Can Europe make it? https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/9711/all en Tunisi’s dream, Erdogan’s nightmare https://www.opendemocracy.net/halil-brahim-yenig-n/tunisi-s-dream-erdogan-s-nightmare <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Our principles remind us that not justice, but oppression will inevitably result from an unrestrained one-man rule that is unaccountable, unchecked and unstoppable…”.</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/500209/665px-Kheireddine_Pacha_high.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/665px-Kheireddine_Pacha_high.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="623" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Portrait of the Kheireddine Pacha on his horse, pre-1890, from the national military museum of Tunisia. Wikicommons/ Ahmed Osman. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Khayruddin Pasha al-Tunisi (d. 1890) was in many ways a typical nineteenth century Ottoman statesman and reformist thinker, but indisputably unique in many other ways. Serving in the remote principality of Tunisia, he was an adamant advocate for a constitutional regime like his Young Ottoman counterparts in Istanbul. But he stood out in his quest to ground his views on a quite firm Islamic foundation. </p> <p>His classical political treatise, <em>The Surest Path (Aqwam al-Masalik) </em>was<em> </em>no less than a modern comparative politics manuscript. He would quote an unlikely figure, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d.1350) to justify his reformism: “any path where the road signs of justice are perceptible is the path of the <em>shar’ </em>and religion of God.”<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> This not only opened up an immense space for rational deliberation in Islamic political thinking but placed him among the proto-Islamist political thinkers as well. </p> <p>He is known to have helped install the first parliament and constitution in a Muslim-majority administration, Ottoman Tunisia, even before that of the imperial capital. In the <em>Muqaddima</em> to his book, he probed the causes of the rise and fall of nations following his forerunner, Ibn Khaldun (d.1406.) Drawing on his study of the European countries, he identified liberty as the root cause of progress, development, and civilization. Liberty, as a principle of political justice, would be attained by state institutions through “good government,”<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> which in turn could be secured through <em>shura</em> (deliberative decision-making as embodied by parliaments), limited government, transparency and the accountability of public offices. Political and civil liberties for the governed would be guaranteed, especially freedom of the press. Thus, inasmuch as he spelt out these principles as elements of good government, his prescription for saving the Muslim world from decline was primarily a political task, not military or economic. <span class="mag-quote-center">Inasmuch as he spelt out these principles as elements of good government, his prescription for saving the Muslim world from decline was primarily a political task, not military or economic.</span></p> <p>Even though Istanbul’s Islamists of the Second Constitutional Era (1908-1920) are not known for being the direct intellectual descendants of Tunisi as much as of Jamaladdin al-Afghani (d. 1897), Tunisi’s increasing fame eventually led Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) to appoint him in 1878-1879 as the Grand Vizier. However, just like Afghani, Tunisi would soon fall into disrepute at the Sultan’s court, due to his insistence on good government and constitutionalism. Like the former, he would spend the rest of his days in Istanbul and pass away there. </p> <h2><strong>Subsequent influence</strong></h2> <p>Notwithstanding their similar agendas, the Young Ottoman Namık Kemal (d. 1888), in his imperial hubris, did not particularly like this Tunisian statesman: “We would not stoop to begging for a Vizier from Tunisia,” he complained in one of <a href="http://earsiv.sehir.edu.tr:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11498/19032/001583910010.pdf?sequence=1">his letters</a>, although he would come to admit Tunisi’s moral pre-eminence. Nonetheless, as the fierce opponents of Abdulhamid II’s despotic government, Istanbul’s Afghani-inspired early Islamists surely followed the same line of reasoning: good government, in particular <em>shura</em> and constitutionalism, was <em>the</em> solution to the problem of Muslim decline, and would put them back on the track of civilization and progress. </p> <p>Abdulhamid’s violation of these ethico-political principles and his heavy-handed despotism (<em>istibdad</em>) was the chief reason behind the invectives and derogatory poems leading Islamist Mehmed Akif’s (d. 1936) directed against him –poems that would definitely send Akif packing to a life-long imprisonment for insulting the ruler if recited a hundred years down the road against Erdoğan.</p> <p>Islamism went through a revival in Turkey through Sayyid Qutb (d.1966) and his contemporaries’ transnational influence some fifty years later. However, its political ethics were rarely high on the agenda in the public debates. Instead, it was discussed mostly as a political problem or a sociological phenomenon during those decades leading up to Erdoğan’s hard slog to near-absolute power. Even during the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s first decade, Islamism was hardly the main preoccupation of the AKP elite, as they had already turned away to found a religious conservative party. </p> <p>However, <a href="https://serdargunes.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/ali-bulac-mc3bcmtazer-tc3bcrkc3b6ne-ve-yasin-aktayin-islamcilik-tartismalari.pdf">a sudden spark</a> in July 2012 would create an outpouring of pieces on Turkish Islamism just as the intelligentsia seemed to need to rediscover its whereabouts, as well as clarifying the AKP’s ambiguous relationship with it. The initial two sides of this debate were both non-Gülenist columnists of the Gülenist <em>Zaman</em> newspaper: the doyen ideologue of Turkish Islamism Ali Bulaç and his anti-Islamist, ex-ultranationalist interlocutor, Mümtazer Türköne. Ironically, they are both under arrest now, facing possible life sentences for aiding the Gülenist network, and paying the price for their disobedience to Erdoğan under the pretext of ‘post-coup measures’. </p> <p>A true sympathizer of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hassan al-Banna (d. 1949) and Qutb, Bulaç promoted the formation of such civil societal groups as opposed to the purely political, top-down, and power-ridden AKP. Türköne, in contrast, saw Islamism as the hurdle on the way to a democratic society, but still advised Turkish Islamists to choose Namık Kemal as the “indigenous” proto-Islamist over the highly controversial “import”, Afghani. That final wave of debate on Islamism subsided long ago amidst the incessant political crises that subsequently shrunk any public debate worth mentioning on any issue. </p> <h2><strong>Political regression</strong></h2> <p>Against this background, Turkey seems to have experienced yet another major political regression with the April 16 referendum and its predictable long-term effects on Turkish politics. As heir to the Islamist political party tradition, the AKP’s codification of a one-man regime has immense import for the centuries-old Islamic reform (<em>islah) </em>movement as well as Islamism. </p> <p>Except for a few minor and ostracized groups, the great majority of Turkish Islamists have mobilized their collective forces to establish Erdoğan as Turkey’s almost completely unaccountable and unlimited leader. Neither the oppressive political context that would render even some minor local elections unfree and unfair, nor reports of fraud widespread enough to jeopardize any political regime and its leader’s legitimacy seem to have bothered them. In this sense, what has happened last month in the referendum is of crucial significance that can be summed up in a sentence: the so-called heirs of Ottoman-Turkish Islamism, which struggled to curb autocratic rule and to establish good government, have mobilized &nbsp;all their political and intellectual resources to expand the power of one man alone to secure his personality-centred regime. <span class="mag-quote-center">The so-called followers of a tradition known for ethically-grounded political propositions for the “Muslim world’s revival” have now turned towards the pure and naked power politics of a one-man regime.</span></p> <p>Limiting the autocrat’s power has always been deemed a panacea for most followers of the Muslim reform movement. Now those who trace their lineage to this tradition have sought to enlist the Islamist public’s support for the removal of the few remaining constraints, forms of accountability, and checks-and-balances in an already shattered political regime. The so-called followers of a tradition known for ethically-grounded political propositions for the “Muslim world’s revival” have now turned towards the pure and naked power politics of a one-man regime. I argue that the real significance for Islamism of the recent Turkish referendum must be sought in this anomaly. </p> <h2><strong>Paths diverge</strong></h2> <p>Let us illustrate this anomaly by contrasting examples of the religious discourses that are deployed for or against the referendum. The “Islamic” case for the recent referendum to enlist the Islamist support was often made via calls for a <a href="http://milliiradeplatformu.com/buyuk-ve-guclu-turkiye-icin-evet">“greater and stronger Turkey”</a> , the “survival of state and nation,” or <a href="https://www.ismailaga.org.tr/16-nisan-2017-halkoylamasi-hakkinda-kamuoyu-duyurusu">“the unity of ummah”</a>. It was, in a short, a case for “Muslim power” under Turkey’s leadership even in its most Islamist tones, where nation, ummah, Turkey, and the Muslim world’s fate were merged together and embodied in Erdoğan. This is a concept of the ‘political’ that is stripped of any ethical reference such as good government or justice. The basic conditions of free and fair elections or at the very least, basic honesty, seem to have failed to figure in their notion of Islamic politics. </p> <p>In contrast, those remaining ostracized Islamist groups that campaigned for a ‘no’ vote, e.g. Labor and Justice Coalition (LJC), Platform for Rights and Justice, and the Muslims’ Initiative against Violence against Women (MIVW), have employed a different language that underlines the Qur’anic verse of <em>shura </em>as their ethico-political vantage point. While LJC referred to the “<a href="http://www.emekveadalet.org/yeni/hayir-anayasa-hepimiz-icin/">perennial tradition of shura</a>” in its justification of the no vote, the recently formed “Platform for Rights and Justice,” issued a statement that was presciently entitled: <a href="http://www.sivilsayfalar.org/islami-kesimin-onde-gelen-isimleri-hak-adalet-platformu-catisi-altinda-bulusti/">“Not Autocratic Rule, but <em>Shura, </em>Rights, and Justice.”</a> </p> <p>It said, </p> <blockquote><p>…Turkey needs a new constitution. However, the constitutional package… is far beyond realizing justice for all….Those who have to object to it are first and foremost those who try to uphold rights and justice. Even if we have been subjected to injustices in this society because of our identity, it is an unethical temptation to condone injustices that others will face for the sake of the power we will seize. We must not stand for the right of the might, but the power of the right. Our principles remind us that not justice, but oppression will inevitably result from an unrestrained one-man rule that is unaccountable, unchecked and unstoppable… As the religious references will never approve of a one-man rule, and as the Medina Compact enjoins plurality, power-sharing, and consultative rule, the defense of one-man rule is unfounded… We Muslims have to deliberate with each other for our affairs and there is the chapter on Shura in the Qur’an.… For the sake of power-sharing and <em>shura</em>, and against an autocratic power, for the sake of rights and justice, we say “NO.”</p></blockquote> <p>The women’s group concluded its opposition statement with a <a href="http://kskmi.com/istisare-diyalog-baris/">declaration</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>Monotonous voices and monopolization of power never favored women, since the overbearing power that suppressed the other voices has first targeted the everyday life of women… As the women who formed a solidarity chain on the Bosphorus Bridge during the February 28 era when the regime targeted hijabi women, we are determined to form a chain of justice and righteousness with those women who are dismissed from their jobs through decrees, who have had to give birth under detention, and who feel their forms of life are threatened… The Prophet who had been entrusted with rectifying the defective scale of justice never suppressed different voices in the name of stability, nor did he impose himself on people, … [but he] remained loyal to the principle that “Carry out your affairs through shura” (Shura, 38). </p></blockquote> <p>Such a striking contrast between modes of justification from the Islamist groups’ YES and NO voters is further confirmation of the antinomy <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14683849.2016.1262768">I have sought</a> to draw between Muslimism (a quest for power) and Islamism (a quest for justice). There was indeed hardly any defense of a YES vote among the former based on good and just government, while most of the NO votes among Islamists referred to these ethico-political principles. </p> <h2><strong>Turning back to Tunisi</strong></h2> <p>Around a century ago, Muslims from Egypt to Turkey and Iran were going through a “constitutionalism spring”. It faded in a decade or so but its institutional legacy lived on in parliaments and constitutions. Even the most radical Islamist thinkers such as Qutb did not oppose them <em>in toto,</em> but condemned the human arrogation of the powers of the deity through them. He nevertheless argued for shura-based polities. </p> <p>Turkey had given hopes to the rest of the world that a popular government coming from an Islamist lineage would finally consolidate good government and democracy. The Arab Spring expanded these hopes that its success could be replicated by fellow religious politicians. At its outset, many thought Egypt would be more like Turkey. As these hopes faded, Turkey became much more like Egypt. <span class="mag-quote-center">At its outset, many thought Egypt would be more like Turkey. As these hopes faded, Turkey became much more like Egypt.</span></p> <p>Perhaps despite the remnants of imperial hubris, Turkey could once again turn towards Tunisia to search for a conception of Muslim politics that embraces good government, compromise, and consensus-building, rather than a zero-sum game of Muslim domination over others, as well as an ethics-free Muslim power. </p> <p>Tunisi kept high hopes for Istanbul to take the lead for good government in the Muslim world. He failed as the autocratic one-man rule reigned for thirty more years, leaving a much more feeble legacy of constitutionalism than it could have done. </p> <p>A hundred years later Turkey missed yet another big chance to establish a decent regime that would institutionalize the principles of good government and democracy. Those who argued for the possibility of an “Islamic democracy” once again received a heavy blow from the cynics who had already doomed Muslim-majority polities to an irredeemable “Oriental despotism.” Tunisi’s dreams will have to wait for another spring in Turkey if not in Tunisia, while the latter still fights for its democracy’s survival. </p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi and Leon Carl Brown. <em>The Surest Path</em> (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 126.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Ibid., 74 </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="/mehmet-kurt/introducing-this-weeks-theme-new-turkey-and-old-troubles">Introducing this week&#039;s theme: New Turkey and Old Troubles</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/karabekir-akkoyunlu/contending-with-authoritarian-turkey-measured-realist-perspective">Contending with authoritarian Turkey: a measured realist perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/omer-tekdemir/ala-turca-presidency-old-wine-in-new-bottles-in-kurdish-case">The Ala-Turca presidency: old wine in new bottles in the Kurdish case</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/deniz-yonucu/turkey-s-united-front-against-kurds-and-democracy">Turkey’s united front against Kurds and democracy</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"> Tunisia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Tunisia Turkey Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Turkish Dawn Halil İbrahim Yenigün Mon, 29 May 2017 06:20:55 +0000 Halil İbrahim Yenigün 111185 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Contending with authoritarian Turkey: a measured realist perspective https://www.opendemocracy.net/karabekir-akkoyunlu/contending-with-authoritarian-turkey-measured-realist-perspective <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This obsession with personalities can fuel the very passions and tensions that such individuals feed on, and obscure the underlying factors that explain their rise in the first place.<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/Roosevelt_Inönü_and_Churchill_in_Cairo_cph.3b15312.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Roosevelt_Inönü_and_Churchill_in_Cairo_cph.3b15312.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'>President Inönü of Turkey, confers with President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Cairo, December 1943. Wikicommons/United States Library of Congress. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>At a time when loud, angry and divisive men (and a few women) dominate politics and defy established norms of public discourse and diplomacy, it is no surprise that popular attention becomes fixated on the character traits, appearances and speeches (or tweets) of these individuals. Yet shaped by the modern celebrity culture, 24-hour reality shows and image-driven social media platforms, this obsession with personalities can fuel the very passions and tensions that such individuals feed on, and obscure the underlying factors that explain their rise in the first place. For scholars who both live in and aim to understand these unsettled times, the challenge is to deconstruct the larger-than-life portrayals of these individuals and place the period under scrutiny in its proper comparative, historical and geopolitical context. </p> <p>This is a particularly difficult – albeit no less urgent – task for scholars who try to make sense of Turkey’s fast-paced decline into authoritarianism, at a time when critical thinkers in general and academics in particular are directly targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. But despite Erdoğan’s tightening grip over the country’s politics and institutions, we cannot explain Turkey’s dramatic <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14683857.2016.1253231?scroll=top&amp;needAccess=true">exit from democracy</a> by pointing to one man’s hubris and single-minded pursuit for power. The larger fact is that, with its geopolitical centrality, resource-poor economy, fragile and contested institutions, and layers of entrenched societal tensions, Turkey has been exceptionally exposed to – and in turn, embodied – the fluctuating currents of global change throughout its modern history; and the present current is a particularly low one. <span class="mag-quote-center">Turkey is a country forged out of the genocidal destruction of multicultural empires in the age of modernisation and nation building, and carries in its social and institutional fabric the scars.</span></p> <p>Turkey is a country forged out of the genocidal destruction of multicultural empires in the age of modernisation and nation building, and carries in its social and institutional fabric the scars, the traumas and the insecurities of this formative period. It has been part of all three major waves, and subsequent counter-waves, of democratisation in the modern era: the constitutional reform movements of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century gave way, via a decade of warfare and ethnic cleansing, to the consolidation of secular nationalist dictatorship in the interwar era. Its transformation to multiparty democracy in the post-WWII period was truncated by the emergence of military tutelage in the 1960s. And some of its most remarkable democratic reform initiatives, which came at the height of the European Union’s normative influence in the early-to-mid 2000s, are being reversed just as liberal democracies everywhere face existential crises. </p> <p>Turkey’s socio-political fortunes have also been tightly intertwined with the ebbs and flows of the global economy, to which it has been deeply integrated since Ottoman times. We cannot fully grasp why Kemalist Turkey abandoned early attempts at economic liberalisation in the 1920s for a decidedly statist path in the 30s without taking into account the limited options facing the young republic in the wake of the Great Depression; nor why it reverted to a capitalist (and pro-western) direction in the late 1940s without reference to the economic crisis of 1946. The labour disputes, ideological tensions and political violence of the 1970s took place in the context of global oil crises and Arab-Israeli conflicts. Likewise, the meteoric rise and the subsequent descent into paranoia and authoritarianism of both Adnan Menderes, the populist prime minister of Turkey during the Democrat Party era, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are closely linked to the boom and bust cycles in global liquidity, and the capitalist growth strategies their governments pursued in the 1950s and 2010s, respectively.</p> <p>Finally, Turkey’s geopolitics simply renders isolation impossible, as Anatolia has time and again become the passageway, the destination and the source for migrants and refugees. The arrival of millions of destitute Muslims from the Balkans and the Caucasus into the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the twentieth century heightened existential insecurities among the Ottoman Muslim elites and arguably paved the way for the destruction of the empire’s non-Muslim communities. The influx of half a million Iraqi Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in 1991 – itself an outcome of the First Gulf War – provided <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17539153.2013.765705">a fresh recruitment base</a> for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) ahead of some of the most violent years of conflict in Turkey in the mid-90s. The arrival of more than three million Syrians since the outbreak of war in that country in 2011 is sure to have an even more profound, multifaceted and lasting impact on Turkey’s demographic, socio-economic and political dynamics.&nbsp; </p> <p>None of this is to suggest, in the deterministic spirit of Heraclitus or Ibn Khaldun, that Turkey’s fate is preordained by history and geography, and that its political actors possess no agency or responsibility to chart the country’s course. The point, rather, is to emphasise the perseverance of structure and the symbiotic relationship between individuals and their environments, at a time when actors’ roles tend to be blown out of proportion. Structural factors, as thinkers from Bourdieu to Giddens have noted, do not only help form individuals’ <em>habitus</em> – their socialisation, worldview, ambitions and expectations – but also affect and constrain the options available to them. In turn, the decisions made by key political actors at critical junctures of history can set the path of a country for years or even decades, thus reshaping structure. </p> <p>It was İsmet İnönü, Turkey’s oft-maligned second president, who chose to keep Turkey out of the Second World War, just as it was Erdoğan, together with his former foreign and prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who drove Turkey into the quagmire of the Syrian war. It was İnönü who accepted defeat in Turkey’s first democratic election and handed over power peacefully in 1950, while Erdoğan chose to ignore defeat and refused to share power following what may turn out to be the country’s last democratic election, at least for some time, in June 2015. Both sets of choices have been fateful for Turkey’s stability and democracy. Despite their dominant political positions at the time, neither İnönü nor Erdoğan possessed the power to dictate the forces of change inside Turkey, let alone in the wider region. But it seems only İnönü was aware of this reality. </p> <p>In the measured realism induced by paying attention to structure, there might be a lesson not only for decision makers, but also for those who try to make sense of Turkey, while hoping and striving for it to one day become a tolerant, pluralistic society. For much of the 2000s, and indeed up until the June 2015 election, many of these observers-cum-activists (this author included) held steadfast to the belief that a truly democratic transformation was within Turkey’s grasp. It appears, in hindsight, that in our enthusiastic idealism we grossly underestimated the astonishing capacity of the Turkish state to categorically annihilate dissent; a capacity that Kurds, Armenians or Alevis know full well, but which secular middle-class Turks have been discovering only recently. <span class="mag-quote-center">We grossly underestimated the astonishing capacity of the Turkish state to categorically annihilate dissent; a capacity that secular middle-class Turks have been discovering only recently.</span></p> <p>Many of us, both in and outside the country, also miscalculated how viciously this capacity could be unleashed at a time of extreme <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14683857.2016.1253225?src=recsys">existential angst and insecurity</a> triggered by the dual crises of liberal democracy in the West and state failure in the Middle East. With such hopes crushed and expectations shattered, there is now a new – and equally dangerous – tendency to resort to nostalgia and fatalism, essentialising Turkey either as a hopeless cause from the outset, or a secular paradise lost in the hands of an Islamist strongman. </p> <p>Ultimately, both the impatient optimism of yesterday and the despondent pessimism of today stem from a presentist approach to politics and a teleological understanding of history; expecting imminent change, wanting to be a part of it, and abandoning hope when it does not happen. Paying due attention to the deeper structural dynamics at work can have a moderating effect on both dispositions. The revolution may not be coming any time soon, but history is not ending either, and there will be a tomorrow for Turkey.</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="/mehmet-kurt/introducing-this-weeks-theme-new-turkey-and-old-troubles">Introducing this week&#039;s theme: New Turkey and Old Troubles</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/halil-brahim-yenig-n/tunisi-s-dream-erdogan-s-nightmare">Tunisi’s dream, Erdogan’s nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/omer-tekdemir/ala-turca-presidency-old-wine-in-new-bottles-in-kurdish-case">The Ala-Turca presidency: old wine in new bottles in the Kurdish case</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Turkish Dawn Karabekir Akkoyunlu Mon, 29 May 2017 06:16:10 +0000 Karabekir Akkoyunlu 111143 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey’s united front against Kurds and democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/deniz-yonucu/turkey-s-united-front-against-kurds-and-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The political success of the Kurds – the colonized – has intimidated not just the authoritarian AKP and ultranationalist MHP but also the nationalist, secularist, so-called social democratic CHP. </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/500209/512px-HDP_supporters_marching_to_Cizre,_2015_(2).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-HDP_supporters_marching_to_Cizre,_2015_(2).jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>HDP supporters including Selahattin Demirtaş marching to Cizre after thir convoy was stopped by police. September 2015. Wikicommons/Mahmut Bozarslan (VOA). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>At time of writing, it has only been a month and a half since Turkey’s controversial referendum and the referendum has already fallen off the agenda in Turkey.</p> <p>Indeed, only a couple of days after the referendum, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the second biggest party in Parliament, had instead begun discussing potential candidates for the presidency in the 2019 elections. The CHP, which represents itself as the main opposition party, did object to the election results and submitted an appeal against fraud to the European Court of Human Rights. The party’s leader also stated his disapproval of protests taking place in the streets and called on the crowds denouncing the election results to go back home. </p> <p>The party’s representatives now claim that their primary aim is to get ready for the 2019 elections so that they can ‘take Erdoğan down’ and replace him with another president who – like Erdoğan under the new presidential system – would have the power to override parliament and issue decrees. </p> <p>In a country where prisons are filled with dissenting voices (including MPs and elected mayors), where emergency decrees have increasingly deprived hundreds of thousands of people of their jobs, and 83 elected mayors have been replaced with government-appointed trustees, it would be naïve to think that CHP representatives really believe that the 2019 elections will be free of fraud and that Erdoğan would accept defeat. Why, then, did the so-called opposition party, which launched a “no” campaign against Erdoğan, object so meekly to the controversial election results and call its supporters off the streets?</p> <h2><strong>The HDP challenge</strong></h2> <p>Today, as the authoritarian tendencies and aims of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) have started to target ever larger swathes of the population, including that segment which enjoys the privilege of being Turkish in a nationalist and profoundly anti-Kurdish society, AKP polices have garnered broader international attention. </p> <p>Noting the policies enacted under the current state of emergency and the enormous powers that will be given to the president after the 2019 elections, commentators have claimed that Turkey is undergoing a historical transformation. While it is true that Turkey is going through a historical process of change, this shift has not come about just as a result of state-of-emergency policies which for decades have targeted Kurds and working-class Alevis living in the urban margins. </p> <p>No. For the first time in its history, in the elections of June 2015 Turkey witnessed the electoral success of a political party (the People’s Democracy Party, the HDP) emerging from the long criminalized Kurdish liberation movement that includes the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Fanonian party which adopts an anti-colonial resistance strategy against the Turkish State. Indeed, the establishment of an umbrella party that brings Kurds, socialists, feminists, LGBT activists, and critical Muslims together was an aspiration of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and the HDP was successful in realizing this aspiration. &nbsp;</p> <p>As a result of the election campaign carried out by HDP co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ, the former chair of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed<em> </em>(ESP), and Selahattin Demirtaş, a Kurdish politician and human rights activist, the HDP passed the 10% threshold in Parliament by receiving 13.12% of votes (six million in total) and gaining 80 seats in the Parliament. </p> <p>The party did not only gain the majority of the votes in Turkey’s Kurdistan, where a significant percent of the population have voted for Kurdish candidates for years, but was also successful in the peripheries of the region and in western Turkey. Given the fact that Turkey’s ruling elites have been waging a systematic war against Kurdish civil politics for decades – a situation which Derya Bayır (2014) refers to as “politicide”<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> – a systematic targeting of the Kurdish political leadership and its solutions to the Kurdish problem, the HDP’s electoral success was tremendously significant in ways&nbsp;that&nbsp;basic&nbsp;statistics cannot&nbsp;measure. </p> <p>This success not only endorsed the Kurdish liberation movement’s adamant insistence on civil politics in spite of the decades-long lawfare and warfare waged against Kurdish activists: it also demonstrated the possibility of the de-criminalization of stigmatized Kurdish political voices in the eyes of the Turkish public.</p> <h2><strong>Authoritarianism</strong></h2> <p>Indeed, aware of the challenges posed by the HDP’s peace and democracy block and seeing the party as an existential threat, the AKP administration cancelled the June 2015 elections, refused to form a coalition government and hastened to re-initiate the war in Turkey’s Kurdistan. According to Turkey’s parliamentary system, if the party which came the first in the elections cannot form a majority government, it has to form a coalition government. And, according to the unwritten traditional rules, if that party cannot or does not form a coalition government, the President must then hand over the authority to form a government to the second biggest party in the parliament. However, Erdoğan did not follow this traditional rule and instead asked for early elections. </p> <p>Interestingly, the CHP leadership, who under normal circumstances would be responsible for forming the government, did not remonstrate against Erdoğan’s transgression of this rule. Actually, after the June elections, the CHP leadership objections to Erdoğan remained simply rhetorical and the party became partners with Erdoğan in the large-scale violence directed against Kurds in Turkey.</p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>Nationalist backlash</strong></h2> <p>Shortly after the elections in 2015, Turkish military forces occupied Kurdish towns, declared curfews, took lives and left hundreds of thousands of Kurds homeless and dispossessed. Throughout this process, Parliament granted immunity to military personnel who were “serving” in Kurdistan, while members of Parliament were stripped of their immunity with the goal of putting HDP parliamentarians behind bars –&nbsp;a move backed by MPs from the AKP, CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). As of today, thirteen HDP parliamentarians, including its co-chairs, have been imprisoned on the grounds of encouraging or supporting terrorism, and others expect to be arrested as well.</p> <p>Turkey’s long-suppressed Kurdish political struggle found an opening during the brief “peace process” carried out between 2013 and 2015, managing to become the second biggest opposition party in the country. It not only gained the support of Kurds but also Turks who for a long time had turned a blind eye to the various forms of violence inflicted on Kurds. </p> <p>At the same time, the PKK and its affiliate, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), took major steps toward building multi-ethnic and multi-religious autonomous areas of governance in Syria (Rojava) and in Iraq (Shingal), thereby becoming key actors in those regions. Yet, AKP, CHP and MHP consider PKK and YPG success outside Turkey a threat to Turkey and they all gave their consent to the Turkish military’s bombardment of the areas in Syria and Iraq that are under the control of these two related organizations. Recently, in April 25, 2017, for instance, Öztürk Yılmaz the Deputy Chairperson of the CHP, argued that Turkey has every right to fight against the PKK inside and outside Turkey, celebrated the AKP-led Turkish military’s air bombing of Derik in Rojava (Syria), and Shingal (Iraq Kurdistan) and argued that the military should have bombed these areas earlier<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>. </p> <p>&nbsp;It should be noted that the founding national(ist) ideology of Turkey has crafted a narrative in which the Kurds, like other colonized peoples, are “uncivilized” and “ignorant,” and therefore incapable of ruling themselves. This ideology, of course, is not independent of the Turkish ruling elites’ treatment of Kurdistan and former Armenian lands in Turkey’s South East as an internal colony<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> with Kurdish “subjects.” The political success of the Kurds, hence the colonized, has intimidated not just the authoritarian AKP and ultranationalist MHP but also the nationalist, secularist, so-called social democratic CHP. </p> <p>When the AKP appointed trustees to 83 Kurdish provinces and jailed elected Kurdish mayors and MPs, the CHP drew upon such a colonial mindset in its refusal to see those moves as a breach of democracy. The CHP gave its tacit consent to large-scale violence in Turkey’s Kurdistan by not objecting, instead adopting a stance of inaction, and choosing to be partners (in crime) with the AKP in silencing Kurdish political voices and putting the elected representatives of Kurds behind the bars. </p> <p>It was through just such a colonial mindset – so entrenched in the Turkish political imaginary – that a CHP deputy nevertheless had the audacity to say, in an interview with a Kurdish journalist after the referendum, that “Kurds’ biggest hope [for solving the so-called Kurdish issue] lay with the CHP” — presenting CHP as <a href="http://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/yazarlar/2017/04/21/eren-erdem-uskudari-kurt-oylarini-manipule-ederek-gectiler/">the future benevolent savior</a> of the Kurds.</p> <h2><strong>Nightmare</strong></h2> <p>The AKP and the so-called opposition in parliament are united in their enmity towards Kurdish political voices and practices that have taken action so effectively in Turkey and its neighboring regions. The political success of the Kurdish liberation movement both within and outside Turkey has prompted in those parties a sense of colonial envy, which not only drives them to devalue and criminalize the accomplishments of the colonized but also to try to erase it from the scene. In spite of their supporters’ fear of a non-secular and religious society, the secularist CHP’s alignment with an Islamist party proves that enmity against and fear of Kurds, who do not require their benevolence and already have an effective purchase on politics, is one of the key constitutive nightmares driving Turkish politics and/or its political imaginary. </p> <p>Today AKP and its partners in the Parliament are determined to deploy every means to suppress Kurdish political voices and being. Yet, history has also shown us that in spite of the systematic war against the Kurds, Kurds have been a major political force in Turkey over time and that violence against Kurds has not been successful in ending the Kurdish political mobilization. The residents of the cities and towns that suffered the most brutal forms of military violence after June 2015 elections, for instance, did not hesitate to vote almost exclusively “No” for the executive presidency. </p> <p>That is to say Kurds will not give up their struggle for democracy and their rights in Turkey and HDP will continue to attract social democratic votes, making it an even &nbsp;stronger rival to the self-proclaimed social democratic CHP. This rivalry, along with colonial envy, will make CHP a more anti-democratic and pro-violence party in the near future. In effect, the CHP, the biggest opposition party, will continue to legitimize and even strengthen Erdoğan’s power. </p> <p><em>A shorter version of this piece was published at PoLAR Forum on May 11, 2017. I would like to thank Mehmet Rauf Kesici, Barış Ünlü and Mehmet Kurt for their comments on the earlier version of this piece.</em></p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Bayır, Derya. "The role of the judicial system in the politicide of the Kurdish opposition." <em>The Kurdish question in Turkey: New perspectives on violence, representation and reconciliation</em> (2014): 21-46.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> https://www.artigercek.com/chp-den-sengal-operasyonu-aciklamasi-normal-ve-gecikmis</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>Beşikçi, İsmail. <em>International Colony Kurdistan</em>. Taderon Press, 2004.</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="/mehmet-kurt/introducing-this-weeks-theme-new-turkey-and-old-troubles">Introducing this week&#039;s theme: New Turkey and Old Troubles</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/omer-tekdemir/ala-turca-presidency-old-wine-in-new-bottles-in-kurdish-case">The Ala-Turca presidency: old wine in new bottles in the Kurdish case</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/karabekir-akkoyunlu/contending-with-authoritarian-turkey-measured-realist-perspective">Contending with authoritarian Turkey: a measured realist perspective</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> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Turkish Dawn Deniz Yonucu Sun, 28 May 2017 06:20:55 +0000 Deniz Yonucu 111138 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will the feline Macron succeed? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/francis-ghil-s/will-feline-macron-succeed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Enthusiasm for his victory is drawing investment into European equities. And French private sector employment has just reached a post-crisis high, giving a boost to wages.”</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-31475761.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31475761.jpg" alt="lead lead lead lead " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7. May 27,2017.Blondet Eliot/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“He’s a cat – you throw him through the window and he manages to fall on his feet.” &nbsp;This is how Alain Minc, an old acquaintance describes the most rapid coming of age in modern French politics. Emmanuel Macron is the youngest president of France in over 150 years. The recent French presidential election was historic because, for the first time since the creation of the Fifth Republic, France’s third longest lasting regime after the monarchy and the Third Republic, the two coalitions which have ruled France since 1958 were in disarray. Divided on the European Union of which France was a founding member, neither the Socialist nor the Républicain party inspired much confidence among the voters.</p> <p>Was the election a case of man meeting destiny or a particular set of circumstances allowing one exceptional figure to emerge? That Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, François Fillon, François Hollande and Manuel Valls all fell on their sword offered an irresistible opening which, to a degree, was impossible to foresee. When he launched his movement En Marche less than 18 months ago, resigned from the government the following summer and announced he would stand as candidate for the French presidency, Emmanuel Macron was derided by the vast majority of commentators and heavyweight politicians. His election vindicates the judgement of French observers who were convinced their fellow countrymen would avoid following in the populist footsteps of British and American voters.</p> <p>They were reassured on the night Macron debated his extreme right wing opponent Marine Le Pen on French television in the run off to the second round. The 39-year old former banker could hardly disguise his combined sense of contempt and amusement at the leader of the National Front. The bleu eyes were steely as Macron pointed out that his opponent was getting her knickers in a twist – not least when she mistook the Euro for the Ecu. Marine le Pen dropped the mask of reasonableness she had worked so hard to put on for five years. Emmanuel Macron came across to millions of French people as an iron fist in a smooth velvet glove.</p> <p>The announcement of the new prime minister and government after his election on 14 May broke with all precedent since 1958. Some ministers were from the Républicain party – the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the mayor of Le Havre and the all-important minister of finance, Bruno Lemaire. Naming a German-speaking conservative was a smart choice, likely to reassure the number two of the German government, Wolfgang Schäuble. Other ministers hailed from the socialist party such as Gerard Collomb, the respected mayor of Lyon and Jean Yves Le Driant, the new minister of foreign affairs who had been François Hollande’s safe pair of hands at the ministry of defence throughout his presidency. Others hailed from the centre like Sylvie Goulard, at defence while some had refused multiple offers to join governments of left or right such as the very charismatic Nicolas Hulot, the icon of the environmentalists in France.&nbsp;</p><p>Another inspired choice was Françoise Nyssen at the ministry of culture. She co-founded, with her father, the publishing house Actes Sud in – of all places, Arles in 1978. Actes Sud now challenges the more than century old Gallimard as one of the most successful and high brow publishing house in France. Back in 2015 it could boast, among its authors the Nobel prize for literature, the Byelorussian writer Svetlana Alexievitch, the Goncourt prize for the first novel, Kamel Daoud, an Algerian whose take on Camus’ novel L’Etranger, Meursault, Contre Enquête, has been translated into 30 languages and Mathias Enard, the winner of the Goncourt prize. To entrust a ministry which has often been seen as a cultural trophy to a women who understands culture and is a successful private entrepreneur could give it greater capacity to face the multiple challenges the arts face in today’s increasingly digital world.&nbsp;</p><p>Sylvie Goulard also offers an interesting case. A centrist deputy in the European parliament, she is articulate an unafraid of defending the centrality of the EU project to France’s future. Unlike many of her peers in France, she refuses to bash Europe to court popularity in France. At the same time she is not afraid of acknowledging the shortcoming of the EU. A good mastery of German and English will help. To critics who point out she has no military experience one could say that her task will be to project the European context of security at a time when Donald Trump’s flip flops on NATO and Brexit – which risk weakening UK military ties to Europe, make for great uncertainty.&nbsp;</p><p>Emmanuel Macron is an iconoclast, not a populist. His chiselled use of the French language, his love of classical music, his passion for Europe and conviction that France has the talent and capacity to adapt and change – no easy task in a country famous for its conservatism with a small “c”, stands in sharp contrast to the pessimism laced with nationalism which has been characteristic of French politics since the millennium. The new president is, like Tony Blair, a great seducer. He met his wife Brigitte when she taught him drama. He may not have an original mind but he became used, very early on in life to being the smartest person in the room. A friend who met him during the campaign remarked that he was a polymath who quickly absorbs every subject (music, economics etc.) he encounters and has the enormous asset of making everybody he meets feel intelligent. His memory is phenomenal. Macron enjoys arguing with people who disagree with him – his encounter with Whirlpool factory workers who backed Marine Le Pen in the run off of the election was typical of the trust he has in his own charm to win over opponents.&nbsp;</p><p>The first hurdle of the president’s ability to reform France is electoral and will come in June. If La Republique en Marche candidates gain a majority, that would ease the challenge of economic reform. Economic luck is on his side as he comes to office on the back of a strengthening economy.&nbsp; As Martin Sandbu noted in the Financial Times <em>Will Emmanuel Macron succeed?</em> on 12 May: “Enthusiasm for his victory is drawing investment into European equities. And French private sector employment has just reached a post-crisis high, giving a boost to wages.” Domestic economic success would offer the president an excellent tool in eurozone diplomacy – not least Germany.</p> <p>&nbsp;The second hurdle lies in his ability to convince union leaders to give companies more freedom to discuss working hours and wages with employees rather than comply with rigid sector-wide rules. The good omen here is that for the first time since its creation a century ago, the CFDT supplanted the more hard line CGT as France’s biggest union by winning the largest share of worker representatives in the private sector. This has put its leader, Laurent Berger who believes his union’s momentum provides a historic chance to overhaul France’s often conflict-ridden labour relations and move it closer to the more collaborative German model, in the spotlight.</p><p>Faced with a president who might be tempted to fast track reforms by enacting them through “ordinances”,&nbsp; Mr Berger is fond of quoting the former prime minister, Michel Rocard - that “the path was as important as the outcome.” The next few months will tell whether Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to reform France succeed and whether a Macron-Merkel axis can strengthen European institutions and overcome widespread disaffection towards the EU which is so visible in France and Italy.</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/500209/598px-Laurent_berger_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/598px-Laurent_berger_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="692" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Laurent Berger, Secretary General of the CFDT, France's biggest union. Wikicommons/ Info-Com CFDT. Some 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/francis-ghil-s/restoring-franco-german-leadership-of-eu">Restoring the Franco-German leadership of the EU </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"> 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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU France Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Francis Ghilès Sat, 27 May 2017 16:48:59 +0000 Francis Ghilès 111192 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Ala-Turca presidency: old wine in new bottles in the Kurdish case https://www.opendemocracy.net/omer-tekdemir/ala-turca-presidency-old-wine-in-new-bottles-in-kurdish-case <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Erdogan may require a more pragmatic approach to the US and Russia, hence indirectly with the PYD and Assad, to open up space for himself in the region’s politics.</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/Tombeau_de_Suleiman_Chah.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Tombeau_de_Suleiman_Chah.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'>View of the building complex of the Tomb of Suleyman Shah (its second location, 1973 – February 2015), seen from the Euphrates river. Wikicommons/Céline Rayne. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>On April 16, Turkey experienced a crucial referendum on amending the constitution after which there was confusion as a result of different vote counts released by two state institutions, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) and the Anatolian News Agency (AA), a state-owned news outlet. This put the legitimacy of the referendum into doubt. </p> <p>The pro-‘No’ vote opposition camp led by the Kemalist People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the Kurdish-led, left-leaning populist People’s Democracy Party (HDP) claimed that approximately 2 to 2.5 million ballots counted had no official stamp and that therefore the small majority in favour of ‘Yes’ was invalid. The controversial decision of the YSK (who should uphold the law) declared the ballots with no official seal valid unless there was proof of fraud violating the electoral law which states that ‘each ballot must be stamped with an official seal’. </p> <h2><strong>The great shift or the ‘Ottoman Republic’</strong></h2> <p>For some this result is seen as Turkey’s own Brexit: it will alter the Kemalist Republic of Turkey that was founded in 1923 to replace the Ottoman Empire’s Sultanate and Caliphate regime. The new political situation will restructure the parliamentary system by offering a broadening of power to the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This new super-presidency system has fleshed out and completed the ‘new Turkey’ policy of the conservative democrat ruling party, the Justice and Development (AKP), which more recently has embraced an increasingly right-wing radical conservative populism with majoritarian, authoritarian and illiberal tendencies. </p> <p>This rhetoric of new Turkey emphasises a continuity with an Ottoman identity reconstructed within modern conservativism and Turkish nationalism through contemporary institutions and neoliberal economic principles, accompanied by a regional expansionist policy. The AKP, who claim to act in the name of the people, have adopted a discourse in which ‘the people’ has become a Turkish-Islamic homogeny, a supposedly unitary organic whole that excludes the diverse, multiple and plural identities of post-Ottoman society. </p> <p>However, this watershed in current Turkish politics might be full of surprises as no one, including the AKP and President Erdogan, seem quite sure of what will happen next. For Kurdish politics too, the implications of this new order is not very clear, and the future of the ‘Kurdish rights problem’ is subject to much speculation. </p> <p>Does this new Turkey mean some sort of renewal of the Ottoman <em>millet</em> system as a project of the Muslim Brotherhood, or does it create an opportunity for self-governance or democratic autonomy for the Kurdish political leadership? </p> <h2><strong>The AKP’s new Kurdish policy: ‘our/good Kurds’ vs ‘their/bad Kurds’</strong></h2> <p>In June 2015 the success of the HDP in passing the infamous 10 per cent national threshold by getting 80 members into parliament created hope for many in Turkey and beyond. The HDP had created a political grammar that was different from other pro-Kurdish political parties in its use of a leftist populist discourse, such as ‘we are’ and ‘Turkeyfication’. </p> <p>It aimed to radicalise democratic institutions in terms of equality and liberty for all (religious, ethnic minorities, feminists, LGBTs <em>etc.</em>) by mobilising a collective passion arising from the Gezi Park protests in summer 2013 that were a reaction to the AKP’s authoritarian tendency. </p> <p>The HDP provided synergies between the pro-Kurdish political parties (<em>e.g.</em> BDP) and the Gezi resistance (social) movement that to a certain extent became part of the global counter-hegemonic culture that includes other square/resistance movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy, anti-austerity groups, Indignados, Aganaktismenoi, <em>etc</em> and left-wing populist parties such as Syriza and &nbsp;Podemos. </p> <p>However, the failure of the so-called peace process between the AKP and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the period 2013 to 2015 saw a return to the violence and antagonistic relations and eclipsed the new radical political language. The renewed armed conflict between the security forces and the PKK’s youth branch, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (the YDG-H), who used for the first time heavy weapons, dug trenches and erected barricades down side streets in the city and towns in settlements such as Cizre, Sur, and Sirnak, hijacked the ‘human security moment’ (human-centric security approach) and put at risk the hope of peace that would end the long-term internal battle in the country.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Since Erdogan’s abrogation of the Dolmabahce Agreement (2015), the policy of the AKP government, with the overzealous support of ultra-nationalists such as<em> </em>the National Action Party (MHP) and Homeland Party (VP), showed that they rejected the peaceful channels for conflict resolution. </p> <p>With this Turkic-Islamic grouping, the Erdogan administration sought to ‘clean up’ the PKK on the battlefield with a claim that previous governments had been weak in their pursuit of the ‘war on the PKK’ due to the presence of many cliques within the state apparatus (the police, military, and intelligence), whose attention was geared more to a struggle against Kemalists, particularly the Islamic-originated Gulen movement (the so-called FETO) after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Whilst in contrast, the success of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has an organic tie with the PKK, in Rojava (northern Syria) increased the self-confidence of the PKK in pursuing their collective requests in the form of an armed struggle. </p> <p>At the moment, both Turkish and Kurdish political actors have a wait and see policy. Erdogan stated in his post-referendum speech that there was a substantial increase in support for him in the east and south east of Turkey, which he saw as a ‘harbinger of a new era’, as the AKP-supported ‘Yes’ vote went up by 11 percentage points to 32% in the Kurdish-dominated region although the ‘No’ (HDP bloc) vote in these areas was between 60 and 70 per cent. However, the HDP claims that the rise of support for the AKP/MHP camp was the result of an increase in fraud, unfairness, and threats, accounting for the majority of &nbsp;unstamped ballots which were found in the region. </p> <p>In this referendum, the Kurdish position might be compared to that of the Scots with regard to Brexit, although in the situation of the Kurds is very different since almost all local government in pro-Kurdish municipalities has been replaced by state-appointed trustees, their elected mayors arrested and the region highly securitised under a draconian state emergency law and its curfews. </p> <h2><strong>Challenges and opportunities </strong></h2> <p>In the realpolitik of the Middle East, the Kurdish rights problem has become a matter of a transnational power struggle and is, therefore, subject to multiple internal and external dynamics. </p> <p>In the dimension of internal politics, the AKP’s understanding of the <em>millet</em> and <em>milli irade</em> (national will) social project, combined with an authoritarian populist politics and neoliberal economic practices, means that pro-state and pious Muslim Kurdish politicians and their followers (including tariqas) are bound by certain conditions, such as the acceptance of one nation, one language, one state and, more recently, one religion. </p> <p>At the same time this non-secular policy demonises Alevis, Yezidis, Zoroastrians, and atheists and also, in a broad sense, secular Kurds. Yet Erdogan appears to be seeking to establish contact with a new political representative from the Kurdish conflict after the inefficient mobilisation and failure of collaboration with the non-PKK-related <em>Kurdistani </em>political parties (who support Kurdish autonomy such as the HAK-PAR, <em>etc</em>.) and their transborder representative, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. However, after the suppression of the HDP, with for instance more than 10 MPs arrested including the co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, the restrictions placed on the role of the HDP in the region has created a hegemonic vacuum which might well be filled by a new actor such as the Huda-Par, a radical Islamist group that has links to Hizbullah, the paramilitary group. </p> <p>The first problem with this political project is that the people still remember the brutal violence of the Hizbullah in its armed struggle carried out against the PKK rather than the state, a political manoeuvre that has planted doubt about the role of Hizbullah in the region. Indeed Hizbullah are referred to as ‘Hizbul-kontra’ (a reference to them as counter-guerrillas) and are accused of being agents of the ‘deep state’ whose purpose is to frustrate the Kurdish national demands of those Kurds who are either secular or Sufi and culturally Muslim but who do not politicise their Islam in daily life. </p> <p>Secondly, the secular pro-Kurdish political actors (the BDP, PKK KCK and the Kurdish-led HDP) are still dominant, particularly after the Kobane victory against IS/ISIS in Rojava by their ‘sister party’ the PYD. Both these factors create difficulties for the AKP in constructing such a political project on the ground.</p> <h2><strong>The game shifts again<br /></strong></h2> <p>In terms of international politics, it seems that the game is changing for Turkey and the Middle East. Just before Erdogan’s visit to Donald Trump, the president of the United States, as an ‘honored’ guest on May 16, he was forced to witness the substantial military aid given by the US government to the PYD in Syria that operates under the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their battle against IS/ISIS. </p> <p>The problem for Turkey is that Turkey, along with a few other countries such as Qatar, define the PYD as a ‘terrorist’ organisation because of its organic ties with the PKK. The US and the EU (who declare the PKK as a ‘terrorist’ group) and Russia (who does not) do not agree with Turkey on this and moreover see the PYD as a most effective partner in the war against IS/ISIS in Syria and Iraq (along with the Kurdish Peshmerga, the army of the KRG). </p> <p>This new situational partnership of the US and Russia supports the PYD’s secular and liberal identity (for example in the promotion of gender equality) against the fundamental and radical Islamist Middle East. At the same time it creates an opportunity for Syrian Kurds to establish extensive territory with long borders with Turkey similar to that which occurred after the coalition of Iraqi Kurds and the US which destroyed the Saddam regime (2003) and gave the Kurds a chance to have some independence.</p> <p>In the region, the recently de facto independent KRG, who consist of Sunni Muslim Kurds, has become one of the most reliable political and economic partners of Turkey in the sectarian power struggle with non-Sunni Iran, the central Iraqi government and Assad’s Syria, although until recently the Iraqi Kurdish leaders, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, were treated as ‘tribal leaders’ and there was Turkish hostility against any Kurdish progress in Iraq. Now President Erdogan, having strengthened his governmental power, seeks, as part of his increased responsibility, a greater stability in the country’s political and economic life.</p> <p>This may require a more pragmatic approach with regard to relations with the US and Russia, and hence indirectly with the PYD and Assad, in order to open up space for himself in the region’s politics. Rather than clash with these international powers, including the EU, which would have significant political and economic consequences for the country, there could be a new politics that legitimises the PYD by distinguishing it from the PKK (as Trump did in his speech during Erdogan’s visit) and with some reservation recognises it as another Kurdish neighbour and partner. </p> <p>After all, a couple of years ago Salih Muslim, the leader of the PYD, visited Ankara and in 2015, when ISIS threatened to destroy the historic tomb of Suleyman Shah (the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman I), the Turkish army undertook a joint operation with the PYD’s armed forces People’s Protection Units (YPG) to save the tomb and put it under the regional control of the PYD because of its national significance. </p><p> In this respect, any positive relations with such ‘external Kurds’ creates the possibility or necessity of another attempt at some form of conflict resolution (it would be too early to say peace) with the Kurdish armed political actor in Turkey (otherwise known as the PKK) and gives some possible hope for peace in the distant future.</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="/mehmet-kurt/introducing-this-weeks-theme-new-turkey-and-old-troubles">Introducing this week&#039;s theme: New Turkey and Old Troubles</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> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Turkish Dawn Omer Tekdemir Sat, 27 May 2017 06:19:08 +0000 Omer Tekdemir 111141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hard lessons from the Manchester attack https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/benjamin-tallis/hard-lessons-from-manchester-attack <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A personal reflection in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-31424997.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-31424997.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People attend a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PAimages/Martin Rickett. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It was tough waking up to the terrible news from Manchester. So many dead and injured. The concert at the Manchester Arena seemingly chosen to target children and young teenagers. </p><p>As our family went about our morning routine it was very hard to hear the details of this cowardly and vile attack, which would be worthy of universal condemnation wherever it had taken place. But it didn't take place just anywhere, it happened in the city where I grew up and in an arena I have been to many times.</p> <p>Going there to watch basketball and ice hockey was a memorable part of growing up in the city. It meant going on the trams, it meant being in the diverse crowds of the city. Later, it meant being trusted to go to concerts there on my own. </p><p>It also meant that the city was safe for me to do so and the arena is a symbol of Manchester’s urban regeneration in the 1990s. I have so many good memories connected to that place, which made it all the harder to hear about those people who will now have very different memories of it. Or none at all.</p> <p>It was difficult to listen to the interviews with distraught parents, to the terror that the BBC irresponsibly insisted on playing again and again. But it was also hard to listen to the immediate rush to judgement of many commentators, dog whistling about ‘certain communities’ while further stigmatising and alienating Muslims in the UK.</p> <p>Whether this is politically motivated violence or the work of a psychologically disturbed individual (like the recent Westminster attack) we should not jump to conclusions nor to ill-considered ‘solutions’ that do more harm than good. There have already been calls for increased police funding but it would be better to reinforce the social and public services that are crucial to the integration (and flourishing) of <em>all </em>communities.</p> <p>Other experts quickly called for increased security measures in large venues and public spaces. But fortifying the city is no answer – it’s incompatible with the kind of free, fulfilling and creative life that Manchester is famous for. Like any city, Manchester can never be 100% safe but that doesn't mean we should shut down what makes it special.</p> <p>Manchester is, by some measures, the most diverse city in the Europe -and it feels like that. Growing up there, my classmates were called Iqbal and Ohandjanian as well as Wildsmith and I had friends called Arjang and Abdi as well as Gareth. From the arena to the famous ‘Curry Mile’ we explored the city and grew up together. </p><p>That kind of community only gets built the hard way - but thankfully it’s also hard to break and will survive this atrocity. Rather than prejudicial judgements and quick security fixes this is the hard lesson we should learn from the Manchester attack.&nbsp;</p><p>This article <a href="http://m.ihned.cz/nazory/c1-65739990-tvrda-lekce-utoku-v-manchesteru">originally appeared</a>&nbsp;in Czech in <em>Hospodářské Noviny</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="/paul-rogers/wrongs-of-counter-violence">The wrongs of counter-violence</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> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? UK Benjamin Tallis Tue, 23 May 2017 18:27:25 +0000 Benjamin Tallis 111107 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Unjust to everyone? Responses to deportation of asylum seekers in Finland https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/karina-horsti/injustice-to-everyone-moral-responses-to-deportation-of-asylum-seekers-in-finland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How does Finland’s unjust asylum policy reflect on its citizens? The Government’s stance is harming both asylum seekers and Finns.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/32627047054_5764a44db9_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/32627047054_5764a44db9_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A reproduction of artist EGS's Europe's Greatest Shame #11 on display outside the Ateneum in Helsinki. Flickr/Amnesty Finland. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Right to live! No to forced returns!” Asylum seekers, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, have been camping in the centre of Helsinki since early February. They and their supporters are protesting the Finnish Immigration Service’s negative decisions on asylum applications, and what possibly follows from them: detention and removals. Nearby, another group protests with slogans such as: “Finland first, close the borders”.</p><p>It has been common to identify such protests as extreme ends of a spectrum. I disagree: civic engagement for human rights at the asylum seekers’ protest needs to be seen as at the core of a democratic society, not at its limits. Therefore to refer to those who are indifferent to Finnish asylum politics – to use the words of Finnish president Sauli Niinistö – as “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/niinisto/posts/973868982650536">tolkun ihmiset</a>” (sensible people in English) is a misjudgement.</p><p>The anti-immigration protesters, however, can be defined as extremists. The slogans they use refer to recently established movements that are further to the right than the nationalist populist Finns party. In addition, a large poster “Ilja Janitskin for president” indicates support for a misinformation platform, Janitskin’s MV-lehti. The platform is known to disseminate lies and hostility towards asylum seekers and their supporters. This protest is one fraction of a broader anti-immigration movement that began to take shape in Finland during the early 2000s. It is part of the wider European nationalist populist landscape.</p><h2>The response to asylum seekers in Finland</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Finland-photo.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Finland-photo.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A reproduction of artist EGS's Europe's Greatest Shame #11 dominates the square outside the Ateneum in Helsinki. Flickr/Amnesty Finland. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Asylum seekers have always been at the centre of the public debate on immigration in Finland. What is new is the persistence of the asylum seekers’ protest (which has gone on for more than two months) and the public attention that it is receiving. Academics and cultural practitioners have published letters with more than 13 000 signatories, Lutheran pastors have read out negative decision documents in church, and the national art museum, Ateneum, demonstrated its support by displaying a reproduction of graffiti artist EGS’s work&nbsp;<em><a href="http://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9503661">Europe’s greatest shame</a></em>&nbsp;(2017) on its façade. The museum faces the square where the protest takes place. Such wide public support across Finnish society for a protest generated by asylum seekers who face deportations is unprecedented.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Asylum seekers have always been at the centre of the public debate on immigration in Finland.&nbsp;</p><p>Public support for the new protest movement and the political activism around it is grounded in the humanitarian response to the arrival of 32,000 asylum seekers in 2015. The number of arrivals is ten-fold compared to figures in previous years. Similar to the responses all over Europe that year – what Germans have termed&nbsp;<em>Willkommenskultur</em>&nbsp;– many Finns welcomed asylum seekers: for instance, they showed hospitality by donating clothes and food.</p><p>While such humanitarianism is based on the idea of our common humanity and dignity, humanitarian action nevertheless often&nbsp;constructs a hierarchical relation between the one who helps and the helpless victim. However, the gap between the helper and the helped can, at least partly, be bridged&nbsp;by encounter and engagement.</p><p>The support the asylum seekers’ protest has received does contain a sense of solidarity, based in a tradition of more political rights-based activism. However, rather than a shift from one kind of moral response to another, I suggest that we would be better off understanding the current protest as an entanglement of humanitarianism and solidarity. Humanitarianism is not completely apolitical, as many critics often claim, but through humanitarian action a critical rights-based agency can develop.</p><p>By becoming engaged in the hospitality movement, Finnish volunteers have built relationships with the newcomers. These relationships have developed in both face-to-face and mediated encounters. Online spaces play an important role in the hospitality movement: volunteers are recruited and coordinated through Facebook groups and websites.</p><p>Participation in these spaces has created a sense of community and shaped new identities. These were not only online spaces for Finnish volunteers, but many of those asylum seekers who could speak English or who picked up Finnish quickly have also been present in these groups.</p><p>When negative decisions started to filter through from the Immigration Service, asylum seekers and their supporters circulated desperate messages in the social media spaces that had been created to facilitate the welcoming of refugees. Volunteers were sad and distressed that the person or the family that they had become friends with would be deported. They felt that the Immigration Service’s decisions were unjust.</p><p>For those volunteers, the asylum seekers had begun to matter in a personal way. By knowing them, they saw them as human beings, as friends. And by knowing one they were ready to support others in similar situations.</p><h2>Witnessing vulnerability</h2><p>Feminist philosopher&nbsp;<a href="http://lit911.web.unc.edu/files/2015/08/butler-precarious-life.pdf">Judith Butler</a>&nbsp;argues that our relationship with others is central to being human and that this is what makes everyone vulnerable. We are not hurt only by violence or pain that is directed at us but also by violence towards a person connected to us. Witnessing violence also hurts. This connection requires proximity, be it mediated or physical. We feel morally more responsible for people to whom we feel close.</p><p>Butler also points out that the understanding of every person’s vulnerability, even those we don’t know, is perfectly conceivable. Without knowing someone, we can still treat the person as a person, as someone who matters to someone else, as someone’s daughter or son.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In 1967, Martin Luther King proclaimed justice to be indivisible. He said that “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y30LmlT8rWY">injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.</a>&nbsp;In this case, it is perhaps not so much a question of injustice "everywhere" as it is about injustice to everyone. The distress of the Finnish volunteers or the scope of the public debate about asylum seekers rights is actually focused on local identities, the nation, and on Finnishness.</p><h2>Low recognition rates for a Scandinavian country</h2><p>Finland’s&nbsp;<a href="http://tilastot.migri.fi/#decisions/23330/49?start=560&amp;end=563">recognition rates</a>&nbsp;of Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers are lower than the&nbsp;<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics">EU average</a>. In the last quarter of 2016, the Finnish Immigration Service made positive decisions for 45% of Afghani applications. At the same time, the EU average for Afghanis was 61%. For Iraqis, the difference was even more significant. 25% of the decisions were positive in Finland whereas the EU average was 63%.</p><p>In the Nordic context, Finland’s recognition rates are lower than those of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. This step away from its neighbours became more pronounced in May 2016 when Finland tightened its practices. The Immigration Service changed the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.migri.fi/tietoa_virastosta/maatietopalvelu/raportit">Country of Origin Information</a>&nbsp;on Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, and decided that these countries were “safe” for returns. In addition, references to a “humanitarian protection” permit in cases where a person couldn’t be forcibly deported were deleted from the Aliens’ Act.</p><p>Many of those who support asylum seekers argue that the changes to the Aliens Act and asylum policy in May 2016 were the government’s attempt to manage the 32,000 asylum seekers who arrived in 2015. This had happened at a moment when two conservative parties, the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party, were in a coalition with the nationalist populist Finns party.</p><h2>At the core of Finnish identity and history</h2><p>This is not a Finland many Finnish people are willing to identify with. The negative decisions of course hurt the asylum seekers most directly but they also hurt many Finnish citizens. In Finland, as in the other Nordic countries, people trust the state and its laws more than elsewhere in the world. Finland is among the four top countries in the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gesis.org/eurobarometer-data-service/search-data-access/eb-trends-trend-files/list-of-trends/trust-in-institutions/">Eurobarometer</a>&nbsp;opinion survey when it comes to people’s trust in their government.</p><p>Now the state acts in a way that many feel is not right, and people’s sense of justice is hurt. Injustice was not directed at them personally but it was done in their social environment, to people they consider friends.</p><p>Stories of forced returns, the detention of families with children, and anonymised negative asylum decisions have been shared in online spaces with notes such as “This is not the Finland I recognize!” “Not in my name”. Someone wrote on a piece of cloth at the protest camp in Finnish: “I don’t want to be ashamed of my country – Let’s respect human rights!” In a recent opinion piece in the national newspaper&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hs.fi/paakirjoitukset/art-2000005180366.html"><em>Helsingin Sanomat</em></a>,&nbsp;former Finnish president Tarja Halonen demanded the suspension of forced returns. She ended her article: “This is also about the kind of mark we draw about ourselves in history”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Someone wrote on a piece of cloth at the protest camp in Finnish: “I don’t want to be ashamed of my country – Let’s respect human rights!”</p><p>Returns and deportations of people who have been denied the right to stay in Finland have constituted the key technologies of immigration policies. This policy, the state believes, discourages people from seeking asylum in Finland. Nevertheless, the execution and their&nbsp;human consequences have rarely received public attention in Finland. The public was focused on arrivals, not removals. Until a couple of months ago, the fact that Finland detains children with their families prior to deportation did not receive any public attention.</p><p>Deportations and removals are now no longer considered outside the realm of citizen concerns. They are also about “us”: who “we” are and what “our” society will be like, also in the eyes of the future generations, as President Halonen argued.</p><p>Are these new policies about safe countries, leaving non-deportable people undocumented and current decisions made in the Immigration Service legal? This question is currently before the administrative court. What is debated publicly, however, is the question of whether these decisions are right.</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="/anna-vesterinen/who-are-finns-ask-finns">Who are the Finns? Ask The Finns!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/anna-vesterinen/finland-for-finns">Finland for the Finns?</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"> Finland </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Finland People Flow Karina Horsti Fri, 19 May 2017 10:15:40 +0000 Karina Horsti 110634 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Restoring the Franco-German leadership of the EU https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/francis-ghil-s/restoring-franco-german-leadership-of-eu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain for one is quite unprepared for the ultimate project of the new French president: the restoration of Franco-German leadership in Europe.</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-31325461.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31325461.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'>French President Emmanuel Macron meets Angela Merkel in Berlin. May 15,2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Britain for one is quite unprepared for the ultimate project of the new French president: the restoration of Franco-German leadership in Europe. For centuries, it avoided a concentration of power in Europe and paid a blood price when it failed in 1914 and 1939. </p> <p>It failed again in the post-1945 era, but successfully divided and conquered after it joined the European Union. Britain played France and Germany off against each other and crafted an EU to suit its interests. The result was the single market, the eastward expansion and the never ending opt-outs. </p> <p>Emmanuel Macron wants a bargain in which Germany secures the euro with a fiscal union while Paris agrees to structural reform at home. That will be very difficult to deliver, but a coherent, decisively-led Europe will put Britain in an invidious position.</p> <h2><strong>The euro</strong></h2> <p>In recent years, Berlin and Paris have been poles apart on what to do about the euro. Charles Grant, head of the Centre for European Reform remarks that “Germany wants more fiscal discipline and new mechanisms to make countries like France and Italy engage in painful structural reform, while France wants more common instruments such as ‘Eurobonds’ and steps towards a transfer union.” </p> <p>Macron will want to prove that he is able to reform France – that implies cutting taxes on jobs, reducing the state’s 55% share of economic output and decentralising collective bargaining. If and when he succeeds he can propose a new concordat on the euro. </p> <p>Much will depend on whether his recently founded party La République en Marche and its allies from right, left and centre can secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary elections. General de Gaulle failed to secure a majority in parliament during the first three years of the Fifth Republic (1959-1962) but no one knows whether the new president has the mettle of the great statesman. </p> <p>His rise to date suggests an iron fist in an exquisite velvet glove but only time will tell. He has to date upended the way presidential elections are conducted and won. To redraw the traditional lines of politics in a country as conservative as France – with a small ‘c’, is a gamble without precedent since 1958.</p> <p>In his relationship with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and unlike the manner in which he is portrayed in much of the British press, Emmanuel Macron is not a beggar. A far right Front National victory in France would have spelt political disaster for Germany and Europe. The French voters have salvaged their country’s reputation but also laid to rest, for now, the doubts about the fabric of today’s liberal democracies which came to the fore after Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. </p> <h2><strong>Taking the lead</strong></h2> <p>Mrs Merkel, whose Christian Democratic party has been bolstered by recent provincial elections looks in a good position to remain the leader of any future coalition in Germany after next September’s federal elections. </p> <p>Germany is uncomfortable in the de facto role of ‘leader’ of Europe cast upon her by recent French weakness. Mrs Merkel will not have forgotten the cartoons that appeared in some of Europe’s southern media during the Greek debt crisis, depicting her with a Hitler moustache or a pointed helmet, or how Poland and Hungary recently lambasted her refugee policies. She does not relish the thought of going down in history as the chancellor who presided over Europe’s unravelling. </p> <p>She knows that turning a cold shoulder to Macron can only help the extreme right and left in France. Her government will not refuse him all he wants. As Britain exits the EU, Germany needs France more than ever. Too many British conservatives and their rabid xenophobic cheerleaders in the Daily Mail continue to overrate German ambition and underestimate French strength – as if the prism of London in 1940 should define its true self for ever.</p> <p>Emmanuel Macron is mindful of the anger and Euro-scepticism of the working class; he will not only speak to happy France which embraces Europe and globalization. He will push for a “Buy European Act” modelled on US rules that would make it more difficult for non-EU companies to access public procurement deals; greater military co-operation between France and Germany – France could extend its nuclear umbrella eastward, and argue for the creation of a eurozone parliament. </p> <p>That is not something Wolfgang Schaüble, the German economy minister would disagree with. He knows that Germany will have to compromise on some of its economic orthodoxies. How to boost spending in the Euro zone is essential to preserving the single currency: a German-French bond could be a prelude to a ‘Eurobond’. The IMF would no doubt encourage such a move. &nbsp;</p> <p>None of this will happen quickly and, in Berlin, the Social Democrats and the foreign ministry are more enthusiastic about Macron’s proposals than the chancellor. Ahead of the federal elections, he will have to show his mettle domestically while his German counterpart will not want to give any hint that they agree with his more Keynesian thinking. </p> <h2><strong>Good news</strong></h2> <p>When she greeted Emmanuel Macron on the red carpet at the German chancellor’s office in Berlin for his first visit abroad since he became president of France on 14 May, Angela Merkel’s smile was even broader than usual. Her CDU party had just won a remarkable victory in Germany’s most important state election in North-Rhine-Westphalia, but she was going to get down to business with a passionate pro-European that had seen off the far left and right opposition to win a decisive victory in France. </p> <p>Macron’s refusal to flex French muscles against Germany, as his predecessors like to do and to play as a team is the best news for Merkel and their peers in the EU in a long time.</p><p><em>This piece was first posted on <a href="https://www.cidob.org/publicaciones/serie_de_publicacion/opinion/europa/restoring_the_franco_german_leadership_of_the_eu">Cidob's opinion </a>on May 17, 2017 and is republished with the author's kind permission.</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? UK EU Germany France International politics Brexit2016 Francis Ghilès Thu, 18 May 2017 16:48:40 +0000 Francis Ghilès 111024 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Marine Le Pen will never be France's President https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/solon-ardittis/election-of-national-front-president-in-france-was-unlikely <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Speculation about a National Front victory in the recent presidental elections was ill-founded, as is the chorus of commentators warning of a Le Pen success in 2022.</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/500209/32625380942_40cd3c6d00_h_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/32625380942_40cd3c6d00_h_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marine Le Pen 2017, Au nom du peuple. (In the name of the people). Flickr/Richard Grandmorin. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Rarely in French political history had there been such a confluence of favourable conditions for the election of an extremist and populist candidate in a presidential race: a lingering EU migrant crisis, the soaring recurrence of actual and prevented terror attacks throughout the country, increasing segments of French society feeling disenfranchised, a growing voters' fatigue with worn-out manifestos by self-seeking traditional parties, and a stagnating national economy, all seemed essential ingredients for a majority vote in favour of Marine Le Pen on May 7, 2017. </p> <p>Yet, with slightly less than 34% of the ballots in the decisive round, the level of appeal for the far-right’s credo has demonstrated that such ingredients were no longer as potent in contemporary politics as they might have been in the past. Not only this, but the near-unanimous predictions by French political commentators about the likely election of Marine Le Pen, or one of her National Front successors, in the next presidential race in 2022, also appear to be ill-founded.</p> <p>There are at least five reasons for this.</p> <p>First, during this year’s electoral campaign, more than in any other French political race in the past, the National Front has clearly exposed some of its most fundamental weaknesses and programmatic flaws. A striking case in point has been the party’s proposals for an early exit from the Eurozone, and possibly from the European Union. In addition to failing the test of scientific scrutiny about their feasibility and viability, such proposals have also been continuously amended, retracted and resurrected on an almost daily basis throughout the last few weeks of the campaign, in reaction to comments and criticism by political and civil society actors, and by the media. </p> <p>Other examples have abounded, in addition to the party’s unabated promotion of ‘fake news’, mostly imported from abroad, about its opponent, and the on-going judicial investigation of National Front MEPs for misappropriating their European Parliamentary subsidies. All of these developments, coupled with Marine Le Pen’s disastrous performance at the Presidential debate with Emmanuel Macron three days before Election Day, have no doubt dented the National Front’s aura among many of its supporters for a number of years to come. </p> <p>Second, the poor track record of local councillors from the National Front in the handful of French cities and regions where they had been elected in past elections has also been brought to light with increased discernment during this presidential election. Issues of mismanagement and drastic reductions in subsidies for charities and cultural activities, in particular, have been uncovered and duly documented throughout the campaign. As importantly, there has been a recrudescence of extremist, including Holocaust-denying statements from some senior party figures, suggesting that the party was still bedevilled by the ideological heritage of the National Front’s founder and Marine Le Pen’s father and that all efforts in recent years to ‘de-demonise’ and mainstream the party’s political lines might have been in vain.</p> <p>Third, the National Front’s inordinate dogmatism in the field of immigration, and the poor policy devices it has continued to promote in order to curb, and possibly suppress, future migrant inflows, have been firmly challenged in the course of these elections. Proposals such as the establishment of internal border controls within the European Union, when France has already reinstated such controls several months ago under Francois Hollande’s Presidency, and when most of the convicted terrorists and suspects to date have held French or European nationalities, have clearly failed to gain traction among French voters. </p> <p>Also, Marine Le Pen’s rejection of her opponent’s more sophisticated proposals for increased transnational intelligence-gathering and prevention mechanisms have no doubt discredited the National Front’s stance and vision in this key policy area. As crucially, by winning the French elections with more than 66% of the ballots, Emmanuel Macron, a strong supporter of Chancellor Merkel’s compassionate immigration policy, has also shown that French voters might, after all, be a lot less haunted by issues of immigration and borders than had been surmised by the National Front.</p> <p>Fourth, the recent election has confirmed that there was indeed a ‘glass ceiling’ beyond which the National Front was unable to gather additional votes and support. Even if the ceiling appears to have gained a few percentage points compared with previous elections, it remains way too low to predict any majority vote for the National Front in the foreseeable future. The planned relabelling of the party’s name and the planned establishment of a coalition with like-minded parties is unlikely to affect this equation, particularly when an internal ideological conflict between left and right-leaning National Front members has been mounting over the past couple of years.</p> <p>Lastly, Macron’s election has demonstrated that French voters were increasingly favouring a more eclectic political offer, particularly one that transcended traditional partisan divides and established political practices. Evidence of this was provided by the ousting, as from the first voting round, of France’s two traditional parties in the centre-left and centre-right. Although there is little doubt that Macron has been a candidate by default in the decisive round, his score in the first round still suggests that his innovative and almost politically uncommitted offer has appealed to large segments of the voting population that did not feel represented by traditional parties any more.</p> <p>For all these reasons, and subject to the newly elected President showing sufficient resolve to engage in a range of crucial reforms, it is likely that the relative momentum gained by the National Front during these elections will be seriously affected in the months and years to come. This, however, assumes that the political divide between traditional left and right-wing parties will be maintained after the parliamentary elections to be held next month, despite on-going discussions about a number of political alliances, and that the National Front will not emerge as the only opposition party and therefore as the only recourse for dissatisfied voters in future elections.</p> <p>While it is of course too early to predict the extent to which the French elections are likely to affect the rise of extremism and populism elsewhere in Europe and beyond, they have at least shown that there was no political dynamics that could not be deflected with sufficient hindsight and that traditional political assumptions and prophecies are perhaps increasingly ill-fitted to contemporary politics.</p><p><em>An earlier version of <a href="http://esharp.eu/debates/the-uk-and-europe/why-marine-le-pen-will-never-be-frances-president">this article was first published</a> in E!Sharp on May 10, 2017.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU France Civil society Democracy and government International politics Solon Ardittis Wed, 17 May 2017 07:38:45 +0000 Solon Ardittis 110970 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can banning the headscarf be indirect discrimination? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/lucy-anns/can-headscarf-be-indirect-discrimination-and-if-so-should-it-be-banned <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling allowed employers to ban their workers from wearing a headscarf as part of a company 'neutrality' policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563494/5528744266_1bd1421fc7_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563494/5528744266_1bd1421fc7_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lan Rasso. Flickr / Some Rights Reserved</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">On 14 March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that companies can ban their employees from wearing the headscarf as long as it is part of a company ‘neutrality’ policy which requests staff to dress ‘neutrally’. The court stated that this ruling did not constitute direct discrimination against any particular religion or belief as all visible religious and political symbols must be prohibited under the regulation. On the surface, the ruling seems to be a positive case for the equal treatment of staff in the face of a controversial issue. However, in analysing the rationale, it becomes evident that the pursuit of neutrality in this case, is, in fact, violating the right to freedom of religion and belief, a fundamental human right.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The ruling is violating the right to freedom of religion and belief, a fundamental human right.</p><p dir="ltr">Although the judgement does not constitute ‘direct discrimination’, the court stated that it may constitute ‘indirect discrimination’ if people of a particular faith are put at a disadvantage. Prohibiting the Islamic headscarf, often seen as a Qu’ran-instructed obligatory garment although there is some debate here, in contrast to the cross or the crucifix, certainly seems to suggest ‘indirect discrimination’. The court, on the other hand, argued that indirect discrimination is permissible if it is justified by a legitimate aim i.e. neutrality, providing that the means of achieving the aim are necessary and appropriate.</p><p dir="ltr">Two questions must be asked here. The first is whether the right to freedom of religion and belief, a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which permits the wearing of religious symbols, can be limited to preserve ‘neutrality’. If this is the case, then the second question which follows is whether outlawing all religious and political symbols is a necessary and appropriate means of achieving neutrality.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Article 18 (3) of the ICCPR, limitations to freedom of religion and belief must be prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Aiming to preserve neutrality amongst staff is certainly not in aid of protecting public safety, order or health, and is only tenuously linked to protecting public morals. Preserving neutrality could be used, however, as justification for protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of others if those freedoms were obstructed by bias or prejudice. However, this brings us to the second question: are the means of achieving the aim necessary and appropriate?</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Visibly banning all political and religious symbols in the pursuit of neutrality is neither necessary nor appropriate.</p><p dir="ltr">It implies that a Muslim who wishes to wear a headscarf or a Christian who wishes to wear a cross are in some way not neutral, and are therefore disrupting the neutrality of a company. On the contrary, everyone holds their own individual beliefs and opinions which would make them ‘partial’, and everyone has the right to manifest these.</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, since these symbols in no way constitute bias nor prejudice and therefore do not obstruct the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, prohibiting visible religious and political symbols as a way of preserving neutrality is unjustifiable. In light of this, although the policy of neutrality itself might be seen as a legitimate aim and even as a possible limitation on freedom of religion, the ban on visible religious and political symbols is neither a necessary nor appropriate means of achieving this aim.</p><p dir="ltr">In conclusion, the ruling that companies can ban their employees from wearing the headscarf as long as it is part of a company ‘neutrality’ policy, is a violation of freedom of religion and belief, a fundamental human right. Moreover, in the context of European elections where right-wing parties are latching on to issues of immigration, integration, and identity, this judgement will only exacerbate already existing tensions between Europe’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities. </p><p dir="ltr">The perceived view that religious belief and its manifestation is at best incomprehensible and at worst incompatible with European values is already noticeable at the local and the national level. Now it seems to have permeated the European level. It is time that we stop treating the right to freedom of religion and belief as a second class right and acknowledge it as a right equal to and fundamental to all other human rights.</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/authors-journalists-and-others-from-all-over-world/repeal-denmarks-blasphemy-ban-">Repeal Denmark&#039;s blasphemy ban - a petition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-seligman/burkini-as-mirror">The burkini as a mirror</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/burkinis-accepted-for-poor-woman-scrubbing-france-s-floors">Burkinis accepted: for a poor woman scrubbing France’s floors</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Lucy Anns Wed, 17 May 2017 06:51:53 +0000 Lucy Anns 110742 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We are not your case study: weaving transnational solidarities across the semi-peripheries https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/gender-ideologists/we-are-not-your-case-study-weaving-transnational-solidarities- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As transnational activists navigating this intricate landscape we need self-criticism, paying careful attention to systems of exclusion we are not immune to. But we need criticism that is generative.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 10.33.15.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 10.33.15.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot: International Women’s Strike in Budapest organised by Rhythms of Resistance on March 8th 2017. Fair use.</span></span></span>As queer-feminist activists we are used to dealing with the right-wing media’s attacks on our activities and communities. However, reading<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/orsolya-bajusz-dalma-fer/virtue-signalling-as-route-to-social-status-instances-fr"> an article</a> published on openDemocracy this April engaging in a similar kind of “critique” – was shocking. Not because transnational activism is, or should be, immune to criticism. Rather because the authors of “Virtue-signalling as a route to social status” engage in an under-researched, vehement attack on grassroots activist groups based in Hungary using misrepresentations of the local activist context aimed at burning the bridges of transnational solidarity meticulously built over recent years.</p> <p>Therefore, we are writing this response to critically tackle several of the problematic claims the authors make and correct the falsehoods they have spread. &nbsp;</p> <p>We contest the authors’ claim of an exclusive right to accurately represent the Hungarian context. We argue that this claim rests on two types of misrepresentation. First, they give an unsubstantiated caricature picture of local struggles. Second, their article misrepresents, sidelines, or straightforwardly denies the existence/importance of numerous cleavages, the salience of racism and a colonial past in structuring the current political context in Hungary. Finally, beyond the article’s effect in misrepresenting the activist communities we are part of and pitting political agendas against each other, this kind of argumentation is detrimental to a local context the authors persistently silence.</p> <h2><strong>Misrepresenting activist communities: selective mobilisation of evidence</strong></h2> <p>Fero and Bajusz’s article could almost pass for a leftist, anti-capitalist, or even queer critique of “western” appropriation of Hungarian activist politics, if it were not for some glaring inconsistencies that should alert the reader. It promises to present the voice from the semi-periphery; the subaltern can finally speak! But at a closer look, the authors appear to talk on behalf of ‘the majority of Hungarian women’. Do the majority of Hungarian women have uniform interests? Or is it inevitable that such an approach ignores the diversity of their identities, social and economic standing?</p> <p>The authors are well-versed in theoretical language. They use Nancy Fraser’s work on recognition and redistribution, cite Jasbir Puar when talking about homonationalism, and employ the world-systems-theory framework to back up their foray into what is actually a small part of the local activist landscape. Nevertheless these critical theories are cited without any serious engagement with their genealogies, political positioning, implications, or laying out relations between them and not backed up by any empirical analysis; its sources comprise a selective reading of social media posts and random online conversations lumped together under big theoretical themes like “westernization,” “virtue-signaling,” “universalism,” etc.</p> <p>Even the image used to illustrate the article is not from the public event they describe: not the<a href="http://parodemujeres.com/"> International Women’s Strike</a> in Budapest organised by Rhythms of Resistance on March 8th 2017, but from the<a href="https://actionnetwork.org/events/womens-march-on-budapest"> Women’s March on Budapest</a> that happened on January 21st 2017 in relation to the<a href="https://www.womensmarch.com/"> Women’s March on Washington</a> and organised by a completely different group. <strong>[Apologies – flagged up early on by commenters, this misleading mistake was entirely due to the editor.]&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>The article directly attacks several related local initiatives for their transnational membership: Rhythms of Resistance, Klit, and the latter’s feminist self-defense trainings. Throughout the years, these activities have engaged people from many different backgrounds residing in Budapest, some Hungarian, some coming from neighbouring countries, some from the ex-ostbloc, including from countries where Hungary is already considered part of the “west” (Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan). Some of us are students (coming from CEU, ELTE or other local uni’s), some of us workers, some of us perfectly speak Hungarian as a native language or after learning it, some of us use English, always our second or third language.</p> <p>Our collectives and extended network of comrades have consistently been under the scrutiny of far right groups, and sometimes directly attacked. The fact that we never publicized the address of our community space is not unintentional. The fact that we felt the need to train ourselves in self-defense techniques and ensure a safer space for other participants is not something to be taken lightly, either as a joke, or as a pretentious whim to show off our “virtues”. &nbsp;</p> <p>In this context it is especially damaging that the authors in their conclusion directly link the (ongoing) right-wing attacks on reproductive justice, <a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/gender-studies-under-attack-from-new-right#survey-answer">gender education</a>, and other feminist initiatives to the <a href="http://parodemujeres.com/about-us-acerca-de/">International Women’s Strike</a>. They blame the local branch of this grassroots movement joined by 54 countries worldwide – with the call for a general strike coming from Argentina, and inspired by the <a href="http://strajkkobiet.eu/">Black Protest</a> in Poland – for the apparent exacerbation of anti-gender mobilization, especially that targeting the <a href="https://444.hu/2017/02/23/tenyleg-mi-szukseg-lehet-egy-gender-szakra-magyarorszagon">opening of the gender studies department at the Eötvös Loránd Science University</a> and the <a href="https://nokert.hu/v-20170416-1339/1898/1/kormany-azert-nem-hirdeti-ki-az-isztambuli-egyezmenyt-mert-nem-ert-egyet">Istanbul Convention</a> (both addressed by local speakers of the demonstration).</p> <p>The problem is that Fero and Bajusz confuse cause and effect. Right-wing media have been negatively reporting on both of those instances repeatedly. The accusation that any action taken against those discriminatory measures provides “the Hungarian right with an ample opportunity to forge their own political capital” – can only be destructive to the feminist/anti-fascist cause and crucial alliances that need to be forged in these times of an increased <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jonathan-lee/ceu-and-ngo-crackdown-double-blow-for-roma-inclusion-in-hungary">government crackdown</a> on women, Roma, migrants, asylum seekers, workers, and most recently <a href="http://www.helsinki.hu/en/timeline-of-governmental-attacks-against-ngos/">NGOs</a> and <a href="https://www.boell.de/en/2017/05/03/orban-vs-world-background-context-lex-ceu?utm_content=buffer3fccf&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer">universities</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Misrepresenting the Hungarian political context: selective historical memory and silencing of ongoing struggles</strong></h2> <p>Although the authors spare much ink criticizing transnational activists for their apparent lack of knowledge about the local context of Hungary, their own standpoint on that context is too limited. It disregards many marginalised groups deemed insignificant for pursuing the kinds of feminist politics they want to rescue from the grip of “ideological constraints” of “westernization” perpetuated by what they consider “fashionable forms of intersectionality.” While non-Hungarian activists are labelled “western” colonizers, local Hungarian activists who do not share the authors’ views are either omitted from their narrative or presented as “self-colonizing.” You just can’t win.</p> <p>They say Hungary was always occupied, but never an occupier (“Hungary having neither a sizeable black minority nor a colonial past”). But leaving aside Hungary's occupation practices during the Second World War, throughout its history as part of the Habsburg empire, Hungary participated in European colonial interventions. For example, the Habsburg Empire’s navy was under Hungarian command and was instrumental in colonial endeavours reaching as far as Mexico. Or take <a href="https://books.google.cz/books?id=kVncAwAAQBAJ&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">Hungary’s role</a> in the <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/106232707/Tomislav-Kraljacic-Kalajev-Rezim-u-Bosni-i-Hercegovini-1882-1903">occupation and administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina</a> in the late nineteenth century, or its establishment of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Austro-Hungarian_troops_in_China_circa_1903-04.jpg">colonies in China </a>in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concessions_in_Tianjin#Austro-Hungarian_concession_.281901.E2.80.931917.2">early twentieth century</a>.</p> <p>These historical omissions not only posit Hungary as a victim of western powers and absolve it of any responsibility it has for benefiting from colonialism, but they also align the authors with a binary nationalist rhetoric instrumentalized by the Hungarian government.</p> <p>More disturbingly, we learn that racism is not an issue in Hungary because “cultural codes are much more direct markers of marginality than skin colour or phenotype,” and that fascism is not a real threat these days (“whoever the fascists are supposed to be”). These arguments boil down to a peculiar quantitative approach in which issues of race, class, gender identity, sexuality are not relevant to an imagined “majority” of Hungarian women.</p> <p>This approach completely wipes out the large Hungarian Roma community from the picture, as well other people of colour who do live in Hungary, and disregards the strong anti-migrant propaganda and measures employed by the Fidesz government based on white supremacist principles. The inhumane ways in which the authorities have handled the refugee crisis, <a href="http://www.migszol.com/blog/kids-in-jail-and-a-price-tag-for-detention-what-does-the-new-hungarian-asylum-law-mean-in-practice">border violence, and the introduction of harsher and harsher measures, detention and imprisonment of asylum seekers</a> give a very different context for local organising than the one presented by Fero and Bajusz.&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors state that transphobia and sex workers’ rights are issues “completely alien to the lived reality of most Hungarian women as they focus on tiny minorities from an individualist, identitarian perspective that serves to hide structural issues.” Already the use of terms such as “transgenderism,” or the reduction of trans and sex worker activism to “individualist” and “identitarian” stances shows ignorance of the lived realities of groups the authors themselves don’t identify with, helping to render their marginalization and oppression within society invisible, and downplaying the extent to which this is indeed about material conditions and class relations.</p> <p>By completely denying how trans folks face more patriarchal violence, and by delegitimizing trans activism as an “alien” and “western” concept, the authors further reinforce oppression and erase hardwon organizing for trans rights and liberation, precisely against western colonial hangovers. This approach denies the ways in which cisheterosexist traditional roles have been an integral part of European cultures, including that of Hungary. Transphobia itself has been traditionally a European and Hungarian “value”, reinforced upon people and cultures that for centuries have been doing gender differently. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is global capitalism that pushes the most exploited women, queer and trans folks, who are most often also racialized, towards the margins of society, allowing them to abuse and punish us, denying our existence, taking away our jobs, our homes, our communities. The fact that the authors reject a similarly urgent need to stand for (sex) workers’ rights is telling – it directly contributes to sabotaging some of our survival strategies and means of economic resistance. This is not to deny that exploitation happens in the sex industry, but rather that any push for criminalization and advancement of the prison industrial complex in the name of “saving” people further affect the lives of the most precarious.</p> <p>The same abolitionist rhetoric the authors are employing, together with mainstream anti-trafficking (read: anti-sex work/ers) discourses, have been used in western countries to target the most vulnerable migrant sex workers – to be punished, incarcerated, <a href="http://www.sexworkeurope.org/news/general-news/resource-surveilled-exploited-deported-rights-violations-against-migrant-sex">deported</a>. This is a reality sex workers in the east have longed<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/sws/netochka-nezvanova/trafficking-discourses-and-sex-workers-mobilisation-in-eastern-euro"> talked</a> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/sws/we-don-t-do-sex-work-because-we-are-poor-we-do-sex-work-to-end-our-poverty">about</a>, and mobilized against. Incarceration and deportation of migrant sex workers in the name of “rescuing” and “freeing them from prostitution” equally speaks to nationalisms and anti-migration /anti-foreigners movements, reinforcing border violence and imperialism. Such political positioning and activism does nothing to stop the violence.&nbsp;</p> <p>Local trans activists and sex workers’ rights activists in Hungary have suffered in the last years a long series of attacks from the far right. However more disappointing are the attacks from other people, mainstream feminist and LGBT groups and organizations that one would rather expect to act as allies. The two authors have a history of launching online <a href="http://transvanilla.hu/hirek/kik-azok-a-terf-ek-es-miert-kell-aggodnunk-miattuk">attacks</a> against local sex workers’ rights or<a href="http://24.hu/kozelet/2017/01/11/fura-feministak-kiabaltak-egy-transznemuvel-egy-megnyiton/"> trans activists</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Why misrepresentations hurt and what can be done</strong></h2> <p>We have to ask who gets to speak for whom, whose voice is legitimized? Is being Hungarian/a non-foreigner, white of course, and perfectly fluent in Hungarian a strict prerequisite to understanding the context we live in, and the legitimacy of one’s political work?</p> <p>Within the limited framework proposed by Bajusz and Fero and their claim to “representational legitimacy,” not only is transregional and transnational activism blamed for the prominence of the anti-gender agenda of the Hungarian right, but locals who are not part of the white middle-class cisgender “Hungarian majority” are silenced and dismissed. Every form of struggle and activism not pertaining to this majority is deemed as predicated on “westernized universalism,” or a form of complete co-optation by neoliberalism as the authors attempt to argue, based on Fraser’s work.</p> <p>The authors also recycle the myth about identity politics taking over, lamenting the apparent imbalance between recognition and redistribution. But their accusation of “universalism”, paradoxically, comes from an universalist standpoint that renders invisible many lives and experiences.</p> <p>The semi-peripheries is a largely under-researched terrain and a capacious sphere for projecting claims to authenticity and coopting different struggles, for example as <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277539514001204">homonationalist formations</a>. But even the liminal <a href="https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2017/04/27/opening-the-semi-periphery-decolonisation-and-socialist-hungary/">semi-peripheries</a> don’t exist in a vacuum and are critically depended on their relations to the centre and the peripheries. Those dependencies delimit the shape of regional and local politics and make transnational activism a necessity, rather than an obstacle, as was suggested by the authors.</p> <p>In the current political situation in Hungary, as well as globally, we need to commit our energies towards building lasting alliances and finding ways of not only contesting, but also resisting the rise of the global right and its damaging effects on the most vulnerable communities. In knitting together this intricate web of complex interconnections there are no innocent positions: some nodes of power are thicker than others; some patterns of collaborations are tighter than others; the social fabric is never flat, nor fully horizontal.</p> <p>As transnational activists navigating this intricate landscape we still need to engage in self-criticism, paying careful attention to systems of exclusion we are not immune to, in order to strive for better ways of engaging with each other. But we ought to seek out criticism that is generative, not spiteful. We need nuanced and methodologically sharp <a href="http://www.e-ir.info/2015/09/10/lgbt-rights-standards-of-civilisation-and-the-multipolar-world-order/">analyses</a> of the semi-peripheries we live in, and their relations to the world order.</p> <p>It is these meticulously interwoven solidarities and cross-border collaborations, in which “virtues” are not as much part of the vocabulary, that get us closer to dismantling the oppressive intertwined structures of global capitalism, racism, patriarchy, militaristic nationalism, and right-wing populism that affect us locally.&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/orsolya-bajusz-dalma-fer/virtue-signalling-as-route-to-social-status-instances-fr">Virtue-signalling as a route to social status: instances from the semi-periphery</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"> Hungary </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"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Gender ideologists Tue, 16 May 2017 20:41:57 +0000 Gender ideologists 110922 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From across the world together against the G20: an open letter to the people of Hamburg https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/women-and-men-from-all-over-europe-and-world/from-across-world-together-against-g <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“So we ask you to open your city to us, not to be scared but to welcome us when we come to raise our collective voice for social equality, freedom and 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/500209/26698291545_7c9349ce51_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/26698291545_7c9349ce51_z.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>AG Nuit debout 28 avril 2016. Paris, place de la République. Flickr/ Jeanne Menjoulet. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Dear people of Hamburg, you might wonder who is writing to you.</p> <p>We are women and men from all over Europe and the world, citizens or activists in many different networks, and from all walks of life. We have very different ages and political persuasions. </p> <p>We’re the people who aim to join you in Hamburg, your city, to support the protests this July when the leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful countries will meet in the very heart of the city. </p> <p>You have mostly heard about us from politicians and media who want to make you afraid of us, describing us as “troublemakers” or “vandals”… However, with this letter to you we want to join hands with you since we are all subjected to the same global policies created at these summits, where the few think they can decide for all of our lives.</p> <p>You are subjected to red, yellow and blue zones. You’ve seen control stations, police forces and machinery in your city before, as at the OSCE summit, and you will see even more soon. We can imagine how you feel, when your freedom of living, movement and assembly and those of your friends, neighbours and colleagues are suspended – even if only temporarily. </p> <p>We also know this from our own worlds. In recent months, we’ve been hitting the roads of the US, raising up a million voices and marching in the growing resistance to Trump, asserting racial, social and gender justice against the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, xenophobic, climate-denialist, corporate-controlled United States he is building. We know that many of you are also fighting the Right, against the AfD or autocratic rulers such as Erdogan, and that many of you share our opposition to the constant warfare exported around the world.</p> <p>Often our rights to assemble – like yours – are violated in these struggles.&nbsp; We have fought for years to defend our planet from the threats posed by climate change and ecological crisis, from the expropriation and devastation, from the multinationals’ resource extraction and exploitation of the lands where we live. Some of us were in North Dakota to put our bodies in front of the Access Pipeline. Some of us have opposed the long-lasting violence against the Amazon rainforest – as you have fought Moorburg or against useless, expensive mega-projects like the Olympics or fought to re-communalize water and energy. </p> <p>Others of us have protested against undemocratic, corrupt regimes in Brazil (35 million on general strike against Temer’s austerity this April), Russia (100 cities staged anti-corruption protests against Prime Minister Medvedev’s corruption), India (180 million workers fought Modi’s neoliberalism one day last September), China (with more than 100,000 protests each year), and South Africa (regular mass and micro protests against Zuma’s neoliberal plutocracy) – showing from below that BRICS elites are no better than the other G20 rulers.</p> <p>Last year many of us met on the streets in Paris, against the elites who threaten our very lives by continuously reinforcing precarious labour and living conditions. The <em>Loi Travail</em> was a dramatic turning point for this process in Europe, but we also know how it feels to work at so-called <em>mini-jobs,</em> as millions of young people do in Germany – and we experienced how these struggles feel – for young and old – in times of a “state of emergency”. But we know this is a struggle for survival and solidarity. And you – like people everywhere – showed this by welcoming fellow citizens of the earth fleeing war, hunger and devastation, when you opened your homes and city for those in need. It is obvious; Merkel’s dirty EU-Turkey deal against refugees represents neither you nor us.&nbsp; </p> <p>However, we often meet bitter opposition to our rights to struggle, to assemble, to protest – from the police or the State. The governments of Hamburg, Germany and other powerful G20 states would like to silence and remove us from the public scene, so that they don’t have to hear that we are many and that we are loud, and that they don’t represent us – neither in Africa, Europe, the Americas or elsewhere in the world.</p> <p>The choices that the “powerful Twenty” will discuss and propose in Hamburg in July are the same policies turning our cities into playgrounds for high-profit real estate and financial speculation; making rents unaffordable and raising the cost of living; pushing ordinary people out of urban centres; making our neighbourhoods uninhabitable; privatizing public services and common goods; and other policies making life increasingly difficult for the great majority. </p> <p><strong>They are the real invaders and destroyers of our cities. We must defend and protect ourselves from them together!</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>So we ask you to open your city to us, not to be scared but to welcome us when we come to raise our collective voice for social equality, freedom and democracy. They want capitalism without democracy: we want democracy without capitalism. This is what we already demanded in Frankfurt, at the European Central Bank opening. We learned there that where the “powerful Twenty” are, and where capitalism and violence are, there can be no democracy. </p> <p>When Trump, Erdogan, Putin, Temer, Modi, Zuma, Macri, Xi, May, Peña Nieto, King Salman, Merkel and the other crooks and tyrants meet, planning their next moves to exploit our lives and our territories, we must stand up to block them. </p> <p>If they want a democracy-free zone in Hamburg, we want a G20-free Hamburg instead. </p> <p>In solidarity with you, people of Hamburg, we will come together in July to show that there is another world, an alternative one to theirs. <strong>We will carefully respect the city and its activities, because we are really happy to come to Hamburg and visit your neighbourhoods with such lively, diverse cultures, with such a strong sense of freedom and solidarity, with such an important history of struggles for social, environmental, economic and civil rights for everyone.</strong> And we hope that we will join and come to know each other in the streets! </p> <p>We are many, we are loud and we will be in Hamburg with all of you – to show the entire world and become the alternatives to today’s misery.</p> <p><strong>Bettina Müller</strong>, Attac (Argentina) </p> <p><strong>Laurence Cox</strong>, National University of Ireland Maynooth (Ireland) </p> <p><strong>Fanny Top</strong>, engineer (France) </p> <p><strong>Patrick Bond</strong>, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) </p> <p><strong>Ilaria Riccardi</strong>, Bologna social centres (Italy) </p> <p><strong>Corinna Genschel </strong>(Germany) </p> <p>and others for the <strong>International G20 Coordination</strong>, <a href="mailto:international@g20-2017.org">international@g20-2017.org</a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="289" height="173" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u548777/1_0.jpg" alt="" width="140"> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany Women and men from all over Europe and the world Tue, 16 May 2017 18:47:22 +0000 Women and men from all over Europe and the world 110905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Repeal Denmark's blasphemy ban - a petition https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/authors-journalists-and-others-from-all-over-world/repeal-denmarks-blasphemy-ban- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Denmark’s blasphemy ban was recently revived when a man was charged for burning the Quran. Signatories argue that an expression grossly offensive to religious believers merits protection as peaceful 'free speech'.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>We the undersigned respectfully urge the Danish Parliament to vote in favour of bill L 170 repealing the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code, punishing “Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community”.<br /> <br /> Denmark is recognized as a global leader when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. However, Denmark’s blasphemy ban is manifestly inconsistent with the Danish tradition for frank and open debate, and puts Denmark in the same category as illiberal states where blasphemy laws are being used to silence dissent and persecute minorities. The recent decision to charge a man – who had burned the Quran – for violating section 140 for the first time since 1971, demonstrates that the blasphemy ban is not merely of symbolic value. It represents a significant retrograde step in the protection of freedom of expression in Denmark.&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> <br /> The Danish blasphemy ban is incompatible with both freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is no compelling reason why the feelings of religious believers should receive special protection against offense. In a vibrant and pluralistic democracy, all issues must be open to even harsh and scathing debate, criticism and satire. While the burning of holy books may be grossly offensive to religious believers it is nonetheless a peaceful form of symbolic expression that must be protected by free speech.<br /> <br /> Numerous Danes have offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Muslims without being charged under section 140. This includes a film detailing the supposed erotic life of Jesus Christ, the burning of the Bible on national TV and the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The Cartoon affair landed Denmark in a storm of controversy and years of ongoing terrorist threats against journalists, editors and cartoonists. When terror struck in February 2015 the venue was a public debate on blasphemy and free speech. <br /> <br /> In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended. In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended.Retaining the blasphemy ban is also incompatible with Denmark’s human rights obligations. In April 2017 Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagtland emphasized that “blasphemy should not be deemed a criminal offence as the freedom of conscience forms part of freedom of expression”. This position is shared by the UN’s Human Rights Committee and the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression and Religion.<br /> <br /> Since 2014,The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland and Malta have all abolished blasphemy bans. By going against this trend Denmark will undermine the crucial European and international efforts to repeal blasphemy bans globally.<br /> <br /> This has real consequences for human beings, religious and secular, around the globe. In countries like Pakistan, Mauritania, Iran, Indonesia and Russia blasphemy bans are being used against minorities and political and religious dissenters.&nbsp; Denmark’s blasphemy ban can be used to legitimize such laws. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief pointed out that “During a conference held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) [in 2015], the Danish blasphemy provision was cited by one presenter as an example allegedly indicating an emerging international customary law on “combating defamation of religions”. <br /> <br /> Blasphemy laws often serve to legitimize violence and terror. In Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh free thinkers, members of religious minorities and atheists have been killed by extremists. In a world where freedom of expression is in retreat and extremism on the rise, democracies like Denmark must forcefully demonstrate that inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant societies are built on the right to think, believe and speak freely. By voting to repeal the blasphemy ban Denmark will send a clear signal that it stands in solidarity with the victims and not the enforcers of blasphemy laws.</p> <p>Jacob Mchangama, Executive director, Justitia<br />Steven Pinker, Professor Harvard University<br />Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Exiled editor of Shuddhashar, 2016 winner International Writer of Courage Award <br />Pascal Bruckner, Author<br />Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Human Rights Activist Founder of AHA Foundation,<br />Dr. Elham Manea, academic and human rights advocate (Switzerland) <br />Sultana Kamal, Chairperson, Centre for Social Activism Bangladesh<br />Deeyah Khan, CEO @Fuuse &amp; founder @sister_hood_mag.<br />Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws<br />William Nygaard, Publisher<br />Flemming Rose, Author and journalist<br />Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship<br />Kenan Malik, Author of From Fatwa to Jihad<br />Thomas Hughes, Executive Director Article 19<br />Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America<br />Pragna Patel - Director of Southall Black Sisters<br />Leena Krohn, Finnish writer<br />Jeanne Favret-Saada, Honorary Professor of Anthropology, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,<br />Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain<br />Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV<br />Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor, University of Aalborg in Copenhagen<br />Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women's Issue<br />Michael De Dora, Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry<br />Robyn Blumner, President &amp; CEO, Center for Inquiry<br />Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (Poland).<br />Sonja Biserko, Founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia<br />James Lindsay, Author<br />Mahal Mali, Publisher and editor, Areo Magazine<br />Julie Lenarz - Executive Director, Human Security Centre, London<br />Terry Sanderson President, National Secular Society<br />Greg Lukianoff, CEO and President, FIRE<br />Thomas Cushman, Professor Wellesley College<br />Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School<br />Simon Cottee, the Freedom Project, Wellesley College<br />Paul Cliteur, professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University <br />Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb, Croatia<br />Lalia Ducos, Women's Initiative for Citizenship and Universals Rights , WICUR<br />Lepa Mladjenovic, LC, Belgrade<br />Elsa Antonioni, Casa per non subire violenza, Bologna<br />Bobana Macanovic, Autonomos Women's Center, Director, Belgrade<br />Harsh Kapoor, Editor, South Asia Citizens Web<br />Mehdi Mozaffari, Professor Em., Aarhus University, Denmark<br />Øystein Rian, Historian, Professor Emeritus University of Oslo<br />Kjetil Jakobsen, Professor Nord University<br />Scott Griffen, Director of Press Freedom Programmes International Press Institute (IPI) <br />Henryk Broder, Journalist&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;<br />David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées, Atheist freethinkers&nbsp; Tom Herrenberg, Lecturer University of Leiden<br />Simone Castagno, Coordinamento Liguria Rainbow <br />Laura Caille, Secretary General Libres Mariannes General <br />Andy Heintz, writer<br />Bernice Dubois, Conseil Européen des Fédérations WIZO&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;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &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"> Denmark </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Denmark journalists and others from all over the world Authors Mon, 15 May 2017 11:16:20 +0000 Authors and journalists and others from all over the world 110888 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges https://www.opendemocracy.net/edward-palairet/neighbourhood-responses-to-brexit-challenges <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Taking back control”, they said. If that means being active citizens and active listeners, there may be hope.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/1547471800_6daa42f241_b.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Barton Hill, Bristol. Synwell/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)</p> <p>Brexit has presented us with a series of new challenges and revived some old ones. While these are of continental magnitude, very practical ways forward at the very local level (that people can engage with organically) can be more effective than grand solutions that too often seem ‘out of touch’.</p> <p>Neighbourhoods are not the only unit of political organisation, interest or identity. Indeed, some people simply use their address to sleep and receive bills, while others use their address as a base around which to have meaningful social interactions, create community and become active in their neighbourhood. This means that not everyone will engage with the concept of ‘neighbourhood’, but here are a few good reasons from the #BristolBrexit discussions to start doing so. </p> <p>In the last decade, our neighbourhoods have been affected by the financial crisis (e.g. planned buildings haven’t been built), by our politicians and media blaming our society’s most vulnerable people, by the effects of national cuts, and now we brace ourselves for the local (Bristol City Council) cuts and the unknowns of Brexit.</p> <p>Understandably, many residents do feel like helpless victims. So it was good to have, among others, the two wards least “satisfied with their neighbourhood” (in the <a href="https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/33896/Results+of+quality+of+life+in+Bristol+survey+2015+to+2016/2a83bda4-fed5-400d-b638-2d2c72f67507">2015 Bristol quality of life survey</a>) represented at the workshop. We heard residents of Barton Hill, Filwood and Hartcliffe share their experiences. The UK 2011 census describes the demographics of Filwood and Hartcliffe as ‘blue collar communities’ (white working class). In contrast, Barton Hill is a residential area that includes retail and industrial premises and boasts 77 nationalities. </p> <p><strong>Will the communities that currently feel ‘left behind’ by Westminster-plus-Brussels also be left behind by Westminster-minus-Brussels?</strong></p> <p>The day after the referendum there was much derision towards areas of the country currently receiving vast sums of money from the European Union that, having voted for Brexit, started panicking and wanting assurances that this money would continue to be received … from somewhere! Everyone receiving funding – whether from local or central government, corporate giving or even private philanthropy – is at risk of losing that income stream if the money isn’t available post-Brexit, irrespective of how well the need is documented and presented. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">What about those who were already ‘left behind’ before the referendum?</p> <p>But what about those who were already ‘left behind’ before the referendum? We heard about Hartcliffe, a housing estate of 11,000 people with no bank or launderette, and with a number of social issues. And Barton Hill’s seemingly fragmented communities that, we were told, cohabitate ‘well’ by tending to remain in safe groups and not interacting with each other. Tensions rise when fighting over limited resources (e.g. fighting in the launderette) as seemingly harmonious living is made worse when focusing on what people don’t have.</p> <p>In Brexit Britain, there is a very real risk of Westminster being much less immune to lobbying by corporate interests than Brussels is. This is both positive and negative: positive change might be easier to implement, but so too will negative change. Depending on the specific details of the negotiations, Brexit has the power to change everything we thought we knew. But how confident are we that the needs of the communities that were already not thriving are being represented during these negotiations?</p> <p><em>Interim solution: There needs to be active listening from decision makers at a local level</em></p> <p>Actively including people living in neighbourhoods where the English language, literacy, and/or access to the internet are not guaranteed <em>can</em> be achieved. For example, the ‘Up Your Street’ initiative has helped people to have their say by asking people questions on their doorstep in a language they understand. Also, community organisations have held the Bristol strategy consultation as face-to-face discussions in their community spaces and then filled in the online form, so that the city council could receive feedback from residents who hadn’t responded using the more traditional lines of communication. </p> <p><em>Interim solution: Local solutions for local problems, or empowerment rather than dependence</em></p> <p>As Bristol fades out its neighbourhood partnerships at the same time as we transition out of the EU, we need to be skilling people up: equipping them to face the uncertainties of the future. In order for people to step up, a new depth of understanding is needed (e.g. about governance, about how funding works, or even how to interact in meetings) to be able to influence decisions, to be effective active citizens and to pioneer the local solutions we need.</p> <p><strong>How can communities who suffered from the post-referendum race-hate crimes respond?</strong></p> <p>Media coverage and the tone the debate was allowed to take – which previously would have been deemed not ‘politically correct’ – is an inescapable theme when discussing Brexit. This has created an atmosphere where open racism is no longer culturally taboo, and people wanting to believe that the referendum result means more than half the voters are racist feel justified in using abusive behaviour towards people who don’t look or sound like them. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">In Filwood, there are few interactions on the Broadway and social spaces are closing down one by one.</p> <p>We need more facts and information and fewer opinion pieces that disseminate prejudices – even those we want to believe – since these lead to distrust, segregation, hatred and ultimately, victims. The themes of <em>the media</em> and <em>racism</em> were well covered in the workshop, but sadly I need to mention them here as my neighbourhood was not free of post-referendum race-hate crime. My neighbourhood wasn’t the only one, as the stats from Bristol have shown a surge in this type of reported crime since the referendum. In a show of solidarity for the victims, a Peace Picnic was organised in Filwood Broadway on 31 July 2016. </p> <p>While reconciliation and education are needed as remedies, one simple solution was discussed at length from the ‘neighbourhoods’ perspective:</p> <p><em>Interim solution: inclusive shared spaces: ‘us’ and ‘the other’ interacting in neighbourhoods</em></p> <p>The importance of shared spaces is that they allow us to fact-check some of the disinformation by putting us in contact with the people that the tabloids vilify. But with fewer and fewer shared social spaces to interact in, where are people going to meet people that are different from themselves, to learn from them?</p> <p>We heard that in Barton Hill, a high rise residential area, streets are not social spaces, and community spaces are not actually shared: people seem to take turns to use the space rather than co-occupy the park or the launderette. In Filwood, there are few interactions on the Broadway and social spaces are closing down one by one. First one pub became a block of flats, then another pub became a Tesco; now 100+ houses are being built on the Filwood Park green space.</p> <p>In a time when people are either behind their mobile phone or behind closed doors, and when Bristol’s housing market is reinforcing social segregation whether it is by class, generation or ethnic groups, shared spaces can still be created. For example, initiatives that engage families can also benefit the elderly. </p> <h2>Facing the future, together</h2> <p>The Brexit debate has brought out a lot of ugly things into the open that have changed the feel of our communities. Now that they are visible, it is time to engage our city as it really is: the examples above are from Bristol. While we could hope that a few individual residents might take on the challenge of actively making non-Bristolians (including non UK nationals) feel welcome in Bristol, such as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jan/18/britons-should-learn-polish-punjabi-and-urdu-to-boost-social-cohesion">by learning Polish</a>, in terms of scalable action it would already be a challenge to get neighbours to interact more to generate community cohesion. Interaction is a risk many people avoid, it is often perceived as safer to keep oneself to oneself. The top ten interim solutions the ‘neighbourhoods’ discussion table would like to see us now prepare are:</p> <p><strong>That individuals:</strong></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• use or create shared spaces to facilitate encounters with others and learn from them, e.g. local initiatives such as <a href="http://www.thenoise.org.uk/index.php/weekend">Bristol Noise</a> family fun days, cross-community story-telling, <a href="http://www.91ways.org/">91 Ways</a> pop-up cafés and <a href="https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/playing-out">Playing Out</a> (closing the street to cars to allow residents to use the space);</p> <p>• be active citizens</p> <p>• consider connecting with their local Bristol City Council community development officer who knows about asset based community development (ABCD)</p> </div> <p><strong>That the city of Bristol:</strong></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• actively listens, discerning solutions <em>with</em> residents not for them (success stories above);</p> <p>• invests now to equip people with new skills to be part of the solution;</p> <p>• gets communities mobilised with the help of <a href="http://www.citizensuk.org/about_us">Citizens UK</a>;</p> <p>• develops a co-produced Bristol Integration Strategy that addresses the issues we face.</p> </div> <p><strong>That researchers:</strong></p> <div style="margin-left:25px;text-indent:-8px;"> <p>• deepen our collective understanding of what people consider community spaces to be, what spaces successfully bring people together, what spaces create a sense of ownership;</p> <p>• explore how best to encourage shared use of community hubs;</p> <p>• develop a joined-up understanding of where assets are located (Bristol City Council’s <a href="http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/pinpoint/?service=localinfo&amp;layer=Community+venues">map</a> of community assets) and how people perceive and use them or not (including the use of existing GIS data to understand how people use or navigate spaces in the city: how, when, with whom, how safe or dangerous, accessible or inaccessible they are perceived to be).</p> </div> <p>At the individual, community or organisational level, there are steps that can be taken to respond proactively to the new (or newly visible) challenges we face. ‘Taking back control’ means taking responsibility for modelling the society we want.</p> <p><em>This article has been written by a participant in the #BristolBrexit - a city responds to Brexit initiative. The views expressed here are personal views and do not reflect the views of the University of Bristol or the funders of the organisers' research.</em></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner"><p><strong>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit</strong></p> <p>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit is a free public event at @Bristol on the 23rd of May from 10.00-13.00. The event, organised by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the University of the West of England and the University of Bath brings together stakeholders, practitioners, activists, educators, business people, city officials, religious leaders, and charity representatives to collectively and collaboratively address the challenges of uncertainty brought about by Brexit. The event will feature a series of interactive formats to bring representatives from across the city together to develop new and innovative strategies for taking Bristol into the future.</p><p><strong>All are invited: <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bristolbrexit-a-city-responds-to-brexit-tickets-33271861032">register here</a>.</strong></p> </div></div> <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"> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jon-fox/bristolbrexit-city-responds-to-brexit">#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit</a><br /><span>JON FOX</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edward-palairet/neighbourhood-responses-to-brexit-challenges">Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges</a><br /><span>EDWARD PALAIRET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hector-rios/making-sense-of-brexit-foreigners-in-defence-of-foreigners-rights">Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights</a><br /><span>HECTOR RIOS</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/glenn-morgan/brexit-bristol-and-business">Brexit, Bristol and business</a><br /><span>GLENN MORGAN</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/natasha-carver-jessica-hambly/brexit-where-bureaucracy-becomes-brutal">Brexit and unemployment: where bureaucracy becomes brutal</a><br /><span>NATASHA CARVER<br />JESSICA HAMBLY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-appleby/bristol-brexit-and-creative-challenge">Bristol, Brexit and the creative challenge</a><br /><span>PAUL APPLEBY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/christian-dadomo-no-lle-qu-nivet/automatic-transformation-of-eu-citizenship-rights-is-way-forward">Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward</a><br /><span>CHRISTIAN DADOMO<br />NOËLLE QUÉNIVET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/magda-mogilnicka/how-can-we-resist-post-brexit-racism">How can we resist post-Brexit racism?</a><br /><span>MAGDA MOGILNICKA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beverley-orr-ewing/what-will-brexit-mean-for-future-of-european-student-mobility">What will Brexit mean for the future of European student mobility?</a><br /><span>BEVERLEY ORR-EWING</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/neema-begum/many-brexits-of-bristol">The many Brexits of Bristol</a><br /><span>NEEMA BEGUM</span><hr /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Brexit Migration Watch</strong></p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ramah-ahmed/how-will-global-britain-approach-asylum">How will a ‘global Britain’ approach asylum?<br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/marianne-lagrue/brexit-free-movement-and-children-s-rights">Brexit, free movement and children’s rights</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/joe-turner/international-family-life-after-brexit-further-sanctions-on-intimacy">International family life after Brexit: further sanctions on intimacy?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JOE TURNER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/andrew-crane/brexit-as-driver-of-modern-slavery">Brexit as a driver of modern slavery?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ANDREW CRANE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/benjamin-hulme/could-brexit-be-boon-to-human-smuggling">Could Brexit be a boon to human smuggling?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">BENJAMIN HULME</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ruvi-ziegler/eu-notification-of-withdrawal-bill-bargaining-chips-on-commons-table">The EU (notification of withdrawal) bill: bargaining chips on the Commons table</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">RUVI ZIEGLER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jordi-giner-monfort/what-will-happen-ma-ana-brexit-and-return-migration-of-retirees-from-spain">What will happen mañana? Brexit and return migration of retirees from Spain</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JORDI GINER-MONFORT</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/elisa-mosler-vidal/post-facts-post-gains-economics-of-labour-migration-after-brexit">Post-facts, post-gains: the economics of labour migration after Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ELISA MOSLER VIDAL</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/zaki-nahaboo/rights-and-wrongs-of-high-court-ruling-on-triggering-article-50">The rights and wrongs of the High Court ruling on triggering Article 50</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ZAKI NAHABOO</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/owen-parker/labour-party-free-movement-and-brexit">The Labour Party, free movement and Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">OWEN PARKER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/gurminder-k-bhambra/brexit-commonwealth-and-exclusionary-citizenship">Brexit, the Commonwealth, and exclusionary citizenship</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">GURMINDER K. BHAMBRA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/lucy-mayblin/what-will-brexit-mean-for-asylum-in-uk">What will Brexit mean for asylum in the UK?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">LUCY MAYBLIN</span></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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK #BristolBrexit Brexit migration watch Brexit and the Economy Brexit Brexit2016 Edward Palairet Mon, 15 May 2017 06:55:10 +0000 Edward Palairet 110882 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/jon-fox/bristolbrexit-city-responds-to-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Uncertainty is plaguing the transition to a post-Brexit Britain. Cities can, and must, address it head on in ways that work best for them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/26272624423_47535089b0_k.jpg" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">Stokes Croft, Bristol. Jim Killock/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)</p> <p>The plot thickens. When Theresa May called a snap general election for 8 June she introduced the latest twist in the sordid Brexit tale that has been unravelling over the past year. The emerging plotline is peopled by a colourful cast of heroes and villains (though who fills which role is a matter of personal taste), teeming with intrigue and innuendo, and vacillating daily (or hourly) between tragedy and comedy.</p> <p>We can ask how we got here, or prophesise about what the future holds, or pound the streets with our campaign of choice. We can also wring our hands, pray to our gods, and retreat into a life of Brexit-free asceticism. Or we can do something about the <em>uncertainty </em>that Brexit has produced. All these plot twists, the relentless manoeuvrings, and the onslaught of contradicting predictions have produced for many a paralysing uncertainty. Post-Brexit Britain has become a world of ‘what ifs’, and until documents are signed in Brussels it will remain as such. It’s not Brexit we need to deal with, it’s the uncertainty Brexit has created.</p> <h2>#BristolBrexit</h2> <p>This is exactly what we’ve been doing in Bristol over the past months. Uncertainties are also opportunities, and opportunities are also openings. #BristolBrexit – A City Responds to Brexit embraces this message in a constructive way. Our collective aim is not to condemn or endorse Brexit, to explain or predict where it will take us, or to retreat to the pub in defeat. Our aim is to do something about the uncertainties brought about by Brexit in Bristol, for Bristol, and by Bristol. Throughout the UK new powers are being devolved to local government. Whilst we welcome these changes, the uncertainties brought about by Brexit can’t wait until they trickle down to Bristol. This uncertainty needs addressing now, and thus we need to do this ourselves.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Our aim is to do something about the uncertainties brought about by Brexit in Bristol, for Bristol, and by Bristol.</p> <p>This is an ongoing project. It begins with seeking to identify and understand those uncertainties connected with Brexit. The University of Bristol with the support of the University of West of England and the University of Bath have joined forces with local practitioners, stakeholders, businesses, local government, neighbourhood associations, local residents, trade unions, legal advisers, charities, religious leaders, councillors, and educators to identify and interrogate some of these Brexit-specific uncertainties as they manifest in Bristol. This has taken shape around of series of three themed workshops organised by the University of Bristol in April of this year: ‘Suspended Citizenship’, ‘Catching up with the Left Behind: Empowering Local Communities in Bristol’, and ‘Projecting Bristol and Britain to a Post-Brexit World’. Every day between now and May 23, when we hold a public event to synthesise all that we have learned, we will publish a new article on openDemocracy elaborating one of the perspectives represented in these workshops and some of the interventions we have proposed for moving forward.</p> <h2>Suspended citizenship</h2> <p>The purpose of the ‘Suspended Citizenship’ workshop was to confront the uncertainties and insecurities experienced by the city’s immigrant population in relation to their post-Brexit legal status. Brexit is conceived firstly as a challenge to EEA citizens in the UK, and rightly so as their future hangs in the balance. But the workshop participants also recognised that this challenge extends beyond our conventional understanding of EU nationals to include other, often marginalised immigrant populations in Bristol, such as Somalis (many of whom hold EEA passports, or are married to someone holding an EEA passport). Workshop participants considered these uncertainties not just for current and future permanent residents, but also for temporary workers from the EU. Indeed, much of their conversation focussed on these more vulnerable versions of the EU national, the ones perhaps lacking the human, social, or cultural capital to effectively navigate the post-Brexit rights landscape.</p> <p>To begin to address these uncertainties, workshop participants discussed plans for community engagement and communication to get essential information disseminated to and through local communities. Part of this involves a multilingual leafletting plan to empower local citizens at the point of access to local services. Plans for an employment charter for Bristol were also discussed to stress the values of diversity, protections from harassment and discrimination, and freedom of association.</p> <h2>Catching up with the left behind</h2> <p>Our second workshop, ‘Catching up with the Left Behind: Empowering Local Communities in Bristol’, explored the dislocations of some of those typically seen as (or who see themselves as) ‘left behind’ in Bristol’s inner city and outer estates. These neighbourhoods experience this isolation differently and have little contact with one another. But bringing local residents, community activists, and neighbourhood associations from across the city together revealed their shared frustrations and insecurities. Workshop participants discussed challenges related to the uses (and misuses) of shared neighbourhood spaces; frustration and resentment expressing itself as racism and xenophobia; and the city’s youth as a standalone category of the ‘left behind’ in itself.</p> <p>Many of these challenges are rooted in problems that long predate Brexit. But Brexit has given renewed expression to them, sometimes exacerbating them, sometimes even ameliorating them, and at other times bearing new challenges. The aim of the workshop discussions however was not to uncover the root causes of these uncertainties but to begin thinking about the sorts of interventions that could be developed to bring these communities back into the fold of civic life in Bristol. Separate working groups were established around neighbourhoods, racism, and youth to explore the potential for co-produced participatory research around these themes.</p> <h2>Projecting Bristol and Britain to a post-Brexit world</h2> <p>The third and final workshop, ‘Projecting Bristol and Britain to a Post-Brexit World’, began to tackle a much different set of challenges connected to Bristol’s economic future. The aim of the workshop was to facilitate a dialogue between academic experts and stakeholders across Bristol around interim solutions for addressing the uncertainty surrounding an assumed exit from the single market. Specific discussions centred on how to retain and attract talent for the city, future sources of international funding, market access both within and outside of the EU, and how to project Bristol as a global city in the UK and beyond.</p> <p>As in the other workshops, concrete interventions were developed to address these and related challenges. A working group has been set up to help conceptualise and develop ‘The Bristol Brand’ post-Brexit; the university and business sectors are also joining forces to collectively lobby the European Parliament and European Commission on areas of interest to both sectors; and another working group was formed to develop a market strategy for the city’s business and finance sectors.</p> <h2>Now for the hard part</h2> <p>This is by no means an exhaustive account of all the uncertainties or challenges facing Bristol today, and much remains to be discussed. The ten pieces contained in this series reflect both the breadth of the topic and the diversity of opinion in the city. They were written by a diverse cross-section of workshop participants, including charity workers and local residents, academics and businesspeople, lawyers and students. Each contribution grows out of, but is not constrained by, the discussions had at the workshops. As such, they are the next step in elaborating both the challenges and the possible interventions that would address them. </p> <p>On the final day of this series, 23 May, we will hold the public event #BristolBrexit – A City Responds to Brexit. This will take place in the <a href="https://www.at-bristol.org.uk/">@Bristol Science Centre</a> from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. The aim of the event is twofold. First, we will showcase our current gains from the workshops and take these discussions further in dedicated breakout sessions with an assemblage of previous workshop participants joined by new stakeholders and practitioners recruited from across the city. The second equally important aim is to invite discussion around new challenges – and new interventions – related to Brexit and Bristol. The framework of the event, featuring interactive market stalls and fish bowl discussions, will facilitate dialogue between diverse segments of the city’s population. We will be joined by Bristol University’s vice chancellor and the Bristol’s mayor.</p> <p>This is not an end, but a beginning. It is a call to action to identify the uncertainties that we face in Bristol post-Brexit, and to take steps toward alleviating those uncertainties. Nobody knows Bristol’s problems as well as Bristolians. Nobody is better placed to fix those problems than Bristolians.</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox-inner"><p><strong>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit</strong></p> <p>#BristolBrexit - A City Responds to Brexit is a free public event at @Bristol on the 23rd of May from 10.00-13.00. The event, organised by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the University of the West of England and the University of Bath brings together stakeholders, practitioners, activists, educators, business people, city officials, religious leaders, and charity representatives to collectively and collaboratively address the challenges of uncertainty brought about by Brexit. The event will feature a series of interactive formats to bring representatives from across the city together to develop new and innovative strategies for taking Bristol into the future.</p><p><strong>All are invited: <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bristolbrexit-a-city-responds-to-brexit-tickets-33271861032">register here</a>.</strong></p> </div></div> <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"> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jon-fox/bristolbrexit-city-responds-to-brexit">#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit</a><br /><span>JON FOX</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edward-palairet/neighbourhood-responses-to-brexit-challenges">Neighbourhood responses to Brexit challenges</a><br /><span>EDWARD PALAIRET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hector-rios/making-sense-of-brexit-foreigners-in-defence-of-foreigners-rights">Making sense of Brexit: foreigners in defence of foreigners’ rights</a><br /><span>HECTOR RIOS</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/glenn-morgan/brexit-bristol-and-business">Brexit, Bristol and business</a><br /><span>GLENN MORGAN</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/natasha-carver-jessica-hambly/brexit-where-bureaucracy-becomes-brutal">Brexit and unemployment: where bureaucracy becomes brutal</a><br /><span>NATASHA CARVER<br />JESSICA HAMBLY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/paul-appleby/bristol-brexit-and-creative-challenge">Bristol, Brexit and the creative challenge</a><br /><span>PAUL APPLEBY</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/christian-dadomo-no-lle-qu-nivet/automatic-transformation-of-eu-citizenship-rights-is-way-forward">Automatic transformation of EU citizenship rights is the way forward</a><br /><span>CHRISTIAN DADOMO<br />NOËLLE QUÉNIVET</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/magda-mogilnicka/how-can-we-resist-post-brexit-racism">How can we resist post-Brexit racism?</a><br /><span>MAGDA MOGILNICKA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beverley-orr-ewing/what-will-brexit-mean-for-future-of-european-student-mobility">What will Brexit mean for the future of European student mobility?</a><br /><span>BEVERLEY ORR-EWING</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/neema-begum/many-brexits-of-bristol">The many Brexits of Bristol</a><br /><span>NEEMA BEGUM</span><hr /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-anoth-sidebox"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Brexit Migration Watch</strong></p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ramah-ahmed/how-will-global-britain-approach-asylum">How will a ‘global Britain’ approach asylum?<br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/marianne-lagrue/brexit-free-movement-and-children-s-rights">Brexit, free movement and children’s rights</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">MARIANNE LAGRUE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/joe-turner/international-family-life-after-brexit-further-sanctions-on-intimacy">International family life after Brexit: further sanctions on intimacy?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JOE TURNER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/andrew-crane/brexit-as-driver-of-modern-slavery">Brexit as a driver of modern slavery?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ANDREW CRANE</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/benjamin-hulme/could-brexit-be-boon-to-human-smuggling">Could Brexit be a boon to human smuggling?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">BENJAMIN HULME</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ruvi-ziegler/eu-notification-of-withdrawal-bill-bargaining-chips-on-commons-table">The EU (notification of withdrawal) bill: bargaining chips on the Commons table</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">RUVI ZIEGLER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jordi-giner-monfort/what-will-happen-ma-ana-brexit-and-return-migration-of-retirees-from-spain">What will happen mañana? Brexit and return migration of retirees from Spain</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">JORDI GINER-MONFORT</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/elisa-mosler-vidal/post-facts-post-gains-economics-of-labour-migration-after-brexit">Post-facts, post-gains: the economics of labour migration after Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ELISA MOSLER VIDAL</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/zaki-nahaboo/rights-and-wrongs-of-high-court-ruling-on-triggering-article-50">The rights and wrongs of the High Court ruling on triggering Article 50</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">ZAKI NAHABOO</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/owen-parker/labour-party-free-movement-and-brexit">The Labour Party, free movement and Brexit</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">OWEN PARKER</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/gurminder-k-bhambra/brexit-commonwealth-and-exclusionary-citizenship">Brexit, the Commonwealth, and exclusionary citizenship</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">GURMINDER K. BHAMBRA</span><hr /> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/lucy-mayblin/what-will-brexit-mean-for-asylum-in-uk">What will Brexit mean for asylum in the UK?</a><br /><span style="font-size:90%;">LUCY MAYBLIN</span></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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Brexit Brexit and the Economy Brexit migration watch #BristolBrexit Jon Fox Mon, 15 May 2017 06:26:09 +0000 Jon Fox 110880 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If you're not yet radical, you haven't been paying attention https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/raoul-martinez/politics-of-hate-predates-brexit-by-long-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Raoul Martinez spoke this weekend at 'Brexit and the Political Crash', <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a> in London: “Beyond Brexit, Labour are offering one of the most progressive manifestos in living memory.” Keynote speech.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/X0K-wNMcBVA?ecver=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p>There seems to be a consensus that we are in a political crisis. I don’t dispute the claim, but I would suggest that this crisis predates Brexit by a long way. It’s a crisis that cuts right to the heart of our society and has been worsening over a period of decades. The failure to recognise it, and adequately respond, has played a decisive role in creating the conditions for Brexit, Trump and the politics of hate that has been gaining momentum across Europe.</p> <p>There are various aspects to it. One of the most obvious is inequality. For decades, inequality has been rising in this country. People have been working longer for less, and wealth, rather than trickling down, has been flowing upwards. An investment deficit; soaring house prices; insecure, low-paid work and rising tuition fees created a population with dwindling disposable incomes. To function, the economy required vast sums of private debt. A deregulated financial sector was happy to oblige, engaging in reckless lending. As we now know, this paved the way for the financial crash of 2008.</p> <p>The response to the recession that followed has been a politics of austerity that continues to punish the most vulnerable in our society. It’s led to over a million people using food banks; to 16 million Britons with savings of less than £100; and to four million children living in poverty, the vast majority of whom have at least one parent in work. It’s led to roughly 24,000 elderly people a year dying because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly, and to workers suffering the biggest fall in wages among the world's richest countries. The worst off are being hit hardest. A couple of years ago, it emerged that the most deprived area in the country was suffering cuts worth £807 per household while the most affluent area was getting away with per household cuts of just £28.</p> <p>Today, many children and chronically sick people are being hit by multiple cuts all at once. The impact on disabled people has been so extreme that a UN inquiry recently concluded that there have been ‘systematic violations’ of the rights of people with disabilities. This was after ten thousand people died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ by our government. At the other end of the spectrum, the richest 10 percent of UK households own more wealth than the other 90 percent combined, and we have more billionaires than ever before. Compounding the problem, researchers estimate that over £100 billion a year is lost to tax avoidance, with some of the largest corporations paying no tax at all.</p> <h2><strong>Was austerity necessary?</strong></h2> <p>Now was this austerity necessary? Not according to textbook economics which tells us that reducing spending during a recession is pretty much the worst thing that can be done. In fact, economic historians have shown that policies of austerity have never managed to revive a flagging economy. Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis found that austerity after 2010 &nbsp;slowed our recovery, costing the nation over £100 billion. Austerity was and is a crisis for millions of people in this country — it has destroyed lives, well-being, wealth and mental health on a significant scale. Yet it was widely accepted as necessary by both major parties and the media. A banking crisis that had its origins in the irresponsible and illegal behaviour of the private sector was repackaged as a crisis of government spending. The question was not whether we needed cuts but where and how quickly they should fall. Mervyn King, while Governor of the Bank of England, summed up the situation, when he said ‘The price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it’ and ‘I’m surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">Austerity was widely accepted as necessary by both major parties and the media.</span></p> <h2><strong>Market fundamentalism</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/The_Conference_130517-2649.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/The_Conference_130517-2649.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Raoul Martinez addresses The Convention. Credit: The Convention. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Growing inequality is bound up with another aspect of the crisis we face: the erosion of democracy. The last few decades have been marked by a turn towards market fundamentalism — an approach that has transferred wealth and power from the public sphere to the private, and on a global scale. Today, one percent of humanity owns as much wealth as the other ninety-nine percent combined, and some of the largest corporations control more wealth than many nations.</p> <p>The most powerful actor in the market, the corporation, is driven by the profit imperative. This commitment to profit not only results from market competition, it’s enshrined in law — corporations have long been legally obliged to maximise profits for their shareholders. A corporation can increase profits in various ways. Some of these can benefit society as a whole, such as creative innovations. But there are many easier ways to generate profits that are seriously damaging: increasing demands on workers while reducing wages, using natural resources without paying for them; polluting while leaving others to pick up the bill; manufacturing unhealthy wants through manipulative advertising; and extracting subsidies, tax breaks, and bail-outs from the state.</p> <p>Here’s a striking example: the IMF calculated that the world’s governments are subsidising the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $10 million a minute. In the UK, while cutting vital subsidies to renewable energy, the Tory government’s contribution to the fossil fuel industry stands at £9 billion a year. All of this is going on as climate scientists warn that we are on course to create a planet able to support less than a billion people by the end of the century. In other words, business as usual for the fossil fuel industry means wiping out most of humanity — and our taxes are helping them do it. And because of the warming that’s already occurred, millions are dying and being displaced each year. Today, few acts are as violent as the burning of oil, gas and coal. <span class="mag-quote-center">Today, few acts are as violent as the burning of oil, gas and coal.</span></p> <p>When democratic power fails to regulate the market to protect the public interest, market power will regulate democracy to protect corporate interests. To defend citizens, workers and the environment, a democratic state must limit the ways in which corporations are allowed to pursue profit. The state has the power to impose regulations, extract taxes and cordon off parts of the economy from the market, such as healthcare and education. This enables the public to obtain with their votes what they cannot afford in the market. From the perspective of the corporation, a well-functioning democracy is an obstacle to profit. The obvious solution is to take control of the state through the capture of regulatory agencies, the lobbying of government, the funding of political parties, the establishment of think thinks, and by ensuring that the revolving door between high level industry and government keeps on spinning. <span class="mag-quote-center">Market power will regulate democracy to protect corporate interests.</span></p> <h2><strong>Manufacturing consent </strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28618733_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28618733_0.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn at the TUC Congress,September 2016. Gareth Fuller/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There have always been two ways to gain the consent of the governed. The first is to change the government to please the public, the second is to change the public to please the government. Almost a century ago, the influential US intellectual Walter Lippmann wrote about the need to ‘manufacture consent’ as a solution to the threat of democracy. Since then, techniques for controlling the flow of ideas, facts and perspectives through society have been increasing in sophistication. There’s a rich, though little known, history about how public relations, informed by psychological research, have been used to subvert democracy — it ought to be widely studied. The latest developments draw on big data. You may have heard of a company named Cambridge Analytica, owned by a US billionaire. According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">a recent Guardian investigation</a>, by exploiting the growing field of psychometrics and drawing on vast stores of personal data, this company has played a decisive role in influencing electoral outcomes, including the EU referendum.</p> <p>People are rightly outraged by this. But such meddling isn’t new. Every election is interfered with by politically motivated billionaires — some foreign, like Rupert Murdoch, others domestic such as Lord Rothermere. Almost all our media is owned by a handful of billionaires. This elite group controls close to 80 percent of the press. Being billionaires, their interests tend to conflict with those of most ordinary people. In their hands, media becomes a political weapon to ‘manufacture consent’. This isn’t simply a matter of opinion. Decades of academic studies have demonstrated the systematic right-wing biases of the UK media — including the BBC — on a range of issues, and poll after poll shows how public opinion reflects this distortion and bias. Take austerity. <span class="mag-quote-center">Of 347 articles, only 21 per cent showed any opposition to austerity.</span></p> <p>Ignoring history and economic orthodoxy, the media has functioned as a megaphone for the government’s austerity narrative. Researchers at University College Dublin examined the coverage of austerity after the 2010 UK election, looking at four leading national papers: <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>, <em>The Times</em>, the <em>Financial Times</em> and <em>The</em> <em>Guardian</em>. They found a clear pro-austerity bias. Of 347 articles, only 21 per cent showed any opposition to austerity. Another way of demonstrating this bias is to analyse which ‘experts’ were invited to comment on the cuts. Most were bankers, politicians and economists who failed to predict the crash. Only 1 per cent came from a trade union.</p> <p>A look at public opinion over the period shows how influential the austerity narrative became. According to YouGov polls, from 2010, public opposition to austerity steadily declined with each passing year. As this decline occurred, the proportion of people who believed the cuts were ‘too slow’, doubled. The most popular cuts were often those that targeted the most vulnerable: the disabled, the unemployed and those receiving housing benefit. By 2014, an ICM poll showed that the public, by a wide margin, trusted the Conservatives most ‘to manage the economy properly’. As Malcolm X put it, ‘If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’ <span class="mag-quote-center">‘If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’ </span></p> <h2><strong>Ugly scapegoating</strong></h2> <p>This year the UK has dropped to 40<sup>th</sup> in the press freedom world rankings. This suggests that journalists in the UK are less free to hold power to account than those working in Jamaica, Chile or South Africa. Although we all have the same freedom to speak, we do not all have the same freedom to be heard. Most of the time, that freedom belongs to the wealthy few who own and subsidise our media. It’s a freedom that comes with a hefty price tag.&nbsp;</p><p>There’s much to say on these issues, but the central point is this: in our society, the principle of one pound one vote has overwhelmed the principle of one person one vote. We have a system dominated and corrupted by concentrated wealth, one that has left millions of people behind to struggle on under increasingly adverse conditions. Combined with our hopelessly outdated first past the post system and ongoing gerrymandering, it’s clear that our system is in crisis. But it’s a system that exploits the crises it creates, feeding off its own failures. The financial crisis is being exploited to dismantle the welfare state and the NHS. And Brexit is being exploited to tear up workers’ rights and environmental protections. <span class="mag-quote-center">It’s a system that exploits the crises it creates, feeding off its own failures.</span></p> <p>Many who today are outraged by Brexit have long failed to recognise and respond to the deeper systemic crisis. Sheltered by privilege, and taking our lead from the media, too many of us have been complacent about the multiple ways in which our system is failing, and the scale of the suffering and anger it’s causing.</p> <p>When we fail to respond to crises that do not yet affect us, we pave the way for others to exploit them for their own gain. Invariably this takes the form of ugly scapegoating which channels people’s anger where those doing the channeling find it politically useful. In recent years, people of colour, Muslims, Jews, LGBTI communities, disabled people and immigrants have all been targeted. The resistance to acknowledge, let alone confront, the root causes of our failing system created the conditions for Brexit, Trump, and the rise of hate politics. So yes, Brexit is a significant and unwelcome development, one that if mishandled may compound many of the problems we face. But it’s a symptom not the disease.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Business as usual</strong></h2> <p>Many commentators appear to have learned the wrong lesson from the turbulence of 2016. Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major have identified the problem as one of ‘political extremes’. Blair has warned against the&nbsp;‘far-right’ and ‘far-left’, positioning himself as the defender of the voiceless middle ground, while Major recently urged us to return to the ‘solid centre’. But the centre ground of political opinion, where many feel most comfortable, is not where extremes are avoided, it’s where they are normalised. <span class="mag-quote-center">But the centre ground of political opinion… is not where extremes are avoided, it’s where they are normalised.</span></p> <p>Today’s centre ground is part of an ideological spectrum distorted by concentrated power. It’s a social construct, commanding most loyalty from those whose privilege protects them from the ravages of the system they support. There is nothing moderate, reasonable or balanced about occupying this political terrain. To do so is to favour business as usual: the ongoing erosion of democracy, the acceleration of inequality, the support of abusive regimes, the destruction of the conditions for our existence, and the dehumanisation of those whose suffering is politically inconvenient, whether they be drowning in the Mediterranean or queuing up at food banks.</p> <p>So how should we respond? We should reject the centre ground and embrace radical, compassionate, bold politics, and support it in all its forms: whether we’re talking about general elections or public protests.&nbsp;</p> <p>To clarify, the meaning of the word ‘radical’ is bound up with the idea of getting to the root of something, getting to the core or origin of a problem. And that’s what we must do. For many years we’ve been facing at least three profound crises: a democratic crisis, an inequality crisis, and an existential, environmental crisis. There’s simply no way to tackle these crises without subverting the wealth-concentrating, expansionist logic of capitalism. So without a surge in radical politics, these crises will only deepen. After all, the political and corporate elite has shown itself more ready to accept the destruction of the ecosystem, and with it most of humanity, than to question capitalism.</p> <h2><strong>Radical politics</strong></h2> <p>Radical politics, even diluted versions of it, have always been opposed by the establishment. Its figureheads have always been attacked. We saw this very clearly during the Democratic primaries, when it was well understood that Bernie Sanders stood a far better chance of beating Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. Polls indicated that Bernie’s rejection of establishment politics, his willingness to confront Wall Street, big business and the corporate media resonated with more Americans than Hillary’s message. Despite this, the liberal media and the Democratic establishment rallied behind Hillary: a defender of Wall Street with a history of supporting new wars and escalating existing ones, who wrote during the campaign that environmental activists fighting to protect life should instead ‘get a life’. <span class="mag-quote-center">Frankly, if you’re not yet radical, you haven’t been paying attention.</span></p> <p>By failing to provide an honest, compelling, analysis of what had gone wrong with society and how to make it right — something Bernie came far closer to offering — the liberal establishment paved the way for a dangerous demagogue who gave the wrong answers to some of the right questions. Hillary’s defeat is symptomatic of an establishment, on both sides of the Atlantic, committed to holding the amiable mask of liberalism firmly in place over a corrupt, exploitative, unsustainable, system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn we have seen our own version of this dynamic play out. Under the leadership of Ed Miliband, Labour was committed to ‘austerity-lite’: cuts were needed, they claimed, but not quite as many or quite as fast as the Tories were planning. After losing the 2015 election, Miliband resigned, and the only anti-austerity candidate on the ballot, outsider Jeremy Corbyn, surged to victory on a wave of popular support, earning the largest mandate ever won by a party leader.</p><p>The media onslaught that followed has been quite remarkable. As subsequent research has shown, the British press, including the BBC, have ‘systematically undermined’ Corbyn with ‘a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage’. It’s worth noting that in Scandinavia, Jeremy Corbyn would be regarded as something like a mainstream social democrat, which only shows how far the UK centre ground has shifted to the right. This is Tony Blair’s legacy, and the reason Margaret Thatcher described him as her greatest achievement. This legacy helps to explain why it’s not just been the Tories and the media attacking Corbyn — from day one he’s been actively sabotaged by an intransigent bureaucracy and powerful figures within his own party. What we’re seeing is an ideological struggle for the soul of the Labour Party. <span class="mag-quote-center">How far the UK centre ground has shifted to the right… is Tony Blair’s legacy, and the reason Margaret Thatcher described him as her greatest achievement.</span></p> <p>In truth, the Labour Party has always been two parties crammed into one. Since its creation, a struggle for what it would stand for has raged between those who offer a deeper critique of society – let’s call them ‘radicals’ – and those who embrace and defend the status quo but want to curb the worst excesses of the system – let’s call them ‘liberals’. Over the last century, time and again, the liberals have shown that they are willing to undermine their electoral chances rather than allow Labour to be turned into a vehicle for radical politics. For much of the party’s history, this group has maintained a tight grip on the Parliamentary Labour Party. For the first time in my life, that grip has been seriously loosened. This is a rare and valuable opportunity.</p> <p>It should be said that the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn has been extremely effective. Even now, weeks before a general election, you’ll find prominent authors, journalists and celebrities&nbsp; – themselves Labour supporters – using their substantial public platform to chip away at Corbyn’s credibility. Given that this election is a life and death affair for many of the most vulnerable in our society, this is deeply irresponsible behaviour. Personally, I find much to admire in Corbyn. Of course, he’s not perfect – mistakes have been made – but to focus on this is to miss the point. It’s foolish to echo the superficial narrative of the establishment and personalise this historic political moment. Our focus should always be on the broader struggle for democracy, equality and survival – a struggle in which the virtues of unity and solidarity are paramount. <span class="mag-quote-center">It’s foolish to… personalise this historic political moment.</span></p> <h2><strong>Shifting from personality to substance</strong></h2> <p>When we shift from personality to substance we find that Labour are committed to scrapping Theresa May's Brexit plan on day one. They are committed to introducing a bill to ensure workers' rights are protected, to guaranteeing that EU nationals can remain in the UK, to negotiating tariff-free access to the European market and to allowing MPs to vote on the final deal.</p> <p>Beyond Brexit, Labour are offering one of the most progressive manifestos in living memory and the boldest environmental policies of any major party in British history. If such a desperately needed policy platform proves to be unelectable, it will not be one man’s failure. It will be the failure of each and every one of us to create the conditions for its success. But we still have time. Let’s use it well.</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>Read <em><a href="http://www.creatingfreedom.info/">Creating Freedom</a>.</em></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/jonas-fossli-gjers/jeremy-corbyn-mainstream-scandinavian-social-democrat"> Jeremy Corbyn – a mainstream [Scandinavian] social democrat</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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Brexit2016 Raoul Martinez Sun, 14 May 2017 23:34:28 +0000 Raoul Martinez 110875 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit: a reinvigorated politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/michael-gove/brexit-reinvigorated-politics-in-this-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Michael Gove spoke this week-end at 'Brexit and the Political Crash', <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a> in London: “For me, it was primarily about making sure that whoever exercises power over you, is someone that you can throw out.” Keynote 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/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.21.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.21.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'>Screen shot. Michael Gove at The Convention, May 13, 2017.</span></span></span>Good morning. It’s a huge pleasure to be here and I want to begin by thanking Henry Porter, The Observer and openDemocracy for organising this conversation. Whatever one thinks of Brexit, it is undeniably the case that it has reinvigorated democratic debate in this country. Participation in membership of all our political parties has risen, and events like this which are occurring across the country are a healthy part of making sure that our future destiny is decided by public conversation and debate. <span class="mag-quote-center">Whatever one thinks of Brexit, it is undeniably the case that it has reinvigorated democratic debate in this country.</span></p> <p>I want to associate myself perhaps for the first time but I hope not for the last, with a point made by <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/stop-brexit-dublin-court-jolyon-maugham-move-tax-lawyer-republic-ireland-a7638956.html">Jolyon Maugham</a> earlier, which is that wherever we come from on the political spectrum we all benefit from hearing a different and divergent point of view, even if it is only to reinforce the passion with which we held our first view.</p> <p>But one thing I want to ask in this audience, is for a little bit of help and audience participation.&nbsp; Now some of you I know were too young to vote in the referendum. Others of you for whatever reason may not have been able to vote. But all those of you who did vote and voted to remain, can I invite you to put your hands up please? Good, thank you. All those of you who voted in the referendum, and voted to leave, could I invite you to put your hands up please? (rather less raise their hands). Well, to follow up what Jolyon said earlier, I may be in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, and I may be about to preach, but it is not to the converted.&nbsp; </p> <p>I’m a big bad Brexiteer. Worse than that, in front of an audience composed of many Observer readers, I am a Murdoch employee. Worse than that, I was a member of the Cameron Government that brought you the Great Moving Out of Europe Show that was the referendum. So in speaking to you today, I am aware that I am likely to be as out of step with the majority of you as an Orangeman in the Vatican at a Papal Mass.</p> <p>But in the tradition of the best of Protestant dissent, let me put forward a couple of views and then let me take some questions, or listen to what you have to say, because the reason that I am here is both to share a perspective but also to issue an invitation. And the perspective I want to share is from someone who doesn’t repent for a moment the actions he took in the referendum and believes that Britain will be better off outside the European Union. But also someone who has many good friends – some of them <em>still</em> good friends! – who voted to remain. And someone who admires many of the impulses which lay behind the passion with which the ‘remain cause’ was fought and the enthusiasm with which so many still uphold it. I think, and I will be very interested in your perspective, that many of those who voted to remain weren’t voting for economic reasons, though there were good economic arguments on either side ­– many people who voted to remain were doing so because they had an idealistic attachment towards international cooperation, because they believe that the European Union embodied an ideal of democracy after a continent had been scarred by wars and totalitarianism and that deep scar, that livid pain, needed to be healed by coming together. (scattered applause)</p> <p>Thank you. I think there were also people who voted to remain because they thought that the unity of our kingdom might be threatened by being outside the European Union and they valued the strength that comes from all four constituent parts of the United Kingdom being together. I think that noble attachment to the unity of the kingdom, that belief in democracy, that belief that international collaboration is a good thing – they are all noble aspirations. So why did I argue that we should leave? <span class="mag-quote-center">It is all about democracy.</span></p> <p>Well actually, one of the questioners before I came on put their finger on it. It is all about democracy. If we look at the history of the European Union, in its earlier stages the European Union was integral in establishing democracy in authoritarian states like Spain and Portugal and Greece after the colonels. It was also instrumental in making sure that democracy took root in the countries of eastern Europe after they escaped from the tyranny of communism. </p> <p>But, my contention and fear is that the democracy which took root in those countries was not replicated in the institutions that governed Europe, and in particular, was not replicated in the way in which the single currency was managed and the economic policies that flowed from it were implemented. And if anyone wants to know from a completely different but utterly honest perspective about the damage that the single currency and European integration wrought, I can do no better than recommend that you read Yanis Varoufakis' latest book of memoirs.<span class="mag-quote-center">I can do no better than recommend that you read Yanis Varoufakis’ latest book of memoirs.</span></p> <p>In it he explains – someone who in his heart is a European, and who never wanted Greece to leave the single currency – he explains the evasion of responsibility on the part of Europe’s élites when his country, the home of democracy, was suffering as a result of an unfair economic policy that imposed austerity on the poorest and resulted in a backlash which saw for the first time since 1945, Nazis in the Greek Parliament. </p> <p>One of the problems with the European Union is that those at the top, <em>pace </em>A.C.Grayling’s defence, are not democratically elected or accountable. The individuals who are responsible for the management of the single currency or for the adoption of Schengen, are not people whom any of us ever elected or whom we could ever throw out. And that means that the European Union has a danger of becoming either corrupt or complacent, because it is not accountable to the people. And the truth about our democracy, which of course developed in Greece, grew in western Europe and has now taken flower across the globe is that democracy succeeds because you can transfer power peacefully through the exercise of a vote at a ballot box. </p> <p>If we look at the history of democracy, democracy has generally, not always, been fostered and flowered within liberal nation states. So if one looks at the experience of the United Provinces, the Dutch Republic when it seceded from Catholic Hapsburg Europe, if once looks at the experience of Britain in the seventeenth century when we rejected the <em>ancien r</em><em>égime</em>, if you look at the experience of America in the eighteenth century when it got out from underneath the british Empire of that time, in each of those occasions, free citizens said, “We want to govern ourselves. We may be part of a larger unit, which offers us prosperity and promises to shield us from the chill winds outside, but we would rather take control of our elected representatives, give them instructions, and when they get things wrong, change them.” ( Hear, hear and scattered applause) <span class="mag-quote-center">The individuals who are responsible for the management of the single currency… are not people whom any of us ever elected or whom we could ever throw out.</span></p> <p>And it’s been that principle, that principle of democratic accountability which has powered progress throughout the ages. The United Provinces in the time of the sixteenth century was the home of free thinking when the Catholic Hapsburg Europe was the home of reaction. Britain, in the seventeenth century, through the example not just of the original parliamentarians, but also those who overthrew James II, Britain became the home and a beacon for liberty at that time. America – it’s important that we remember it at this difficult time – America in the eighteenth century made the principles of representative democracy alive and exciting and resonant. </p> <p>And the vote to leave the European Union may have been driven by many factors amongst many people, but for me it was primarily about making sure that whoever is in Number Ten, Downing Street, whoever exercises power over you is someone that you can throw out. Because one of our problems with being in the European Union was that there are all sorts of laws, whether it is VAT on tampons or where we build our houses, that were decided by European regulations and directives that we in parliament couldn’t reject and couldn’t even amend.</p> <p>There are legitimate concerns that are sometimes raised about the way in which the Executive steam-rollers things through the House of Commons. Absolutely right they should be raised. But one of the most effective ways in which any Executive can steam-roller things through the House of Commons is to have it agreed at the European level, in councils which are not transparent where minutes are not recorded, where people are not held accountable, and if it is agreed at the European level, those people who like me are currently running for election and who can be thrown out of office if we get things wrong – we could not influence it. </p> <p>And that’s why, having explained I hope, some of the reasons why I voted as I did, I want to end by issuing an appeal. </p> <p>There will be many people here who will deeply regret the decision that was made and want to revisit it. And as we heard in the debate on the second referendum, arguments will be run about what new forms of democratic legitimacy may be required at some point in the future for the course the Prime Minister wants to take us on. I don’t want to get involved in that debate unless you want to ask me about it. I have clear views but I don’t want to trouble you with them here. What I want to do is to issue an invitation about something else. <span class="mag-quote-center">For me it was primarily about making sure that whoever is in Number Ten, Downing Street, whoever exercises power over you is someone that you can throw out.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.50.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.26.50.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>It is overwhelmingly likely – the vote is clear – that Britain will leave the European Union, and as a result of leaving the European Union there will be choices for all of us to make. Do we want to keep the current system of agricultural subsidy that we have under the ‘common agricultural policy’?&nbsp; I don’t think we do, because I don’t think it either safeguards our environment, ensures that we have biodiversity <em>or </em>provides appropriate income support for the very poorest small farmers. So what are we going to do in order to have the right environmental policy and the right agricultural policy? Similarly when we are outside the European Union we will be outside that ‘common security and foreign policy’, but Britain will still have armed forces, a seat on the UN Security Council. We will still be spending, and I think it is right, 0.7% of our GDP international development&nbsp; – so how are we going to exercise our global power? Some of you might say it will be diminished, well I disagree. But we are still going to be a significant player in hard and soft power terms, so what are we going to do? Which values are going to prevail in that debate. Similarly when it comes to the migration policy that we will have, we will no longer have the migration policy that we had in the European Union which favours EU citizens over others, so how do we want to shape that migration policy? And the invitation I want to make to you is that if you feel, “Well, you Brexit, you own it – you Brexiteers, it’s your problem.” That ‘s fine! But what you may find is that the solutions that come about as a result of that don’t reflect Britain in all its diversity, in all its raucous pluralism, in all its breadth. <span class="mag-quote-center">There are legitimate concerns that are sometimes raised about the way in which the Executive steam-rollers things through the House of Commons.</span></p> <p>So the invitation which I issue which is a genuine one, is – I don’t want to shift anyone from their allegiance. I hope people will embrace the opportunities that Brexit brings but I recognise that I myself have strong political feelings and convictions: they don’t change overnight. People’s convictions here will not change overnight. But I do hope, as we develop new politics in this country, whether you are conservative or liberal, whether you voted remain or leave, that you will play a part in shaping a Britain outside the European Union that reflects the best of our past – open, liberal, tolerant, pluralist – but also can act as a model for the future, a strong partner for the European Union, standing up for progress globally, extending free trade, and making sure that democratic values, which I know that everyone here by their very presence believes in are at the heart of our future. Thank you very much.</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 more of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nick-clegg/brexit-british-litist-revolution">Brexit: the British élitist revolution</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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Michael Gove Sun, 14 May 2017 20:16:30 +0000 Michael Gove 110871 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit: the British élitist revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/nick-clegg/brexit-british-litist-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nick Clegg speaking at 'Brexit and the Political Crash', <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a><a href="Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, on 'Brexit and the Political Crash': from The Convention"> </a>in London: “It is a curiously British élitist revolution and we need to understand what it is.” Keynote 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/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.14.16.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.14.16.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot. Nick Clegg at The Convention, May 13, 2017.</span></span></span>It’s a delight to be here on a Saturday morning in the middle of possibly one of the most listless, soulless and dreary general election campaigns I can ever remember (applause). The title of your session, ‘What do we do about our democracy?” is very timely and in the short time available to me I shall try to explain to you the three principal crises in our democratic system as I see them, and then three possible suggestions about how we can remedy those problems.</p> <p>So first and foremost I think it is important to be very unblinking and very candid about quite how stuck and paralysed British democracy has now become. Let me put it this way. Any democratic system relies above and beyond everything else on those in power constantly looking over their shoulder, worried that someone else is going to take power away from them. Without competition, democracy is nothing. Without the pendulum swing of electoral contests in which one lot win one election and another lot win the next, democracy is not worthy of the name. And that is what has happened in our country. <span class="mag-quote-center">Without competition, democracy is nothing.</span></p> <p>It is very important to understand that there is no single party now in British politics, not a single party in British politics, who now on their own can wrest power away from the Conservative Party. It is not a conspiracy. It is a set perhaps of accidents: the dominance in Scottish politics by the Scottish Nationalist Party that has knee-capped the Labour party; the electoral system flatters the Conservatives – they have got this cabal in the rightwing press who clear their way for them&nbsp; – whatever the reasons, the outcome is remorselessly the same. The pendulum has now got stuck. No one, no single party, can now compete for power with the present incumbents in Number Ten.&nbsp; So that is the first crisis… that the ebb and flow of democratic life in this politics has been arrested. And I sometimes think that it is important to be more candid and blunt in spelling that out.</p> <p>Secondly, and partly related to that we have a system that has become very vulnerable to the influence of vested interests, moneyed élites and unaccountable individuals and organisations who are able to use the peculiarities of our democratic system, the absence of formal checks and balances which generally prevent vested interests and moneyed élites from hollowing out politics in other systems. </p> <p>We don’t have a written constitution. We don’t have meaningful checks and balances in parliament. We have an electoral system which gives extraordinary centralised power on a minority of the popular vote. The outgoing Government, Theresa May’s Government got, what was it, barely 24% of the eligible vote at the last general election. <span class="mag-quote-center">A new Brexit élite are operating almost like the new puppet masters of British politics: much of it is invisible.</span></p> <p>And so for all those reasons, we are now in my view seeing an encroachment, by way of a proxy and unaccountable influence, of a new Brexit élite who are operating almost like the new puppet masters of British politics and who are doing so in a way which is entirely unaccountable – much of it is invisible – and almost all of it is entirely unknown to the British public. </p><p>So if you look at the financing of the Brexit campaign, it is very very striking that some of the richest individuals in this country – I was going to say to a man or a woman, but it is curiously mostly men with some exceptions – that almost all of them are men who are working in one shape or form in finance, in one sector of the British economy. Folk like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Hargreaves">Peter Hargreaves</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Hosking">Jeremy Hosking</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hintze">Michael Hintze</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Wheeler">Stuart Wheeler</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Marshall_%28investor%29">Paul Marshall</a> etc. …&nbsp; All of them may individually be decent individuals, but they have acted knowingly or otherwise in an unusually coordinated fashion, to mobilise very significant amounts of money, derived from one particular sector, in pursuit of one particular ideological objective, which is not only to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union, but crucially, if you read the musings and outpourings of these individuals, they are all united if from somewhat different directions by a hard line, libertarian, small state view of the world – that we need to move as a country in order to regain our economic virility, that we need to pursue a small state, offshore, so-called Singapore-style low regulation economy. </p> <p>You see it in the media: the folk who used to act as competitors in the media, some of the principal newspaper owners in this country, the Barclay Brothers, Rupert Murdoch – he’s not an owner but he is clearly a power in his own right; the somewhat curdled and zany prejudices of Paul Dacre in the Daily Mail – again they are all men, all older men – these men used to be competitors. But Brexit has curiously acted as a sort of glue to turn them from competitors into a cabal and this ‘praetorian guard’ around the Brexit cause and around Theresa May, who in a sense is their perfect prime minister – they have her exactly where they want her. She will do exactly as they instruct. And they have transformed themselves from vigorous competitors into a cabal that knee-caps any opposition to Brexit and discredits and delegitimises them – whether it is the Governor of the Bank of England, the judges, whether it’s me, whether it’s you, the young, or pro-European businesses. Anyone who now speaks against the trajectory that they want, is treated in <em>a coordinated fashion</em> – this is the difference from previous years – to an industrial-scale coordinated attack.</p> <p>And then, as you will have read in certain newspapers, increasing evidence that some of the campaigning organisations – particularly those that mobilised a lot of the data that was used in the referendum last year – were funded and organised by Trump supporters from the other side of the Atlantic. Robert Mercer, in particular, one of the founders of Breitbart, seems to have played <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">an important role</a>.</p> <p>My point is this, that we have a democratic culture and a system which is not only&nbsp; stuck, it doesn’t work any more, it is not moving, but that it is very susceptible and&nbsp; vulnerable to takeover by unaccountable élites. And I think this is one of the curious things about the Brexit revolution. If you look at the eruptions of populism in other countries – if you look at the support for Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France – they were whether we like it or not in many ways a groundswell of grassroots opinion and dissatisfaction, entirely understandable dissatisfaction, with the status quo. What is curious in the United Kingdom is that we have seen the victory of one part of our commercial and media élite getting one over on another part of the élite – it is a curiously British élitist revolution and we need to understand what it is. <span class="mag-quote-center">An opposition-less democracy is rotten.</span></p> <p>And the third and final thing – I read in the newspapers yesterday that Ian McEwan, as he would, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/12/15m-oldsters-in-their-graves-could-swing-second-eu-vote-says-ian-mcewan">spoke beautifully yesterday</a> at The Convention on this very subject. We have a political system which is almost designed to ignore and overlook the aspirations and the needs and the dreams of the very young. So we have a democracy which is no longer a democracy in a functioning sense of the word, one which is very susceptible to élite takeover, one which is wilfully making very big and radical decisions about the future, whilst if not deliberately then systematically ignoring the wishes of the very people who actually inhabit that future – namely the young.</p> <p>So, what in a minute and a half do we do about that? The first thing is this. You cannot restore the genius, the elixir, the necessity of competition to the British democratic system without non-Conservative and anti-Brexit forces working more effectively together. I am not by the way, before some mole from Conservative central office leaps up to say “Ah! The Coalition of Chaos!” – I am not talking about any party propping up Theresa May in Number Ten or propping up Jeremy Corbyn. I am talking about after the general election – and by the way I hope this would weigh on the minds not just of remain voters, not just of progressive voters, but of all voters who care about the quality of British democracy, because an opposition-less democracy is rotten. We have now the very real prospect of a one-party state in Scotland north of the border, a one-party state in England, in Westminster – and of course the SNP and the Conservative are ideal foils for each other. The SNP can blame everything on those dastardly Conservatives in Westminster and Conservative can blame everything on those terrifying SNP hordes about to flow over Hadrian’s Wall, and they did that, by the way, to devastating effect at the last election two years ago…&nbsp;</p> <p>For any of us who don’t feel that either of those options are the future that we want – of Scottish nationalism on the one hand and an increasingly angry UKIP-lite English nationalism in the hands of the Conservative Party on the other – it is not a choice. We are duty bound to work together, and it has to, for those of you are in the Labour Party – it has to start in the Labour Party. I say this as someone who you might expect is entitled to a little <em>schadenfreude </em>about the travails and ills of<em> </em>the Labour Party, having been traduced and betrayed by them quite so vigorously over half a decade – but that’s not how I feel. I’m really, really sad that a once great party of social progress, of internationalism and government has now become in my view such a spectacularly introverted and self-indulgent political movement. The Labour party or people within it <em>can</em> help renew the progressive cause, but only if they understand what I think many of them get in their heads but don’t yet feel in their hearts, that they are not capable of going it alone. It is impossible under our electoral system, it is impossible against the vested interests that I talked about, it is impossible because of the turn in Scottish politics, for Labour to win again. So Labour must learn pluralism. If it does that there is hope: if it doesn’t, there is no hope. (prolonged applause)<span class="mag-quote-center"> Labour must learn pluralism. If it does that there is hope: if it doesn’t, there is no hope.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.13.22_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 18.13.22_0.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Secondly, as part of that reinvention of pluralist, progressive politics, we must must must put the inevitably often rather arcane issues surrounding electoral reform, political reform, House of Lords reform, party funding reform on the agenda – of course I totally understand this may bore the vast majority of the British people even if it fascinates some of us here – but we must put that centre ground. Because unless you clean up and make more transparent the ways in which parties are funded; unless you ensure that people can’t simply march into Downing Street with barely a quarter of the eligible vote; unless you open up this increasingly sour and curdled unhealthy relationship between the media and political élites in this country – we will continue to make the same mistakes that we have made over and over again that we have made in recent years. So political reform as well as the reorganisation and realignment of the non-Conservative part of the spectrum – of the centre ground and progressive ground in British politics – is the second vital ingredient for the rebirth for our somewhat tarnished, jaundiced and jaded political system. </p><p>Third and finally, and I won’t say very much on this, not least because I am not perhaps the best witness to the needs of young voters, having somewhat blotted my copybook with them in the last parliament – but as Ian McEwen and others have quite rightly said. There is something very, very, very wrong when a mature democracy makes a decision which represents such a radical and abrupt, and in my view, damaging and self-harming departure from our entire post-war past and does it against the explicit, explicit stated wishes in the ballot box of those who have to inhabit that future and who have to pay the consequences. That in my book is simply in the long run unsustainable. So the youth must, must mobilise and make their voice heard and say that what is happening to our country now is not happening in their name! (prolonged applause) <span class="mag-quote-center">The youth must mobilise, make their voice heard and say that what is happening to our country now is not happening in their name!</span></p> <p>So I will end with one gloomy message, which is that I think our democratic system is now in greater peril and in greater crisis certainly than in any time in my adult political lifetime and, I believe, if you read the history books, in a greater state of disrepair and malfunction than at any time in the post-war period. </p> <p>But it doesn’t mean that it is going to carry on like this. For every action in politics just as in life there is always a reaction. And the thing we must fear more than anything else is passivity, cynicism, hopelessness, a sense of complete disempowerment. It is genuinely in our hands.</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 more from <a href="https://www.facebook.com/theconventiononbrexit/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE">The Convention</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/michael-gove/brexit-reinvigorated-politics-in-this-country">Brexit: a reinvigorated politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/raoul-martinez/politics-of-hate-predates-brexit-by-long-way">If you&#039;re not yet radical, you haven&#039;t been paying attention</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">Investigation launched into the &#039;secret world&#039; of how millionaires used Facebook and other data to push 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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Brexit2016 Nick Clegg Sun, 14 May 2017 17:06:23 +0000 Nick Clegg 110869 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “You can’t fight fascism every five years with a piece of paper” https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/b-reng-re-sim/you-can-t-fight-fascism-every-five-years-with-piece-of-paper <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Abstention in the recent French presidential elections was at its highest since 1969. Macron cannot afford to ignore those who abstained, as much as he cannot ignore those who voted for Le Pen.</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/549501/PA-31209014.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Emmanuel Macron. Liewig Christian/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-31209014.jpg" alt="lead " title="Emmanuel Macron. Liewig Christian/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emmanuel Macron. Liewig Christian/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At 8pm local time on Sunday 7 May, it was confirmed: Emmanuel Macron, leader of the year-old movement <em>En marche!</em> (Onward!) won the French presidential election with 66.1% of the vote, defeating Marine Le Pen, of the far-right <em>Front National</em> (FN). A collective sigh of relief passed through France, Europe and across the world.</p> <p>But this election has been historic for several reasons – beating a far-right populist is only one of many. The two main governing parties in the fifth republic – the Socialist Party and centre-right Republican Party – were knocked out in the first round; it is the first time since 1969 that participation in the first round was higher than that of the second round (77.7% and 74.6% respectively); and, at 25.44%, the rate of abstention is at its highest since 1969.</p> <p>25.44% amounts to around 12 million people, with a further 4.2 million who spoiled their ballot. Although the lowest turnout was registered in the French overseas territories and Corsica, the phenomenon was observed <a href="http://www.francetvinfo.fr/elections/presidentielle/carte-presidentielle-la-carte-de-france-de-l-abstention-au-second-tour_2180747.html">throughout the country</a>.</p> <h2><strong>An open-air abstention meet-up</strong></h2> <p>On election day, under a gloomy purple-grey sky, I joined a group of around 40 people gathered at the <em>Parc de la Villette</em>, in the north-east of Paris.</p> <p>With only a few more hours left to vote, this crowd was not rushing to the polling stations: the gathering, with the Facebook event title of “So what do we do now?”, was set up to encourage those who had chosen to abstain or spoil their ballots to come together and discuss what the future held. Most of the attendees were far-left activists, anti-fascists, some were supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate from the far-left <em>La France Insoumise</em> movement (roughly translating to <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20170414-france-politics-presidential-race-unsubmissive-awkward-translations-melenchon-macron-fillon">"France Unbowed"</a>), and others were members of the <a href="http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2014/02/23/qui-sont-les-black-blocs_982388">anarchist Black Bloc</a> group.</p> <p>Despite tension surrounding the elections, here the atmosphere was relaxed. A subversive version of a coconut shy stall was set up in one corner (ironically dubbed the “Game of the FN”) where participants won (or lost) points by knocking over cardboard boxes with the protagonists of this year’s election, including Le Pen (with “fascist hyena” scribbled under her photo), François Fillon (the candidate of the Republican party, and plagued by a corruption scandal), and of course Macron.</p> <p>One of the older participants, with particularly good aim, managed to knock over the Le Pen box on his first shot, armed with a football. Amidst cheers, he chuckled: “it’s by kicking them that you get the fascists!”.</p> <h2><strong>“Ni Le Pen, Ni Macron!”</strong></h2> <p>Marius, a 25-year-old who lives and works in Marseille, came to Paris to participate in the gathering and the anti-capitalist protests. He told me that the first time he voted was in the presidential elections in 2012. Since then, he voted in the first round of the 2012 legislative elections but didn’t vote in the second round.</p> <p>“I have since chosen not to vote,” he told me. “The 2012 presidential campaign was a struggle for me. We were encouraged to vote against Sarkozy, which I did, and it really annoyed me because I knew that Hollande would employ liberal [economic] policies.”</p> <p>While Marius and his friends discussed their discontent with Hollande’s presidency, a <a href="https://www.boycott-2017.fr/"><em>Boycott 2017</em></a> activist – a group advocating for abstention or ballot spoiling – handed out leaflets branded with the now-popular slogan “Ni Le Pen, Ni Macron!” (“Neither Le Pen, nor Macron!”).</p> <p>The leaflet begins: “When faced with the plague [Le Pen], the near unanimity of politicians give the order to vote for cholera [Macron], it’s the famous <em>Front républicain</em>.” It’s a succinct summary of the debate that raged amongst left-wing voters and politicians in the days leading up to the elections. It lists the initiatives and laws they had to “fight against”, including the “damned” <em>loi Macron </em>(Macron Law) and the <em>loi travail</em> (Law on Work), both of which attempted to reform the country’s economy and labour laws.</p> <p>The former was drafted by him during his&nbsp;<span>time as Hollande’s minister of the economy&nbsp;</span><span>(from August 2014 to August 2016)&nbsp;</span><span>and the latter was heavily influenced by his policies</span>. The incumbent president is leaving office with a low approval rating – only 4% of the population are satisfied with his presidency, according to a <a href="http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2016/10/25/hollande-une-impopularite-record_5019914_823448.html">poll</a> published in October 2016. Macron has worked hard to dissociate himself from his predecessor’s record, but Hollande’s shadow will loom over him.</p> <p>The <em>Boycott 2017</em> leaflet finishes with “all the governments of the previous years have set the scene for the FN”. It cites the 2002 election which saw Jean-Marie Le Pen (Marine’s father), then-candidate of the FN, crushed by Jacques Chirac, the right-wing candidate of the <em>Union pour un movement populaire</em> (UMP, now <em>les Républicains</em>), with 82.2%. “As we can see the strategy of forming a barrage against fascism in the ballot box is not efficient against the FN which continues to gain ground,” it notes. <em>Boycott 2017</em> concludes that “the only real strategy is the boycott of the elections.” As evidenced by the 25.44% abstention rate on Sunday, they were not alone in thinking that.</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/549501/IMG_9202.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-Marine Le Pen posters, by Canal Saint Martin. Credit: Bérengère Sim. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/IMG_9202.JPG" alt="" title="Anti-Marine Le Pen posters, by Canal Saint Martin. Credit: Bérengère Sim. All rights reserved." width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-Marine Le Pen posters, by Canal Saint Martin. Credit: Bérengère Sim. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In <a href="http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/election-presidentielle-2017/article/2017/04/27/presidentielle-pourquoi-la-presence-du-fn-au-second-tour-ne-mobilise-pas-comme-en-2002_5118698_4854003.html">stark contrast to the 2002 election</a>, when the shock of the FN’s presence in the second round and the fear of the party mobilised politicians and citizens to call for a strategic vote for Chirac, many have put Le Pen and Macron’s policies on a par. Phrases like “I will not choose between neoliberalism and lepenism” or “neither extreme right nor extreme finance” have echoed across social media and in gatherings, pointing to the banalisation of the FN’s far-right policies paired with the rejection of the current system, which many believe Macron <a href="http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/election-presidentielle-2017/video/2017/02/05/le-pen-melenchon-macron-en-quoi-consiste-ce-fameux-systeme-auquel-tous-s-opposent_5074804_4854003.html">embodies</a>.</p> <p>Mélenchon, who in 2002 immediately called on his supporters to vote for Chirac to block the far-right, refused to call on his voters to turn to Macron after the first round of the 2017 elections, perhaps implicitly encouraging his supporters to abstain or spoil their ballot – an “irresponsible” position, according to the socialist Julien Dray.</p> <p>As promised at the beginning of Mélenchon’s movement, <em>La France Insoumise</em>, a consultation was organised so that “les insoumis” (the unbowed – Mélenchon’s supporters) could express their voting intentions for the second round. The majority, 36.12%, planned on spoiling their ballot; 34.83% announced they would vote for Macron; 29.05% claimed they would abstain.</p> <p>Op-eds mushroomed in an attempt to convince those planning to abstain or spoil their ballots: José Bové, a French Green Party member of the European Parliament, exclaimed “<a href="http://www.liberation.fr/debats/2017/04/27/jose-bove-j-appelle-sans-aucune-retenue-a-voter-pour-macron_1565828">I call, without any constraints, to vote for Macron</a>” in the leftist French daily <em>Libération</em>; the writer Raphaël Glucksmann wrote a “<a href="http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/presidentielle-2017/20170502.OBS8802/lettre-a-un-ami-qui-refuse-de-choisir-par-raphael-glucksmann.html">Letter to a friend who refuses to choose</a>”; with a few cross-Channel articles featuring in the mix, such as Hadley Freeman’s piece in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/25/le-pen-far-right-holocaust-revisionist-macron-left"><em>The Guardian</em></a>: “Le Pen is a far-right holocaust revisionist. Macron isn’t. Hard choice?”. Several abstentionists at the Villette were looking with disdain at <em>Libération</em>’s front page on the weekend of the vote: “DO WHAT YOU WANT BUT VOTE FOR MACRON”, with an article by Laurent Joffrin, director of the newspaper, titled “<a href="http://www.liberation.fr/france/2017/05/05/on-ne-vote-pas-seulement-pour-soi-meme_1567683">We do not just vote for ourselves</a>”.</p> <p>Marius admitted to me that he had felt pressure to vote: “the real question for me was whether or not, in the 2017 elections, I would be able to resist the pressure from my friends who wanted me to vote for their preferred candidate.” In France, during ‘civic education’ classes in middle school, children are taught that “voting is a right, and it is also a civic duty” (“<em>voter est un droit, c’est aussi un devoir civique</em>”), a phrase that is printed at the top of all electoral cards stamped at polling stations. During this class, teachers explain that voting is considered a moral obligation and the exercising of one’s right to elect their representatives. As a result, abstention is, to a certain extent, considered a dirty word.</p> <h2><strong>The 25.44% that Macron cannot ignore</strong></h2> <p>Did the numerous articles and the endorsements of Macron from politicians and public figures in France and abroad help? That’s difficult to say.</p> <p>The president-elect will have to choose a prime minister; the legislative elections, with the first and second round being held on 11 and 18 June respectively, will determine whether he will govern with a majority or not.</p> <p>Macron is inheriting a divided society. Given the many records broken in this presidential election, he cannot afford to ignore those who abstained as much as he cannot ignore those who voted for the FN.</p> <p>During his speech at the Louvre, addressing his supporters after his victory, Macron acknowledged those who voted for him unenthusiastically, without adhering to his ideas or his programme, “to defend the republic”. He declared: “I understand that this does not mean I will have free rein.” He then turned to those who voted for the FN: “they expressed an anger, a desperation, and sometimes convictions. I respect them but I will do everything to make sure you never have reason again to vote for extremes again.”</p> <p>Those who abstained or spoiled their ballots were absent from his speech.</p> <p>As more people joined the crowd in the Villette, Marius clarified his position to me. “All those people who are shouting at me saying that because [I abstained], Le Pen will get 40% in this election, I say to them: I don’t care. I am involved in anti-fascist movements; I advocate for local issues where I live. For me, voting isn’t the most important act.”</p> <p>One of his friends – a fellow abstentionist – nodded away enthusiastically. She added: “anyway, you can’t fight fascism every five years with a piece of paper.”&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/ray-filar/dont-vote-political-case-for-not-voting-in-2015-general-election">If you care about politics, don&#039;t vote</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Bérengère Sim Sun, 14 May 2017 12:22:01 +0000 Bérengère Sim 110820 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Saving Christianity through the Benedict Option https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/adam-j-chmielewski/saving-christianity-through-benedict-option <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The idea of the select few isolating themselves from what they perceive as an enfeebled, morally weakened or ailing community, seems like a disappointingly minimalist social programme.</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/Totila_e_San_Benedetto.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Totila_e_San_Benedetto.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Totila e San Benedetto, by Spinello Aretino, San Miniato al Monte, Firenze. Wkicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most influential contemporary philosophers. His publications invariably attract an intense interest and the scrutiny of professional philosophers. He is known especially for his books <em>After Virtue</em> (1981), <em>Whose Justice? Which Rationality?</em> (1988), <em>Three Rival Version of Moral Inquiry</em> (1999), <em>Dependent Rational Animals</em> (1999), as well as multiple provocative and inspiring papers. His latest work, <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ethics-Conflicts-Modernity-Practical-Reasoning/dp/110717645X"><em>Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity</em> (2016)</a> is already stirring lively debates. </p> <p>The lengthy series of books he published, known among admirers and foes alike as the “Interminably Long History of Ethics” (a pun on his earlier <em>Short History of Ethics</em>, 1966), is strongly informed by two major influences, Karl Marx’s philosophy and Thomist Aristotelianism. Judged by scholarly standards in the western academic world, any allegiance between Thomism and Marxism is something rather out of the ordinary. This is fully recognized by MacIntyre himself who commented that the only thing Marxists and Thomists have in common is their shared belief that Thomism and Marxism have nothing in common. Nonetheless, he continues to pursue a perspective that, as he claims, would be capable of accommodating both of these traditions within one <em>Weltanschauung</em>.</p> <h2><strong>The Benedict Option</strong></h2> <p>Recently MacIntyre’s name has reverberated outside his profession. This is owing not to his latest book <em>Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity</em>, but to something that has become known as “The Benedict Option”. The idea is being propagated by American writer Rod Dreher, a radical conservative and relatively recent convert to Catholicism. His book <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Benedict-Option-Strategy-Christians-Post-Christian/dp/0735213291"><em>The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation</em></a><a href="#_ftn1"> [1]</a>, published in the wake of the presidential election which brought conservative Christian politicians into the US Government, has become an American bestseller overnight. </p> <p>The concept, popularised by Dreher takes its name from St. Benedict, the sixth century monk of the Italian city of Nursia, today Norcia, who, discouraged by the worldly and corrupt life in Rome, gave up his studies there and lived as a hermit. Gradually, having acquired a considerable following, he built a number of monasteries, including Montecassino, where he drew up the famous Benedictine Rule and where he resided until his death. His example was widely followed by Christians who managed in this way to salvage their faith through the age of paganism, and bring it later into world dominance.</p> <p>MacIntyre’s role in the promulgation of the religious and political project of the Benedict option, though significant, is wholly unintended. It all started from the concluding lines of his powerful work <em>After Virtue</em>, where he wrote: </p> <p>“What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”&nbsp;<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a></p> <p>Even though MacIntyre later admitted that this is the line he most regrets ever having written<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>,&nbsp; his call for a new form of community capable of sustaining virtues, civility and moral life has become the most popular of all his contentions. This paragraph has been quite frequently interpreted as a sign of MacIntyre’s nostalgic defence of small-scale, local forms of self-rule<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. Irrespective of the meaning intended by the author, and of the adequacy of its most notorious interpretation, there are several important problems with this assertion which are directly related to the conception of human moral agency in MacIntyre’a moral philosophy. A reflection on the possible meanings of the Benedict Option therefore enables us to reveal several important internal tensions in MacIntyre’s moral philosophy.</p> <h2><strong>The withdrawal option</strong></h2> <p>To begin with, faced by the overpowering barbarism of modern culture, the MacIntyrean idea of taking St. Benedict as the model for the continued cultivation of a civilised life might lead us to expect no more than a programme for safeguarding such values in small secluded communities, deliberately shielding themselves from the harmful influences of the external world. </p> <p>In view of the sweeping and harsh critique of the whole contemporary emotivist culture provided by MacIntyre throughout the works which followed <em>After Virtue</em>, the Benedict Option is quite understandable. According to Dreher, seeking shelter through forming small communities has become unavoidable and inevitable for contemporary Catholics for whom a fruitful debate with the dominant culture has become impossible<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>. Interestingly, similar views may also be attributed to some extent to MacIntyre, who persuasively exposed the mutual incomprehension of arguments formulated in contemporary moral debate, and the impossibility of finding a common language for them through, and within, post-Enlightenment moral philosophy.</p> <p>At the same time the withdrawal option suggested by this ominous assertion does not square well with the MacIntyrean idea of the agonistic nature of the transformation of communities. His view of the transformative processes going on within each community in confrontation and rivalry with other communities, strongly implies the need for the robust attitude of its members towards the future of their community. Any withdrawal from the commotion of real life directly clashes with the idea of individuals who, in so far as they do care about their own community and traditions, are actively seeking ways to remedy those weaknesses of their community revealed through confrontation with rivals <a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a>. From this point of view the idea of the select few isolating themselves from what they perceive as an enfeebled, morally weakened or ailing community, does seem like a disappointingly minimalist social programme.</p> <h2><strong>Ivory towers</strong></h2> <p>More than this: the Benedict Option seems to enjoin one to desert one’s community through taking shelter in an ivory tower or otherwise hiding from degenerate humanity in order to cultivate endangered virtues. </p> <p>It would effectively mean defecting from the internal debate about what is to become of their community, and shunning one’s responsibility for getting involved instead in a struggle through which a new way of communal life might emerge. </p> <p>The Benedict Option is thus tantamount to a not very virtuous or heroic escapism. For this reason also, despite frequent references to Karl Marx, it would be difficult to call this programme revolutionary. The aim of the practical call at stake here is not so much about saving humanity through a select minority, but rather the reverse: it is about saving the greatest moral, spiritual and intellectual human achievements from a humanity which has slid into barbarism. </p> <h2><strong>Dangers for Christianity </strong></h2> <p>Two points have to be stressed at this juncture. First, that the above approach is in stark contrast with MacIntyre’s interest in the agonism of communities, which prompts him to stress the need for internal debate and self-questioning on the part of any community faced by external challenges. Second, that the idea of a rescue strategy in the form of the Benedict Option now begins to make sense, since Christianity, which not long ago successfully sought and formed alliances between its own altars and the throne of public power, is nowadays, with the exception of a very few countries, weakened to the extent that it is no longer perceived by the political powers as a sufficiently attractive partner. </p> <p>According to Dreher, there are several dangers which Christianity has to face today: militant secularism that wishes to eliminate religion entirely, together with the accompanying sexual revolution which undermines traditional forms of family, and a fanatical form of Islam that seeks a barbaric theocracy<a href="#_ftn7">[7]</a>. In other words, he blames the external world for the enfeebled condition of Christianity. What strikes one in Dreher’s advocacy of the Benedict Option is that he does not apply himself to diagnosing internal reasons for the current weaknesses of Christianity. Instead he supports his arguments by invoking the authority of Pope Benedict who in his public statements repeatedly referred to Arnold Toynbee’s conception of “creative minorities”<a href="#_ftn8">[8]</a>. </p> <p>The concept of creative minorities has indeed played an important role in the design, and in the message, of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Shortly before his ascent to the papal throne, cardinal Ratzinger represented the Roman Catholic Church as an embattled ship on the stormy seas. As Pope, he claimed for example that “normally it is the creative minorities that determine the future, and in this sense the Catholic Church must understand itself as a creative minority that has a heritage of values that are not things of the past, but a very living and relevant reality”<a href="#_ftn9">[9]</a>. </p> <p>Invoking papal authority may serve well as a way of canonising the Benedict Option. There are, however, significant doubts as to whether the concept of creative minorities will bring with it the requisite support for the Benedict Option. The idea of creative minorities played a key role in Toynbee’s explanation of the dynamics of civilisations<a href="#_ftn10">[10]</a>. He deployed it most especially in his explanation of the causes behind the breakdown of civilisations. By focusing his attention on “nonmaterial” reasons for the demise of civilisations, Toynbee stressed the “loss of creative power in the souls of the creative individuals, or the creative minorities, who have been the leaders of any given civilization at any given stage in the history of its growth; and we have seen that this failure of vitality on the leaders’ side divests them of their magic power to influence and attract the uncreative masses. Where there is no creation, there is also no mimesis”<a href="#_ftn11">[11]</a>. </p> <p>He subsequently illustrated his diagnosis by examples assembled under the title of “Nemesis of Creativity”<a href="#_ftn12">[12]</a>. In explaining the fall of civilisations Toynbee discussed the role of an elite leadership and stressed the perils of the creative minority “'resting on one’s oars’”, lulled into inactivity by the pernicious self-satisfaction arising from their former successes<a href="#_ftn13">[13]</a>. As a result of a number of social and psychological mechanisms, Toynbee demonstrated that a <em>creative</em> minority may turn into a merely <em>dominant</em> minority, stifling one’s own development, but also imposing a “sergeant drill” on the subdued majority, which, supressed, eventually rises against it and initiates the fall of this degenerate civilisation. </p> <h2><strong>The dynamics of social and political forms</strong></h2> <p>Paradoxically, then, Toynbee’s idea of creative minorities degenerating into dominant minorities should be read as an incentive to seek not so much for external reasons for the weakening of Christianity, but on the contrary for internal ones. Toynbee’s idea should thus serve as a support not for the escapist and nostalgic Benedict Option but rather as a call for a thorough internal reform. This is something, it must be stressed, not achieved by Pope Benedict. Precisely in line with the now popularised Benedict Option, by abdicating the papal throne he chose to withdraw himself from the internal challenges of the Church he briefly led, rather than to face them.</p> <p>Finally, what has become known as the Benedict Option, despite its novel and intriguing name, is not something completely novel or unknown to western culture. On the contrary, one can argue that, as a matter of historical fact, the small communities postulated by MacIntyre, or Dreher, or Pope Benedict, have always been formed by intellectuals, artistss – people of culture and spirituality who in their narrow circles strove to cultivate both moral virtues and the virtues of intellectual refinement. </p> <p>Their robustness and creativity, having attracted a popular following, sometimes activated a robust though emulated creativity on the part of larger communities, thus becoming germs for new forms of cultures and even civilisations, only to be discarded and deserted later on in view of their inadequacy as demonstrated by internal or external challenges. Toynbee suggests also that the new ideas which supplanted and replaced former ones were usually met by a similar fate, and so on and on. </p> <p>To sum up, in view of Toynbee’s view of the dynamics of social and political forms and the role he attributed to creative minorities, an insistence on salvaging Christianity by following – once again – in the footsteps of St. Benedict should be deeply reconsidered. History may indeed repeat itself. But maybe it would not have to if we paid closer attention to what it has been saying to us all along.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Rod Dreher, <em>The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation</em>, Sentinel, New York 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> MacIntyre, <em>After Virtue</em>, 263.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> Stanley Hauerwas, “<a href="http://www.plough.com/en/topics/community/church-community/why-community-is-dangerous">Why Community is Dangerous</a>”; An Interview with Peter Mommsen, in: <em>The Plough</em>, March 4, 2016. One has to stress, however, that he did not erase it from subsequent editions of his book.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Cf. e.g. Jason Blakeley, review of <em>What Happened in and to Moral Philosophy in the Twentieth Century? Philosophical Essays in Honor of Alasdair MacIntyre</em>. Fran O’Rourke (ed.), University of Notre Dame Press 2013, in: <em>Philosophy in Review</em> XXXIV (2014), no. 6, p. 329.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> “Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation”, see: Emma Green, “<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/benedict-option/517290/">The Christian Retreat From Public Life</a>”, <em>The Atlantic</em>, February 22, 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> MacIntyre, “Relativism, Power, and Philosophy”, in: <em>After Philosophy. End or Transformation?</em>. pp. 385-411.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref7">[7]</a> Rod Dreher, “<a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/04/the-benedict-option/">The Benedict option. Believers must find new, more radical ways to practise their faith</a>”, in: <em>The Spectator</em>, April 15, 2017.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref8">[8]</a> Rod Dreher, “The Benedict option”, <em>The Spectator</em>, April 15, 2017; quite similar idea has been mentioned by Samuel Gregg, “<a href="https://acton.org/pub/commentary/2010/09/22/benedict%E2%80%99s-creative-minority">Benedict’s creative minority</a>”, Sept. 22, 2010. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref9">[9]</a> “<a href="http://www.catholic.org/news/international/europe/story.php?id=34545">De-Christianized Europe. Church as a 'Creative Minority’</a>”; Interview with Pope Benedict by Sandro Magister, <em>Catholic Online</em>, 10/2/2009. </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref10">[10]</a> Cf. Arnold J. Toynbee, <em>A Study of History</em>, Vol. IV, Fifth Impression, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1951.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref11">[11]</a> Ibid., p. 5.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref12">[12]</a> Ibid., p. 245ff.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref13">[13]</a> Ibid., p. 261.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div 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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? United States EU Civil society Culture Ideas Adam J Chmielewski Thu, 11 May 2017 21:46:49 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 110822 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Adults in the Room, by Yanis Varoufakis (London: The Bodley Head, 2017) https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/paul-tyson/adults-in-room-by-yanis-varoufakis-london-bodley-head-2017 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A lot, maybe the future of Europe, depends on how you read the opening conversation with Larry Summers in ‘one of the greatest political memoirs of all time.’ Theological review. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-23478396.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-23478396.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'>Greeks in Syntagma Square to celebrate the win of the 'Oxi' (Greek for no) side of the austerity referendum, July 5,2015. The no side won with over 60% of the votes. Michael Debets/ Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>“ ‘There are two kinds of politicians,’ he said: ‘insiders and outsiders. The outsiders prioritize their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders, who make the important decisions. The insiders, for their part, follow a sacrosanct rule: never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do. Their reward? Access to inside information and a chance, though no guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes.’ With that Summers arrived at his question. ‘So, Yanis,’ he said, ‘which of the two are you?’ ”</em></p> <p>This is a very engaging and unusual book. It is unusual in that it is not simply a political biography but a reflection on the nature and meaning of power in our times. No doubt its detractors will think of it as vanity publishing that is only about Yanis. But this kind of tack has been a standard method of not listening to what Varoufakis is actually saying and tells us more about the egoistic bankruptcy of those driving the attack. </p> <p>The fact is, the tumultuous days that ended in the dying of the first Syriza government are the canary in the mine for the Eurozone and global high finance. Whatever Varoufakis’ views of himself may be, what he has seen and heard and attempted to do is profoundly revealing of the inner workings of power in our times. The pathologies of power in our times will unleash catastrophic destruction on us if we do not understand and address them: so this really is an important book.</p> <p>I am not going to say much about the history of 2015 that Varoufakis outlines other than you should read it. The events described are tragic and chilling. But I am going to take an unusual line in evaluating this book here, because the book itself is so unusual in its reflectiveness on the relationship between power, ideas and personalities in our times. You (and probably the author) may find the hermeneutic key set I am going to bring to this short essay startling, even inappropriate, but if you come along for the ride with me, I think you will find it illuminating.</p> <p>I am a philosophical theologian, so I am going to respond to this astonishing political biography in the terms of my expertise. <em>Adults in the room</em> is firstly a prophetic text. I am thinking of ‘the prophetic’ in Socratic terms here, which I will unpack below. Secondly, this is a text that refuses conspiracy theories and moralizing entirely, and yet it is uncannily astute in discerning the dynamics of dark power and the manner in which people are tragically caught up in those dynamics. <em>Adults in the Room</em> is thus a striking exposé of the “principalities and powers” that are the “rulers of the darkness of this world… in high places” that largely define the meta-conditions of our daily lives.</p> <h2><strong>Prophecy and speaking truth to power</strong></h2> <p>Stuart Weierter, a brilliant scholar of classical antiquity, points out that Plato’s dialogue <em>Euthyphro</em> is best read in partnership with Aristophanes’ <em>Clouds</em> as a reflection on the relationship of prophecy to philosophy. Plato humorously poses the question: Can human thought discern the difference between divine revelation and bullshit? If it cannot, then every pronouncement the religious status quo makes had better be respected. Attacking philosophy, Aristophanes powerfully argues that the presumptuous upstart, Socrates, is offending those in charge with his smart-sounding yet offensively simple questions. Socratic questioning should not be dignified by answers from those who hold our prevailing way of life together.</p> <p>Socrates believes in divine truth even though he is respectful of the limitations of all human knowledge claims. Eschewing the mysteries and dignities of the status quo, Socrates acts as if all he needs is humane and careful reasoning to discern and pursue the Good. Socrates does not need occult knowledge, he does not need to join the priest-guild, pay his dues and pledge fealty to its special secrets. Socrates is deeply pious, yet he refuses to be an insider to the cultic guardians of power and stability within Athenian society. Socrates must follow his own inwardly heard divine voice – his daemon – and fearlessly ask the obvious questions, seeking transparent deliberative mutual respect in his interlocutors. As <em>The Apology</em> notes, Socrates is under no illusion that power has any interest in being addressed by truth. Even so, Socrates has no freedom to deny his divine vocation; he must live and speak truth as best as he is able. Socrates is a philosophical prophet.</p> <p>Varoufakis, too, is a philosophical prophet. There is a priest guild running high power in our times, and the central logic of that guild is the preservation of high power. The doctrines and morals it requires us to believe in and enact, it does not believe in and enact itself, but it will not take kindly to anyone who officially points that out. We the people are expected to trust those who run high power and who uphold the order and possibilities of the reality in which we live. People like Varoufakis make us uncomfortable because they are impious and dangerous underminers of the status quo on which we all depend. Whatever he says – no matter how obviously true it might appear to be – if the priest-guild says he is wrong, then pious upholders of the reality in which we live will turn their backs on him. With Aristophanes, the prevailing logos of the established order does not believe in the philosophical discernment of divine truth. Right doctrine and right practise are <em>defined</em> by our rulers, and anyone who questions those truths undermines good order itself and must be rejected.</p> <h2><strong>What is going on?</strong></h2> <p>Yanis’ short stint as Finance Minister chronicles what happens when an able theologian of modern political economics points out that our priests are heretics in the terms of their own doctrines. For if austerity is meant to heal the Greek economy then 1 + 1 = 17; but if austerity is not about healing the Greek economy, then what is really going on in the Eurozone? In response, our priest guild simply asserts that 1 + 1 obviously = 17, and they see no reason why they should tell anyone what is really going on. Who can know divine truth but the priest guild? Trust and obey, for there is no other way.</p> <p>Prophecy has always been a tough gig. Ask Jeremiah. Power wants and always forms a compliant priesthood to uphold its dignity and unassailable legitimacy before the people. So someone who <em>really</em> discerns the truth is always a problem for power. Theologians are necessary for power, but they are always a bit of a risk. What if one of them actually expects power to be subject to divine truth rather than the other way around?</p> <p>Since the rise of political ‘realism’ (the triumph of Aristophanean constructivism over Socratic dialectics) prophetic voices have been remarkably hard to hear in our public places. Truth is simply irrelevant to power under the conditions of hard constructivism. So those of us hoping for change have been waiting for a gutsy theologian like Varoufakis to get inside the Temple of Power and cause some trouble. Yanis got in, he had a few glory moments in the outer courtyard overturning money-changer tables, and then power regrouped and his removal from politics was swiftly organized. </p> <p>But what we can learn from those short months is a few simple truths about money, politics, publics and élite power. Whether those truths make a difference is not yet known, but there can be no change to a destruction-bent trajectory for the global economy, and for humanity itself, if truth fails to matter. All the prophets are actually a sign of hope – even when they speak their darkest messages of judgement. For it is only the truth that sets us free. If power does not listen to truth, power will reap its own destruction.</p> <p>Enough of prophecy. Now, very briefly, let us turn to the principalities and powers.</p> <h2><strong>Principalities and powers</strong></h2> <p>Yanis has a fascinating perspective on the structures of power and the freedoms of individual actors. In a similar trajectory to Max Weber’s sociology of institutions, Varoufakis notices that organizations with power take on a cultural life-form all of their own. </p> <p>Individuals can allow themselves to be determined by the grain of the culture of institutional power – which is moral and rational if you believe that grain to be towards a good end – or they can fight against that grain if they believe in the institution but think its aims are wrong. In reality, the only people who usually get near the top of power institutions are those who have shown fealty to the goals of that institution <em>as it already is</em>. That is, power preserves itself via human actors who seek power.</p> <p>Yanis is not a determinist, and yet he sees the denial of freedom as a staple ingredient of dark power. People act tragically when they resign themselves to what is possible within the norms of power institutions, as governed by the principle of the preservation of power. When this happens a kind of collective ‘animal spirit’ (to borrow from Keynes) comes to govern the limits of choice and action, and people find themselves acting not on the free basis of reason or humanity, but out of a sense of necessary service to sub-rational and inhumane power. </p> <p>At this point things are not only tragic, but, in the biblical sense, they become demonic. Yanis had no success as an exorcist when he was Finance Minister, but he was in the Temple of Power, he was courted by the Dark Side, and he made no Faustian pact. This means he has seen the ‘spiritual’ dynamic of power in its institutionalized forms, and he does not attribute evil or conspiracy to the individual actors who become the pawns of dark power when they lay reason and humanity down for the sake of power-preserving necessity. And yet, they are not innocent either, for they have chosen to be the powerless servants of power. In doing so they have denied a human face to politics.</p> <h2><strong>Which of the two are you?</strong></h2> <p>And this is where Paul Mason’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/03/yanis-varoufakis-greece-greatest-political-memoir">review of <em>Adults in the Room</em></a> gets Varoufakis profoundly wrong. Here is Mason’s neat précis of that opening paragraph, already leaning in a certain direction:</p> <blockquote><p><em>He’s in Washington for a meeting with Larry Summers, the former US treasury secretary and Obama confidant. Summers asks him point blank: do you want to be on the inside or the outside? “Outsiders prioritise their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price is that they are ignored by the insiders, who make the important decisions,” Summers warns.</em></p></blockquote> <p>Mason thinks Varoufakis does not understand political activism. Actually, Varoufakis understands political activism all too well, but he does not trust the animal spirits of party politics and he refuses the telos of mere electoral pragmatism. He wants a politics of free citizens transparently seeking truth and humane reason together, and that is not going to help him within the bowels of Eurozone high politics, nor in the old left party loyalty ideal that Mason seems to cherish. </p> <p>Thus Mason thinks Tsipras’ abandonment of the will of the people to the demonic necessities of Eurozone high power was politically unavoidable. No; it was the negation of free and reasoned politics itself, for it was a capitulation to inhumane and irrational (that is, demonic) power. If Tsipras had had the courage to pursue what the people had asked over what would ensure his political survival with the prevailing principalities of power, if he had stood with humanity and reason and not given in to brute irrational power, perhaps Greece would have triumphed over dark power, to the great benefit of Europe. But we will never know if that perhaps would have worked, for that door was not tried.</p> <p>Finally,<em> Adults in the Room</em> is a book offering a theological virtue: hope. Yanis shows us that though it is very hard, it is possible to maintain reason and a commitment to humane ends as a significant political actor in our times. But it is also a book of judgement, for – so Yanis discerns – hope cannot arise from within the structures of demonic power that are now entrenched in the dynamic of irrational and inhumane self-preservation, almost beyond redemption. </p> <p>The impetus for reform must rise up from the people governed, it will not rise from our leaders. There is no more urgent task than the reform of power in our times, yet whilst there is life, wherever the human spirit refuses to cower to the demonic, then life can be breathed back into power. This book could be a game changer if it shakes we the people from our compliant slumber as passengers within the sinking ship of contemporary high power.</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://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1113208/adults-in-the-room/">Adults in the Room</a>: my battle with Europe's Deep Establishment,&nbsp; by Yanis Varoufakis.</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/paul-tyson/varoufakis-%E2%80%93-new-kind-of-politics">Varoufakis – a new kind of politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-tyson/varoufakis%E2%80%99-unspeakably-shocking-plan-b">Varoufakis’ unspeakably shocking plan B</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/james-galbraith/great-german-greek-grexit-game"> A Great German Greek Grexit Game?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/james-galbraith-j-luis-martin/poisoned-chalice">The poisoned chalice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Paul Tyson DiEM25 Thu, 11 May 2017 19:11:04 +0000 Paul Tyson 110817 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The sticking power of false narrative https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/gavin-kelly/sticking-power-of-false-narrative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Real shifts are staring us in the face — they just tend not to be the ones we so often hear about.</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/page1-424px-Onward_Sweep_of_the_Machine_Process_(ca_1917).pdf.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/page1-424px-Onward_Sweep_of_the_Machine_Process_(ca_1917).pdf.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The onward sweep of the machine process, published by Industrial Workers of the World, Chicago, c.1917. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Work is being revolutionised. The era of the career is over. Robots will increasingly render humans redundant — half of today’s jobs are likely to go over the next decade. The transformation of working lives means we’re all destined to become multiple-jobbers and portfolio-jugglers capable of continually reinventing ourselves as we adapt to the winds of economic change.</p> <p>I could go on — and on. There is an endless river of reports, summits and policy commissions flowing forward with a hyperbolic account of the unprecedented disruption we are living through. The trouble is that some of these claims are demonstrably untrue, while others are merely highly questionable. </p> <p>Typical job tenure, for instance, is <a href="http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/app/uploads/2015/07/A-steady-job.pdf">much the same as it was a generation ago</a> (it’s actually risen slightly). <a href="http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/data/job-to-job-moves/">Job-hopping has fallen sharply</a>. We move around for work less than we used to in the 1990s. The assumptions <a href="https://gavinkellyblog.com/are-the-robots-about-to-take-all-the-jobs-dont-hold-your-breath-f4ec861fda40">underpinning doomy projections</a> about tech and jobs are very suspect. We’ve never had more work yet in important respects our jobs market has become less, not more, dynamic (<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Complacent-Class-Self-Defeating-Quest-American/dp/1250108691/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1488902762&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=tyler+cowen&amp;&amp;linkCode=sl1&amp;tag=fifthchanceme-20&amp;linkId=69e668479a0e2a1a8a6aa9997ff6a4a4">Tyler Cowen</a> has set out a version of this argument with some vim for the US, and <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/f4bf8b84-1ea7-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c">Tim Harford</a> distilled it nicely recently). Sure, many things are changing and there will doubtless be shifts in how we work not least due to technology. But when, you might ask, <em>wasn’t</em> that the case?</p> <p>These counterpoints may not be contentious among those who spend their time poring over the data. But mention them in a room of politicos, tech-enthusiasts or business leaders and you will be looked at askance. That just <em>can’t </em>be right: didn’t you hear what they were all <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/">saying at Davos</a>?</p> <h2><strong>Zombie narratives</strong></h2> <p>This isn’t mere pedantry — it matters. It’s hard to get traction on what’s really going on in the here and now, never mind the immediate future, if you are facing a constant gale of grandiose claims. It distracts attention away from very real problems and steers it towards frothier issues. It’s how, for example, serious people, in serious outlets, end up debating not-so-serious ideas like a tax on robots.</p> <p>An under-examined question is how these zombie-narratives acquire such sticking power — why are they so hard to shift? Part of the answer is that a number of influential groups have a shared attachment to neophilia. Incentives and interests produce an overstatement of ‘change’ and understatement of ‘continuity’.</p> <p>The predictable group to point the finger at is, of course, the media who need to break news and attract clicks. And it’s true that even some supposedly high-end outlets are happy to provide space for a study if it involves a scary number and a top-line about ‘robots’. Meanwhile painstakingly put together research that debunks exaggerated claims struggles to get covered. There are, of course, fine journalists well known for their myth-slaying prowess. But, in a media world of fewer subject-specialists — not least labour correspondents — they are thinner on the ground.</p> <h2><strong>Change-analysts occupy the middle future</strong></h2> <p>Yet to pin it all on the media would be infantile. After all they don’t initiate this stuff. We also need to look at an industry of what we might call ‘change-analysts’ of one sort or another. Management-consultancy is an industry that in part survives by telling others that they’ve glimpsed the land beyond the horizon and, inevitably, the terrain is of a very different nature. </p> <p>For too many consultancies the default setting is that we are, always, on the cusp of ‘transformational change’. Likewise, the big tech companies are themselves a constant source of faddish futurology that receives reams of coverage. In a culture where the TED-talk is king, ‘newness’ will trump accuracy just as the perma-claim that the ‘pace of change is quickening’ becomes the established wisdom regardless of the facts. (As <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21679448-pace-business-really-getting-quicker-creed-speed?fsrc=scn%2Ftw_ec%2Fthe_creed_of_speed">The Economist</a> put it ‘business people feel time is accelerating — but the figures suggest they are largely talking guff’).</p> <p>Elements of the academy, no doubt spurred on by the pressure to demonstrate ‘impact’, are also increasingly a source of overblown assertions about what the future of work holds. Indeed, it’s a characteristic of our times that this turn co-exists alongside a very different shift towards higher standards of rigour, evaluation and data-analysis across a wider range of academic fields. Think-tanks, too, can be part of this tendency (doubtless I’ve been a sinner at one time or another). There will always be a temptation to make a name for yourself in a congested market via strident predictions about the middle-future rather than the less-reportable but more arduous work of understanding existing trends and policy responses.</p> <h2><strong>Political runes</strong></h2> <p>Alongside the media and change-analysts there is another group with an appetite for narratives about why the future will be very different from the past: politicians. Some of our smartest representatives see themselves as navigators of the shifting social and economic tides that carry us forward. Back in the 1990s the role of politician as guide-to-the-future was performed with some élan by the young Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. They, too, may have been guilty of hyperbole (and the underlying assumption about the inevitably of the forward march of globalisation is looking shakier than it used to) but there was a genuine depth of insight to their reading of the runes.</p> <p>A generation later and the big speech or essay setting out the scale of the social change we are on the cusp of is an increasingly jaded ritual for both established leaders and emerging contenders. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with politicians seeking to decipher the big challenges of tomorrow: we need more, not less, focus on slow-burn problems. But in today’s politics all too often the formulaic result is a stitching together of the most eye-catching claims and projections currently doing the rounds, embroidered by anecdotes of cutting edge techno-wizardry, resulting in the conclusion that the nation now faces a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ political choice.</p> <p>If this is a charge that can be levelled at some so-called reformist-centrists then it also applies to those situated further out on the left and right. Those convinced that only ground-clearing policy change will put a society back on the right track — whether that be a universal basic income or an end to immigration — are often quick to latch onto arresting claims about the future that they think help demonstrate that their radicalism will, one day, place them on the right side of history.</p> <h2><strong>Big-change scepticism </strong></h2> <p>Together these different forces mean that a healthy scepticism about big-change rhetoric — whether about the future of work or other issues — is essential. </p> <p>But it also needs to be measured. It’s all too easy to become a reflexive contrarian, expending all your energies puncturing myths and constantly seeking them out — even when they don’t exist. And when it comes to the world of work there<em> are</em> some very real shifts — whether the surge in older-working, self-employment and male part-time working or tech-driven reshaping of specific white-collar occupations.</p> <p>Far from this being a call for complacency, it’s a plea to focus on the very real challenges we <em>do </em>face. Overblown accounts of the ‘revolution’ we are living through tend to get in the way of this task. Real shifts are staring us in the face — they just tend not to be the ones we so often hear about.</p><p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="https://gavinkellyblog.com/the-sticking-power-of-false-narrative-f2cd80defaf3">Gavin Kelly's blog</a> on May 10, 2017. He writes there in his personal capacity.<br /></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK United States Gavin Kelly Wed, 10 May 2017 19:39:44 +0000 Gavin Kelly 110789 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are Basque nationalists coming to the rescue of the Spanish conservative government? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/koldo-casla/why-are-basque-nationalists-coming-to-rescue-of-spanish-conservative- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>One of Spain's most unlikely political alliances has ancient roots.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/640px-Foruak.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/640px-Foruak.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>King Ferdinand the Catholic confirming the fueros of Biscay at Guernica in 1476.</span></span></span></p><p>With only five seats in a Parliament of 350 Members, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV-EAJ) is playing a crucial role in Spanish politics.</p> <p>In a hung parliament, PP’s conservative government can only rely on its 134 MPs and two more that tend to be loyal. About 40 seats short, the government has to negotiate each legislative initiative with the opposition, where two parties stand out as most likely allies in tumultuous waters: the 32 MPs of the central-liberal <em>Ciudadanos</em> (“Citizens”) and the mentioned five from PNV-EAJ. After some political juggling, their support can be enough most of the time.</p> <p>However, while <em>Ciudadanos</em> is comfortable with PP’s economic policies and anti-devolution Jacobinism, ideology does not explain the PNV-EAJ’s position. PNV-EAJ is closer to the social-democratic PSOE (allegedly closer than <a href="http://elpais.com/elpais/2016/10/02/inenglish/1475406462_358063.html?rel=mas">PSOE leaders towards each other</a>), and in fact, they share power in the Basque government, in the three Basque provincial governments and in many local councils, including the three main cities. </p><p>Even <em>Podemos</em> (“We can”), which is supposed to be to the left of everybody else, included in its <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/09/podemos-manifesto-ikea-catalogue-flat-pack-policies">Ikea-style</a> 2016 <a href="https://lasonrisadeunpais.es/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Podemos-Programa-Electoral-Elecciones-Generales-26J.pdf">manifesto</a> the expansion of the Basque welfare regime to the rest of Spain, and the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Basque Country and Catalonia, all of which suggests that there could be room for mutual understanding with them too.</p> <p>But the PNV-EAJ has made a different choice. In essence, Mr Rajoy needs the moderate Basque nationalists to remain in power, and the Basque nationalists know it all too well. After weeks of negotiations, PNV-EAJ has just <a href="http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2017/05/03/actualidad/1493804981_605385.html">confirmed</a> it will support the approval of the Spanish budget. Less than one month ago, with its abstention PP <a href="http://www.noticiasdegipuzkoa.com/2017/04/12/politica/el-parlamento-aprueba-las-cuentas-del-gabinete-urkullu?random=937239">facilitated</a> the approval of the Basque government’s budget in the Basque parliament.</p> <p>Considering the ideological mismatch and the significant disagreement about the very idea of nationhood, how come Basque nationalists seem willing to reach agreements in Madrid with a conservative and unionist party <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/f2c1b818-24f4-11e7-8691-d5f7e0cd0a16">haunted</a> by corruption scandals?</p> <p>I contend that PNV-EAJ is honouring its party name, not the Spanish PNV, but the Basque EAJ. While PNV stands for “Basque Nationalist Party”, EAJ literally means “Basque Party that advocates God and the old laws” (J for <em>“jeltzale”</em>, <em>“jaungoikoa eta lege zaharren zalea”</em>). The so-called “old laws” are more commonly known as <em>fueros</em> in Spain.</p> <p>Leaving God for another time, PNV-EAJ’s politics are understandable in light of Basque history, going back centuries in time.</p> <p>The <em>fueros</em> are the unique foundation of traditional Basque nationalism. Throughout history, <em>fueros</em> were the collection of laws and conventions that regulated private and public life in the territories that are now known as the Basque Country and Navarre. Swearing to respect and protect them was one of the first things that Spanish kings were expected to do upon coronation.</p> <p>A variety of <em>fueros</em> regimes existed in other parts of Spain as well, but they were all taken away over time in the process of centralisation that has defined the progressive construction of the Spanish State since the late fifteenth&nbsp;century.</p> <p>For example, Catalonia lost them in 1714 when the Catalan nobles supported the losing side in a succession war. You may have seen the Camp Nou <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itO_AwaJlj8">chanting</a> for independence on the fourteenth&nbsp;second of the seventeenth&nbsp;minute of Barça matches. That’s the reason why.</p> <p>The Basque establishment picked the winning side in that civil war but miscalculated in two others that took place in the 1830s and 70s. As a result, the <em>fueros</em> were suppressed in the Basque provinces, to be later restored albeit trimmed down. This <em>fueros</em>-lite situation was the breeding ground where PNV-EAJ sprouted in 1895.</p> <p>Together with rights and liberties, Franco took <em>fueros</em> away in 1937. Upon the re-establishment of democracy, the 1978 Constitution brought them back to the table. The First Additional Provision reads:</p> <p><em>“</em><em>The </em><a href="http://www.congreso.es/portal/page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Hist_Normas/Norm/const_espa_texto_ingles_0.pdf"><em>Constitution</em></a><em> protects and respects the historic rights of the territories with traditional charters (</em>fueros<em>). The general updating of historic rights shall be carried out, where appropriate, within the framework of the Constitution and of the Statutes of Autonomy.”</em></p> <p>In 1981, King Juan Carlos I visited the Basque Country and, next to the iconic Gernika Tree, recognised the role of the Basque <em>fueros</em>, “confirmed by Spanish monarchs until the nineteenth&nbsp;century”, as the expression of “Basque unique features” and as an “essential part of the project that facilitated and encouraged the inclusion of the Basque Country in the very definition of Spain”.</p> <p>Spain is now a federal or quasi-federal State, but the Basque Country and Navarre are the only two regions where devolution (or autonomy, in the Spanish constitutional parlance) is framed in the language of <em>fueros</em>. They are also the only ones allowed to regulate and levy their own taxes. <em>Fueros</em> are also the reason for this.</p> <p>The <em>fueros</em> and their institutional architecture are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/koldo-casla/why-does-basque-country-seem-so-quiet-about-independence-nowadays">one of the key factors</a> why you don’t hear so much about Basque independence while Catalonia sometimes seems tied to Spain by a cat’s whisker.</p> <p>The PNV-EAJ <a href="http://www.cuatro.com/noticias/espana/Urkullu-PNV-Euskadi-PP-EH_0_2340450154.html">advocates</a> a “bilateral relationship among equals” with the Spanish government in the fashion of old Basque nobles and the Spanish royalty. The logic of the <em>fueros</em> helps make sense of the bizarre and apparently anachronistic statement by the First Minister Iñigo Urkullu when Juan Carlos I abdicated in favour of his son in 2014. Mr Urkullu <a href="http://www.diariovasco.com/politica/201406/30/gernika-espera-felipe-201406300713.html">urged</a> the newly enthroned Felipe VI to “acknowledge the particularities of the Basque Country” and to “respect the <em>fueros</em>”.</p> <p>None of this suggests that Basque nationalists will never champion a more radical rupture. PNV-EAJ did favour such strategy <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/oct/27/spain.gilestremlett">about one decade ago</a>, and the pro-independence Bildu, the second political force in the Basque parliament, opposes the idea of <em>fueros</em> as a historical oddity that prevents a unilateral separation from Spain should the Basque people vote for it in referendum.</p> <p>However, in the current context the ruling PNV-EAJ seems relatively calm in power with the social-democrats thanks to the quiet abstention of the conservatives, while negotiating tax transfers and public investment from the Spanish government. </p><p>This political choice can be criticised on principled and even long-term strategic grounds, but it is not entirely devoid of rationality when you are the party of god and the old laws.</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/koldo-casla/why-does-basque-country-seem-so-quiet-about-independence-nowadays">Why does the Basque Country seem so quiet about independence nowadays?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/xabier-letona/scotland-big-push-for-basque-sovereignty-supporters">Scotland: a big push for Basque sovereignty supporters</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Spain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Spain Koldo Casla Wed, 10 May 2017 12:23:07 +0000 Koldo Casla 110770 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Italian way to populism https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/fausto-corvino/italian-way-to-populism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Five Star Movement has polarised people’s attention and anger around a discourse on legality that is non- or anti-political. Neither extreme left nor right, but only while they are safely in the opposition.</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/500209/4140963115_8014e51503_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/4140963115_8014e51503_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Five Star Movement in its early years. Flickr/ Michele Federico. some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Five Star Movement (M5S) has now become the leading political party in Italy. After the defeat of the Democratic Party (PD) in the referendum aimed at abolishing the bicameral system, the consequent resignation of the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and the schism of the left wing of the PD, the polls now estimate that in the very unlikely case of immediate elections the M5S would gain the relative majority of votes. </p> <p>Many people look on this as a blessing, or at least with empathy, after decades of political mismanagement, scandals, and a tragic combination of clientelism and irresponsible public spending. Some others are deeply concerned about the lack of experience of these newly born politicians, define them as dangerous populists, and fear that once the electoral struggle is over the members of the M5S would lack the skills needed to govern a difficult country like Italy, which is burdened by a huge public debt and stuck in a long period of stagnation. </p> <p>I shall propose here a different reading that is counter to both supporters and critics of the M5S, for I think that while the M5S has had the evident merit of revitalizing public opinion that had remained silent and sullen for too long, it has polarized people’s attention and anger around a discourse on legality that is non-political. And this risks overshadowing the fundamental debate on the functioning of the political economy paradigm adopted by the governments of the last decade and the eventual necessity of a new one.</p> <h2><strong>M5S 2009 - today</strong></h2> <p>As many people already know, the M5S was born around the second half of 2000s out of the initiatives of the Italian comedian Beppe Grillo, outlined mainly through his famous blog, even though it was institutionalized as an official political movement only in 2009. It firstly participated in the administrative elections in 2008, through civic lists, with negligible results, but four years after, in 2012, it managed to elect its first mayors, in three small cities and in Parma, a province capital. In the meantime, the technical government appointed in 2011, led by the economist Mario Monti, and supported by both the centre-left and the centre-right, resigned just a few months before the expected date of the elections. </p> <p>The traditional parties that had supported Monti’s government and its harsh austerity measures paid an electoral price for what they call an act of responsibility. If you add this to the widespread dissatisfaction of the people with the scandals that accompanied the sunset of Berlusconism, it is not so difficult to understand why in 2013 the M5S registered an <em>explouat</em> in its parliamentary debut. In its first parliamentary vote, it managed to become the largest vote-getter party in the chamber of deputies, outperforming even the PD, which was supposed to grasp the fruits of years of anti-Berlusconism but which came up short, even with its allies, of sufficient votes for creating a pure centre-left government.</p> <p>The first important thing to understand about M5S is that its representatives perceive themselves as morally superior to all other politicians. They immediately made it clear that they would renounce any kind of alliance, and they have stuck to this dogma in every political body they were elected into. But it is fundamental to note that they do not discriminate on a political basis; rather, they do so based on reasons related to individual morality. Basically, what they claim is that the whole Italian political system is so corrupt that any politician belonging to traditional parties lacks sufficient credibility for sharing in a political project. </p> <h2><strong>Opening the tin of tuna</strong></h2> <p>The consequence of this attitude in the three-pole political system that emerged from the last election – and that has substantially remained unvaried so far – is that the only way to create a government is to look for transversal alliances between the left and the right. In fact, the three governments that have come in succession after the 2013 vote were supported by the PD together with Berlusconi’s right-wing party – first, with the whole of Berlusconi’s party, and later, when he passed to the opposition, with a group of deputies and senators that split off from their former leader. </p> <p>The recurrent expression used by Grillo and his MPs in the aftermath of the last political elections was that they were going to open the Parliament like a tuna tin, in the sense that they would render as transparent as possible an institution that has been used and monopolized by what they call ‘la casta’ (the caste) for too long. The M5S has not achieved its great consensus by proposing specific policies; rather, it has done so by proposing itself as the doctor that can cure a dying patient, the Italian political system. With respect to this, it would not be much of a logical stretch to say that the M5S is not destined to last forever. Once its mission has been accomplished, and Italy has finally won its struggle for legality, the members of M5S could reach the conclusion, without incurring in specific contradictions, that the movement does not have any reason for existing. For the electorate could keep on monitoring the decency of its representatives from outside the institutions.&nbsp; </p> <p>The basic difference between the M5S and the populist parties that are now gaining votes in other countries is that the former does not propose any political paradigm shift, nor does it take radical positions on key issues such as migration, taxation, investments, the euro, and the like. So far, the key argument of the M5S has been the waste of public money spent irresponsibly by members of traditional political parties as remuneration for their political jobs. As a symbolic act, representatives of M5S have decided to renounce a considerable part of their salary and to channel it into a fund for financing small and medium enterprises. </p> <h2><strong>Neither extreme right nor extreme left?</strong></h2> <p>Some people see it as a big blessing, because by radicalizing people’s anger around the issue of the mismanagement of public money, M5S has prevented the rise of dangerous populist movements. In fact, what is really peculiar about Italy in comparison to other European countries is that even though the dissatisfaction and anger is widespread among voters, neither the extreme left nor the extreme right have managed to enter the Parliament so far. </p> <p>Some commentators would probably disagree with my latter observation and would object that the Lega Nord (Northern League) is a far-right populist party that might pose a threat to democracy, referring in particular to its insistence on leaving the European Union (EU) and on introducing much stricter controls on the arrival of migrants. </p> <p>But I think this is an over-exaggeration, because the Lega Nord is a relatively small political force (it now accounts for about 12 percent of the votes), is now administering several local bodies without causing peculiar threats, and above all, in the near future, can only get to the national government in coalition with the centre-right. </p> <p>Nonetheless, if the M5S should be praised for defusing dangerous extra-parliamentary deviations, it is also preventing the development of a serious discourse on how to finally create economic growth within the fiscal parameters set by EU. For the people’s indignation is now centred on micro cases of the waste of public money, rather than on macro issue relating to the desirability of the austerity measures imposed over the last decades. </p> <h2>Reddito di cittadinanza</h2> <p>The main economic proposal of the M5S consists in what they call ‘reddito di cittadinanza’ (citizenship income), a sort of guaranteed minimum income to be paid to whoever involuntarily falls below a fixed poverty line because she has lost her job or is unable to earn enough to stay afloat. That guarantee minimum income&nbsp; – despite its name, not to be confused with the universal basic income, given that it expires once the person gets a decent job and is conditional upon actively searching for employment (after you refuse three job offers, you lose the subsidy) – has come under near-universal criticism. The biggest objection levelled against this proposal by all other parties is that Italy simply lacks the money to fund it. The M5S responds by listing all the cases in which a more legal and efficient management of public institutions could lead us to saving enough to collect the required funds. </p> <p>But what is difficult to understand is how the M5S plans to bring back economic growth. While the pro-business front, which encompasses the right and Renzi’s PD, insist on lowering taxation and reducing the deficit, and smaller left parties invoke countercyclical measures based on public intervention, it is not clear how the efficiency dogma embraced by the M5S would get translated into choices of political economy if the movement was really called to govern the country. </p> <p>Members of the M5S have repeatedly insisted that they are neither left nor right. And I have become convinced that unfortunately this is true. They started as kind of single-issue movement and, over the last few years, did not do much to evolve into something more complex. With this, I do not mean that their crusade against corruption and the mismanagement of public funds is useless; on the contrary, I think that these are important problems and I look very positively at the fact that a political movement has finally decided to tackle them seriously. <span class="mag-quote-center">Shall we find an alternative method for taking control of the national deficit while preserving employment and giving new momentum to welfare provisions, such as the progressive ruling coalition is now trying to do in Portugal? </span></p> <p>Yet, what I find troubling is that the M5S has somehow spread the idea that the whole issue of reversing Italy’s decline depends on legality. The consequence is that people always become more angry about the individual misbehaviour of their MPs, and fail to take a clear and decisive stand on inherent systemic challenges that concern the strategies Italy should adopt to become competitive in the global market and try to preserve what remains of its once generous welfare state.</p> <p>By the time the M5S have accomplished its mission and Italy will have finally halted the phenomena of corruption and clientelism, Italians will surely live in a better country. There will also be a more just and more efficient distribution of internal resources, once the political links no longer represent an insurmountable obstacle for social mobility. </p> <p>But even in this scenario that the M5S sees as the optimal one, we would still remain with the same fundamental challenges. Shall we insist on cuts in public services and in privatization, along the lines preached by all ruling parties over recent years, or shall we find an alternative method for taking control of the national deficit while preserving employment and giving new momentum to welfare provisions, such as the progressive ruling coalition is now trying to do in Portugal? </p> <h2><strong>Political misbehaviour and beyond</strong></h2> <p>The majority of M5S members and supporters never tackle these systemic conundrums. If you carefully listen to their speeches and debates, you would note that their strong arguments levelled against their counterparts is that politics cost us too much and that traditional political parties too often get involved in judicial scandals. Both are true. Deputies, senators, and representatives in regional congresses do get very high salaries and collect huge pensions for a few years (in some cases, a few months) of political work. <span class="mag-quote-center">Many voters are mistaking correctness for the ability to govern.</span></p> <p>Moreover, if you look at the Italian history of the last 30 years, you will see a never-ending conflict between the judiciary and the political powers, which in many cases is triggered by political misbehaviour. So there is nothing surprising in people now asking for cheaper and more honest representatives. But in my view the underlying misunderstanding, provoked in many people by the M5S’s campaign, is that these cheap and honest representatives will manage to reverse Italy’s crisis simply because they are cheap and honest. </p> <p>With this, I do not mean that the members of the M5S lack the right political ideas for leading the economy to prosperity again. I simply mean that at the moment we still do not know this. Besides, many voters are mistaking correctness for the ability to govern. The big worry is that the dissatisfied people that now look with hope at the M5S might get disillusioned in the future, and turn to a more radical and dangerous populism. </p> <p>In the event that a Parliament made up of honest people living modestly proves unable to have a clear and immediate effect on the welfare of the people that elected them, after a period of confusion we might run the risk of extra-parliamentary forces arising. This is a risk from which the M5S, as long as it remains in the opposition, is saving Italy.</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="/jamie-mackay/postmodern-populism-cultural-logic-of-movimento-5-stelle">Postmodern populism: the cultural logic of the MoVimento 5 Stelle</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/lorenzo-del-savio-matteo-mameli/antirepresentative-democracy-how-to-understand-fi">Anti-representative democracy: how to understand the Five Star Movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/beppe-grillo-matteo-renzi-giulio-carini/populist-snapshots-movimento-5-stelle-ita">Populist snapshots: Movimento 5 Stelle (Italy)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/renato-miguel-do-carmo-andr-barata/contraption-and-future-of-social-democracy-gov">‘The contraption’ and the future of social democracy: the government experiment in Portugal </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Italy Fausto Corvino Tue, 09 May 2017 16:17:05 +0000 Fausto Corvino 110744 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Old country, young president https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/patrice-de-beer/old-country-young-president-or-vice-versa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The French have used their democracy to give this young man in an old country a chance to experiment with a new type of politics. But have we tried everything?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31238815.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31238815.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'>President-elect Emmanuel Macron and outgoing French President Francois Hollande mark western allies' WW2 victory in Europe, Arc De Triomphe, Paris, May 8, 2017. Pool/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The election of a 39-year old president represents no less than a sea change in a country as traditional as France. The country of the French Revolution, the Motherland of Human Rights, as the French love to call their nation, remains unwilling and uneasy confronted by inexorable change. Blocked by her own contradictions between lofty but too often unrealistic ideals and the hard realities – whether economic and social – of an unavoidable globalisation, France has too often chosen to close her eyes, to delude herself, preferring day dreamers or populists promising better futures or revolution, whether of left or right, but far too often at the extremes.</em></p><p><em> </em></p><p><em>Here in France, the power of the word remains mightier than the sword. Hence the popular success of three of the four major contenders to the recent French presidential election, extreme left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, extreme right Marine Le Pen and progressive centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron who was elected on Sunday May 7. Against all odds for a man hardly known one year ago, and without the backing of a traditional party in a country where his main rivals have been in politics for 30 years or more, if not for two generations, Macron has benefited from his rivals’ mistakes, starting with the leader of the Republican right, François Fillon, taken for granted as the next president until the moment when it was revealed that he was compulsively addicted to money.</em></p><p>Macron’s victory was the second most impressive in the history of the Fifth Republic (66.06%), but with the second highest abstention rate (25.38%) and the highest percentage of blank and spoilt voting papers (11.49%). An outstanding victory which bestows on him a legitimate mandate to rule. But also with a worrying dissatisfaction rate among voters which gives him the hard task of reunifying a society torn apart by unemployment, poverty and immigration. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>This situation seem logical in a country where, as in Austria last year, the two traditional ruling parties – the Socialist Party (PS) in place since 2012 and the conservative Les Républicains (LR) – have, for the first time in almost 60 years, been excluded from the second round, forcing voters to change their usual voting patterns. </p> <p>Logical also that in the same country, polarised by a decades-long economic, social and, thus, moral crisis, neither left nor right, quite unable to tackle the problems on their own, had nevertheless remained stubbornly unwilling to band together to look for a consensual solution. Till now, whatever experiment was attempted by one camp was quickly disowned by the next, both refusing pointblank to support projects they agreed with, for the simple reason that they had been tabled by the other side.</p> <p>Even worse, PS and LR were, and still are, bitterly divided by personal and ideological rivalries and are moving towards next month’s legislative elections with the same team and almost the identical platform, as if nothing has changed. </p> <p>In particular the Socialists, whose left wing minority fought bitterly during five years against outgoing President François Hollande’s economic and social policies, although supported by a large majority of his MPs’. This led Hollande not to stand for re-election and to primaries won by left-winger Benoît Hamon. A pyrrhic victory, as he was eliminated from the first round with 6%, the PS’s worst ever score.</p> <h2><strong>UFO Macron</strong></h2> <p>The stage was set for political UFO Macron to sneak in, offering a new face in a political world dominated by the same old faces for ever, people who had hardly ever had a job in real life. Since 1976 in the case of Mélenchon, while Fillon was first elected MP in 1981, having worked for his predecessor while Macron still was at school. Since 1991 for Hamon, and 1986 for Marine Le Pen, who joined forces with and then succeeded her father, Jean-Marie, himself first elected MP in 1956.</p> <p>Macron’s vision seized the chance to offer new solutions, and a more consensual political model which could stop dissatisfied voters from joining extremist movements in droves, in favour of a moderate, centrist, progressive platform. The way he managed to play his cards and benefit from the mistakes from his better known and more powerful rivals is well documented. The strength and efficiency of the movement he created from scratch a year ago – En Marche! (Move Forward!?) – and the support he managed to build thereby, maybe less. 280,000 members in a year, a start-up like structure, fast, responsive by the minute, a perfect clockwork organisation, targeted, dedicated Obama-style, with supporters driven through an efficient Internet network. </p> <p>Supporters, young and old, from left, right and centre, from many walks of life, proved willing to give time, energy and in some cases even take unpaid leave – to work for weeks or months, first on public meetings and much more during the election campaign that followed. In short a forward-looking strategy built on extremely efficient tactics.</p> <p>And it worked. To the surprise of rivals, political pundits and the media, French or foreign, so accustomed were they to the traditional French way of doing politics that they did not realise until too late – have they all caught up now? – that the world had moved on and they had not seen it moving. </p> <p>Or that this unchartered young man, despised as uninitiated, too young, just a lousy “banker” soon to return to the stock market whence he came, a bubble ready to burst, they said, had a real chance and would grab it. He has managed to rally around his project not only many citizens, but also politicians from all sides, some already in, many others ready to join or waiting on the sidelines, from an ex-chief of the Communist Party to the Socialists’ elected representatives, Centrist leader François Bayrou plus economists, business people, diplomats, generals or former intelligence heads, on what he calls a “progressive”, inclusive platform, pledged to fight with optimism for a better world in one of the most pessimistic, fatalistic, conservative countries in the world, a country no one sensible would ever have thought might elect their youngest leader since… Napoleon. </p> <p>He has even got international support from German chancellor Angela Merkel to Barack Obama, and including leftwing Syriza in Greece.</p> <h2><strong>A democratic opportunity</strong></h2> <p>Now the scales have fallen from many people’s eyes as they look on the parade of politicians they have seen on TV since the last millennium, with their tacky histrionic utterances, their petty rivalries, factionalising plots within their own parties, their well-entrenched habits of living on the take, with material privileges that only shock their many onlookers in these crunch times, who struggle, barely surviving, from crisis after crisis. </p> <p>They wonder about the fate of a disorientated PS and LR on the verge of implosion with some trying to jump onto the winning bandwagon, while others for the sake of sectarian or other interests look to the extremes for a solution.</p> <p>Even the FN, long monolithic under “Father” Jean-Marie, is now threatened. Marine Le Pen’s worse than expected defeat, her catastrophic debate with Macron which blew any credibility she had assembled over time of making her party look more palatable, more mainstream, once again exposed the familiar Le Pen grimace behind that smiling face. Now, if they fail to get enough MPs elected, her younger, more right wing and ambitious niece Marion Maréchal Le Pen and her clique are waiting in the wings, daggers drawn, to unseat her and her cronies, considered as too much to the left.</p> <p>The French have used their democracy to give this young man in an old country a chance to experiment with a new type of politics. Yes, his majority is not as big as that of former president Chirac in 2002 when he defeated Le Pen, the father, with 82% of the votes. True, many of those who voted for Macron in the second round did so mostly to oppose the FN: they do not share his views. But this has been common practice ever since De Gaulle’s first election, and should it delegitimize him?</p> <h2><strong>A responsibility to succeed&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></h2> <p>What it does do, is to give Emmanuel Macron even more of a responsibility to succeed, if he wants to prove to those who sent him to the Elysée Palace to make their lives better, to secure a better job or simply a job, that they made the right choice after all. </p> <p>That he is not the smiling front of “extreme finance” but someone who wants to do his utmost to deliver on his promises. To disprove those who are predicting that his election today will bring the FN into power in five years’ time. Or refute those like Mélenchon, of France Insoumise (Unsubdued France), who is already boasting that it will be his ultimate reward to win the legislative elections next June, single-handed, on the basis of having won only 19.23% of the votes, that is 14.6% of registered voters.</p> <p>Now the hard time begins for the newly-elected President Macron. He will first have to form a new government – which will be announced next week – before competing for the legislatives, a field wide open to left and right, blending new and old faces, men and women, some coming from the political world but half from business, labour or civil society, under a clear cut mandate to convince the voters that they can work together – for the first time since WW II – and that he can do it. </p> <h2><strong>La République en marche</strong></h2> <p>He will have to lead his new party, rechristened on Tuesday, La République en marche, towards a majority, an absolute one if he has his way, or a relative one if he can’t: and build a working and lasting coalition around him if he wants to achieve his reforms, many difficult to implement, some (mostly social), already unpopular with many. </p> <p>He will have to prove that the extremist forces so long entrenched in France would lose a large part of their influence if he starts to deliver and disprove former Socialist PM Lionel Jospin who, twenty years ago admitted that, on the unemployment front, “we have tried everything”. A formidable challenge indeed for a man who had just started university at the time.</p> <p>&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/aline-florence-manent/why-macron-should-give-us-hope-of-democratic-renewal-in-fra">Why Macron should give us hope of democratic renewal in France</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kate-laycock/our-programme-is-called-reality-rain-on-rue-nationale">“Our programme is called reality”: rain on the Rue Nationale</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/christophe-premat/what-exactly-does-macron-president-elect-of-france-stand-for">What exactly does Macron, president-elect of France, stand for? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/patrice-de-beer/not-one-of-us-french-presidential-elections">Not “one of us”: the French presidential elections </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 NC 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 Patrice de Beer Tue, 09 May 2017 15:34:02 +0000 Patrice de Beer 110737 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Our programme is called reality”: rain on the Rue Nationale https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/kate-laycock/our-programme-is-called-reality-rain-on-rue-nationale <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Beyond the French elections, how much ‘business as usual’ can French and German voters take?</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/500209/4460037952_29768854ea_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/4460037952_29768854ea_z.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'>Forbach train station. Flickr/forzaq8. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>All weekend, my mother-in-law kept glancing anxiously out of the window: "They said it was going to be sunny, but just look at it pouring down,” she’d sigh. We’d exchange glances, and then busy ourselves with whatever toddler-induced chaos needed mopping up or – in one particularly embarrassing incident – scrubbing from the walls. </p> <p>Somehow, we’d reached an unspoken understanding: we weren’t going to talk about the election. That in itself was odd, because my husband’s family is French, we were in France and the whole of the country was talking about nothing else. </p> <p>My mother-in-law had a solution for that too: the TV stayed resolutely tuned to German children’s channels from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. Like many of the older generation in Moselle, north-east France, my mother-in-law grew up between languages: French, and a dialect which, to all intensive purposes, is the same as the one their German neighbours know as “Saarländisch”. She was born in Morsbach, on one side of the “Rue Nationale”, a peculiarly ill-named road given the fact that the houses on the other side actually belong to Germany. Here, you buy your baguettes in France but, for anything else, you nip across the road to the German supermarket, where everything is noticeably cheaper. “I had trouble with the boeuf bourguignon,” my mother-in-law says fretfully, “the butcher doesn’t do beef during the week any more, and the other one’s closed down.” Another anxious glance at the window.<span class="mag-quote-center"> Marine Le Pen won 42.5 percent of the vote in Forbach, and 53.95 in Morsbach.</span><br /> Give or take a few industrial estates, Morsbach effectively <em>is</em> the “Rue Nationale” – a seemly never-ending line of nondescript and strangely dusty-looking houses set back a good seven to ten metres from the road. The reason for this spatial largesse? This is coal-mining country, and the front-yards were where your monthly supply of coal used to be dumped and then shovelled, bit by bit, into your cellar. Ten minutes down the road is Forbach, where my husband’s paternal grandfather was a miner. Right up until the 1970s, this area produced 45 per cent of the nation’s coal. Thousands of people were employed in the mines or, as locals put it, “they were with the Wendels”. The Wendels were the big mine-owning family and, if you were “with them”, you could count on a regular wage, decent pension and subsidised housing. </p> <p>When “Pépé Zep” finally had to go into hospice care at the age of 94, the money-side of things was all taken care of because he’d “been with the Wendels”. In the meantime, however, hiring in the mines had been in steady decline since the 1980s, with the last mine closing in 2004. Unemployment here is currently at 12.7 percent – that’s three points higher than the national average. In the adjacent banlieue, which has a predominantly immigrant population, one in three inhabitants are unemployed. On the one occasion I’ve had to visit the local A and E, the waiting-room was full. “They come to the hospital because it’s free, and the GP would charge them”, someone muttered, eyeing up the people inside, most of whom looked Arab in origin.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> On Sunday, Marine Le Pen won 42.5 percent of the vote in Forbach, and 53.95 in Morsbach. Tellingly, almost ten percent of votes were recorded as blank or spoilt. Equally telling is the fact that, in the first round, the radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in second, comfortably ahead of Emmanuel Macron, who was the clear leader nationally. <span class="mag-quote-center">Of all the candidates, Mélenchon was the only one to claw back votes from Le Pen’s core demographic.</span></p> <p>After an internal consultation, sixty-five per cent of supporters of Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise movement indicated their intention to spoil their ballot. Mélenchon, for his part, refused to endorse Macron – a move which broke with the “front républicain”, the pact established in 2002 by which electors rally behind whichever candidate is standing against the Front National in the final round.&nbsp;However risky Mélenchon’s calculation in the short-term, come 2022, France may have reason to be grateful for his restraint. Of all the candidates, Mélenchon was the only one to claw back votes from Le Pen’s core demographic: the young, the financially precarious and the unemployed. These voters’ message is clear: they need change, and they need it fast. Should Emmanuel Macron prove to be the “business as usual” president that his manifesto suggests, then Marine Le Pen’s blue wave will surge down the Rue Nationale, sweeping everything in its wake. In 2022, it won’t be a “front républicain” that will provide the last defence against the Front National, rebranded and plausible as it will by then have become. The resistance will have to come from the left – a left untainted by the cowardice of having asked people to vote for the very conditions which it knows to be the ground-soil of fascism. <span class="mag-quote-center">Should Emmanuel Macron prove to be the “business as usual” president that his manifesto suggests, then Marine Le Pen’s blue wave will surge down the Rue Nationale, sweeping everything in its wake.<br /> </span><br /> The weather picked up slightly as Sunday afternoon wore on. There’d been several “Marine Le Pen” voting slips poking provocatively out of the bins in the booth where my mother-in-law went to vote. The boeuf bourguignon was delicious – she’d managed to find beef in the end, although not in Morsbach. Eventually, we peeled the toddlers away from the children’s channel and said our goodbyes. Did she know what the weather was going to be like for the rest of the week? “Oh you know, I never believe a thing they say anymore,”&nbsp;she replied. </p> <p>We headed home – to Germany, as it happens. As we neared Düsseldorf, the posters began. North-Rhine-Westphalia holds regional elections this coming Sunday. Prominent amongst the roadside messages was one from the AFD, Germany’s far-right populist party: “Our programme is called reality”, they claim. Another poster – from Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who are hoping to depose the local leftwing coalition – read: “I don’t feel safe here anymore. That’s why I’m voting CDU”.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> For the moment, the meteorological outlook for the weekend is grey with showers. One thought about the weather though: in an age of man-made global warming, it’s not so much individual weather events that are important, as the overall pattern. That, and our will to do something about it. </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/philippe-marli-re/french-tragedy-or-farce-2017-presidential-election-1">French tragedy or farce: the 2017 presidential election – 1</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/philippe-marli-re/republican-front-against-marine-le-pen">French tragedy or farce - 2: A ‘republican front’ against Marine Le Pen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/luis-mart-n/why-french-progressives-should-vote-for-macron">Why French progressives should vote for Macron</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/johannes-filous/hashtag-analysis-clausnitz-and-bautzen">Hashtag analysis: #Clausnitz and #Bautzen</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/christoph-sorg/we-have-created-monster"> “We have created a monster”</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"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Germany France Kate Laycock Tue, 09 May 2017 12:44:10 +0000 Kate Laycock 110729 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What exactly does Macron, president-elect of France, stand for? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/christophe-premat/what-exactly-does-macron-president-elect-of-france-stand-for <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does Macron leave the room for citizen participation? Will his pledges of social and economic reforms include giving citizens a greater say?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30664017_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30664017_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Parisian election posters showing candidate for the 2017 presidential election Emmanuel Macron, March 23, 2017. Apaydin Alain/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Macron won the 2017 election with more than 65% of votes against Le Pen. He became the new president on May 7 after starting a new political movement just over a year ago. Sidelining the traditional political leaders and parties, Macron wants to push for a new way of thinking outside of the traditional left/right political spectrum. His political convictions are mainly liberal and he has called for a strong country within the context of globalisation. </em><em>But does two-thirds of French voters choosing Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential elections mark the beginning of a stalemate in France’s participatory democracy? So far the newly elected president has offered few paths to citizen empowerment.</em></p> <p>The 2017 election has brought a period of instability where a political majority will be hard to come by. Macron’s victory over Le Pen was only a partial success as he needs a majority in parliament to be able to govern. His charisma will not be sufficient for his candidates to win next month’s election for the legislature, and he needs to show a clear political profile.</p> <p>His En Marche (“On the Move”) slogan is a tool created to win the presidential race, but it does not come with a network in parliament.</p> <p>It is also rather doubtful that a political consensus will emerge regarding reforms that need to be tackled. Macron’s plans are not particularly detailed, with everything arranged around the concept of a strong leader.</p> <p>So far, the centrist <em>En Marche</em> movement has most resembled a gospel show with songs, speeches, snappy one-liners and video clips.</p> <p>En Marche itself is unlikely to be a strong movement as its profile is too weak. Nor is it a movement marked by participatory democracy. En Marche and “<em>La France insoumise</em>”, a far-left coalition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, share some similarities with the Spanish movements Los Ciudadanos and Podemos.</p> <p>Most of all, I believe that the <em>En Marche</em> movement represents a political transition where parties are being forced to re-invent themselves. <span class="mag-quote-center">Parties are being forced to re-invent themselves.&nbsp; </span> </p><h2><strong>Top-down reformist</strong></h2> <p>Macron wants to use his mandate to initiate strong economic reforms, but so far he has given no indication of how to shape a social dialogue with trade unions and other organisations.</p> <p>There is also no real democratic element to his plans, although he said he might use the referendum as a tool if his reforms are not successful in parliament.</p> <p>Macron even announced that he would cut short debates and govern by decree in order to introduce strong economic reforms in the beginning of his presidency. He has said too little about the environment, and there are no plans to give citizens a greater say in environmental issues. <span class="mag-quote-center">Macron even announced that he would cut short debates and govern by decree...</span></p> <p>Nor is there any proposal on the table to reform the institutions of the Fifth Republic. Macron simply wants to use the ballot to his own ends in order to be seen as a great reformist.</p> <p>All this is creating a political void in France which makes the current political situation particularly interesting.</p> <p>The conservative Republicans might gain seats in the June election as they did well in the last mid-term elections, while the Socialist Party will struggle to survive as a bloc in parliament. As for the other parties, the far-right National Front might emerge with a parliamentary group of around 20 to 30 members, but that is far from certain under the current electoral system which stretches over two rounds.</p> <p>With the leftwing movement, <em>La France insoumise</em>,&nbsp;facing the same uncertainty, <em>En Marche</em> and the Republicans may dominate with two or three other minor political forces in power.</p> <h2><strong>New situation</strong></h2> <p>This is the first time France faces such a fragmented situation since the Fifth Republic, its current governmental system, was created by Charles de Gaulle in 1958. It has often been argued that French voters are dissatisfied with their political parties and leaders.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">He said he might use the referendum as a tool if his reforms are not successful in parliament.</span></p> <p>In fact, this dissatisfaction is already written into the French constitution as there are two ways of expressing national sovereignty in France: through the parliament or by referendum.</p> <p>Today, I am convinced that direct democratic tools could help to reshape the French political landscape.</p> <p>French politics has always been seen as a game reserved for professional elites who have had a long career. But we need more change in political mandates with collective tools that are less focused on a single person.</p> <p>A new political culture cannot emerge through decrees but through the implementation of new tools that encourage citizen participation.</p> <h2><strong>Plan for democratisation?</strong></h2> <p>I’ve often heard people say that “we get the politicians we deserve”, but I think that with the help of new democratic tools we could transform that saying into “we are responsible for what happens”.</p> <p>We deserve citizen empowerment. Macron has failed to present a plan to make the representative government more democratic, showing little interest in this matter as a candidate. This is a real pity as direct democratic tools could help Macron legitimise the strong reforms he needs. <span class="mag-quote-center">We need more change in political mandates with collective tools that are less focused on a single person.</span></p> <p>So far, he has merely recycled some ideas that other candidates put forward about reducing the number of parliamentarians or introducting proportional representation to a certain degree – an election pledge made by François Hollande when he ran for president in 2012.</p> <p>The coming weeks will reveal Macron’s true political style as well as his strategies to create a strong political consensus behind his social and economic reforms.</p><p><em>The <a href="https://www.swissinfo.ch/directdemocracy/macron-candidature_gospel-show-instead-of-people-s-power-experience/43165262">original article w</a>as first published on <a href="https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng">swissinfo.ch </a>- a platform on direct democracy issues - on May 8, 2017. Thanks for permission to republish.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aline-florence-manent/why-macron-should-give-us-hope-of-democratic-renewal-in-fra">Why Macron should give us hope of democratic renewal in France</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/patrice-de-beer/not-one-of-us-french-presidential-elections">Not “one of us”: the French presidential elections </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/luis-mart-n/why-french-progressives-should-vote-for-macron">Why French progressives should vote for Macron</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"> 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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU France Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Internet Christophe Premat Tue, 09 May 2017 10:30:43 +0000 Christophe Premat 110724 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Getting to know you: mapping the anti-feminist face of right-wing populism in Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/matilda-flemming/mapping-anti-feminist-face-of-right-wing-populism-in-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>These three parties are only a part of the right-wing populist anti-feminism that is spreading across Europe. The European Women’s Lobby and its members continue to keep track, and evolve policies to resist.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29813543.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29813543.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'>Geert Wilders ( second from left), Frauke Petry and Marine Le Pen at congress of the right-wing populist ENF group in the European Parliament in Koblenz, Germany, 21 January 2017. Thomas Frey/Press Association. </span></span></span>Anti-feminist populism is on the rise across large parts of Europe, although its face looks different in different places. Some populists claim to be defenders of women's and gay rights, while others are more explicitly anti-feminist with a top priority to crush "gender ideology" and to reinstate traditional gender roles throughout society.</p> <p class="normal">As the European umbrella of women’s rights organizations, the European Women’s Lobby aims to uncover the anti-feminist workings of right-wing populist parties in order to clearly show how these parties act against the interests of women. We have focused on the largest right-wing populist parties in France (Front National, FN), the Netherlands (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) and Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AFD), because the recent or upcoming elections taking place in these countries will have major consequences for Europe. </p> <p class="normal">The leaders of these three parties Marine Le Pen (FN), Geert Wilders (PVV) and Frauke Petry (AFD) are also spearheading <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/21/marine-le-pen-leads-gathering-of-eu-far-right-leaders-in-koblenz">a joint European anti-European agenda</a> in the aftermath of Brexit. We have analyzed these parties' programs and other statements to draw a picture of their policies regarding gender equality and women's rights.</p> <p class="normal">Interestingly, two of the parties are led by women: FN’s Marine Le Pen and the AFD’s Frauke Petry. Right-wing populist parties are traditionally supported by a large majority of men, but this might be changing. Marine Le Pen has managed to also attract women on a broad front, and in the recent Dutch elections, of the votes cast on PVV, <a href="http://nos.nl/artikel/2163382-jong-of-oud-man-of-vrouw-wie-stemde-op-welke-partij.html">45 % were cast by women</a>. Frauke Petry has not had the same success: according to a poll in January, 17% of male respondents would vote for AFD, while <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/05/AFD-germany-anti-immigration/484700/">only 2% of women surveyed</a> would do the same.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>The parties' core issues</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) is the most explicitly anti-feminist party that we looked at. Among their political focus points are the protection of the nuclear family and ending gender mainstreaming and to “<a href="https://www.alternativefuer.de/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2017/04/2017-04-12_AFD-grundsatzprogramm-englisch_web.pdf">terminate the promotion of gender research</a>”. AFD is actively involved in <a href="http://young-voices.boellblog.org/2016/03/01/queerness-and-the-gay-friendly-right-wing-in-europe/">protest movements</a> against gender equality, marriage equality legislation and LGBT rights.</p> <p class="normal">AFD wages war on gender mainstreaming, as it, according to them, undermines traditional gender roles and contributes to the sexualisation of society. AFD is also opposed to a government campaign to promote the use of condoms, and says that the campaign instead should have <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/what-does-the-AFD-stand-for/a-19100127">encouraged abstinence</a>.</p> <p class="normal">"The modern family structures in our country are too 'colorful' [...] gender mainstreaming is a fairy tale and a feminist bible" &nbsp;remarked Alexander Gauland, one of AFD’s founders in December 2013. "Marriage and family are the nucleus and germ cells of civil society and a cornerstone of social cohesion, and therefore deserve special protection from government." Female employment is a "misconceived view of feminism, which favours women with a career above mothers and housewives. The latter often experience less recognition and are financially disadvantaged."</p> <p class="normal">AFD are homophobic. According to their party program they "reject the one-sided emphasis on homosexuality and trans-sexuality in classrooms, as well as the ideological influence of gender mainstreaming. The picture of the traditional family must not be destroyed. Our children should not be the plaything to the sexual orientation of a noisy minority at school." </p> <p class="normal">The PVV is on paper the most "liberal" of the three parties: they present themselves as advocates for LGBT and women's rights, with Islamization as the primary threat. The party’s election program for the recent elections was a one-pager (including their version of the state budget) - a stark contrast compared to the more elaborate election programs of AFD and FN. Women's rights and gender equality were mentioned only by the PVV in their election program point about how public employees should not be allowed to wear a headscarf. Compared with the AFD, the Front National party platform focuses less on gender equality.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Islamism </strong></h2> <p class="normal">The three parties' views on Islam are very similar: all three depict Islam as the number one enemy of gender equality – ironic, especially considering the AFD’s great resistance to gender mainstreaming, and the PVV’s poor track record on defending women’s rights. The parties are all opposed to the right of Muslim women to wear headscarves in public places, and they stigmatize Muslims for not exercising gender equality. The AFD states: "Islam does not belong to Germany". It is "a danger to our state, our Society, and our values".</p> <p class="normal">The FN manifesto consists of 144 points, but only one item entitled "Freedom" covers women’s rights explicitly: "To defend the rights of women: Fight against Islamism that wants to roll back women's fundamental freedoms; establish a national plan for equal pay between men and women and the fight against professional and social insecurity." This highlights the party's attitude to women's rights: they use feminist arguments to present an Islamophobic agenda. The manifesto mentions defending the rights of women, and then goes immediately into how FN wants to fight the real 'reason' behind the threat to women's rights: Islamism. The manifesto subtly mentions equal pay and social security, but compared to some of the other more detailed elements of the program, these points are very vague.</p> <p class="normal">PVV appears obsessed with Islamisation. From their one-page election program, ⅓ of the page is dedicated to de-Islamifying the Netherlands. The party has also produced a report on violence against women in Islam. The report focuses on forced marriage, isolation of women, honor based violence and female genital mutilation – forms of violence which of course must all be addressed. The problem is that the party sees violence against women as merely an Islamist issue. Looking at the party's voting behavior in the Dutch parliament also shows that they do not actually lift a finger for women's rights. The party voted, for instance, against the ratification of the <a href="http://www.joop.nl/nieuws/pvv-onze-vrouwen-meppen-mag-best">Istanbul Convention</a>, an international convention to combat violence against women, and against a bill to combat female genital mutilation.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Natalism and safeguarding the nuclear family</strong></h2> <p class="normal">According to AFD, working mothers, immigration, "free sex", "gender mainstreaming" and marriage equality legislation threaten the traditional family. AFD wants to "end discrimination against stay-at-home-mothers". They believe that the current government does not value stay-at-home-mothers and that women should work only if the family's financial situation so requires. (Nuclear) family cohesion is strengthened by the woman's desire to limit their individual freedom. To AFD, the nuclear heteronormative family is the only model that can reverse the country's declining birth rate, and having children is hence more of an act for the "fatherland" than the result of a personal decision. In fact the AFD is fostering a classist and racist demographic policy, complaining that high qualified academic women don't have children or too few and too late, and that women from the "socially underprivileged class" tend to have more children. As "mass immigration" holds a high risk of conflicts, the only mid- and long-term solution to the demographic problem "is to attain a higher birth rate by the native population by stimulating family policies."</p> <p class="normal">AFD stands for a "welcoming culture for new and unborn children", which in reality is a deeply anti-liberal family policy. In its party program, they talk about how abortion is trivialized and played down in Germany today, which gives the impression that it would be easy to get an abortion in Germany, while in fact, <a href="http://www.aicgs.org/issue/the-legal-framework-of-abortions-in-germany/">Germany has one of the most complicated abortion laws in Europe</a>. </p> <p class="normal">In tune with the AFD focus on the nuclear family, FN wants to introduce tax incentives for large (nuclear) families. In its manifesto, FN promotes "natalism" - a policy that views childbirth and parenthood as desirable for society. According to FN, this policy however is exclusively for "French" families – which means that all families not defined as "French" are excluded from their generous family policies. Officially, FN thinks the current French law on abortion should remain, but <a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/marine-le-pen-vs-marion-marechal-le-pen-french-far-rights-latest-family-fued-%20florian-philippot/">the issue has caused recurring internal debate</a>. Many within FN want to stop the&nbsp; reimbursement of abortion by the state. Inside FN there is a very traditional current led by Marion Maréchal Le Pen, Marine’s niece, very near the traditional Catholic church, which is against family planning and for the traditional nuclear family.</p> <p class="normal">The PVV, in contrast to FN and AFD does not have an explicitly conservative family policy, but it would make it <a href="http://www.ad.nl/gezond/pvv-abortus-moet-moeilijker~a3cecd9b/">harder to access abortion</a>.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Same, same, but different</strong></h2> <p class="normal">The parties share an Islamophobic view of Islam as the primary threat to women's rights, and they also share an opposition to gender quotas – FN and AFD are explicitly opposed to all forms of gender quotas, and the PVV voted against a proposal on gender quotas on company boards in the Dutch Parliament.</p> <p class="normal">We also see a fragmented picture: many representatives of the AFD stand <a href="http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/dialog/12503.pdf">close to conservative sectors of the Roman Catholic Church</a> , which is extremely conservative on issues concerning LGBT rights, abortion and family policy. FN in 2017 is much milder than previously – and its opinions regarding, for example, LGBT rights are more fluid than the two other parties studied. Le Pen rarely mentions LGBT issues, and officially FN wants to revoke the French marriage equality legislation, but Le Pen's <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/frances-nationalist-party-is-winning-gay-support?utm_term=.qvd0%20QNGxA#.fydWjrXYN">support among gay voters is on the rise</a>. In the same way as (and possibly inspired by?) PVV, FN constructs its argument around a contradiction between Islam and LGBT rights. PVV members want to appear as freedom fighters - but their brand of freedom is certainly not for everyone!</p> <p class="normal">These three parties are only a part of the right-wing populist anti-feminism that is spreading across Europe. At EWL, we and our members continue to keep track of these dark forces and we will continue to develop strategies to resist.</p> <h2>Fact boxes</h2> <blockquote><p class="normal"><strong>Alternative für Deutschland</strong> (AFD) is a right-wing populist party founded in 2013 with the original aim to oppose Germany's membership of the EU. When the number of new refugees in Germany increased in 2014 and 2015, AFD changed focus to instead make resistance to the flow of refugees their core issue. AFD is now represented in nine of Germany's 16 state legislatures, and aims to win their first national seats in the upcoming federal elections (24 September). The party program can be read <a href="https://www.alternativefuer.de/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2017/01/2016-06-27_AFD-grundsatzprogramm_web-version.pdf">in its entirety here</a>: (in German), and <a href="https://www.alternativefuer.de/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2017/04/2017-04-12_AFD-grundsatzprogramm-englisch_web.pdf">here (in English).</a> </p></blockquote> <blockquote><p class="normal"><strong>Front National</strong> (FN) is a right-wing populist and nationalist political party in France. Its main policies include opposition to France's membership of the EU, economic protectionism, law and order, as well as resistance to immigration. The party was founded in 1972 and Jean-Marie Le Pen was the party's leader from its inception until his retirement in 2011. He has been convicted of racism or inciting racial hatred at least six times, and charged for anti-semitic remarks. His daughter, Marine Le Pen, was elected as his successor and she has pursued a policy to mitigate the party's image. In the second round of the parliamentary elections, Marine Le Pen gained 35 % of the votes. The electoral program can be read <a href="http://www.frontnational.com/le-projet-de-marine-le-pen/">in its entirety here</a>. </p></blockquote> <blockquote><p class="normal"><strong>Partij voor de Vrijheid </strong>(PVV) is a Dutch nationalist and right-wing populist party founded in 2006 by Geert Wilders. Wilders is still leading the party and has been convicted for inciting discrimination. The PVV has proposed to ban the Koran, and to close all mosques in the Netherlands. The party is eurosceptic. In parliamentary elections in 2017&nbsp; the PVV won 13 % of the vote and became the second largest party in the House of Representatives. The one-page-long (!) electoral program can be read <a href="https://www.pvv.nl/images/Conceptverkiezingsprogrammma.pdf">in its entirety here</a>.</p></blockquote> <p class="normal"><em>This article was written</em> <em>with crucial contributions from European Women’s Lobby’s Working Group on Women in Politics.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? 50.50 Can Europe make it? Nima Hairy Oriane Gilloz Matilda Flemming Mon, 08 May 2017 22:16:12 +0000 Matilda Flemming, Oriane Gilloz and Nima Hairy 110697 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why DiEMUK shouldn’t take a precise position on the Brexit negotiations: OR, why Britain is screwed https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/gary-dorken/why-diemuk-shouldn-t-take-precise-position-on-brexit-negotiations-or- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Let’s focus on the battles we want to win, not the ones we’ve already lost.</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-28974995.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28974995.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'>European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May during their meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Oct., 2016. Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>DiEMUK with DiEM25 as a whole is working out its stance on the forthcoming UK elections. See a </em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis/diem25-example-of-internal-democracy-in-action"><em>similar debate</em></a><em> here that took place regarding the French elections. Against a background of a first-past-the-post electoral system, together with various suggestions for tactical voting and progressive alliances to prevent a May/Dacre victory at the ballot box, here is an early contribution to the discussion. It is a personal view.</em></p><p>I recently argued with a few DiEM members on Slack that we shouldn’t be taking a precise position on <a href="https://diem25.org/diem-members-deciding-our-brexit-stance/">what kind of deal Britain should be seeking</a> with the EU, now that Article 50 has been triggered. </p> <p>Alas, the opinion seems to have been quickly formed that I was trying to prevent debate. I wasn’t, but I do think debating this is potentially damaging at a time when we are just getting started, and our efforts should be geared towards recruitment, talking about our core ideal of democratic reform in the UK and the EU, the rewording of the New Deal for a UK audience, and the manifesto. But, let me have a go at defending why I think we shouldn’t get too drawn into the Brexit debate. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The best way to illustrate my point, perhaps, is to go back to the reason that we are all here: Greece, the EU, and our muscular-faced swashbuckling economic hero, Yanis Varoufakis. I'm sure I don’t need to lecture any of you about Greece’s fate at the hands of the EU. But for my purposes, this quote from <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2015/07/yanis-varoufakis-full-transcript-our-battle-save-greece">an interview with Yanis</a> on his negotiations with the EU, will help:</p> <blockquote><p>Interviewer: You’ve said creditors objected to you because “I try and talk economics in the Eurogroup, which nobody does.” What happened when you did?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>YV: It’s not that it didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.</p></blockquote> <p>The result of these negotiations was harsh austerity measures being forced on Greece, against the will of the Greek government, the Greek people, and against what might be considered good economic sense (see for example Paul Krugman’s blogposts for the New York TImes). Sticking with Krugman, here is <a href="https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/killing-the-european-project/?_r=0">his comment</a> after the Greek government accepted the austerity measures proposed by the EU in 2015, just after Yanis resigned:</p> <blockquote><p>“In a way, the economics have almost become secondary. But still, let’s be clear: what we’ve learned these past couple of weeks is that being a member of the eurozone means that the creditors can destroy your economy if you step out of line.” </p></blockquote> <p>A recurring theme is that sound logical economic arguments takes a back seat to EU wrangling. </p> <p>This encapsulates the problem that the UK might face in years to come, and why devising some sort of theoretically optimal position for the UK in the upcoming negotiations is pointless, at least for DiEM. Politics is not an academic exercise in rationally weighing up technical solutions; it’s a mash of interests, ideas, prejudices and passions. And this only gets worse at the supranational level of the EU. </p> <p>The sovereign debt crisis that engulfed the EU and hit countries like Greece especially hard provides an <a href="http://blogs.bu.edu/vschmidt/files/2012/06/Schmidt-CES-paper-Speaking-to-the-markets-or-the-people.pdf">ideal example</a> of this. The ideas that policymakers held and the stories they constructed to frame the problem may have had as much weight in the resulting outcomes as practical concerns over economics or trade. These stories are not necessarily rational or fair: they can form from collective memories, or differing perceptions over their countries’ perceived strengths (e.g. ‘profligate Greeks’ vs. ‘prudent Germans’). </p> <p>Moreover, It has been suggested that much of the paralysis from the EU over the debt crisis comes from the complexities of EU leaders needing to communicate, debate and convince not only each other, but also the market, the media, and finally their own public. These struggles can effectively be thought of as games being played by different players on different tables all at the same time. Here is <a href="https://www.brown.edu/initiatives/journal-world-affairs/sites/brown.edu.initiatives.journal-world-affairs/files/private/articles/17.1_Schmidt.PDF">Vivien Schmidt</a>, a political scientist, on this idea:</p> <blockquote><p>“The EU has an extremely complex decision-making system with multiple institutional actors and a dizzying array of governance processes. Therefore, taking any steps in response to the sovereign debt default crisis is difficult not just because of uncertainty over the best course of action but also because of the sheer number of actors from whom agreement was necessary.”</p></blockquote> <p>Too much of the current debate in the UK about the forthcoming negotiations has quite rightly been criticised as being focused solely on the UK’s position, without considering the EU perspective. In essence, it’s the politics, and the ideas surrounding those politics, that may well take a front seat rather than any concerns of optimising our economic positions. </p> <p>Worse, politicians won’t just be thinking about the EU; they’ll be thinking about their own publics who they will have to face in national elections. The UK therefore needs to make a deal that will satisfy EU leaders, the markets, and the publics of 27 different EU countries. And looking at those publics doesn’t inspire confidence. A poll by Ipsos MORI found that across EU countries as whole only 30% think Britain should be offered favourable terms (compared with 56% in the UK). This is at its worst in France where only 19% say the UK should be offered favourable terms, and right now a new president is about to be elected, who will need to unite the French public. Maybe Brexit will provide that opportunity. </p> <p>In summary, the EU is a mess. This isn’t news; it’s why DiEM25 was formed! And I actually also say that with a great deal of affection. I think the idea of forming a rigid set of propositions over Brexit, given that we’re at least a year away from those types of negotiations starting, and given how complex the negotiations are likely to become, is simply not in our interest, or within our expertise as an initially small group of people who are doing this on a voluntary basis. </p> <h2><strong>Beyond complexity</strong></h2> <p>If David Cameron feels that he shouldn’t have to “do all the hard shit” of Brexit, I certainly don’t see why DiEM should be so eager to stand next to the fan just as that shit is about to hit. Again, I’m not suggesting DiEMUK has no position on this issue. DiEMUK will always be part of DiEM25. The ‘E’ stands for Europe. Yanis Varoufakis, the co-founder of DiEM25, will always be asked about his opinions on this subject, and those opinions, such as that the UK should seek a “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/state-of-political-disrepair-brexit-eu-and-trashing-establishment">minimal Brexit</a>”, will always be associated with us. But taking and discussing precise positions, such as our membership of the customs union or whether we should be part of the EFTA but not the EEA, are not apolitical. As shown by the early debates within DIEMUK, even the simplest proposition, such as whether UK job seekers should be prioritised over EU ones, is highly contestable and can be upsetting. </p> <p>I think this would be my final point. It is far from clear at the moment what DiEMUK is, and what people want it to be. I’ve been to a number of meetings, and been involved with the manifesto, and the wide range of ideas that people come up with has amazed me. For some, DiEM should be focused solely on democracy and how to bring about democratic reform in the UK. Others are excited by <a href="https://diem25.org/end/">the New Deal</a>. Still others continue to see us as an extension of DiEM in Europe. People have suggested democracy cafes, regional discussions, DiEM ‘universities’. People have talked about unions, the control of money by the banks. In a few months I’ve been educated and energised by people’s many ideas and passions.</p> <p>I always go back to the meeting in January, and what Yanis said there. My conclusion was that what we needed to be doing most of all is coming up with progressive ideas and policies that help address the basic questions of how to make life better for people. The vote to leave the EU gave many an opportunity to voice the dissatisfaction they feel at how the UK is being run. What DiEM now needs to be doing is addressing the problems that are at the root of the vote to leave the EU and proposing the real solutions that are needed. </p><p>These include democratic reform of the UK, so people have real power to vote for the change they want at every election, not just referendums. Policies to tackle underemployment. Policies to tackle gross regional inequalities. Innovative policies that can create opportunities now, while not destroying the environment. Policies that harness the power that currently exists within the capitalist systems we have to unleash people’s creativity. Many of these things transcend Brexit, indeed they transcend the EU and the UK. The vote to leave the EU is the wrong solution to real problems; we need to offer the right solution. </p><p>To me, therefore, we shouldn’t be engaging with Brexit by setting out a precise technical position as if we were in government. It’s not that hard to see that in the best-case scenarios Brexit is going to be a shit show. We’re not a political party, but even if we were, our message should be different. We’re never going to be governing, so we have the space to offer up the true solutions that people need. </p> <p>By debating and coming up with detailed policy solutions for the future Brexit negotiations that will probably never see the light of day, but will potentially annoy or alienate many of those who might otherwise join us, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Let’s focus on the battles we want to win, not the ones we’ve already lost. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/vasilis-kotsidis/on-june-8-uk-general-election">On the June 8 UK general election : a strong and credible opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? UK EU Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Diem25UKelection Brexit2016 Gary Dorken DiEM25 Sat, 06 May 2017 16:04:33 +0000 Gary Dorken 110649 at https://www.opendemocracy.net CEU and NGO crackdown: a double blow for Roma inclusion in Hungary https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jonathan-lee/ceu-and-ngo-crackdown-double-blow-for-roma-inclusion-in-hungary <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The university, its culture, and its location here in Budapest, are a vital component of the social and economic expansion of Roma in Europe. Few universities have made Roma empowerment so central to their mission as CEU have.</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/500209/4470_pic1_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/4470_pic1_n.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'>Emma Rorke at the human chain protest around CEU, calling for President János Áder to veto the bill (Photograph by Bernard Rorke). </span></span></span>Tens of thousands marching on the streets of Budapest, a university facing forced closure, civil society in the cross-hairs of the regime, and the threat of violent government crackdown looms large over the civilly disobedient citizens of the city. </p> <p>Amidst all the ‘hoopla’ (the prime minister’s description of the country’s largest protests since the fall of communism), there has been little attention paid to the effect the new laws could have on Hungary’s largest ethnic minority: the Roma.</p> <p>The provocation which ignited demonstrations across Budapest was the threatened closure of Central European University (CEU). Mass civil disobedience began in the capital after the ruling party, Fidesz, rushed through the 'Lex CEU' higher education amendment which has been widely criticised as discriminatory for specifically targeting the Soros-funded university. Now, parliament is set to debate a new bill aimed at foreign-funded NGOs, sparking further protests off the back of the CEU solidarity marches. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/13/hungary-defends-planned-crackdown-on-foreign-backed-ngos">Critics have compared the bill to similar gagging laws</a> which severely curtail NGO activity in Russia and Israel.</p> <p>The motives behind Hungary’s recent actions are not exceptional. Would-be-despots across Europe have ramped up their right-wing rhetoric to whole new levels of feverish jingoism in 2017. Emboldened by the Trump presidency, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has wasted no time in putting in motion plans to rid the country of foreign influence, be that refugees, Central European University (CEU), or NGOs. Whilst his plans are not directly targeted against Roma, they stand to lose the most from the closure of CEU and the proposed bill to curtail NGOs. <span class="mag-quote-center">The motives behind Hungary’s recent actions are not exceptional. Would-be-despots across Europe have ramped up their right-wing rhetoric to whole new levels of feverish jingoism in 2017.</span></p> <p>For Orbán, CEU is the locus of all of meddlesome civil society, and it is everything the prime minister hates: international, liberal, and critical of the right-wing ‘pro-peasant populism’ peddled by him and his cronies. The university is in so many ways, a flagship for Roma empowerment through education but its special contribution to Roma Rights is in its Roma Access Programs (RAP).</p> <p>RAP provides an entry point to postgraduate study for Roma from across eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. The university provides full scholarships to cover tuition, housing and living costs for the brightest Romani students. They offer intensive English language preparation, organise social and networking events, and have links to professional opportunities across the world for their graduates. Over the last 11 years, the university has helped more than 250 Romani students achieve Masters degrees and go on to be real change-makers in a diverse range of professions throughout society.</p> <p>In 2016, CEU furthered its commitment to Roma inclusion through the launch of its €5 million ‘Roma in European Societies’ initiative. The first of its kind in higher education, this collaborative funding supports further teaching and research, Roma Studies programs, community outreach and leadership development. It shows a meaningful commitment from CEU to improving the situation of Roma in all sectors at local, national, and regional levels. <span class="mag-quote-center">Roma from completely different backgrounds and countries can, through English as a common language, build a truly international Romani community. This is crucial for real, and lasting Roma inclusion in the long term.</span></p> <p>The physical space of the university is also hugely important to Romani students. Roma from completely different backgrounds and countries can, through English as a common language, build a truly international Romani community. This is crucial for real, and lasting Roma inclusion in the long term. The university, its culture, and its location here in Budapest, are a vital component to the social and economic expansion of Roma in Europe. We cannot achieve parity without educated Roma occupying positions of influence in public policy and civil society particularly, and CEU leads the way as a centre for Romani inclusion in post-graduate education and professional development.</p> <p>Additionally, CEU has long been an ally of Roma Rights NGOs in Europe and in Hungary, who have strong ties with the institution, its academics and its students. If the university's days are truly numbered, we are looking at a sudden drop-off in Romani post-graduates from January 2018; students who would otherwise go on to work in multinationals, financial service companies, legal practices, centres of European policy-making, UN bodies, or international NGOs.</p> <p>Those of us working in Roma Rights organisations would no doubt be the first to feel the shortage of bright, qualified Roma, but the loss of talent would also impact on Budapest and the wider region. The city's ability to attract international organisations will be hindered if government policy is so clearly hostile to internationals – a stance Orbán succinctly proclaimed in<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/15/foreign-interests-trying-subvert-rule-says-hungarys-viktor-orban/"> his recent defence of the Lex CEU and anti-NGO laws</a>: “what is at stake...is whether we will have a parliament and government serving the interests of Hungarian people or it will serve foreign interests”. In other words, Hungary for the Hungarians.</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/Cuz7HJsWcAAPk58.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Cuz7HJsWcAAPk58.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'>Representatives from the European Roma Rights Centre marching at Roma Pride, Budapest 2016 (Photograph by Lili Bayer). </span></span></span></p> <p class="mag-quote-center">In other words, Hungary for the Hungarians.</p> <p>The harassment, police brutality, discrimination and stigmatisation which Hungarian Roma face on a daily basis will only increase with an absent or hamstrung civil society. Not to mention, NGOs are amongst the few dissenting voices remaining in the public sphere to call out anti-Roma hate speech. Orbán has already <a href="http://hungarianspectrum.org/2016/10/08/viktor-orban-shut-down-hungarys-leading-opposition-paper/">successfully dismantled all major independent media</a> critical of the government. One protester amongst the <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-hungary-orban-protests-idUKKBN17H074">100,000 demonstrating at Heroes Square</a> commented: “it is like the air is getting thinner and thinner in this country”.</p> <p>So far, the government response to the demonstrations has been uncharacteristically measured. Other than some minor incidents, there has been little to no violence from police or protesters. However, <a href="http://budapestbeacon.com/news-in-brief/fidesz-publicist-zsolt-bayer-issues-threat-protesters/45874">recent threats </a>have come from chief propagandist Zsolt Bayer, who warned “we too will take to the streets in defence of all that is important and holy to us. And we will be angry...So for a little while you can still rage on the streets... for the time being. But then not. Then you will experience what it means to be persecuted and threatened.”</p> <p>Not to be outdone, Orban used <a href="http://hungarianfreepress.com/2017/04/17/viktor-orban-promises-violence-against-protesters-in-easter-interview/">his Easter Sunday interview</a> to threaten that the “hands of peaceful and upright Christian people are itching” to strike the tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting against the regime. His comments came the day after recently arrested activist Gergő Varga gave his ultimatum to a 20,000 strong crowd that “this government either resigns, or the proud people of Budapest will drag them out of parliament.”</p> <h2>What's next?</h2> <p>For Budapest, the threat of a heavy-handed response from authorities is a distinct possibility considering the recent rhetoric coming from establishment voices. However, regime violence against peaceful protesters could ultimately prove to galvanize the wider population into action and increase public pressure on Fidesz just as we enter the run-up to the next parliamentary elections in 2018. </p> <p>Closing CEU would be a big step backward in attempts to create an international Roma movement of educated changemakers. Few universities have made Roma empowerment so central to their mission as CEU have. The long-term effects on Roma education and professional development can only be guessed at if we lose a generation of CEU Romani professionals. <span class="mag-quote-center">Few universities have made Roma empowerment so central to their mission as CEU have.</span></p> <p>For Hungarian Roma, the future is even less certain. Without the Roma Access Programs, where do Roma Rights NGOs stand? Roma in Hungary need the watchdogs in civil society to be active and uninhibited to ensure that human rights violations are challenged and reported on. Any government attempts to muzzle NGOs will leave an already vulnerable population more open to abuse and discrimination.</p> <p>The European Commission (EC) has already brought infringement proceedings against Hungary for breaching the Racial Equality Directive in the treatment of its Romani minority. Far from the situation improving, things have actually got worse for Roma, with the Hungarian government claiming the EC was taking punitive measures taken against Hungary as revenge for contesting mandatory refugee quotas. Particularly, the placement of Romani children in segregated schools has remained commonplace since infringement, with signs the government have actually exacerbated school segregation, rather than complying with the recommendations of the commission.</p> <p>It is vital for the European Union to take a stand now, at the midpoint of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. It is clear that the Commission fully recognises the need for action, and is deeply concerned that <em>"no real improvements can be seen on the ground"</em>. It calls on Member States to demonstrate greater political will to combat discrimination, describes rising anti-Gypsyism as a <em>"specific form of racism"</em>, and urges public authorities to distance themselves from racist and xenophobic discourse that targets Roma. When it comes to anti-Roma hate speech and hate crime, the Commission bluntly stated that authorities’ failure to take action effectively amounts to complicity: <em>"it is important to realise that a reluctance to act also contributes to the acceptance of intolerance in societies."</em></p> <p>Much of the shocking mistreatment of Roma in Hungary has been largely overshadowed by Orbán’s abysmal treatment of refugees. Yet Hungary has a woeful record of negligence and outright abuses of Roma by authorities. State complicity to hate speech and hate crime takes on a new whole new meaning in a country where the Prime Minister is on record as <a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/the-roma-peoples-hungarian-hell/">describing Roma in Hungary</a> as <em>"Hungary’s historical given … We are the ones who have to live with this"</em>. When far-right paramilitaries force Roma to barricade themselves in their homes and threaten to burn them to the ground, all while the police stand by and do nothing - it is imperative that civil society play an active role in fighting for justice and accountability. <span class="mag-quote-center">Commission proceedings are drawn out and secretive, away from the democratic gaze, and in their current form will hardly deter Orbán in his Putin-style purge of NGOs.</span></p> <p>The new legislation being railroaded through the Hungarian parliament shows clear signs that Hungary is sliding deeper into authoritarianism, with a grim outlook for the country’s Roma. The EU must stand up to the attacks on CEU and on NGOs. &nbsp;The Commission’s decision to take legal action and send a Letter of Formal Notice to the Hungarian Government regarding the CEU is a welcome first step; but this legal action is just one amongst dozens of infringement proceedings currently pending against Hungary. </p> <p>Time is of the essence for the university which has to plan for its next academic year. Commission proceedings are drawn out and secretive, away from the democratic gaze, and in their current form will hardly deter Orbán in his Putin-style purge of NGOs.</p> <p>Beyond CEU, and in defence of civil society organisations, to paraphrase the commission: &nbsp;a reluctance to act on their part contributes to the acceptance of intolerance, and will only further embolden authoritarians throughout the union.</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/ana-gurau/hungarian-governments-war-on-free-speech">The Hungarian government&#039;s war on free speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/csaba-olah/i-believe-in-europe-roma-perspective">I believe in Europe: a Roma perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/michael-stewart/and-you-thought-trump-was-bad"> And you thought Trump was bad</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"> Hungary </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"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Jonathan Lee Fri, 05 May 2017 12:26:54 +0000 Jonathan Lee 110639 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hungarian public employees victimised for connections to the Central European University https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/hidv-gi-b-attila/why-are-hungarian-public-employees-victimised-for-connections-to <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Yanis Varoufakis talks <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/state-of-political-disrepair-brexit-eu-and-trashing-establishment">here</a> about the nodal systems of the 'deep establishment' that are closing in in Europe. This might be a good example.</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/Csorba Zoltán.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Csorba Zoltán.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'>Csorba Zoltán, a Hungarian civil servant, has recently lost his job because of his political views (own photo).</span></span></span>It seems that in Hungary, the official propaganda regarding the struggle between the <a href="https://www.ceu.edu/category/istandwithceu">Central European University (CEU) and the Orban government,</a> has started to have serious repercussions not only on people connected to the University, but other progressive political groups. </p> <p>Roma news portal <a href="http://www.romnet.hu/">Romnet</a> has recently had two cases brought to its attention in which employees in the civil sector were seemingly dismissed in part because of their CEU affiliation. Taken together with another similar and widely reported occurrence that relates to a local civil servant pushed out of office because of his association with the newly formed Momentum Movement, such instances reveal a pattern of unacceptable political pressure on public employees. They are forced to limit their involvement with any institution or political faction disliked by the current Hungarian government on pain of losing their employment. </p> <p>According to Romnet’s informants, some of whom declined to be identified, the Hungarian government cannot cope with criticism. Those people who don’t fit into its complex system of client-patron relationships and are connected to institutions that are deemed to be anti-government, can easily become persona non grata, and are then removed from any position of influence.</p> <h2><strong>Civil servant leaves Ministry of Human Resources </strong></h2> <p>The most recent, controversial <a href="http://www.romnet.hu/hirek/2017/04/20/tavoznia_kellett_a_humantarcatol_mert_a_ceu-n_tanit">case reported by Romnet</a> concerns Zoltan Csorba, a civil servant at the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources, who was summarily dismissed a few days ago for his views on the Hungarian government’s policies and his association with the ill-fated CEU. Mr Csorba told Romnet that he had been the target of a sustained series of personal political attacks simply because he voiced professional criticism towards the Ministry’s social integration program and also, as he was openly told, because he worked as a freelance lecturer for the CEU. Following his dismissal, Mr Csorba turned to the courts and the Hungarian <a href="http://www.egyenlobanasmod.hu/eng">Equal Treatment Authority</a>. </p> <p>He holds a degree in political sciences and since 2014 has worked for an organisation closely connected to the Hungarian Human Resources Ministry as a manager in one of its Roma integration programs, where he voiced a number of views regarded as controversial by his employer. However, a closer look at Mr Csorba’s previous career reveals that he was no stranger to whistleblowing and that he had already suffered for exposing instances of official corruption and wrongdoing. </p> <p>From 1997 to 2011, Mr Csorba was in charge of the Roma Youth Integration program of Józsefváros, one of Budapest’s local authorities. The program offered after-school activities to hundreds of Roma students, but the local government saw fit to stop the service in the Spring of 2011, a move that our informant believes was politically motivated. ‘A great number of programs that allowed Roma youth to sit higher education exams were terminated suddenly, at the stroke of a pen, in the worst possible moment for our students, right before the university entry examination season’ he complained at the time to news portal Sosinet. Mr Csorba saw the closing of this program as a personal witch hunt against him since he was openly opposed to the policies of the National Roma Minority Self-Government, a government puppet institution dominated by government spokesperson <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fl%C3%B3ri%C3%A1n_Farkas">Florian Farkas</a> and his organisation, Lungo Drom. The group has been <a href="http://budapestbeacon.com/public-policy/hungarys-national-roma-self-government-being-investigated-for-fraud/26088">mired in controversy and accusations of corruption</a> ever since and has recently had to pay back a large amount of European funding because of embezzlement.</p> <p>After several years of working for a now defunct government quango, the Türr István Training and Research Institute, Csorba was transferred to another government background institution, the Directorate-General for Social and Child Protection (SZGYF), and recently was put in charge of the institution’s Mentoring Network program. &nbsp;This program was meant to employ 110 professionals, mostly of Roma ethnicity, who would help in the integration of marginalised families at a county level. However, in spite of being a senior manager, Csorba told us that the Director General of SZGYF failed to involve him in any decision-making pertaining to his work and did not allow him access to crucial information such as the initiative’s budget and long term plans. </p> <p>According to Csorba, his first conflict with his superior came about after he questioned the logic of hiring as local mentors a number of people closely connected to the now discredited National Roma Minority Self-Government, who had almost zero qualifications and experience in the roles, while other, highly qualified and experienced, mostly Roma, candidates were sidelined on what Csorba considers the discriminatory grounds that their diplomas may be ‘fake’. Csorba found it unacceptable that yet again, a program meant to reach the grassroots mainly Roma communities, was turned into a money-spinner for a well-connected political elite. </p> <p>Already in a meeting back in February to discuss this matter, Zsolt Bátori, Director of SZGYF indicated that he was considering dismissing Csorba since ‘highly positioned politicians have objected to his status within the project’. Further Mr Bátori thought that it was a problem that Mr Csorba had stood for local elections in the past; and that in a previous job application for a management job with a Budapest-based government organization dealing with Roma Education and Culture (FROKK), he had formulated a strong critique of the political decisions taken by local politicians in Budapest’s 8th district local government. Mr Csorba also said that his employer, SZGYF objected to the fact that he worked as a freelance language tutor for the CEU, as the Ministry’s background institution had recently been subject to ‘significant pressure’ in this respect. </p> <p>Due to internal restructuring, Csorba’s employment with SZGYF was subject to a recent contract, and at the time of his dismissal he was on probation. He found himself under intense pressure to resign because of what he regards as politically motivated objections to his work. Finally he did so under duress, knowing that within weeks, his employer would formally dismiss him anyway due to his known connections with the CEU. </p> <h2><strong>Sacked because of his connections to the CEU </strong></h2> <p>Romnet recently reported <a href="http://www.romnet.hu/hirek/2017/04/13/kirugtak_mert_ceu-s_diplomaja_van">another case</a> in which a manager in a Hungarian state institution felt obliged to comply with real or imagined official directives by sacking an employee simply because he had a Masters degree from the beleaguered CEU.</p> <p>A reader and personal acquaintance of Romnet, who declined to make public his identity, informed the portal that a week ago he was called in to meet with the head of his institution where he was told that his contract will be dissolved because the organisation cannot employ people who are in any way connected to the Central European University. The employee reported that his manager regretted the decision, but felt obligated to let him go as a result of an official directive. The manager also promised that he would help find his employee a new workplace through his own contacts. </p> <p>The employee who had acquired his Masters at the CEU between 2010-2014 (during the ‘second Orbán regime’), said that he had not made any political comments at work, and that in the past his managers had been happy with his performance. Due to his extensive knowledge of foreign languages (English, German and Italian), he had been frequently asked to represent his institution abroad, so he was completely confounded by the decision of his superiors. </p> <p>Although for now the Romnet reader chooses not to disclose his name or that of his employer, he has also said that later he would be willing to go public with his story because he finds in unacceptable that leaders of state institutions are in a position to threaten or bring reprisals against an employee simply because of their need to comply with the current government’s line. </p> <p>He considers his dismissal illegal and a clearly political decision, linked to the fact that he studied at the university that the government refers to simply [and erroneously] as the ‘Soros University’. He feared that hundreds of graduates could be similarly dismissed within days since many CEU graduates work in the public sector, including government spokesperson Kovács Zoltán. Romnet’s informant also commented that he feared more public institutions will start reprisals against such ex-CEU graduates who have taken part in the recent demonstrations to support their alma mater. Romnet’s source said he would turn to the courts for unfair dismissal. </p> <h2><strong>Job lost for collecting signatures on a public petition </strong></h2> <p>Recently the Hungarian media has also covered widely the case of one of the members of the Momentum Movement, András Pencz, who was <a href="http://index.hu/belfold/2017/04/10/elkuldtek_az_onkormanyzattol_mert_momentumos/">dismissed from his workplace</a>, the local authority of Budatetény, for collecting signatures in the recent NOlimpia campaign against Budapest’s 2024 Olympic bid. Thanks to the great number of signatures collected from the citizens of Budapest, the Momentum Movement erupted into the limelight by scoring what some see as a major victory against the FIDESZ government.</p> <p>Pencz had worked for the local authority for more than a year when he was dismissed shortly after Momentum delivered the anti-Olympics petition to the authorities. In his written dismissal notice Mr Pencz was told ‘You are an excellent colleague and we are happy with your work. However, this issue [that you are involved in] is important for our municipality. [Given that we are] a small town, we cannot maintain this relationship [with you] because of the Olympics’. </p> <p>These are no isolated cases in Hungary’s current political climate. Although it is not at liberty to disclose the details, Romnet has knowledge of other citizens, even elected political representatives, who have been subjected to severe pressure from the authorities and have had to modify their political behaviour under threat to their personal and professional life. </p> <p>These events, taken together with the open attacks on liberal institutions and civil society, paint a grim picture of life under the Orbán government, one where the public’s right to free speech is under sever threat and where being in the wrong place at the wrong time as well as any kind of opposition political activism can land one in big personal trouble.</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/jonathan-lee/ceu-and-ngo-crackdown-double-blow-for-roma-inclusion-in-hungary">CEU and NGO crackdown: a double blow for Roma inclusion in Hungary </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"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Hidvégi-B. Attila Fri, 05 May 2017 11:56:16 +0000 Hidvégi-B. Attila 110638 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A state of political disrepair: Varoufakis on Brexit, the EU, and trashing the establishment https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/state-of-political-disrepair-brexit-eu-and-trashing-establishment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"The idea that suddenly something happened that no one can explain, that suddenly Brexit, Le Pen, Trump rose out of the woodwork, and that the liberal establishment is the only thing that can stop them – this is just a figment of the liberal establishment's imagination."</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/A1BNn614T98" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/eu-cannot-survive-if-it-sticks-to-business-as-usual">The EU cannot survive if it sticks to business as usual</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/yanis-varoufakis/trumps-triumph-how-progressives-must-react">Trump&#039;s triumph: how progressives must react</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/yanis-varoufakis-offers-some-advice-to-uk-government-on-their-br">Yanis Varoufakis offers some advice to the UK government on their Brexit negotiations with the EU</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/forty-years-of-failure-how-to-challenge-narrative-of-hard-brexit">Forty years of failure: how to challenge the narrative of Hard Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Yanis Varoufakis DiEM25 Fri, 05 May 2017 09:44:11 +0000 Yanis Varoufakis 110626 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump’s paradox: a critique of ‘populism’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/simon-tunderman/trump-s-paradox-critique-of-populism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump is an irrational projection and knows it. That’s why he can do <em>absolutely anything</em> and get away with it. Taking back control is scapegoating and aggression.</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-28464104_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28464104_1.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The nasty parties. Nigel Farage speaks at a rally for Donald Trump in August, 2016. Gerald Herbert AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Do we understand Trump’s rise to power yet? In order to explain his surprising victory in the 2016 elections, experts on the left attribute much analytical weight to feelings of resentment among working class Americans. This resentment would emerge as a consequence of many Americans’ deteriorating socio-economic position in times of ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘globalisation’. The people, so the story goes, have grown so dissatisfied with the American establishment that they were driven into the arms of a man who, for all his defects, managed to present himself as a Washington outsider and the saviour of the American dream. </p> <p>On this account, popular resentment is the main explanation for right-wing populism. In response, social scientists have fired up their regression machines in order to calculate the correlation between socioeconomic variables and Trumpist sympathies. This approach is not necessarily wrong, as the precarious socio-economic position of many Americans undoubtedly plays a role in their voting behaviour. However, the problem is that it glosses over the main paradox of the recent US elections: Trump represents the very characteristics that supposedly gave rise to the feelings of popular resentment in the first place. </p> <h2><strong>Trump’s paradox</strong></h2> <p>This is especially clear in two cases. First, when Trump says he is going to make America great again, experts claim this resonates with people’s resentment because it promises to turn back the clock on economic globalisation and the outsourcing of Ameri- can jobs. At the same time, however, Trump symbolises these problems as no other: the owner of an international business empire, Trump is well-known to move his production lines overseas to save costs. We have all seen the pictures of Trump merchandise with a ‘made in China’ label. <span class="mag-quote-center">We have all seen the pictures of Trump merchandise with a ‘made in China’ label.</span></p> <p>Second, when Trump promises to drain the swamp, experts explain the popular appeal of this claim with reference to the supposed feeling of powerlessness among ordinary people vis-à-vis the American political elite, which has cuddled up to the richest Americans. Yet here the paradox shows itself again. A billionaire businessman with many friends in the political establishment, Trump symbolises the very swamp he would sup- posedly drain. Haven’t we all seen the picture of Hillary, Bill, Melania, and Donald at the wedding of the latter two in 2005? Clearly, Trump’s paradoxical embodiment of the very causes of resentment which his victory supposedly tapped into poses a problem for social scientists. <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Popular resentment can only explain Trump’s rise to power on either one of two assumptions. The first option would be to assume that the people who vote for him out of resentment are too misinformed and ignorant to realise that Trump is, in fact, not on their side. This assumption of popular ignorance, which many social scientists would not seem to be very averse to, seems unrealistic. With the extensive media coverage of the US elections it would be quite hard for anyone to overlook the fact that Trump is, in fact, not Joe the Plumber. Also, the assumption of popular ignorance is morally problematic, because underestimating the intellectual capacities of the people so greatly makes it difficult to hold them accountable for subscribing to the politics of nationalism, racism, and sexism.<strong> This assumption of popular ignorance, which many social scientists would not seem to be very averse to, seems unrealistic.</strong></p> <p>For these reasons, I will argue that there is a second assumption that makes it possible to explain Trump as the outcome of popular resentment. This second option, then, is to assume that disenfranchised Americans know very well that Trump is not on their side, but vote for him anyway. In this case, the very interesting challenge for social scientists would be to analyse what this ‘anyway’ consists of. </p> <h2><strong>Voting for him anyway: identification with an aggressor</strong></h2> <p>This requires an approach that goes beyond the idea that there is a <em>direct </em>relation between popular resentment and right-wing populism. Rather, I will argue that an explanation for Trump’s paradox has to take seriously the mediating role of psychological mechanisms that may be very paradoxical in their own right. In other words, an irrational phenomenon such as Trump’s popular- ity among disenfranchised Americans may also require an ‘irrational’ explanation. </p> <p>The question about Trump’s paradoxical popularity invites us to think about how people react when their way of social being is threatened. Psychoanalysis can be of assistance here. Anna Freud, in <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/identification-aggressor">her essay</a> <em>Identification with the Aggressor</em>, relates of a young boy who behaved abnormally in school, in the sense that he started twitching his face as soon as his teacher spoke to him. Upon closer inspection it appeared that the boy was not so much mocking as imitating the teacher, in order to deal with the latter’s reproaches. The analyst noticed that ‘the boy’s grimaces were simply a caricature of the angry expression of the teacher and that, when he had to face a scolding by the latter, he tried to master his anxiety by involuntarily imitating him’ (<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/322145142/Anna-Freud-the-Ego-and-the-Mechanisms-of-Defence">A. Freud 1993</a>, 110). </p> <p>Based on similar observations in other children’s behaviour, Freud argued that identification with the aggressor is one of the defence mechanisms of the ego. It helps the ego to deal with the anxiety that arises when confronted with an overwhelming external threat from a source of authority, insofar as it transforms itself ‘from the person threatened into the person who makes the threat’ (ibid.). This is especially clear in those cases where children adopted the authority’s aggression and projected it onto another object or child who serves as a scapegoat. </p> <p>At first sight, this psychoanalytical insight into the identification with the aggressor mechanism may seem far removed from anything political. But according to Freud, such defence mechanisms could be observed in many different social situations among people of all ages. As such, it can also be very helpful in explaining the paradoxical dynamics of contemporary politics. I will argue that it is possible to qualify the relationship between Trump and his electorate as a case of identification with the aggressor. The key lies in the paradox described above. </p> <p>Ordinary Americans are confronted with stagnating wages, outsourcing of jobs, rising inequality, and a widening gap with the political establishment. To an important extent, this threat to working Americans’ socioeconomic position and their options for political participation stems from the changing conditions of an increasingly globalised political economy. This process is propelled forward by a class of rich entrepreneurs who make their money in global commodity chains and use that same money to gain political influence through party donations. Now, the crucial point is that when faced by this overwhelming threat, disenfranchised Americans may try to defend themselves by identifying with its source: multinational entrepreneurs represented by Donald Trump and his red power tie. Through identifying with Trump, ordinary Americans may assimilate the threat emanating from him, transforming their vulnerability into an aggressive stance. <span class="mag-quote-center">The result … is the strange spectacle of working class Americans, wearing those red Make America Great Again caps (made in China), going out to protest against raising the minimum wage, more restrictive banking regulations, and universal healthcare.</span></p> <p>The result of this identification mechanism is the strange spectacle of working class Americans, wearing those red Make America Great Again caps (made in China), going out to protest against raising the minimum wage, more restrictive banking regulations, and universal healthcare. Identifying with Trump makes it possible for disenfranchised Americans to endure their socio-economic hardship insofar as they mimic his overpowering aggression towards their own interests, adopting the fantasy that getting in line with this aggression will solve America’s (and their) problems. Throw in a Mexican or Muslim scapegoat figure and you have all the ingredients for what psychoanalysts call utopian fantasy: the impossible idea of the restoration of a fullness of society (‘make America great again!’), dependent on the expulsion of the scapegoat (‘build that wall!’). </p> <p>Demonstrating how psychic affect may overrule rational political reasoning, the identification with the aggressor mechanism helps to explain the riddle of working class Trump voters going against their own interests. However, the introduction of the scapegoat figure adds another dimension that clearly warns against casting Trump voters as the innocent and passive receiving end. As <a href="https://www.lernhelfer.de/sites/default/files/lexicon/pdf/BWS-DEU2-0524-06.pdf">Sigmund Freud noted</a>, the ego derives pleasure from turning a negative experience into an aggressive activity towards someone else (S. Freud 1975b, 227).</p> <p>This is why Trump needs his Mexican wall and his Muslim ban: so that his supporters can have their revenge, not on him or his billionaire cabinet, but on the minority scapegoat. Insofar as they aim to subject Mexicans and Muslims to exclusion and disenfranchisement, Trump supporters transfer onto others the harm they experienced themselves. </p> <p>The double character of identifying with Trump’s aggression now comes into stark relief. On the one hand, it is a mechanism to shield the ego from external threat and fend off anxiety-inducing experiences. On the other hand, it is also a source of pleasure insofar as Trump supporters can retaliate against a substitute object, the scapegoat. Crucially, as the notions of anxiety and pleasure suggest, this identification mechanism is not a rational process, but rather takes place on the unconscious level of affective investment. As is well known, the unconscious and the rational constitute different domains in psychoanalytical theory (S. Freud 1975a, 373). Identification and scapegoating are affective processes, so bound up with unconscious irrationality that rational political argumentation has no purchase on them. As such, they have not much to do with politics in the rational sense. </p> <h2><strong>Trump’s immunity</strong></h2> <p>This may explain why Trump’s popularity seems immune to exposing the inconsistency of his arguments. His supporters may know very well (rationally) that he is not really on their side, but unconsciously they rally behind him <em>anyway </em>because he offers an opportunity to structure their social being on the affective level. In the same way, they may know (rationally) that Mexicans and Muslims are not the real threat, but they insist on the idea of the threat because they are invested in it on an affective level. In other words, Trump’s popularity among a large part of disenfranchised Americans is based on affect not rational deliberation. This is most clearly attested by a recent poll which shows that the first 100 days of his presidency, which he largely spent golfing and creating scandal, did not negatively impact his popularity among his core supporters (<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/nearing-100-days-trumps-approval-at-record-lows-but-%20his-base-is-holding/2017/04/22/a513a466-26b4-11e7-b503-9d616bd5a305_story.html">Balz and Scott 2017</a>). </p> <p>Now, the identification and scapegoating mechanism as witnessed in the case of Trump is of course nothing new. Sartre came across something very similar in his classical account of anti-Semitism. According to Sartre, anti-Semites are ‘afraid to discover that the world is badly made’. They know that their anti-Semitic statements are ‘empty and contestable’ but they nonetheless hold on to their anti-Semitic ‘passion’, because this allows them to see themselves ‘as forming an indissoluble unity’ with their country as a whole. Sartre’s account thus also points out the twin combination of identification with a larger authority on the one hand, and minority scapegoating on the other. This combination, whether in the historical case of anti-Semitism or currently with Trump, is so persistent because it gives the threatened ego a sense of pleasure and belonging – at the expense of someone else (<a href="http://hgar-srv3.bu.edu/collections/partisan-review/search/detail?id=283961">Sartre 1946</a>, 166 -170). </p> <h2><strong>A critical view of populism</strong></h2> <p>It now becomes clear that, in contrast to the classical resentment approach, a psychoanalytic approach results in a more critical view of Trump voters. The resentment explanation understands support for Trump as a direct function of people’s deteriorating socio- economic position, and it can only do so by assuming their ignorance as to their own interests as well as to Trump’s politics. As such, the resentment approach comes close to the classical Marxist definition of ideology, which excuses the people on account of their naïve consciousness, saying, ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (<a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Sublime-Object-Ideology-Essential-Zizek-Slavoj/1844673006/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;psc=1&amp;refRID=CBCB15EFP52BY7WVJS88">Žižek 1989, 24</a>). However, as I argued above, rationally they may know very well what they do, but they do it anyway because of the affective pleasure they derive from identifying with Trump and copying his aggression towards scapegoats. </p> <p>In a way, then, the resentment approach depoliticises the role Trump supporters play in upholding the politics of nationalism, racism, and sexism. Of course, this raises the question how far to pursue this critique of the right-wing populist electorate. Sartre was quite radical in this regard. He argued that anti-Semitism is a choice for those who are too afraid to face the challenges of living in an ever-changing modern society, and seek refuge in the sham certainties of obeying leaders and hating minorities (Sartre 1946, 177). Since he calls it a choice, Sartre holds each individual fully accountable for their antisemitism. I would argue that this perspective is too radical for the psychoanalytic account of Trumpism outlined above. The existentialist topos of individual choice is not compatible with the conclusion that the paradoxical alliance between Trump and the disenfranchised elec- torate emerges on the unconscious affective level. </p> <p>The irony of the psychoanalytical explanation of Trump’s paradox is thus that it is paradoxical in itself. On the one hand, it opens up the possibility for a critical dialogue with the right-wing electorate because it doesn’t assume that the people are ignorant about politics and their own interests. On the other hand, however, it seems to render such a political dialogue superfluous because the psychoanalytic account displaces the fundamental locus of political association to the level of the unconscious. </p> <p>The question, then, is what this means for social scientists interested in the critique of right-wing populism. It is probably not realistic to demand that social scientists become trained psychotherapists in addition to their normal jobs. But it would be a start to give up the search for the one variable that might rationally explain right-wing populism, and instead acknowledge that affect, the unconscious, and thereby psychoanalysis are fundamental to understanding the sometimes perplexing dynamics of contemporary politics (<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/273-on-populist-reason">Laclau 2005, 101</a>). <span class="mag-quote-center">If nothing else, psychoanalysis helps to explain how the structural environment of politics and the economy feeds into people’s voting behaviour.</span></p> <p>At the same time, however, the focus on affective processes in politics should not distract from the task to continue the critical investigation of the dynamics of inequality, precarisation, and disempowerment. The psychoanalytic perspective on right-wing populism laid out here is not meant to replace the critique of political economy. Rather, the two perspectives go hand in hand. If nothing else, psychoanalysis helps to explain how the structural environment of politics and the economy feeds into people’s voting behaviour. As such, this combined critique should point out the irrational structural inequalities of the current political economy itself, of which Trump is of course only a symptom, not a cause. All the more reason to make sure that a genuine left-wing alternative emerges. Bernie 2020, anyone? </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>References </strong></p> <p>Balz, Dan, and Clement Scott. 2017, April 23. “Nearing 100 Days, Trump’s Approval at Record Lows but His Base Is Holding.” <em>Washington Post</em>. </p> <p>Freud, Anna. 1993. “Identification with the Aggressor.” In <em>The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence</em>, London: Karnac Books, 109–21. </p> <p>Freud, Sigmund. 1975a. “Die Verneinung.” In <em>Psychologie des Unbewußten. Studienausgabe Band III</em>, eds. Alexander Mitscherlich, Angela Richards, James Strachey, and Ilse Grubrich-Simitis. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 371–78. </p> <p>———. 1975b. “Jenseits des Lustprinzips.” In <em>Psychologie des Unbewußten. Studienausgabe Band III</em>, eds. Alexander Mitscherlich, Angela Richards, James Strachey, and Ilse Grubrich-Simitis. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 213–72. </p> <p>Laclau, Ernesto. 2005. <em>On Populist Reason</em>. London: Verso.
</p> <p>Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1946. “<a href="http://hgar-srv3.bu.edu/collections/partisan-review/search/detail?id=283961">Portrait of the Antisemite.</a>” <em>Partisan Review </em>13(2): 163–78.
</p> <p>Stavrakakis, Yannis. 2014. “Debt Society: Psychosocial Aspects of the (Greek) Crisis.” In <em>The Psychosocial and Organization Studies. Affect at Work</em>, eds. Kate Kenny and Marianna Fotaki. Basingstoke: Palgrave </p><p>Macmillan, 33–59.
Žižek, Slavoj. 1989. <em>The Sublime Object of Ideology</em>. London/New York: Verso. </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="/robert-borosage/stunning-disappearance-of-candidate-trump">The stunning disappearance of candidate Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sam-altman/what-i-heard-from-100-trump-supporters">What I heard from 100 Trump supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tariq-desai/false-reality-has-contributed-to-new-political-reality"> A false reality has contributed to a new political reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-standen/appropriation-of-victimhood">The appropriation of victimhood</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/zahir-janmohamed/modi-and-trump-voting-strongmen-voting-hate">Modi and Trump—voting strongmen, voting hate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kristian-thorup/dangerous-zombie-identities-of-those-left-behind-by-global-capitalism">The dangerous &#039;zombie identities&#039; of those left behind by global capitalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arun-kundnani-phoebe-braithwaite/ripping-back-veil-interview-with-arun-kundnani">Ripping back the veil: an interview with Arun Kundnani</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/esther-rapoport/trump-as-uncastrated-primal-father">Trump as the uncastrated primal father</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/why-i-voted-for-donald-trump">Why I voted for Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pablo-castillo-diaz/us-this-land-is-hisland">Hisland</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nicola-tweedie/my-350-on-donald-trump-he-connected-with-millions-of-people"> My 350 on Donald Trump: he connected with millions of people</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-held-kyle-mcnally/gold-plated-populism-trump-and-end-of-liberal-order">Gold plated populism: Trump and the end of the liberal order</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Understanding the rise of Trump Simon Tunderman
 Thu, 04 May 2017 08:39:53 +0000 Simon Tunderman
 110606 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Guernica and the perversion of the Spanish Civil War https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/harry-blain/guernica-and-perversion-of-spanish-civil-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The memory of the Spanish Civil War has become a leading reference point for self-styled 'liberal interventionists'.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/3892659848_998777f67e_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/3892659848_998777f67e_z.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'>A crowd gathers to ponder "Guernica". Flickr/rogiro. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>George Orwell <a href="http://orwell.ru/library/essays/Spanish_War/english/esw_1">once told</a> Arthur Koestler that "history stopped in 1936." </p><p>Both men realised that the Spanish Civil War, triggered by a military coup in July of that year, presaged what was inevitable for the rest of Europe: the destruction of entire cities, the bold and violent expansion of Fascism, and a total war in which it was impossible to be neutral. </p><p>Their personal experiences of the Spanish War – captured in Koestler’s <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spanish-Testament-Left-Book-Club/dp/B000UVTIRU"><em>Spanish Testament</em></a> and Orwell’s <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Homage-Catalonia-Penguin-Modern-Classics-George-Orwell/0141183055/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1493556090&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=homage+to+catalonia"><em>Homage to Catalonia</em></a><em> </em>– have become leading works in a massive canon of literature on the brutal nearly 3-year-long conflict. If these testimonies have formed much of the modern understanding of twentieth century warfare, then they are matched, if not exceeded, by Pablo Picasso’s <em>Guernica, </em>the sprawling and terrifying 3.5x7.8m mural displayed in Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum.</p> <p>On the afternoon of April 26, 1937, Guernica, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/guernica/glevel_1/1_bombing.html">“the cultural capital of the Basque people”</a>, was turned into a pile of burning rubble by “twenty-five or more of Germany's best-equipped bombers, accompanied by at least twenty more Messerschmitt and Fiat Fighters”, which “dumped one hundred thousand pounds of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the village.” </p><p>A third of the town’s population was killed or wounded – demonstrating not only the barbarity of the Nazi Condor Legion, but also Adolf Hitler’s willingness to unequivocally back his ally, General Franco. While Britain, France and the Soviet Union – supposedly friends of the Spanish Republic – either stood by or intervened <a href="http://orwell.ru/library/essays/Spanish_War/english/esw_1">“on a niggardly scale”</a>, the Fascist powers acted decisively and ruthlessly. In 1942, Orwell <a href="http://orwell.ru/library/essays/Spanish_War/english/esw_1">would write</a>, “the Spanish Civil War demonstrated that the Nazis knew what they were doing and their opponents did not.”</p> <h2><strong>"Iraq, if you look back at it, is going to be like the Spanish Civil War"</strong></h2> <p>80 years on from the bombing of Guernica, Picasso’s painting and the wider Spanish War remain powerful symbols and analogies for politicians, writers and self-styled “liberal interventionists.” UK Labour MP (and former Shadow Foreign Secretary) Hillary Benn provided a clear example of this thinking in his widely applauded <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0005.htm">speech to the British Parliament</a> on December 2, 2015. “As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism,” he said to his Labour Party colleagues. Describing “Daesh”, as “fascists”, he told the House:</p> <p><em>“What we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. It is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists, trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It is why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. My view is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria.”</em></p> <p>Benn is far from the first western politician to evoke the memory of this period in support of a foreign military intervention. The Hitler (or Munich) analogy is particularly well-worn from use in defence of the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq – even U.S. intervention in Grenada and Nicaragua (for a long discussion of these examples, see Jeffrey Record’s <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Appeasement-Reconsidered-Investigating-Mythology-1930s/dp/1312318953"><em>Appeasement Reconsidered</em></a>). </p><p>But Spain, too, has become a popular reference point. U.S. Senator John McCain – one of the most ardent hawks in Congress – has long glorified the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/opinion/john-mccain-salute-to-a-communist.html">“idealistic freedom fighters”</a> of the International Brigades, while former Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman in 2007 <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/05/AR2007010501179.html">likened the Iraq War</a> to the Spanish Civil War because the “larger war on Islamist terrorism” playing out in the country was comparable to the wider war against fascism which began in Spain. </p><p>For Lieberman, however, “The painful irony of this moment in our history is that while, in some senses, it is comparable to the 1930s, it's also already 1942, because Pearl Harbour in this war has already happened on 9/11/01.” A year earlier he <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/1936-and-all-that/article/13784">suggested</a>: “Iraq, if you look back at it, is going to be like the Spanish Civil War, which was the harbinger of what was to come.”</p> <h2><strong>"Aleppo(nica)"</strong></h2> <p>In a way, Senator Lieberman was right: Iraq was “the harbinger” of much bigger things – like the Syrian Civil War and the Islamic State. That’s about as far as the comparison goes. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/04/ahmed-chalabi">The great purveyor of the WMD lie and “darling of the neocons”,</a> Ahmed Chalabi, was no Juan Negrín; the <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackwater-Rise-Worlds-Powerful-Mercenary/dp/1846686520">Blackwater mercenaries</a> who flooded into Iraq were no International Brigades; and the post-invasion sectarian government no Popular Front. </p><p>As for the idea that Saddam Hussein and his regime posed a threat like the fascists of the 30s, Chris Rock <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhjfxZHOT_o">put it better than anyone else</a>: "If they’re so dangerous, how come it only took two weeks to take over the whole fucking country? Shit, man, you couldn't take over Baltimore in two weeks.” </p> <p>In Syria, however, the analogy of the 1930s – and Spain in particular – seems somewhat more appropriate. For one thing, thousands of mostly young people have poured into the country from across the world, with motivations seemingly as various as securing the Caliphate, resisting a murderous dictator, and even <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/bob-crown-brigade-interview">“Fighting ISIS and Patriarchy with the Kurds.”</a> </p><p>The Assad regime’s <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/30/syria-barrage-barrel-bombs">barrel-bombing of civilian areas </a>and brutal <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/01/russia/syria-war-crimes-month-bombing-aleppo">Russian-backed aerial campaign</a> against Aleppo led British Conservative politician Andrew Mitchell to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37614554">tell the House of Commons:</a> “What Russia is doing to the United Nations is precisely what Italy and Germany did to the League of Nations in the 1930s. </p><p>And they are doing to Aleppo precisely what the Nazis did to Guernica in the Spanish Civil War.” Portuguese cartoonist Vasco Gargalo created <a href="https://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/29802">his own version</a> of Picasso’s <em>Guernica</em>, featuring the faces of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin among the distorted shapes and warped images of the original painting. <a href="https://twitter.com/vascogargalo">“Aleppo(nica)”</a>, he called it.</p> <h2><strong>The new military humanism</strong></h2> <p>By no means are all<em> </em>of these historical references aimed at precipitating a “humanitarian intervention” in Syria, but an <a href="http://orwell.ru/library/essays/Spanish_War/english/esw_1">“atrocity campaign”</a> – supported by relentless, almost pornographic images of bloodshed – is not usually meant to make you sad, or make you want to donate to the UNHCR; it is meant to make you angry. Most importantly, it makes you want to punish the perpetrator, and pressure your government to do it on your behalf. This is as true today as it was in 1937.&nbsp; </p> <p>Historical analogy has always given force to arguments for “humanitarian intervention”, but also dangerously clouded our judgement. As Noam Chomsky documents in <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_New_Military_Humanism.html?id=rOa2qaOORF8C&amp;redir_esc=y"><em>The New Military Humanism</em></a><em> </em>(1999), it is a great irony that interventionists frequently draw on the horror of the 30s and 40s not to defend the UN Charter and some semblance of the post-1945 international order, but to undermine it. </p><p>In the case of Kosovo in 1999, they advanced the “dubious doctrine” of an “<a href="http://www.giffordlectures.org/lectures/illegal-legitimate-dubious-doctrine">illegal but legitimate</a>” 78-day bombing campaign (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/jun/07/balkans1">often against civilian targets</a>); or, in the case of Iraq in 2003, the idea that “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/nov/20/usa.iraq1">international law stood in the way of doing the right thing</a>.” Most of these arguments boil down to the assertion that the most powerful military machine in the world – along with its clients – should be able to unilaterally break the UN Charter’s prohibition on the use of force when it believes the act is moral. </p> <p>Anyone who has seen <em>Guernica</em> or the images of the Spanish War should be wary of such a cavalier attitude. They should remember (to quote Orwell again), that even if they are fighting a tyrant, <a href="http://orwell.ru/library/essays/Spanish_War/english/esw_1">“a louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb”</a>; and “the laws of nature are not suspended for a ‘red’ army any more than for a ‘white’ one.”</p> <p>Finally, they shouldn’t uncritically swallow shallow historical analogies. In Syria, how do they really help us? If ISIS are the fascists, then is Assad Stalin? Should we then work with him, as Boris Johnson once suggested, because WWII taught us that “<a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/news/67747/boris-johnson-work-assad-and-putin-syria">we cannot be picky about our allies</a>”? Or is he Hitler? Or <a href="http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/04/09/watch-fired-up-lindsey-graham-says-assad-is-telling-trump-f-you-calls-for-regime-change-in-syria/">is ISIS Germany and Assad Japan</a>? That might work. Wait, was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jihadi-john-mohammed-emwazi-isis-syria-warned-brother-a6831666.html">“Jihadi John”</a> part of the International Brigades? Is <em>Jabhat al-Nusra</em> the Popular Front?</p> <p>It’s worth considering such elementary questions before calling every war “Spain”, every despot “Hitler” and every pro-western rebel group the “International Brigades.” Otherwise, we will debase the very real struggles fought in a time far less comfortable than our own.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Spain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Spain Harry Blain Wed, 03 May 2017 20:25:53 +0000 Harry Blain 110600 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Red lines: can we be sure that Assad was responsible? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/david-morrison/red-lines-can-we-be-sure-that-assad-was-responsible <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why has the mainstream media reported Assad’s guilt as a fact and failed to address the crucial question of why he deliberately shot himself in the foot – twice?</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/500209/PA-17721159.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-17721159.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and US Secretary of State John Kerry, September 2013. Allan Tannenbaum/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On 18 August 2011, President Obama <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2011/08/18/president-obama-future-syria-must-be-determined-its-people-president-bashar-al-assad">declared</a> that “the future of Syria must be determined by its people”.&nbsp; But he immediately contravened this basic democratic principle by saying that Bashir al-Assad should cease to be President of Syria forthwith, irrespective of the wishes of the Syrian people. In a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-uk-french-and-german-statement-on-syria">joint statement</a> the same day, the UK, France and Germany dutifully agreed.&nbsp; </p> <p>At that point, regime change became the explicit policy of the US and its allies in Syria. This policy was maintained for nearly six years with a bit of wavering here and there about the timing of President Assad’s departure – until 30 March 2017, when it was overturned by President Trump's Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.&nbsp; </p> <p>She made it clear that the US was no longer going to focus on removing President Assad from power, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa-haley-idUSKBN1712QL">saying</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“You pick and choose your battles and when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out”.</p></blockquote> <p>The same day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed this reversal of US policy: asked at a press conference in Ankara if President Assad should stay or go, he <a href="https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/03/269318.htm">replied</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”</p></blockquote> <p>This new policy prioritised the defeat of ISIS over the removal of President Assad from power. As such, it reflected the position on Syria that President Trump had expressed on many occasions during his election campaign.</p> <h2><strong>Victory for Assad</strong></h2> <p>This reversal of US policy was a staggering victory for President Assad. Thanks to assistance from Russia over the previous eighteen months, his military position had improved dramatically and the likelihood of him being ousted had diminished to near zero.&nbsp; Then, on 30 March 1017, his position was copper fastened by the US withdrawing its objective of removing him from power. Unlike Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddaffi before him, he had survived despite being targeted for regime change by the US and its allies.</p> <p>Five days later on 4 April 2017, if we are to believe the US, President Assad took the extraordinary decision to mount an aerial attack using chemical weapons against civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, a town held by the armed opposition in Idlib province, leading to the deaths of around 100 people including many women and children. Predictably, this brought down the wrath of the US and its allies on his head and on 6 April 2017, for the first time, the US took military action against the assets of the Syrian regime itself, firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base from which, according to the US, the chemical weapons attack had been launched.</p> <p>President Assad is in a much weaker position now than he was before 4 April 2017, when he allegedly launched the chemical attack – his removal from power is back on the US agenda and there is now at least a possibility that the US will put its military weight behind overthrowing him.</p> <p>All this was the predictable outcome of President Assad allegedly deciding to launch a chemical weapons attack against civilians. He would have to be insane to take such a decision – and he is not insane.</p> <p>If you are trying to identify who is responsible for an act of this kind, it is common sense to ask who would gain from it.&nbsp; President Assad certainly could not have expected to gain and he hasn’t gained – he has lost, big time, and predictably so.&nbsp; The armed opposition has gained in that the US shift away from supporting their goal of regime change has been reversed.&nbsp; It remains to be seen whether the reversal is accompanied by direct military action by the US, or increased military support for the opposition by the US, in order to bring about regime change – if so, they will have gained, very big time.</p> <h2><strong>US "confident” Assad guilty</strong></h2> <p>On 11 April 2013, the Trump administration published a 4-page document, entitled <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3553049/Syria-Chemical-Weapons-Report-White-House.pdf"><em>The Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons on April 4, 2017</em></a>, to justify after the event its attack on Shayrat air base. It began by stating:</p> <blockquote><p>“The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons, using the nerve gas sarin, against its own people in the town of Shaykun in southern Idlib province on April 4, 2017. …</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“We have confidence in our assessment because we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence … . We cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this track due to the need to protect sources and methods. …</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime SU-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. …”</p></blockquote> <p>This document didn’t purport to be an assessment prepared by the US intelligence community and published by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_of_National_Intelligence">US Director of National Intelligence</a>.</p> <p>For a document that serves as a justification for unprecedented US military action against Syria, it is remarkably lacking in certainty in respect of its critical conclusions: it merely expresses “confidence” – rather than “high confidence” – that the Syrian government was responsible and merely says that the available information “indicates” that the chemical agent was delivered by air from Shayrat Airfield.</p> <p>As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi <a href="http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/debunking-trumps-casus-belli/">wrote</a> on 24 April 2017, to date “no evidence has been produced to demonstrate convincingly that Syrian forces dropped a chemical bomb on a civilian area”.</p> <p>None of these uncertainties found their way into the mainstream media reporting of this US government assessment. Generally speaking they reported Assad’s guilt as a fact and failed to address the crucial question of why he deliberately shot himself in the foot.</p> <h2><strong>Why did Assad do it?</strong></h2> <p>The US government assessment contains one sentence that attempts to address the question of why Assad allegedly mounted an attack.&nbsp; It says:</p> <blockquote><p>“We assess that Damascus launched the chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.”</p></blockquote> <p>This is a nonsensical claim because by 4 April 2017 when the alleged attack occurred, the opposition offensive had failed and Syrian government forces had recaptured all or almost all the territory taken over by the opposition in the early days of the offensive.&nbsp; Furthermore, Khan Shaykhun is north of the front line between government and opposition forces at the time, and it’s difficult to see how an attack there – especially a chemical attack with very little military value – could be a response to the offensive.&nbsp; </p> <p>But, laying that aside, what possible reason could there be for the Syrian government to use chemical – rather than conventional – weapons on any target anywhere, when their use was likely to provoke a military response, perhaps a devastating response, from the US? </p> <h2><strong>The Ghouta attack</strong></h2> <p>The use of chemical weapons at Khan Sheikhoun was the second occasion during the war in Syria when their use caused a large number of civilian deaths. The first occurred in the early morning of 21 August 2013, when a sarin gas attack took place in the Ghouta area of Damascus, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people (355 according to Médecins Sans Frontières, 1429 according to the US government).</p> <p>On that occasion also, as we will see, the US administration asserted that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack on the basis of less than conclusive evidence, as later confirmed by President Obama himself.&nbsp; On that occasion also, the Syrian government denied responsibility.</p> <p>On 21 August 2013, a UN Mission was already present in Damascus to investigate allegations of earlier chemical weapons use.&nbsp; It was redirected by the UN Secretary General to investigate the Ghouta attack and it <a href="https://disarmament-library.un.org/UNODA/Library.nsf/780cfafd472b047785257b1000501037/e4d4477c9b67de9085257bf800694bd2/$FILE/A%2067%20997-S%202013%20553.pdf">reported</a> on 16 September 2013, that “the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used” in the attack. It was not part of the Mission’s terms of reference to identify who was responsible for firing the rockets.</p> <p>At the time, the Obama administration asserted that the Syrian government was responsible. On 30 August 2013, the White House published what it termed a “<a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21">government assessment</a>” (significantly, not an assessment prepared by the US intelligence community and published by the US Director of National Intelligence).&nbsp; This began by stating:</p> <blockquote><p>&nbsp;“The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting. … To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.”</p></blockquote> <p>But the assessment contained no verifiable information to justify this conclusion.&nbsp; Nevertheless, at the time the mainstream media reported as a fact that the Syrian government was the guilty party – and they continue to do so today even though, as we will see, over time evidence to the contrary has steadily mounted.</p> <h2><strong>Intelligence not a “slam dunk”</strong></h2> <p>A year earlier on 20 August 2012, President Obama was asked at a press conference whether he would “envision using US military, if simply for nothing else, the safe keeping of the chemical weapons”.&nbsp; He <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/20/remarks-president-white-house-press-corps">replied</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."</p></blockquote> <p>From then on, the expectation was that, if the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians or opposition forces, the US would take punitive military action against Syrian government assets in response.</p> <p>But, President Obama hesitated to take military action. One reason was the refusal of the UK Parliament to back an immediate US strike. Another was that he had been warned by his Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that he couldn’t guarantee that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. </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/James-Clapper-2015.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/James-Clapper-2015.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'>Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper in 2015. Wikicommons/Jay Godwin. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This came to light in an <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/">interview</a> with Jeffrey Goldberg published in <em>The Atlantic</em> in April 2016.&nbsp; There, President Obama revealed that Clapper had made a point of emphasising to him that the intelligence that the Syrian government was responsible wasn’t a “slam dunk” (using the phrase used by George Tenet, the head of the CIA in 2003, to assure President George Bush that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction”, which was a trifle wide of the mark).&nbsp; Here’s what Goldberg wrote: </p><blockquote><p>“Obama was also unsettled by a surprise visit early in the week [beginning 27 August 2013] from James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, who interrupted the President’s Daily Brief, the threat report Obama receives each morning from Clapper’s analysts, to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a “slam dunk.” He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a “slam dunk” in Iraq.”</p></blockquote> <p>So, the certainty expressed publicly by the Obama administration that the Syrian government was responsible wasn’t justified.</p> <p>On 1 September 2013, when as immediate strike was thought to be imminent, President Obama drew back and sought authorisation from Congress for it. It quickly became clear that this was not forthcoming and that if he was going to take military action he would have to do it without specific Congress authorisation. Then, on 9 September 2013 Russia pulled his chestnuts out of the fire by offering an alternative – Syria would join the Chemical Weapons Convention and give up all its chemical weapons, providing the US refrained from taking action against Syria.&nbsp; The US agreed and nine months later John Kerry was confident that Syria’s disarmament had been achieved:</p> <p>“With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.” (<a href="https://2009-2017.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/07/229507.htm">NBC interview</a>, 20 July 2014)</p> <h2><strong>Were the sarin carrying rockets launched from government controlled territory?</strong></h2> <p>But, was the Syrian government responsible for the Ghouta attack?&nbsp; A key question here is: were the rockets which delivered the sarin launched from government controlled territory?</p> <p>The “government assessment” published on 30 August 2013 said:</p> <blockquote><p>“Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media.”</p></blockquote> <p>This encourages the reader to believe that the US had intelligence that the sarin carrying rockets were fired from government-controlled territory but it doesn’t actually say so explicitly.&nbsp; However, in a <a href="https://2009-2017.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/08/213668.htm">briefing</a> on the day the assessment was published, Secretary of State John Kerry left no room for doubt, saying:</p> <blockquote><p>“We know where the rockets were launched from and at what time. We know where they landed and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.”</p></blockquote> <p>And, on 16 September 2013, information published by the New York Times appeared to put the question beyond doubt. In a front page article, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/world/europe/syria-united-nations.html"><em>Forensic Detail in UN report point to Assad’s Use of Gas</em></a>, evidence was presented that claimed to show that the rockets delivering the sarin were launched from a Syrian military complex.&nbsp; This was based on information in the UN Mission’s report about the trajectory of two of the rockets, which were believed to have delivered the gas with such appalling consequences: </p> <blockquote><p>“One annex to the report identified azimuths, or angular measurements, from where rockets had struck, back to their points of origin. When plotted and marked independently on maps by analysts from Human Rights Watch and by The New York Times, the United Nations data from two widely scattered impact sites [in Moadamiya and Zamalka/Ein Tarma, east of Damascus] pointed directly to a Syrian military complex.”</p></blockquote> <p>An accompanying map on the Times’ front page showed the flight-path lines of the two rockets intersecting at a Syrian military complex, near the Presidential Palace in Damascus.&nbsp; This scenario required the rockets to have a range of at least 9.5 kilometres to travel from the postulated launch site in a Syrian military complex to the impact sites in Moadamiya and Zamalka/Ein Tarma.</p> <p>This HRW/NYT analysis received widespread publicity and was almost universally regarded as proving the Syrian government’s guilt.</p> <p>However, there were major flaws in the Times’ analysis, which it was forced to admit a few months later (see <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/world/middleeast/new-study-refines-view-of-sarin-attack-in-syria.html"><em>New Study Refines View of Sarin Attack in Syria</em></a>, 28 December 2013).&nbsp; Robert Parry, an experienced American investigative journalist, who has written many informative articles on the Ghouta attack, described the flaws as follows:</p> <blockquote><p>“The analytical flaws included the fact that one of the two missiles, the one landing in Moadamiya, south of Damascus had clipped a building during its descent making a precise calculation of its flight path impossible, plus the discovery that the Moadamiya missile contained no Sarin, making its use in the vectoring of two Sarin-laden rockets nonsensical.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“But the Times’ analysis ultimately fell apart amid a consensus among missile experts that the rockets would have had a maximum range of only around three kilometers when the supposed launch site is about 9.5 kilometers from the impact zones in Moadamiya and Zamalka/Ein Tarma, east of Damascus.”</p></blockquote> <p>(See <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2013/12/29/nyt-backs-off-its-syria-sarin-analysis/"><em>NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis</em></a>, Consortium News, 29 December 2013)</p> <p>The new <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045/possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.pdf">study</a> referred to in the Times’ headline was by Theodore A Postol, Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Richard M Lloyd, a former UN weapons inspector.&nbsp; They concluded that the rockets had a range of around two kilometres.&nbsp; This is in line with an estimate given by the head of the UN Mission, Dr Åke Sellström, at a press conference on 13 December 2013 (see <a href="http://webtv.un.org/watch/un-mission-to-investigate-allegations-of-the-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-the-syrian-arab-republic-press-conference/2932994876001/">video</a>, around 16 minutes in), when he said: “two kilometres could be a fair guess”.</p> <p>Lloyd and Postol <a href="http://www.themarknews.com/2014/01/20/reality-on-the-ground/">summarised</a> their findings as follows:</p> <blockquote><p>“The U.S. intelligence community, supported by the remarkable capabilities of U.S. space-based infrared satellites, supposedly observed that the chemical rockets were launched from the heart of Syrian government-controlled areas, as shown on the map that the White House released. For this to be the case, the munitions would have had to fly about 10 to 15 kilometers, which is simply not possible.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“Our analysis of the munition used in the attack on Zamalka reveals that the munition’s range is actually about two kilometers. The United Nations conducted a completely independent analysis of the munition and reached exactly the same conclusion.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“In other words, the entire basis for the U.S. intelligence claim is wrong.”</p></blockquote> <p>This indicates that the sarin carrying rockets could not have been fired “from regime-controlled areas” as asserted by John Kerry in his briefing on 30 August 2013.&nbsp; Most likely, they were fired from areas controlled by the armed opposition – and therefore fired by the armed opposition.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this crucial correction to the flawed analysis published by the Times a few months earlier got very little attention from the mainstream media, then or since.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Was the armed opposition capable of mounting the Ghouta attack</strong>?&nbsp; </h2> <p>But, was the armed opposition capable of mounting the Ghouta attack? &nbsp;At the time, the Obama administration stated continuously that it had no evidence that the opposition was capable of doing so.&nbsp; For example, Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2013/09/03/35ae1048-14ca-11e3-b182-1b3bb2eb474c_story.html">emphasised</a> to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 3 September 2013:</p> <blockquote><p>“We are certain that none of the opposition has the weapons or capacity to effect a strike of this scale particularly from the heart of regime territory.”</p></blockquote> <p>And, in a briefing to journalists on 16 September 2013, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/16/politics/syria-civil-war/">said</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“The regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin."</p></blockquote> <p>Seymour Hersh is an investigate journalist with a legendary reputation dating back to his exposure of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and including his revelations about the torture and other abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib during the US occupation of Iraq forty years later.&nbsp; He has written two extensive articles on the Ghouta attack, which were published in the London Review of Books.&nbsp; He claims that in August 2013 the Obama administration had ample evidence that elements of the armed opposition were working with sarin.&nbsp; </p> <p>In his first article <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin"><em>Whose sarin?</em></a> (December 2013), Hersh asserted that</p> <blockquote><p>&nbsp;“by late May 2013 … the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) [later Islamic State], also understood the science of producing sarin”.</p></blockquote> <p>Furthermore:</p> <blockquote><p>“On 20 June [2013] a four-page top secret cable summarising what had been learned about al-Nusra’s nerve gas capabilities was forwarded to David R. Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.”</p></blockquote> <p>This confirmed that “al-Nusra had the ability to acquire and use sarin”.</p> <p>Hersh concludes:</p> <blockquote><p>“In both its public and private briefings after 21 August [2013], the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations.”</p></blockquote> <p>The only source Hersh gives for this information is “a senior intelligence consultant”, but given his formidable record as a journalist what he writes deserves to be taken seriously.</p> <h2><strong>Turkey a prime mover?</strong></h2> <p>In his second article, <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line"><em>The Red Line and the Rat Line</em></a> (April 2014), he asserted that Turkey was a prime mover in the Ghouta sarin attack:</p> <blockquote><p>“A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August [2013] he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for [the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin] Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. …</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’”</p></blockquote> <p>I’m not in a position to verify this account of how the Ghouta attack came about.&nbsp; But, given Erdoğan’s enthusiasm for overthrowing Assad, it certainly made sense for the Turkish state to help manufacture a “false flag” chemical weapons attack to which, given his foolish setting of a red line, Obama would almost certainly have to respond by taking military action against Syrian state assets.</p> <p>It made absolutely no sense for President Assad, when he was in the ascendant militarily, to take a decision to mount such an attack himself, in the full knowledge that Obama would almost certainly respond militarily – which could have led to victory for the armed opposition and his own removal from power.&nbsp; He would have to have been suicidal to engage in such a provocation.</p> <p>As former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw <a href="https://www.rt.com/shows/sophieco/obama-syria-chemical-weapon-600/">asked</a> rhetorically at the time;</p> <blockquote><p>“Why was chemical attack of any interest for the Assad regime, given the fact that in recent months they’ve been making advances rather than retreating? And why would Assad – by all account such an extremely unpleasant regime, but it’s not irrational – why would he decide to risk the wrath of US when he was making progress in any event?"</p></blockquote> <h2><strong>Endnote </strong></h2> <p>In August 2013 the Obama administration declared with “high confidence” that Assad was responsible for the Ghouta attack even though the available intelligence to that effect wasn’t a “slam dunk” (unlike the US intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction”).&nbsp; Today the Trump administration declares that it is merely “confident” that Assad is guilty of the Khan Sheikhoun attack – which presumably means that the available intelligence is not a “slam dunk” either.&nbsp; Sean Spicer should be asked to clarify. </p><p>&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="/david-morrison/what-russia-and-rest-of-us-are-doing-in-syria"> Who broke the Syria ceasefire?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/robert-borosage/stunning-disappearance-of-candidate-trump">The stunning disappearance of candidate Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/washingtons-wars-isis-trump-military">Washington&#039;s wars: in a fix</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bill-park/turkey-and-islamic-state-crisis-everyone%27s-nonally">Turkey and the Islamic State crisis: everyone&#039;s non-ally? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Germany France UK Syria United States Conflict International politics You tell us David Morrison Wed, 03 May 2017 14:36:41 +0000 David Morrison 110592 at https://www.opendemocracy.net