taker” that has to abide by decisions taken by the EU, China and the USA. </span></p><h3><em><strong>4. The economic and political costs of leaving the EU</strong></em></h3> <p>Even if all of the above assumptions are met, a Lexit can only be justified if the expected benefits exceed the economic and political costs of leaving the EU. Because by definition a Lexit must resemble a hard Brexit, these costs will be high. There are broadly four issues of importance here. </p> <p>The first relates to jobs and trade. Leaving the single market and the customs union without any replacement trade agreement will cause severe disruption to trade and supply chains. In recent weeks, a plethora of analyses have been published which have attempted to estimate the economic impact of different Brexit scenarios. According to the Bank of England’s <a href="https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/report/2018/eu-withdrawal-scenarios-and-monetary-and-financial-stability.pdf?la=en&amp;hash=B5F6EDCDF90DCC10286FC0BC599D94CAB8735DFB">“disruptive scenario”</a>, where tariffs and other barriers to trade between the UK and EU are introduced and no new trade deals are implemented within a five year period, GDP could fall by 8% relative to the path the economy was on prior to the EU referendum, unemployment could spike to 6% and inflation could rise to 4%. </p> <p>According to the Government’s <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/760484/28_November_EU_Exit_-_Long-term_economic_analysis__1_.pdf">own analysis</a>, a no deal scenario could see GDP fall by 9% compared to today’s arrangements ­– with the main hit coming from the impact of customs costs, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Similar estimations were arrived at by the independent <a href="https://www.niesr.ac.uk/sites/default/files/publications/NIESR%20Report%20Brexit%20-%202018-11-26.pdf">National Institute of Economic and Social Research</a> (NIESR). </p> <p>While it is right to treat the specific figures contained in these assessments with a degree of scepticism, it would be foolish to ignore their overall message. Moreover, while GDP is far from everything ­– particularly in a country where GDP growth has become decoupled from most people’s earnings – history shows that it is often the poorest who suffer the most from such severe economic shocks. </p> <p>Of course, the ultimate impact of any Brexit deal will depend on how the government decides to respond. In the face of a hard Brexit, it is likely that the government would respond with a programme of fiscal stimulus to offset the loss of demand. But replacing loss of access to continental supply chains and demand from European consumers is not something that can be achieved overnight. Even with an active fiscal response from government, it is likely that a Lexit would involve a painful adjustment process that will hit some parts of the country particularly hard, in the short to medium term at least. Such an outcome would be difficult to reconcile with the <a href="https://labourlist.org/2018/11/corbyn-sets-out-labours-plans-for-a-jobs-first-brexit/">“jobs first Brexit”</a> that Labour has promised the country. </p> <p>It is also worth considering the potential impact of this on Labour’s electoral fortunes. If Labour did manage to win a general election, there is a risk that the party would assume power during this painful adjustment process. Life was never going to be made easy for an incoming government led by Jeremy Corbyn, even if it were to happen under the most buoyant economic circumstances. But if this was to happen during the fallout of a hard Brexit, there is a significant risk that Labour’s plans for economic transformation would be derailed by short-term firefighting. </p> <p>Regardless of the extent to which a Labour government could be held responsible for the economic turmoil brought about by a hard Brexit, the electorate are unlikely to thank them for it if they are the party in power when the going gets tough.</p> <p>The second issue relates to immigration. While it would be wrong to suggest that everyone who voted to Leave the EU did so because of concerns around immigration, it is clear that anti-immigrant sentiment played a key role in fuelling the Brexit vote. Since the referendum took place, hate crimes have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/16/hate-crime-brexit-terrorist-attacks-england-wales">surged</a>, and many migrant communities have been made to <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-migration-uk-brexit-referendum-latest-net-fall-figures-why-racism-hate-crime-brexodus-government-a7911196.html">feel unwelcome</a>. The risk that a hard Brexit may exacerbate these trends – and help fuel a resurgent far right – must be taken seriously. It is also likely that a hard Brexit will lead to lower levels of overall immigration, even in the unlikely event that a Labour government does not introduce new controls on inward migration. There is already evidence that the UK has become a less attractive destination for migrants. Since migrants are a significant net positive to the economy, this will also impose a significant economic cost. <span class="mag-quote-center">Since migrants are a significant net positive to the economy, this will also impose a significant economic cost.</span></p> <p>Many on the Left are highly critical of the EU’s “fortress Europe” approach to its external borders. However, leaving the EU does nothing to address this, but will only guarantee that the UK has no power to influence the creation of a more humane European border regime in future.</p> <p>The third area relates to domestic political forces. In order to get the type of hard Brexit required by Lexit through parliament, Labour would very likely need to ally with right-wing Brexiteers, who have their own plan for Brexit. This involves radical re-shaping of the UK economy along free-market lines by dismantling labour and environmental standards, opening up the NHS to global competition, and entering into a comprehensive trade deal with the USA – the conditions of which would make EU membership look like a socialist paradise. This would represent a colossal defeat for the Left, and the risk of this outcome materialising – however small it may be – should be taken very seriously indeed. </p> <p>Finally, there are geopolitical factors. The most significant of these relates to the prospect of a hard border on the island of Ireland, which many experts believe would pose a significant risk to the peace process won through the Good Friday Agreement. It is therefore incumbent on Lexiteers to provide a convincing solution for how a hard border can be avoided under a hard Brexit scenario (I have yet to hear one), or acknowledge that a hard border would be erected – and explain why that would be a price worth paying. There are also other geopolitical considerations that ought to be considered, such as the possibility that a hard Brexit may increase support for Scottish independence and accelerate the break-up of the United Kingdom.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">In order to get the type of hard Brexit required by Lexit through parliament, Labour would very likely need to ally with right-wing Brexiteers, who have their own plan for Brexit. </span></p><h2><strong>Conclusion: towards the least bad outcome</strong></h2> <p>From the very beginning, Brexit has been a process of weighing up a set of deeply unsatisfactory outcomes. The case for Lexit was predicated on being able to regain control over economic levers such as State Aid, competition policy and capital controls. However, doing so would involve sacrificing control over other areas of policy, while generating significant costs and risks. Moreover, given that the UK is not a member of the Eurozone, these levers could be utilised by a Labour government while in the EU – provided that there is the political will to do so. While this would also generate costs and risks, they would not be as high as those associated with a hard Brexit. </p> <p>As a democrat, the idea of a second referendum is deeply uncomfortable. It would certainly be preferable to have a general election first. But given how shambolically the Brexit process has been managed from the very beginning, giving the electorate another say is not as unreasonable as it might otherwise have been. In any case, it is difficult to see another way out of the political deadlock if a general election is not forthcoming, as seems likely.</p><p>While concerns are legitimate that a second referendum would undermine faith in democracy, they are somewhat alleviated by the fact that demographic trends are so firmly in favour of staying in the EU. It has been&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/2994afe4-43b0-3763-a80c-92351473496f">estimated</a>&nbsp;that if nothing else changed from the 2016 referendum, Remain would have a majority by 2021, and this would increase steadily thereafter. So even if we leave the EU, we may well end up applying to get back in very soon, albeit on much worse terms than the current status quo.</p><p>Perhaps the biggest problem with a second referendum lies with the people who are campaigning for it on our airwaves. The likes of Alastair Campbell, Andrew Adonis and A.C. Grayling appear to have learnt nothing from the disastrous Remain campaign of 2016, and seem determined to simply rewind the clock back to 2016. In many ways, they epitomise what many people were voting against when they voted for Brexit. In this sense they are liabilities to the cause, rather than assets. If the campaign for a second referendum is to be successful, it must be made absolutely clear that the status quo is not an option. Critically, it must be led by figureheads who can clearly articulate the need for radical change – and who have the backing of the Labour leadership, as well as the SNP, Greens, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">From the very beginning, Brexit has been a process of weighing up a set of deeply unsatisfactory outcomes. </span></p> <p>One silver lining from the Brexit debacle is that the Tories have been exposed as deeply divided and hopelessly incompetent. If Labour can successfully exploit these divisions, there is a very real opportunity to put the Tories out of power for a generation. Although it would need careful planning, such a strategy could involve painting the Brexit impasse as a crisis engineered by the Tories, highlighting that the only way out of the deadlock is to have another referendum, and then campaigning in the referendum on a radical platform of ‘remain and reform’. With the Tories weakened by internal division and political crises, and Labour’s grass roots membership firmly in favour of Remain, the party would be in a strong position to win the referendum – and ultimately the next general election. As Paul Mason has <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/11/how-labour-can-use-brexit-fatally-divide-right">written</a>:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“But the prize is not simply a general election. It is an election in which your opponent, the Tory party, has fallen apart. That would deliver a solid Labour majority and create the possibility of a landslide for the progressive parties in parliament, which could bury free market cruelty forever and bring institutional democratic change to the UK.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Such a strategy is not without its risks. But for me at least, it’s the best route to arriving at the least bad outcome, in what is a deeply unsatisfactory state of affairs.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div 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"> Economics </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? uk EU UK Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Laurie Macfarlane Tue, 11 Dec 2018 08:18:25 +0000 Laurie Macfarlane 120941 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remainers must change their tune https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/remainers-must-change-their-tune <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For Remainers to win a People's Vote, they need to make a positive case</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ImageVaultHandler.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ImageVaultHandler.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Parliament.uk</span></span></span></p> <p>Theresa May has postponed the parliamentary vote on her Withdrawal Agreement but it cannot be put off indefinitely. There is only one sure-fire way for it to get through the House of Commons and that is with an amendment that it must be also ratified by voters in a referendum, or the country will stay in the EU. This would achieve three things. It would allow the Commons to sweep aside the call for a Trump-style ‘No deal’. It would accept, if through gritted teeth, that May’s negotiations define what Brexit means. It would give voters the ability to pass their verdict on it. </p> <p class="AB">Instead, she has just told parliament that another referendum “will divide the country”, as if her agreement with its commitment to a long process of further negotiation will not do so. She is right, of course, that referendums are divisive and there is nothing wrong with that if they are based on honest arguments. Then, as in Scotland in 2014, they will gain losers consent. What was poisonous about the UK’s wretched plebiscite of 2016 was its contrived and dishonest nature, on all sides.</p> <p class="AB">That does not mean a new one will necessarily be better. The Daily Mail Survation poll shows 48% want a Peoples Vote while 34% oppose it. But 47% say staying in the EU would damage Britain’s standing. Only 24% disagree with this and overall, 52%, the same proportion that voted for Brexit in 2016, think May’s is the best deal on offer. </p> <p class="AB">There are other polls showing a significant switch to Remain, such as <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/b4b/pages/857/attachments/original/1543940050/MRP3_red_online.pdf?1543940050">today’s analysis</a> by Best for Britain and Hope not Hate. But the New Statesman’s political editor Stephen Bush has, rightly, just warned pro-Europeans of the need “to overcome decades of unchallenged cultural Euroscepticism and a largely hostile press. Don't forget that the biggest and most widely shared content&nbsp;on Facebook in the last referendum wasn't anything devised by Cambridge Analytica but the&nbsp;Daily Express… it is not at all clear how that cultural opposition to British membership of the European project can be overcome.’ And he concludes more emphatically to predict that any new referendum will confirm a Brexit supremacy, “until those things change, pro-European victories in Britain will continue to be confined to the courts”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="AB">His point is well made and must be confronted. Given this, I have a message for the Remain side, which I support. We have to change our tune. The dire Europhobia Bush warns against is already being eroded, led by young campaigners against Brexit and Caroline Lucas in parliament, but much more is needed. </p> <p class="AB">For example, many People’s Vote supporters now gleefully parrot the argument made by hard Brexiteers that the Withdrawal Agreement is “worse” than being in the EU. But this accepts the premise that being a member is bad in the first place. Were we to win a referendum having branded the outcome in advance as a form of national loss in this way, resentment is bound to follow, but it also makes it much more likely that we will lose. </p> <p class="AB">It reproduces the approach David Cameron took when he launched the referendum in the first place, that blew him out the water. He decided he had to appeal to voters’ “heads not hearts”, as if these can’t be in unison. As the then prime minister’s spin doctor, Craig Oliver, revealed in his inside account, Cameron defined the choice as a matter of calculation not principle. He reinforced the country’s dislike of the EU and said we were in it to make a profit.</p> <p class="AB">The referendum was in part a great democratic moment that rightly rejected this way of thinking about ourselves. We should not be talking about whether voters should “buy” May’s deal. Napoleon was wrong. England is not a country of shopkeepers. The de facto alliance of Cameron Conservatives and New Labour leaders, aided by Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, deserved to be shown the door. Together they had become a narrow, unrepresentative political caste who made money out of gaining public office. </p> <p class="AB">But the European Union was not responsible for their baleful, grasping influence on Britain. </p> <p class="AB">Our membership of the EU, outside of the Eurozone, was good for Britain as a country, including our democracy. But those of us who advocate a return to it must make it clear we will brook no reprise of the old manipulating elite. </p> <p class="AB">Whatever you think of them, at least May and Corbyn have distinguished themselves by their rejection of the fast boys of 21st century Westminster politics. They both share an honourable commitment to public service. Neither are in it for the money and each resist rule by American corporate interests, although Corbyn of course is a genuine opponent.&nbsp; </p> <p class="AB">However, too many supporters of a People’s Vote have failed to make the same break from the recent past. They still bang-on exclusively about the economic self-harm of leaving the EU, using corporate language. They threaten a return to pre-referendum Britain. This hands Leave campaigners, including even those who want a hard-Brexit, an inestimable and undeserved advantage: of being the ones to make positive arguments, especially on democracy and ‘taking control’. It also gives them an easy path to accuse Remain supporters of failing to love their country.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">Carry on like this and Bush will be proved right in any future referendum. The Remain side must advocate its own positive and honest version of democracy and sovereignty. Otherwise it doesn’t have the right to call for a People’s Vote and doesn’t deserve to win one. Two defining issues can help: regulation and nationalism. </p> <p class="AB">Boris Johnson has made his career out of denouncing regulation. The most popular advocate of a hard Brexit, he compares the EU to a “Hitler-style super state” and calls May’s Agreement an “appalling sell-out”. His evidence for the latter is that British citizens in Northern Ireland will have to “obey EU rules on everything from lawnmower noise to the description of preserved sardines”. Well, Britain did not fight Hitler because he threatened to impose quieter lawnmowers or ensure packaging is honest. Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers commit a fundamental error when they claim regulation is an extension of classical sovereignty, as if rules about food safety are the same as matters of war and peace. </p> <p class="AB">Over the last half-century, regulation has become a new branch of government alongside executive power, the legislature and the judiciary. For example, rules about data privacy and the exchange of data are a vital part of modern life that require international adjudication. People understand this from their own experience, which is why EU regulation, especially on the environment and food and medicines, is popular.</p> <p class="AB">Indeed, as Theresa May has discovered, the UK can no more leave the single market, which is built on shared regulation, than leave the internet. It is not <em>impossible</em>. But it is hugely expensive, diminishes our freedom and does not restore ‘national sovereignty’. Membership of the Single Market that Britain played a vital role in creating is a gain in terms of modern sovereignty not a loss. Yet many on the Remain side are still reluctant to make this case with confidence and panache.</p> <p class="AB">Perhaps a shared longing for Britain as a world leader prevents this. It stretches back not so much to ‘Empire’ as to the effort (and failure) to create a ‘British nation’ after 1945, analysed by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nick-pearce/peculiarly-british-nationalism-book-review">David Edgerton</a>. As a consequence an unresolved national question is locked within the UK, whose compulsions led to Brexit.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">This brings us back to Stephen Bush’s scepticism that a new referendum would achieve a different outcome. For should there be a new vote we can be certain of one set of results. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London, which had Remain majorities of 24, 12 and 20 per cent respectively, will vote in even larger numbers for EU membership. While recent <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/b4b/pages/857/attachments/original/1543940050/MRP3_red_online.pdf?1543940050">polling</a> shows that Wales, which supported Brexit by only 80,000 (it has a population of 3 million) in 2016 has definitely changed its mind with 56% of voters now in support of Remain. </p> <p class="AB">Brexit happened because of a country we can call England-without-London. Its 46 million inhabitants backed Leave by an 11 per cent majority. It is not clear that, apart from those under 30, it has shifted away decisively from its hostility to the EU. This is the land of the Daily Express followers that Bush refers to: the land of old England.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">Another referendum will therefore divide old England-without-London from the UK as a whole. Uneasily aware of this, some Remain supporters speak disparagingly about a narrow English nationalism. In fact, England suffers an acute and peculiar democratic deficit as a historic nation, as it has no parliament, assembly or even think tanks or other institutions, whether business, trade union or civil society, that embody its national interest and concerns. Instead, our natural desire to be represented has been sucked into an anachronistic passion for Great Britain. On the right this leads to hostility to the EU, stretching from the nose-holding instrumental kind of David Cameron to varieties of bigoted, free-market Anglo-exceptionalism of Farage, Johnson and Rees Mogg. On the left, to a blurred internationalism and desire for progressive global influence.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">The contrast with Scotland is striking. Its first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, passionately supports both national independence and membership of the EU. Like most Scots she does not experience them as opposites. Her country and Ireland have moved ahead of England in this, and become normal democracies at ease within the European single market. For democratic nationalism today is cosmopolitan – it is about joining the world and bridging differences, not belligerence and creating divisions. </p> <p class="AB">As I have tried to show the issue here is more about democracy than identity. Democracy needs institutions that demonstrate its essential plurality. It is now essential to offer England-without-London a route into the contemporary world if Britain is to find its home in Europe. One inspired, for example, by the spirit of Gareth Southgate’s football team, which is a model for young England: open, diverse and hard-working; its creative energy at home in the larger continent of Europe just as the whole of Britain needs to be. </p><p class="AB">Remain supporters need a leadership that promises no return to the past and helps young England find its voice. Otherwise we will not overcome the cockeyed Great British notion that freedom, true sovereignty and self-determination mean hauling up the drawbridge and being oneself alone, and the incipient civil war will deepen. </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/anthony-barnett/brexit-torpedoed-jo-johnson-boris-johnson">Brexit (and Boris) torpedoed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal">Trump or Brussels: Brexit and the art of &#039;No deal&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england">Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Brexit Anthony Barnett Mon, 10 Dec 2018 18:47:18 +0000 Anthony Barnett 120942 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom's crisis in democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-lawson/brexit-citizens-assembly-rising-to-crisis-in-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On Brexit, as with every other big issue, the future will be negotiated not imposed.</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/Screenshot 2018-12-09 at 20.27.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-09 at 20.27.13.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot from Poltergeist, by Stephen Spielberg. Youtube.</span></span></span>Brexit, a crisis of economy, culture, identity, belonging – a crisis of the past, the present and the future, now becomes a constitutional crisis. It’s not just that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have gamed the system for their own personal and political ends – it is the system. </p> <p>Brexit was weaponised from the get go by both sides keen to go to war and win the spoils – no matter the collateral damage to our political culture and society. All that mattered was beating the other side. It’s the only thing that matters in our adversarial, winner takes all, tribal system and it is killing our politics. <span class="mag-quote-center">More than anything, the crisis it took Brexit to finally surface is revealed as a crisis of democracy. </span></p> <p>More than anything, the crisis it took Brexit to finally surface is revealed as a crisis of democracy. Over decades our politicians have refused to heed the signs of this democratic decline. Instead of managing the tricky tensions, paradoxes and compromises of a complex twenty-first century society, our democratic system marginalized and humiliated so many people, for so long, that on that fateful day of June 23, 2016, they took their revenge. People who have been overlooked, left dispirited, desperate and angry, when presented with the voting equivalent of a ‘Break in Case of Emergency’ moment, did exactly that. We now live in the shattered slivers of that climatic moment.</p> <p>This is the soil in which barbarism festers. Look around, whether it’s Brexit, Macron or the rise of the far right across the globe – it is to the streets and to the demagogues people are tuning – when democracy doesn’t work. It’s a rational choice. Yesterday the <em>Sunday Times</em> produced a YouGov poll in which 48 percent think politics is broken and only 11 per cent think politics is working well. </p><h2><strong>Wasting our time</strong></h2> <p>The ensuing two and half years since the vote have been the most phenomenal waste of time in British politics. The people said stop, listen and change. There was then the briefest of interludes when some politicians and corporate leaders feigned some interest – but it didn’t last long.&nbsp; </p> <p>A few politicians have decided to dig deep. Not least Lisa Nandy through her Centre for Towns. And when Caroline Lucas says she wants to remain and reform, you feel she means it. </p> <p>But no senior politician has responded even remotely adequately to the demand for change – either here or in the EU. How can the UK and the EU be transformed given that seismic vote? We didn’t know then and we don’t know now. </p> <p>Instead the drumbeat grows for a second referendum, or now the possibility of revoking Article 50, before anyone understands the reasons why the first one went the way it did. It’s as if the rewind button can be hit and everything goes back to ‘normal’. Making out like it never happened. Making out like these people never happened. </p> <p>At best patronise them and tell them that staying in is ‘what’s best for them’. Call it a People’s Vote to trick them into believing it’s not what it really is – a second referendum. A second referendum might be the best response, but unless it’s handled really carefully it will blow up in all our faces. &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>What should happen?</strong></h2> <p>If the Parliamentary outcome is a stalemate – no majority for anything – just stasis, what should happen next that starts to solve not just Brexit but the democratic crisis that caused Brexit? </p> <p>-&nbsp; First, we all have to accept there is no quick fix or easy way out, there will be pain and compromise for everyone – the most powerful should bear the most. </p> <p>-&nbsp; Second, the only way out of this mess has to be more democratic than the way in. </p> <p>-&nbsp; And third, if Parliament can’t fix this then the people must. But that doesn’t mean jumping straight to a second referendum that is almost bound to be more toxic than the first. Instead parliament should convene what is called a citizens assembly. </p> <p>This robustly constituted assembly of up to 500 citizens, representing every corner of the country, fairly and accurately, would be given the task of sorting the Brexit impasse. The methodology is tried and tested and it works. Presented with evidence and experts and given time to discuss and debate all the complexities – citizens, freed from Party blinkers, can come up with sensible solutions to the most complex and pressing problems. It worked recently in Ireland on the divisive issue of abortion and united the country precisely because the process was fair and transparent. <span class="mag-quote-center">Given time to discuss and debate all the complexities – citizens, freed from Party blinkers, can come up with sensible solutions to the most complex and pressing problems. </span></p><p>The remit for the Brexit Citizens Assembly would be to decide between no deal, a deal or a second referendum? The assembly would take a few months to deliberate and decide, meaning Article 50 would need to be temporarily delayed.&nbsp; And while Parliament cannot be bound by any external body, the moral and political pressure to abide by the decisions of the Assembly would be irresistibly strong. If Parliament cannot decide, then this is possibly the only way to start to reunite our fractured nation.</p> <p>And in the process it would demonstrate just one way in which our broken democratic system could be fixed: showing how citizens assemblies should be at least part of a new twenty-first century democratic settlement for the UK.&nbsp; </p> <p>For instance, Brexit would never have happened if we had a proportional voting system because all of that grievance would have found its voice long ago, and not been smothered by a voting system that only listens to and rewards a few swing voters in a few swing seats. &nbsp;Indeed the assembly approach could then be allied to the kind of deeper economic and social reconciliation being advocated by Gordon Brown in his recent proposal, ("To calm the Brexit storm, we must listen to the UK’s views again",<em> </em><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/c64decca-ea05-11e8-885c-e64da4c0f981">FT,16 November</a>)<em>.</em> </p> <h2><strong>Healing the schism</strong></h2> <p>We live in an ever more complex society, in which people are finding their voices in good and not so good ways through social media. It means our old democratic system is becoming dangerously out of step with people’s lived experiences. On Brexit, as with every other big issue, the future will be negotiated not imposed. In his brilliant book <em>On Dialogue</em> the late David Bohm made the crucial insight that only when you understand other people’s assumptions can meaningful dialogue begin. A Citizens Assembly would also provide the space for consideration, evidence, debate, negotiation, empathy and humility – everything that our current democracy denies. </p> <p>In Stephen Spielberg’s horror movie <em>Poltergeist</em>, the problem is that the family house has been built on a native old burial ground – but instead of clearing the bodies, the cheapskate developers simply top-skimmed the grave-stones – and carnage ensued. Here is a Hollywood metaphor for Brexit and with it the crisis of democracy – run Project Fear on stilts, demand only a No Deal cliff jump, keep pounding the other side until they give up and sit back and enjoy your moment of self-righteousness. And watch the crisis deepen. </p> <p>When what we need is to dig deep in the soil of a much richer democracy.&nbsp; Whether Brexit happens or not – the schism in the country has to be healed. Democracy is the only glue we have to bind us together. But it has to be a new democracy. We can start now. </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>Neal Lawson is Chair of Compass and was Editor of the <a href="https://www.compassonline.org.uk/new-publication-the-causes-and-cures-of-brexit/">Causes and Cures for Brexit</a> and a spokesperson for the Progressive Alliance. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-walsh/dangers-of-push-button-brexit">The dangers of a push-button Brexit </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">An interesting Brexit experiment worthy of analysis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-two">A People’s Vote won’t heal Brexit divisions – we need a People’s Debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/richard-s-forsyth/peoples-vote-without-referendum"> A People&#039;s Vote without a referendum</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Internet Brexit Neal Lawson Sun, 09 Dec 2018 20:45:05 +0000 Neal Lawson 120923 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 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70 https://www.opendemocracy.net/n-jayaram/universal-declaration-of-human-rights-at-70 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Heed Monday’s anniversary, for talk of rights is increasingly becoming hazardous to health in vast parts of the globe</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/Screenshot 2018-12-08 at 19.17.01.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-08 at 19.17.01.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: 'I Daniel Blake' - official UK trailer(HD).YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p>In mid-November, a spectacle little noticed by much of world media unfolded in one of the most affluent countries and one which, not only in jest,<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> claims to have “invented human rights”<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>.</p> <p>Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> gave a public dressing down to Britain. Its authorities were ignoring the impact of “austerity policies” on the poor, he said, noting: “Changes to taxes and benefits have taken the highest toll on those least able to bear it.”</p> <p>Whether Alston had seen Ken Loach’s brilliant film, <em>I, Daniel Blake</em>,<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a> or not might be moot. But in a devastating observation that reminds one of the “digital divide” it subtly illustrated, he said: “The government’s embrace of digital technology and automation was especially visible in universal credit, where the digital-by-default approach excluded people with no internet access or skills.”<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a></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/Screenshot 2018-12-08 at 19.21.54.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-08 at 19.21.54.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: 'I Daniel Blake' - official UK trailer(HD).YouTube.</span></span></span>This applies not only to Britain. </p><p>“Alston’s report follows similar audits of extreme poverty in China, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Mauritania and the US. Donald Trump’s White House administration launched a furious response after the US was accused of pursuing policies that deliberately forced millions of Americans into financial ruin while lavishing vast riches on the super-wealthy,” as a comment in <em>The Guardian</em> astutely noted.<a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a></p> <p>At a time when most governments are trampling on not only vast tracts of lands, forests and mountains belonging to peoples who’ve lived on them for centuries or millennia and selling them off to corporate moneybags and when many illiterate, ill-educated peoples are being coerced into joining a globalized economic system that has little to offer them in return, it has global resonance. &nbsp;</p> <p>But to go back to what gave Alston the right to be gallivanting about Britain and other countries, his mandate derives from Article 25 of the United Nations General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,<a href="#_ftn7">[7]</a>: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”</p> <p>In other words, he was acting on principles Britain and a then small host of countries had given themselves. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-08 at 19.31.54.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-08 at 19.31.54.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: "You're all part of the UN just as much as I am". Philip Alston responds to questions from attendees of the Jaywick meeting in Essex, Nov.11, 2018. UK. YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">In other words, he was acting on principles Britain and a then small host of countries had given themselves.</span></p> <p>Without going too far back into the antecedents of the ideas and concepts of human rights about which there is much scholarship, suffice it to say that the UDHR is of universal origin. Former Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand G. Ramcharan in his book <em>Contemporary Human Rights Ideas</em><a href="#_ftn8">[8]</a> and Sinologist Pierre-Etienne Will along with Mireille Delmas-Marty in their <em>La Chine et la democratie<a href="#_ftn9"><strong>[9]</strong></a></em> have pointed out that the human rights concepts have been fashioned by different people across time and in various continents. &nbsp;</p> <p>Many writings on the UDHR duly credit the work of Eleanor Roosevelt who chaired the drafting committee, French legal scholar Rene Cassin and Canada’s John Humphrey. The role of P.C. Chang (Zhang Pengchun) and many other intellectuals from China was crucial, Ramcharan has noted. Many others pitched in as Gita Sahgal pointed out in <em>openDemocracy</em> some years ago: Hansa Mehta from India, Shaista Ikramullah and Mohammed Zafrullah Khan from Pakistan, Carlos Romulo of the Philippines and Charles Malik from Lebanon, Ricardo Alfaro of Panama and Hernan Santa Cruz from Chile.<a href="#_ftn10">[10] </a><span class="mag-quote-center">The role of P.C. Chang (Zhang Pengchun) and many other intellectuals from China was crucial, Ramcharan has noted.</span> </p> <p>The pithy, 30-article text of the UDHR was later elaborated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,<a href="#_ftn11">[11]</a> International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights<a href="#_ftn12">[12]</a>&nbsp;and several more treaties covering the rights of children, women, indigenous peoples, refugees and against torture, racism (in which ought to be included casteism as it is practiced in South Asia) and discrimination on other grounds.&nbsp;</p> <p>As Suzannah Linton, Distinguished Professor of Law at the Zhejiang Gongshang University in China and former Chair of International Law at Bangor University in Britain has pointed out, a little more than 25 years ago, all countries represented at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna (June 1993) adopted by acclamation, meaning without disagreement, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It said: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which constitutes a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, is the source of inspiration and has been the basis for the United Nations in making advances in standard setting as contained in the existing international human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights… The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.”<a href="#_ftn13">[13]</a></p> <p>In the 1990s, there was talk of “Asian values” being opposed to such universality.<a href="#_ftn14">[14]</a> The success of Singapore, Malaysia, China and other countries which achieved rapid economic growth while keeping a lid on dissent was projected as an alternative model to liberal democracy. Eventually however economic crises that buttressed East Asia and the rise of Taiwan and South Korea as robust democracies dented the “Asian Values” appeal. </p> <p>But in recent years, alas, talk of human rights, democracy, pluralism, secularism or anti-casteism is becoming hazardous to health. Witness the arrests and assassinations of activists in India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and too many other climes. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/politkovskaya_3979.jsp">Anna Politkovskaya</a> in Russia 12 years ago or <a href="//www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-bah/remembering-murdered-disappeared-activists">Gauri Lankesh </a>in India last year are but two among a large number of journalists, activists and human rights defenders who have fallen victims to authoritarian states or intolerant sectarian groups.</p> <p>From Xi Jinping in China to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, via their avatars in India, Turkey, Egypt, Hungary, Poland and the United States, regimes ruling over about three-quarters of humanity are becoming, or have already turned, intolerant.</p> <p>In many of these countries, human rights NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are under attack. In China unknown numbers of activists have been jailed or have disappeared while NGO activity has become severely restricted.<a href="#_ftn17">[15]</a> India has been emulating China in this regard, arresting activists<a href="#_ftn18">[16]</a> and harassing internationally renowned NGOs.<a href="#_ftn19">[17]</a></p> <p>And this at a time when there is increasing need for human rights defence, especially the rights of workers, indigenous peoples, the minorities or members of oppressed castes in South Asia. In most parts of the world, job security is becoming a rarity. Companies and even governments are increasingly relying on contract workers, many of them poorly paid with wages calculated on hourly or daily basis, meaning hardly any holidays or health and insurance cover – a class of ‘precariat’<a href="#_ftn20">[18]</a>. This is the case not only in many parts of the global South i.e. countries such as India or Bangladesh where a predominant section of workers toil in what is called the “informal sector” but also, in China, whose ruling Communist Party – now communist in name only, given the pro-market policies of the past more than three decades – has effectively smothered freedom of association to the benefit of company apparatchiks. </p> <p>Be it in Australia, India, Canada or Brazil, the rights of indigenous peoples are being circumscribed with varying degrees of repression while activists rising to their defence are dealt with summarily.</p> <p> There is therefore greater need than ever to celebrate December 10, for people including academics and civil society at large to write, organise meetings, demonstrations, street-theatre and other forms of action. And to: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" as the poet Dylan Thomas wrote. </p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Patrick Stewart sketch: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/culture/video/2016/apr/25/patrick-stewart-sketch-what-has-the-echr-ever-done-for-us-video">what has the ECHR ever done for us? </a>- video</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> <a href="https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta">Magna Carta</a><br />OR <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Magna-Carta">https://www.britannica.com/topic/Magna-Carta</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/poverty/pages/srextremepovertyindex.aspx">Special Rapporteur</a> on extreme poverty and human rights</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a><a href="https://www.festival-cannes.com/en/films/i-daniel-blake"> <em>I, Daniel Blake</em>,</a> Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> Key points from UN envoy's <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/16/key-points-un-envoy-philip-alston-report-poverty-britain-uk">report on poverty in Britain</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/16/uk-austerity-has-inflicted-great-misery-on-citizens-un-says">UK austerity has inflicted 'great misery' on citizens,</a> UN says</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> <a href="http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> <em><a href="https://www.crcpress.com/Contemporary-Human-Rights-Ideas-Rethinking-theory-and-practice/Ramcharan/p/book/9781138807167">Contemporary Human Rights Ideas:</a> Rethinking Theory and Practice</em></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> <a href="//www.lgdj.fr/la-chine-et-la-democratie-9782213631486.html"><em>La Chine et la democratie</em></a></p><p><a href="#_ftnref10">[10]</a> <a href="//www.opendemocracy.net/5050/gita-sahgal/who-wrote-universal-declaration-of-human-rights">Who wrote</a> the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?</p><p><a href="#_ftnref11">[11]</a> International Covenant on <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx">Civil and Political Rights</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref12">[12]</a> International Covenant<a href="https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx"> </a>on <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx">Economic, Social and Cultural Rights</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref13">[13]</a> <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/vienna.aspx">Vienna Declaration</a> and Programme of Action</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref14">[14]</a> BBC: “<a href="//www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/people/features/ihavearightto/four_b/f_rights_4.shtml">I have a right to…</a>”</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref17">[15]</a> China eliminating civil society by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/16/china-eliminating-civil-society-by-targeting-human-rights-activists-report">targeting human rights activists</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref18">[16]</a> <a href="//www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/29/protests-india-rights-activists-placed-under-house-arrest">Protests in India</a> as rights activists placed under house arrest</p><p><a href="#_ftnref19">[17]</a> Amnesty holds <a href="https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/amnesty-holds-protests-outside-indian-high-commission-in-london/article25637089.ece">protes</a>t outside Indian high commission in London</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref20">[18]</a> Why the precariat is not a “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/guy-standing/why-precariat-is-not-%E2%80%9Cbogus-concept%E2%80%9D">bogus concept</a>”.</p><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"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk Civil society Conflict Culture Economics Equality Ideas International politics Internet N. Jayaram Sat, 08 Dec 2018 14:49:59 +0000 N. Jayaram 120914 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yellow Vests – the first battle https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/oliver-haynes/yellow-vests-first-battle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>They want Macron to know that they are the people and they will be ignored no longer. So perhaps there is democracy in the streets after all. </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-40082050.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-40082050.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'>Highschool students demonstrate against the reform of the baccalaureate up on the new bridge of Toulouse, France,Dec.6,2018. Pierre Berthuel/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>To be in France over the last three weeks was to be in a country in a state of complete political paralysis, at least within the corridors of power, much like the Brexit-bound UK. Every time you turned on the radio or TV or opened a paper, you would be confronted by two words: Gilets Jaunes. </p> <p>Paralysis has seized Macron, the politicians in the National Assembly and frequently the traffic on the roads. Meanwhile the streets of France were alive with political dynamism as les Gilets Jaunes have “blocked” and marched in anger, to make their voices heard. </p> <p>The riots in Paris leaving Les Champs Elysees looking like a battleground, together with the hundreds of thousands of more peaceful protests across France, have given the lie to the idea that the centrist, technocratic post-politics that Macron champions are the sensible, necessary policies that he and his En Marche team “beyond left and right” would claim. </p> <p>Tinkering at the edges of the system for the many, while facilitating an upwards transfer of wealth for the few cannot be sensible or moderate in a post-2008 world where, according to INSEE reports, wages of French workers have remained stagnant with any growth being outstripped by inflation. It cannot be considered sensible in a world where everyday more people are forced to sleep on the street, lined up like tiles. It cannot be considered sensible in a world where a rise in taxes on fossil fuels prompts an uprising across the entire nation which, despite the violence, has had upwards of 70% backing in the polls. People’s living standards have fallen for too long, they feel they have been disregarded for too long. Whether or not you agree with either populist movement, like Brexit, Les Gilets Jaunes make one thing clear. A significant cross-section of the French people have had enough. </p> <h2><strong>Who are the yellow vests?</strong></h2><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/D838E4DA-CB40-428A-A87B-BF2D0E74CE84_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/D838E4DA-CB40-428A-A87B-BF2D0E74CE84_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yellow vest 'unofficial list' of demands as of December 7, 2018.</span></span></span></strong>Although many on the left have hailed these protests, progressives should be careful as there are several forces at play. The continued exposure of neoliberalism as a failing project can only be to the good. It is certainly also heartening to see that, as with the Occupy movement of 2011/2012 a mass mobilisation with ambitions for social justice has occurred organically without leaders or hierarchy. It is an intensely positive thing to see the linking of struggles to resist the free market agenda. A reflection of the ’68 protests has occurred. The ’68 protests began with students protesting higher education reform, and then was taken up by workers causing a general strike in what was perceived by many who took part as resistance to capitalism and the values of the market. This time, the workers started it (the yellow vests are clearly a working-class movement although unaffiliated to trade unions) and students and lycéens (sixth formers) have reanimated their struggles against the free market reforms of the baccalaureate and universities, in solidarity with them. </p><p>There is talk on the Gilets Jaunes’ Facebook pages of ditching the iconography of the motorists’ yellow jacket for the protest in Paris this Saturday, to make it clear that this is no longer just about the hike in fuel prices. They have expanded their demands to include a higher minimum wage among other things to make life better for the majority. They want Macron to know that they are the people and they will be ignored no longer. </p><p>Despite a somewhat chequered start Les Gilets Jaunes has developed intriguingly. I will admit, at first I was sceptical, the anti-ecological murmurings on their pages troubled me. But what has happened since has made it clear that they do care about the environment even if this is not apparent in their rhetoric. They are even joining arms in solidarity with the monthly march held by climate alarm. Some really interesting things are happening on their pages, the principal mechanism through which they organise. </p> <p>Pages are established with the word colère (anger) then a number corresponding to the département e.g colère10 organises blockades in Aube. Then, there are also pages dedicated to the entire movement to exchange ideas, lifts, stories etc. There is increasing talk on these pages of coalescing to have an “e-election” in an attempt to become more organised. Another post doing the rounds is the call for the RIC, the ‘citizens referendum initiative’ combining different types of referendum in order to amend the constitution and inject some much-needed life back into democracy after years of post-politics. </p> <p>Constitutional reform is a recurring theme, there was talk at the last election of the establishment of a 6th republic. This could actually be the advent of it. One more noteworthy development is that the two words that feature most on their list of demands are removal and freedom. They are attempting to rebalance power between the people and the élites: this includes calling for the ceasing of public funding for trade unions. They are seeking to break down oligarchies and overly hierarchical centres of power. Perhaps there is democracy in the streets after all.</p> <p>However, for all the merits of the movement, progressives cannot rest on their laurels. Some of the most vocal champions of the movement are figures on the far-right. Tweeting about the Troyes protest with the Gilets Jaunes hash tag gained me two high profile members of Le Pen’s Rassemblement Nationale as followers. There is no automatic guarantee that an alternative to the neoliberal consensus is going to be progressive. A look into one of their Facebook pages reveals a real mélange of people and ideas floating around. Moderator Marc Le Roux says that they do their best to filter out racism, sexism and homophobia, but the sheer number of posts makes this impossible. As well as being online, this reactionary sentiment is manifested on the streets as far-right activists have used the movement to articulate racist and anti-migrant ideas. </p> <p>They are not indicative of the wider movement, but such infiltration does point to the fact that the far-right could well gain from the popular anger that has been unleashed if progressives do not act quickly to own it. At the November 17 protests in Troyes the atmosphere was comprised of the thrilling solidarity present at any good protest, and of a cold rage brewing at what had they had to experience. The scenes of people trying to break down the police station gates as they taunted the heavily armed cops on the other side were troubling and striking in equal measure. The prevailing sentiment was certainly one of anger. </p> <p>This comes with a more general willingness to intimidate. Rioters aside, in Troyes, drivers and people not on the protest that showed anything but agreement were greeted by some sections of the crowd with cries of “conard” (wanker), the rabble rousing spilling over into petty violence in several towns across the country. The Occupy movement had its black-bloc, les gilets jaunes has its ‘casseurs’, giving rise to left voices and figures like Weev, the neo-Nazi hacker, at the same time. A comparable contemporary example would be the 5-star movement. The dismissal of all elites and the cries of <em>conard</em> are reminiscent of the Grillini’s “vaffanculo” (fuck off) chant. 5-star ended up partnering with the Lega Nord, so Les Gilets Jaunes needs help from progressives to prevent the narrative snowballing into something retrogressively nationalist. </p> <p>Les Gilets Jaunes have won their first battle, Edouard Phillipe announcing recently that they would halt the tax rises on fossil fuels. This is a fantastic victory for the many passionate people that have given time, effort, money and in a few tragic cases, their lives, to this cause. Researching a dissertation on social movements, I had been following the activities of the local group Colère10 for a couple of months and spoken to organisers from several other departments, when administrator and organiser Gwen Yaya thanked me for showing an interest in “what the French people have suffered here”. She seemed terribly tired, and I’m sure a great many people are exhausted. </p> <p>Yet, they carry on. Marc said they have no intention of stopping now. This is great news, I hope they win more concessions. But, the first victory could be seen as somewhat bittersweet. Ecological concerns have been secondary in the framing of this debate. As Danica Jorden put it, there is a tension between “The end of the month and the end of the world”. We must make the transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as we can, though the pain should not be borne equally by the rich and poor. These protests, and the frustrated departure of Nicolas Hulot, Macron’s environmental minister, from his cabinet a few months ago, remind us that neoliberalism and climate justice are like oil and water. So the French left, from Les Insoumises to the Parti Socialiste (and ideally everything in between) have to do all they can to push for a green economy and an equitable distribution of society’s resources. </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/val-rie-de-saint-do/what-next-for-gilets-jaunes">What next for the Gilets Jaunes?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/france-bleu/demands-of-frances-yellow-vests-as-uploaded-by-france-bleu-november-29">Demands of France&#039;s yellow vests as uploaded by France Bleu, November 29</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/pierre-bance/message-from-commercy-time-of-communes-still-rings-out">Message from Commercy: the time of the communes still rings out! </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"> 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"> 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 France Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Oliver Haynes Fri, 07 Dec 2018 15:14:05 +0000 Oliver Haynes 120900 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Demands of France's yellow vests as uploaded by France Bleu, November 29 https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/france-bleu/demands-of-frances-yellow-vests-as-uploaded-by-france-bleu-november-29 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"MPs from France, we inform you of the People's Directives for you to transpose them into LAW. "</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-Eugène_Delacroix_-_Le_28_Juillet._La_Liberté_guidant_le_peuple.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-Eugène_Delacroix_-_Le_28_Juillet._La_Liberté_guidant_le_peuple.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'>Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830. Wikicommons/ Louvre Museum. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p><em>MPs from France, we inform you of the People's Directives for you to transpose them into LAW.&nbsp;</em></p><p>- &nbsp;Zero homeless &nbsp;: URGENT.&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;Income tax &nbsp;more progressive (more slices).&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;SMIC ( minimum wage for growth) of 1300 euros net.&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;Promote small businesses, villages and city centers. (Stop the construction of large commercial areas around big cities that kill small business + free parking in city centers).&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;Large Insulation Plan for&nbsp;housing. (to make ecological savings for households).&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;That BIG (Macdo, Google, Amazon, Crossroads ...) pay BIG and that small (artisans,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.le144-coworking.fr/blog/tag/tpe-pme/">TPE,PME</a>– SME and Microenterprises) pay small.&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;Same system of social security for all (including artisans and self-entrepreneurs). End of the RSI ( the social regime of the self-employed).&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;The pension system must remain in solidarity and therefore socialized. (No retirement at peak).&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;End of the tax increase on fuel.</p><p>- &nbsp;No pension below 1200 euros.</p><p>- &nbsp;Any elected representative will have the right to a median salary. His transport costs will be monitored and reimbursed if they are justified. Right to the restaurant ticket and check-holiday.</p><p>- &nbsp;The wages of all French people as well as pensions and allowances must be indexed to inflation.</p><p>- &nbsp;Protect French industry: prohibit relocation. Protecting our industry is protecting our know-how and our jobs.</p><p>- &nbsp;End of detached work (where ‘posted workers’ are sent by their employer to carry out a service in another European country on a temporary basis). It is abnormal that a person who works on French territory does not benefit from the salary and the same rights. Anyone authorized to work on French territory must be equal with a French citizen and his employer must contribute to the same height as a French employer.&nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp;For job security: further limit the number of fixed-term contracts for large companies. We want more CDI (the default open-ended or permanent work contract in France).</p><p>- &nbsp;End of the CICE ( tax credits that corporations can claim for all salaries 2.5 lower than the French minimum wage). Using this money for launching a French car industry that has hydrogen (which is truly ecological, unlike the electric car.)</p><p>- &nbsp;End of austerity policy. We are ceasing to repay the debt interest that is declared illegitimate and we are starting to repay the debt without taking the money from the poor and the poorest but by going after the $80 billion in tax evasion.</p><p>- &nbsp;That the causes of forced migration are treated.</p><p>- &nbsp;That asylum seekers are well treated. We owe them housing, security, food and education for the miners. Work with the UN to have host camps open in many countries around the world, pending the outcome of the asylum application.</p><p>- &nbsp;That the unsuccessful asylum seekers be returned to their country of origin.</p><p>- &nbsp;That a real integration policy &nbsp;be implemented. Living in France means becoming French (French language course, History of France course and civic education course with certification at the end of the course).</p><p>- &nbsp;Maximum salary fixed at 15000 euros.</p><p>- &nbsp;That jobs are created &nbsp;for the unemployed.</p><p>- &nbsp;Increase in disabled benefits</p><p>- &nbsp;Limitation of rents + low-rent housing (especially for students and precarious workers).</p><p>- &nbsp;Prohibition to sell property belonging to France (airport dam ...)</p><p>- &nbsp;Substantial means granted to justice, the police, the gendarmerie and the army. That law enforcement overtime be paid or recovered.</p><p>- &nbsp;All the money earned by highway tolls will be used for the maintenance of motorways and roads in France and road safety.</p><p>- &nbsp;Since the price of gas and electricity has increased since privatization, we want them to become public again and that prices fall significantly.</p><p>- &nbsp;Immediate end to closure of small chains: post offices, schools and maternity homes.</p><p>- &nbsp;Let's bring well-being to our elderly people. Prohibition of making money on the elderly. The gray gold is finished. The era of gray well-being begins.</p><p>- &nbsp;Maximum 25 students per class &nbsp;from kindergarten to the final year. - Substantial resources brought to psychiatry.</p><p>- &nbsp;The People's Referendum must enter the Constitution. Creation of a readable and effective site, supervised by an independent control body where the links can make a proposal of law. If this bill obtains 700,000 signatures then this bill will have to be discussed, completed and amended by the National Assembly, which will be obliged (one year to the day after obtaining the 700,000 signatures) to submit to the vote of all the French.</p><p>- &nbsp;Return to a term of 7 years for the President of the Republic. (The election of the deputies two years after the election of the President of the Republic made it possible to send a positive or negative signal to the President of the Republic concerning his policy, so it helped to make the voice of the people heard.)</p><p>- &nbsp;Retirement at age 60 and for all those who have worked in a trade using the body (a builder or butcher for example) a right to retirement at 55 years.</p><p>- &nbsp;A 6-year-old child is not able to look after him or herself, continuation of the PAJEMPLOI help system until the child is 10 years old.</p><p>- &nbsp;Promote the transport of goods by railway.</p><p>- &nbsp;No deduction of tax at source</p><p>- &nbsp;End of presidential allowances for life</p><p>- &nbsp;Prohibition of charging retailers a fee when their customers use the credit card.</p><p>- &nbsp;Tax on marine fuel oil and kerosene.<strong><em></em></strong></p><p><em>This list is non-exhaustive but thereafter, the will of the people will be heard and applied by means of the creation of the popular referendum system which will have to be quickly set up. Members of Parliament, make our voice heard in the Assembly. </em></p><p>Obey the will of the people. Apply these Guidelines. Yellow Vests.</p><p><em>See below. A new 'unofficial list' dated December 7, 2018 includes: </em></p><p>- cut tax to 25% of GDP ( half current levels)</p><p>- better public services/ massive hiring of civil servants to this end</p><p>- leave EU and NATO</p><p>- default on public debt</p><p>- new constitution</p><p>- on immigration: "Prevent migratory flows that cannot be accommodated or integrated, given the profound civilizational crisis we are experiencing."</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/D838E4DA-CB40-428A-A87B-BF2D0E74CE84.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/D838E4DA-CB40-428A-A87B-BF2D0E74CE84.jpeg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Update on Gilet Jaunes demands. </span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/bernard-dreano/yellow-fever-in-france">Yellow fever in France</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/pierre-bance/message-from-commercy-time-of-communes-still-rings-out">Message from Commercy: the time of the communes still rings out! </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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 France Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics France Bleu Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:57:40 +0000 France Bleu 120888 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What next for the Gilets Jaunes? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/val-rie-de-saint-do/what-next-for-gilets-jaunes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The movement today is national, and in part nationalistic, very difficult to talk to about the reform of Europe. Nevertheless, it is a challenge to a pan-European movement like DiEM25.</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-40023140.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-40023140.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'>Yellow Vests (Gilet jaunes) protestors demonstrate in Strasbourg, France,on December 01, 2018. Roses/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Many members of the movement in France and abroad have inquired about the position of DiEM25 on the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_vests_movement">Gilets Jaunes</a>” (yellow vests) movement, especially after the scenes of violence on the Champs Elysees which have been seen all over the world.</p> <p>We are not afraid to say it: we were divided about this many-faceted movement, which has evolved greatly in two weeks. What’s more, a large part of the French left shared our confusion.</p> <p>The first call to demonstrate in yellow vests, on November 17, started as a challenge to the new tax imposed on diesel by the state, allegedly to “finance the ecological transition.” We are not fooled by the total deception involved in this tax, created by a government which has abolished the wealth tax and which also imposes multiple anti-ecological measures, such as the opening of a gold mine in French Guyana despite the opposition of the local population. Bear in mind that ecological taxation is paid mostly by households, not by large polluting companies.</p> <p>However, at that time, most of us were not inclined to associate ourselves with an event strongly supported by the extreme right, sovereignist movements, and a good number of right-wing and liberal editorialists. While claiming to defend “La France du bas” (the downtrodden), the anti-tax slogan was not then accompanied by any demands on wages or on specific social measures. Moreover, favourable coverage by the media, while the movement was not mobilising more people – in fact rather less – than demonstrations against Macron’s labour law and ordinances, inclined us to mistrust this phenomenon, with its slogans against taxation, and therefore against public spending and redistribution.</p> <p>That said, the popular dimension of the movement, effectively carried by workers often strangled by austerity policies, has challenged us. Going beyond the anti-tax revolt, the protests reveal a France that is struggling to make ends meet. They have shown clearly that the taxes it pays do not prevent public services from deteriorating at a high speed: the public hospital system is in crisis, job cuts in education are announced, and rural areas are losing their public services. Moreover, the movement from the beginning has brought together a very great diversity of actors in its different contexts: the extreme right was very present in the South and the Parisian demonstrations, but in Saint Nazaire, for example, it has expressed <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/11/yellow-vests-france-gilets-jaunes-fuel-macron">trade union and progressive demands</a>.</p> <p>In recent weeks, you have all witnessed the extension of the movement and its insurrectional dimension, with violence answered by police violence (to which we are accustomed in demonstrations in France). Initially marked especially sociologically by the lower middle class, who works but has trouble paying their bills, the movement has expanded to uberised workers and high school students. The anti-tax revolt has turned into a much wider movement of people who can’t take any more, and the list of their demands is varied and growing. Many of them deal with justice and equality: tax justice, increase of the minimum wage, more progressive income tax, the end of austerity, maximum salary at 15,000 euros, an end to the closure of public services. Others are much more problematic for a progressive movement, such as the deportation of rejected asylum seekers and increase of the budgets of the police and the army, or completely random demands. It should be noted that since the movement is decentralised and its leaders are self-proclaimed and contested, these lists vary according to the sources. It is amusing to note, moreover, that since the movement has started to present social and political demands, and its violent elements are attacking luxury boutiques, the language of the right-wing editorialists who supported it has changed a lot.</p> <p>What are the political opportunities? For the moment, a key direction and a key watchword unites this disparate movement: the rejection of the Macron government. The yellow vests call for his resignation as well as the dissolution of the National Assembly. Foremost is a rejection of his policies, and also of the personality of Macron himself, rightly perceived as emblematic of class contempt. It must be said that he and his government have used outrageously provocative language against “people who are nothing”, or the “unemployed who just have to cross the street” to find a job.</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/500209/1image.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1image.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'>Gilets jaunes grafitti. Emma Justum-Foundethakis. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This hate is coupled with a massive rejection of political movements. The extreme right and the sovereignty movement “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debout_la_France">Debout la France</a>” of Dupont Aignan are very anxious to co-opt the movement. Recent demonstrations appeared to mark a tipping point, with far-right figures thrown out of the demonstrations. But several of the self-proclaimed leaders come from the National Rally of Marine Le Pen, or advocate solutions related to fascism, like a provisional government led by a general related to the far-right. </p><p>The movement today is national, and in part nationalistic. It would be very difficult to talk to them about the reform of Europe. Nevertheless, it is a challenge to our movement, not only on the demands for social justice and taxation that we share, but also on the issues of territorial inequality that should also be one of the pillars of our programme and concern all of Europe and beyond: the same issue – bitter opposition to London from the de-industrialised North – was important in the Brexit referendum result, and&nbsp; resonated during the election of Trump. These protests driven by inequality take a different and unique form in each country, but we believe that DiEM25 must work on a European scale, drawing on a range of commitments in the founding pillars and axes of the <a href="http://europeanspring.net/">European Spring</a>: to socially just public services, an ecological transition, and the reduction of educational and cultural inequalities. We must counter a reactionary discourse, often tinged with racism, which opposes “Peripheral France (supposedly white)” to “city-dwellers” and “suburbs”, multicultural “for whom we have done too much”. And reaffirm that our solidarity does not stop at borders.</p> <p>This movement is also an opportunity to deepen our discourse on the ecological transition that must not be done at the expense of the popular classes. France is the European champion of urban sprawl and the establishment of shopping centres on its urban outskirts. For decades, politicians and advertisers have incited the French to own their own house, and now they are strangled by mortgages and dependent on the car for mobility. When talking about transition, we must not forget territorial planning and mobility.</p> <p>On December 8, there will be in France, like everywhere else, a climate march with which DiEM25 is associated. There have been calls for the Yellow Vests to join. This may be an opportunity to start a discussion. Meanwhile, the movement has opened up a wide debate in France. We do not endorse the excesses, we condemn the attempts at co-optation, but we cannot ignore it, nor especially ignore the social anger it reveals against Macron’s Thatcheresque regime of austerity.</p><p>On the eve of the fourth day of action of the Yellow Vests, the tone is one of heightened drama. The government has chosen to send armoured vehicles into the streets with 89,000 police officers, including 8,000 in Paris, and is adopting a highly alarmist tone about the risk of violence in its attempt to deter demonstrations.&nbsp;Police officers talk about <a href="https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/samedi-prochain-on-revient-avec-des-armes_2051615.html">live ammunition being fired</a> in violent incidents. As the highschool protest movement grows, brazen police violence against highschool students is causing widespread outrage on the left and a <a href="https://www.lemonde.fr/police-justice/article/2018/12/06/mantes-la-jolie-des-images-choquantes-de-lyceens-interpelles-par-la-police_5393757_1653578.html">scandalous video</a>&nbsp;going viral on social networks has caused embarrassment to the government.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> President Macron has said he would speak early next week. Discussions with the Prime Minister with the Yellow Vests in Matignon ended precipitately and showed the division of the movement. Calls for calm do not seem to undermine the determination of a section of the movement’s base that does not want to negotiate. All the eyes of government, now out of answers, are turned towards tomorrow's event, which could have radical consequences.<br /> <br /> The unions remain cautious. In a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.liberation.fr/france/2018/12/06/gilets-jaunes-les-syndicats-a-mots-prudents_1696465">statement&nbsp;</a>signed by seven of them, they urge the government to negotiate on purchasing power, wages, housing, transport and public services, but condemn violence.&nbsp;The CGT states that it cannot envisage full convergence with the Yellow Vests due to the presence of the far right but&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cgt.fr/actualites/france/pouvoir-dachat/le-gouvernement-joue-lincendiaire-social-cest-irresponsable?fbclid=IwAR0S2QPCtrmq33XUeZSO4e3LDiJweaC-PGC07RpTBSLFneGJiHcN_-PN2AY">strongly condemns police violence</a>&nbsp;and calls for a day of strikes on 14 December.<br /> <br /> At the initiative of Attac and the Copernicus Foundation,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.liberation.fr/debats/2018/12/06/justice-sociale-justice-climatique-c-est-un-changement-de-cap-qu-il-faut-imposer_1696384">a call for political personalities, trade unions, associations</a>, academics and artists, with which DiEM 25 has joined forces, invites them to attend the climate demonstration in conjunction with the yellow vests’ action day.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Yesterday, at the meeting of Benoît Hamon of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/GenerationsLeMvt/videos/2158507681132479/UzpfSTE2NjM1ODY2NTM4OTYzNzQ6MjE0ODMzMzU4ODc1NTAwOQ/">Génération.s</a>, a movement allied to DiEM 25 as part of the European Spring and addressed by Yanis Varoufakis, as well as Jacques Terrenoire for DiEM 25 France, several speakers including James Galbraith stressed that yellow vests were the children of austerity policies and protested against the contempt shown the movement. Yanis Varoufakis and Benoît Hamon stressed the government's responsibility to call for an ecological and social New Deal to transform the situation from the top of the system, at the European level.</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/500209/3image.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3image.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'>Emma Justum-Foundethakis.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/france-bleu/demands-of-frances-yellow-vests-as-uploaded-by-france-bleu-november-29">Demands of France&#039;s yellow vests as uploaded by France Bleu, November 29</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/pierre-bance/message-from-commercy-time-of-communes-still-rings-out">Message from Commercy: the time of the communes still rings out! </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"> 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 France Valérie de Saint Do DiEM25 Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:56:39 +0000 Valérie de Saint Do 120893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Message from Commercy: the time of the communes still rings out! https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/pierre-bance/message-from-commercy-time-of-communes-still-rings-out <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Commercy's Yellow Vests offer a political solution to the movement: autonomous local committees, direct democracy, sovereign general assembly, delegates with a precise mandate revocable at any time, rotating responsibilities.</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-39755885.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39755885.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'>Blocking demonstration of the Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaune) in Lille, France on November 17, 2018. Sylvain Lefevre/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Commercy's Yellow Vests offer a political solution to the movement: autonomous local committees, direct democracy, sovereign general assembly, delegates with precise mandate, revocable at any time, rotation of responsibilities. They call on the federation of local groups on these bases to avoid political recovery, self-proclaimed leaders, or delegates without an imperative mandate from the grassroots.</p><p>The spontaneity of the movement of yellow vests, its heterogeneity and disarray, can cause drifts of fear without anyone knowing where they hail from. But is this any reason for those who appeal to the people at every opportunity, left-wing activists, libertarians, trade unionists, to stand on the sidelines when these same people finally take their own affairs in hand? Who, in 1789, said that the revolt of the peasants would end in the Republic?</p><p>The socialist parties and labour unions that emerged to resist capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth century, industrial and bourgeois, petrified by too many institutional dealings, are no longer able to respond to the power of neo-liberalism of the twenty-first century, digital and financial. On the defensive, only accumulating failures, and without imagination, they kill their promise of a better life. This hope, still confused, of justice, freedom, equality and solidarity is not worn out today in those who reject the new world of Macron.</p><p>The sans-culottes of 2018 no longer support the morgue of a power touting individual success to justify inequality, despising those who do not fare well alone, protecting the rich and piling pressure on all others. Here is a President of the Republic who thinks that he is monarch, who, to feed his mad EU policy imperatives of structural adjustments to the needs of the bank and the market, resorts to tax as gleefully as in the good old days of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabelle">the gabelle</a>. But in front of gatherings of peaceful citizens demanding – only – a change of policy, arrogant power gets scared, and locks itself in its castles. For any answer, he seeks division, the gentiles against the troublemakers; he resorts to conspiracy theory and, the black blocks, the ultra-right – anyone who will do the trick to justify sending in the halberdiers charged with restoring the order of Jupiter. Isn’t it astonishing that the yellow vests once again find themselves addressing the Sun King in Louis XVI and asking for his resignation, if not yet his head? Phew! Order is restored, merchandising and pollution have resumed on the Champs-Elysees.</p><p>Tomorrow the military wil march to celebrate the Austerlitz Macronien! The little Marquises of Parliament, still frightened, are jubilant. The bureaucrats are going back to sleep. Overcome, will the yellow vests have to return to their ranks, keep quiet and continue to manage as best they can till the end of the month? Is their movement condemned to extinction by weariness and under the force of law? No, not if they decide to organize themselves. To organize differently. To reconnect with direct democracy and the federalism of the autonomous communes.</p><p>Different opinions, different social origins, professional status sometimes set to one side, they found it in themselves to defend their dignity. The precariousness of some echoes the exhaustion of others. They understood that, despite their differences, they could get along, were able to act collectively and put power at bay. They understood that, leaving aside what separates them, they agreed on their common interests, that their daily concerns were the same, and their cause too. </p><p>It is now necessary to perpetuate this impromptu meeting of the worries coming from the hallucinated campaigns and the sprawling cities. To find the balance of opposites. To constitute local committees organized according to the principles of direct democracy: a sovereign general assembly, an imperative mandate revocable at any time, and the rotation of responsibilities. These autonomous communes, parallel municipal councils, will carry our popular, egalitarian, social and ecological demands.</p><p>If thwarted, they will try to implement this without worrying about legal representation, even if it means confronting the mayor and the prefect. Day after day, emancipated society, society liberated from domination, of all dominations, will be peacefully planned out. As much as proves necessary, these free communes will federate to share their experience, their reflections, take charge of the management of common goods (schools, transport, health, environment ...). Thus, the state will gradually be marginalized, its powers trimmed to the point of making it useless, until the day when it will be enough to push one last time the pyramid of the authoritarian order for it to collapse. It will be a long and difficult process, but it is possible.</p><p>I hear the objections and recriminations. “Utopian hot air” retort the organic intellectuals of the right, while leftist rhetoric will stifle their friends on the left. “To hell with the madness of the city”, say the Versaillese. “Beware of disorder” shout those who think, often wrongly, that they have everything to lose in any kind of change. “This is not feasible”, think the most benevolent, who would like to but simply do not believe in it. All of them cannot yet break away from the current ‘common sense’. To wait, always to wait, until the end of time when the elect, the leaders, the knowledgeable find the solution for what above all they do not seek: the emancipation of the people. </p><p>The programmes of politicians are no longer acceptable, the speeches of Macron, interior minister Castaner and their ilk engaged in a large consultation among the catacombs, even less so. Citizens must take their own affairs in hand. They are the only ones who can imagine and build the municipality without Caesar or the tribune. Let them follow the call of Commercy! May they turn that call into their divinity! </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/val-rie-de-saint-do/what-next-for-gilets-jaunes">What next for the Gilets Jaunes?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/france-bleu/demands-of-frances-yellow-vests-as-uploaded-by-france-bleu-november-29">Demands of France&#039;s yellow vests as uploaded by France Bleu, November 29</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zad-forever/revenge-against-commons">The revenge against the commons</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU France Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Pierre Bance Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:50:23 +0000 Pierre Bance 120895 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A People’s Vote won’t heal Brexit divisions – we need a People’s Debate https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-two <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A TV debate would solve nothing, and claims about “the will of the people” are vapid. We need to find a way to hold a meaningful debate.</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/Screenshot 2018-12-02 at 11.07.08.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-02 at 11.07.08.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: the seven-way BBC election debate, May 2017. YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p>This is Part Two of '<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-one">The rest and the West: thoughts on Brexit and Migration.</a>' </p><p><em>“I don’t think there is a silver bullet, but the market-place of ideas is at the heart of democracy. We all bring ideas and opinions into that market-place and we talk and discuss, and we argue, but we bargain and we compromise. That is what is collapsing.” </em>&nbsp;Matthew Goodwin on preventing the rage of the US parcel-bomber from spreading, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06q0km0">BBC2 Newsnight</a>, October 26, 2018</p><p>“The debates where the politicians are squabbling amongst themselves don’t do anything for the process of electioneering”, said Theresa May after <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40105324">ducking out</a> of the televised seven-way general election debate of 2017. That won her a reputation for ‘not doing debate’. The Brexit TV debate she proposed for December 9 – in front of millions of viewers who will have no say in the outcome – was “consuming Westminster’s political advisers and the nation’s broadcasters” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/01/may-v-corbyn-on-brexit-the-debate-over-the-debate">four days ago</a>, but now seems unlikely to happen. Caroline Lucas, calling for another public vote on Brexit, argued that any debate "must be cross-party, featuring a diverse range of voices representing every nation, as well as every stance on this deal and our relationship with the EU". The BBC version of plurality appeared to be “10 prominent supporters of May’s deal and 10 opponents who would have the chance to ask questions”, described as “messy” by Labour, since the opposition would precisely be seen as squabbling among themselves. But as Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former director of communications put it, a TV debate is not a debate: “It becomes a basic method of message delivery rather than a real debate.”</p><p>Meanwhile, the real debate with which Theresa May has not engaged during her lonely tour of duty in one-way persuasion, is surely the one at the heart of a liberal democracy: democratic debate leading to compromise between legitimate political adversaries. Setting aside her preference for conducting the Brexit process as a secretive Whitehall operation, everything May has done since inheriting the binary referendum result on the UK’s future relationship to the EU has been an avoidance of debate, from the resistance of the UK government to seeking parliamentary approval for Article 50 or to a “meaningful debate” on the final deal, to the ministerial power grab over the Withdrawal Bill and secretive plans for trade deals, the marginalisation of the devolved nations, the refusal of plan-B discussions, and the insistence that “Brexit means Brexit” through months and years in which it has become increasingly clear that no-one really knows what Brexit means. </p><p>Yesterday like the proverbial worm, the despised and marginalised ‘squabbling politicians’, turned, aided by carefully timed advice from the advocate general to the European Court of Justice. This was the first mention of anyone officially involved in the negotiations that Britain might change its mind. Faced by no-deal, a member state could change its intention to withdraw from the EU and revoke Article 50, since Article 50 is invoked in the first place “to notify the European Council of ‘its intention’– and not of its decision – to withdraw, and such an intention may change.” Not only this, but in accordance with our parliamentary sovereignty, and, as the advocate general adds, in the interests of European integration, the decision indeed rests with the squabbling politicians of a member state to choose to “reverse its initial decision.” </p><p>Today, May’s ‘triple defeat’ by Parliament has elicited a warning from the leading Brexit-backing cabinet minister, Liam Fox, that Remainer MPs are trying to “steal Brexit from the British people” which he describes as a “democratic affront”. But the truth is that MP’s supporting the legal action in Luxembourg, like Caroline Lucas and Chris Bryant, in their campaign for a second referendum, have been fighting a valiant battle against the odds and May's Government, to give the British people a say. Under the desert conditions for democracy created by those conducting the Brexit negotiations, they are the ones who have insisted on keeping some sort of public space open and ticking. Bryant’s response to the legal advice was to express the hope that the final say on Brexit would be handed back to the public, “because only the people of the United Kingdom can sort this out.” It is being argued that the advocate general’s opinion, by the same token, gives the EU every reason to extend Article 50 for such an outcome, since a choice to remain made by the people might well be considered a stronger mandate than a decision to remain made by MPs alone.</p><p>But whether Brexit is to be stolen from the British people or sorted out by them, the invocation of a unitary people’s will in both cases should raise alarm bells. Just how should a large and diverse, not to mention increasingly polarised people 'change its mind' or 'have a say'? Albert Weale’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/albert-weale/second-referendum-yes-will-of-people-no">pithy answer </a>to the question, "Can 'a people' have 'a will' "? is decisively in the negative <em>– </em>“<em>There is no singular will of the people emerging from a plurality of people</em>… <em>There is no one super-individual – the people – that has changed its mind</em>… <em>There is no will of the people independently of the rules used to combine different opinions</em>”. He reminds us that a people does not change its mind, but that in a democracy, under a set of rules chosen in a decision that is supremely political, people do. Whatever the outcome to the roller coaster on which we are now riding and even at this late and bewildering stage, we can only begin to “take back control” to the extent that our voices can finally be heard in a way that can persuade and effect meaningful change. The question, for both Parliament and people, is what is a “meaningful debate”? </p><p>All selective versions of a Brexit debate proliferate enemy images. We see only too well the cumulative dehumanising impact on ‘migrants’ when they are only ever spoken about, and, in the Windrush case for example, how shocking the effect when we finally hear directly from them. The speed at which “Europeans” began to be sucked into the “hostile environment” for migrants created by Theresa May as home secretary came as another, more recent shock. Don’t we need a debate that can “out”, identify and encompass all these points of view, one that brings Leavers and Remainers, ordinary and elite, face to face across all the boundaries and borders so far erected by the multiple toxic polarisations of the issue?&nbsp; </p><p>This would be a public debate at least as ambitious and inclusive as the Scottish referendum debate was at its best. One that included the 16 to 18 year olds who were included in that process, and not in the EU referendum, on the grounds that this is their future we are talking about. A debate that welcomes the voices of the many migrants and fellow-Europeans in our midst, elite and ordinary as well. But above all, voices open to each other in all their diversity, willing to listen, even to care, and yes, even to change their minds. </p><h2><strong>What is a 'meaningful debate' ?</strong></h2><p>Only a comprehensive, extended and inclusive People’s Debate can effect this process of citizen empowerment. Anthony Barnett’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">‘open letter to Remainers’</a> this June on openDemocracy was the first sign of movement towards the kind of listening that would be involved. By September, Neal Lawson was on this platform warning supporters of the People’s Vote to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-lawson/people-s-vote-on-brexit-be-careful-what-you-wish-for">be careful what they wished for</a>, and extending Barnett’s argument in the direction of a four-point agenda for democratising the process that included <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">citizens’ assemblies</a>, a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-white/will-constitutional-convention-democratically-refound-british-state">constitutional convention</a> for the UK and a new policy agenda for Europe. Lawson also demanded a “systemic domestic policy response to the causes of Brexit”. Recently, as the Brexit deadlines threatened, another breakthrough moment was Caroline Lucas’s closing contribution to the <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/major-new-brexit-poll-shows-voters-swinging-towards-remain">Channel 4 <em>Big Brexit Debate</em></a><em>: What does the UK really think?</em> as a key proponent of the People’s Vote: </p><blockquote><p>“ What we need to be doing is recognising as well that many of the people who voted ‘leave’ have very legitimate grievances that need to be tackled. So the People’s Vote campaign isn’t just saying&nbsp; – ‘Let’s just swap and see if we can get a vote like this that changes the balance…’. It’s massively important that the People’s Vote campaign and all of us who want to seize the opportunity for people to have a say, recognise that this is not about turning the clock back two years, but about saying let us make sure that we address those underlying reasons that drove so many people to feel that the only solution was to leave the EU, when in fact leaving the EU will make things worse for them.”</p></blockquote><p>Fellow People’s Vote advocate and openDemocracy columnist, Mary Kaldor, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/mary-kaldor/labour-and-brexit-sensible-deal">reiterated this point</a> in her advice to the Labour Party: “if we are to address the real concerns of the leave voters we need to be inside the EU campaigning for a change of rules.” But she also called for “a genuine constitutional debate throughout the country – a debate about the kind of society we want to live in and how to tackle the deep-seated problems linked to jobs, housing, health, and, above all, democracy that led to the howl of anguish represented by the Brexit vote.”</p><p>But it took Gordon Brown, as former UK prime minister, to go <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce2ed1ce-e902-11e8-94da-a6478f64c783">further in thinking</a> about what is needed over and above any second public vote or even beyond a general election, if we are to have a democratic Brexit process at last. Divisions could “merely worsen” in an already “bitterly divided country”, since “at least two and possibly many more years of acrimonious EU negotiations still lie ahead”, he warned, ("To calm the Brexit storm, we must listen to the UK’s views again",<em> </em>Financial Times,16 November)<em>.</em></p><p>Because “the deadlock in parliament seems unlikely to be broken by MPs alone”, Brown proposes bringing together in each region a representative panel of a few hundred citizens, together constituting a “platform to allow discussion of important issues such as immigration, sovereignty, the state of our industrial towns and regions. Through it, by exploring both the causes and consequences of Brexit, we can see whether any consensus can be forged.” </p><p>Brown proposes the creation of a “new kind of royal commission” in order to be credible, authoritative and impartial. But I would argue instead for parliamentarians to become joint custodians of this new politics of persuasion in a constitution that devolved their most precious function to the citizens ­– what <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-People-Modern-Myth/dp/1509533273/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1543357654&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Will+of+the+people">Albert Weale calls</a> the “institutionalised debate in which competing views are expressed within a set of rules”. Citizens already have voices in ways without parallel before the internet era. Becoming the guarantors and enablers of such an inclusive, pluralist debate could be the best way to rescue democratic representation from its ‘gatekeeping’ crisis, with a useful knock-on effect on an overweening media. </p><p>All it would take is the simple acknowledgement that who picks the subjects and frames the debate is the democratic crux of the matter, as the political theorist Stuart White <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-white/will-constitutional-convention-democratically-refound-british-state">pointed out on openDemocracy three years ago</a> in his survey of constitutional conventions:</p><blockquote><p>“If we are in a constitutional moment, then it is not appropriate to let the key questions be settled just through the processes of ‘normal’ politics. Democratic theory says that this is a time when ‘We the people’ have a right to settle what happens precisely because what is at stake is a set of very basic questions about how we are ruled. A constitutional convention (CC) is potentially one way of giving ‘We the people’ this leading role…&nbsp; If a convention is to be genuinely ‘people-led’ mustn’t its agenda be responsive to the people? Allowing the convention a wide remit, or allowing it to identify issues for itself, gives us all an opportunity to campaign to the convention to address issues we think important. It draws us all into the discussion and thereby helps to create a democratic constitutional moment… A key principle here is that devolution and decentralisation ought to be bottom-up processes with real accountability to local people.”</p></blockquote><p>White had an encouraging message for us when it came to Labour and the Greens:</p><blockquote><p>“First, as I think Labour (and the Greens) already accept, membership of the convention – or conventions – should be drawn largely from members of the general public, chosen by lot but in a way that is designed to be broadly representative of the population. (Exactly which population? The standard assumption is that the relevant population consists of UK citizens, but David Owen <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/david-owen/who-are-%E2%80%98-people%E2%80%99-in-people%E2%80%99s-constitutional-convention">argues</a> forcefully&nbsp;that non-citizen residents and non-residents should also have representation in a CC.)”</p></blockquote><p>Gordon Brown’s choice of subjects for his debating platform, ought he thinks to “particularly examine those contentious issues where the situation has changed significantly since 2016”, citing both “national identity” and freedom of movement. Yet if Brown acknowledges the evidence of shifting opinions on the latter, Theresa May certainly does not.&nbsp; We learn that she rejects any Norway-style compromise deal with the Labour party. Why? On the grounds that ending freedom of movement is the hardest of the prime minister’s red lines. Again why? – we don’t know. Maybe it is for the same reason that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annegret_Kramp-Karrenbauer">Kramp-Karrenbauer</a>, hailed as the most Merkel-like of her successor candidates, has announced that she would be much “stricter” on migration than Merkel. </p><p>But can’t we do better than that? Couldn’t we hope instead, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-one">taking inspiration from Ada Colau’s PAH movement</a>, that one advantage of a People’s Debate over a People’s Vote is the chance to include non-citizen residents and non-residents in this inclusive, empowering national debate? And that those pluralist encounters might similarly lead in a mutually enabling direction?</p><p>Brown’s proposal is a breakthrough, first and foremost, in the recognition that Brexit is a historic process in which people need to have a say. It pays the referendum due respect for being a democratic prompt for a “unique consultation”, a multi-faceted process of exchange that “by opening a dialogue across the country and engaging in a constructive, outward-looking conversation about our future” might help us discover “a road back to a more cohesive country, reuniting around shared values and rediscovered common interests.” </p><h2><strong>How not to frame a democratic debate</strong></h2><p><em>“So we need to think about what institutions, what mechanisms can we put in place that support that market-place of ideas. And that means mixing our friendship groups and our social networks – it means having better political leadership – it means starting early at university and at school level and making sure people are exposed to different perspectives…”</em>&nbsp;Matthew Goodwin on preventing the rage of the US parcel-bomber from spreading, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06q0km0">BBC2 Newsnight</a>, October 26, 2018</p><p>If this is what is needed then one way not to frame that People’s Debate is highlighted by the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/matthew-feldman/paging-mr-aaronovitch-radical-right-doesnt-need-any-more-help-from-mainstream">interesting spat</a> that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/academics-for-meaningful-debate/framing-ethnic-diversity-debate-as-about-threat-legitimises-hat-0">recently broke out</a> on openDemocracy among other places, between academics protesting at a panel debate billed for December 6 by Claire Fox’s Academy of Ideas and UnHerd. </p><p>A number of academics, journalists and commentators are planning to take part in a ‘debate’ originally titled and intended to answer the question: <em>“Is Rising Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West?”</em>. Speakers include Matthew Goodwin, Eric Kaufmann, Claire Fox, Trevor Phillips and David Aaronovitch. (The title has now changed.)</p><p>Their critics accuse them of framing diversity as a threat, when it is perfectly possible to “discuss far right language without using it yourself”. &nbsp;Their <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/academics-for-meaningful-debate/framing-ethnic-diversity-debate-as-about-threat-legitimises-hat-0">open letter protests</a> that: "This debate shuts itself down, as no other alternative factor or scenario is identified as a ‘threat’, and it is hard to recognise much in the way of a diversity of opinion on a panel where most of the speakers are on the record as blaming immigration and multiculturalism for complex and multi-faceted social problems ". In the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/academics-for-meaningful-debate/framing-ethnic-diversity-debate-as-about-threat-legitimises-hat-0">comment spaces</a> of openDemocracy, the ongoing argument soon arrives at the key issue of democratic debate: “The people hosting this debate, so narrowly framed in such a way, seemingly provide a platform for arguments that can only draw one possible and predefined conclusion. So. Not much of a 'debate' then...”,“To reiterate, we are not seeking to shut down debate or evade difficult arguments – these issues are widely discussed in academia and in public fora. We are simply asking that we do not give yet more ground to those who seek to shift the blame for systemic failures onto communities who are already subject to oppression and hostility, and legitimise hate and scapegoating as if that is analysis.” </p><p>Critics of the critics, for their part, are determined to defend free speech, “Because in order to think we have to be free to speak. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech is a dialectical process in which we express and explore ideas, and as a society how we reach solutions for complex issues. Having to tolerate ideas that you do not agree with is the cost of freedom of speech.”</p><p>A dialectical process is one in which both sides cross boundaries, and a third term emerges which goes beyond them, into new territory. It's certainly what is needed. But how exactly can this take place? With polling indicating a widening gulf between Remain voters determined to ‘stop Brexit’ and Leave voters reconciling themselves to crashing out, what can stop this runaway process of polarisation?</p><p>Some of us have been asking this for some time. </p><p>On openDemocracy the indefatigable journalists, Adam Ramsay, Peter Geoghegan and others, who have for many months been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money">investigating questions</a> about the funding and the political influences behind the Leave campaigns, have recently secured the grim satisfaction of the Electoral Commission belatedly referring Aaron Banks to the National Crime Agency for investigation. Whatever the outcome – and Laura Kuenssberg told us on the same day that this was “unlikely to affect the Brexit process” – it is precisely at this point that we need to remind ourselves of the article Adam Ramsay wrote a year ago, to say, “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse">Remainers: don’t use our investigations as an excuse</a>”– an excuse, that is, not to ask much deeper questions about why they lost the EU referendum to 17 million voters in the first place. </p><p>One of the speakers participating in the Academy of Ideas/UnHerd debate, Matthew Goodwin, has been <a href="https://quillette.com/2018/08/03/britains-populist-revolt/">making exactly the same important point</a>. Goodwin complained this August about “a clear and concerted attempt to try and delegitimize the result by implying that either voters were duped or that the Leave campaign was crooked; and absolutely no engagement whatsoever with the growing pile of evidence that we now have on why people actually voted for Brexit.” At the time he concluded, “To many on the liberal left – Brexit is to be opposed not understood.”</p><p>Goodwin is an expert in the deep roots of English euroscepticism, the rise of UKIP and the Brexit result. His disappointment that the referendum didn't pave the way for a long-overdue national debate focused on addressing the divides, inequalities and grievances that had led to this moment is palpable and surely justified. What better candidate might one seek for framing a Brexit People’s Debate, particularly as together with Roger Eatwell, Goodwin has just published a new book entitled <em><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/306/306038/national-populism/9780241312001.html">National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy</a>, </em>promoted<em>&nbsp;</em> as a “compelling<em> </em>case for serious, respectful engagement with the supporters and ideas of national populism.”<em> </em></p><p>The signs were promising. Here were authors willing to challenge the longue durée of&nbsp; “the deep-rooted suspicion of the ‘masses’ which lies at the heart of liberal democracy”. &nbsp;Here we have not only the expertise and the research base, but the manifest concern for the people they were studying and commitment to reversing their political disenfranchisement. Roger Eatwell’s <em>The rising tide of national populism: we need to talk seriously about immigration, </em>summarises <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/roger-eatwell/rising-tide-of-national-populism-we-need-to-talk-about-immigration">the key democracy argument</a> that runs through the book for openDemocracy, and urges a braver generation of politicians to embark on “serious talk about immigration”. Matthew Goodwin, publishing his overview <a href="https://unherd.com/2018/10/populists-get-right/">on UnHerd</a> on October 23, ends with a refreshing call for “more room for deliberation and input from across society through devolution, the roll-out of citizens initiatives or making greater use of referendums at the local level.”</p><p>On that same day, however, openDemocracy published the open letter citing Goodwin as one of the speakers and organisers of <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/immigration-and-diversity-politics-a-challenge-to-liberal-democracy-tickets-51188298579">the debate</a> planned for December 6 and originally billed, “Is Rising Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West?” Could it really be that at this <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/28/far-right-brexit-tommy-robinson-leave-voters">critical conjuncture</a>, some of our best intellectuals, commentators and journalists, including those most alert to ‘national populist’ alienation, were seemingly absorbed in another round of “How can we play with xenophobia without being xenophobic ?” </p><p>Is an answer to be found in Goodwin and Eatwell’s accounts of <em>National Populism. </em>Or might they instead give us just what we need to frame our inclusive, national, People’s Debate on Brexit and migration?</p><h2><strong>‘National populism’ – what is going on?</strong></h2><p><a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n19/james-meek/brexit-and-myths-of-englishness">James Meek </a>&nbsp;in the October 11 issue of the LRB had raised his own concerns over Goodwin’s framing of the Brexit debate. Pointing out that his reading of Brexit tended to oppose “ordinary Leave voters against an arrogant Remainer elite as if those were the two sides at issue”, Meek argued that in doing this, Goodwin not only overlooked, “ordinary Remain voters, many of whom, though typically younger and better educated, feel as powerless, angry and betrayed as their counterparts on the other side”, but also ignored “an arrogant Leave elite, the Brexiteers”. &nbsp;Every day brings further revelations about their <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/17/arron-banks-emails-steve-bannon-brexit-campaign-funds">motivation, role and reach</a> at work in British politics and its decision-making processes. Surely, for example, it is important for the British public, and not them alone, to be alert to the foreign and domestic <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/22/us-rightwing-groups-bankroll-campaign-to-free-tommy-robinson">backers of Tommy Robinson</a> as well as to his plans?</p><p>But looking more closely at Goodwin’s argument in UnHerd, there is one additional strand in his framing of the Brexit debate here which sure enough leads him inexorably to “<em>Diversity [as] a Threat</em>”, despite the fact that as a filter, it can only be self-defeating with regard to the very “deliberation and input from across society” which Goodwin and Eatwell seek. It is an argument that by the same token plunges us back into the increasingly stark choice of our times between horizontal empowerment and the monocultural National Us with which my argument began. </p><p>The strand begins by narrowing in on a particular definition of the UK’s excluded and unrepresented: </p><blockquote><p>“ you will see record numbers of women and ethnic minorities in the corridors of power. This should be applauded. But when it comes to others in society, who have also been the most likely to vote for national populists ­– the working-class and non-graduates – it is an entirely different story.”</p></blockquote><p>These are the people that Trump, Farage, Salvini and Le Pen claim to speak for, and Goodwin says that they “have a point.” However it is a rather selective point, if we consider the strange Leaver coalition which actually spatched together genuine victims of austerity and internationalisation with much more affluent leavers in the southern counties nostalgic for a Greater Britain. This is then accompanied by an equally selective definition of the defining opposition:</p><blockquote><p>“As those with advanced qualifications have acquired more representation and power, governments have over time become more empathetic toward their desires and shaped more around ‘cosmopolitan standards’.”</p></blockquote><p>Soon we are presented with the European elites, including those in the UK, backing everyone but their own working class and non-graduates, due to their ‘cosmopolitan standards’. This makes a certain sense, given that: </p><blockquote><p>“ while 57% of elites across Europe felt that immigration had been good for their respective country only 25% of voters felt the same way. Political, business and media elites were far more likely to feel they had benefited from being in the EU, to back further integration and support refugees and the role of Islam in Europe.”</p></blockquote><p>Education plays a crucial role in this division. But the role that it plays has nothing to do with the way that a technocratic political class hand in hand with their media might manipulate the fears of the less educated to consolidate their power, leaving only the better educated relatively unscathed. Instead, Goodwin quotes <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2017/11/29/book-review-diploma-democracy-the-rise-of-political-meritocracy-by-mark-bovens-and-anchrit-wille/">Boven and Wille</a> approvingly, whose study of ‘diploma democracy’ in the Netherlands (2011), was broadened to <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/diploma-democracy-9780198790631?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">cover Europe</a> in 2017. Their concern is that education is exclusionary at the level of political debate:</p><blockquote><p>“In a diploma democracy the well-educated voice resonates much more strongly at the ballot box; in deliberative sessions and expert meetings; in parliaments and cabinets”.</p></blockquote><p>and their conclusion that the educated can moreover, be narrowly self-interested: </p><blockquote><p>“Yet whereas Plato’s idealised ruling class was an ascetic brotherhood working for the common good in small city states, today’s rulers are increasingly cosmopolitan, insular and at times self-serving.”</p></blockquote><p>There are many reasons why political representation is in crisis today, and an inability to serve the common good must be a dominant factor. But can a cosmopolitan tendency really bear the explanatory weight that it is given here? It is a convenient descriptive, to be sure, since a sense of relative ease with ‘the other’ is perhaps the sole factor seeming to unite the advantage of EU membership with further European integration, welcoming refugees and being happy to live side by side with people of the Muslim faith. Moreover, in itself, the consequent willingness to accept change provides a ready if not obviously irresponsible point of contrast to the “socially conservative views” that Eatwell informs us are “common” among national populist supporters and “deeply held”. </p><p>However, for researchers so alert to homogenising biases and stereotypes, this choice of unifying trait seems hasty, if only and in particular because everything we might assume about the self-serving nature of political élites today suggests a marked inability to empathise with another ‘other’ – namely the very people whom Goodwin and Eatwell have committed themselves to understanding, caring about and empowering. Why draw the ‘cosmopolitan’ line at them?</p><p>Yet this is where Goodwin’s argument ends, in a quotation carefully chosen to urge an opponent that by now is a curious amalgam of European élites and ‘the liberal left’, to “reflect on” the “pluralist heaven” of the former and their distance from the real people:</p><blockquote><p>“The academic E.E. Schattschneider once observed that a key risk that faces democracies is that they become dominated by the privileged and ignore the less well off. “The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent”,&nbsp;he wrote. Today, the heavenly chorus might sing with a middle-class accent, but its members are now holding degree certificates.”</p></blockquote><p>Goodwin’s preoccupation with education and representation gives this choice of antagonists a particular twist, but the framing underlying this strand of argument is familiar enough. It is the opposition between rooted Somewhere people and rootless Anywhere people packaged by David Goodhart, and chosen as Book of the Year for 2017 by <em>The Guardian</em> and the <em>Economist</em>, just in time to be coopted into Theresa May’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-speech-tory-conference-2016-in-full-transcript-a7346171.html">campaign to become prime minister</a> as her own personal brand of patriotism: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” </p><p><em>The Road to Somewhere</em>, as Jon Bloomfield points out in his <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jon-bloomfield/dangerous-road-to-divisive-places">highly critical openDemocracy review</a>, relies on a similar “mixture of selective facts and figures” to construct Goodhart’s particular version of a divided society, in which the working class is pitted against an “Anywheres” category that lumps together “everyone from those who go on to do low grade office and administrative work through to hedge fund managers and senior executives” via three years at university which are “apparently sufficiently formative to mould all these diverse people into one homogenous bloc”. </p><p>Here too, an “unbridgeable gulf between the working and professional classes” takes centre stage, moving neoliberal globalisation, financial crisis, the concerted austerity drive and forty years of changing attitudes conveniently to one side, while it invokes a timeless “bedrock” and yes, the unitary National Us. </p><p>Here too Jon Bloomfield finds the far right being treated with “kid gloves” in the process. Goodwin and Eatwell are eager to abjure words such as ‘racist’ or ‘fascist’ to describe UKIP members, the far right and populism in general, though they may not have anticipated UKIP’s most recent ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/23/ukip-tommy-robinson-tories-racism-establishment">metamorphosis into an outright, unapologetic far-right party</a>’ at the advice of the Bannonite ‘Tommy Robinson’, now explicitly aiming to head up an aggrieved majoritarian movement in response to what he calls the ‘Great Brexit Betrayal’. Goodhart, before them, had designated UKIP, Trump and Le Pen alike “decent populists”, arguing that “UKIP and the Front National have been dragged sharply to the left in recent years” and that Trump is no “white supremacist”. </p><p>But the selective concern with some dangers and not with others is not the only problem with this approach. When it comes to democratic debate, foregrounding “pluralist heaven” as a no-go-area can only lead to a series of missed opportunities. </p><h2><strong>The immigration debate</strong></h2><p>Take Roger Eatwell’s call for a “bottom-up” conversation “about immigration and how best to live together.”</p><p>In his attempt to persuade us that “the vast majority of British people are ‘balancers’ who recognise the rights of genuine asylum seekers and need for migration”, Eatwell is surely right <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/roger-eatwell/rising-tide-of-national-populism-we-need-to-talk-about-immigration">to ask his readers</a> not to assume that racism is at play among the “many voters” for whom immigration is indeed “a major concern” and to seek to understand what is. One example we are asked to give a sympathetic hearing to is that national populist supporters think immigrants “should be expected to assimilate into the dominant culture, which many people still strongly identify with (though their conceptions of Britishness often differ).” The closing qualification here is a mere aside, the postscript of a scrupulous researcher. But isn’t Eatwell neglecting a more interesting line of inquiry? Looked at another way, conceptions of Britishness in the plural pose challenging questions about how coherent the ‘dominant culture’ is in our ‘hyper-diverse’ modern societies; questions about who is to decide which Britishness should dominate; and about who decides, if at all, who should assimilate to what?</p><p>Furthermore, if we admit that the plurality here is a reality and not a cosmopolitan indulgence, couldn’t this recognition precisely take us in the direction of a mutually vulnerable, inclusive debate, open to ‘the other’ – in which even migrants or Europeans might have something to contribute to our changing perceptions of who British people are? </p><p>Eatwell, in fact, agrees. His article concludes with an “urgent” call for a serious “bottom-up” conversation about “a new and more inclusive conception of national identity” that can “combine old aspects of British identity with the new realities of migration and multicultural communities”. But much more effort goes into urging educated readers to understand assumptions about assimilation, than goes into exploring what it would take in a democracy to have such a serious conversation that could change people’s minds. Which brings us back to the whole question of&nbsp; ‘contact’. </p><p>This missed opportunity occurs when Eatwell is mapping concerns over immigration. He explains that “Concerns are often greatest in areas where people have recently arrived, or where there are fears about such an influx”, or where, as in a South Wales former mining village, “The only foreigners were inside the Daily Mail”.&nbsp; He moves on to the apparent anomaly that “the Brexit vote was often lowest in parts of Britain, like London which have relatively large ethnic minorities”, and provides one possible explanation, nodding to “social-psychological ‘contact theory” which “holds that over time people from different ethnic groups accommodate to each other through direct interaction.” </p><p>But again, wouldn’t we do well to linger? Isn’t the contrast at work here the same one that underpins the choice between two ways of building community with which I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-one">began my argument</a>: on the one hand the horizontal empowerment of direct citizen involvement as a contact sport, working across borders and boundaries over time; and on the other, the rapid balloonings of the imagined monocultural National Us, under sudden threat from some imagined but never quite encountered enemy? If it is true that ‘contact’ makes such a difference, and bearing in mind for example, how every partial and selective version of the Brexit debate proliferates its own lethal enemy images, then mustn’t this be one priority for the proactively implemented “suite of packages” that Goodwin <a href="https://unherd.com/2018/10/populists-get-right/">calls for</a>, adding to his emphasis on what the populists get right, an accompanying emphasis on the need to be “exposed to different perspectives” that is pretty well indistinguishable from “cosmopolitan standards.” </p><p>Goodwin and Eatwell are always worth reading, because their work contains so many of the relevant facts. Take for example, Goodwin’s scrupulous qualification to his proposal for “making greater use of local referendums”, that “Such initiatives would not necessarily halt populism, as countries like Switzerland with its long tradition of direct democracy show.” So what advance on local referenda is conducive to the “meaningful discussion among citizens about political reform” that Goodwin seeks, that might respond to the “lack of voice” and sense of “distant elites that united many Leave voters”? </p><p>Turn your back on pluralist encounter, or fail to question “assimilation” and are you really helping anybody? Isn’t it at least worth wondering what would happen if we dropped the <em>Somewhere: Anywhere</em> binary, and thought instead about a deeply polarised but hugely diverse society, divided between people <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">like the leavers and remainers brought together</a> in the Citizens Assembly on Brexit in Manchester last September, who were relieved to hear each other out, able to change their minds, and honoured to have the opportunity to think about the interests of the country as a whole; and those who are determined neither to persuade or to be persuaded, for whom reliance on force of number, a strong man, crashing out of the EU, or failing these, the lurking possibility of violence, seem the only hope?</p><p>If that is truer to the reality in which we live, as I believe, then a framing of debate that pits those who are privileged by dint of their sheer capacity for debate against those who are not, perversely leaves national populist supporters with little to fall back on but stubborn silence and a gathering sense of betrayal. Eatwell asks us not to “ignore the views of national populist voters who have relatively low levels of education, and are not greatly interested in politics” – fair enough as far as it goes. But in this reductive straitjacket of a stand-off, don’t we begin to ask ourselves what is cause and what is effect? Framing the immigration debate in a way that assumes assimilation is the name of the game can only exacerbate the unpreparedness and fears of people panicking at the prospect of further, disempowering change. “Brexit means Brexit” is such a counterproductive dictum of majority reassurance precisely because it promises that you won’t have to change your mind. “Stopping Brexit”, reversing it or getting it over and done with plays exactly to the same humiliations and sense of powerlessness. So why should people be interested in politics, or democracy, when it only offers further loss of control over their lives?</p><p>Cas Mudde <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/on-extremism-and-democracy-in-europe-three-years-later">writes this week</a>&nbsp;on this platform that, “Today, the far right has established itself at the center of European politics, while scholarship is predominantly “neutral”, although most scholars remain hostile to the far right itself (but increasingly sympathetic to its voters).” Unfortunately, it seems true that these scholars also prefer to dwell on our need to understand the “strong identification” of such voters with a non-existent or imaginary monocultural National Us, at a time when Tommy Robinson is busy inflating that balloon, by claiming that his far right will lead “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/28/far-right-brexit-tommy-robinson-leave-voters">the 52% who opted for leave in the referendum</a>”. </p><p>Aren’t we doing Robinson’s work for him, when we encourage people to ignore the diversity in their own ranks; when we reassure people that they don’t have to change their minds or take minority viewpoints into account; and when we create an enemy image out of the ‘other’?&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/rosemary-bechler/rest-and-west-thoughts-on-brexit-and-migration-part-one">The rest and the West: thoughts on Brexit and migration. Part One </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/roger-eatwell/rising-tide-of-national-populism-we-need-to-talk-about-immigration">The rising tide of national populism: we need to talk seriously about immigration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/albert-weale/second-referendum-yes-will-of-people-no">Second referendum, yes. Will of the People, no</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/people-s-vote-on-brexit-be-careful-what-you-wish-for">A “People’s Vote” on Brexit – be careful what you wish for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/mary-kaldor/labour-and-brexit-sensible-deal"> Labour and Brexit: a ‘sensible’ deal?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/stuart-white/will-constitutional-convention-democratically-refound-british-state">Will a constitutional convention democratically refound the British state?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-owen/who-are-%E2%80%98-people%E2%80%99-in-people%E2%80%99s-constitutional-convention">Who are ‘the People’ in a People’s Constitutional Convention?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/academics-for-meaningful-debate/framing-ethnic-diversity-debate-as-about-threat-legitimises-hat-0">Framing ethnic diversity as a &#039;threat&#039; will normalise far-right hate, say academics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse">Remainers: don&#039;t use our investigations as an excuse </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jon-bloomfield/dangerous-road-to-divisive-places">Dangerous road to divisive places</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/on-extremism-and-democracy-in-europe-three-years-later">On extremism and democracy in Europe: three years later</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/brexit-citizens-assembly-rising-to-crisis-in-democracy">Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom&#039;s crisis in democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler/wherever-people-meet">Wherever people meet</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Rosemary Bechler Wed, 05 Dec 2018 18:32:03 +0000 Rosemary Bechler 120870 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The double standards applied to academic freedom https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/nadje-al-ali/double-standards-applied-to-academic-freedom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The political right is not only cracking down on academic freedoms, but has started simultaneously to become a fierce advocate of an aggressively anti-intellectual freedom of speech. </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-39882339.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39882339.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 embattled Central European University in Budapest, November 24, 2018. Omar Marques/Press Asociation. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The Central European University (CEU) will move their main campus to Vienna. It has appeared inevitable for a while now due to a crackdown and targeting by Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Yet, the significance and repercussions of this fact are profound and remind us that academic freedom is not only under attack in places far away from home. My own area of interest, gender studies, has been particularly targeted not only in Hungary but more widely in anti-gender studies movements and lobbies, including in Germany where we have also seen the rise of the extreme right. </p> <p>Until quite recently, academic freedom, or rather the absence thereof, was something other people had to struggle with. Based in London, where I have been working at what is probably the most radical and progressive institution of higher education within the UK, I generally felt privileged and confident in my academic freedom. Meanwhile, I was acutely aware that colleagues elsewhere, mainly those researching and teaching in the Middle East, but also academics working in Middle East Studies in the US, were challenged by many different forms of encroachment on and violations of their academic freedom.&nbsp; </p> <p>In some extreme cases, such as those of my colleagues, friends and family in Iraq during the Ba‘th regime, it was not merely a matter of working in the context of severe censorship and political pressure, but Iraqi academics actually endured a struggle to stay out of prison cells, or even worse, to avoid execution. All these years, I assumed that my role was to be that of expressing solidarity, raising consciousness about the plight of my colleagues, and facilitating refuge. More recently, we have seen those extreme pressures reach the UK in the case of Matthew Hedges, imprisoned for over 6 months in the UAE, accused of being a British spy. And the devastating case of Cambridge PhD student Giulio Regeni, brutally murdered in Egypt, that still haunts many of us.</p> <h2><strong>Instrumentalised </strong></h2> <p>Nowadays, however, academic freedom has become a real issue within British higher education in general, as well as within SOAS, University of London, the institution I have been attached to for the past 11 years. Academic freedom is acutely under threat, and violated, but also instrumentalised and twisted in a most bizarre manner.&nbsp; </p><p>Certainly, the consequences and symptoms of these encroachments and manipulations are not comparable to what colleagues are enduring in the worst-offending places, for example, to what we have been witnessing in Turkey under Erdoğan in recent years. </p> <p>Yet, it is important to recognise that something significant has shifted and has affected our understandings of and debates about academic freedom in the UK.&nbsp; </p> <p>This shift within British higher education relates to wider changes within the political landscape in Britain and more broadly in western contexts. It is characterised by the securitization of migration, borders and ideas, the growth of racism, Islamophobia, and wider xenophobia as well as the broader increase and normalization of right wing voices, organizations and movements.</p> <h2><strong>The ‘Prevent Duty’</strong></h2> <p>More specifically, research, teaching, publications and academic debate in the UK have increasingly been under scrutiny and restricted due to the introduction in 2015 of what has been called&nbsp; ‘the Prevent Duty’, a set of rules and guidelines that are part of wider anti-terrorism legislation.&nbsp; </p> <p>Prevent contains a duty on specified authorities including universities to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ (Home Office, 2015). Allison Scott-Bauman, Professor of Society and Belief at SOAS has studied how the Prevent Duty has been interpreted and applied at various universities. In her view and that of her co-author Hugh Tomlinson, the 2015 anti-terrorism act is unclear and potentially misleading:</p> <blockquote><p>Broad definitions of extremism seem to be linked to equally imprecise definitions of “terrorism”, “non-violent extremism”, “radicalisation” and “fundamental British values”. These definitions could be understood to mean that people who are, for example, critical of British foreign policy, are at risk of radicalisation and to suggest that academics and students accustomed to expressing personal views at university would need to be warned of the risks of discussing certain issues. But this is not correct, and universities should not let the imprecise and unclear language of the guidance draw them into placing unlawful restrictions on academic freedom and freedom of speech. (Scott-Baumann and Tomlinson, 2017).</p></blockquote> <p>The University College Union (UCU), a large union of academics and professional staff working in higher education in the UK passed a statement in 2015 setting out several objections to the Prevent Duty (UCU, 2015): [it] seriously threatens academic freedom and freedom of speech; the broad definition of terrorism will stifle campus activism; the intention to force union members to be involved in the racist labelling of students is unacceptable; the Prevent Agenda will force union members to spy on&nbsp; learners, is discriminatory towards Muslims, and legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia, encouraging racist views to be publicised and normalised within society; the monitoring of Muslim students will destroy the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment and encourage discrimination against BME and Muslim staff and students; and the Prevent agenda will help racist parties such as UKIP to flourish.</p><p>The Prevent Duty is generally only applied in relation to speakers and events linked to Islam and Palestine-related speakers, with the latter more specifically those supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel. Right wing speakers and organizations promoting nationalist sentiments and policies, racism, Islamophobia as well as homophobia and transphobia not only seem to be excluded from the idea of spreading extremist ideas, but are ironically protected by the current government.&nbsp; </p> <p>In this wider context, SOAS has been particularly singled out within the media and by think tanks of a specific political persuasion. The right wing Henry Jackson Society, for example, issued a report in 2017 listing all universities who were supposedly in breach of the Prevent Duty for hosting extremist speakers. SOAS allegedly hosted more extremist speakers than any other university in the UK. However, when examining the 14 events that took place at SOAS in 2016/2017 listed in the report, many refer to prayer meetings, events organised by the Islamic Society or discussions around Palestine (Black, 2017). While most events were hosted by a student group working under the auspices of the student union, some events, especially those linked to Palestine-related issues have been organised by academics. </p> <p>So far, it needs to be stressed, that the violations of academic freedom which have ensued at universities in the UK and which have mainly involved the cancellation of events or imposition of control over their format, as well as instances of censorship in terms of content – have mainly emerged due to university management giving in to pressure from political lobbying groups or the media, as opposed to overt pressure exerted by the government. </p> <h2><strong>The ‘neutral chair’: a Troll’s charter</strong></h2> <p>A number of incidents together illustrate how academic freedom has been concretely under threat in the UK. Aside from cancelling meetings deemed to be too contentious and provocative, university managements have replaced panel chairs shortly before ‘controversial’ meetings. The two most high profile cases, at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and University of Cambridge took place in November 2017 in relation to panels about Palestinian Rights, the BDS movement, and transnational solidarity. In both instances, the original chairs were deposed at the last minute by university management who gave in to external pressure. At LSE, management tried to implement the following guidelines: "At controversial events it is not prudent to have someone in the chair whose own views mean they may not be seen as a neutral chairperson"(Letter by LSE Academics, 2018). The university’s advice was strongly challenged by a group of LSE academics who signed a letter and started a campaign to counter its recommendations.</p> <p>One professor of Middle East history and politics, John Chalcraft, who has been involved in a successful campaign to challenge the university’s policy, put it the following way:</p> <blockquote><p>"To impose a Chair is very problematic in terms of freedom of speech, as it makes the beliefs and views of this or that academic a basis for determining the allocation of academic positions. It chills academic freedom on campus because it reduces the pool of available Chairs, and signals that certain views are beyond the pale and must be policed. It defines controversy and neutrality in simplistic, conventional terms, a particularly egregious error at a research university, which exists to question the received wisdom. There is a serious issue over equality and diversity, given that School-imposed Chairs are more likely to be white, senior, and male. Above all, to depose a Chair is to signal to academic staff and to the wider world, that certain academics, thanks to their beliefs, are not competent to discharge basic academic functions. If academics cannot observe due process in the Chair, then how can they mark exams or teach subjects that are deemed ‘controversial’? Far from protecting academics, these guidelines expose them to internal and external interrogations of their beliefs and views. It is in the words of one academic, a ‘troll’s charter’. So far there is little or no evidence that a neutral Chair has ever been imposed on a pro-Israeli event, or indeed, any event that was not concerned with Palestinian rights. On the other hand, the guidelines could be used, in principle, against any academic or event. As one worried academic said to me: ‘I am German, does that mean I cannot Chair a Brexit debate?" (Chalcraft, 2018)</p></blockquote> <p>Unsurprisingly, both academics who were deposed as chairs by management were women of an ethnic minority background.&nbsp; They were replaced by senior white male academics. The LSE female academic was of Turkish background but perceived to be unfit to chair neutrally due to her signing BDS statements. In the case of the University of Cambridge replacing a SOAS academic, her Palestinian heritage appeared to have contributed to the university’s decision, in addition to her support of BDS.&nbsp; </p> <p>An open letter signed by hundreds of academics criticised the decision by Cambridge University management, pointing out that much of the correspondence opposing the event and leading to the decision to replace the chair had originated in a well-known pro-Israel lobby group. The lobby group objected to the high profile panellists, including Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti and former President of the National Student Union, Malia Bouattia, the first black and Muslim woman to be in this role.</p> <p>Following the campaign objecting to the university’s decision, which involved not only an open letter but also a complaint sent by my SOAS colleague herself as well as supporting letters from senior colleagues at SOAS, the University of Cambridge’s management finally issued an apology, acknowledging that there was no evidence that her chairing would not have ensured a democratic debate (Mandhai, 2018).</p> <h2><strong>Knee-jerk reactions</strong></h2> <p>Both the University of Cambridge and LSE appear to have made a U-turn in response to pushback from academics. With reference to the successful campaign by LSE academics to challenge managements’ initial guidelines stressing the importance of ‘the neutral Chair’, Chalcraft states: "The new Code advances academic freedom here by removing the link between competence to Chair and beliefs and views. The School can no longer replace the Chair of an Event on the basis of the Chair’s beliefs. The School has accepted, and declared itself persuaded, by our core argument that the existing local regulations chill freedom of speech. It has changed the Code accordingly." </p> <p>Chalcraft stresses that collective action and concerted efforts allowed for the successful overturning of the university’s initial position and guidance. The new code, he states, is in line with ‘the new&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/29/pdfs/ukpga_20170029_en.pdf%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank">Higher Education and Research Act 2017</a>, which establishes, among other things, e.g. at&nbsp; 14 (7) that staff are free to "question and test received wisdom, and . . . to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider."</p> <p>Academics in the UK are struggling to retain their academic freedom against outside pressures, mainly linked to right wing Islamophobic but also extreme pro-Israel lobbies. It has become apparent that collective action within institutions, but also national and transnational lobbying, can be successful in reversing what appear to be knee-jerk reactions by university managements. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the conservative government, particularly the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, has taken it upon itself to make academic freedom central to their policy and rhetoric. However, perhaps predictably, the Minister and other conservative politicians have not been concerned about the potential impact of the Prevent Duty and right wing pressures on academics and students, but are worried about free speech being curtailed by ‘no platforming’ pressures at universities.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <h2><strong>Twisted defence of academic freedom</strong></h2> <p>In a most recent twist of the government’s mission to defend academic freedom in British universities, the former Minister of Universities Sam Gyimah, condemned students and academics at Oxford who protested when a portrait of Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK was added to an exhibition within the School of Geography and the Environment intended to inspire the next generation of female geographers (Weale and Elgot, 2018). </p> <p>Students and staff appear to have been incensed by the lack of consultation and questioned the appropriateness of including the portrait of May. As Prime Minister of a conservative government that has been instrumental in implementing severe cuts to higher education, is promoting immigration control and a fear-mongering discourse around refugees and asylum seekers, while leading a party set on Brexit, May has become an extremely controversial figure. Yet, the Minister of Universities used the protest as another occasion to criticise ‘no platforming’ voices, agendas and movements at universities. </p> <p>In 2017, his predecessor, Jo Johnson, brother of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, threatened to hit universities who were banning homophobic or transphobic speakers with fines and sanctions. In an interview with Pink News, an LGBT+ newspaper, he stated that universities which fail to comply “could be fined, suspended or ultimately deregistered” by the newly established Office for Students (Duffy, 2017). He further claimed that these new rules are needed “to protect freedom of speech” (ibid).</p> <p>Following in Johnson’s footsteps, Sam Gyimah, announced a year later that &nbsp;“When there are so many different interpretations of the rules, there is the risk that legal free speech will be stifled, either by well-intentioned but jittery managers, or by ill-intentioned wreckers” (Duffy, 2018). He continued stating:&nbsp;“A society in which people feel they have a legitimate right to stop someone expressing their views on campus simply because they are unfashionable or unpopular is rather chilling." (ibid).</p> <p>At face value, one might agree with his assessment that “there is a risk that overzealous interpretation of a dizzying variety of rules is acting as a brake on legal free speech on campus" (ibid). However, his enthusiasm for free speech is never linked to defending events that have been cancelled or subject to ‘neutral chair’ measures because of their perceived controversy in relation to Palestine/Israel. Nor does he seem to be defending Muslim students organizing prayer meetings or lecturers. Meanwhile, LGBTQ activists are concerned that the Minister’s attitude and future rulings, might enable speakers with homophobic and transphobic views to gain ground and platforms.</p> <p>While gender studies as a discipline has not been under attack in the UK as it has been in Hungary and elsewhere, it is apparent that conservative and heteronormative understandings of gender and sexuality are also key to right wing discourses and policies in the UK as well. We see extreme versions of the centrality of ultra conservative gender constructions in the way the Hungarian government, similar to many governments in the Middle East, try to replace gender politics with politics that revolve around the heterosexual family.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Hate speech</strong></h2> <p>Aside from the government’s inconsistent approach to freedom of speech, there is clearly a tension between the idea of freedom of speech as an absolute right and principle and the notion of hate speech. Although I have to admit that I see these distinctions as complex and blurry.&nbsp; </p> <p>Personally, I worry about the growing tendency amongst students to demand safe spaces, given the grey zone between ‘hate speech’ and ‘listening to views you do not share’. In my view, an important element of education is pushing students out of their comfort zones and challenging established views. I share Joan Scott’s concerns, which emerged in the context of higher education in the US but, which are also highly relevant in the UK. Scott bemoans: </p> <blockquote><p>"the moralism that is apparent&nbsp; in some courses and some student activism, the calls for “trigger warnings,” the insistence on the authority of their experiences by those whose minority status has silenced or marginalized them – who look to “safe spaces” as a way to gain traction in an otherwise hostile or neglectful institutional and social environment, who erupt in protests that are sometimes ill-considered violations of the rights they need to respect and protect." (Scott, 2017). </p></blockquote> <p>While I share her concerns and view them as problematic, they do not justify the growing call by right wing constituencies to protect their freedom of speech. And here emerges a clear paradox and contradiction: the British government is critical of new generations of students being sensitive "snowflakes" "that should face reality and toughen up"; at the same time, the very same students "must be protected from radical ideas on campus." (Perfect and Scott-Bauman, 2017).</p> <p>Meanwhile, research carried out by Scoot-Bauman and her team on higher education in the UK shows that:</p> <blockquote><p>"the real risks to free speech come, not from the ‘snowflake generation’, but from government-originated initiatives. Specific pressure is applied to Muslim student groups and those interested in the Middle East. Our on-going research appears to show that students and staff, Muslim and non-Muslim, are already self-censoring their discussions and activities as a result." (Perfect &amp; Scott-Bauman 2017).</p></blockquote> <h2><strong>Vile pressures</strong></h2> <p>The complex problems and challenges we are facing in higher education in the UK and elsewhere, I would argue, force us to think about academic freedom in a more nuanced manner. Despite the blurriness, I would want to stress the difference between freedom of speech and academic freedom. Joan Scott provides a helpful distinction between freedom of speech, ‘the right to express one’s ideas, however true or false they may be’ and academic freedom ‘a protection of faculty rights based on disciplinary competence’ (Scott, 2017). In the context of US higher education, Scott further states: </p> <blockquote><p>"These days the Right’s reference to free speech sweeps away the guarantees of academic freedom, dismissing as so many violations of the constitution the thoughtful, critical articulation of ideas, the demonstration of proof based on rigorous examination of evidence, the distinction between true and false, between careful and sloppy work, the exercise of reasoned judgment. Their free speech means the right to one’s opinion, however unfounded, however ungrounded, and it extends to every venue, every institution. That may be why freedom is the principle invoked so forcefully on the Right these days – freedom in the sense of the absence of any restraint. From this perspective, the bad boys can say anything they want, however vile and hateful." (Scott, 2017)</p></blockquote> <p>The depiction of this specific situation, although clearly articulated in the context of the US, has many parallels with the growing encroachment and pressures by right wing politicians, media and think tanks in the UK. So far, the pressures in the UK have not been as ferocious and vile as in the US where the wider political divide seems to be even more extreme than in post-Brexit referendum Britain. Yet, Scott’s words above feel all too familiar.</p> <h2><strong>Leaving London</strong></h2> <p>As I ponder my imminent move to leave London after 24 years to take up a position in the US, I am anxious about ideologically motivated and often rather polemic attacks on universities and academics. According to US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, all university faculty, “from adjunct professors to deans,” are guilty of brainwashing college students. In a speech given at the Conservative Political Action Conference, DeVos accused academics of tainting students with “liberal ideology” (Jaschick 2017). While in my current world ‘liberal ideology” would be a derogatory term referring to conservative capitalist ideas, in DeVos’ and that of her government’s discursive horizon, ‘liberal’ seems to signify radical unpatriotic thinking. Yet, despite the attack on universities by the Trump administration, I take comfort in the fact that so many of my colleagues in the US have been at the forefront of speaking truth to power.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, which will be my new academic home, is also an excellent example to illustrate that academic freedom should not simply be equated with academic autonomy, although autonomy is, of course, a principle we have to defend. Trying to educate myself about our foremothers who fought for gender-based equality in academia, I am reminded of the struggle of Louise Lamphere, the professor who when denied tenure in the anthropology department at Brown in 1974, jointly with three other female colleagues, took the university to court. In an out of court settlement, the department was forced to reverse its decision not to grant Lamphere tenure, despite its argument that the decision was based on the department’s autonomy as a basic tenant of academic freedom (Porwancher, 2013). </p> <p>The out of court settlement established that transparency and the principle of equality were more important than the principle of autonomy. </p> <p>As we are joined in the struggle for academic freedom in different political and national contexts, we will have to negotiate the very principles that inform our respective conceptualizations and possibly recognise that there might be tensions and ambivalences in what we view as priorities.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Concluding reflections</strong></h2> <p>I grew up in Germany where I learnt very early on that following government orders, blind obedience and silence might actually mean complicity in crime and can lead to terrible atrocities. Very early on I learnt that it was important to develop an independent moral compass and to follow ethical principles rooted in the respect for human dignity rather than the rules of an authoritarian regime. </p> <p>So I was very happy and moved to see that over a thousand Turkish academics were courageous enough to sign a petition in January 2016 in order to distance themselves from the atrocities and crimes against the Kurdish population, particularly in south-eastern Turkey. Since then, academics in Turkey have paid a very high price for speaking out, and for daring to challenge the authoritarian regime. </p> <p>All over the world, it has been the role of intellectuals, educators and researchers to speak truth to power and not to be silent when injustice happens. Academic freedom has been integral to the development of the social sciences and the humanities historically and globally. Whenever academic freedom has been under threat, we know that a country is in big trouble: the attack on academic freedom has previously meant that a regime is failing to convince its thinkers with rational arguments as it needs to use coercive measures to maintain control. </p> <p>I knew this not only from my history teachers and readings about Nazi Germany, but while growing up and becoming educated in a relatively free environment, I became acutely aware of the severe restrictions on both freedom of speech and academic freedom posed on researchers, teachers, writers and intellectuals in Iraq during the Ba‘th regime. </p> <p>During my graduate studies in Cairo in the 90s, I also learnt, for the first time, about the complicity of a university management that has given in to external pressures and calls for censorship instead of defending the academic freedom of their staff and students. This became apparent when a colleague and friend of mine was forced to change his reading list at the American University in Cairo after a student, whose father had an important position in the military, complained about the content of some readings being un-Islamic. Instead of defending my friend’s choice of readings, the university management caved in and asked him to change the reading list while withdrawing copies of the book from the library.</p> <p>Historically, a regime lost legitimacy, respect and credibility, not only in the eyes of its own critical and thoughtful population, but also in the eyes of the global critical mass of people believing in democracy, justice and human rights.&nbsp;These days, however, the rules of engagement appear to have changed drastically. Across the globe, rationality and logic, however broad the political spectrum they were on previously, are being challenged by populism, fake news and so-called alternative facts. In this new age where social media insidiously threatens to eradicate our freedom of mind, and where polarised positions are fostered in ghettoised ideological bubbles, the principle of academic freedom is contested and manipulated to different political ends. </p> <p>All of a sudden, the political right is not only cracking down on academic freedoms in different contexts, but has started simultaneously to become a fierce advocate of freedom of speech, thereby not only engaging in aggressive anti-intellectualism but also giving space and platforms to ideas and practices that are counter to principles of equality and justice. </p> <p><strong>References</strong></p> <p>Black, Richard (2017) ‘<a href="http://henryjacksonsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Extreme-Speakers-and-Events-in-the-2016-17-Academic-Year-Final-1.pdf">Extreme Speakers and Events: In the 2016 2017 Academic Year</a>’, </p> <p>Chalcraft, John (2018) ‘<a href="http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/archive/BRICUPNewsletter119.pdf">On ‘Neutral’ Chairs’</a>, in BRICUP Newsletter 119, March 2018.&nbsp; </p> <p>Duffy, Nick (2017) <a href="https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/10/19/universities-must-allow-anti-transgender-speakers-minister-demands/">Universities must allow anti-transgender speakers</a>, in <em>Pink News, </em>19 October 2017.</p> <p><a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/29/section/14/enacted">Higher Education and Research Act </a>2017. </p> <p>Jaschick, Scott. 2017. “<a href="http:// www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/02/24/education-secretary-criticizes-professors-telling-students-what-think.">DeVos vs. the Faculty.”</a> Inside Higher Education, February 24.</p> <p><a href="http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/archive/BRICUPNewsletter119.pdf">Letter by LSE Academics </a>(2018) 20 February 2018</p> <p>Mandhai Shafik (2018) '<a href="//www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/cambridge-apologises-blocking-palestinian-chairing-talk-180306124314792.html">Cambridge apologises for blocking Palestinian from chairing tal</a>k’, Al Jazeera News, 6 March 2018.</p><p>Perfect, Simon and Allison Scott-Bauman (2017) ‘An anatomy of judgement: how do snowflakes think?’, </p> <p>Porwancher, Andrew (2013) Prying the gates wide open: academic freedom and gender equality at Brown University, 1974–1977, <em>Paedagogica Historica</em>, 49:2, 273-292.</p> <p>Scott, Joan (2017) “<a href="https://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/Scott_0.pdf">On Free Speech and Academic Freedom’</a>, in Journal of Academic Freedom, Vol. 8, 2017. </p> <p>Scott-Baumann, Allison and Hugh Tomlinson (2017) “<a href="//inforrm.org/2016/04/08/cultural-cold-wars-the-risk-of-anti-extremism-policy-for-academic-freedom-of-expression-alison-scott-baumann-and-hugh-tomlinson-qc/#more-33714">Cultural Cold Wars: The risk of anti-‘extremism’ policy for academic freedom of expression</a>’, Inform’s Blog: The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog.</p><p>UCU (2015) ‘<a href="https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/7370/The-prevent-duty-guidance-for-branches-Dec-15/pdf/ucu_preventdutyguidance_dec15.pdf">The prevent duty guidance for branches</a>’. December 2015.</p> <p>Weale, Sally and Jessica Elgot (2018) ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/08/theresa-may-portrait-removed-from-oxford-university-display-after-protest">Hung, withdrawn, and re-quartered: May portrait in Oxford row</a>’, in <em>The Guardian</em>, 8 May 2018</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="/jannis-grimm/policing-research-shifting-tides-for-middle-east-studies-after-arab-spring">Authoritarian Middle East regimes don&#039;t like academics – ask Matthew Hedges</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/umut-ozkirimli/fear-and-loathing-in-turkish-academia-tale-of-appeasement-and-complicity">Fear and loathing in Turkish academia: a tale of appeasement and complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/franco-palazzi-michela-pusterla/giulio-regeni-murder-transnational-memory-egypt-italy">Remembering against the tide: Giulio Regeni and the transnational horizons of memory</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia uk United States EU Hungary UK Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Nadje al-Ali Wed, 05 Dec 2018 00:05:21 +0000 Nadje al-Ali 120852 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A People's Vote without a referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/richard-s-forsyth/peoples-vote-without-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is an alternative way of "letting the people decide" on an issue where MPs seem incapable of agreeing a coherent policy. The Greeks had a word for it: democracy.</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-Αθήνα_6875_hdr.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1024px-Αθήνα_6875_hdr.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="159" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>View of Athens from Pnyx, at dusk, 2015. To the left is Lycabettus, to the right Acropolis. Wikicommons/ C Messier. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The recent publication of Theresa May's Brexit deal incited a number of zealots in Parliament to throw various toys out of their prams so fast that it is hard to believe they had time to read it. It has also provoked a great clamour for a "people's vote" in another EU referendum.</p><p>One of the arguments offered in favour of a second referendum is that the people didn't know what they were voting for in June 2016. Now, it is claimed, we have the details, so voters will be better informed. The idea that more than a handful of voters would read and digest the 585-page withdrawal document, along with supplementary papers on the proposed future trading arrangements between Britain and the EU, shows that this line of argument is essentially spurious – promoted by those who simply want a different result from last time. They might get a different result from last time, but that brings dangers of its own, as many commentators have pointed out, for example <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/bad4d6e4-cad2-11e8-9fe5-24ad351828ab">Richard Shrimsley</a> in the FT, (October 8, 2018).</p><h2><strong>Those Greeks</strong></h2> <p>There is, however, an alternative way of "letting the people decide" on an issue where Members of Parliament seem incapable of agreeing a coherent policy. The Greeks had a word for it. </p><p>Democracy as implemented by deliberative assemblies of randomly chosen citizens rather than by elected chambers of representatives is very much a minority activity in the modern world, but it has begun to impress a growing number of political scientists with its effectiveness wherever it has been tried (see the writings of <a href="https://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-11-22/solutions-how-the-poles-are-making-democracy-work-again-in-gdansk/">Tin Gazivoda</a>, <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/participatory-democracy-revisited/A6D459BB654AD3AA9152FDDC682AC364">Carole Pateman</a>, and <a href="https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/matthew-taylor-blog/2018/05/21st-century-social-contract">Matthew Taylor</a>, cited below). The idea is to go back to something more like the classical Greek model, in which ordinary citizens had a direct input into political decision-making. The key to dealing with larger populations than in an ancient Greek polis goes by the name of sortition, namely random selection from a pool of eligible voters.</p><p>Below I propose an EEC (Extraordinary Electoral College) with a step-by-step procedure that is likely to deliver a verdict that would command more widespread assent than yet another referendum. (For clarity, a number of implementation details, though important, are omitted from this outline – discussed separately in the next section.)<br /> <br /> 1.&nbsp; 650 people, chosen purely at random, one from each of the electoral registers of the UK's 650 parliamentary constituencies, are selected to decide upon the issue. (What to do about alternatives for seriously unwell or heavily pregnant people or others with good reasons for being unable to attend is discussed later on.)<br /> <br /> 2.&nbsp; These people are given 14 days' notice to gather for 8 days (Saturday to Sunday) in a conference centre somewhere in the UK, situated north of Bedford and south of Berwick upon Tweed. In a time of national crisis it is impressed on them that it is their duty as citizens to take this task at least as seriously as jury service. (What to do about payment, accommodation arrangements, finding replacements for them in their workplaces and so on is discussed below.)<br /> <br /> 3.&nbsp; When they arrive at the conference centre on Saturday morning they are given the withdrawal document to study and a hotline is made available to a panel of civil servants who have been involved in the negotiations to call on for explanations of difficult passages.<br /> <br /> 4.&nbsp; They are left at liberty in their accommodation (with regular meals provided, of course, preferably in a communal dining area) to read and try to understand the document until Monday lunchtime. After lunch on Monday they are each given a multi-choice quiz, previously compiled by the civil servants, to test their comprehension of what they were asked to read and understand. (This test must later be published, with its expected correct answers.) The 50 people with the lowest scores on the test take no further part in the process, with tiebreaks to be decided at random, if necessary. (What to do about anonymity and whether they should depart is discussed below.)<br /> <br /> 5.&nbsp; The remaining 600 participants are divided into fifty groups of 12, again entirely randomly, to spend the next four days discussing in their groups the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed deal. Voters are asked to avoid discussion with members of other groups as far as possible. During this period mobile phones and other internet devices must be deposited in a secure holding area during the hours of 0900 to 1900 each day, but the hotline to civil servants should remain open at certain times, e.g. 1200 to 1800 for technical queries.<br /> <br /> 6.&nbsp; On the second Saturday morning, all voters are asked to retire individually to their rooms for 24 hours to ponder their choice of all the viable options (in this case let us say the 3 options: May's deal, No Deal &amp; Remaining in the EU) without any internet device and without speaking to other voters.<br /> <br /> 7.&nbsp; On the second Sunday morning these 600 citizens vote by secret ballot on the three options available. They will be required to rank them in order from most to least preferred. The overall result should be calculated by adding 1 to the count of each option ranked top and subtracting 1 from to the count of the least preferred option, with zero for the middle option, giving each option an overall positive or negative score. (What to be done about spoilt ballots and suchlike is considered below.)<br /> <br /> 8.&nbsp; On the Sunday evening the result is announced and the participants depart to resume their lives.<br /> <br /> Why should this command more respect from the wider population than a vote in the House of Commons or a full-scale referendum? There are four main reasons. Firstly, the citizens taking part better represent the diverse range of people in this country than do Members of Parliament. Secondly, again unlike MPs, they have no personal ambitions for prestige or wealth that depend on their decisions. They are simply citizens who have been asked to take their responsibilities seriously to the best of their abilities. Thirdly, lobbyists from large corporations and other vested interests would not have time to exert pressure on the decision makers, who in any case would have nothing to gain or lose from such pressure. Finally, and most importantly, they will have studied and discussed and thought seriously about the choices at stake – something that is simply impractical for voters in a full referendum. (It could also be arranged more cheaply and quickly than a national referendum, though that advantage should not be decisive.)</p><h2><strong>Devils lurking in the details</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2><p> Naturally there are ways that such a procedure can be compromised, so it is important to guard against apparently minor elements of the process than can undermine its integrity. Nevertheless, it should not be beyond the wit of homo sapiens to devise a trustworthy procedure. Some suggestions in this regard are listed below in the same order as the steps outlined above.<br /> <br /> 1.&nbsp; Some individuals selected from the electoral registers may have extremely strong reasons for not taking part. They may need urgent medical treatment; they may be in the late stages of pregnancy, or they may even be dead. Thus each constituency must devise a justifiable randomization process along with clear rules about what grounds for self-exclusion are acceptable, as well as a rapid way of selecting an alternative elector if needed. These must be open to scrutiny so that they can be seen to be unbiased. It is vital to keep screening to a minimum. The temptation to stratify by age, gender, socioeconomic or other criteria should be resisted: the nearer to a pure random selection of eligible voters the better.<br /> <br /> 2.&nbsp; Participants should be well rewarded (by normal standards, even if not by MPs' standards) for their participation; and their employers, if adversely affected, should be compensated on relatively generous terms. Thus the exercise will cost public money, although a trivial amount compared to the renovation of the Houses of Parliament, for example. In addition, details of the venue, such as eating and sleeping arrangements, can make a significant difference, so expense should not be skimped on this aspect either. Above all, the participants should not find the event stressful. It may be that centres capable of holding events of such a size should bid for what will be a taxpayer-funded operation. It is important that the choice (presumably by civil servants) is transparent, i.e. that the reasons for the choice of location can be laid open to public scrutiny. The geographic limits stated in the previous section, above, are designed to keep the participants away from the delirium of the "Westminster bubble" and arrive at a venue not too far distant from the centre of the UK population.<br /> <br /> 3.&nbsp; The Brexit withdrawal document does not contain a summary. It would be helpful for ordinary members of the public to have some kind of executive summary to guide them, but of course the danger then is that the summary will be used instead of the full document. Perhaps a small team of independent scholars could prepare in advance a synopsis that does not tend to bias towards one conclusion or another.<br /> <br /> 4.&nbsp; Excluding a small number of people who haven't read or have very poorly understood the central document is controversial. The wider public will accept something of the kind as fair so long as it is restricted only to those who, for one reason or another, aren't able to make an informed contribution. However, the proportion excluded should be small, definitely less than 10 percent of the total; and if a tiebreak among equal scores is indicated, it would probably be better to proceed with slightly more than 600 participants rather than fewer. (Presuming that the official document under scrutiny is in English creates potential disadvantages those for whom English is a second language, but time is not sufficient to provide for speakers of other languages.) It is also very important to guard against groupthink. It would be unnatural to expect a group of strangers with a specific topic at the forefront of their minds not to talk about it at all with their fellows, but arrangements should be in place to emphasize that what is being sought is 600 separate informed decisions not 600 repetitions of some influential person's opinion. Hence fraternization with other participants, other than at meal times, will have to be discouraged.<br /> <br /> 5.&nbsp; Hosting fifty groups in surroundings conducive to free-ranging discussion isn't an easy task. Something like a campus with separate meeting rooms will be required. Each group should share thoughts and have the chance to seek clarifications from the civil servants, but too much discussion with other groups might undermine the independence of each discussion, so should be discouraged as far as possible. In western so-called democracies we have become accustomed to, but also disenchanted with, adversarial debate on divisive party lines. The present arrangements are explicitly designed to minimize the risk of polarization into 2 or 3 factions who then devote their energies to disparaging each other rather than seeking solutions to a problem. To encourage freshness, another option might be to reallocate participants to new groups, again randomly, half-way through the four-day discussion phase.<br /> <br /> 6.&nbsp; Again, the idea of a period of private reflection is to allow debate to lead on to deliberation, thereby reducing the chances of groupthink.<br /> <br /> 7.&nbsp; The Alternative Vote (AV) might be thought appropriate here for a 3-way choice. The reason for advocating a tallying system, such as that described above, is that AV, in effect, stops as soon as one alternative reaches 50% support. The present method results in an overall order of preference, not just a 'winner'. This gives more information about the decision process to politicians and to the wider public. Spoilt ballot papers, as agreed by a panel of trusted returning officers, would be left out of the computations.<br /> <br /> 8.&nbsp; Questions of anonymity will need to be considered. It would be hard to guarantee all participants anonymity, but it will probably be necessary to impose strict limitations on whether they should be allowed to give interviews to media organizations and suchlike. Possibly a four or five-year moratorium on revealing their deliberations should be imposed on participants, long enough for the information to pass from news (from which political points can be scored) to history (from which lessons can be learned).</p><h2><strong>Problem-solving politics</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2><p> Even more important than finding an acceptable route through the tangled thicket of Brexit, successful adoption of such an approach would demonstrate direct democracy in action as a more effective way of doing politics. This is something that will be sorely needed if we are to confront the coming climate crisis, (which will make Brexit look like a mere hiccup), without turning it into a catastrophe.<br /> <br /> References<br /> <br /> Gazivoda, T. (2017). <a href="https://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-11-22/solutions-how-the-poles-are-making-democracy-work-again-in-gdansk/">Poles are making democracy work again in Gdansk</a>.<br /> https://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-11-22/solutions-how-the-poles-are-making-democracy-work-again-in-gdansk/<br /> <br /> Pateman, C. (2012). Participatory Democracy Revisited. Perspectives on Politics, 10(1), 7-19. doi:10.1017/S1537592711004877<br /> <br /> Shrimsley, R. (2018).<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/bad4d6e4-cad2-11e8-9fe5-24ad351828ab"> A second Brexit poll is a bigger risk than leaving.</a> Financial Times, 8 October 2018.<br /><br /> Taylor, M. (2018). <a href="https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/matthew-taylor-blog/2018/05/21st-century-social-contract">Is Deliberative Democracy Key to a 21st Century Social Contract?</a> RSA Publications.<br /> <br /> </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="/oliver-norgrove/interesting-brexit-experiment-worthy-of-analysis">An interesting Brexit experiment worthy of analysis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/albert-weale/myth-of-will-of-people">The myth of the Will of the People </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/digitaliberties/marco-deseriis-richard-bartlett/loomio-and-problem-of-deliberation">Loomio and the problem of deliberation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rosemary-bechler/diary-of-organiser-team-syntegrity-2017">Diary of an organiser: Team Syntegrity 2017</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana/team-syntegrity-comprehensive-method-of-hope">Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Greece </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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU Greece UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Brexit Richard S. Forsyth Tue, 04 Dec 2018 11:18:58 +0000 Richard S. Forsyth 120830 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fortress Europe: Macron hikes university fees for non-EU students https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/constance-laisn-gabriel-bristow/fortress-europe-macron-hikes-university-fees-for- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">The students that the government is hoping to dissuade from studying in France are the young people of its former colonies. How does this square with ‘patriotism as openness’?</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-39648068.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39648068.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'>Trump and Macron bilateral at the Elysee Palace, November 10, 2018, during Centennial of the end of World War I commemorations. Shealah Craighead/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Body">In 2017, Labour pledged to create a unified National Education Service for England “to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use”, including the abolition of tuition fees. Just across the channel, in France, free education for life already exists — albeit in a state of underfunded disrepair. </p> <p class="Body">For us, one French and one British, this system has been vital: an opening into new worlds, a chance to reorient our lives, and a way of reviving the avid curiosity that marks the end of childhood. But the universal basis of this model is under threat. </p> <p class="Body">On 19 November, French prime minister Édouard Philippe announced government plans for an astronomical rise in university fees for non-EU students. Currently, where you come from does not affect how much you pay to study in France: it costs €170 a year for an undergraduate degree, a €243 a year for a masters, and €380 a year for a PhD. For students from outside Europe the government plans to increase the cost to €2770 a year for undergraduates and €3770 a year for masters and PhD students. </p> <p class="Body">In an ironic twist reminiscent of Trumpian policy flourishes, these fee hikes are part of a package of measures entitled #BienvenueEnFrance (Welcome to France). The government’s stated objective is to increase the number of foreign students from 324,000 to 500,000 by 2027 — by making them pay at least ten times more.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Anglo-American model</strong></h2> <p class="Body">From the standpoint of the elitist, fee-paying, border-policing model of UK higher education, one could be forgiven for being more shocked by the relative openness of the existing French system than by the proposed changes. And indeed, a comparison of the two models is prescient precisely because it seems increasingly clear that Macron’s government is intent on importing the Anglo-American model of higher education to France. </p> <p class="Body">Earlier this year, the government introduced stricter selection criteria&nbsp;for school-leavers hoping to go to university. This was widely seen as a move away from the essentially non-selective, comprehensive-school-style idea behind the bulk of French public universities. This principle of non-selection — epitomised by the university Paris 8, which was set up in the wake of the movements of 1968 as an experiment in open popular education — has always been undermined by the existence of the <em>grandes écoles</em> (a small set of highly selective elite institutions such as the <em>École Normale Supérieure</em>) as well as being continually eroded by underfunding. </p> <p class="Body">And yet this principle continues to heavily influence debates over the future of higher education in France. The government’s first two measures regarding universities — increasing their selectivity and drawing financial borders around them — signal a worrying change in direction of travel.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Existential threat</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Writing in <a href="https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2018/11/21/etudiants-etrangers-attirer-les-plus-riches-et-en-meme-temps-ecarter-les-plus-pauvres_5386247_3232.html?fbclid=IwAR0eCSTA7PDzzEBoLVdAmw4agM5GhaDwlFqscu09cTrInil77ycr7LNdfwg">Le Monde</a>, sociologist Éric Fassin puts the aim of this latest measure in the clearest possible terms: “the government wants to attract the richest, and push away the poorest”. While the number of scholarships for overseas students will increase from 13,000 to 21,000, this will constitute but a drop in the ocean: the current number of foreign students stands at 324,000. </p> <p class="Body">And even if the number of scholarships did make up for the increase in fees, the introduction of means-testing always poses an existential threat to the principle of universal public services: once you start asking who should pay and who should not, it is a slippery slope towards privatisation.</p> <p class="Body">In conjunction with the insufficient increase in scholarships, Édouard Philippe stated the government’s intention to attract more students from “emerging countries (China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia) and non-francophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa”. This is in sharp distinction to the current make-up of the foreign student population. </p> <p class="Body">Of the 10 countries that send the most students to France, 6 are francophone African, with African students in general making up a total of 45%. These are the students that the government is hoping to dissuade from studying in France: the young people of its former colonies.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Republican tradition</strong></h2> <p class="Body">This flies directly in the face of what some consider a longstanding republican tradition: that if you can speak French and you have the qualifications, you can study in France for next to nothing. This tradition — which acted as both a colonial tool to train the governing elites of the French colonies and later, arguably, as a measly form of postcolonial reparations — contributed to the development of some of the most important thinkers and writers of recent decades: Achille Mbembe, Albert Memmi, and René Depestre to name but a small few.***</p> <p class="Body">To compensate, the government is proposing to contribute towards the expansion of French higher education institutions based outside of Europe. While this may be welcomed by those who would prefer to study in their home countries, this measure comes with its problems. Not only is it a way of reinforcing the global influence of <em>la francophonie</em> (playing catch-up with the US and UK spread of branded universities across the world, such as UCL Qatar or Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi), it is also a way of limiting the dynamics of decolonisation at work in the former metropoles themselves. As Stuart Hall famously put it: “we are here, because you were there”. </p> <p class="Body">The same was repeatedly voiced by students of formerly colonised countries studying in France present at a meeting called shortly after the government’s announcement. The attempt to price out students from former colonies is a forceable off-shoring of the ongoing dynamics of decolonisation — a process at play not only in former colonies but also in the former centres of colonial power.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Patriotism as openness?</strong></h2> <p class="Body">The sheer hypocrisy of such a move is all the more striking given Macron’s internationalist posturing on the world stage. Only last month, during Trump's visit to Paris on Remembrance Day, the French president was at pains to denounce economic nationalism in favour of a vague notion of patriotism as openness. </p> <p class="Body">That this squares with a rise in university fees for non-European students tells us all we need to know about the exclusionary contours of neoliberal internationalism.</p> <p class="Body">***<em>Here, we are not including figures such as Frantz Fanon and others because Martinique remains, administratively, part of France.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 United States UK France Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Gabriel Bristow Constance Laisné Tue, 04 Dec 2018 10:26:46 +0000 Constance Laisné and Gabriel Bristow 120828 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Protest in Paris: End of the world versus End of the month https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/danica-jorden/protest-in-paris-end-of-world-versus-end-of-month <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After the COP21 in Paris, Macron wanted to become the world leader on Climate Change. But what could seem accurate policy measures not always are perceived as fair politics.</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/557099/PA-40012220.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-40012220.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cyclists take part in a march called "Claim the Climate" in Brussels, as the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) kicked off in Poland, a climate protest called "Claim the Climate" was held across Brussels. Ye Pingfan/PA Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span>Protecting the environment plays a tangential role in the violent protests sweeping France since November 17, reaching a crescendo on Saturday, December 1. Donning the bright yellow vests required in French cars in case of a flat or other emergency, drivers all over the country are in the streets protesting President Emmanuel Macron’s new set of taxes aimed at curbing auto emissions. And even people who don’t own a car feel the solidarity and are joining in, to express their anger over another economic pressure on the middle, working and lower classes.</p><p>In a nod to the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference (COP21) and its Paris Accord, which attempts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, the French government decided to raise taxes on automobile fuel prices substantially by over 20 percent. Cutting subsidies on more-polluting diesel fuel, which is popular in France for older cars, will drive diesel prices even higher. Tax credits and subsidies are on offer to purchasers of new fuel-efficient cars, especially electric ones.</p> <p>While visitors to Paris marvel at the efficiency of the Métro trains that encircle the City of Light’s tourist sites and fashionable neighbourhoods, the non-élite live farther afield. A small one-bedroom apartment of 50 m² in less desirable eastern Paris costs at least a million euros to buy and rents for more than €1,500 plus expenses. It’s not much less expensive in other cities in France. Minimum wage in France is €554 a month.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">In a nod to the 2015 Paris Accord, which attempts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, the French government decided to raise taxes on automobile fuel prices substantially by over 20 percent.&nbsp;</p> <p>There is train service throughout France, but it is costly and plagued by long delays and frequent cancellations. “Make sure you demand a refund,” admonished a fellow traveller in a huff as she ran off to make other arrangements after a 4-hour delay ended in a train being taken out of service.</p> <p>Working class people, families with children, the handicapped, elderly and others in outlying areas and small towns must make do with the least expensive means of transport to get to work, doctors, school, shopping and appointments. And that often means an older diesel car.</p> <p>In Paris, the protests have turned&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=27&amp;v=CI5OY0fUGVk">destructive and violent</a>&nbsp;with at least one death, 133 wounded and about 400 arrests. Tear gas clouds the air on the Champs Elysées near the Arc de Triomphe and Avenue Kléber is blocked by burned out vehicles, while fire fighters try to put out blazes around the Opéra. At the foot of the world’s most luxurious shops and restaurants, hundreds of angry, yellow-vested protestors are covering their faces and picking up and hurling paving stones.</p> <p>While protestors are travelling to Paris to make their voices heard, there are also demonstrations throughout France. Similar scenes are taking place in Toulouse, yellow-vested workers shovelled cement and dirt in front of tax offices in Limoges and Total gas stations in St Chamond, and traffic has been blocked on the A47 highway to Lyon. In Aix-en-Provence, yellow vests lifted a tollbooth barrier and let drivers onto the A8 highway for free. </p><p>Meanwhile on the shores of the Mediterranean, drivers are continuously honking their horns at a central traffic circle in Montpellier while crowds are gathering all around Marseilles.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.liberation.fr/france/2018/12/02/de-marseille-a-englos-tout-le-peuple-nous-rejoint_1695610">Speaking</a>&nbsp;to French newspaper “Libération”, Marseilles residents Caroline and Damien believe the protests have reached all people, crossing racial, ethnic and economic divisions, and are not only about the gas hike. “The president of the Republic is paid even after he’s out of office for the rest of his life,” explains Damien, “but when you earn €1,500 a month and lose your job, you’re left with nothing really fast.”</p> <p>Employees may have greater protections in France than in other countries but it is increasingly more common to be hired on a temporary contract than to be considered a regular employee.&nbsp;</p> <p>Both the political right and the left have accused each other of being protest “casseurs” (hooligans or instigators). Interior Minister Christophe Castaner&nbsp;<a href="http://video.lefigaro.fr/figaro/video/les-gilets-jaunes-se-sont-fait-avoir-selon-christophe-castaner/5974160701001/">insists</a>&nbsp;that ultra right-wing opponent Martine LePen stirred up the protests, but admits that most of the people arrested were ordinary citizens he believes to have been merely inspired by far right groups. LePen&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/violences-a-paris-pour-marine-le-pen-le-gouvernement-veut-beneficier-de-ces-images-pour-decredibiliser-les-gilets-jaunes-1121920.html">retorted</a>&nbsp;that “The minister does not seek peace and order but in reality wants the situation to get worse and take advantage of it.” The real problem, however, is an out-of-touch government courting favour with the world on the backs of the people.</p> <p>In Marseilles, yellow vest spokesperson Paul Marra&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/bfm-story-du-lundi-26-novembre-2018-1120416.html">told</a>&nbsp;BFM-TV “It’s been so many years that we have listened and so many years that we have not been listened to,” while his friend held up a cell phone photo of an almost empty refrigerator and said it belonged to a mother of three children. Marra said the real hooligans are in the government and spoke about uniting the yellow vests with orange-vested Banque Alimentaire (Food Bank) workers. The national charitable organization is out on their annual effort to collect food donations and serve meals to the poor. When asked if the protestors’ road blocs will disrupt the collection, Marra&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/a-marseille-les-gilets-jaunes-se-mobilisent-pour-la-grande-collecte-de-la-banque-alimentaire-1120274.html">replied</a>, “The yellow vests will help the orange vests this weekend. For all those who are suffering, we’re not only not going to block them, we’re going to help them.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Automobile exhaust is an important contributor to air pollution, but this fuel tax inordinately hits people of moderate to low income who are already using as little gas as possible.</p> <p>Meanwhile, COP24 is held in Katowice, Poland. Since the Paris Accord of 2015, emissions and pollution have continued to worsen, culminating in the United Nations’ dire warning in October that the world has only 12 years to contain climate catastrophe. </p> <p>Automobile exhaust is an important contributor to air pollution, but this fuel tax inordinately hits people of moderate to low income who are already using as little gas as possible, cannot afford to live closer to where they need to go or buy a new, fuel-efficient car. Curbing industrial emissions through technology or degrowth, improvement in mass transit, urban planning and policies aimed at gentrification and investment real estate are alternatives.</p><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> </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"> 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> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Can Europe make it? France Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Danica Jorden Tue, 04 Dec 2018 10:24:25 +0000 Danica Jorden 120827 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On extremism and democracy in Europe: three years later https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/on-extremism-and-democracy-in-europe-three-years-later <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This introduction to the updated Greek edition of the 2016 book brings to its thought-provoking chronological account three more eventful years for the far right, populism, Euroscepticism and liberal democracy. </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-39855267.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39855267.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'>Markus Soeder, State Premier Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, Federal Minister of the Interior, Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP group, take their seats to draw up CSU list for the European elections. Matthias Balk/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>I will never forget the day that I sent off the final manuscript of the English edition of <em><a href="https://www.routledge.com/On-Extremism-and-Democracy-in-Europe/Mudde/p/book/9781138651449">On Extremism and Democracy in Europe</a></em>. It was Friday November 13, 2015. Elated at having finally finished a task I thought would take much less time, I came home to celebrate with my wife. Barely inside the house, she asked me, “did you hear about Paris?” I had not, having been totally immersed in finishing the manuscript: but I knew it was not good news. </p> <p>The last time Paris was big news was at the beginning of that year, when two brothers attacked the headquarters of the French satirical magazine <em>Charlie Hebdo</em>, killing twelve people, including most members of the editorial staff, including the famous cartoonists Jean Cabut (Cabu) and Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb). This time it was even worse. A small group of homegrown Jihadi terrorists had conducted a series of coordinated attacks at three diverse but highly public sites in Paris, killing 130 civilians and injuring 413. It was one of the darkest days in Europe this century.</p> <h2><strong>Dark days</strong></h2> <p>Although terrorist attacks have abated somewhat in recent years, at least in Europe, the continent is facing even bigger threats to liberal democracy today than on that day. Illiberal democracy has come to full fruition in Hungary, at the heart of the biggest liberal democratic project in history, the European Union. Not only did the EU fail to stop it, it actively enabled it, through lavish subsidies to the country and opportunistic political protection of the Orbán regime by the European People’s Party (EPP), the main political group in the European Parliament. </p> <p>The Hungarian example has become an inspiration for authoritarian politicians across Europe, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, where leading politicians in aspiring (e.g. Macedonia) and current (e.g. Poland) member states have followed Orbán’s lead.</p> <p>At the same time, Europe is part of a less and less predictable and more and more authoritarian world. Four of the five largest countries have seen an authoritarian turn in recent years, from China to India and from Brazil to the United States. Even in Indonesia authoritarian forces are prominent, albeit polling “only” in second place. And the EU is still limping from “crisis” to “crisis,” eagerly awaiting the final details of the Brexit deal, while bracing itself for another “populist backlash” in the 2019 European elections. Whatever the future holds, the key issues discussed in this book – the far right, populism, Euroscepticism and liberal democracy – will be at the forefront of the political struggles.</p> <h2><strong>The normalization of the radical right</strong></h2> <p>This book is a collection of op-eds I wrote, and interviews I gave, in the past decade or so. It is impossible to capture the political transformation that Europe has undergone in that period; in part, because it is still ongoing and the outcome, while looking increasingly grim, is far from certain. The political developments have also affected my own thinking, which can be seen from the various readings, which are published in chronological order, and have not been edited or updated, to provide a better insight into my own intellectual development as well as the mood of the time.</p> <p>I started studying the far right as an undergraduate student at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, in the early 1990s. It was still a marginal force within my own country, and, except for some specific countries (notably Austria and France), in Europe. Scholarship on the far right was in its infancy and strongly normative, with most people studying it from an explicitly “anti-fascist” perspective. Even “neutral” scholarship was frowned upon. Today, the far right has established itself at the center of European politics, while scholarship is predominantly “neutral”, although most scholars remain hostile to the far right itself (but increasingly sympathetic to its voters). <span class="mag-quote-center">Today, the far right has established itself at the center of European politics, while scholarship is predominantly “neutral”, although most scholars remain hostile to the far right itself (but increasingly sympathetic to its voters).</span></p> <p>The public debate over the far right has fundamentally changed in the past decades. In the late twentieth century far right voices were either excluded or marginalized in the public debate. While the far right received disproportionate attention in the media, it was almost always within a strongly negative framework. Moreover, the media reported about the far right, but rarely gave the far right a direct voice. </p> <p>In countries like Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, for example, op-eds by far right politicians were consistently rejected by mainstream media, to the extent that few would even bother to submit them. Compare that to today, when far right leaders like Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen can write op-eds for the<em> New York Times</em> and <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, and even AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland has published an op-ed in the <em>Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung</em>.</p> <p>The normalization of the radical right is largely a consequence of the <em>Rechtsruck</em> of European politics, in part a calculated, and often opportunistic, response by center-right, and to some extent center-left, parties to the increased electoral success of radical right parties. The twenty-first century is so far the century of socio-cultural issues, with most elections dominated by non-economic issues centered around “identity” – with the notable exception of those countries most affected by the Great Recession, like Greece and Spain. In some ways, the radical right is setting the political agenda in Europe, by determining <em>what</em> we talk about and <em>how</em> we talk about it. But it can only do that with the tacit support of mainstream media and politics.</p> <p>One of the most important consequences of the normalization of the far right is that far right politics is no longer limited to far right parties. Authoritarianism, nativism and populism are expressed, in more or less strident ways, by a broad variety of mainstream political parties. In fact, some parties have moved so far to the right, that it is no longer clear whether they are mainstream or radical right. This is certainly the case for Hungary’s Fidesz or Poland’s Law and Justice party, but similar concerns can be raised with regard to the Belgian New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the British Conservative Party, the French The Republicans, the German Christian Social Union (CSU), and increasingly the Spanish Popular Party (PP). <span class="mag-quote-center">Similar concerns can be raised with regard to the Belgian New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the British Conservative Party, the French The Republicans, the German Christian Social Union (CSU), and increasingly the Spanish Popular Party (PP).</span></p> <p>While this <em>Rechtsruck</em> has given radical right parties more political influence, and made some of them <em>Koalitionsfähig</em> (again), it has also created an electoral challenge for them. In some countries, it has pushed the radical right further right, to remain distinctive from the mainstream right and regain the “radical” position on European integration and immigration (see the shift to Frexit and Nexit of Le Pen and Wilders, respectively). But in other countries the mainstream right went so far right, that the radical right saw no other possibility than to shift to the mainstream. This is the case, most notably, in Hungary, where Fidesz and Jobbik have shifted positions, and Jobbik is now campaigning against the “undemocratic” and “anti-European” Fidesz government.</p> <h2><strong>Open extremists and career politicians</strong></h2> <p>Another new phenomenon, long considered impossible within the academic literature, is the success of openly extreme right parties. With Golden Dawn (XA) in Greece and Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia in Slovakia, two neo-fascist parties are currently represented in a national parliament of an EU member state. </p> <p>At the same time, members of the extreme right National Movement (RN) were elected to the Polish parliament on the list of the radical right Kukiz’15 movement and the longstanding German National Democratic Party (NPD) has a Member of the European Parliament. Outside of electoral politics, openly neo-fascist organizations like Casa Pound in Italy, or the slightly more guarded Identitarian Movement, are rearing their heads, building infrastructures and grabbing media attention with carefully crafted stunts.</p> <p>What has become termed “the rise of populism”, meanwhile, is increasingly limited to the populist radical right. Since ignoring its own electoral promises, as well as its own referendum, and accepting the austerity policies associated with yet another bailout, SYRIZA has become an embarrassment rather than an inspiration for the European populist left. Podemos has lost electoral momentum, as it struggles with corruption scandals, the issue of Catalan independence, and an ideological and strategic disagreement over its left populist course. The last remaining hope comes from two movements led by true career politicians, i.e. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s established Unbowed France (FI) and Oscar Lafontaine and Sarah Wagenknecht’s new Get Up movement.</p> <p>For all the talk about populism, without a doubt <em>the</em> political buzzword of the twenty-first century so far, it has little policy implications. Political systems are not fundamentally revised, either at the national or at the European level, and referendums are more criticized than before the recent rise of populist parties. <span class="mag-quote-center">Political systems are not fundamentally revised, either at the national or at the European level, and referendums are more criticized than before the recent rise of populist parties.</span></p> <p>While some mainstream right-wing politicians, like Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, claim that only “good” populism can defeat “bad” populism, they mostly refer to, and implement, nativist policies. And on the other side of the political spectrum, left-wing populism has gotten a new boost through the work of Belgian philosopher Chantal Mouffe, the widow of Ernesto Laclau, but their program is only “populist” according to their own definition.</p> <h2><strong>Legitimate adversaries</strong></h2> <p>This is not to say that populism is irrelevant, or no longer relevant. Populist attitudes are widespread across European populations, and are being fed and strengthened by an almost daily diet of sensationalist media coverage. They constitute a growing threat to liberal democracy in Europe, and around the globe, as they undermine consensus politics, while strengthening similarly intolerant anti-populist positions. </p> <p>Moreover, although populism itself is not anti-democratic, it is logical that someone who is dissatisfied with the way democracy works for many years, will start wondering whether democracy as such is worthwhile. While I’m not a big fan of the “end of democracy” narrative, which is creating a growing, lucrative cottage industry in academia and punditry, it would be hard to argue that liberal democracy is alive and well.</p> <p>Among the most important threats to liberal democracy in Europe are the rise of populist parties, the increasingly authoritarian responses to terrorism, and the opportunistic reaction to illiberal democracy within the European establishment. As several scholars have documented for the 1930s, including Giovanni Capoccia and Daniel Ziblatt, European democracies died at the hands of fascist outsiders, but with the crucial help of conservative insiders. A similar development is under way in contemporary Europe, in which the EPP played a major role in facilitating the creation of Orbán’s illiberal state. And while other political groups criticize Orbán and the EPP, they remain largely silent, or are much less outspoken, on authoritarian tendencies within their own member parties (such as SD-Smer or GERB). <span class="mag-quote-center">European democracies died at the hands of fascist outsiders, but with the crucial help of conservative insiders.</span></p> <p>Grandstanding in the European Parliament might make for many likes on social media, but when not followed by actions, will strengthen the illiberal democrats directly and indirectly. It allows them to build their illiberal democratic regime, while at the same time pointing out the ineffectiveness, and hypocrisy, of liberal democracy. Moreover, fighting populism with anti-populism weakens rather than strengthens liberal democracy. It delegitimizes the political adversary, polarizes and simplifies differences and groups within society, and furthers a zero-sum type politics, which undermines the essence of the system: compromise between legitimate political adversaries.</p> <h2><strong>The failure of the populist promise in Greece</strong></h2> <p>It is here that Greece yet again features prominently, and not in a good way. After three years of populist coalition government, the populist promise has failed, and both ANEL and SYRIZA have plummeted in the polls. New Democracy has seen a modest uptake, but they are nowhere near pre-crisis levels, while other parties have remained stagnant in past years, despite ongoing political upheaval. The fact that few disappointed SYRIZA voters have found their way back to liberal democratic parties is not that surprising, given that parties like ND and PASOK mainly excel in anti-populism, opposing government policies almost irrespective of their merits. </p> <p>This is not to say that SYRIZA has become a liberal democratic party. There have been too many attempts to circumvent or undermine the independent judiciary and media, for example, which mainly failed because of the incompetency of the populist forces and the dysfunctionality of the Greek state. But while anti-populism might make for effective opposition, it is no basis for government. So, when ND will return to power, possibly in coalition with the post-PASOK Movement for Change, it will do so with little positive agenda or support.</p> <p>But let me try to end this introduction on a positive note. While the world has not become a better place since the English edition of this book was published, Greece has. Not only is the economic situation better, albeit far from good, the political situation is less precarious. SYRIZA has moderated and Golden Dawn has not become the main opposition party, as former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis tirelessly predicted. Similarly, the EU has survived Brexit with more ease than was expected and is experiencing a serious Brexit bump in popularity. And, slowly but steadily, the EPP is finally starting to address the membership of Fidesz, while the EU is pressuring both Hungary and Poland, although to different extents. </p> <h2><strong>Serious challenge to the loud and the silent</strong></h2> <p>History does not repeat itself, but it also does not progress in a linear fashion. Liberal democracy is facing its most serious challenge in (Western) Europe since the end of the Second World War. As much as Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” was unsubstantiated and wrong, so are the growing claims of the “End of Liberalism” (and liberal democracy) premature and sensationalist at best. </p> <p>European politics is transforming, which is not a bad thing. Whether it leads to the end or revitalization of liberal democracy is up to all of us, the loud minority of populists as well as the silent majority of liberal democrats.</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 first edition, <a href="https://www.routledge.com/On-Extremism-and-Democracy-in-Europe/Mudde/p/book/9781138651449">On Extremism and Democracy in Europe</a>, Routledge, 2016.</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> </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"> 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 Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Cas Mudde Sun, 02 Dec 2018 16:11:45 +0000 Cas Mudde 120803 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Time to talk some Brexit sense https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/david-elstein/time-to-talk-some-brexit-sense <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Let us have an end to fighting the referendum campaign ad infinitum and ad nauseam. Now is the time to get real. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39944932.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39944932.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'>PM Theresa May gives evidence before the Liaison Committee on matters relating to Brexit at Portcullis House in London, November 29, 2018. Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>For months now – years, even – commentary on the Brexit negotiations has been almost entirely negative. David Cameron threw in the towel as soon as the referendum result revealed how badly he had misjudged the electorate. Theresa May – who had campaigned alongside him for the UK to remain in the EU – was installed as Prime Minister, once the leading Leave candidates for the Tory leadership had comically self-destructed. She shouldered the task of negotiating an agreed withdrawal from the EU within the timeframe – an unrealistic two years – allowed by the Lisbon Treaty’s article 50.</p> <p>Even though she took many months to initiate the process – somewhat to the displeasure of the most gung-ho Leavers – and appointed, within a cabinet of mixed Leavers and Remainers, leading Leavers to the key outward-facing posts of Brexit Secretary and Foreign Secretary, she chose to ignore the advice from “our man in Brussels”, Sir Ivan Rogers, to delay triggering article 50 till she had sorted out an agreed UK position (she fired him, instead). Perhaps instinctively, she decided to avoid having a lengthy and draining domestic argument before confronting the EU. Instead – and fulfilling her own leadership pledge, to launch negotiations within the first year of becoming Prime Minister – she started the process in March 2017, and then tried to bolster her internal position by springing a surprise election. </p> <p>This manoeuvre backfired: the Conservative share of the vote actually rose, but as UKIP (deprived of its key campaign issue) collapsed, Labour revived, and Mrs May found herself unexpectedly running a minority government (given face-saving majority status thanks to a deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP). Her early attempts to set out her Brexit stall duly ran into the harsh realities of the task facing her: that the EU could command near unanimity in its negotiating stance, whilst her cabinet, her party and her nominal parliamentary majority were all deeply fractured. <span class="mag-quote-center">The EU could command near unanimity in its negotiating stance, whilst her cabinet, her party and her nominal parliamentary majority were all deeply fractured.</span></p> <p>Understandably, the EU insisted that it was simply impossible to negotiate a new trading treaty alongside a withdrawal agreement within the time period available: in trade treaties, EU states have conflicting aims which need to be reconciled, which is why they take so long to reach maturity. The best the EU could offer would be a statement of intent for the future; but even this would require a settlement of outstanding liabilities, clarity on the status of EU citizens living in the UK (and vice versa) and a clear undertaking that any future relationship would protect the Good Friday agreement of 1998, most notably by avoiding the re-introduction of a hard border between the north and the south of Ireland. None of that would have been changed if Mrs May had increased her majority in the 2017 election. </p> <h2><strong>Transition period</strong></h2> <p>The notion of a transition period (or “implementation period” as May preferred to term it) was actually welcomed, albeit in muted fashion, by the vast majority of MPs, as in itself it did not eliminate their preferred – but conflicting – outcomes, and served to postpone some of the toughest decisions. Even so, a vocal minority within the Conservative Party, in the form of a caucus that styled itself the European Research Group, warned that they expected real dividends to be reaped by Mrs May in exchange for agreeing to pay the £39 billion that the EU calculated was owed by the UK on exit. The phrase “no deal is better than a bad deal” joined the EU formulation, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, as mantras designed to keep everyone on board until hard choices needed to be made. </p> <p>Yet, insofar as they accepted a transition in principle, the ERG also implicitly accepted remaining in the EU single market and customs union for a minimum of 21 months, and thereby accepting EU regulations without having any right to vote on them, within either the Commission or the European Parliament (the so-called “vassal status” so vociferously now denounced by Boris Johnson, despite his having acquiesced in it when in the cabinet).</p> <p>Brexiteer hopes for resolving the Irish border issue, without binding the UK’s hands indefinitely, rested with technological advances that had the potential to render customs checks unnecessary for goods crossing in both directions. But the EU declined to accept what it called “magical thinking”. If, at the end of the transition, by the end of 2020, the system could be proved to work, well and good: but if not, and if no new trade deal had by then been agreed by the EU and the UK (a daunting prospect in a time period of just 21 months) then a “backstop” would be required whereby Northern Ireland would remain inside the customs union – and, because Mrs May, like virtually all her Westminster colleagues, could not contemplate a sharp differentiation between the status of Northern Ireland and that of “the rest of the UK”, so too would “the rest of the UK”, for as long as it took to conclude a trade deal, or until both the EU and the UK decided to give up the backstop. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mrs May’s insistence on keeping Northern Ireland visibly within the Union cut little ice with the DUP (whose MPs are all Brexiteers, despite representing a part of the UK markedly pro-Remain). This was because the EU required closer alignment by Northern Ireland with the single market during the backstop than would be allowed for the rest of the UK (Irish border issues, again) – a status that actually seemed beneficial to Northern Ireland; but in DUP eyes, any variation from the rest of the UK is impermissible (other than, say, laws relating to abortion and same sex marriage: and the DUP’s memory also seems not to stretch to the decades when successive renewals of the Prevention of Terrorism Act allowed a UK Home Secretary to “exclude” certain UK citizens from the mainland, and despatch them to Northern Ireland). <span class="mag-quote-center">The pressures of campaigning in the context of an in/out decision left many people, and most MPs, with an exaggerated sense of the benefits – or risks – of either outcome.</span></p> <p>Sadly, the seeds of Britain’s present predicament were sown in the referendum campaign itself. The pressures of campaigning in the context of an in/out decision left many people, and most MPs, with an exaggerated sense of the benefits – or risks – of either outcome. Once Leave had gained the majority of those voting, the EU had only two choices: require the UK to respect the rules of its market as it made its inevitably slow exit by negotiation, or accept the pain of an abrupt departure. </p> <h2><strong>Cardinal principles</strong></h2> <p>Those Brexiteers favouring an immediate exit, adopting World Trade Organisation tariffs between the UK and the EU, and disputing or delaying the exit bill claimed by the EU, were willing to face the inevitable disruption to many aspects of life – not just trade – that such a course entailed, at least in the short term. In truth, most people voting Leave must have at least contemplated such an outcome, as there was no guarantee that the EU would offer acceptable – or any – withdrawal terms. That such an outcome – as Barbara Spinelli has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/barbara-spinelli/brexit-big-swindle-european-view">eloquently explained to oD readers</a> – risked leaving millions of EU and UK citizens in limbo, without the protections carefully inscribed in the withdrawal agreement, seemed of as little concern to the “no-deal on principle” group as the risk of renewed friction in Northern Ireland. </p> <p>Anthony Barnett <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal">sees this mind-set</a> as being in thrall (or worse) to Trumpite US ardour for deregulation: it is not a diagnosis I share, not least because Liam Fox, one of the ideologues he name-checks, remains loyal to the May deal: but that does not matter, because the exponents of no-deal Brexit were heavily outnumbered in Parliament by more cautious MPs, Brexiteers and Remainers alike. </p> <p>The negotiation option, with all its hazards, found broad acceptance, and Mrs May’s early pronouncement of her objectives, in her Trafalgar House speech and elsewhere, kept virtually all her backbenchers onside, reluctantly or otherwise. Yet those objectives necessarily had to be adjusted to accommodate the EU’s own red lines, of which the most obvious was that non-members could not enjoy the benefits of the single market without some loss of rights or access: “cake and eat it” was not on the menu. Whether this stance was designed to “punish” the UK or “deter” other potential exit-minded members was immaterial: it was simply a cardinal principle of the EU. <span class="mag-quote-center">Non-members could not enjoy the benefits of the single market without some loss of rights or access: “cake and eat it” was not on the menu.</span></p> <p>It was David Davis, as Brexit Secretary, who most directly encountered the EU position. His response was to protest against EU “intransigence”, or “bullying”, and increasingly absent himself from the actual talks in Brussels (he was one of those who encouraged May’s election stunt, thinking her likely triumph would set the EU back on its heels). In turn, Mrs May, faute de mieux, looked to her civil servants, most notably Olly Robbins, to keep the show on the road, and make a detached judgment as to what was actually achievable. </p> <p>By the time of the fateful cabinet meeting at Chequers in July, it was clear that the only deal that might be on offer lay at the outer edges of acceptability. Even though the July document still envisaged a non-backstop solution to the Irish border problem, Davis promptly resigned, swiftly followed by Boris Johnson; and their vilification of “Chequers” as a sell-out led to a slew of more junior ministerial departures. Yet when Mrs May took her Chequers proposal to the Salzburg EU summit, she was severely and publicly snubbed, and was forced to repeat her public threat about preferring no deal to a “bad” deal. </p> <h2><strong>The last haggle</strong></h2> <p>Mrs May replaced Davis with Dominic Raab, a long-term Brexiteer, and he seemed willing to plug on with a modified Chequers formula, provided it survived the final round of negotiations. That last haggle, however, proved a step too far for him, and he too resigned in protest when he discovered that Mrs May had authorised Robbins to sign off on a convoluted backstop formula, which was the only one that Ireland and the EU would – with reservations of their own – contemplate.</p> <p>Raab and like-minded Brexiteer MPs had insisted that the UK must have the unilateral right to end the backstop to avoid being locked into a customs union indefinitely, and so unable to conclude any of the third-party trade deals so often touted by the Leave campaign. Yet as Mrs May calmly pointed out, the backstop was an insurance policy to avoid undermining the Good Friday agreement by default if a UK-EU trade deal could not be completed by the end of 2020. An insurance policy that the insurer could unilaterally rescind was not worth much.</p> <p>Instead, she relied on language. The backstop would only be triggered if the 2020 deadline was breached. Even so, both sides were required to show “best endeavours” to complete the trade deal expeditiously (a higher legal standard than “reasonable endeavours”, though still not entirely definable, and so “justiciable” with legal certainty), and an arbitration mechanism was devised whereby either party could argue that it was entitled to exit the backstop if the other party’s endeavours were demonstrably falling short of the “best” standard. And, if both parties agreed, the backstop could be ended even in the absence of a trade deal: for instance, if the technological alternative to physical customs barriers could be proved to be workable.</p> <p>It is hard to see what more the UK could have done to square this circle. One option not canvassed was to hold a referendum in Northern Ireland to see if its population wanted to unite with the South. The Good Friday agreement provides for the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to initiate such a poll if persuaded there was evidence that a majority did so wish. As the EU referendum showed a clear majority supporting “Remain” (the preference of the Irish government and all Republican parties in the North) as opposed to “Leave” (backed by the DUP, fierce defenders of the union with the UK), such a conclusion would not be entirely malicious – though the Irish government would be strongly opposed to such a vote, it has no say in the matter. </p> <p>Perhaps during the transition (if we ever get that far), and especially if the DUP reneges on its deal to support the government in the Commons in protest at the EU deal, such a poll might be triggered. A vote for irish unity would certainly solve the border issue!<span class="mag-quote-center">A vote for Irish unity would certainly solve the border issue! </span></p> <p>Meanwhile, dozens of Conservative MPs, Leavers and Remainers, have publicly rejected Mrs May’s deal because of the backstop formula, even though – as she sees it – the alternatives are no-deal or no-Brexit. Some of this may be positioning in advance of a possible leadership election, but essentially what we are witnessing at Westminster is a throwback to the situation before the referendum, where both main political parties were split over Brexit, such that only a popular vote, with all its risks and frailties, could settle the matter, and so avoid the potential advent to power of a single-issue party. The ticking bomb, designed by David Cameron, and whose fuse was lit by the referendum result, has now landed back in Westminster, with the potential to inflict serious and lasting damage on our political system.</p> <h2><strong>The ticking bomb</strong></h2> <p>Those MPs planning to vote against Mrs May’s deal have only three possible options in mind. The first is that a defeat for her when the deal is put to the test on December 11 might persuade the EU to abandon the backstop; or that the clock will then simply tick down to a no-deal outcome; or that somehow a second referendum can be held, allowing “the people” to decide, because Parliament was unable to do so.</p> <p>The EU cannot have made clearer that the backstop is integral to any agreed withdrawal process: the prospect of it being abandoned is a fantasy (just as is the official Labour Party position that it could somehow negotiate a better withdrawal deal for the UK). Once that has become clear, it is open to Mrs May, if she is defeated on December 11, to return to the Commons in January, with a slightly re-worded resolution in support of her deal, and force every MP to accept that the only two remaining alternatives were indeed no-deal or no-Brexit (and she might twist the knife, by arranging for motions on both those options to be voted on, confident that neither could win majority support in the House). That will be the moment of truth. <span class="mag-quote-center">It is a little hard to understand the logic of embracing all the downside of a sharp break, including the erection of tariffs and customs barriers, only to advocate their removal a few months later. </span></p> <p>There are those in the Conservative Party who believe that voting down the May deal, and accepting a more or less messy no-deal exit in March, could be followed by a free trade deal negotiation with the EU. However, it is a little hard to understand the logic of embracing all the downside of a sharp break, including the erection of tariffs and customs barriers, only to advocate their removal a few months later. </p> <p>The only way such a course could be deemed superior to May’s route of staying in a customs union until the free trade deal has been concluded would be that part of the exit payment might be evaded or delayed (but that is a relatively modest amount in the context of the UK’s economy and the likely negative impact on GDP of a WTO exit, and is also a policy highly likely to poison the free trade negotiations themselves); that EU regulations would cease to prevail in the UK earlier than under May’s plan (even though, necessarily, such regulations would still apply to all UK exports to the EU, constituting over 50% of total exports); and that new free trade deals beyond the EU could begin to be negotiated. This option – remote at best – seems less and less realistic as you spend time examining it. The UK might stumble into such an outcome, but only a small minority in the Commons would explicitly choose it.</p> <p>There is an even smaller group of Brexiteers who – perhaps with more consistency – advocate abolition of all tariffs for all imports in due course. That would render a free trade “deal” with the EU moot – after all, if EU exports to the UK were already tariff-free, why would the EU bother to lower tariffs to imports from the UK? The underlying idea is that there would be immediate benefits to UK consumers from lower prices, even at the expense of undermining the viability of much of UK manufacturing and agriculture. In theory, there would eventually be compensation in the shape of boosting trade with other economies keen to sign reciprocal tariff-free agreements. The tiny minority of Tory MPs who hold this position are highly unlikely ever to be able to implement it. </p> <p>Most Brexiteers also seem unwilling to acknowledge the high likelihood that a slowdown in trade with the EU arising from one form or other of exit from the single market and customs union will lead to some foregone GDP growth over the medium term. The scale of this foregone economic growth, and the way it might be felt – if at all – by actual households, is open to plenty of conjecture, but it seems pointless to argue that it could not happen at all. My understanding of Brexit has always been that the potential social and political benefits of leaving the EU should compensate for any possible financial downside: but that does not mean that, after nearly five decades of membership of the EU, it makes sense significantly to exacerbate that downside in order to accelerate the timing of Brexit. <span class="mag-quote-center">The recent dire warnings from the Bank of England that a “disorderly Brexit” would cause an actual recession were dismissed by some Brexiteers as a re-run of what they call “Project Fear”.</span></p> <p>The recent dire warnings from the Bank of England that a “disorderly Brexit” would cause an actual recession were dismissed by some Brexiteers as a re-run of what they call “Project Fear”. That is where political dogma overtakes political common sense: and it should be noted that, in terms of forecasting a decline in the rate of GDP growth and in the dollar value of sterling if Leave prevailed in the referendum, the Bank proved correct (against which, not entirely relevantly, Brexiteers point to the impressive rise in the number of jobs, and decline in the rate of unemployment, since June 2016).</p> <h2><strong>The “People’s Vote”</strong></h2> <p>Finally, we come to the “People’s Vote”, or a referendum on the outcome of the negotiation with the EU. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this idea: we would be able to measure support for “Brexit as negotiated” compared with the 17 million votes for “Brexit as you imagine it”. <span class="mag-quote-center">We would be able to measure support for “Brexit as negotiated” compared with the 17 million votes for “Brexit as you imagine it”. </span></p> <p>Yet the very fact that “Brexit as negotiated” is abjured by so many Brexiteers strongly argues for having more than two options on the ballot paper, using a “transferable vote” method. Peter Emerson’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-emerson/for-people-to-have-their-say-on-brexit-how-best-can-multi-option-conundrum-be-resol">recent dissection for oD</a> of different voting systems should give everyone pause in imagining that a second referendum would solve all our problems: but let’s look at what is currently proposed.</p> <p>The main proponents argue that just three options should be put to the electorate: Mrs May’s deal, no-deal, or no-Brexit; but that begs the question as to why other options actively being canvassed at Westminster – “Norway”, “Canada” and variations of those positions – should be excluded. That these other options fail to solve some of the key issues – such as the Irish border, the nature of a customs union, or the free movement of labour – seems not to deter their supporters: nor do they address the practicality that such options could only be implemented after an agreed withdrawal. They still all fall into the category of “Brexit as you imagine it”. This does not stop people from passionately advocating them, but arguably renders them less immediately relevant than the three-way choice. </p> <p>Virtually all the advocates of a People’s Vote are Remainers; and although they accept that a confirmation of the 2016 outcome should be binding, it is inescapable that their real expectation is a reversal of that decision. Yet they cannot be confident that such a result would settle the matter, and that Brexit would simply disappear from UK politics. Millions of disappointed Leavers would argue (as the German Army commanders did in 1918) that they had been “stabbed in the back”, and would fiercely resent the way “the system” had betrayed them. They might even revive UKIP for a one-off general election campaign: if even half of them voted UKIP, it would become the largest single party in the Commons. If they concluded that Labour was even more to blame than Mrs May for their disappointment, we might find that, alongside remaining Tory Brexiteers, they had enough votes to trigger article 50 once again, but this time spend the two-year notice period simply planning for a no-deal exit.</p> <p>That may all seem far-fetched, not least because the biggest problem with the People’s Vote is how we could ever get there. The legislation needed to enshrine a second referendum, and the necessary campaigning time, would take any vote past the March 29 deadline for leaving the EU. Extending that deadline requires unanimous approval from the EU states: yet it is hard to see why the EU would agree, as a refusal would force Parliament to make the painful choice between no deal, the May deal and collapse of the Brexit project, with the first option unable to command a parliamentary majority, and the other two representing victory for the EU. </p> <p>In any case, Mrs May has so far set her face against a second vote (as has, rather less than convincingly, the Labour Party), so she would need to be removed as Prime Minister to clear the way: yet it is hard to think of any candidate to replace her who has subscribed to the People’s Vote, let alone imagine any such candidate being chosen by the solidly Brexiteer Conservative Party membership who would have the final say in selecting a new party leader. <span class="mag-quote-center">Perhaps the only route to a People’s Vote would be if Mrs May found enough evidence in polling data showing her deal as the winner in a transferable vote system.</span></p> <p>Perhaps the only route to a People’s Vote would be if Mrs May found enough evidence in polling data showing her deal as the winner in a transferable vote system: unloved and unwanted, but reluctantly endorsed in preference to both no-deal and no-Brexit. That is what YouGov found in its most recent survey.</p> <p>Yanis Varoufakis <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/call-to-take-break-from-brexit-for-general-election">has proposed</a> a 12-month pause in the Brexit process to allow a general election to take place. Quite what an election could achieve is hard to see, given that both main parties continue to be split between Leavers and Remainers, that neither would therefore have a clear message for the electorate, and that – in any case – it is extremely rare for a single issue to decide a general election. Indeed, at the last election in 2017, there was just one national party committed to reversing the article 50 process: the Liberal Democrats. In theory, they should have appealed to all Remainers who placed staying in the EU above all other issues. In practice, the LibDems had a poor campaign and a poor result. It is therefore extremely hard to see on what basis the EU would agree to the pause suggested by Yanis: the whole point of the 2-year limit in the Lisbon Treaty was surely to put unbearable pressure on the departing state. </p> <p>Logically, the only realistic alternative to Mrs May’s approach (ignoring the stumbles, sidesteps and convoluted progress she made in arriving at the only formula the EU was likely to accept) would have been to plan for a no-deal. This would clearly have scandalized the Irish, in effectively forcing them to create a hard border in order to protect the EU’s single market; it would also have risked so alienating the EU that even mutually advantageous agreements on air travel within a no-deal outcome might have been jeopardized. <span class="mag-quote-center">A UKIP Prime Minister, of course, elected on a no-deal platform, would be a different matter.</span></p> <p>But one of the reasons for the Bank of England predicting severe economic consequences from a no-deal scenario is that so few private firms and public facilities have prepared for such an outcome. If the two years had been spent solely targeting no-deal, at least that risk might have been mitigated. However, such would have been the outcry from nearly all business and manufacturing groups at a policy of no-deal, it is hard to see how even a Prime Minister much more steely than Theresa May could have withstood the pressure to change course. A UKIP Prime Minister, of course, elected on a no-deal platform, would be a different matter.</p> <h2><strong>Depressing</strong></h2> <p>It is depressing to see so many MPs, in groups large and small, flailing around in desperation, unable and unwilling to recognize the hard realities of the UK’s position, yet too self-important to behave responsibly, let alone rationally. The projected negative impact of Mrs May’s deal (essentially, a calculation that there would be some slowdown in trading with the EU) is modest in the context of likely overall UK economic performance. </p> <p>What is far more damaging to the UK’s standing in the world is the failure of the political class to recognize that context, acknowledge the possibility that people might willingly pay that price in exchange for other benefits, and instead continue to fight the referendum campaign ad infinitum and ad nauseam. Now is the time to get real.&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/barbara-spinelli/brexit-big-swindle-european-view">Brexit – the big swindle, a European view</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal">Trump or Brussels: Brexit and the art of &#039;No deal&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-emerson/for-people-to-have-their-say-on-brexit-how-best-can-multi-option-conundrum-be-resol">For the people to have their say on Brexit, how best can the multi-option conundrum be resolved? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/call-to-take-break-from-brexit-for-general-election">A call to &#039;take a break from Brexit&#039; for a general election</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Brexit David Elstein Sun, 02 Dec 2018 15:44:14 +0000 David Elstein 120802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Against a second Brexit referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/vassilis-k-fouskas/against-second-brexit-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British people, failed by their natural representative, the Labour Party, opted for the nationalist radicalism of Farage’s UKIP. Thus, the demagogues won. But not those who voted for them.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39700332.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39700332.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'>Former prime minister Tony Blair makes a speech on progressive politics in an era of populism at the Royal Academy in London, November 14, 2018. Victoria Jones/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Nothing can be more wrong for Britain, the British people and Europe than a second referendum between “Remain in the EU vs. a Canadian-style free trade agreement”. The Labour Party’s policy towards the EU should be an internationalist policy against the current ordoliberal EU dominated by Germany.1. </p><p>People may not know what ordoliberalism means in the EU context. Ordoliberalism is a form of neo-liberal rule-making that emanated intellectually in Germany and Austria in the inter-war period. It then dominated post-war Germany under the economic policy of “social market economy” and began entering the European Treaties by way of transplanting German ordoliberal principles in them, the French position being outflanked in secret negotiations since the early 1960s.2.&nbsp; These principles are:&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Sound money, de-politicisation of the social economy and quantification of economics and public policy<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Rule of Law and disciplinary regulation of professional life and every-day private life<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Anti-inflation bias and wage stagnation<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Low wages / precarious labour / part-time labour<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Export-led growth<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Complete independence of Central Bank<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Complete de-politicisation of economic relations and fair competition<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Balanced budgets<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Anti-Trust legislation<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Bio-politics and “social” market economy<br />•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Supply-side Constitution: The Ordo Economy is a Legal Order (Freedom is constituted by the state and premised on order) 3.<br /><br />Germany managed to insert all these principles in a complex set of consecutive Treaties from the Treaty of Rome (1956-7) onwards, which took a clear ordoliberal form after the collapse of the Keynesian experiment in France (1981-83) and the endorsement of the Maastricht Treaty (1991-2). </p><p>The Stability and Growth Pact, which was put forth in order to solidify the advent of the Euro as world money, embedded ordoliberal principles in the body of EU law even further. Thus, when the global financial crisis and the Eurozone crisis broke out, Germany became the natural political manager of them in the Euro-area. </p><p>Had Britain been a member of the Eurozone it would have been subjected to Germany’s crisis management rules, such as the Fiscal Compact and the European Semester programme. This would have meant, above all, having officials from Brussels and Berlin scrutinising British expenditure and the British budget which is undoubtedly a most humiliating experience, demonstrating complete loss of national and popular sovereignty.</p><p>The entire British party-political establishment, including the Labour Party, failed to capture the popular mood on the Brexit referendum. They lost the vote to a bunch of nationalist and even racist demagogues, some of whom are not even interested in British and European politics anymore. Their slogans? “Stop migration”, “get back control” and “stop contributing to the EU budget re-directing them to saving the NHS”.</p><p>Against this nonsense, the Labour Party, whose current leadership is quite knowledgeable when it comes to what a socialist-class analysis of the EU means, offered lukewarm support to the Remain campaign, as did the Tories. </p><p>The British people, failed by their natural representative, the Labour Party, opted for the nationalist radicalism of Nigel Farage and UKIP. Thus, the demagogues won but not the people who voted for them, that is, mostly, workers and working-class families. Their programme is a neo-Thatcherite programme aimed at deepening free market reforms, thus the misery of British people. Exiting the EU on a neo-liberal, Tory ticket will not change their lives and, at best, it would be the same as it was inside the German-dominated EU. <span class="mag-quote-center">Exiting the EU on a neo-liberal, Tory ticket will not change their lives and, at best, it would be the same as it was inside the German-dominated EU.</span></p><p>Today, more than 60% of Labour Party voters and about 70 of its MPs seem to want a second referendum, hoping that this time the popular vote will be in favour of Remain, thus in favour of Britain and British people. </p><p>Tony Blair, the key spokesperson of ordoliberalism in Britain together with the <em>New European</em>, a Blairite tabloid, as well as other agencies funded by the pro-European ruling class, argue for a second referendum between “Remain in the EU vs. a Canadian-style free trade agreement”. John McDonnell, in a recent BBC interview, insinuated that a second referendum is possible.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>If the Labour Party and its leadership want to carry the people to a victorious election and overturn the decades-long neo-liberal policies of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, then their paramount duty is to tell the British people now what Remain means in terms of the new socialist policies enshrined in the programme of the party. </p><p>The Labour Party announced, correctly, that once in office a number of nationalisations would take place, such as in railways. This is against the competition policy of the EU Treaties. The EU’s competition rules require “transparent” bids with the participation of private providers and the British state is likely to lose the tender in any attempt at the nationalisation of private enterprises. </p><p>Similarly, a “Canadian-style free trade agreement” solves nothing because it means exactly the same: customs duties disappear but EU companies will always be able to bid for public contracts in the UK, undercutting the socialist state. Thus, Blair’s new referendum panacea is a complete fraud. </p><p>The same goes for re-nationalising branches of the NHS that have been privatised, or the founding of a National Investment Bank, which is John McDonnell’s socialist policy pillar buttressing a new public investment policy in Britain: all this is against the EU’s competition rules that, according to the ordoliberal rule-book, guarantee sound money and a de-politicised, free market economy. </p><p>The list is endless. Last but not least, the European Court of Justice is anything but protective of workers’ interests and rights across the EU. At least since 2007, posted workers can be employed in the host country but under terms and conditions that prevail in their country of national origin. </p><p>This says as much about EU working class rights as about freedom of people’s movement and migration inside the EU.5. The ordoliberal management of the Eurozone crisis have made things worse: it increased the Commission’s and the ECB’s discipline across Europe in a manner reminiscent of straightforward financial dictatorship and complete lack of democracy. </p><p>All in all, there is nothing socialist and democratic in this EU as it stands and staying inside in order to transform it is a great delusion: simply, once you are in you have to abide by the rules set out in Berlin and Brussels. <span class="mag-quote-center">It would… undermine the entire socialist programmatic base of the new Labour Party that not only this country but the entire Europe needs so much.</span>In this context, opting for a second referendum hoping to undo the first and remain in the EU would be a catastrophic political move not just for the Labour Party but for Britain as a whole. Once carried out, it would come to undermine the entire socialist programmatic base of the new Labour Party that not only this country but the entire Europe needs so much; further, it would signify an unacceptable humiliation for Britain and the British people, while giving hopes for survival in an already disintegrating European project (just look at Italy, Greece and the rise of neo-fascist and racist movements across the continent, the result of the ordoliberal austerity imposed by Germany). </p><p>Only a successful socialist Britain will be in a position to prevail over Germany’s ordoliberal rule in Europe, undoing the decades-long neo-liberal policy of Thatcherite cabinets and opening up new state-national avenues for the other Europeans. <br />A socialist Britain may well be the death-knell of ordoliberal Europe and the dawn of socialist-internationalist democracy in Europe. That is why the Labour Party must explain what the EU means for the British people: it will not be possible for its socialist programme to be carried out within it, and its internationalist, pro-European socialist policy will be thrown out of the window.</p><p>[1] See, Vassilis K. Fouskas, “The Labour Party must embrace a hard, socialist Brexit to stand a chance of winning the general election”, <em>The Conversation, </em>26 April 2017.</p> <p>[2] See especially, Kenneth Dyson &amp; Kevin Featherstone, <em>The Road to Maastricht. Negotiating Economic &amp; Monetary Union </em>(Oxford: O.U.P., 1999)</p> <p>[3] The most erudite and comprehensive work on ordoliberalism is that by Werner Bonefeld, <em>The Strong State and the Free Economy </em>(London: Rowman &amp; Littlefield, 2017). See also, Vassilis K. Fouskas &amp; Bülent Gökay, <em>The Disintegration of Euro-Atlanticism &amp; New Authoritarianism </em>(London: Palgrave, 2019), esp. chapters 3 and 5.. </p> <p>[4] James Blitz, “Labour shifts on a second referendum”, <em>Financial Times, </em>29 November 2018.</p><p> [5] This point is well captured by Costas Lapavitsas in his <em>The Left Case against the EU</em> (Cambridge: Polity, 2019), pp.113 ff.</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/barbara-spinelli/brexit-big-swindle-european-view">Brexit – the big swindle, a European view</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/gerry-hassan/corbyn-isn-t-seizing-moment-because-his-labour-party-simply-isn-t-radical-enough">Corbyn isn’t seizing the moment – because his Labour Party simply isn’t radical enough</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/call-to-take-break-from-brexit-for-general-election">A call to &#039;take a break from Brexit&#039; for a general election</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </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 UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Brexit Vassilis K. Fouskas Sat, 01 Dec 2018 23:43:09 +0000 Vassilis K. Fouskas 120798 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Free spaces for thought and de-acceleration https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ruth-wodak/free-spaces-for-thought <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard1">This is a revised version of the acceptance speech of the leading Austrian discourse analysis scholar, for a ‘lifetime award’ from the Austrian Ministry for Women, Families &amp; Youth. Speech.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-01 at 18.44.45.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-12-01 at 18.44.45.png" 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'>Screenshot: Ruth Wodak accepts the “Lebenswerk-Preis”,8/10/2018.Vimeo.</span></span></span></p><p class="Standard1">Honored guests, dear friends!</p> <p>&nbsp;Let me begin by saying – despite receiving a <em>life-time award</em><a href="#_ftn1"><em> [1]</em></a>, I am certainly not going to stop working now, I will continue with my research and – driven by curiosity as always – &nbsp;will engage with topics both old and new. </p><p class="Standard1">Especially today, in times that are rather inimical to science, in which more and more frequently results, evidence, and insights are denigrated as mere opinions, it is more important than ever to reflect critically, to engage systematically and in interdisciplinary cooperation with the many complex, unsolved problems here and elsewhere.</p> <p class="Standard1">Of course, I am also surprised to receive this award right now, at all times – since, as you all probably know, my research interests and focus as well as my critical position in the social sciences are antithetical to many of the policies, propositions and aims of those currently in power.</p> <p class="Standard1">It was in 2003, during the first Black-and-Blue governmen <a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>, that my Wittgenstein research center<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> at the Austrian Academy of Sciences was closed down despite excellent international evaluations, among other things because of <a href="https://derstandard.at/1338559182321/Krise-Ruth-Wodak-verkuendet-OeAW-Austritt">my research </a>on identity politics, racism, right-wing populism and antisemitism. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/#_ftnref4">[4]</a>&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">my Wittgenstein research center... was closed down among other things, because of my research on identity politics, racism, right-wing populism and antisemitism.</span></p> <p class="Standard1">These topics, so decided some of the Academy’s members, were not welcome at the Academy – but then they were welcome for 12 years at Lancaster University, in England.</p> <p class="Standard1">It was specifically this research, however, that has proven most relevant over the last 15 years; upon its translation into the German my most recent book on this, <em>The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean</em> (Sage 2015), was awarded the Austrian Scientific Book of the Year prize in 2017 in the field of cultural studies. The times are changing…!</p><p class="Standard1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/wodak-1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/wodak-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="290" height="370" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ruth Wodak.</span></span></span></p> <h2 class="Standard1"><strong>A child of return</strong></h2> <p class="Standard1">I am a “child of return”, a child of parents who were persecuted and displaced by the Nazis, and who returned from British exile to Austria out of their conviction that one had to fight for a better world after 1945. I grew up with this dedication to justice and human rights, and I am very grateful to my parents for conveying this clear positioning to me.</p> <p class="Standard1">I am especially touched and moved by the fact that today’s award ceremonies take place in memory of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A4the_Leichter">Käthe Leichter </a>– a social scientist, socialist unionist, suffragette and resistance fighter against fascism and national socialism. Käthe Leichter <a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a> belonged to the same youth organization as my father, and as a role model, she was a household name for us.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Portrait_of_Käthe_Leichter(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Portrait_of_Käthe_Leichter(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="252" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Käthe Leichter socialist writer killed by Nazis in 1942. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I am also a member of the ‘68 generation; so had the privilege of studying at a time of great change in which Austria was significantly modernized. The universities were finally opening up to women. </p><p class="Standard1">In this respect, I am also an early feminist: Johanna Dohnal <a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a> was our role model here. In 1975 we founded the first women’s group at Vienna University and named it “Women’s Group Uni Vienna”. To the puzzlement of our (male) superiors at the time, all of the women in this group went on to earn their Habilitation (tenure); indeed in 1975, we jointly published – also to the puzzlement of our male colleagues – a book entitled <em>The Eternal Cliché</em> (Böhlau 1975). Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that many stereotypes and preconceptions against women and minorities still persist today and that we are currently witnessing a strong backlash.</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/500209/512px-Johanna_Dohnal.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Johanna_Dohnal.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'>SPÖ-Frauenministerinnen Johanna Dohnal, 2007. Wikicommons/Werner Faymann. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>By the way: I had my first experience with patriarchal academe in 1971. Back then, I was beginning work on my PhD in the field of sociolinguistics, a field that did not exist in Austria at the time. Only a single professor in Graz was interested in some sociolinguistic questions. Thus, I travelled to Graz in order to get advice on the field work I was planning to do. The professor kindly explained to me that there were two things I should always remember as a female scholar – first, that one must drink a lot of schnapps during field work; and second, that women giving lectures were only looked at, but men were listened to. This advice was certainly not helpful; but it made me realize that such attitudes had to be changed and that communication was one of many dimensions that had to be challenged. </p><p class="Standard1">Friendships from this early time at Vienna University remain very important to me even today. Back then, we successfully fought for equality at the universities, to finally become <em>audible and visible</em> as female academics. But it was already clear to us then that “being a woman” alone was not sufficient. Clearly, one must also endorse specific values, earn qualifications, and take a clear stance – one must have a vision of an egalitarian society in which anachronistic gender politics can no longer exist and resonate. <span class="mag-quote-center">To become visible, to be heard, to be taken seriously – this motto has remained important up to this very day.</span></p><p class="Standard1">To become visible, to be heard, to be taken seriously – this motto has remained important up to this very day. To become visible and audible means that we must communicate, whether orally, in writing or through images: acting through language, taking explicit stances, establishing clarity. This necessarily means that we sometimes attract negative attention; especially women who do so were and are still being characterized as “career-obsessed”, “strict”, “irritating”, or “aggravating”. Patience and persistence are required; we must have long- and mid-term estimates of consequences and late consequences - just as we would expect it from politicians.</p> <p class="Standard1">Of course, one can also stay silent and forego visibility and a strong stance<a href="#_ftn7">[7]</a>; silence, too, is communication – as was evidenced by the famous communication theorist and psychotherapist Paul Watzlawick in the 1970s. Silence, however, often remains vague and can be interpreted in whichever way one wants. Did we not learn that “<em>Qui tacet, consentire videtur</em>” (who remains silent, appears to agree)? It is all the more gratifying when those in power take clear positions, at least sometimes.</p> <h2 class="Standard1"><strong>The breaking of the silence</strong></h2> <p class="Standard1">Indeed, post-war Austria was covered by a veil of silence, victims and perpetrators both remained silent, if for very different reasons. The former most likely because they were busy with surviving from day to day and wanted to protect themselves and their families from traumatic memories; the latter because of guilt and shame for their various roles as perpetrators, accomplices or accessories. But 1986 with the so-called “Waldheim affair”,<a href="#_ftn8">[8]</a> 1989 and the rise of Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party, and 1995 as well as 2001/2 – the years of the Wehrmacht exhibitions<a href="#_ftn9">[9]</a> – disrupted the public silence abruptly and thereby allowed crucial engagements with and insights into our pasts, changing the established patterns of political communication. The lasting impact of these interventions in Austrian society – which were also discursive interventions –is clearly documented in our interdisciplinary research on all these events<a href="#_ftn10">[10]</a>.</p> <p>And where do we stand now? Research on political communication during the last two decades indicates significant changes: </p><p class="Standard1">First, we are witnessing with increasing frequency a disruption of the Austrian post-war consensus in the form of the <em>breaking of taboos</em> and the <em>normalization</em> of the previously unsayable and exclusionary ideologies. The many so-called “isolated cases”<a href="#_ftn11">[11]</a>, which I do not want to enumerate here, clearly demonstrate this tendency. </p> <p>The fact that many politicians in power today remain silent, however, surprises and unsettles me, saddens me. Have the results of many years of research and public debates become obsolete? The so-called “war-rhetoric” (<em>Kampfrhetorik</em>) which governs political debates fits the picture. We observe that substance is now frequently neglected in favor of repeated, aggressive <em>ad hominem </em>arguments. <span class="mag-quote-center">We observe that substance is now frequently neglected in favor of repeated, aggressive <em>ad hominem </em>arguments. </span>Second, we are confronted with a mediated hyper-performance of politics. Again, this is happening at the cost of substance. Media presence becomes the all-important priority. Already in the 1960s, the renowned philosopher Hanna Arendt noted that world politics was, “above all, image care”, focused on “victory in the advertising battle over world opinion”.<a href="#_ftn12">[12]</a> In many respects, this is certainly nowadays even more the case than ever before. </p><p class="Standard1">Third, we are witnessing a qualitatively different handling of lies in political communication. This indicates, I would argue – by drawing on Daniel Dor, the Israeli semanticist – not so much an era of “post-truth” (for there have always been lies in politics), but an era of “<em>shamelessness</em>”, in which one no longer even has to apologize for a blatant lie and in which “bad manners” (that is, the deliberate neglect of all rules and norms of behavior and conversational maxims) can be used as an appealing and attractive tool against so-called elites. </p> <p class="Standard1">The fact that politicians can move on to business as usual even after their lies have been publicly uncovered, that is something we are getting used to, it is becoming normalized. Just recall Donald Trump’s claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration on January 20, 2017. It seems as if parallel worlds and truths now exist beside each other; unequivocal fact checks find little resonance. </p> <p>What is to be done? <span class="mag-quote-center">We therefore need what I choose to term <em>well-reflected de-acceleration</em>. </span></p><p class="Standard1">We live in an age of dehistoricization and rapid acceleration: WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail, Instagram etc. We therefore need what I choose to term <em>well-reflected de-acceleration</em>: we need free spaces for thought, to recognize historical interrelationships, to discuss them; at the same time, we need courage to develop creative visions and to consider knowledge-based options in decision-making. </p> <p class="Standard1">Scientists rarely offer simple recipes - after all, we detect complexity and complex interrelationships, not simple solutions. </p> <p class="Standard1">Thus, I hope that what has been a vital motto for me – to visibly and audibly take a stance, and yet to remain curious and open to new suggestions, to respect other opinions, to not avoid conflict and controversy, and to seek compromises – can become a guiding principle for everyone in our society. As a woman (with a life time achievement award no less), one can (perhaps) voice such a wish.</p> <p class="Standard1">&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Ruth Wodak received the <em>Lebenswerkpreis</em> (<a href="https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A4the-Leichter-Preis">https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A4the-Leichter-Preis</a>) on 8 October 2018. Here, you can find <a href="https://vimeo.com/293964319 ">a video with her speech</a> and the published <a href="https://www.profil.at/oesterreich/ruth-wodak-lebenswerk-preis-sichtbar-haltung-10398350">entire speech in German</a>. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> The so-called Black-and-Blue government was formed as a coalition between the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). The former is the direct successor of the VdU, a party founded by former Nazis, and is situated and the far-right of the political spectrum, with notable ties to the extreme right. The latter is a Christian-Democratic, conservative party that has recently embraced many of the FPÖ’s positions on migration and asylum policy as well as populist strategies. While the coalition in the early 2000s was the first time a far-right party was in government in any EU member state, receiving close scrutiny and criticism at the European level, the two parties are again in a government coalition at this time. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> The Wittgenstein Award is the most prestigious and best-funded science award in Austria. The award money is intended to give the recipients the greatest possible freedom and flexibility in their research. Ruth Wodak received the award in 1996 and used it to fund a research center on discourse, politics and identity for the following years.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> See https://derstandard.at/1338559182321/Krise-Ruth-Wodak-verkuendet-OeAW-Austritt</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]&nbsp; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A4the_Leichter</a> </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Born in 1939, Dohnal was a prominent feminist and politician for Austria’s Social-Democratic Party. She was Austria’s first Minister for Women and is recognised as a leading figure in the fight for women’s rights. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> A criticism frequently verbalized against former Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and current Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The latter frequently remains silent even if the coalition partner, the extreme right party FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party) breaks taboos by posting xenophobic images or uttering racist, antisemitic of revisionist statements. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> Kurt Waldheim, who had been UN Secretary-General from 1972 to 1981, ran for Austrian President in 1985/1986. During his campaign, it came to light that Waldheim had kept several facts about his military service during World War II secret and had lied about others that indicated he had been aware of Nazi war crimes. Although these revelations and Waldheim’s denials created an international scandal, Waldheim became president in 1986.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> The “Wehrmacht Exhibitions” were a series of two exhibitions focusing on war crimes committed by the German Wehrmacht during World War II. Both exhibitions were produced by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and, showing the military’s war crimes, broke with the myth, maintained by many, that the German army had acted honorably during the war and should be seen as separate from the Nazi regime. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref10">[10]</a> See, for example, Wodak et al. 1990 <em>Wir sind alle unschuldige Täter. Diskurshistorische Studien zum Nachkriegsantisemitismus</em>. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp; Wodak &amp; Pelinka 20002 <em>The Haider Phenomenon in Austria. </em>Transaction Press. Heer et al. 2008 <em>The Discursive Concstruction of History. Remembering the Wehrmacht’s War of Annihilation</em>. Basingstoke: Palgrave.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref11">[11]</a> The Austrian Freedom Party has committed 47 “Isolated cases” of breaking taboos since joining the Austrian government in December 2017. Of course, the so-called isolated cases form a clear pattern. The Austrian broadsheet <em>Der Standard</em> keeps track of these cases and <a href="https://derstandard.at/2000072943520/einzelfall-ausrutscher-fpoe-oevp-regierung">continuously updates the list.</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref12">[12]</a> See Arendt 1972 Wahrheit und Lüge in der Politik<em> Frankfurter Rundschau</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="/ruth-wodak/old-and-new-demagoguery-rhetoric-of-exclusion">Old and new demagoguery: the rhetoric of exclusion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/ruth-wodak/security-discourses-and-radical-right">Security discourses and the radical 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"> Austria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Austria Ruth Wodak Sat, 01 Dec 2018 19:20:48 +0000 Ruth Wodak 120794 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The myth of the Will of the People https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/albert-weale/myth-of-will-of-people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Chapternumber">Populism lives by the thought that the presence of the people in government is sufficient to wrest control from an unrepresentative elite.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Chapternumber"><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-32705938.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-32705938.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'>French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Pnyx hill beneath the Acropolis of Athens, Greece on September 7, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p class="Chapternumber">Shortly after he became president of France, Emmanuel Macron visited Greece, where he addressed an audience in Athens. In an assured performance he surprised everyone by beginning his speech in Greek, before switching to French. Against the night sky, the Parthenon behind him and a young crowd in front of him, the place from which Macron spoke was well chosen. It was the Pnyx. The Pnyx is the hill on which the assembly (<em>ekklēsia</em>) of citizens in ancient Athens met to debate and decide on their common affairs. </p> <p class="Chapternumber">The symbolism was obvious. After the years in which Greece’s modern-day democracy had been subject to the harsh disciplines of the European monetary order, Macron’s presidency represented a new beginning for Europe, a new beginning that was to build on the principles of democracy. Modern ambition was dignified by the image of an ancient source. Political renewal was underpinned by the memory of democratic origins, in particular by an image of democracy in which the people governed themselves directly. Democracy was to be conducted in the presence of the people.</p> <p class="Chapternumber">Populism lives by the thought that the presence of the people in government is sufficient to wrest control from an unrepresentative elite. The movement of protest against the banks and finance industry, Occupy Wall Street, is the clearest example of this politics of presence in physical form, with scores of Occupy movements springing up after the first occupation of Wall Street and of the nearby Zuccotti Park. The assumption is that, by taking control of the streets, one will defeat the forces of elite control. </p> <h2 class="Chapternumber"><strong>A politics of popular presence</strong></h2> <p class="Chapternumber">But a politics of popular presence can also take virtual form through social media, where seemingly personal encounters mimic real encounters. Why does Donald Trump tweet so much? Why do his supporters love it when he does? It is because a tweet gives the illusion of a direct relationship between leader and follower. For the follower, the tweet is addressed just to him- or herself, with no intermediary. The follower imagines a personal relationship with the president. The pretence of presence and the personalization of power go hand in hand. <span class="mag-quote-center">The pretence of presence and the personalization of power go hand in hand.</span></p> <p class="ip">Macron himself is interesting in this respect. He is commonly regarded as the politician who first started to turn the tide of populism in Europe in 2017 with his defeat of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election. Yet Macron’s own route to victory borrowed much from the populist manual. He created a new party from scratch, drawing in people who had not been involved in party politics previously but had been active in civil society groups. The new party was to represent the people between and beyond the established parties. Its original name, En Marche, conjured up the image of a movement going forward. And, of course, the contest for the French presidency personalizes an election better than anything else. When he stood on the Pnyx, he seemed to be the reincarnation of democratic orators in ancient fifth-century Athens, who sought to persuade the citizens to make their political choices when assembled together. In doing so, he relied on Greek myths.</p> <h2>Greek myths</h2> <p class="p">Between 508 and 338 bce, though with several interruptions, ancient Athens practised government by the assembly of eligible citizens. Political decisions were made by those citizens gathered together in one place to discuss and take a vote on what should be done. The key institution, the assembly, consisted of the entire population of male Athenian citizens, hence all of them were entitled to attend its meetings. At the beginning of the fifth century, the assembly met ten times a year; by its end, the meetings were sometimes as many as forty. The political constitution of Athens divided the city-state into ten ‘tribes’; and each tribe was responsible for presiding over the assembly, in rotation. The agenda for debate in the meetings was drawn up by an executive body, the Council (<em>boulē</em>), but it could be amended. The scope of the assembly’s power was wide; it included war and peace, the currency, and customs duties. </p><p class="p">Once all those who wanted to speak had spoken, a vote was taken by a show of hands. The assembly also elected important public officials, most notably the generals, although many public offices were filled through a lottery system. In a democracy, it was said, citizens took turns at governing and being governed.</p> <p class="ip">Many see the Athenian government by assembly as the original and most influential image of direct democracy. One reason for this view is that, while ancient Athenians were economically astute and intellectually vibrant, they were also great self-publicists. Here is an example of that self-publicity – a piece of it that the great historian Thucydides put into the mouth of the political leader Pericles. At the end of the first year of fighting a war against the Athenians’ great rival, Sparta, Pericles is reported as saying: </p> <blockquote><p class="ext">‘Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of state as well: even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics – this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.’ (Thucydides, <em>The Peloponnesian War</em>, 2.43.3)</p></blockquote> <p class="p">Praise for direct democracy in ancient Athens has elevated this Periclean assertion down the centuries, making it echo and resound among some of the greatest political thinkers who have ever written.</p> <p class="ip">Virtually everyone these days accepts that assembly government of the sort carried out in ancient Athens is impractical, given the large scale of contemporary societies. Yet people still think that its model of direct democracy sets an ideal to follow today. If only we could find some way of assembling the people – or a sample of them – to get them to make political decisions, we would overcome the weaknesses of representative government. <span class="mag-quote-center">If only we could find some way of assembling the people – or a sample of them – to get them to make political decisions, we would overcome the weaknesses of representative government.</span></p> <p class="ip">There is a simple problem with this argument, however. It is not just that direct democracy cannot be practised in the modern world; it was not practised in ancient Athens either. It is well known that ancient Athens excluded women from any participation in politics; they certainly had no right of participating in the assembly. Excluded from citizenship, of course, were slaves, as were the so called ‘metics’, the resident foreign workers; and Pericles’ law of 451 bce excluded from citizenship all those whose mother and father were not, both, full citizens (a criterion that eliminated many Athenians born to aristocratic foreign mothers – such as the famous Agariste in Pericles’ own ancestry). </p> <p class="ip">Those who write about Athenian democracy usually note these facts, and then pass on to the practice of Athenian government, as though these exclusions were a matter of detail. So it is a sober exercise to look at the actual numbers, which can be found in the Table. The estimates are for the years around 430 bce.&nbsp; (The figures are estimates of ranges, so they cannot simply be added together.)</p> <p class="ip">Comparing the number of citizens to that of the total population, <em>only between one in seven</em> <em>and</em> <em>one in five </em>of the total were citizens. In our days a ratio like that would obviously disqualify a society as a democracy. But this is not the end of the problem. Even if we take the lower estimate of 30,000 citizens, only a fraction of them could have participated in the assembly at any one time. The Pnyx was large enough to contain only 6,000 people at a time. Government by the assembly of all citizens was literally impossible.</p> <p class="Tablehead"><strong>Table: Population and Citizenship in Ancient Athens</strong></p> <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="1"> <tr> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p><strong>Category</strong></p> </td> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p><strong>Numbers</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>Total population</p> </td> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>215,000–300,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>Slaves</p> </td> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>&nbsp;80,000–110,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>Metics and families</p> </td> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>&nbsp;25,000–40,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>Citizens and their families</p> </td> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>&nbsp;80,000–110,000</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>Adult male citizens</p> </td> <td width="225" valign="top"> <p>&nbsp;30,000–45,000</p> </td> </tr> </table> <p class="Tablehead">Source Victor Ehrenberg, <em>The Greek State</em>, 2nd edn (London: Methuen, 1969), p. 31.</p> <p class="p">Why does this matter? Athenian democracy is not all that it has been cracked up to be; and so what? After all, it was a substantial achievement at the time, and we can still find inspiration in its ideals even if their implementation was flawed. But an ideal that no one can come close to realizing ceases to be an ideal and becomes a falsehood sustaining an impossible vision. The falsehood, in this case, is to imply that there is something second best about representative democracy – which happens only because representative democracy is being judged against an idealized myth. <span class="mag-quote-center">The falsehood, in this case, is to imply that there is something second best about representative democracy.</span></p> <p class="p">The problem is that this image is a barrier to coherent thinking about modern democracy. From the example of Athens, people take the idea that the assembled body of citizens should decide on what the government is to do and that anything short of that ideal is second best. Yet, of the adult males who constituted Athens’ citizen body, only a minority would have been able to meet in assembly and discuss their common affairs. When such mythical images take a grip on one’s thoughts, one is often driven to a view of democracy in which the will of the people will triumph through that people’s direct involvement in decision-making.&nbsp; The myth of the will of the people is thereby established.</p> <p><em>Albert Weale is the author of </em><a href="http://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509533268">The Will of the People: A Modern Myth,</a><em> published by Polity Press in September 2018, of which this article is an extract.</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>See <a href="http://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509533268"><em>The Will of the People: A Modern Myth</em>,</a><em> </em>published by Polity Press in September 2018.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/albert-weale/second-referendum-yes-will-of-people-no">Second referendum, yes. Will of the People, no</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"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? France Greece EU United States Albert Weale Sat, 01 Dec 2018 12:53:13 +0000 Albert Weale 120792 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kálmán Sütö and his struggle against Hungarian dictatorship https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-k-lm-n-s-t/k-lm-n-s-t-and-his-struggle-against-hungarian-dictatorship <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A street magazine vendor led protests against prime minister Victor Orbán’s rewriting of history. He tells openDemocracy how his life led him to that point.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2 dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6284-1_2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6284-1_2.JPG" alt="Kálmán Sütö" title="" width="460" height="614" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>K&aacute;lm&aacute;n S&uuml;t&ouml;. Image, Adam Ramsay, cc2.0. </span></span></span></h2><p dir="ltr">In Budapest, I had coffee with Kálmán Sütö, a homeless man who sells a magazine outside the country’s parliament, and with a friend who translated. This is what he told me.</p><p dir="ltr">“I was a driver and many other things. Originally I was working on these old engines. I worked at a car plant outside Budapest. I was about to get a permanent post. But I had a stroke ten years ago. I have three young children but we separated [...] and now they are in care. They are still young children, they are in care. They are now in foster care and the foster parents are very good and they are all together and they have a good life. </p><p dir="ltr">“I am allowed to see them once a month. But they don’t live in Budapest but from time to time they come with their foster parents and we go on a tour – we go to the parliament or the zoo or the circus. The main thing is they keep them very well. They learn German. I suppose I couldn’t have given them such a good life that they have now. They are lucky now that they [...] got into the care system. There are always lucky breaks even in bigger misfortunes. </p><p dir="ltr">“So I had this stroke and I didn’t want to go the the doctor because I didn’t want people to find out. I didn’t want to go on sick leave, but somebody found out and they told the company. They had been going to make me permanent but after that they didn’t renew my contract. That was exactly around 2008 when this big crisis hit and already the companies were pulling back their production because they knew they didn’t have as many contracts and so they wanted a smaller workforce. So part of it was the stroke and part of it was the smaller workforce. The way they dealt with this, they found the people who were not yet permanent and the ones they didn’t want to keep, they lost their employment rights. I had been working there two years and they didn’t want to be sacking people. Exactly at the end of September my probation would have finished. So in 2008 not just the auto industry but a lot of industries got into crisis and a lot of people lost their jobs.</p><p dir="ltr">“I had a number of temporary jobs so for example working in agriculture. When it was the season I got more work, when it was not I didn’t. Then I was out on the public works programme – and this was before Orban, not after him. So it wasn’t Orban who came up with the public works programme.</p><p dir="ltr">“So at this time I was still married, but the social workers [who are usually from Fidez, the ruling party] broke up my family, getting involved where they shouldn’t. They were really overpowering and got involved in every little detail and just made it worse. So they broke up our family with their stupid advice and interventions.</p><p dir="ltr">“So I tried to get the children to be with me but I didn’t manage because I didn’t have a flat. Even though there were empty houses in the local authority housing stock, they would rather it sat empty than go to me.</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t know why they don’t like me. I could only speculate. I really don’t know why they didn’t like me. But I think they were blinkered Fidez activists.</p><p dir="ltr">“So this was outside of Budapest in Mezökomárom, so I wasn’t living where I worked. But I couldn’t live there with no job and no housing so I came to Budapest about ten years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">“I worked on the new metro as a construction worker. I used to be a truck driver then I couldn’t find my driving licence one day and I couldn’t afford to get a new one but now I wouldn’t drive because my health isn’t good enough – for example I’ve had two bypasses on my legs – and if something went wrong anything could happen.</p><p dir="ltr">“We worked on the Metro 4 when the work lasted and that was hard work and you had to go up and down but when that finished it was done. Then I worked on the rubbish and it was just day work and there were people with permanent contracts and they just sat and watched while we did all the work and it was really hard work.</p><p dir="ltr">“That company, the refuse collection company, FKF, I couldn’t work there any more because I had a huge infection from one of the operations and I had to go all the way back to Mëzok and this is when I started selling the newspaper – this is my only income.</p><p dir="ltr">“I tried to get this big infection sorted and the hospitals wouldn’t help. So the original hospital that did my operation was not willing to help and they looked at my papers and saw I hadn’t come from Budapest and made me go back there to be treated. All the bureaucracy was so complicated. They think maybe a foreign body was left in my leg from the new treatment. I would have been at the front of the demo against the constitutional changes, but I was in hospital.</p><p dir="ltr">“Now I live in a workers’ hostel with about 30 of us. We’ve been living there for three years but it’s still not painted. It’s around the flyover that takes you to the airport, near the train station. It was the workers’ hostel of a big textile factory which is now shut.</p><p dir="ltr">“Of the three types of government [that he has experienced], I preferred democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t have bad memories of the communist period. I was a young man then so I have good memories. We didn’t have freedom but we had more security – job and life security – and we were quite happy. It was my youth so it was definitely some of the best times.</p><p dir="ltr">“I cannot see the future.</p><p dir="ltr">“I just have wishes. I would like to see democracy reinstalled and this dictatorship come to an end. It’s really hard without the freedom of the press so I think that would be the first thing to put right. And the rule of law would be good to put back. Because right now we are governed by the mafia. Throughout Europe, we haven’t had this kind of mafia state for a very long time. It’s Putin and his lapdogs that are running this country. But you are also in trouble now in Scotland if I hear right. Putin and his lapdogs have done well, to kick you out of the European Union. Although we have much bigger problems than you, that’s true. Because we don’t have democracy. But he can still cause you problems. And then you have the Trump lapdogs.</p><p dir="ltr">“I think Trump is also a lapdog of Putin. Putin has created Trump.</p><p dir="ltr">“And then there’s the Chinese communist mafia coming too. So I don’t see much hope for the future. And the Germans are trouble too.”</p><p dir="ltr">At this point, Sütö took me to a memorial, built by prime minister Victor Orbán’s government, which claims to commemorate “the victims of the Nazis”, but the iconography makes clear that the “victim” was Hungary as a whole, rather than the real groups who were persecuted by both the Nazis and Hungary’s own fascist state.</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/553846/IMG_6297.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_6297.JPG" 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 memorial to the 'victims' of the Nazis. Image, Adam Ramsay, cc2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“When they launched the Nazi ‘victims’ memorial I made a big banner saying ‘Horthi was the biggest Nazi of them all.’. I signed it ‘Kálmán the historian.’ The protests were so big that Orbán was afraid to come. It was fenced off with some protected material and I started writing on it and as soon as I started writing the police jumped on me took me to the police station and charged me with vandalism.</p><p dir="ltr">“I made sure that they wrote down in their statement that I protested against the illegal arrest. But I also wrote in what I accused them of and what my problem is with this statue.” </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy asked Sütö’s permission to publish his comments online. He replied:</p><p dir="ltr">“I send greetings to Trump and to your government too!”</p><p dir="ltr">As we part, we pass people gathering signatures for the petition against the University of Central Europe – funded by George Soros – being kicked out of Hungary by the government. Sütö’s parting words are:</p><p dir="ltr">“I was the first one to sign the petition for the Central European university!”</p><p dir="ltr">(With thanks to the translator, who wishes to remain anonymous.)</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="/bilge-yabanci/political-violence-civic-space-and-human-rights-defence-in-era-of-populism-and-authori">Political violence, civic space and human rights defence in the era of populism and authoritarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/james-burgess/refugees-banned-tourists-welcome-journey-through-hungarys-rural-wes">Refugees banned, tourists welcome: a journey through Hungary&#039;s rural west</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/samuel-salzborn/hungary-and-end-of-democracy">Hungary and the end of democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Hungary Orban far right Homelessness free press fascism Kálmán Sütö Adam Ramsay Fri, 30 Nov 2018 16:58:09 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Kálmán Sütö 120787 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Corbyn isn’t seizing the moment – because his Labour Party simply isn’t radical enough https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gerry-hassan/corbyn-isn-t-seizing-moment-because-his-labour-party-simply-isn-t-radical-enough <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From economic and climate policy, to Brexit and constitutional reform, Corbyn’s Labour doesn’t yet have the depth of ideas to capitalise on the government’s disarray.</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/549093/corbyn and team.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/corbyn and team.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Jeremy Corbyn responding to Theresa May's Brexit statement, November 2018. Credit: PA Images, all rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>This should be the moment for Corbyn’s Labour. They face a divided, incompetent Tory Government. A party that has lost nine Cabinet ministers in the last year, which has no domestic agenda to speak of, and is not even bothering with the pretence of a Queen’s Speech.</p> <p>The Government has no direction or purpose, no credo beyond continuing limpet-like in existence, clinging onto office and pursuing the project of Brexit. And yet at this moment of decision, when Labour should be harrying this government and holding them to account on Brexit and more, despite everything it is the Tories who consistently lead Labour in the opinion polls, rather than the other way round.</p> <p>As profoundly, the intellectual climate has turned against mainstream Conservatism, as well as moderate social democracy, opening up the terrain for Corbyn’s Labour.</p> <p>The zeitgeist of the age has finally turned against the assumptions that have dominated British politics for so long. The assertions that markets should be left unfettered, that deregulation is a good thing, that government and the state should just get out of the way of private initiative and believe in the super-rich, that making things doesn’t matter, and that ownership is ultimately just an irrelevance, have all been shown to be bogus.</p> <p>Such dogmas were taken to breaking point, with no area of British public life left unchallenged by it. It resulted in such ridiculous ideas becoming government policy as the belief that it does not matter who owns the key strategic assets of your country - whether nuclear power, nuclear weapon research establishments (Aldermaston), the electricity grid, water in England and Wales, and much more.</p> <p>It took a long while for such a grotesque set of ideas to finally fall apart. It did so on results. After decades of pursuing this dogma modern Britain has been made in its image: the fawning of the super-rich, huge inequalities socially and regionally, average living standards stalling over the last decade, and the trashing of public sector values and ethos. To give an example on the last point the expansion of the university sector on the back of student tuition fees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has dramatically changed higher education. It has made life good for a new class of super-remunerated Vice-Chancellors, but in England less than half the extra monies have been reinvested in student resources, while UK university borrowing has risen to £12 billion since the financial crash, not withstanding the £105 billion student debt which the state will end up writing off.</p> <p>The evolving Corbyn project has captured some of the anger, rage and discontent which has flowed from this. The party is the largest in Western Europe in membership; it has energy, dynamism and sense of possibility in its younger activists.</p> <p>The party has also disrupted the complacent cosy elite order which emerged post-Thatcherism: the Blair, Brown, Cameron (BBC) consensus which explicitly said this is the way things have to be: that little people outside of the elites have no choice but to knuckle down and show deference at the altar of the market and finance capitalism. It has numerous advocates and proselytisers in the public eye and media, and an emerging infrastructure of initiatives and platforms within and outwith Labour, from Momentum to Novara Media, the Canary, and in old-style media, the re-emergence of the left-wing paper, ‘Tribune’. </p> <p>Yet for all the advantages that Labour has going for it: Tory troubles, the political climate of ideas changing, the bankruptcy of the economic orthodoxies of recent decades, and a mass membership party, something critical is clearly missing in Labour.</p> <p>With the wind blowing in Labour’s sails, what is the nascent Corbyn programme for revitalising Britain – economically, socially and democratically? On the economy, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell talks a radical talk, and occasionally the odd revolutionary soundbite, dreaming of overthrowing capitalism. Reality is somewhat different. McDonnell has supported Tory tax cuts and welfare cuts for the poor. And there is at the core of this – Labour’s economic prospectus – there sits a vacuum.</p> <p>This contrasts unfavourably with the previous period of left dominance in the party: the Bennite insurrection of the 1970s and early 1980s. This saw a mass of policy detail and on the economic front, whether one agreed with it or not, a comprehensive Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) with fleshed out policies and academic and intellectual buy-in from prominent figures. No such detail or comparable coalition building is evident today.</p> <p>The same is true on social policy with instead Corbyn’s Labour offering reassurance and monies to the middle classes and redistributing up the income scale and further away from the poorest. The party has at least made bold statements on environmental policy and climate change, but too much of the Corbyn Labour stance on the wider economy still has a hankering after traditional left economics that believes in growth as the solution.</p> <p>A similar picture can be found in constitutional affairs and the state of democracy in Britain. The UK political system is creeking and falling apart, and yet where is the Corbyn agenda to take that on, knock it down, and build something better? A key issue in the future of democracy is what happens to England - the only nation in the UK which lacks a democratic voice and institution. When I asked in the summer a senior member of Corbyn’s leadership what they were thinking about England, they replied bluntly: ‘We are not doing any thinking on England.’ </p> <p>There is a strange air of conservatism running through Corbynista Labour that undercuts its self-belief in its radicalism and unprecedented scale of its ambition and mission. A more nuanced assessment of Corbyn’s Labour would gauge that its supposed radicalism is not anywhere near as great as its chief advocates like to think. Indeed the Corbyn project in many respects sits within the tradition of Labour insularity and smugness, believing it is the only radical political force of any worth in the UK – hence its patronising attitude towards the SNP, Plaid, Greens and others.</p> <p>The Corbyn project has had little to say about the multiple crises of government, state and public agencies that make up the unhappy state of Britain, and which is also a crisis of the actually existing capitalism, economic and business assumptions, and even, society. The party has it seems no convincing remedy for the hyper-fragmentation of the UK in its nations and regions – or a recognition that the age of the all-powerful, enlightened centralist state are long over. </p> <p>Then there has been the party’s abdication of responsibility leading up to the Brexit referendum and subsequently. Corbyn and McDonnell have managed a policy of constructive ambiguity on Brexit – which seems to amount to saying and standing for as little as possible – building a bridge between Labour’s pro-European sentiments and Corbyn and McDonnell’s Euroscepticism which has ended up offering sustenance to Theresa May and the Tories. This despite Labour members, voters and parliamentarians, all being emphatically pro-EU, pro-single market and customs union, and open to a People’s Vote.</p> <p>On top of this there is a Corbynista complacency and even in places, worse an arrogance. The belief that the party can somehow repeat 2017 is used to excuse Labour’s current poor poll ratings. This states that once the party gets into a future election campaign it can repeat its performance and achievement of the 2017 election, and win significant new support. There is no guarantee of such an outcome and it is unlikely Labour will ever again face a campaign as inept as Theresa May’s last year.</p> <p>Then there are the sweeping assumptions of some of the new Corbynista adherents. Aaron Bastani of Novara Media recently savaged the British Legion and in the run-up to Remembrance Day called the Poppy ‘racist’ and ‘white supremacist’, which is to put it mildly, over the top and counter-productive, and at best, just plain attention-seeking. Owen Jones, ‘Guardian’ columnist, in the last week has railed against what he called the ‘rigged’ electoral system. His basis for this was that on current predictions if Labour won the share of vote it did in 1997 it would win an overall majority of 32, rather than 179. In this he forgot that present day Labour has ‘lost’ Scotland, and taking that into account could produce an overall majority of 102; plus there is the effect of what is a distortive electoral system and how it works in favour of the big parties.</p> <p>There is a wider problem of believing your own hype and soundbites. Too many Corbynistas believe it as self-evident that the existing order is rotten and will just collapse like a house of cards if pushed. One small example in many was provided on the BBC ‘This Week’ last Thursday where the former IPPR economist Grace Blakeley talked of the broken British economic order. She was surprised when challenged by anchor Andrew Neil who asked her to provide details and costings for her policies, and who only offered as a guide the example of the Chinese Communist Party post-crash recovery programme. This is part of a bigger picture: of believing that saying socialism is possible will bring it about: an example of a sort of reverse neo-liberalism of the individual. </p> <p>Add to this the deliberate tribalism which now exists in Labour and on the left. Thus, John McDonnell can say: ‘I could not be friends with a Conservative’. There is a moral superiority in this, creating barriers between a left and those who are not on the left (which is after all most of humanity), and deliberately caricaturing your enemies: the Tories. </p> <p>The Corbynisation of Labour looks more than a transient phenomenon. It looks like a permanent revolution in Labour; a fundamental and irreversible shift in power and influence in the party. There are many positives to this change. It has acted as a disrupter of the way that Britain has been governed and who it is governed for, and our broken economic and political system.</p> <p>We are now over three years into the Corbyn project, and in a comparison Corbynistas would dislike, at this point the Blair New Labour project had won an election, were entering office and about to govern for over a decade. Despite this the Corbyn revolution is a curiously incomplete entity with little fully developed policies, a lot of attitude and self-belief, while being heavy on the rhetoric.</p> <p>On the major issues of the day: the economic and social malaise facing millions in Britain and the reality that the social compact between citizens, government and businesses is bust, Corbyn’s Labour has not much substance to offer. On Brexit, the greatest challenge to British statecraft since the 1930s, the Corbyn leadership has no strategy at all. The Corbyn project is a very English-centric project which is paradoxically silent and saying little on the state of England: that isn’t a feasible proposition for reforming 21st century Britain.</p> <p>No one said radical change in a country like Britain was going to be easy. It isn’t just an establishment stitch-up that there has never been a radical Labour Government: the 1945 Attlee one going with the grain of the Wartime coalition and public opinion. Corbynistas had better wake up to what the Blairites eventually did: that winning the party is one thing, but changing the country is something entirely different.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Economics climate change Brexit Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party environment Gerry Hassan Fri, 30 Nov 2018 16:53:35 +0000 Gerry Hassan 120786 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit – the big swindle, a European view https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/barbara-spinelli/brexit-big-swindle-european-view <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need to understand better why citizens’ rights have become, together with the&nbsp;Northern Irish question, such&nbsp;an incandescent issue in the Brexit negotiations.</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-&#039;_I_roared_&#039;_-_Travels_into_Several_Remote_Nations_of_the_World.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-&#039;_I_roared_&#039;_-_Travels_into_Several_Remote_Nations_of_the_World.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"I roar". Lemuel Gulliver famously sprawled, with Lilliputians,1894. Wikicommons/ Charles E.Brock. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>If we want to grasp the impact of Brexit on citizens’ and workers’ rights, we&nbsp;must mentally detach&nbsp;ourselves from the scheme adopted in the EU-UK negotiation&nbsp;on the Withdrawal Agreement. </p> <p>This is not&nbsp;because the scheme is flawed or inefficient. In my capacity as co-rapporteur for my political group in&nbsp;the Brexit negotiations&nbsp;I endorsed such a scheme: it has consisted in the struggle to preserve the European&nbsp;rights (the so-called “acquired rights”) enjoyed by Northern Irish citizens (more&nbsp;than 1.8 million), by EU&nbsp;citizens in the UK (3.8 million) and by UK nationals within&nbsp;the Union (1.3 million). The total comes to&nbsp;almost 7 million people who either didn’t stand a chance to choose or voted Remain in Northern Ireland, and who are threatened by a radical erosion of&nbsp;their rights. </p> <p>But we need to mentally detach ourselves from this if we aim to analyse in depth the effects of Brexit and its complexity, and better understand why and&nbsp;how we got here and why citizens’ rights have become, together with the&nbsp;Northern Irish question, such&nbsp;an incandescent issue in the Brexit negotiations.</p> <p>As concerns Northern Ireland, the reason couldn’t be clearer: the Good Friday Agreement&nbsp;contains provisions for&nbsp;the birth rights of the ‘people of Northern Ireland’ to&nbsp;identify themselves as Irish or British, or both, and accordingly&nbsp;hold British and Irish&nbsp;(that is European) citizenship, without differential or detrimental treatment.&nbsp;If the whole set of rights connected to European citizenship is not granted by&nbsp;the UK-EU Withdrawal&nbsp;Agreement (including the right to be represented in the&nbsp;European Parliament, but this is my opinion), Northern Ireland will fall&nbsp;back into a pre-Good Friday&nbsp;Agreement scenario, characterised by hostility and war. </p> <p>The loss of rights in&nbsp;the case of EU citizens living in the UK doesn’t involve a whole nation’s destiny,&nbsp;as in Northern Ireland, but&nbsp;is also frightening: they risk becoming part&nbsp;of the “hostile environment” planned for third-country immigrants back in 2012&nbsp;by the then-Home Secretary Theresa May.</p> <p>I&nbsp;say “why&nbsp;<em>we</em>&nbsp;got there” and not “they”, the UK voters, because Brexit is a&nbsp;European issue. The Union&nbsp;as a whole is co-responsible for the monumental distrust&nbsp;towards EU policies and politics voiced by a&nbsp;majority of people in a member state, and if the EU doesn’t grasp the nature and the roots of this&nbsp;distrust&nbsp;it is doomed to fail as a project for unification and solidarity. <span class="mag-quote-center">The Union&nbsp;as a whole is co-responsible for the monumental distrust&nbsp;towards EU policies and politics voiced by a&nbsp;majority of people in a member&nbsp;state.</span></p> <p>So, I will divide my speech into two parts. In the first, I will emphasize the reasons that led up to Brexit, focusing&nbsp;on the question of rights in general. In the second part, I&nbsp;will analyse the question of&nbsp;preserving EU rights in a withdrawal scenario.</p> <h2><strong>Brexit downloaded</strong></h2> <p>Let’s examine the&nbsp;first question: how and why did we get&nbsp;here? It’s the question posed by the&nbsp;association&nbsp;<em>Compass</em>, together with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (the title of&nbsp;the study by&nbsp;<em>Compass</em>&nbsp;is “The&nbsp;Causes and Cures of Brexit”, published last&nbsp;September by Neal Lawson). Most of the time, Brexit is described in&nbsp;a generic and&nbsp;politically biased way: what I mean –&nbsp;and what the study means&nbsp;– is the impoverished or inadequate vocabulary used by politicians –&nbsp;the so-called political&nbsp;classes&nbsp;– and by a great part of the media. </p> <p>Words like nationalism, sovereignism,&nbsp;euro-scepticism, populism, which are used to explain Brexit,&nbsp;could easily appear in&nbsp;Flaubert’s&nbsp;<em>Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues</em>:&nbsp;they don’t explain anything, are weaponising,&nbsp;self-referential and shallow. The films of Ken Loach are much more telling and profound than&nbsp;most speeches by today’s political leaders or editorials of the mainstream press&nbsp;in Europe and the United&nbsp;States. Maybe some of you have seen Loach’s last film–&nbsp;<em>I, Daniel Blake</em>: it&nbsp;could have as a&nbsp;subtitle:&nbsp;Brexit&nbsp;downloaded. I was also struck by the title of his upcoming film,&nbsp;scheduled&nbsp;for release in 2019:&nbsp;“Sorry We Missed You”. I ignore the plot but the title is in every respect pertinent: here comes a European State&nbsp;that pretended to be the expression of&nbsp;a people’s discontent but plainly neglected and betrayed them. The&nbsp;vote for Brexit&nbsp;is not explicable through the prism of Ukip propaganda on migration, or the&nbsp;Tory&nbsp;Brexiteer propaganda of British unparalleled&nbsp;<em>grandeur</em>. There has been a Tory or Ukip Brexit, but there has&nbsp;also been a Brexit of despair and desolation, which has been&nbsp;exploited by Tory Brexiteers or Ukip but has little or&nbsp;nothing to do with them:&nbsp;I would call it the “dark backward and abysm”&nbsp;of Brexit, to paraphrase&nbsp;Prospero’s description of time in&nbsp;<em>The Tempest</em>.</p> <p>Let us recall what&nbsp;happened before Brexit: the crushing of Greece by EU policies, austerity&nbsp;memoranda&nbsp;and intrusive troikas&nbsp;(the&nbsp;word,&nbsp;“crushing”, is not my own. It&nbsp;has been used by EU leaders, as testified&nbsp;by the then US Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, in his memoirs published in 2015.<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn1">[1]</a>&nbsp;In February 2010, in the middle of the Euro Crisis, European leaders&nbsp;actually decided to collectively punish a nation for having gone&nbsp;bankrupt within a Eurozone whose architecture never took&nbsp;into consideration the&nbsp;possibility that a member state could become insolvent.&nbsp;I quote&nbsp;Geithner’s&nbsp;description of the main leaders’ phraseology.: “ ‘We’re going to teach the Greeks a lesson. They are really&nbsp;terrible. They&nbsp;lied to us. They suck and they were profligate and took&nbsp;advantage of the whole basic thing and we’re going to crush&nbsp;them.’&nbsp;[That] was their basic attitude, all of them”.&nbsp;Even President Jean-Claude Juncker, who fully supported and implemented the crushing, admitted&nbsp;last June 2 – with much delay, and without blushing –&nbsp;that Athens had been hurt by the EU approach,&nbsp;with “the dignity of the&nbsp;Greek people trodden under foot” when&nbsp;left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office in 2015.</p> <p>A&nbsp;large share of UK&nbsp;nationals voted for Brexit out of sheer despair concerning the massive loss of&nbsp;social rights.&nbsp;Taking back control meant for them having control over their own lives, as&nbsp;shaped after two world wars by the architecture of the Welfare&nbsp;State. If we look at the substance, using the sociological categories of Albert Hirschman, they chose not so much the road of “exit”, but of “voice”.<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn2">[2]</a>The welfare system was born during the second&nbsp;world war in England thanks to William Beveridge,&nbsp;who submitted a detailed plan&nbsp;for its foundation to Churchill – and who was by the way deeply&nbsp;convinced&nbsp;of the necessity of a European federation. But welfare died in England&nbsp;at the hands of Margaret Thatcher&nbsp;and Tony Blair. Let’s not forget this vanguard role&nbsp;of the UK in both directions: the creation of welfare and its demolition. <span class="mag-quote-center">So,&nbsp;Brexit is a contradictory phenomenon: many voters embraced&nbsp;Leave thinking they would get more, not fewer social rights. </span></p> <p>So,&nbsp;Brexit is a contradictory phenomenon: many voters embraced&nbsp;Leave thinking they would get more, not fewer social rights. In its Report on&nbsp;the State of the Nation in 2017, the UK Social Mobility Commission&nbsp;has established&nbsp;that:</p> <blockquote><p>“There is a fracture line running deep through our labour and housing markets&nbsp;and our&nbsp;education system. Those on the wrong side of this divide are losing out&nbsp;and falling behind”.&nbsp;The divide&nbsp;is not&nbsp;just an economic or social one, write the authors of the Report: “It takes the form of a widening geographical&nbsp;divide. The Social&nbsp;Mobility Index reveals a growing gulf between our country’s&nbsp;great cities (especially London) and those&nbsp;towns and counties that are being&nbsp;left behind economically and hollowed out socially. England is a small&nbsp;country&nbsp;with a large and growing gap&nbsp;between those&nbsp;places that offer good opportunities for social&nbsp;progress – what we have called&nbsp;social mobility&nbsp;<em>hotspots</em>&nbsp;– and those&nbsp;that do not – the&nbsp;<em>coldspots</em>.”</p></blockquote> <p>Those who were&nbsp;lost and fell behind voted massively for Brexit in 2016, and it is revealing&nbsp;that&nbsp;the 30 regions described in the Report as the worst for social mobility –&nbsp;from Weymouth to Carlisle – all&nbsp;voted Leave. Seven of the poorest ten regions&nbsp;in northern Europe are in the United Kingdom – and all&nbsp;had substantial&nbsp;majorities voting for Brexit in the referendum. I quote a passage from a highly instructive&nbsp;article by Caroline Lucas in&nbsp;<em>openDemocracy</em>: </p> <blockquote><p>“A poisonous cocktail&nbsp;of de-industrialisation, the financial&nbsp;crisis and an ideological assault on&nbsp;public services came together in the Brexit vote, and the genius of the&nbsp;Eurosceptic right was to blame the EU and immigration. When the Brexit campaign&nbsp;offered people an&nbsp;opportunity to “take back control”, it’s no wonder so many&nbsp;jumped at the chance.” </p></blockquote> <p>And she concludes:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>“Yet those driving the government’s&nbsp;agenda are using Brexit to accelerate the very (neo-liberal) ideology&nbsp;that got&nbsp;us into this mess. They support policies that would make us more like the&nbsp;United States where,&nbsp;without the safety net of social security benefits,&nbsp;falling ill or being made redundant can quickly lead to&nbsp;homelessness”.<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn3">[3]</a></p></blockquote> <h2><strong>Gulliver arising?</strong></h2> <p>My second point&nbsp;concerns the loss of EU social rights. The link between&nbsp;the first point and the second is&nbsp;important, because in comparing the two&nbsp;problem areas we can see the extent of the dark backward and&nbsp;abysm of Brexit:&nbsp;the use and misuse of peoples’ resentments and feeling of dispossession and loss,&nbsp;the&nbsp;vicious betrayal of people like Ken Loach’s Daniel Blake. </p> <p>Last but not least,&nbsp;we can meditate on the concept&nbsp;of&nbsp;sovereignism, another weaponised expression – as I said –&nbsp;frequently used by the present élites&nbsp;without knowing the reasons for its&nbsp;emergence in the political debate. Sovereignism is abusively&nbsp;conflated with&nbsp;nationalism or Euro-hostility, dodging the central question raised by the&nbsp;unclear, blurred&nbsp;frontiers between supranational, national and popular&nbsp;sovereignties. When you have EU institutions&nbsp;which impose policies, economic&nbsp;parameters or labor laws in contradiction with policy choices promised and voted for&nbsp;in national&nbsp;electoral campaigns, you inevitably infringe on national and popular sovereignties.&nbsp;It’s a&nbsp;dilemma never really explained and resolved, with the consequence that&nbsp;all sovereignties are&nbsp;delegitimised: the national, the supranational, and the&nbsp;popular ones.</p> <p>But let’s&nbsp;examine in detail, now, the likely impact of Brexit on EU-derived rights,&nbsp;focussing in particular&nbsp;on social and employment&nbsp;rights. I will first examine the loss of rights&nbsp;in the UK, and then the&nbsp;specific predicament suffered by EU citizens living in the UK and British nationals&nbsp;living inside the Union.</p> <p>What a majority of right-wing Brexiteers really&nbsp;dislike in the European Union is the web of&nbsp;regulations and directives that constitute the EU project. When Theresa May speaks of a&nbsp;“Global&nbsp;Britain which thrives in the world”, she transmits the false image of a&nbsp;giant power feeling tied&nbsp;down, like Gulliver, by Lilliputians no larger than&nbsp;his fingers, and having only one overriding desire: to get rid of&nbsp;the continental&nbsp;Lilliputian, to be able to stir again and not have arms and legs “fastened” on&nbsp;the ground, as Swift puts it.&nbsp;Gulliver&nbsp;feels several slender&nbsp;ligatures across his body, and the EU with its rules and norms represents&nbsp;the ligature – the name today is&nbsp;<em>red-tape</em>&nbsp;– to get rid of. The migration issue was useful to get votes. Take&nbsp;back control&nbsp;was another watchword of the Brexiteers: probably the most ambiguous and&nbsp;deceitful one.&nbsp;In the final analysis, the real aim of the Tory Brexit is having a more&nbsp;deregulated and liberalised economic and social&nbsp;policy: the hidden subtext of the&nbsp;watchword –&nbsp;“take back control”&nbsp;– is&nbsp;the aspiration for less democratic control,&nbsp;fewer rules for the labour market, fewer obligations concerning fundamental rights. <span class="mag-quote-center">“Take back control”&nbsp;– is&nbsp;the aspiration for less democratic control,&nbsp;fewer rules for the labour market, fewer obligations concerning fundamental rights.</span></p> <p>All this is in reality delusional, and&nbsp;belongs to the magical thinking of the Tory Brexiteers. EU policy is&nbsp;already significantly deregulated, and its social fabric has already been ravaged by&nbsp;austerity policies.&nbsp;Nonetheless, the UK Brexiteers continue to strive for&nbsp;the status of a giant unchained and want more&nbsp;than the current&nbsp;deregulation, first and foremost so far as social Europe and the rights&nbsp;of workers&nbsp;and citizens are concerned. </p> <p>I speak basically of rights derived from EU law&nbsp;(including its directives and regulations), as&nbsp;well as from the case-law of the European Court of Justice on&nbsp;social relations. Such rights concern not&nbsp;only&nbsp;the so-called post-Brexit citizens (EU citizens living in the UK and vice-versa)&nbsp;but also workers and&nbsp;citizens living in all the constituent countries of the UK,&nbsp;including Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar which&nbsp;voted with large majorities to remain (as we have seen, Northern Irish citizens have a way of getting&nbsp;off the&nbsp;hook: they can either choose European citizenship and remain bound to&nbsp;the beneficial ligatures of EU&nbsp;law, or – in case of a no-deal and of the rejection by the UK&nbsp;government of a special status for its province –&nbsp;hold a referendum&nbsp;on the reunification with the Republic of Ireland. Both ways are provided for&nbsp;in the&nbsp;Good Friday Agreement of 1998).</p><p>As I said, I’m fully aware that the EU is not a paradise for those who suffer today from unemployment, precariousness and exclusion (I prefer the word&nbsp;<em>expulsion</em>, used by Saskia Sassen). Tory Brexiteers want to get rid of the Court of Justice and its rulings, but it was the EU Court that ruled, in the&nbsp;<em>Viking Line&nbsp;</em>and<em>&nbsp;Laval </em>cases, that employers’ rights always trump workers’ rights. So did the&nbsp;<em>Alemo-Parkwood</em>&nbsp;case with&nbsp;regard to the directive on acquired&nbsp;rights.&nbsp;Jacques Delors admitted the&nbsp;absence of a social dimension of&nbsp;the EU project in his famous speech&nbsp;given to the TUC Congress in&nbsp;1988. He said that&nbsp;any&nbsp;measure&nbsp;adopted&nbsp;to&nbsp;complete&nbsp;the&nbsp;internal market should&nbsp;not&nbsp;diminish&nbsp;the&nbsp;level of&nbsp;social protection&nbsp;already&nbsp;achieved in the&nbsp;member states, and insisted on the&nbsp;necessity to struggle against the dismantling of the&nbsp;labour market and to&nbsp;provide&nbsp;better protection&nbsp;for workers’&nbsp;health and&nbsp;safety&nbsp;on the job. </p> <p>He was in&nbsp;favour&nbsp;of the establishment of a platform of guaranteed social rights, containing&nbsp;general principles such&nbsp;as every worker’s right to be covered by a collective&nbsp;agreement and more specific measures concerning,&nbsp;in particular, the status of&nbsp;temporary work. What came instead – especially after the financial crisis of&nbsp;2007-2008 – was a&nbsp;neoliberal agenda&nbsp;intent on cutting public pensions, applying downward pressure on&nbsp;wages,&nbsp;privatising public services and removing the safety net of benefits right&nbsp;across the EU. After&nbsp;many years of austerity, after Greece’s&nbsp;fiscal waterboarding and the loss of trust in the Union felt by so&nbsp;many&nbsp;citizens in the EU, it’s time to revalorize Delors’ objective. To recognise&nbsp;the truth of what he&nbsp;said in 1989, the year of the fall of communism in the&nbsp;East: “You&nbsp;cannot fall in love with the single&nbsp;market”. <span class="mag-quote-center">It’s time to revalorize… what Delors&nbsp;said in 1989, the year of the fall of communism in the&nbsp;East: “You&nbsp;cannot fall in love with the single&nbsp;market”.</span></p> <h2><strong>Workers’ rights will be badly hit by Brexit </strong></h2> <p>At the same time, it remains clear that workers’ rights will be badly hit by Brexit.&nbsp;Notwithstanding the intensified neoliberal agenda of the Union, EU-derived rights in&nbsp;employment exist and persist, and are manifold. </p> <p>The case-law of&nbsp;the European Court of Justice is highly contradictory: it&nbsp;gives priority to&nbsp;employers’ rights in the&nbsp;<em>Viking Line</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Laval</em>&nbsp;cases, but rules in a&nbsp;totally opposite way&nbsp;in other rulings, like&nbsp;<em>Deutsche&nbsp;Post</em>&nbsp;in 2000, which recognises equality and protection against&nbsp;discrimination as a fundamental right which takes&nbsp;priority over the economic aims of the Treaty.&nbsp;</p> <p>Another example: in November 2017, the Court ruled in favour of&nbsp;a&nbsp;<em>gig economy</em>&nbsp;worker&nbsp;who never got a paid&nbsp;holiday in 13 years. Jason Moyer-Lee, General Secretary of the Independent&nbsp;Workers’ Union of Great Britain, observed that the judgement was “a&nbsp;striking reminder of the impending&nbsp;disaster for worker rights that is Brexit”.&nbsp;Part-time work, work on demand and in general the gig-economy are protected by&nbsp;EU law much more than they will be outside the EU, thanks to specific directives:&nbsp;in particular the directive on working hours, as well as the directives on&nbsp;annual leaves, equal pay,&nbsp;maternity rights, parental leave, anti-discrimination&nbsp;laws, compensation for discrimination victims,&nbsp;temporary agency worker protection,&nbsp;health and safety.&nbsp;A report of the TUC in&nbsp;February 2017 has&nbsp;shown that wages will be 38 pounds a week lower, and&nbsp;other forecasts look grimmer.</p> <p>In an illuminating advisory report by Professor Michael Ford, drawn&nbsp;up at the request of the Trade Unions and&nbsp;published in March 2016 with the title&nbsp;“Workers’ rights from Europe: the Impact of Brexit”, the&nbsp;erosion of social&nbsp;rights following UK’s exit is described as unavoidable.<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn4">[4]</a>&nbsp;Provisions especially&nbsp;vulnerable to&nbsp;repeal in the name of deregulation or protecting business, according to&nbsp;Professor&nbsp;Ford,&nbsp;include&nbsp;among others “legislation on collective consultation, which hardly fit with the&nbsp;current Government’s&nbsp;vision of the labour market; working time rules (a&nbsp;persistent thorn in the side of the UK Government,&nbsp;both Conservative and Tony&nbsp;Blair’s New Labour); some of the EU-derived health and safety regulations,&nbsp;the&nbsp;impact of which on employers the last government already sought to reduce;&nbsp;parts of the Transfer of&nbsp;Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations&nbsp;(TUPE), from which the Government has already&nbsp;tried to remove some ‘gold&nbsp;plating’; as well as the aforementioned legislation protecting agency&nbsp;workers –&nbsp;which was long resisted by the UK and which is in contrast with preferences for&nbsp;a ‘flexible’&nbsp;labour market&nbsp;– and more generally the protections given to other&nbsp;‘atypical’ workers, alongside important elements&nbsp;of discrimination law to which businesses&nbsp;object most strongly, such as uncapped compensation or high&nbsp;levels of liability&nbsp;for equal pay.</p> <p>This being said, the Withdrawal Agreement as it is now represents without doubt a safety net, especially as regards the&nbsp;jurisdiction of the Court&nbsp;of Justice covering EU citizens in the UK, even though it will be time-limited, hence not&nbsp;guaranteeing&nbsp;life-long protection to EU citizens in the UK as expressly promised at the beginning of the negotiations.&nbsp;</p> <p>After the transition period,&nbsp;on December 31, 2020, the UK will&nbsp;most likely cap numbers of migrants, as it&nbsp;indicated in a leaked paper revealed in September 2017. Low-skilled EU workers&nbsp;will be particularly hard hit by the restriction. And&nbsp;work permits will be allowed for occupations where there&nbsp;is a shortage of workers: Britain will “come first” in a systematic way.</p> <p>That’s&nbsp;why the European Parliament had asked the EU negotiator, Barnier, to&nbsp;incorporate in the&nbsp;Withdrawal Agreement as much as possible of existing rights linked&nbsp;to European citizenship and free movement,&nbsp;as well as to include fundamental rights and&nbsp;non-regression clauses in the future trade agreements<span>:&nbsp;</span>thanks to these pressures and despite manifest shortfalls, significant progress has been made.</p> <p>Why&nbsp;this insistence on&nbsp;single rights enjoyed until now by citizens of EU member states – as&nbsp;regards among many other things the mutual recognition of qualifications, the rights&nbsp;of residence of family members,&nbsp;as well as specific rights like the free movement of UK nationals in the EU-27 or a declaratory&nbsp;system of registration by EU citizens for the new “settled status” (in opposition to the so-called&nbsp;<em>constitutive</em>&nbsp;registration&nbsp;<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn5">[5]</a>&nbsp;– the last two battles have been lost) and on their&nbsp;punctilious&nbsp;incorporation in the text of the Withdrawal Agreement? </p> <p>Because contrary to the&nbsp;assurances&nbsp;given by the Leave campaigners during the referendum and immediately&nbsp;after, these and other EU rights cannot be&nbsp;protected adequately and in full, once a member&nbsp;state has exited, unless the exiting state is bound by an&nbsp;international treaty&nbsp;(that’s the case, as we have seen, for the Good Friday Agreement). As a&nbsp;consequence, the&nbsp;rights cannot be automatically called&nbsp;<em>acquired</em>&nbsp;(or&nbsp;vested): if&nbsp;EU law and the EU Treaty no longer&nbsp;apply, they&nbsp;can be revoked&nbsp;and cease to be “acquired” life-long as happens in EU law (since the 16th&nbsp;century, the so-called&nbsp;“Henry VIII clause” allows the&nbsp;executive power to amend primary legislation by&nbsp;secondary legislation).</p> <h2><strong>Henry VIII redivivus?</strong></h2> <p>This&nbsp;means that such rights are lost, if not properly safeguarded:&nbsp;they are not protected by international&nbsp;law,&nbsp;notwithstanding the repeated claims of Leave campaigners. </p> <p>Article 70 of the Vienna&nbsp;Convention on the Law of&nbsp;Treaties provides that termination of an international&nbsp;treaty “does not affect any right, obligation or legal&nbsp;situation of the&nbsp;<em>parties</em>&nbsp;created through the execution of the treaty prior to its termination”, but the&nbsp;<em>parties</em>&nbsp;concerned are the states, not the&nbsp;individuals. Moreover, other international treaties containing&nbsp;social rights and co-signed by the UK (for example the Conventions of the&nbsp;International Labour&nbsp;Organisation –&nbsp;the ILO) give workers far less legal&nbsp;protection than EU law against any deregulatory-minded executive. </p> <p>The same&nbsp;applies to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), because it&nbsp;mainly&nbsp;protects civil and political rights rather than socio-economic rights. It does&nbsp;not cover many&nbsp;important elements of the working relationship, such as the&nbsp;rights against discriminatory treatment in all&nbsp;aspects of the work relationship&nbsp;(including pay), rights to maternity and parental leave, protection of&nbsp;part-time, fixed-term and agency workers, working-time protections, and almost&nbsp;all those regulated at&nbsp;present by EU social law.</p> <p>What is clear,&nbsp;and the advice drawn by Professor Michael Ford is very instructive on this&nbsp;point, is that&nbsp;EU law and the EU treaties (including the Charter of fundamental&nbsp;rights) are distinct from many other&nbsp;international treaties to the extent to&nbsp;which they give individuals rights ‘which become part of their&nbsp;legal heritage’.&nbsp;</p> <p>All this leads to one indisputable&nbsp;conclusion: post-Brexit citizens will have only the&nbsp;international treaty&nbsp;codified in the Withdrawal Agreement, as a legal reference to protect the legal&nbsp;heritage represented by the rights derived by EU-law. </p> <p>The House of Lords reached the same conclusion, and in a very clear way, in December 2016: </p> <blockquote><p>“<em>In our view EU citizenship rights are indivisible. Taken as a whole they make it possible for a EU citizen to live, work, study and have a family in another EU Member State. Remove one, and the operation of others is affected. It is our strong recommendation, therefore, that the full scope of EU citizenship rights be fully safeguarded in the withdrawal agreement.</em>” <a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn6">[6]</a></p></blockquote> <h2><strong>The Windrush generation – a test case </strong></h2> <p>My last point concerns the scandal of the&nbsp;Windrush generation, revealed last April&nbsp;thanks to a&nbsp;former&nbsp;Home Office employee who decided to blow the whistle.&nbsp;I mention the scandal here at the end not&nbsp;because I&nbsp;consider it less important or secondary, but because it encompasses&nbsp;and clarifies all the problems,&nbsp;pitfalls, and betrayals of trust described above.</p> <p>I will try to summarise&nbsp;the facts, as disclosed essentially by&nbsp;<em>The Guardian</em>.&nbsp;The Windrush generation are&nbsp;people who arrived in the UK after the&nbsp;second world war from Caribbean countries at the invitation of&nbsp;the British&nbsp;government. The first group arrived on the ship&nbsp;<em>Empire Windrush</em>&nbsp;in June 1948. What&nbsp;happened is that an estimated&nbsp;50,000 people faced the risk of deportation if they had never formalised&nbsp;their&nbsp;residency status and did not have the required documentation to prove&nbsp;it. Some children, often&nbsp;travelling on their parents’ passports, were&nbsp;never formally naturalised and many moved to the UK&nbsp;before the countries in&nbsp;which they were born became independent, so they assumed they were British. In&nbsp;some cases, they did not apply for passports. The Home Office did not keep a&nbsp;record of people entering&nbsp;the country and granted leave to remain, which was&nbsp;conferred on anyone living continuously in the&nbsp;country since before 1 January&nbsp;1973.</p> <p>Cases have accumulated of individuals&nbsp;seeking NHS treatment, passports, jobs or housing only to find&nbsp;themselves&nbsp;having to prove their right to live in the country where they have been legally&nbsp;resident for&nbsp;more than 45 years, or risk being deported. Harrowing stories have&nbsp;emerged of individuals being made&nbsp;homeless, jobless and stateless, after they&nbsp;failed to produce proof they were never given in the first place.&nbsp;One man&nbsp;suffered an aneurysm which he believes was brought on by the stress the&nbsp;situation caused him,&nbsp;only to be presented with a bill for £5000 for his NHS&nbsp;treatment – again because his paperwork didn’t&nbsp;measure up – while also losing&nbsp;his job and his home. He was left on the street. </p> <p>As it turns out, the one&nbsp;source of evidence that might have put a stop to this torture – the landing&nbsp;cards that recorded arrivals&nbsp;from the Caribbean until the 1960s – was erased&nbsp;by the Home Office in 2010.&nbsp;The Home Office&nbsp;destroyed thousands of those&nbsp;landing cards, despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder&nbsp;to&nbsp;check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency&nbsp;difficulties. The Home&nbsp;Office and British government were further accused of&nbsp;having known about the negative impacts that&nbsp;their new migration policies&nbsp;were having on Windrush immigrants since 2013, and of&nbsp;having done&nbsp;nothing to remedy them. I quoted parts of the&nbsp;<em>Guardian</em>’s investigations on the subject, and take the opportunity to recommend also the outstanding articles –&nbsp;in the same newspaper&nbsp;– by Claude Moraes, President of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament.</p> <p>I emphasise the&nbsp;importance of the scandal because it sheds light on the driving force behind&nbsp;the Tory or&nbsp;Ukip Brexiteers. The whistleblower said he noticed a change in&nbsp;approach to these cases after the&nbsp;announcement of a policy, set out by Theresa&nbsp;May in 2012-2013, when she was home secretary, to&nbsp;“create a&nbsp;really hostile environment for illegal migrants”. Her plan is extremely restrictive, especially as regards provisions which require&nbsp;employers, NHS&nbsp;staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of&nbsp;people’s citizenship or immigration&nbsp;status.</p> <p>I generally avoid quoting Kafka, but his&nbsp;description of the insanities of paperwork and&nbsp;bureaucratisation is more than&nbsp;appropriate.&nbsp;On his thirtieth birthday Josef K., the chief cashier of a&nbsp;bank, is&nbsp;unexpectedly arrested by two unidentified agents from an unspecified agency for&nbsp;an unspecified&nbsp;crime. The first chapter of&nbsp;<em>The&nbsp;Trial</em>&nbsp;begins with the words: “Someone must have been telling lies about&nbsp;Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested”.&nbsp;That’s the reason why&nbsp;the scandal has been described as “Weaponising Paperwork” by William&nbsp;Davies,&nbsp;Co-Director of The&nbsp;Political Economy Research Centre in London:&nbsp;a scenario in which&nbsp;judiciary&nbsp;and bureaucracy “collapse&nbsp;into each other”, killing any hope and practice of&nbsp;justice.<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn7">[7]</a></p> <h2><strong>Kafka redivivus?</strong></h2> <p>The first act of the drama&nbsp;begins with the 2014 Immigration Act, which formalises Theresa May’s aim to&nbsp;create the “hostile environment” and makes it harder for illegal immigrants to&nbsp;work and live in the UK.&nbsp;Landlords, employers, banks and NHS services are&nbsp;forced to run immigration status checks. “The policy –&nbsp;writes Davies&nbsp;–&nbsp;pushed the mentality of&nbsp;border control into everyday social and economic life”.</p> <p>Then comes the second act: the 2016 Immigration Act further extends the former act,&nbsp;introducing tougher&nbsp;penalties for employers and landlords who fail to play&nbsp;their part in maintaining the “hostile&nbsp;environment”, and adding to the list of so&nbsp;called “privileges” that can be taken away from those who&nbsp;cannot prove their&nbsp;right to live and work in the UK.</p> <p>A key feature of the 2014 Act was that it&nbsp;empowered&nbsp;the Home Office to deport people more quickly and cheaply, avoiding&nbsp;lengthy and repeated appeals.&nbsp;Three years later, on&nbsp;14 June 2017, the&nbsp;‘deport first, appeal later’ provision was&nbsp;ruled unlawful by the&nbsp;Supreme Court.</p> <p>The recent publication of the UK Home Office concerning the prospects of the settled scheme entitled “EU Settlement Scheme: Statement of Intent” is equally alarming. It clearly states that the future immigration rules will be adopted as secondary legislation, hence allowing any future UK Government to make changes without the need to have a consent from the Parliament. It’s again the “Henry VIII” clause. <span class="mag-quote-center">A new data protection bill… excludes the application of the guarantees provided by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for immigration purposes.</span></p> <p>Furthermore, a new data protection bill has been recently adopted in UK and it excludes the application of the guarantees provided by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for immigration purposes. On top of it, the position of the Tories regarding the European Convention on Human Rights is well-known.<a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftn8">[8]</a></p> <p>The&nbsp;third act is Brexit itself, followed by the moment of truth unveiled by the&nbsp;Windrush scandal.</p> <p>We&nbsp;don’t know the following acts, nor the end of the “hostile environment” story. A&nbsp;detailed Withdrawal Agreement would certainly represent progress, protecting millions of EU citizens&nbsp;in the UK and vice-versa, including Northern Irish citizens whose European rights are confirmed in the Withdrawal agreement and –&nbsp;in case of a no-deal scenario&nbsp;– safeguarded by the Good Friday Agreement. </p> <p>Without the Withdrawal&nbsp;agreement, EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU-27 would be thrown down headlong from a legal limbo&nbsp;into a legal&nbsp;hell. That’s why I said that the Withdrawal Agreement represents a safety net despite its evident shortcomings. <span class="mag-quote-center">Without the Withdrawal&nbsp;agreement, EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU-27 would be thrown down headlong from a legal limbo&nbsp;into a legal&nbsp;hell.</span></p> <p>I ignore what will happen in Westminster and in the Tory Party, where a sort of political civil war is going on (the dogfight could be dubbed “Wolf Hall”, echoing Hilary Mantel’s novels). </p> <p>More generally, I would warn against speaking of a “happy ending”. All the deep social reasons&nbsp;leading to Brexit&nbsp;(despair, distrust, a sense of dispossession, the loss of&nbsp;sovereignty or control over oneself –&nbsp;or as Foucault might have put it: of&nbsp;mastery over&nbsp;oneself), and all the political and media misuses of such discontent (hostile-environment plans, disinformation,&nbsp;paperwork weaponised, disregard for&nbsp;individual and collective rights) remain, as one&nbsp;of the&nbsp;biggest challenges for future generations not only in the UK but in the whole of&nbsp;Europe.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[1] &nbsp;See <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/233661/stress-test-by-timothy-f-geithner/">Stress Test</a> by Timothy F.Geithner </p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp;Albert O. Hirschman,&nbsp;<em>Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States</em></p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; See <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas/we-have-answers-to-brexit-s-causes">We have answers to Brexit's causes</a> by Caroline Lucas</p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref4">[4]</a>&nbsp; See <a href="https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Brexit%20Legal%20Opinion.pdf">TUC Brexit Legal Opinion</a></p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref5">[5]</a>&nbsp;“Under a constitutive system people have to successfully apply in order to obtain a residence status.&nbsp;In case of rejection, an applicant will have no document certifying their status; as a result, they will lose all entitlements and ultimately face deportation.&nbsp;The consequences of not obtaining a ‘settled status’ document are thus far more serious than not obtaining a permanent residence card under EU law.&nbsp;In a declaratory system, absence of a document does not mean that you are not entitled. Even if your application is rejected you might still be able to stay on a temporary basis, or might be able to return under free movement provisions” (Stijn Smismans, Professor of Law, School of Law and Politics, Director of the Centre for European Law and Governance, Cardiff University). See <a href="//eulawanalysis.blogspot.com/2018/06/brexit-and-eu27-citizens-rights.html ">Brexit and EU27 citizens rights. </a></p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref6">[6]</a>&nbsp; See <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldeucom/82/82.pdf ">House of Lords decision,</a> December 2016. (paragr. 121)</p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref7">[7]</a>&nbsp; See <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n09/william-davies/weaponising-paperwork">Weaponising Paperwork</a> by William Davies.</p> <p><a href="http://barbara-spinelli.it/2018/11/22/brexit-the-big-swindle/#_ftnref8">[8]</a>&nbsp;The political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, approved on November 22, mentions the ECHR in very limitative terms, in article 7: “The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom’s continued commitment to&nbsp;<em>respect the framework</em>&nbsp;of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), while the Union and its Member States will remain bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which reaffirms the rights as they result in particular from the ECHR” (my italics).</p> <p><em>The speech, entitled</em> <em>“The consequences of the Brexit on citizen rights and on the long-term European immigration vision”&nbsp;was originally given at the Brussels Management School on November 22, 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="/uk/caroline-lucas/we-have-answers-to-brexit-s-causes">We have the answers to Brexit’s causes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/marley-morris/no-appetite-for-deregulatory-post-brexit-britain-new-finding-on-public-attitudes">No appetite for a deregulatory post-Brexit Britain: new findings on public attitudes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/magnificent-oomph-securing-progressive-brexit-0">The magnificent oomph: securing a progressive Brexit </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Internet Brexit Barbara Spinelli Thu, 29 Nov 2018 10:52:47 +0000 Barbara Spinelli 120750 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A call to 'take a break from Brexit' for a general election https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/call-to-take-break-from-brexit-for-general-election <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Over 80% of those DiEM25 members from across Europe who voted to update their stance on Brexit this month chose the call by Yanis Varoufakis for the UK and EU to agree an extension of Article 50 for at least one year.</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/Screenshot 2018-11-28 at 07.55.17.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-11-28 at 07.55.17.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="219" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: Jeremy Corbyn with Yanis Varoufakis at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, October 2018. YouTube.</span></span></span></p><p>DiEM25 is launching a national campaign to postpone the Brexit date by a year, by means of a parliamentary petition urging the UK Parliament to request an extension of Article 50 in order to hold a general election. </p> <p>DiEM25 will do so together with a group of EU citizens living in the UK; UK citizens living across the EU, and UK citizens too young to vote at the time of the Brexit referendum who want to have a voice in a debate which has too often excluded them. With this campaign we seek the support of all British and Northern Irish democrats and indeed of all democrats within and outside the EU. </p> <p>We respect the choice of all those who voted in the referendum and we recognise the democratic outcome of the vote. All of us sympathise with the valid reasons of many of those who voted Remain, and understand and share the motives of many of those who voted Leave. Fundamentally, we believe in democracy. </p> <p>But in less than six months, the UK is scheduled to exit the EU. Article 50 requires the UK government signing a deal with the EU before March 29, 2019, or leaving with No Deal. During the summer, the government suffered significant resignations over its Chequers plan which is widely criticised within the parties supporting the government and vehemently opposed by all the opposition parties. There is no convergence in sight on the terms of the Brexit bill and the Tory rightwing is increasingly committed to a No Deal Brexit. </p> <p>This is why the state of the negotiations between the UK and the EU leaves us deeply concerned about the absence of honest debate about Brexit in Britain. More than two years after the referendum and one and a half after triggering Article 50, there is still no clarity about what the government, the Parliament, and the country as a whole, want. There is, in fact, utter confusion and division at all levels. </p> <p>The only thing that is clear, despite the Prime Minister’s insistence that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, is that a No Deal would be a catastrophe for most of us. From one day to the next about £554 billion in trade between the UK and the EU would be subject to customs and levies under WTO rules with likely disruptions in many chains of production and distribution. The free movement of people between the UK and the EU would come to an end with obvious consequences in harbours and airports. The EU legislation protecting fundamental workers, environmental and human rights would come to an end, with unpredictable consequences in all parts of society. All EU grants supporting UK institutions and other EU-funded activities would be suspended simultaneously generating chaos in all sorts of institutions. Most worryingly, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would come into force, endangering the Good Friday Agreement which put an end to 40 years of Troubles. All of these events have real repercussions on every person in the UK, but none of them was democratically discussed during the referendum, none of them will address the legitimate concerns expressed by millions of leave voters and none of them is remotely close to the notion of “taking back control”. </p> <p>Much of the confusion and the division that we are seeing in the Brexit debate are due to the duress of an arbitrary deadline which has effectively stifled debate. No one really needs to finalise Brexit before March 29, 2019, which is an arbitrary cut-off date in any case. A proper democratic debate across the UK is now the priority, even for Leavers who rightly complain about the undemocratic nature and opacity of the current process. But democracy needs time that has now run out. <span class="mag-quote-center">Democracy needs time that has now run out. </span></p> <p>This is why we think as citizens we should agree to Take a Break from Brexit, postponing the Brexit deadline for a year (as allowed by Article 50 if the seceding country requests it and the EU council agrees) in order to hold a general election. This is the only genuinely inclusive democratic process which can clear the air, getting rid of a failed government oscillating between two extremes: recalcitrant Brexiteers, for whom mass suffering is a political opportunity, and those willing to accept a Brussels fudge that keeps Britain in limbo and without a viable long term relationship with the EU. </p> <p>In a joint letter to the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the 3Million and the coalition of British in Europe, who together represent almost 3 million EU citizens in the UK and more than 1 million UK citizens in the EU, highlighted the risk that the rights of those citizens might become “collateral damage” in a “dangerous political game” ending up in a No Deal Brexit. We share their concerns. </p> <p>An extension of Article 50 would allow democracy the time it needs to navigate toward an agreement that minimises human costs and paves the ground for a decent long-term arrangement between the UK and the EU. The window of opportunity to shape an inclusive democratic process is slim. This is why we must act now. </p> <p>We have set up a Facebook page and a platform to crowdfund our campaign. We will welcome everyone who wants to join us, whether a Leaver or a Remainer, British or non-British European, conservative or progressive. We are determined to be listened to and for our ideas to be discussed by all Citizens as well as in Parliament. Neither the flaws of the EU, nor those of the UK will be tackled by rushing this historical decision. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/why-germany-neither-can-nor-should-pay-more-to-save-eurozone">Why Germany neither can nor should pay more to save the eurozone</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/message-to-progressives-delivered-in-rome-ground-zero-of-europea">A message to progressives delivered in Rome: ground zero of the European crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/luis-mart-n/bernie-sanders-and-yanis-varoufakis-call-on-progressives-to-unite-against-trump-s-nation">Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis call on progressives to unite against Trump’s Nationalist International</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk Yanis Varoufakis DiEM25 Wed, 28 Nov 2018 08:06:39 +0000 Yanis Varoufakis 120738 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Second referendum, yes. Will of the People, no https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/albert-weale/second-referendum-yes-will-of-people-no <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What could it possibly mean for a large and diverse set of people, the citizens of a country at a particular time and in a particular place, to share one will? </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-28058056.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28058056.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'>Home Secretary Theresa May officially launches her campaign to become prime minister at Austin Court in Birmingham. Chris Radburn/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language – so the argument runs – must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism …</p> <p>These are not my words.&nbsp; George Orwell wrote them in his famous 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language’.&nbsp; Orwell thought that language was being used in a slovenly way because it was used to express ill-thought out ideas.&nbsp; And, ill-thought out ideas are a result of the tolerance of slovenly language.&nbsp; There is a vicious cycle: slovenly language produces slovenly thought and slovenly thought uses slovenly language.&nbsp; When the correct use of language ceases to matter, then thought ceases to matter.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Whatever else is true about Brexit, it has produced a large volume of slovenly language. &nbsp;Here are a few examples.&nbsp; ‘Take back control’, ‘global Britain’, ‘deep and special partnership’, ‘re-engaging this country with its global identity, and all the energy that can flow from that’, or ‘the people of our country voted to leave because they believe in Britain’, ‘delivering an innovative, competitive and growing UK economy that benefits individuals and communities and makes sure the value of trade is more widely shared’, and, of course, ‘Brexit means Brexit’. &nbsp;All these examples have the same qualities.&nbsp; Though they sound serious, they are really meaningless. </p> <p>Top of the prize list of meaningless terms is ‘the will of the people’. Consider the following exchange between Caroline Lucas and Theresa May during <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-11-21/debates/A147854B-57FB-4AE8-BA89-1FAC8CE21F2B/Engagements">Prime Minister’s Question Time</a> on 21 November 2018:</p> <blockquote><p>Caroline Lucas:</p><p>The Prime Minister has just repeated that voting down her deal risks there being no Brexit at all. Does she recognise that, far from being a risk, recent polls show that, actually, a vast majority of people would like no Brexit at all in order to save jobs, protect the environment and ensure our standing in the world? Will she acknowledge that the will of the people can change and that the will of the people has changed? Does she therefore think that the way forward is a people’s vote, or does she think democracy ended on 23 June 2016?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Prime Minister:</p><p>The hon. Lady’s claim in relation to democracy is absolutely ridiculous. This Parliament gave people the right to choose whether to remain in the European Union or to leave the European Union. People exercised that vote, and we saw numbers of people voting that we had not seen before. It was a great exercise in democracy in this country, and I believe it gave this Parliament an instruction. We should ensure that we leave the European Union, as the people voted.</p></blockquote> <p>I offer this example because both Caroline Lucas and Theresa May, though they come from very different parts of the political spectrum, are serious and intelligent people. If they can both talk in meaningless slogans, what hope is there for anyone else?</p> <p>Take Theresa May’s claim that in offering a referendum, Parliament created a situation in which the people could give Parliament an instruction. Parliament did no such thing. The relevant words in the referendum legislation were the opening ones which simply said ‘A referendum is to be held on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.’&nbsp; The rest of the Act concerns the mechanics of the process. There is nothing about the constitutional status of the referendum, whether it was to be advisory or mandatory, what ‘membership’ means or what the implications of a vote either way would be. Would continued membership of the single market be consistent with a vote to leave? Would continued membership of the customs union be consistent? And so on.&nbsp; </p> <p>An instruction must be something that you can act upon. If I am instructed to climb up and down the stairs three times, I know what I have to do to follow the instruction. I may choose to ignore the instruction, of course, but ignoring a clear instruction is not the same as having no intelligible instruction at all. Yet, the ambiguity surrounding what it means to cease to be a member of the European Union amounts to there being no instruction at all. It is like being told to climb higher, without being told whether you are to go up the stairs, up the ladder or simply up the wall.</p> <p>So when Theresa May says that the referendum gave Parliament an instruction, how does she derive this conclusion? She is relying on a simple syllogism that runs something as follows. The referendum gives us the will of the people; the government is acting in accordance with the will of the people; therefore Parliament should accept what the government has negotiated.&nbsp; </p> <p>But can ‘a people’ have ‘a will’?&nbsp; What could it possibly mean for a large and diverse set of people, the citizens of a country at a particular time and in a particular place, to share one will? One obvious reply is that a group of people, no matter how large and diverse, can have one will provided that they all agree with one another.&nbsp; But no one pretends that this is true of Brexit. The campaign was raucous, the result divided and the aftermath rancorous. Different people had different views before the referendum, including different views on whether a referendum should be held. They voted in accordance with those different views. And many continue to think that the result was a mistake. There is no singular will of the people emerging from a plurality of people. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is no singular will of the people emerging from a plurality of people.</span>You can defend referendum voting as a way of taking important decisions for a variety of reasons. You can say that it engages as many citizens as possible in making a choice that will be fundamental to their lives. You can say that the only way of reconciling people to a controversial choice is to enable them to vote in a referendum. You can say that a referendum treats everyone according to a principle of political equality, which is a foundation principle in a democracy. Sometimes these claims will be true and sometimes they will be false. What you can never say, however, is that a referendum uncovers the will of the people. The will of the people is not a real thing out there in the world like the chemical composition of hydrochloric acid or the number of legs on a spider. </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-39536012.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39536012.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'>Nigel Farage and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas at the Channel 4 Brexit debate Live at the Custard factory, Birmingham, November 5, 2018. Aaron Chown/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A referendum is a vote conducted according to certain rules. Change the rules and the result may well be different. Have a super-majority rule instead of a simple majority rule, and you will come to a different view about the will of the people and whether people want change. Require a certain minimum turn-out and you can turn a majority of those voting into a minority of those eligible to vote. Make the referendum question a three-way, rather than a two-way, choice and you are likely to end up with no majority at all.&nbsp; There is no simple will of the people because different ways of counting the same opinions will give you different results, and there is no obviously one right way of conducting the count. </p><p>Caroline Lucas was right to say that democracy does not end on a particular date.&nbsp; But it does not make sense to say that this is because the will of the people has changed. There seems to have been a shift of public attitudes towards Brexit, with a shift of opinion back towards remain. This means that the opinion of a set of individuals has changed. Maybe there have been lots of cross-cutting shifts of opinion, with some people turning towards leave and some people coming to favour remain. Individual people, perhaps through conversations with their friends and relatives, have changed their minds. There is no one super-individual – the people – that has changed its mind. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is no one super-individual – the people – that has changed its mind.</span></p> <p>One reason it is important to recognise that behind the imaginary one there is a genuine many is that it alerts you to the need to reconcile those who lost the vote to the result. One of the reasons why Brexit has been so acrimonious is that the referendum result was taken as a reason to suppress dissent.&nbsp; </p> <p>Even to raise the question of whether the decision was the right one was taken as a symptom of elitism, the committing of a thought-crime against the supposed will of the people. But there was no will of the people. There was a vote in which one side carried the day by a narrow majority. Given the lack of definition about what that vote meant in constitutional terms, it would have made sense for &nbsp;the government to reach out across party and partisan lines to explore realistically what the alternatives then were.&nbsp; </p> <p>Instead the myth of the will of the people was used in an attempt to justify executive action unconstrained by parliament. Only when the courts struck that attempt down was some semblance of constitutional process produced.</p> <h2><strong>A second referendum</strong></h2> <p>There is a good case for holding a second referendum, but if one is held, it will not reveal something we can call the will of the people.&nbsp; </p> <p>It will yield a result according to the options put and the voting rules used. If the choice is put as a three-way choice – remain, leave on agreed terms or no-deal – there is unlikely to be a majority for any one of them. In those circumstances, a new counting rule will have to be used. Some favour the alternative vote, with the least favoured alternative being dropped before going on to determine a majority among the remaining two alternatives. Others (<a href="https://constitution-unit.com/2018/10/02/not-so-fast-with-av-in-a-second-referendum/">I am in this camp</a>) think that you should use a rule that finds an alternative – if there is one – that beats each of the others in a series of pair-wise contests. But the fact that the counting rules in such situations need to be discussed and decided underlines the point that there is no will of the people independently of the rules used to combine different opinions. <span class="mag-quote-center">There is no will of the people independently of the rules used to combine different opinions.</span></p> <p>Unlike Orwell, I do not think that the use of slovenly language is a sign of a decadent civilization. But it is a sign of a civilization in which there is too much muddle-headedness. And muddle-headedness is a brake on sensible democratic conversation. How intoxicating it seems to be on the side of the sweep of history and the will of the people. How intoxicating, but how much the enemy of the hard, practical decisions that the members of any democratic society need to make.</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/peter-emerson/for-people-to-have-their-say-on-brexit-how-best-can-multi-option-conundrum-be-resol">For the people to have their say on Brexit, how best can the multi-option conundrum be resolved? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? uk Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Brexit Albert Weale Tue, 27 Nov 2018 22:21:44 +0000 Albert Weale 120735 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The ‘new’ climate politics of Extinction Rebellion? https://www.opendemocracy.net/joost-de-moor-brian-doherty-graeme-hayes/new-climate-politics-of-extinction-rebellion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Creating a movement that can have the impact XR aims for will require confronting the political as well as the moral challenges posed by climate change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements"><img alt="open Movements" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner.jpg" width="460px" /></a><br /><b>The <i><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements">openMovements</a></i> series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.</b></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/DsK-MxnWkAAqEwZ.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/DsK-MxnWkAAqEwZ.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'>XR twitter. November 17, 2018. Fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>During October and November 2018, a new environmental campaign called Extinction Rebellion (XR) has attracted widespread mainstream media attention in the UK, with its call to ‘Fight for Life’ in the face of an <a href="https://rebellion.earth/">‘unprecedented global emergency’</a>. </p> <p>Currently, it is trying to set up chapters in many other parts of Europe and the US as well. A series of high profile actions, including a blockade of the UK government’s <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/fifty-arrests-as-protesters-spray-paint-slogans-on-defra-hq-and-unfurl-huge-banner-on-westminster-a3990216.html">Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,</a> culminated on Saturday, November 17, in a day of mass civil disobedience, as 6000 activists shut down five major road bridges <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46252619">over the Thames in central London</a>. </p> <p>For those following the histories of protest, this type of action is nothing new. But it does appear that XR is currently able to attract exceptional attention and participation. Part of this might be due to timing. In October, two devastating reports on the global environment were published: the latest IPCC report made it clear that there would have to be major and immediate social and economic changes to <a href="https://www.coolearth.org/2018/10/ipcc-report-2/?gclid=Cj0KCQiA_s7fBRDrARIsAGEvF8SGXWXUuCqydUOHIDWR9EzDafJr8z5ixqOQlBYQ-uYG5-98Apg9bf4aAon8EALw_wcB">keep global warming below 1.5<sup>o</sup>C</a>. Then, WWF released its annual <i>The Living Planet</i> report which showed an average decline of <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/">60% in vertebrate species populations since 1970</a>. At the same time, long prison sentences for three protesters who had disrupted fracking for shale gas in Lancashire received major national coverage, although <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/17/court-quashes-excessive-sentences-of-fracking-protesters">their sentences were later overturned on appeal</a>. In addition, the election of Jair Bolsonaro as President of Brazil, and in particular his plans for the Amazon, deepened the sense of crisis. </p> <p>Making use of this perfect media storm, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/31/15-environmental-protesters-arrested-at-civil-disobedience-campaign-in-london">XR’s ‘Declaration of Rebellion’ on 31 October</a> was supported by well-known UK environmentalists including Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, journalist George Monbiot, and the ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. </p> <p>But there have been many moments of global attention for environmental crisis before, and these have not led to this kind or scale of mobilisation. So what, if anything, sets the ‘extinction rebellion’ apart from previous campaigns? There are at least three ways in which XR occupies a remarkable position in this context, relating to its framing of the problem, its understanding of who has the responsibility for taking action to deal with it, and its strategic call for making those responsible act (or as social movement scholars like to call it: diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing).</p> <h2><b>Catastrophism and disaster</b></h2> <p>Firstly, in its framing of the climate problem, XR is exploring new ground for an environmental movement in the UK. While environmental movements typically combine <i>urgency </i>and <i>optimism</i> (‘if we act now, we can still solve this problem’), XR is clearly emphasising catastrophism and disaster (<a href="https://rebellion.earth/demands/">‘We will not be led quietly to annihilation by the elites and politicians’,</a> write the group). </p> <p>During one of its actions this month, XR activists hung a banner from Westminster Bridge in London bearing the legend: ‘Climate Change: We’re Fucked.’ In many of its public statements, it embraces the importance of grieving for the losses humanity has already endured and still faces. In so doing, XR echoes the aims of other groups, like Dark Mountain, which already in 2009 placed acceptance, grief, and coping as central to its aims. &nbsp;</p> <p>Yet XR remains committed to battling climate change, as if to say: we’re screwed, but we still have a choice, even if it is only a choice over how bad it will get. While somewhat awkward, this framing may resonate well with the emotional experience of many who are concerned with climate change and mass extinction today; people who feel trapped between a sense that they’re fighting for a hopeless cause (especially considering the lock-in effect of so-called ‘tipping points’), and a refusal to accept defeat and its planetary implications. <span class="mag-quote-center">People… feel trapped between a sense that they’re fighting for a hopeless cause… and a refusal to accept defeat and its planetary implications.</span></p> <p>While XR’s talk of extinction and annihilation is arresting, it is also depoliticising: it frames the question as a <i>moral</i> one which affects us all equally, passing over the questions of who is most vulnerable to climate change, over the power structure of climate politics, and over questions of history and justice, debt and inequality. </p> <p>It has already been criticized for this framing. Referring to XR’s apocalyptic message on the banner it dropped on Westminster Bridge, Jamie Henn of 350.org argued that “<a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/11/20/extinction-rebellion-uk-ghana-and-us-climate-activists-take-civil-disobedience-world-wide">It is one thing to say such things from the safety of London, but it’s another if you are living on the frontline of climate impacts. Some people don’t have the privilege to give up.</a>”</p> <p>In this way, XR breaks with recent radical climate actions in the UK which have explicitly sought to connect public policy and consumption practices with questions of social class, poverty, ethnic minority exclusion, and neo-colonialism. <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-heathrow-13-verdict-could-lead-to-more-radical-climate-activism-not-less-55464">Activists</a> who occupied the runway at Heathrow in July 2015 stressed that whilst ‘the victims of climate change are black and brown poor communities in the global South’, those who benefit from airport expansion are ‘<a href="http://planestupid.com/blogs/2016/01/17/stop-aviation-stop-co2lonialism">a tiny elite</a>’. </p> <p>Activists who did likewise at London City airport in September 2016 did so because ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/climate-change-racist-crisis-london-city-airport-black-lives-matter">climate change is a racist crisis’</a>. Many of the activists currently on trial in Chelmsford, and facing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for blocking a Home Office <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/graeme-hayes-steven-cammiss-brian-doherty/deportation-and-direct-action-in-britain-terrorist-trial-o">deportation flight at Stansted in March 2017</a>, have a history of activism in environmental campaigns, such as over university fossil fuel divestment and BP’s sponsorship of the Tate. XR may be a different type of campaign; but it is nonetheless remarkable that it does not address issues of inequality and justice. </p> <p>This is probably a tactical choice: XR aims to keep its message focused on the urgency of climate action to maximise support from across the political spectrum. But inevitably a mobilisation of this kind is open to others with alternative framings. For example, mid-November actions in London included civil disobedience at the Brazilian embassy, coordinated with LGBTQI activists and Brazilian Women Against Fascism UK. And in XR’s occupation of London bridges campaigners from Mongolia, West Papua, Bangladesh and Ghana spoke about the impact of climate change, colonialism, and fossil fuel <a href="https://newint.org/features/2018/11/19/londons-climate-rebellion-surge">corporations on the Global South</a>. Thus whatever the aim of XR’s initiators, political questions of justice will arise in protests about climate change. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3xtinction rebelion 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/3xtinction rebelion 2.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'>xtinction rebellion.</span></span></span></p> <h2><b>‘bringing the (nation) state back in’</b></h2> <p>Beyond its diagnostic framing, secondly, XR is also somewhat exceptional in its understanding of responsibility. Its tactics represent a break with recent trends towards DIY (Do It Yourself) environmentalism. Faced with decades of inadequate government policy, many citizens have embraced types of action that pursue a direct positive effect on environmental goods, such as by adopting or promoting more sustainable lifestyles, or by opposing environmental bads through direct action against things like open cast coal mining and fracking. Though very different, both DIY-strategies share the virtue of not appealing to, and relying on, governmental action, instead preferring unmediated intervention. </p> <p>But this DIY approach is seen by many to have important shortcomings, especially in terms of the scale and endurance of effects: neither the adoption of more virtuous behaviours by individual citizens, nor the accomplishment of targeted acts of obstruction or property destruction are based on the successful and sustained public mobilization of large enough numbers of people. Nor is there, in the eyes of XR, evidence that large NGOs or green parties can respond effectively to current ecological crises as it has recently also challenged <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/10/19/climate-activists-occupy-greenpeace-uk-headquarters-wait-cant-be-right">the mainstream environmental movement for its failures</a> (occupying the offices of Greenpeace UK). </p> <p>In raising questions about scale, the importance of government policy is underlined. Some have therefore begun to argue that states’ apparent inability to address environmental issues should not be taken for granted: who says governments aren’t so much unable, but rather simply unwilling, to act? Even though XR has found some (such as the Green Party politician Jenny Jones) who are willing to say that conventional politics has failed, XR squarely puts the responsibility to act back with the government. XR is not direct action so much as indirect action: forcing the government to act is the clear aim of its actions and demands. </p> <p>XR is thus part of a trend to ‘bring the (nation) state back in’: for a long time, scholars, NGOs, media and politicians, have placed the onus of climate action in the international arena (if not with consumers’ individual responsibility), expecting global governance institutions like the UN climate change convention (UNFCCC) to come up with solutions to the climate crisis. </p> <p>Yet in the lead in to the 2015 Paris climate summit (COP21), we increasingly saw climate activists <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/joost-de-moor/cop21-climate-movement-s-last-summit">reject any possibility of the UNFCCC solving the climate crisis</a>. Equally, other state and non-state actors have increasingly embraced the notion that states should lead on climate action, and that the main role of international arenas is to coordinate ‘nationally determined commitments’ (NDCs).<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> Whilst XR’s demands are far removed from this type of institutional language, it also adopts a strategy that relies on the state to address climate change. <span class="mag-quote-center">States should lead on climate action, and … the main role of international arenas is to coordinate ‘nationally determined commitments’ (NDCs).</span></p> <h2><b>Unusual suspects</b></h2> <p>Finally, XR stands out in how it seeks to make governments accept these responsibilities. Instead of using traditional forms of lobbying or climate marches to advance policy change, XR promotes the widespread use of mass civil disobedience. There are precedents in recent climate activism, such as the sit-in outside the White House in 2011 to protest the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/nancy-romer/standing-rock-victory-celebrated-struggle-to-continue">Keystone XL Pipeline</a>. And similar to the annual <a href="https://www.ende-gelaende.org/en/">“Ende Gelände” shut down of open cast lignite coal mines in Germany</a>, one main goal in these protests has been to get concerned citizens from outside the hard core of environmentalists to engage in more radical tactics. </p> <p>Doing this is designed to have two effects: to legitimize a strategy otherwise considered the terrain of radicals, and to increase exposure. This may indeed be one of the reasons why XR is now attracting so much attention. </p> <p>At the action at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, one grandfather who participated in a street blockade explained on XR’s Facebook livestream that he had never done anything like this before, but that he feared the looming crisis more than being arrested or imprisoned. He also indicated that XR was giving great support for those who wanted to try this type of action. Providing both motivation and support, XR seeks to enable the ‘unusual suspects’ to escalate environmental activism.</p> <p>But it is also important to note that XR is pursuing a particular kind of civil disobedience. XR provides training and emphasises the importance of being accountable for your actions; effectively, this means accepting arrest and trial, and preparing yourself psychologically for prison. Part of the aim appears to be to create a crisis by filling the jails. </p> <p>For a while, this ‘newness’ may attract media attention, but a classic lesson for social movements is that this effect wears off of over time. The media gets used to a certain repertoire, which in turn loses its news-worthiness. The authorities adjust by changing their practices. They might for example not press charges against those they arrest; or they might make the experience of containment or arrest more unpleasant. </p> <p>Activists are then faced with a series of difficult strategic decisions, from renouncing their previously successful attention-winning tactics, to engaging in a media-driven ‘arms race’ of increasingly spectacular actions. How XR navigates these decisions may determine its future.</p> <h2><b>Mass movement?</b></h2> <p>XR fits in a longstanding tradition of transgressive environmental action; but it is also novel in the British and wider European context, notably in its emphasis on grief, its alarmism, and its privileging of moral action over political analysis, as well as its emphasis on demanding action from government through civil disobedience. </p> <p>This is perhaps precisely what makes the campaign so potent now. Its success in getting thousands of people to undertake civil disobedience is impressive, but as with any new movement, it remains to be seen whether it can maintain this momentum, particularly in the absence of an underpinning mass membership. </p> <p>Of course, XR’s stated aim is to build a mass movement. This month’s events may have kick-started this, and like all movements, if it develops, it will come in part from existing networks. But creating a movement that can have the impact XR aims for will require confronting the political as well as the moral challenges posed by climate change. First and foremost, to achieve XR’s aim of reducing actual (not ‘net’) carbon emissions to zero by 2025, there will need to be other kinds of democratic political action beyond a demand that governments act. </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/Extinction rebelion 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Extinction rebelion 1.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Bäckstrand, Karin, et al. "Non-state actors in global climate governance: from Copenhagen to Paris and beyond." (2017): 561-579.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-partnerships/openmovements"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner-small_1.jpg" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-partnerships/openmovements">openMovements</a> partnership.</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="/graeme-hayes-steven-cammiss-brian-doherty/deportation-and-direct-action-in-britain-terrorist-trial-o"> Deportation and direct action in Britain: the ‘terrorist trial’ of the Stansted 15</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/joost-de-moor/cop21-climate-movement-s-last-summit"> COP21: the climate movement’s last summit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/climate-disruption-time-to-speak-up">Climate disruption: time to speak up</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? uk United States EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics openmovements Graeme Hayes Brian Doherty Joost de Moor Tue, 27 Nov 2018 17:58:45 +0000 Joost de Moor, Brian Doherty and Graeme Hayes 120729 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Living in truth https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jens-martin-eriksen-tomas-venclova/living-in-truth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A conversation with the Lithuanian writer about being a young artist and activist exiled by the Soviet Authorities during the Cold War, together with more recent challenges from Putin’s Russia.</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-Josef_Brodsky.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/640px-Josef_Brodsky.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'>Josef Brodsky, teaching at the University of Michigan, 1972-3. Wikicommons/Michiganensian yearbook. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): As a student in the late 1970's, I worked in solidarity with Polish students and intellectuals who were building a parallel educational network to counter communist propaganda. It was a unique political education for me to meet these people and read the literature of Eastern European intellectuals. I remember a catchphrase from that period: 'Living in Truth'. &nbsp;Can you tell me something about living in a system where there is no realistic hope for the end of it? Western politicians at that time, across the political spectrum, would have told you to stop dreaming dreams about liberating the people of Eastern Europe. </em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV)</strong>: The catchphrase you mention – “zhit’ ne po lzhi” – was coined by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1974, just before his exile to the West.<em> </em>It might be translated as “living in truth” – or, more precisely, as “living not by lies.” At that time, such way of life was already a significant social phenomenon, crying out to be summarized in such a formula.</p> <p>At the start, communism as a social experiment might have looked promising after all the woes of untamed capitalism and especially after World War I. Indeed, it was welcomed as a meaningful alternative to bourgeois capitalist society by many eastern – and western – intellectuals. Still, in the 1930s it became obvious that the experiment had failed. I will not dwell on the causes of the failure which were numerous and complicated. But the failure could not be admitted since that would be mortally dangerous for the leaders (to be precise, to the Leader). Instead, this was covered up by a web of blatant lies – and those who did not lie faced ostracism at the very least (a much more common result being imprisonment, death, or both). </p> <p>In time, imprisonment and death (but not ostracism) became less common, if only for the reason that the new ruling class longed for a safe life – and repression, when it starts, has a tendency to become all-embracing. The society I was brought up in was logocentric: which means to say that virtually nobody believed in communist dogma, but one was expected to repeat its mantras <em>ad nauseam </em>just to secure a relatively adequate life for him- or herself (and, of course, for one’s family). Virtually everybody accepted this as the “rules of the game” which simply could not be circumvented. Many thought the rules were not so harmful, after all. Still, these rules prolonged a miserable state of affairs indefinitely.</p> <p>My friends used to say that there were 250 million political prisoners in the Soviet Union, including the leaders themselves – and 250 million dissidents, since nobody was happy with the status quo (once more, including the leaders themselves). The only way to break the web was by non-participation. At least, this made a small hole in the web, and the hole had some potential to grow. In the words of one dissident, it deprived the authorities of 1/250,000,000 part of their power. And power which is non-total soon starts to teeter.</p> <p>Such things happened even in Stalin’s times (Boris Pasternak did not join the chorus demanding execution of the “enemies of the people,” though very many writers, including some of the best ones, did join). After Stalin, it became a pattern of behaviour for more than one person. It was even more pronounced in satellite countries where the ostracism was less severe.</p> <p>I was a “truly believing” member of Komsomol until 1956 (rather rare in Lithuania where people joined Komsomol and the party just for career reasons). In the course of one day – November 4, 1956 – when the Hungarian uprising was crushed, I understood that the system was wrong, inhuman and merited its overthrow (the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 made a lesser impression on me since I was already mentally prepared for it). </p> <p>I obviously could not destroy the system single-handed but I could non-participate in its wrongdoings. For a philologist, this meant for example, a translator’s job (one could survive by translating Stendhal or Hans Christian Andersen who were not expressly banned, even if Borges and Kierkegaard were). For an actor, it meant not accepting theatrical roles promoting untruth (Hamlet is OK, someone announcing that “Breakfast is ready!” is OK, but playing a heroic member of the party <em>nomenklatura</em> is not). And so on. Publishing one’s own writings – or, say, teaching – was a little more precarious since one could easily become involved in lies gradually, almost imperceptibly. But in the later stages of the Soviet system it was also not totally impossible, though it required permanent vigilance and a readiness to take risks. For a worker or a peasant, “living in truth” was even easier – one just had to avoid voting for official candidates, participating in political meetings, etc. It made a person suspect and ruled out any type of official career – but, to quote Solzhenitsyn, it did not prevent “brown bread and clean water from being available to your family.”</p> <p>I knew many persons who followed these simple precepts. Of course that was the first, necessary but not sufficient stage in the building of an alternative society.</p> <p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): I understand how legal ‘ostracism’ can create a social and existential abyss for intellectuals and writer, a ‘social death’ or professional exclusion that sometimes extended to expulsion from informal circles of people. In nearby Poland, the Catholic Church stood as a bulwark and unofficial representative for the Polish Nation and some intellectuals, thanks to a parallel education system that shared literary and historical issues of interest. Was this essential and spiritual survival possible in the much more severe Soviet Union and a colonised Lithuania, where repression was of paramount impact? </em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV)</strong>: Of course in Poland (though not in Romania, Bulgaria and post-1968 Czechoslovakia) the situation was better than that in the Soviet Union. Still, Soviet republics also differed in that regard. After Stalin’s death, Baltic countries were hardly the worst nook of the country. Repression was markedly more pronounced in Ukraine, since Ukrainian separatism (not without reason) was considered the most dangerous for the survival of the empire. Everyday life was definitely more cheerful in Georgia and Armenia than in Russia, and cultural mores were also freer there: one could, at least sometimes, publish texts in Tbilisi or Erevan which would not pass the censor in Moscow. Baltic countries were thought to be the “most westernized” and therefore liberal part of the USSR. Lithuania, for example, had links with Poland and with the Lithuanian diaspora, which were controlled yet not totally devoid of meaning. And so on. Incidentally, the situation in Leningrad was much more constrained than in Moscow (or in the Baltic countries, for that matter). Joseph Brodsky was sentenced to five years’ internal exile by a Leningrad court, which might not necessarily have occurred in Moscow, Tallinn or Vilnius. </p> <p>Therefore, ostracism in the last stages of the Soviet regime did not always (and not everywhere) amount to ‘social death’. My own personal experience may serve as an example. Because of my dissident views, which I rarely tried to conceal, I could not join the Writers’ Union. My application was rejected twice, though I was quite active (and rather successful) as a translator. A well-known Lithuanian Soviet writer said reportedly: “This person falls short of the requirements of Paragraph One of our Union’s statute” (that is, does not contribute to the communist goals). Someone retorted: “He is just a translator.” “Well, as a translator he falls short of these requirements as well.” (It was true since I translated Akhmatova, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, etc., but not Louis Aragon and not Maxim Gorky). All that put me in a precarious position, since everybody in the USSR had to have a “socially useful” job. Brodsky had been proclaimed to be a “parasite” and brought to trial just because he survived as a translator and did not belong to the Writers’ Union. </p> <p>Well, I found a minor position in a provincial theatre, one not at variance with my convictions. In Leningrad or Ukraine it might have ended much worse. I did not lose my friends (at least the friends closest to me), or the means of a modest survival. It goes without saying that any significant career was closed to me, and trips abroad (even to Poland) were excluded. But I could manage without this. Some writers and thinkers in the USSR worked as library clerks, night guards, stokers, and so on (but still had a readership in the so-called <em>samizdat</em>).&nbsp; Therefore my fate was by no means the worst one. There were also certain informal networks of mutual help (which I didn’t need), maintained, among others, by the Catholic Church. The Church in Lithuania was not as powerful as in Poland, yet its influence was not negligible. The Church in Lithuania was not as powerful as in Poland, yet its influence was not negligible.</p> <p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): Let’s move some decades ahead and take a look at the state of freedom of expression in Russia now. We witness in Putin’s regime the political murders of journalists, assassinations of political opponents in broad daylight, harrassment of LGBT people and other cultural minorities by thugs – but every involvement is denied by the authorities. This unofficial policy of repression may be much more poisonous and dangerous than that of the Soviet Union? Reading Putin’s spin doctors – Vladislav Surkov and Alexander Dugin – you get the impression of an arcane politics that is an integral part of a ‘managed democracy’? How do you evaluate this state of affairs?</em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV)</strong>: Victor Shenderovich, a brilliant Russian journalist active in the oppositionist<em> milieu</em>, once said: “Life in today’s Russia is very interesting and amusing, as long as they do not assassinate you.” &nbsp;</p> <p>In many respects, the present Russian authorities are more brazen than their Soviet predecessors. They deny unblinkingly their misdeeds which are obvious enough (<em>vide</em> the murder of Boris Nemcov, the downing of the Malaysian plane, the poisoning of Skripal family, etc., to say nothing about the annexation of Crimea which is pictured as “the free expression of the population’s will”). For internal use, they promote the idea that every country and every politician is immersed in lying and disinformation as a cover-up to egoistic interests. Therefore Russia is not an exception, just more successful in the game than anybody else (well, <em>Krieg ist Krieg</em>). Probably Putin believes sincerely in that image of world affairs.</p> <p>On the other hand, Putin is more flexible (and cleverer) than Brezhnev or Andropov, since he allows a modicum of opposition which serves him as a safety valve. The above-mentioned Shenderovich, as well as many others, move in and out of Russia unrestrictedly and express their strong opinions to the press and on the internet (with some hindrance, but still relatively freely). In Soviet times, he would have been imprisoned without inappropriate delay. Therefore, when seven persons in 1968 demonstrated against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in Red Square, it was an immense challenge to the authorities and changed the entire atmosphere in the country (notwithstanding the fact – and probably because of it – that the seven were severely punished). Now, several thousand may demonstrate (some of them are punished, not necessarily severely), and that changes nothing. The situation might indeed be considered more hopeless than in 1968.</p> <p>Why is Putin successful? I believe there are several causes for this. First, he opts for nationalism. In this respect, Russia is undergoing a sort of “Weimar syndrome.” It lost the Cold War, satellites and a large part of its territory and population without losing a battle, just as Germany did in 1918. </p> <p>Such situations are conducive to revanchist moods which Putin fosters adroitly. Incidentally, he is far from alone: populism and nationalism are on the rise in eastern (and not only eastern) Europe and America, though for different reasons. Secondly, thanks to the conditions in the oil and gas market, he was able, at least for some time, to increase the well-being of his subjects. </p> <p>Even though Russia is still poor and full of blatant social inequality, a large part of its people never had it so good before. Therefore, they do not see much reason to protest. Thirdly, there is a sustained effort of brainwashing in the official media (done in more cunning and professional ways than Soviet propaganda which was boring and inept). All that may change (and will probably change), but hardly during Putin’s tenure.&nbsp; At present, it amounts to a great danger. </p> <p>I like to say that I’m a historical optimist. That means: “All will end well, but I’ll not be around to see it.”&nbsp; Once in my lifetime, in 1990-1991, I saw my wildest dreams coming true. A friend of mine put it this way: “I used to pray: Lord, prolong my life and let me see free Lithuania. The Lord, in his infinite wisdom, did something more sensible. He did not prolong my life, but He increased the tempo of history.” Let’s hope it may happen once again, even if now the course of history does not look very promising.</p> <p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): Did extra-judicial killings also take place during the Brezhnev and Andropov periods? Or did the special Soviet laws against "defamation of The Soviet Union" take care of the opposition, using imprisonment, fake psyciatric diagnosis and enforced medical treatment as in e.g. The Serbskij institute?&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV)</strong>: Extra-judicial killings were practiced by the Soviets in Stalin’s era. The most notorious case of course was Leo Trotsky, but one can mention many other examples, e. g. Ignatii Reiss (Sergei Efron, the husband of the great female poet Marina Tsvetaeva, was involved in his murder), or Yevhen Konovalets, a Ukrainian nationalist leader. Such killings were rarely if ever practiced inside the country, since care could be taken of the ”enemies of the people” in a simpler way. </p> <p>During the Brezhnev and Andropov periods, as far as I know, only defectors who had earlier served in the KGB could be executed outside the USSR (there was – and perhaps still is – an unpublished law condemning such persons to death). Oppositionists were put in prison or in a psychiatric hospital (or exiled to the west, where they were generally safe). Nemtsov’s assasination is something new, since he was neither an employee of the KGB nor a defector but just a famous oppositionist. </p> <p>The case of Sergei Skripal is also a new development, since he was not a defector but a person exchanged in a spy swap (such persons had previously been left alone by the KGB).</p> <p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): What about the laws that targeted “anti-social behavior”, designed to criminalize non-conformism in art and social life? And can you say more about the procedures for indictment and prosecution when it came to criminalizing explicit political criticism of the Soviet system? </em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV)</strong>: To be precise, you are most likely referring to a directive of the Supreme Soviet promulgated in 1961 and applied to so-called “social parasites,” that is, people who attempted to make their living outside of the state employment system. Many of these were anti-conformist artists trying “to live in truth.” The directive was accompanied by a powerful propaganda campaign stigmatizing such people as criminals (or hooligans, at best). They could be sentenced, but not necessarily by the court. A “workers’ collective” could forbid them to live in a city and send them into exile, with an explicit order to take menial jobs. That happened to 37, 000 Soviet citizens (Brodsky’s case was just the most notorious one). After 1965, exile was no longer the chosen tool, but a mandatory menial job in one’s home town was still the rule. Of course explicit criticism of the Soviet system was considered a heinous crime and punished according to paragraph 58 of the Criminal Code (“the creation and distribution of knowingly false information about Soviet economics and politics,” or something like that). Any information without a positive hue, such as “our freedom is limited,” was classified as “knowingly false” automatically, since everybody was supposed to know, from the cradle to the grave, that it was unlimited.</p> <p>Today, such laws and directives are no more in official use, even if Putin (or, say, Lukashenko in Belarus) attempt to apply them in roundabout ways. One may, for example, state that such and such anti-conformist behavior offends the sensibilities of religious believers, which is punishable (take the case of “Pussy Riot”). In short, there has been more than enough persecution of people on spurious grounds, denounced and confronted with varying degree of success by human rights organizations. </p> <p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): During the Cold War there was a popular trope that portrayed the Soviet system or Soviet type of socialism as ’in competition’ with capitalism and liberal democracy. Yet almost nobody supported the Soviet system in the west, at least outside France and Italy. There was an opposition in the west to some of the policies throughout Europe that were an effect of the geopolitical conflict with the Soviet Union, particularly US support for undemocratic and repressive regimes because they were anti-communist ( e.g. South Vietnam, Chile, Portugal, South Africa). </em></p> <p><em>But today we have a right wing movement – or populist movement – supporting Putin’s nationalism against the West. This nationalist policy has its most prominent and aggressive expression in the annexation of a part of Ukraine, and Russian interference in the US elections. Another possible act of interference was in the Brexit referendum. More generally, a widespread campaign against the EU takes the form of&nbsp; fake news operations on a daily basis. Maybe the trope about a real competion between Russia and the West has finally come true today, with the support to Russia from a new right wing in Europe? How dangerous is this? How might this play out?</em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV)</strong>: Yes, Putin’s nationalism has its counterparts in right-wing movements elsewhere. Yet there is some ambivalence involved, since, for example, right-wing populism in Poland is anti-Russian (as well as anti-German), and therefore can hardly take Putin’s side – it would go against the grain of a very old and powerful tradition. </p> <p>It is the same situation in the Baltic states and, perhaps even more so, in Ukraine. On the other hand, I have heard opinions in Lithuania such as, ”Of course Russia is our former occupier and mortal enemy, but one must concede the Russians are right in their rejection of western pseudo-values, such as religious scepticism, genderism, anti-patriotism, acceptance of migrants, and so on.” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, notwithstanding his anti-Russian rhetoric, is creating a system quite similar to Putin’s system. The anti-Russian stance is much less pronounced in, say, Orban’s Hungary or Erdogan’s Turkey, to say nothing &nbsp;about the western right-wingers. There is a very simple rule – if a country is far away from Russia, it has experienced less clashes with it and therefore feels less historical enmity to it (or no enmity at all).</p> <p>It is only natural that Putin attempts to utilize nationalist, xenophobic and isolationist movements in Europe and America. You are correct in saying that now we see a genuine competition between traditional western democracy and ”managed” or ”sovereign” democracy in Putin’s style (according to Austrian social democrat, Bruno Pitterman, the difference between them amounts to that ”between a jacket and a straitjacket”).&nbsp; </p> <p>And it is more onerous than the clash of the West and the former USSR, just for the reason that it is genuine. All ”euroscepticism” (Brexit and so on) plays into Putin’s hands, in the final calculation. It is a classic example of <em>divide et impera.</em> Putin’s ideologues such as Alexander Dugin speak quite openly about inciting Polish-Lithuanian or Polish-Ukrainian hatred, and they are rather successful in that respect (hence the settling of old scores concerning the Wolyn massacres, etc.). <em>&nbsp;</em>Nationalists of the world cannot unite by definition, therefore they cannot unite around Putin either. But they may generate a lot of bad things in the meantime.</p> <p><em>Jens-Martin Eriksen (J-M.E.): If from the mid-seventies, the last fifteen years of the Soviet Union, there was no real competition with the west, this was partly due to major works of literature from western writers such as Arthur Koestler onwards, writers such as Albert Camus, and George; and from the east, Czeslaw Milosz, ’The Captive Mind’(1953) and Solzhenitsyn’s ’One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ in 1962 (English version 1963) enjoyed a similar paramount impact or maybe even greater. </em></p> <p><em>But another discourse also contributed to disillusion with the Soviet system – the CIA operation behind the Congress for Cultural Freedom which gave financial support to magazines, parties, publishers etc. This was aimed at western intellectuals and sympathizers of the Soviet system among the non-communist leftwing, its purpose to convince them of the reality of the Soviet totalitarianism. In other words; the west has a store of experience from the Cold War it could use in the battle to challenge the Russian power-elites’ aggression against liberal democracy. How best do you think we can defend ourselves and the Open Society today?</em></p> <p><strong>Tomas Venclova (TV): </strong>Until 1968, when ‘The Prague Spring’ was crushed, quite a few people in the USSR and its satellites believed that “Communism with a human face” was not only desirable, but possible and, in the final account, imminent. </p> <p>I believe it was also the case of many intellectuals in the west. In my native Lithuania, the political climate was primarily nationalistic (the local Communist party flirted with nationalism, partly out of genuine anti-Russian sentiment, partly according to the well-known rule that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”). In Russia, many persons joined the Communist party who were attempting to work for its liberalization from within. In Lithuania, their main goal was to replace the Russian cadres. It was commonly believed that ”Communism with a Lithuanian face” would be more satisfactory by definition. </p> <p>The same attitude prevailed in Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine or Georgia. For me (who had changed his views not in 1968 but in 1956) all that amounted to one great illusion. I subscribed to the dictum of my friend, Soviet dissident Alexander Ginzburg: ”Communism with a human face is as inconceivable as a crocodile with a human face.” And Communism with a nationalist tinge, in my opinion, could quite easily degenerate into fascism.</p> <p>The books you have mentioned were strictly banned in the USSR and, perhaps a bit less strictly, in its satellite countries. Still, they managed to reach our native lands, though not without some difficulty. I read Orwell in the English original, and Koestler in Russian emigré translation. Orwell horrified me, but I could not deny that its analysis of the system (at least in its Stalinist period which, unfortunately, could repeat itself) was more than exact. As for Camus, I was most impressed by ”The Plague,” which taught me that resistance make sense even when it seems to be – and perhaps is – absurd (”The Plague,” as an exception, was officially published in Poland). Milosz’s ”The Captive Mind”&nbsp; explained a great deal to me about my father’s generation of leftist intellectuals who took the Communist side. There were also books written in the USSR – not only Solzhenitsyn but Pasternak’s ”Doctor Zhivago” as well. </p> <p>The fact that the CIA financially supported the Congress for Cultural Freedom and similar venues (not necessarily with knowledge of all of their participants) was rather distasteful from the point of view of pure ethics. But I would say that in this particular case Americans performed a job which was in the final account beneficial for humankind. In this particular case Americans performed a job which was in the final account beneficial for humankind.</p> <p>Today, it is not a Soviet-style totalitarianism but rather an old-fashioned nationalism, populism and xenophobia that are the main dangers (even if totalitarianism always lurks around the corner). The books we have discussed have done their job but I still consider them required reading for anyone interested in politics and morals. I would add to them ”Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley which sometimes looks to me even more prophetic than ”1984” (we probably escaped the communist temptation, but did not escape the temptation of a society controlled by consumerism, primitive cultural fads and populist emotions). </p> <p>New books are and will undoubtedly be written which will concentrate on the rights of everybody to seek and promote truth and human values in the world of fake or senseless news, egoistic instincts and false loyalties. The open society remains our goal and our only hope. I believe it will prevail, because it is the best-working form of society ever invented. But it demands a constant – one might say, Sisyphean – effort. It requires a lot of work which will be never finished. In particular, one must do one’s best to defend victimized persons or groups, of which there are far too numerous examples nowadays.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? United States EU Russia Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Jens-Martin Eriksen Tomas Venclova Tue, 27 Nov 2018 16:10:19 +0000 Tomas Venclova and Jens-Martin Eriksen 120725 at https://www.opendemocracy.net For the people to have their say on Brexit, how best can the multi-option conundrum be resolved? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-emerson/for-people-to-have-their-say-on-brexit-how-best-can-multi-option-conundrum-be-resol <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If the problem is multi-optional, the question should be multi-optional, and the ballot paper should be a (short) list, usually of about 4 – 6 options.</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-35343559.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35343559.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'>Conservative MP Justine Greening who backs a 'series of plurality votes' to give the British people the final say on Brexit. NurPhoto/press Associatiion. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Whenever a problem is complex, binary ballots are not the best.&nbsp; Politicians, however, often reduce everything to either an “option ‘x’ or ‘y’?” choice or an “option ‘x’, yes or no?” question – as in “the eu withdrawal or ‘no deal’?” – because if ‘x’ is what they want, such a stark dichotomy increases the chances of their success.</p> <p>The outcome of such a vote, however, is often unclear: do people really want ‘x’, or do they just dislike ‘y’?&nbsp; And would they have preferred ‘z’?</p> <p>Take, for example, the 2011 referendum on the electoral system.&nbsp; The vote (‘x’ or ‘y’?) was first-past-the-post, fptp, or the alternative vote, av?&nbsp; But lots of people wanted (‘z’), pr, proportional representation.&nbsp; If the question had been different, as it was in New Zealand… see below.</p> <p>Take Kosova.&nbsp; In 1991, (‘x’, yes or no?), 99 per cent voted for independence.&nbsp; If the question had offered (‘y’, yes or no?), ‘unity with Albania?’ or (‘z’, yes or no?), ‘a Greater Albania?’ the outcome would again almost certainly have been in favour.</p> <p>Consider the 1973 Northern Ireland (‘x’, yes or no?) border poll.&nbsp; The Protestants voted, the Catholics did not, and the ‘democratic’ decision was again 99 per cent in favour.&nbsp; It resolved nothing.</p> <p>Iran.&nbsp; In 1953, they voted for socialism, 99%, (‘x’).&nbsp; Ten years later, 99% wanted capitalism, (‘y’).&nbsp; And in 1979, they wanted neither but an Islamic Republic instead, (‘z’), yet another 99%.&nbsp; Well, the Shi’a wanted one: the Sunni Turkmen minority abstained.</p> <p>Nearly all of these votes meant almost nothing. &nbsp;Basically, you cannot identify the general will of (parliament or) the people if some of the (mps or) public vote ‘no’, if they say only what they do <em>not</em> want.&nbsp; Furthermore, this is how Hitler got to power: he chose a minority – the Jews, gays, gypsies, any minority will do – and thus got a majority.&nbsp; Binary voting is the catalyst of populism.&nbsp; The dangers are huge, for if we say ‘no’ to everything, we will finish up with nothing.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ______________</p> <p>Some electoral systems are not much better. Trump. Choose a minority – Mexicans, immigrants, any minority will do – and anybody can win. Only because of the lousy electoral system. It’s not just the Electoral College, the American fptp is part of the problem, as is the blatantly two-party structure of us politics … a form of ‘democracy’ which George Washington called “a frightful despotism.”<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> In effect, us elections are binary contests, it is Democrat or Republican, and for many voters, it is like an ‘x’ or ‘y’ majority vote?&nbsp; Some people vote ‘for’ something, but lots vote ‘against’ what they regard as the opposite.</p> <p>Britain’s first past the post (FPTP) is no better, and here too, its consequences are numerous. Indeed, if the uk had pr, there might not have been a Brexit referendum at all! Secondly, if Britain was not so mesmerised by what Sir Michael Dummett called “the mystique of the majority,”<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> the uk would not now be in the ridiculous position whereby a tiny rump party of extremists, the dup, is in government, while other much larger parties are not! Thirdly, if the uk did have pr, the dup would be even tinier.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ______________</p> <h2><strong>So, Brexit&nbsp; </strong></h2> <p>Brexit is a multi-option choice.&nbsp; The fact that binary voting cannot best cope with a multi-option problem was first noted in ce 105 by Pliny the Younger, and preferential voting was first mooted in 1199 by Ramón Llull.&nbsp; For some reason, however, while Britain and many other countries believe in majority rule – which is quite right – people often assume that a majority opinion can be identified in a majority vote – which, when the question is multi-optional, can be quite wrong.&nbsp; </p> <p>Majority voting is primitive, divisive, ancient and, in many instances, hopelessly inaccurate. If the problem is multi-optional, the question should be multi-optional, and the ballot paper should be a (short) list, usually of about 4 – 6 options. &nbsp;With a multi-option problem like Brexit, we all have opinions, we all have preferences. So how best can it be resolved?</p> <p>Take, for example, 14 persons – (mps or) voters – with 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th preferences on four options – <strong><em>A, B, C</em></strong> and <strong><em>D</em></strong> – as shown.</p> <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="1"> <tr> <td rowspan="2" width="82" valign="top"> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Preferences</p> </td> <td colspan="5" width="223" valign="top"> <p>Number of Voters</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p>5</p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p>2</p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p>3</p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p>1</p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p>3</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="82" valign="top"> <p>1st </p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>A</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>B</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>C</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>D</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>D</em></strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="82" valign="top"> <p>2nd </p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>B</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>C</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>D</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>B</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>B</em></strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="82" valign="top"> <p>3rd </p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>C</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>D</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>A</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>A</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>C</em></strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="82" valign="top"> <p>4th </p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>D</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>A</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>B</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>C</em></strong></p> </td> <td width="45" valign="top"> <p><strong><em>A</em></strong></p> </td> </tr> </table> <p>On the face of it, option <strong><em>A</em></strong> appears to be very divisive; opinions on <strong><em>D</em></strong> are also split; <strong><em>C</em></strong> is a bit better; but maybe <strong><em>B</em></strong>, the 1st or 2nd preference of 11 voters, best represents the collective will, so the correct social ranking is perhaps <strong><em>B-C-D-A.</em></strong></p> <p>But what happens in practice?&nbsp; Let us assume that, in any “option ‘x’, yes-or-no?” type of majority vote, people vote ‘yes’ for their 1st preference and otherwise they vote ‘no’; and that in any “option ‘x’ or ‘y’?” type of ballot, they vote for whichever they prefer.</p> <p>So, when it’s “<strong><em>A,</em></strong> yes-or-no?” a majority of 9 say ‘no’.&nbsp; <strong><em>B</em></strong> loses by a majority of 12, <strong><em>C</em></strong> by 11, and <strong><em>D</em></strong> by 10.&nbsp; So there’s a majority against everything – which is probably today’s situation in the Commons on Brexit, and maybe too amongst the electorate.</p> <p>With the other “option ‘x’ or ‘y’?” type of binary question, <strong><em>A</em></strong> is more popular than <strong><em>B</em></strong> by 8:6; <strong><em>B</em></strong> is more popular than <strong><em>C</em></strong> by 11:3; <strong><em>C</em></strong> is more popular than <strong><em>D</em></strong> by 10:4; and <strong><em>D</em></strong> is more popular than <strong><em>A</em></strong> by 9:5.&nbsp; So <strong><em>A </em></strong>&gt;<strong><em> B </em></strong>&gt;<strong><em> C </em></strong>&gt;<strong><em> D </em></strong>&gt;<strong><em> A </em></strong>&gt;<strong><em> B </em></strong>&gt; …………… and it goes round and round for ever – the ‘paradox of [binary] voting’, as it is called; no matter what the outcome, there is always a majority who would want something else. </p> <p>The conclusion is clear: majority voting is inadequate, maybe it produces no answer, or maybe it produces the wrong answer. So would a multi-option vote be better?&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center"> Majority voting is inadequate, maybe it produces no answer, or maybe it produces the wrong answer...&nbsp; would a multi-option vote be better?&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></p> <p>Well, in plurality voting (which is like an fptp election) the social choice is <strong><em>A</em></strong>, with a score of 5, and the social ranking is <strong><em>A-D-C-B, </em></strong>5-4-3-2.&nbsp; </p> <p>In a two-round system, trs, (as in French elections), which Professor Vernon Bogdanor has spoken of,<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> if no one option gets a majority in the first round plurality vote, there is a second round majority vote between the two leading options – in our example, <strong><em>A</em></strong> on 5 and <strong><em>D</em></strong> on 4 – which <strong><em>D</em></strong> then wins in a social ranking of <strong><em>D-A,</em></strong> 9-5.</p> <p>An alternative vote (the Australian electoral system), as proposed by Justine Greening MP,<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a> is a series of plurality votes, with the least popular option eliminated and its votes transferred as its voters would have wished, until one option gets a majority.&nbsp; So, in our example, the score is <strong><em>A</em></strong> 5, <strong><em>D</em></strong> 4, <strong><em>C</em></strong> 3, <strong><em>B</em></strong> 2; so option <strong><em>B</em></strong> is out and its 2 votes go to <strong><em>C</em></strong> for a score of <strong><em>A</em></strong> 5, <strong><em>C</em></strong> 5, <strong><em>D</em></strong> 4; so that’s the end of <strong><em>D</em></strong>, and its 4 votes go (not to <strong><em>B</em></strong> which has been eliminated but) 1 to <strong><em>A</em></strong> and 3 to <strong><em>C</em></strong>, for a final score of <strong><em>A</em></strong> 6, <strong><em>C</em></strong> 8, so the winner is now<strong><em> C </em></strong>in a social ranking of <strong><em>C-A,</em></strong> 8-6.</p> <p>Lastly, in a preferential points system – in this example, a 1st preference gets 4 points, a 2nd gets 3, a 3rd 2 and a 4th gets 1 point – option<strong><em> A </em></strong>gets 20 + 0 + 8 + 5 = 33; <strong><em>B </em></strong>gets 8 + 27 + 0 + 3 = 38;<strong><em> C </em></strong>gets 12 + 6 + 16 + 1 =<strong><em> </em></strong>35; and<strong><em> D </em></strong>gets 16 + 9 + 4 + 5 = 34.&nbsp; So the social choice is now<strong><em> B, </em></strong>and the social ranking, 38-35-34-30, is<strong><em> B-C-D-A</em></strong>,<strong><em> </em></strong>which is what we assumed was the best expression of the general will.</p> <p>So maybe the most accurate methodology is this preferential points system, the Modified Borda Count, MBC, as it is called. It is interesting to note that the mbc social ranking, <strong><em>B-C-D-A,</em></strong> is the exact opposite of the plurality vote, fptp, social ranking <strong><em>A-D-C-B.&nbsp; </em></strong>In other words, FPTP can sometimes be wrong and occasionally could not be more wrong. It is useless. This semi-binary electoral system should not be used as a means of resolving the Brexit problem. And nor should a binary referendum. Maybe some pluralism could help.<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a> The world’s first multi-option referendum was in New Zealand in 1894. They did it again in 1992. </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ______________</p> <p>In 1990, very few New Zealanders knew what AMS and MMP were (see below).&nbsp; But an independent commission was tasked to examine their electoral system.&nbsp; People wrote submissions, the commission held meetings, the press published articles, the tv conducted interviews, and by the time the electorate was presented with a referendum with five options on the ballot paper – FPTP, AMS, AV, MMP and PR-STV<a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a> – lots of New Zealanders had made up their minds as to which system they wanted. In 1992 and ’93, they voted in a TRS system, and they chose MMP, mixed member proportional, the German system. </p> <p>In effect, the New Zealand electorate could vote ‘yes’ for whatever they wanted, and maybe nobody voted ‘no’ to anything. When everybody says what they want, it should indeed be possible to see which option is the most popular.</p> <p>This is certainly true with preferential points voting.&nbsp; In a four-option MBC ballot:</p> <ul><li>-&nbsp; he who casts just one preference gives his favourite only 1 point (and nothing to anything else);</li></ul> <ul><li>-&nbsp; she who casts two preferences gives her favourite 2 points (and her 2nd choice 1 point); and so on; thus </li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; those who cast all four preferences give their favourite 4 points (their 2nd choice 3, their 3rd 2 and their 4th preference 1 point). </li></ul><p>The difference is always 1 point.&nbsp; A voter’s xth preference, if cast, gets 1 point more than his (x+1)th preference, regardless of whether or not he has cast that (x+1)th preference.</p> <p>In effect, the voter is thus encouraged to cast a full ballot.&nbsp; What’s more, the protagonist will want, not only her supporters to cast full ballots, but also her erstwhile (majoritarian) opponents to give her particular option at least a 3rd if not a 2nd preference.&nbsp; In other words, the campaign which precedes the vote will be much more nuanced. People will have a reason for listening to each other and engaging in debate. </p> <p>At best, the outcome will be the option with the highest average preference, and an average, of course, involves every one who votes, not just a majority of them.&nbsp; The mbc is cohesive, robust, and most importantly, accurate.&nbsp; If politicians really wanted to bring the country together (again), they would use just such a inclusive voting procedure, either in parliament and/or in any future multi-option referendum.&nbsp; Politics, they say, is the art of compromise; the MBC is its science.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; His farewell address of 1796.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Principles of Electoral Reform, 1997, OUP, p 71.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Vernon Bogdanor: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/03/second-brexit-referendum-case-getting-stronger-political-deadlock-life-raft">A second Brexit referendum? </a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Justine Greening: <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/give-the-british-people-the-final-decision-on-brexit-c35f98g89">Give the British people the final decision on Brexit.</a> &nbsp; </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Gina Miller has also asked for a multi-option ballot, (<em>Today</em>, 21.9.2018).</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Additional member system and pr-single transferable vote</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Brexit Peter Emerson Tue, 27 Nov 2018 12:35:12 +0000 Peter Emerson 120719 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Political violence, civic space and human rights defence in the era of populism and authoritarianism https://www.opendemocracy.net/bilge-yabanci/political-violence-civic-space-and-human-rights-defence-in-era-of-populism-and-authori <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Academics and international donors alike have only recently considered targeted political violence as an integral part of global democratic decline and populist politics. There is much they could do.</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/adekan 2015_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/adekan 2015_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'>Adekan mural, 2015. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Thirteen human rights defenders were detained in Turkey on November 16 and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, an activist working on children rights, was imprisoned related to charges against Anadolu Kültür, a cultural association founded by philanthropist Osman Kavala. Kavala himself has been in prison for more than a year without an indictment. This is not the first time human rights defenders and civil society representatives have been put behind bars in <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/27/civil-society-trial-turkey">Turkey</a>. This time, however, political violence has reached new heights; even <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/turkey-brutal-crackdown-continues-new-wave-activist-arrests">peaceful resistance and civil disobedience</a> are now criminalised by the security forces. </p> <p>Selective targeting of activists and pre-trial detentions are pernicious strategies to restrict civic space. Turkey is not alone in this practice. In recent years, human rights defenders suffer from unprecedented psychological, economic and social harm worldwide. If they refuse to back down, they also suffer physical harm. According to <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/human-rights-defender-memorial">Frontline Defenders</a>, 300 activists were murdered last year. Physical attacks, killings and forced disappearances mainly target rights-defenders demanding <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/mar/09/human-rights-activists-growing-risk-attacks-and-killings-study-claims">environmental protection and labour rights</a> or <a href="https://www.euronews.com/2018/10/08/six-journalists-killed-in-europe-since-the-start-of-2017">activist journalists</a> revealing corruption and abuse of power. </p> <p><a href="https://www.amnesty.nl/actueel/attacks-on-human-rights-activists-reach-crisis-point-globally">Monitoring organisations</a> are concerned that targeting human rights defenders reached ‘crisis’ levels in 2017. Around 3.2 billion people live in countries with repressed or totally closed civic space, due to a degrading political will to protect freedoms of expression, assembly and association. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders,</p> <blockquote><p>This is not random violence. I have become convinced that the incidents in question are not isolated acts but concerted attacks against those who try to embody the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.</p></blockquote> <p>While most of the political violence takes place in consolidated long-term authoritarian systems, it is a part of a global trend of the worldwide rise of right-wing populism and democratic decline. The trend also affects human rights defence and civil society in Europe. But researchers and experts who work on the rise of populism and democratic decline do not talk about it sufficiently.</p> <h2><strong>Europe is not immune</strong></h2> <p>It might come as a surprise that civic space is not immune from direct and indirect political violence in Europe and the US. <a href="https://monitor.civicus.org/">CIVICUS</a> consider that civil society in the United States, France, UK, Spain and Austria has ‘narrowed’ largely due to the rise in support for extremist and far-right political views and extreme security measures and anti-terrorism laws. </p> <p>Several new European democracies often use legislative power, i.e. restrictions on foreign funding or security and anti-terrorism laws, and politicised judiciary to discourage or even <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/20/hungary-passes-anti-immigrant-stop-soros-laws">criminalise rights-based activism</a> concerning issues directly related to political, social and economic rights of ‘out-groups’ such as minorities, migrants and refugees. </p> <p>The gravity of the situation varies; restrictions are qualitatively different in democracies of western Europe from those in the semi-authoritarian regimes for example in Hungary, Turkey and Poland, and the intensity of political violence is much less in a semi-authoritarian regime than a consolidated autocracy like China. Yet, the global trend affects all types of governments, and core treaties that burden states to protect fundamental political and civil rights are being undermined by even the long-term advocates of these treaties.</p> <h2><strong>Targeted political violence</strong></h2> <p>The assault against civic space and human rights defenders has been high on the agenda of human rights organisations for at least a decade. They have been seeking ways to adapt to political violence and reopen the closed spaces in several countries. &nbsp;</p> <p>However, academics and international donors have started to consider targeted political violence as an integral part of the global democratic decline and populist politics only lately. The institutional dimensions of democratic decline and populist political discourse still receive disproportionate attention. </p> <p>Researchers have invested a great deal in agreeing on what populism means and whether certain parties are populist or not, and analysing populists’ electoral success, manifestoes and discourse. The scholarly interest in populism and the authoritarian surge does not mean that the accumulated knowledge is channelled properly towards debating its real-time effects on societies and counter-strategies. Instead, researchers have been stuck with analysing populism and authoritarianism at the macro-level – election results, institutions, high-level political discourse, societal discontent inferred from some aggregated data from polls and electoral surveys – &nbsp;they miss how it affects the everyday life of societies. <span class="mag-quote-center">The scholarly interest in populism and the authoritarian surge does not mean that the accumulated knowledge is channelled properly towards debating its real-time effects on societies and counter-strategies.</span></p> <p>In addition, the bulk of the international donor community’s efforts is focused on improving institutions through electoral monitoring, the rule of law reform and fight against corruption. Despite extravagant resources spent on these areas, improvements remain meagre because the recipient governments are reluctant to carry out political reforms and also because the EU and the US, providers of most of the aid in these areas, only half-heartedly pressured these governments and have turned a blind eye when they used electoral majorities and captured parliaments, constitutional courts and civil society as a smokescreen to entrench their power. </p> <p>Overall, the repercussions of democratic backsliding and right-wing populist pressure on civic participation have long been underestimated or treated as a side-product of political and institutional capture outside the circle of human rights groups. </p> <p>It is high time to appreciate that democracy is no single uniform body. It has several political, civic, economic and cultural dimensions and its decline should be studied by disaggregating it to its parts and developing responses in each field.</p> <h2><strong>What we know about populism and authoritarianism should be reconsidered in relation to human rights defence </strong></h2> <p>Populist politics relies foremost on <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/populism-a-very-short-introduction-9780190234874?cc=se&amp;lang=en&amp;">Manichean dichotomies</a> and divisions between the people and the elite, insiders and outsiders, friends and enemies. Populism deepens existing polarisations and invents new ones in societies contaminated by it. </p> <p>The rhetoric of exclusion exhausts the listeners’ attention so that complex socio-economic problems from healthcare and pensions to public transportation can be reduced to a simple answer of ‘oust the outsider, and we will restore the wonderful past and continue living like ‘before’’. </p> <p>The success of slogans and simple answers for complex problems lie deep in legitimate feelings of social and economic insecurity and disenfranchisement, but also the pumped-up fear of ‘the foreigner’, which has brought electoral success to right-wing populist parties in so many countries. The politics of exclusion is inherently exclusionary, discriminatory and against participatory democracy.</p> <p>Research also shows that this is not the end of the story. When mainstream parties adopt politics of fear and polarisation, they surrender public opinion to be formed by populist discourse and the misdirection of those widespread feelings of insecurity and disenfranchisement. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/aurelien-mondon-aaron-winter/understanding-mainstreaming-of-far-right">Mondon and Winter</a> argue right-wing populism is normalised even where right-wing populists have been unable to attain significant electoral success, by granting media platform to extremist ideas, making electoral alliances with such parties and also irresponsibly framing questions on pressing issues through the language of right-wing populism in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/academics-for-meaningful-debate/framing-ethnic-diversity-debate-as-about-threat-legitimises-hat-0">academic or public debates</a>.</p> <p>The story continues even further. Wherever right-wing populist parties and semi-authoritarian regimes achieve political power through elections, they are not satisfied with electoral wins and monopolisation of the parliaments and the executive. They seek to shape and influence the civic space where ideas flourish, where society debates and engages in intellectual and cultural production, where majoritarian democracy and discriminatory authoritarian practices are challenged. </p> <p>Turkey and Hungary are both good examples. The moment they turn to the civic space, they take the first step towards entrenching themselves securely in power by manufacturing societal consent through both conviction and fear. But just where the story gets interesting, researchers’ interest in populism and authoritarianism pretty much stops. </p> <h2><strong>Human rights activism as a target</strong></h2> <p>It should be more clearly emphasised that the climate of outrage and politics of exclusion surrounding the language of the media and the party system in many countries normalise and encourage political violence targeting human rights activism. </p> <p>Activists by dint of their work campaign for the rights of disadvantaged groups, who populist discourse perceives as outsiders. In many countries, while authoritarian values, Islamophobia, antisemitism, white racism are creeping back into mainstream politics, human rights defenders are the only remaining actors brave enough to speak the truth to the face of power and campaign for the rights of refugees and migrants, ethnic and religious minorities and other disadvantaged groups. </p> <p>When the political discourse and the media directly or indirectly present migrants or other outgroups as a burden on economies and societies, they continuously produce consent for their social, economic and political discrimination as ‘the new normal’. </p> <p>In this political and social environment, working to improve their rights becomes a nuisance and gets demonised. This is often a starting strategy to prepare the ground for legal and legislative action that directly or indirectly restricts the civic space, the fundamental freedoms of assembling, associating and the expression of views. In turn, it gradually deprives societies at large of alternative channels of participation and the right to information and erodes the participatory quality of democracy. </p> <p>The repression of civic spaces and human rights defenders is a convenient strategy for right-wing populist and authoritarian rulers to ensure that public spheres are flooded with the dominant narratives of crisis and antagonism. </p> <p>Moreover, pre-emptive measures, pre-trial detentions and daily harrassment online intimidate not only activists but also millions in Turkey and beyond. Such actions deter even critical citizens from making claims outside the officially sanctioned venues. In the end, political violence targeting civic space and human rights activism affects the everyday life of societies more directly than the capture and control of formal institutions. </p> <h2><strong>How do we proceed from this impasse? </strong></h2> <p>The response is not to shy away from human rights activism. It is not demanding more of it from lawyers and NGOs either (the latter have already been <a href="https://brooklynworks.brooklaw.edu/bjil/vol37/iss2/4/">criticised</a> for being unaccountable and serving the neoliberal agenda). It is about directly experiencing it as citizens and even more as humans. </p> <p>In other words, human rights defence does not only concern the lawyers and professional NGOs who engage in it; and it is not limited to revolutionary public square protests. Today, human rights defenders across the world should be ‘ordinary citizens’ acting within their personal and professional domains. </p> <p>In the short term in many countries, the winner in this battle seems to be those conducting the populist and authoritarian assault. Paradoxically, however, where political institutions have been historically monopolised or captured, citizens have usually turned to activism to reclaim freedom of expression and the right to information. </p> <p>The paradox of political violence is that sooner or later, it fuels popular movements, as long as citizens have preserved an autonomous and diffused civic space outside the realm of contemporary power relations and politics so that alternatives to current political discourse and authority can emerge. </p> <h2><strong>Turkey’s diffuse horizontal networks offer clues</strong></h2> <p>In Turkey and many other countries where human rights defence has become a perilous struggle, the trend has been evolving in this direction. Revolutionary protests might have been forcefully oppressed in its public squares and might not be feasible given the repression in many countries. However, despite widespread political violence, activism and civic space is alive and kicking, and its nature is changing in promising ways in semi-authoritarian and democratic systems alike. Given the lack of effective access to the political field or means to change high-level political discourse, civic space becomes an arena for concerned individuals to carve out pockets of participation locally or initiate change on specific issues. Despite the risk of political violence and physical harm, when the political system is captured or unresponsive, people turn to grassroots contention.</p> <p>What we witness is an apparent shift in the nature of civic activism with the emergence of local, issue-based and peaceful social movements and loose networks. My field research on the shrinking space under political violence focuses on Turkey, but I believe it offers clues for other contexts where a polarising populist discourse dominates the political agenda. </p> <p>Since the 2013 Gezi demonstrations, Turkey has witnessed a multiplication of unregistered, movement-type diffuse activist networks. A younger generation seeking horizontal and direct participation has brought new vibrancy to the gendered and professionalised NGO-driven civic space. The new activists are what Pippa Norris calls ‘<a href="http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0198295685.001.0001/acprof-9780198295686">critical citizens</a>’ or ‘dissatisfied democrats’ who cling to democratic values but remain dissatisfied with democracy since it has been reduced to voting and therefore, produces majoritarian and discriminatory outcomes. </p> <p>Readers familiar with the Turkish context might raise eyebrows, and they are right to think activists are unable to engage in open dissent and must keep a low profile at the verge of invisibility to circumvent political violence. The statement by one activist I interviewed a few months ago captures the feeling of these groups well:</p> <blockquote><p>Street activism is not an option. Public squares are closed these days. Are we wary about the situation? Yes, for a long time. I had to relocate consecutively for several nights during the recent arrests with a group of fellow activists. It is not to escape from detention. They find you if they want to get you. We at least wished that the police would not detain us at home [in front of our families]. We live with this yes. Organising protests is an action that we abstain from, but we try not to lose our grassroots links. </p></blockquote> <p>However, under the current circumstances in Turkey, activists are interested in ‘the long-term fight’. They challenge patriarchal and authoritarian social values in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/bilge-yabanci/women-of-new-turkey-dystopian-sacralised-mothers-and-everyday-feminists">available public spheres</a>. They do not shy away from asserting their identities, secular or Islamic. They seek to establish democratic forums inside their networks and reject hierarchical structures and leadership that dominates even the traditional civil society sector and replace them with horizontal deliberation and consensual decision-making. </p> <p>They are open to cooperation and inclusion of various groups, but selective in participating in protests and appearing in the media. Yet, contentious action in the form of peaceful demonstrations, neighbourhood assemblies, public information campaigns and press statements is widely practised. But, the focus of their contentious action is not disrupting the government or everyday life or necessarily achieving quantifiable goals, but raising awareness on issues such as women, environment, construction and resource extraction projects, urban infrastructure, animal rights and labour rights. These issues are often considered secondary to high politics or extremely local. </p> <p>They also actively search for ways to establish solidarity. To give one example, one pro-labour activist group told me they do not only demonstrate when hundreds of workers are laid off or forced to work under harsh conditions, but they also seek to organise events to raise additional subsistence for them. Last but not least, they do not believe they need formal institutions to succeed and are keen to keep their independence from political parties and often from international donors. </p> <h2><strong>Challenging ‘audience democracy’ worldwide</strong></h2> <p>Similar trends are observed around the world since the 2008 financial crisis. People who were not a part of a movement or organisation before come together to raise their voice against <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-protests/far-right-anti-fascist-protests-end-peacefully-in-german-city-idUSKCN1LH3IJ">extremism</a>, denial of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1478929916685728">social and economic rights</a>, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism">gender-based violence</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/06/activism-rural-america-occupy-movement">destruction of their livelihoods</a>. The shift from professional NGOs to citizen-oriented activism challenges the populist and (semi)authoritarian regimes. Their power lies in the fact that they challenge ‘audience democracy’ driven by the manipulated public opinion and personalised politics that populism has generated. In its place, they promote ‘advocacy democracy’ informed by local and issue-based deliberation to shape preferences in the long-term and foster civic participation. </p> <p>While engaging in human rights activism with various social and economic focal points, citizen activists experiment with a different form of democracy and discover ways to make use of these beyond voting. If researchers are concerned about the global trend of the authoritarian backlash, the lack of trust in democracy and extreme social polarisation as causes and consequences of right-wing populism, these loose networks of citizen participation could spark the process of re-legitimising and re-inventing democracy. </p> <p>There is room for hope, history tells. <a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/When-Civil-Resistance-Succeeds-Pinckney-monograph.pdf">Democratic social and political change</a> has always originated from these peaceful, localised and issue-based community organisations and networks of long-term resistance, not from NGOs with managerial boards and lucrative grants from international donors. </p> <h2><strong>What can the international community do?</strong></h2> <p>The international donor community is not unaware of the changing terrain of activism or political violence, as a recent report by <a href="http://eba.se/swedish-aid-in-the-era-of-shrinking-democratic-space-the-case-of-turkey/#sthash.UWqB4HHs.dpbs">Eldén and Levin</a> argues. ‘Flexible aid’ to activist networks and organisations working in populist and (semi)authoritarian regimes has become the new buzzword of the donor community. However, frank conversations with donors start and end with the same question these days: what do you think you should be doing to counter political violence targeting civic space and human rights defenders in country X? When asked about concrete strategies, they still falter.</p> <p>Many countries have been the test beds for ‘democracy aid’ and ‘civil society support programmes’ in the past. What we know is that international support is crucial for ensuring the resilience of the civic space and activism under extreme pressure. Support to find and finance legal aid and ability to survive financially are the two most important areas in which international donors make a real contribution. But, they have also failed in the past because international donors expected too much ‘professionalism’ from beneficiaries and ignore the idiosyncrasies of each case by implementing ‘one size fits all’ models. </p> <p>First, on the side of the international community, it is time for realism. It takes both contextual knowledge and courage. Donors should be realistic about what to expect in the short-term in each case. It is likely that miracles will not happen anywhere. It is also wrong to assume all movements, and citizen groups will eventually institutionalise themselves as a political alternative (by forming a party or a formal advocacy NGO). Professionalisation also risks turning citizens movements into career movements for a few people.&nbsp; </p><p>Second, international donors should be selective about their most likely ‘audience’ and start focusing on such groups first, instead of trying to address the entire public blindly. In dozens of countries where authoritarianism and right-wing populism are on the rise, a person in their mid-30s has only witnessed single-party rule or one dominant party as a voter. </p> <p>Even millennials in Europe have grown up without knowing an alternative to the senior male-dominated political party system. Today’s youth is already much more vocal compared to their parents in terms of demanding agency, fighting patriarchy and questioning blind nationalism and patriotism imposed by our current party systems. </p> <p>To maintain this critical corpus in societies, international donors can prioritise activist groups working with youth and on youth issues. They should not only fund one-off activities at seminar halls; but music, arts, film and sports through which young people choose to express themselves. If the fight is staged on many fronts, then the effects of repression and censorship will be alleviated as well. </p> <p>Unfortunately, these are still very rarely tried methods by the international donor community. Funding cultural production as a way of challenging undemocratic practices does not rank among the top foreign policy priorities, compared to massive official development assistance channelled through governments and large project contracts granted to NGOs that are not connected to the grassroots. <span class="mag-quote-center">Funding cultural production as a way of challenging undemocratic practices does not rank among the top foreign policy priorities.</span></p> <p>Third, another lesson that donors should have learned by now is that flexible and core support is crucial. The bulk of the aid is still tied to professional monitoring and specific outcomes. The donor community forces partners on the ground to push for unattainable goals and tick boxes on the paper for reporting purposes. </p> <p>Several activist groups and small organisations I have interviewed in Turkey mentioned that they do not need massive financial resources, but seed support to be able to rent decent premises for organisational meetings and planning of activities, and to be able to establish alliances with similar networks and movements abroad to learn from each other. Without improving donor support in these two areas, their impact will remain local and issue-based. </p> <p>It is also essential to avoid funding government-controlled civil society – surprisingly, it happens more often than you might think due to the incapacity of the donor to assess whether funded groups work towards participation and democracy or entrench repressive government rule, Instead, work with trustworthy local partners and let them decide the priorities that arise in the current context in each case. Loose activist networks are the ones that often have an influence on the ground in the shortest term possible. Donors should seek ways to get to know groups ‘at the frontline’ and accept that what is possible this year in one country, might not be achievable next year given the very unpredictable and discretionary nature of political violence targeting human rights defence. </p> <p>Finally, while the US and the EU champion the majority of civil society support programs, they also undermine their effects. EU member states or American and European companies keep striking political deals on arms sales and trade agreements with repressive governments. Most of the time, the information technologies that provide the surveillance apparatus to track activists online are copyrighted in the US and Europe. The international community – governments, private donors and business – should be honest about the extent to which they are complicit in tolerating political violence out of political and economic interests. International support has no chance of success or gaining credibility without a political commitment.</p> <p>Political violence continues targeting human rights defenders and civic spaces. But it is not the time for weakness and desperation because what has been achieved so far was not given for free, and it is currently slipping away. Civic space has not given up and is filled with voices of ordinary citizens. It will become eventually more resilient as citizens take up human rights defence in larger numbers. Researchers and experts who focus on examining and reporting the negative consequences of populist appeal and semi-authoritarian regimes at the formal institutional level should scale-up their efforts to investigate the societal repercussions and connect more with promising social movements and the cause of human rights defenders. &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="/barney-cullum/turkey-post-media-society">Turkey: a post-media society </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anna-rebrii/turkey-sharing-what-we-learn-through-self-organisation-in-war-zone"> Turkey: sharing what we learn through self-organisation in a war zone </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/spyros-sofos/turkish-election-as-warning-against-irresistible-charms-of-populism">The Turkish election as a warning against the irresistible charms of populism</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"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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? North-Africa West-Asia United States EU Hungary Turkey Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Bilge Yabanci Thu, 22 Nov 2018 00:42:32 +0000 Bilge Yabanci 120665 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Spies, kettling and repression - how British policing became militarised https://www.opendemocracy.net/sarah-pickard/state-control-and-repression-of-dissent-in-britain-through-legislation-and-policing-me <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There has been a move towards tougher legislation, ambiguous terminology, lower thresholds and legislation allowing police greater rights, together with an escalation of militaristic forms of policing in recent years.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner.jpg" alt="open Movements" width="460px" /></a><br /><b>The <i><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openmovements">openMovements</a></i> series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.</b></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/Sarah Pickard 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Sarah Pickard 2.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'>Sarah Pickard, National Union of Students march, London, 2012. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Dissent and protest are <a href="http://www.statewatch.org/news/2011/feb/uk-hmic-policing-public-order.pdf">on the rise</a> in Britain, as well as in other advanced democracies. The organisers of protests, the reasons for protest and the nature of protest have all been shifting within the context of neo-liberalism, the fall-out of the global financial crisis and austerity. </p> <p>Traditional marches and demonstrations remain an important type of popular protest. However, there has been an increase of protest networks that are inventing <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-58250-4_1">creative direct-action repertoires</a>, including short-notice events with the aid of digital media and a growth of <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/project/Politics-Protest-and-Young-People-Political-Participation-and-Dissent-in-Britain-in-the-21st-Century">‘Do-it-Ourselves’</a> protest politics mostly youth-led. </p> <p>In parallel, there has been a notable growth in state repression of protest characterised by a distinctly <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Governing-Youth-Politics-in-the-Age-of-Surveillance/Grasso-Bessant/p/book/9781138630123">punitive turn</a>. In Britain, this has taken two main forms that together have created a more authoritarian environment, at odds with the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents"><i>Human Rights Act</i></a> 1998, which came into force in 2000. First, there have been substantial additions and amendments to legislation. Second, there have been important introductions and changes to policing methods. </p> <h2><b>Increasing legislation to criminalise and penalise dissent</b></h2> <p>The legislative landscape pertaining to dissent has been transformed considerably since the 1980s (see Table 1). New criminal justice laws have been passed or amendment and existing laws drawn up ostensibly for other purposes have been applied to protests and protesters. The clear aim of successive governments through all these layers of legislation has been an attempt to dissuade and discourage protests, partly through the criminalisation of dissent. </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/Screenshot 2018-11-21 at 22.49.00.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2018-11-21 at 22.49.00.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The key piece of legislation is the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64"><i>Public Order Act</i></a> 1986, passed by the Thatcher-led Conservative Government after riots at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s that were followed by violent clashes during the year-long miners’ strike (1984-1985). As well as creating many public order offences, the law imposes various conditions on the organisers of public ‘processions’ (i.e. moving protests or marches) and assemblies. At the same time, it allows the police to prohibit marches and impose conditions on protesters. For critics, the obligations and restrictions contained in the law are an affront to civil liberties and an infringement of the human rights enshrined in the <i>European Convention on Human Rights</i> (ECHR). </p><p>The Labour Government of Tony Blair also introduced decisive legislation affecting public protests in the form of the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/37/contents"><i>Crime and Disorder Act</i></a> 1998, that gave more powers to the police and placed further restrictions on protesters. Crucially, this was achieved through the ambiguous and subjective notion of anti-social behaviour (ASB): “conduct which caused or was likely to cause alarm, harassment, or distress.” The legislation was not drawn up initially with the aim of controlling dissent, but it came to be used by the police in public protest situations. This led to anxiety that the police could further reduce freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. The statute was modified by the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/38/contents"><i>Anti-social Behaviour Act</i></a> 2003, that gave additional powers to the police. Subsequently, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government further reinforced the legislative framework with the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/12/contents/enacted"><i>Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act</i></a> 2014, which consolidated, expanded and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/06/law-to-stop-eveyone-everything">bolstered</a> law enforcement powers. For example, it allows the police to create ‘Dispersal Zones’ and it permits the pre-emptive dispersal of people – including peaceful protesters – for the purpose of “reducing the likelihood of alarm, harassment, or distress”. Crucially, non-compliance and breach of a dispersal order is a criminal offence <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137399311_7">that can lead to a prison sentence</a>. </p> <p>A further controversial development within the legislative framework has been recourse to laws developed for the purpose of <a href="https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/global_protest_suppression_report_inclo.pdf">preventing terrorism</a> being used to thwart, curtail or end peaceful protests. For example, the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/11/section/44/2003-04-01"><i>Terrorism Act</i></a> 2000 (section 44) authorised police to ‘stop and search’ members of the public without the need for reasonable suspicion that terrorism had taken place or was likely to occur. <span class="mag-quote-center">Indiscriminate stop and search was deemed incompatible with the <i>European Convention on Human Rights</i>, which became applicable in the UK with the <i>Human Rights Act</i> 1998. Consequently, the then Home Secretary Theresa May was obliged to repeal section 44 of the<i> Terrorism Act</i> 2000.</span></p> <p>The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights underlined in its March 2009 report <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/47/47i.pdf"><i>Demonstrating Respect for Rights?</i></a> that “counter-terrorism powers should never be used against peaceful protesters” and in a <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200910/jtselect/jtrights/45/4506.htm">follow-up report</a>, it once again deplored the “obvious overuse of section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in recent years”. In 2010, in a case brought by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/jul/08/anti-terror-stop-and-search-scrapped">a peace protester and a journalist</a>, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the police powers of stop and search in the context of peaceful protest to be unlawful. This was because the police lacked sufficient safeguards to protect basic civil liberties, i.e. the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Thus, indiscriminate stop and search was deemed incompatible with the <a href="https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf"><i>European Convention on Human Rights</i></a>, which became applicable in the UK with the <i>Human Rights Act</i> 1998. Consequently, the then Home Secretary <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/10555430">Theresa May was obliged to repeal</a> section 44 of the<i> Terrorism Act</i> 2000 and introduce “a new suspicion threshold”. Nonetheless, stop and search continues to be used in peaceful protest situations.</p> <p>Moreover, there has been a conflation of peaceful protest with terrorism, in part due to a very broad or loose or definition of ‘terrorism.’ For example, the Occupy London movement that camped out in the capital in 2011-2012 was classified by the City of London police as “domestic extremism” in a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/19/occupy-london-counter-terrorism-presentation-al-qaida">counter-terrorism document</a>. For <a href="https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/who-we-are">Liberty</a>, the counter-terrorism laws are too broad, thus undermining civil liberties and human rights especially for peaceful protestors. </p> <p>Other statutory powers have been introduced into British legislation that allow the monitoring of groups and individuals. Notably, the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/27/contents/enacted"><i>Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act</i></a> 2014 authorised police and intelligence agencies to access telephone and internet records. This was described as “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/04/mps-david-davis-and-tom-watson-in-court-challenge-over-surveillance-act">spying on citizens</a>” by opponents, the well-known MPs David Davis (Conservative) and Tom Watson (Labour), and it was ruled unlawful by the High Court in 2015. First it was amended by the<i> Counter-Terrorism and Security </i>Act 2015, which enables “the Secretary of State to require communications service providers to retain an additional category of communications data, namely data that will allow relevant authorities to link the unique attributes of a public Internet Protocol (IP) address to the person (or device) using it at any given time.” It was then replaced by the <i>Investigatory Powers Act</i> 2016 that allows certain surveillance powers and certain safeguards to them. <span class="mag-quote-center">For example, the Occupy London movement that camped out in the capital in 2011-2012 was classified by the City of London police as “domestic extremism” in a counter-terrorism document. </span></p><p>The considerable information gleaned through such means and others (see below) is held on various searchable police data bases, including the <a href="http://www.college.police.uk/What-we-do/Learning/Professional-Training/Information-communication-technology/Pages/PNC-Police-National-Computer.aspx">Police National Computer</a> (PNC) and the Police National Database (PND) that are due to be replaced by the National Law Enforcement Data Programme that will “<a href="https://www.securityandpolicing.co.uk/government-zone/digital-policing/">introduce new and enhanced data sets into LEDS such as, Biometrics, Images from DVLA &amp; Passports, ANPR and analytical tools</a>”. Other databases comprise <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/presentation/913a/2071e9af3b18ca3e7c14dd8da5e2ec7125c5.pdf">IDENT1</a>, the National DNA Database (<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_National_DNA_Database">NDNAD</a>) and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimint">Crimint</a> (criminal intelligence) database used by the London Metropolitan Police Service (the Met). Strikingly, information is held on convicted criminals and suspected criminals, but also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/mar/06/police-surveillance-protesters-journalists-climate-kingsnorth">political campaigners</a> and protestors (see below). </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/SARAHP~1.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/SARAHP~1.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In brief, there has been a move towards tougher legislation, ambiguous terminology, lower thresholds and legislation that allows the police greater rights to restrict the dates of marches, the routes of marches, the numbers of people permitted to march, the right to disperse crowds, to make arrests, to stop and search, to collect biometric data and to store information on searchable data bases. Furthermore, other policing methods have also been called into question within the context of policing protest. </p><h2><b>More militaristic policing </b></h2> <p>In recent years, there has been an escalation of oppressive and militaristic forms of policing used during protests. British police officers and most notably the Met have diversified their tools and strategies, which form a tryptic of policing methods that are far removed from traditional ‘<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/policing-by-consent/definition-of-policing-by-consent">policing by consent</a>,’ a principle that dates back to the early nineteenth century.</p> <p>First, there is more covert and overt surveillance or monitoring, with information stocked on data bases. Second, there has been a growth in the physical methods made available to police officers, including containment (kettles), tear gas, tasers and water cannon, as well as the use of ‘unnecessary force’ and violence being used on bystanders and peaceful protesters. Third, police are using various practices to prevent people from protesting, such as mass arrests, pre-emptive arrests, detention and conditional bail. </p> <p>The overt and covert surveillance of peaceful protesters during marches is undertaken by different types of police officers, notably Forward Intelligence Teams (<a href="https://netpol.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Resisting-Police-Surveillance-of-Activists.pdf">FIT</a>), Police Liaison Officers (PLO), and Evidence Gathering Teams (EGT) (see photographs). During demonstrations, Forward Intelligence Teams <a href="https://netpol.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Resisting-Police-Surveillance-of-Activists.pdf">observe and track participants</a>, noting appearance, behaviour, communication, movement and associations. For Her Majesty’s <i>Inspectorate of Constabulary</i> (<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-inspectorate-of-constabulary">HMIC</a>), “<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/media/adapting-to-protest-nurturing-the-british-model-of-policing-20091125.pdf">one of the tactics employed by FIT</a>s is to seek out persons likely to engage in disorder and follow them to monitor their actions. The purpose of this is to deprive the person of the ability to engage in disorder, due to the proximity of police officers. This tactic has been criticised by a number of protest groups as oppressive and constituting harassment of peaceful protesters”. <a href="https://netpol.org/police-liaison-officers">Netpol</a> and other <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/video/2012/sep/04/police-liaison-officers-uk-uncut-video">critics</a> allege that Police Liaison Officers deployed during demonstrations and marches also fulfil a role of intelligence gathering, as explained by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/val-swain/disruption-policing-surveillance-and-right-to-protest">Val Swain</a> in openDemocracy. </p> <p>Evidence Gathering Teams mostly photograph and film participants, which may involve identifying, spotting, following and monitoring particular people with the aim of preventing and detecting crime. This can be seen in the pictures shown here taken in November 2012 during a National Union of Students (NUS) march. According to Her Majesty’s <i>Inspectorate of Constabulary</i> (HMIC), “<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/media/adapting-to-protest-nurturing-the-british-model-of-policing-20091125.pdf">police use of overt photography raises significant human rights issues, notably the question of whether police action is compatible with the right to private life protected by ECHR</a>.” This is all the more concerning, as images of peaceful protesters and bystanders not engaged in any illegal or provocative behaviour are also obtained and retained. The information and images are stocked on searchable data bases (see above) and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/oct/25/spotter-cards">‘spotter cards’</a> are produced for identification uses. Such surveillance can be intimidating and have a deterrent or ‘chilling effect’ on peaceful protesters, thus preventing people from exercising their democratic right to peaceful protest. It may also encourage persons to cover their faces and resist police surveillance by other means. It creates a divisive ‘them and us’ atmosphere and represents a departure from traditional consensual policing. <span class="mag-quote-center">Images of peaceful protesters and bystanders not engaged in any illegal or provocative behaviour are also obtained and retained. </span></p><p>Other surveillance tactics have included police operatives with fake identities infiltrating political groups, for example environmental activists, in order to carry out covert surveillance of law-abiding protesters and disrupt protests. Most disturbingly, there have been several cases of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jan/20/undercover-police-children-activists">police officers</a> involved in <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45596432">long-term intimate relationships</a> with the targets of their monitoring, including at least two who fathered children and then disappeared. Some have acted as <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-under-fire-as-trial-collapses-over-agent-provocateur-claims-2181118.html">agent provocateurs</a> by initiating, organising and encouraging civil disobedience. This all obviously raises considerable ethical issues and the infringement of civil liberties and civil rights. </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/Sarah Pickard 5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Sarah Pickard 5.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Regarding the militarisation of policing tactics in public order and protest situations, a contentious development has been the increased use by the police of containment or ‘<a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137399311_7">kettling</a>.’ This is the encircling of people (protesters, bystanders, observers) in a specific area (for example, a public square, a road or a bridge) by police officers who can then control the movement of the people contained. The people kettled are detained and deprived of their freedom of movement, sometimes for hours without having committed or being suspected of having committed any criminal activity. For example, police used containment on peaceful protesters at anti-G-20 Climate Camp in London, in April 2009. Subsequently, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Met had used undue force and that containment was inappropriate. On 9 December 2010, the Metropolitan Police went on to use containment in <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2010/12/young-protesters-police">Parliament Square</a> and on Westminster Bridge for several hours into the night during protests (against the trebling of annual university tuition fees, higher education funding cuts and the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance). <span class="mag-quote-center">The people kettled are detained and deprived of their freedom of movement, sometimes for hours without having committed or being suspected of having committed any criminal activity.</span></p> <p>Containment is indiscriminate and inflammatory; it can be frightening and dangerous. Kettling permits the police to restrict the movement of those inside with the purpose of reducing potential disorder. But containment is also carried out to harvest personal information (for example, names, addresses, and fingerprints via mobile <a href="https://www.biometricupdate.com/201808/uk-metropolitan-police-develop-own-mobile-fingerprint-solution">digital fingerprinting devices</a>), making release contingent on the provision of information with intimidating threats of fines and arrest for noncompliance, although such requests <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/val-swain/disruption-policing-surveillance-and-right-to-protest">are not officially allowed</a>. <b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p>There has also been an increase in the procurement and use of weapons by the police in the context of public protest, which raise <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/47/47i.pdf">human rights issues</a>. CS spray (tear gas), for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/jan/30/police-cs-spray-tax-protesters">was used</a> on<b> </b><a href="http://www.ukuncut.org.uk">UK Uncut</a> protesters staging a peaceful sit-in against corporate tax avoidance, in a crowded area on Oxford Street, London, January 2011. Six members of UK Uncut sued the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, who was obliged to apologise for the use of “unnecessary and unlawful” “excessive force” when protesters were sprayed in the face at close range causing, “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/27/met-chief-apologises-officers-unlawful-cs-spray-protesters">intense pain, momentary loss of sight, and feelings of panic and fear</a>.” He also apologised for the police preventing people from “exercising their fundamental right to protest” and the Met awarded damages to the protesters involved. </p><p>Another example of excessive force and violence taking place is when police officers, “use of the edge of a shield against individuals” as a “<a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/media/adapting-to-protest-nurturing-the-british-model-of-policing-20091125.pdf">public order tactic</a>.” There have been notable cases of excessive force being exerted on <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137399311_7">young protesters</a>, such as on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nina-power/time-does-not-always-heal-state-violence-and-psychic-damage">Alfie Meadows</a> in 2010, which brought about the creation of the organisation Defend the Right to Protest (<a href="http://www.defendtherighttoprotest.org">DTRTP</a>).</p> <p>Tasers are ‘conducted electrical weapons’ or ‘electro-shock weapons’ that fire electrically charged probes, incapacitating the target. Following pilot schemes around the country, most police forces started using Tasers in 2009, including in protest situations. An upgraded more powerful version ‘Taser X2’ was <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39143967">authorised</a> for use by police in England and Wales by the Conservative Home Secretary, in March 2017. Amnesty International and other organisations have raised concerns about the use of CS Gas and Tasers by the “trigger happy” police, for example, when West Midlands <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/04/west-midland-police-trigger-happy-amnesty-warwick-demo">police officers dealt with a student sit-in</a> at Warwick University in 2014.</p> <h2><b>“Austerity measures”</b></h2><p><b><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Sarah Pickard 4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Sarah Pickard 4.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></b>In January 2014, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers commented that “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/22/police-home-secretary-approve-use-water-cannon-austerity-protest">ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest</a>”<i> </i>they expected water cannon to be required. A few months later, the then Conservative Mayor of London <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-27781673">Boris Johnson purchased second-hand water cannon</a> for the purpose of public order management in the capital (a first on mainland Britain). His Labour successor Sadiq Khan considered them inappropriate and wanted to sell them, <a href="https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/nick-ferrari/sadiq-khan-not-able-to-sell-boris-water-cannon/">but there have been no buyers</a>. </p><p>Last, another militaristic development in policing has been the authorisation for police firearms teams in London to deploy attenuating energy projectiles (AEP), also called baton rounds or rubber bullets. Importantly, such <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/revealed-police-plans-to-fire-rubber-bullets-in-london-7575904.html">permissions were issued prior to student demonstrations</a> against higher university tuition fees, for example, in November 2011. </p> <p>Neither water cannon nor rubber bullets have been used on protesters on mainland Britain. But their procurement is a clear illustration of the militarisation of policing methods in recent years. When amalgamated with other practices, such as mass arrests, pre-emptive arrests and pre-charge bail with exacting conditions leading to no prosecution, etc, they contribute to a repressive environment in Britain surrounding lawful dissent.</p> <p>Taken together, new legislation, amendments to legislation, the enforcement of legislation combined with the subsequent changes to policing tools and strategies since the end of the 1970s have resulted in the increasing militarisation of the policing of public order and protest in Britain. There have been successive challenges to legislation and policing methods in the UK High Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights with reference to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), the <i>Human Rights Act</i> 1998. <span class="mag-quote-center">There have been successive challenges to legislation and policing methods in the UK High Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights with reference to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), the <i>Human Rights Act</i> 1998. </span></p><p>This raises crucial questions about what will happen to these fundamental checks and balances as Britain withdraws from the European Union. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that the repression of protest by the State through legislation and policing creates feelings of injustice and anger among young protesters that can be expressed through resentment and hostility towards politicians and the police. There are of course certain protesters and activists who are very provocative and aggressive towards the police and some are violent and break the law. However, this does not justify the increasingly authoritarian behaviour towards peaceful protesters many of whom are young. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>This article is based on the following chapter: </i></p> <p>Sarah Pickard. Governing, Monitoring and Regulating Youth Protest in Contemporary Britain. In <i>Governing Youth Politics in the Age of Surveillance</i>. Grasso, Maria and Bessant, Judith (eds.). 2018. London: Routledge, pp. 77-90. </p> <p>The photographs illustrating points raised in the article were taken by the author Sarah Pickard when acting as an independent observer on the 21 November 2012 National Union of Students (NUS) march in London. </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><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-partnerships/openmovements"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openmovements-banner-small_1.jpg" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-partnerships/openmovements">openMovements</a> partnership.</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="/simin-fadaee-geoffrey-pleyers/new-repertoire-of-repression-and-how-movements-resist">The new repertoire of repression and how movements resist. Introduction.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rui-hou/booming-industry-of-chinese-state-internet-control">The booming industry of Chinese state internet control</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet openmovements Sarah Pickard Wed, 21 Nov 2018 23:20:10 +0000 Sarah Pickard 120663 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