openDemocracy en Police terror in Brazil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How many deaths of black youth are necessary before they are considered ‘genocide’ or political assassinations?<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Military police occupy favela in Rio de Janeiro,April 2015." title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Military police occupy favela in Rio de Janeiro,April 2015.Demotix/Fabio Teixeira.All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Imagine a place where eight Michael Browns are killed every day. Imagine a place where extortion, rape, torture, and killings are routine. This is Brazil. Police terror in Brazil has become so banal that it has lost the media’s interest. Some of us may recall the global media’s coverage of massacres such as Candelaria (1993), Carandiru (1992), Eldorado dos Carajas (1996), and Crimes de Maio (2006). Now, more than ever, slaughter has become the police’s <em>modus operandi</em>. One would expect that with the social achievements promoted by the Workers’ Party in the last decade (40 million people came out of poverty in Brazil), police terror would disappear or at least be far less frequent. Quite the opposite has occurred. In Brazil, there is one thing that unites both left and right-wing governments: their incapacity to fight against police terror. At times, governments in both camps have been complicit with the police state. </p> <p>Slaughter as a routine practice in Brazil is not an overstatement. &nbsp;The Brazilian police are so corrupt, brutal and out of control that in the last eight months (from January-August 2015), there had been fifteen slaughters with 56 victims in the city and metropolitan region of São Paulo. Although investigations are ongoing, everything indicates that the highly corrupt and delinquent Military Police is <a href="">implicated in the killings</a>. Each time a new report on killings by the police is disclosed, it reveals astonishing levels of death tolls. No one seems to care. After all, the majority of the victims are black residents in the <em>favela</em>. </p> <p>Perhaps you care: so let’s review the numbers. In the last ten years (from 2002-2012), the Brazilian police force killed 11, 200 individuals allegedly for resisting arrests. In 2014, the police killed 3022 civilians, according to <a href="">preliminary numbers</a> by the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety. As of September 2015, the São Paulo and Rio’s military police <a href="">has killed</a> 494 and 459 people respectively. According to Amnesty International, the police are responsible for as much as <a href="">15% of the homicides</a> in Rio de Janeiro. In São Paulo, the police are responsible for as much as <a href="">1 out of every 5</a> violent deaths. </p> <p>With such a scenario, where should the victims of police terror seek protection? Should they call the police? How should they resist a military power that regards black Brazilians as the enemy of the state and civil society?<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> There is no space to negotiate peace because it is not a war. It is a massacre. There is no room to surrender because there are no two armies and the ultimate goal is not ‘peace.’ The ultimate goal is death. When the police invade the <em>favela</em>, everyone is considered a criminal regardless of their status as ‘worker’, ‘thug,’ ‘churchgoer’ or ‘dealer.’ </p> <p>The Brazilian police hold absolute power granted by elected government officials and a failed judiciary system. Geraldo Alckmin, the right-wing governor of São Paulo <a href="">responded this way</a> to ROTA’s (the Military Police Special Unity) assassination of nine individuals: “whoever didn’t resist arrest is [still] alive.” Similarly, Rui Costa, left-wing governor of Bahia responded with a joke to the police operation that resulted in the assassination of twelve individuals in the periphery of Salvador. <a href="">Costa remarked</a> that, “an officer is like a forward player in front of the goal. He has to decide in seconds, how to score … if an officer scores he will be applauded, if he misses the goal he will be criticized.” Apparently, the police killing in this case was a 12x0 score.</p> <h2><strong>No hope!</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Police install Pacifying Unit in Rio, October 2013." 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'>Police install Pacifying Unit in Rio, October 2013.Demotix/Fabio Teixeira.All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The assassination of (mostly black) <em>favela</em> residents finds justification in the conservative media and in civil society’s call for more blood, when not joining the police in the killings. A recent wave of white middle class mob violence against poor black individuals throughout the country points to the reemergence of lynching in Brazil’s ‘racial democracy’. </p> <p>Quite often, newspaper outlets <em>re-kill</em> the dead by labeling them as ‘bandit,’ or ‘criminal’. In my own work with victims of police terror in São Paulo, I have witnessed mothers working to secure paperwork to prove the innocence of their dead children and thereby repair their children’s post-mortem tarnished images. Newspapers invariably copy and paste information from the police report, which is a deliberate fraudulent narrative that victimizes officers and criminalizes the dead. If an officer is killed, the police invade the <em>favela </em>and kills dozens of individuals in yet another slaughter.&nbsp; The twenty individuals killed after an officer was killed in the periphery of <a href="">Manus</a> in June 2015 and the fifteenth slaughter in the periphery of <a href=",nova-chacina-deixa-quatro-mortos-em-carapicuiba,1765334">São Paulo</a> in September 2015, are two examples of the logic of vengeance that informs policing practices in Brazil. </p> <p>In the current institutional arrangement, there seems to be no hope in changing the Brazilian police force. Contrary to many other countries, public safety is a responsibility of each state in Brazil. There is no coordinated effort between the federal and state government to train and control the police. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff promised to push forward a new legislation reassigning responsibilities but this seems unlikely in light of her administration’s current political crisis. Meanwhile, the police continue to hold extraordinary discretionary power--far beyond anything one would consider outrageous. Even more troublesome is that wrongdoings by officers are investigated by the police itself in a predictable corporativist culture that almost always results in no formal charges. </p> <p>The cases that are investigated by the public attorney (Ministerio Publico) are quite often archived (closed) for ‘lack of evidence’ or justified as the officer was ‘strictly performing his duties.’ As social activists have long acknowledged and Amnesty International’s <a href="">last report confirms,</a> there is a shared belief among members of the judiciary that the police are just cleaning up the city. On his Facebook page, Public Prosecutor Rogerio Zagallo <a href="">recently expressed</a> what most of his colleagues seem to believe as well. Upset with a protest blocking the transit, he posted the following message from his car: “someone tell the police that if they kill those motherfuckers I will file the police inquiry.”</p> <p>Corrupted law enforcement institutions have created what the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has described as a “<a href="">perverse chain of impunity</a>,’ which the families of the dead cannot break through. A case in point: &nbsp;May 2016 will be the tenth anniversary of what is &nbsp;known as the “Crimes de Maio” (when a revenge of PCC’s attacks and killing of 59 officers resulted in the death of 505 civilians) and there are still no charges filed. Not one single charge had been filed for a <a href="">bloodshed revenge police killing</a> of 505 civilians over a course of two weeks. </p> <p>On the contrary, civil society and conservative media outlets have lauded and promoted government officials and police officers directly or indirectly implicated in these and many other deaths. Colonel Paulo Telhada, a former commander of the ROTA (São Paulo’s Special Police Unity) was not only elected to São Paulo’s legislature by selling himself as the one who killed 36 individuals to defend civil society, but he also became a member of the state house of representative’s <a href="">commission of human rights</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Action!</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Peaceful protests in front of Military Police HQ in Brasilia, 2013." 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'>Peaceful protests at police violence in front of Military Police HQ in Brasilia, 2013.Demotix/Osvaldo Ribeiro Filho. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Black activists have unapologetically denounced state terror in Brazil by calling it ‘black genocide.’ Predictably, many view this claim as an overstatement and no serious actions have been taken by the Brazilian state <a href="">despite the statistics</a> showing a persistent and astonishing number of black deaths. Although not all of these deaths are related to the police, they are certainly facilitated by the state’s delinquency.&nbsp; In the face of such indifference, activists have cried out for international solidarity. As we mourn our dead and struggle to imagine and make a world without the police, we desperately need to end the Brazilian police’s untiring machine of violence and terror. I outline a list of recommendations and actions below, echoing some of the concerns and demands of the black movement in Brazil:</p> <ol><li>The United Nations and the American States Organizations should pressure the Brazilian government to de-militarize its police force and federalize investigations involving police officers. Because state-level authorities have proven to be unable to carry out independent investigations, the Federal Police should be the one carrying out investigations involving members of the police force.</li><li>International agencies (stakeholders) should support the social movement’s lobby for a legislation that ‘federalize’ crimes committed by police officers and for a permanent, independent and protected task-force composed by black activists, scholars and human rights organizations to fiscalize police practices.&nbsp;</li><li>Police violence is also a fertile field of knowledge production. Scholars have contributed to our understanding of police violence in Brazil and yet, there is a need to translate this knowledge into action. There is a frustration, among progressive social activists, with an academic conservative agenda of ‘reforming the police,’ while activists on the streets are asking for its abolition. The black Movement has urged us (at least those of us on both sides of the spectrum) to pay attention to their political lexicon and their demands while resisting state terror on the ground.</li><li>On the state level, US-based scholars and activists in the US black movements should express solidarity with their Brazilian counterparts by <a href="">pressuring the Obama administration and the US Congress</a> to stop the ‘United States-Brazil Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA),’ which calls for exchanging military technology, strengthening the defense industry and joining-training capabilities in “pacifying operations.” Such transactions and exchanges help to further initiate violence against blacks in both countries.<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a></li></ol> <p>Finally, alternative media outlets and international human rights organizations should refrain from using the language of the state to refer to assassinations by the police. Terms such as ‘resisting killings,’ ‘excessive use of force.’ ‘unlawful,’ and ‘lethality’ are not neutral and they help to legitimize police terror. How many deaths of black youth are necessary before they are considered ‘genocide’ or political assassinations?<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a></p><p> Calling attention to the need for international solidarity may be the only possibility to unveil the domestic regime of terror that the Brazilian state maintains, although we should not raise our hope too high. An indicative: the United Nations has already &nbsp;recommended the Brazilian government to abolish the Military Police. Yet, while the UN expresses concerns, the Brazilian government establishes partnerships with the United States and Israel to supply the Brazilian police with <a href="">military technology and training on urban counter-insurgency initiatives</a>. The message is very clear: more police, more prisons, and more deaths.&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> This question can be posed also to the US context of widespread violence against black communities. For a relational view of both Brazil and the US, see Joy James and Jaime Alves (forthcoming) ‘Domestic Security Regimes: Favelas, Urban Blackness and Bi-national Geographies of Police Terror. Manuscript.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Joy James and J Alves, ‘Domestic Security Regimes’. (forthcoming)</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp;João Costa Vargas. "Genocide in the African Diaspora United States, Brazil, and the Need for a Holistic Research and Political Method."&nbsp;<em>Cultural Dynamics,&nbsp;</em>17, no. 3 (2005): 267-290.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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> United States Brazil Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Jaime A. Alves Sat, 10 Oct 2015 16:16:23 +0000 Jaime A. Alves 96708 at The NHS winter is coming - what's the one thing all progressive politicians must do to save it? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Don't let politicians leave the NHS out in the cold.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>All week we’ve been waiting for the figures that would show just how bad the scale of the NHS financial crisis was.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The regulator, Monitor, had been ‘leaned on’ to delay publication til after the Tory Party Conference.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>And no wonder. The figures that were finally released today were bad. <em>Really</em> bad. NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts have gone nearly a billion pounds in the red in just three months. And patients are suffering as waiting lists are soaring. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Monitor said in today’s report that Foundation Trusts ‘could not go on like this’.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Health campaigners have reacted with anger – and a very clear message about the necessary way forward, urging politicians from across the spectrum who truly care about the NHS, to back the NHS Bill. The Bill was developed with a team of campaigners led by Professor Allyson Pollock, and presented in parliament by Caroline Lucas MP in June – with backing from Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and other Labour MPs, as well as the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Lib Dem MP John Pugh.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The NHS Bill sweeps away the complex and expensive system of ‘autonomous’ Trusts forced into a game of ‘beggar my neighbour’, competing against each other for commissions, patients and dwindling funds.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>"At what stage will those who advocated ‘standalone’ Foundation Hospitals, which have dominated health policy for 13 years, admit they were wrong?” asked Lord David Owen in response to today's figures. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Owen – former health minister and leading critic of the Coalition Health &amp; Social Care Act – told OurNHS that the way forward was clear:</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“We have to return to an NHS that provides comprehensive care across each geographical area, as spelled out in the NHS Bill. This Bill is now before the House of Commons in the name of Caroline Lucas and supported by Jeremy Corbyn. The progressive alliance in Parliament now must be supported by all the Royal Colleges and anyone committed to evidence based medicine. The evidence is now before us all that Foundation Hospitals have been a disaster. The Health and Social Care Act must be changed and the NHS Bill is the way to do it.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Caroline Lucas told OurNHS today, “Our fragmented, marketised NHS is in crisis. This latest failure highlights the urgent need for a change in direction. We need to return the NHS to its founding principles and reverse the creeping marketisation of the last 25 years. That’s why I’m calling for MPs from across the political spectrum to be part of saving our health service by supporting my NHS Reinstatement Bill.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Deborah Harrington, spokesperson for the National Health Action Party also weighed in with support for the bill, saying: <span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“It took a series of legislative changes to get us where we are today, on the brink of losing a precious and vital service available to us all. We need legislation to restore it to health and end these daily reports of financial 'failure'. We need the NHS Bill tabled by Caroline Lucas.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Harrington explained further:</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“</span><span>This is murder disguised as accidental death.&nbsp;<span>If the public want to continue to have healthcare free of the fear of huge bills or insurance payments they need to stand up for an NHS back in public ownership and free of the threat of bankruptcy, a term which should never have been allowed to apply to our public services in the first place.”</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Professor Sue Richards, Chair of Keep Our NHS Public, </span><span>savaged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, saying his government </span><span>was “responsible for</span><span> massive mis-spending in bringing the market into the NHS”.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Richards highlighted how restoring the government’s duty to provide comprehensive healthcare across the whole country is a key feature of the NHS Reinstatement Bill that Keep Our NHS Public supports. The duty to provide comprehensive healthcare was abolished in the 2012 Act, allowing the government to blame underfunded local hospitals for ‘local decisions’ when they make cuts or simply fail to provide quality, timely services.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Richards elaborated: “It is not just that Hunt is not up to the job.&nbsp; It is also that he</span> thinks the job of Secretary of State has been abolished by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and that he can wring his hands and blame others, without having to step up and take charge.&nbsp; MPs should call Hunt to account for the state of NHS finances and the deteriorating performance in patient care.&nbsp; Let’s reinstate the Secretary of State’s responsibility for the NHS, and sack him if he continues to fail.”</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>GP Charles West – co-author of a rebel Lib Dem report into the true costs of running the NHS as a ‘market’ -accused the three main political parties of a “pathetic spectacle” at the May General Election, saying they were “falling over themselves to promise small amounts of additional money to the NHS whilst simultaneously weighing it down with expensive and unnecessary bureaucracy. T</span><span>he pseudo-market imposed on the NHS has been reliably estimated to cost £20bn a year. Even if George Osborne comes up with the £8bn he has promised it will not solve the problem, it will simply pour more money into the hands of the private providers and management consultants who are gathering like vultures round a corpse.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>West concluded: "There is a straightforward and simple solution to the problems faced by the NHS. It lies in the National Health Service Bill tabled in July. Up till now the leaders of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties have preferred to administer larger and larger doses of the very medicine that has done so much harm to the NHS. It will be interesting to see if recent changes of leadership will bring a new wave of common sense.”</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Privately, many senior NHS campaigners express frustration that so far under the Corbyn opposition, there has been little shift in tone in Labour’s NHS message. They will be hoping for a greater confidence soon from Labour (and indeed the Lib Dems and Nationalists) in being prepared to challenge the old mistakes and Blairite market arrangements.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span>There are a few encouraging signs around Corbyn's willingness to talk about the Private Finance Initiatives that are costing the NHS dear. Joel Benjamin of People Vs PFI said that it was "absurd" that the "5 year plan" for the NHS made "NO mention of PFI,&nbsp;</span></span><strong><span>even though NHS trusts will pay out close to £10bn in PFI repayments over this period, and&nbsp;</span></strong><strong><span>2/3 of NHS trusts in financial stress have PFIs."&nbsp;</span></strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The current predicament of Trusts and Foundation Trusts was entirely predicted by those who worked on producing the NHS Reinstatement Bill – and it’s suddenly more relevant than ever. The Bill is due to be read in March 2016 – but is unlikely to get a proper hearing unless Corbyn, who signed it as a backbencher, can bring the full weight of his new leadership role into play behind it.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span>Winter is coming. The NHS is dreading it. Will politicians offer it some hope for the spring?</span></span></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> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Caroline Molloy Fri, 09 Oct 2015 19:17:37 +0000 Caroline Molloy 96698 at Liquid democracy, its challenges and its forebears <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Until today, particular decisions within software and product development have to be decided by privileged people. LiquidFeedback can democratize the decision-making process. An interview with the founders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="German Pirate Party Federal Congress, 2012. " title="" width="460" height="175" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>German Pirate Party Federal Congress, 2012. Demotix/ Gregor Fischer. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Whereas a growing amount of decision-making software is currently in use in the political arena,&nbsp;<a href="">LiquidFeedback</a>'s distinctive feature is the possibility for users to delegate their vote to other users by topic. Rather than assuming that all participants are equally knowledgeable and equally invested in every political issue, Liquid Feedback (LF) lets them decide whom to delegate on specific initiatives. Those who hold proxy votes can in turn transfer them to other delegates, facilitating the emergence of networks of trust. Such trust, however, is not a blank check as proxies can be revoked at any given moment. The fluidity of the delegation process implemented by LF is an emerging political protocol, whose roots lie in the decentralized nature of the Internet. As we will see in the following interview, the authors of LF see their software as a concrete instantiation of the idea of <em>liquid democracy</em>, which allows individual constituents to retain their prerogatives without compromising effective decision-making.</p> <p>Another far-reaching property of LF is that the platform does not allow for the use of secret ballots. In order to ensure transparency and protect against electronic frauds LF implements a voting system that is recorded and verifiable by anybody. The public nature of voting, however, comes at a cost. Because in modern democracies the privacy and anonymity of voting are considered essential to protect individual autonomy and freedom of choice LF is not suitable for consultations where secret voting is desired or required. Yet this limitation has not prevented the German counties of Friesland and Rothenburg and the cities of Wunstorf and Seelze from adopting the software to consult their citizens on a wide range of issues.</p> <p>For the LF developers, the transparent and public nature of Internet voting is a necessary condition for implementing a system that can be trusted. Even though a country like Estonia has already adopted Internet voting in binding elections, security experts have voiced <a href="https://localhost/cid/">significant concerns over the trustworthiness of e-voting systems.</a> This does not mean that voting over the Internet does not have its uses. Provided the public and verifiable nature of voting, LF's authors believe that their platform can be adopted to empower political party members, improve internal decision-making in parties and CSOs, and thrust <em>issues</em> rather than leaders into the center of the political process.</p> <p>And yet LF’s adoption by political parties has yielded mixed results. The most notable case is that of the German Pirate Party. The Berlin chapter of the GPP enthusiastically adopted the platform shortly after its release, in late 2009. Even though Behrens, Kistner, Nitsche, and Swierczek initially joined the Berlin PP, they soon found themselves in the midst of a political controversy over the public nature of voting. Because the Berlin Pirates initially tested LF for nonbinding consultations, they allowed members to use pseudonyms rather than their actual names. “Only very few actually used this possibility,” remembers Nitsche, “but this legacy turned into a major problem once the system was to become more binding.” Initially the Pirates made a productive use of LF for developing the program for the 2011 Berlin elections and won an unexpected 8.9% of the vote. But the unresolved question of how to verify the vote—and hence the identity of voters—became a burden not only for the Berlin chapter but also at a national level. Even though the Pirates made several attempts to resolve the issue, they failed to reach the 2/3 super majority necessary to change the party statute and establish a permanent online assembly ("SMV") based on LF, which would have been able to make legally binding decisions.</p> <p>Frustrated at the Pirates’ impasse, the four developers decided to focus on the development of the software and to leave the party in January 2011. Since then, the four have continued to develop LF and to promote digital democracy through the <a href="">Association for Interactive Democracy</a>, which has held workshops in Burma, Pakistan, Georgia, and Colombia. In 2014, the four co-authored <a href="">The Principles of LiquidFeedback</a>, a book that details the design principles, voting theory, and political philosophy behind the software.</p> <p>In this interview, Behrens, Kistner, Nitsche, and Swierczek reflect upon the origins of Liquid Democracy, analyze the forms of leadership that emerge through LF, and discuss some of the design principles that have inspired them. <strong>Marco Deseriis.</strong></p> <p><strong>Marco Deseriis&nbsp;(MD)</strong>: <em>Let us begin from the origins of the idea of Liquid Democracy. To my knowledge, this concept was first formulated in the year 2000 by John Washington Donoso (aka Sayke) in online forums that are no longer online. <a href="">Donoso claims</a> that he designed Liquid Democracy as a “knowledge sorting system” that could recommend answers to a question based on the shared knowledge of the community. In his mind, LD was meant to determine the best answer to a common problem--e.g. how to maintain civil infrastructure. Sayke also claims that because answer recommendation does not force a community to choose the most recommended answer, it is fundamentally different from an LD system based on proxy voting like LF. In his words, “rather than a mechanism through which we&nbsp;are informed by others, vote proxying (and traditional democratic representation) acts as a mechanism through which we&nbsp;cede power to others.” Do you agree with Sayke that his idea of LD is fundamentally different from yours?
<strong></strong></em></p> <p><strong>Björn Swierczek (BS)</strong>: So far as we know, the idea of Liquid Democracy dates as far back as Lewis Caroll’s <em>Principles of Parliamentary Representation </em>(1884), a short book that puts forward the idea of delegate voting in a modern democracy. However, this idea could be utilized and implemented in many different ways for many different purposes. In the text you cite, Sayke says the very same thing: “Liquid Democracy stands as an alternative to direct and representative democracy, but they each can be implemented in 17 hojillion ways - all kinds of voting systems can be designed which use direct, liquid, or representative democracy.”<strong></strong></p> <p>In 2009, we learned that no useable implementation of Liquid Democracy was available. To give the idea of Liquid Democracy a chance, we started creating LiquidFeedback to actually allow people to use it. As we had political parties in mind, the main task was to create a structured discussion process and the possibility of making solid decisions. Therefore, we created the unique LF proposition development and decision-making process, including predictable scheduling of the four phases of a decision (admission, discussion, verification and voting) and a hierarchical structure of units, areas, issues, initiatives, and suggestions. Furthermore, we created the Harmonic Weighting algorithm to ensure a fair share of representation for minorities by allocating display space. In addition, LF utilizes further algorithms to process the users actions accordingly and features a clone-proof preferential voting system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sayke's paper on how he would like to utilize the idea of Liquid Democracy for answer recommendation is something very different. LF goes far beyond the simple dream of Liquid Democracy and provides a feasible implementation for proposition development and decision-making.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>. <em>Still, the admission and discussion phases of LF are a “knowledge sorting system” of sorts in that they empower users to find out for themselves what the best proposals might be and how they might be grouped. Can you explain how knowledge is sorted in LF, especially when the user/voter might have to make a decision among a number of competing initiatives on the same topic?</em></p> <p><strong>Andreas Nitsche</strong> (<strong>AN).</strong> Because knowledge representation will always be biased—i.e. knowledge sorting is never entirely neutral—we decided to opt for an initiative-driven approach. Similar to lawyers, LiquidFeedback initiators promote their initiatives by providing the background and the rationale for why people should support them. Whoever likes the idea of an initiative but sees necessary adjustments or potential for improvements can write a suggestion. All participants can assess the suggestion with one click and tell us if they think it is useful or even a necessary condition for their support.</p> <p>Suggestions are sorted by the Proportional Runoff Algorithm according to the potential positive impact on the degree of support for the initiative. In other words, LF provides initiators with quantified suggestions that are sorted according to their potential impact on gaining a majority. In this way, initiators can gauge possible amendments while retaining the ultimate say on whether to accept a suggestion or not.</p> <p>When suggestions are not adopted, they can still be integrated within alternative initiatives, which can be started by any participant. The sorting of the alternative (competing) initiatives is done by the Harmonic Weighting Algorithm, which ensures that each interest group gets a fair representation according to its actual size. This protects minorities--i.e., any interest group that does not form a numerical majority for a given issue--by making their point of view adequately visible. At the same time, it protects against the dominance of noisy minorities as they don’t appear larger than they are.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>. <em>There is a strong connection in LF between knowledge sorting and the idea of passing on proxies to those who might be more competent on specific issues. Where did these ideas come from?</em></p> <p><strong>AN. </strong>When we started thinking about developing LF back in 2009 we decided to focus on transitive proxy voting. Transitive proxy voting allows for proportional representation overcoming both the shortcomings of the static representation of representative democracy and the limitations of direct democracy. This is for application fields where a recorded vote is desired - for example, programmatic decisions in political parties.&nbsp;As we considered the creation of a discussion process leading to informed decision-making, one of the challenges was to implement a constructive process that could keep trolling at bay. The classic solution to this problem is moderation but moderation comes with privileges, which usually constitute democratic deficits. To overcome the deficits of top-down or karma-based moderation, we decided for a collective moderation by all participants. Once again transitive proxy voting was the key to actually achieving this goal.</p> <p>The desire to implement decision structures in a new democratic approach uniting the best of direct and representative democracy was also fueled by the experience of a direct democracy approach of the German Green Party some 30 years before, which unfortunately did not scale up.</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>.&nbsp;<em>Was the Green Party's idea of a "non-upscaling” direct democracy ever put in practice?</em></p> <p><strong>Axel Kistner (AK</strong>.) Like every party with a growing member base, the Green Party of the 1980s needed a delegate system. To solve the problem of over-empowerment of delegates and fixed unchangeable structures, the Greens came up with the idea of introducing a rotation principle so that delegates could not run for office more than once. </p> <p>They also set up a special representation for women and new members who joined the party from East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This all happened at a time in which the Internet did not offer technical solutions for remote cooperation and decision-making. Nowadays, the Internet allows for asynchronous collaboration, so the idea that every party member has access and can vote on every topic has resurfaced. In other words, it is precisely because direct democracy does not scale that the idea of Liquid Democracy has to be implemented. This is what LF is all about.</p> <p><strong>MD.&nbsp;</strong><em>Would you say that LF makes it possible to implement a large-scale participatory democracy that might eventually replace our current representative system?</em></p> <p><strong>AN</strong>. Not really. While Liquid Democracy can be scaled up, it comes at a price: the vote of every participant is recorded and therefore documented. As far as representatives are concerned, accountability is desired. Liquid Democracy, however, doesn’t differentiate between voters and representatives. A Liquid Democracy society would need to treat every citizen like a representative in the existing parliamentary systems. Furthermore, the system of checks and balances would need to be completely readjusted. It would be irresponsible to give up secret elections – a security mechanism to ensure free elections and protect democracy. This is why we do not endorse calls for replacing representative democracy with Liquid Democracy and conclude: Liquid Democracy provides no alternative to the parliamentary constitutional republic, the presidential republic or the parliamentary constitutional monarchy for that matter. Besides the binding use in political parties and CSOs, it may be used in civic participation as an additional communication channel between citizens and their administration, or in constituency participation for better connecting representatives to their electoral district.</p> <p><strong>MD.&nbsp;</strong><em>Do you think that political parties should always protect their members’ privacy on certain voting decisions? If so, where do you draw a line between the decisions that should be subject to public scrutiny and those that shouldn’t?</em></p> <p><strong>AN.</strong> This depends on the situation and the society we are talking about. I would personally wish for a society allowing everybody to express his or her point of view free of fear. But if a party actually feels the need to protect its members, it should not use computers for decision-making as this creates a form of knowledge that can lead to domination. This is a knowledge that is accessible to a few and opens the door for misuse (in the worst case even blackmailing).</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>. <em>Are you suggesting that LD should only be implemented within political formations whose members can firmly trust those in a position of power?</em></p> <p><strong>AN.</strong> I am only warning against creating a false sense of security. A database containing ‘secrets’ will become a target as soon as interest is high enough--neither the Internet nor any personal computer can be fully trusted. On top of that, all practicable encryption methods have an expiry date, an unknown expiry date, potentially already in the past, which someone may have already exploited, unbeknownst to everyone.</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>. <em>Nicolás Mendoza, a researcher at the Leuphana Inkubator, has <a href="">described</a> this tension between individual expectations of privacy and public expectations of trustworthiness as the problem of how to respect both the integrity of individuals and of the voting process.&nbsp;</em><em>In chapter 3 of the Principles of LiquidFeedback you discuss the verifiability of different voting systems, noting that computer systems are more subject to manipulation than traditional voting systems such as voting by show of hands or ballot boxes. Mendoza argues that because electronic voting poses such a threat to both private integrity (anonymity) and public integrity (verifiability) the influence the new decision-making tools can have on the political process is extremely limited. After all, why should citizens rely on systems that, being unreliable, will always have a lower legitimating power—constitutive power, if you wish—as compared to traditional voting systems?</em></p> <p><strong>AK</strong>. This is a misconception. Electronic voting does not necessarily impose a threat to verifiability. When secret voting is not desired, the public integrity of electronic voting can be even higher than with traditional voting systems. In LiquidFeedback, the proposition development process is fully transparent using recorded vote and can be reviewed by all participants.</p> <p>As a matter of fact, LF takes “snapshots” of every decision-relevant moment. For example, when an issue passes from admission to discussion, the software archives the supporters including the underlying delegation structure. All participants can review these data at any give moment either manually or using automated checks.</p> <p>This ensures a credible process with trustworthy and indisputable results. In the instances in which LF can be gainfully used—namely, decision-making in political parties and CSOs as well as agenda setting in civic participation—a credible process can be implemented. You just should not attempt to use computers and the Internet for secret voting.</p> <p><strong>MD.</strong> <em>Even though transitive delegation allows members to revoke their proxy at any given time, LF does not necessarily prevent the emergence of leaders who are considered competent on multiple issues. Based on your experience, how does leadership emerge through this process?</em></p> <p><strong>AN. </strong>LF’s decision-making is deliberative and driven by initiatives. We acknowledge differences between people and value individual contributions. We also factor in competing ideas. Though we would encourage everybody to cooperate we don’t believe you can always count on cooperation. Members empower each other and the unfolding power structure can be quite stable but will only last as long as those who contribute to individual power are happy with the situation (or more precisely: as long as they don't become unhappy). This also redefines the concept of leadership: less detached and less solitary. In a way we adapt the idea of a multiparty system to the inner-party context. If there are different interest groups they can always work together on one initiative or work on alternatives.</p> <p>Further, there are different forms of leadership. We can see three types of leaders. Type A are opinion leaders who shape the program of the party but very often don't need the limelight, don’t run for any office and are widely unknown to the public (although the public could know these people if they wanted). (In their function they are comparable to the people referred to as gray eminence in more traditional parties.) Type B leaders are mostly "presenters" who sometimes appear as the actual leaders in the media. And type C would be formal leaders such as a board member or the chairman, mainly responsible for administrative tasks such as registering the party for public elections, campaign logistics, and keeping the member database up to date. All types are important, sometimes overlapping in a person and form a symbiosis. Traditional media reception practices sometimes valorize a combination of types B and C. Only type A emerges in and through LF.&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>AK.</strong> Leadership follows psychological aspects. Usually human conflicts in the "real world" can be only solved partly by technical solutions and need an agreement of the participants to accept certain rules of procedure provided by a system like LF. </p> <p>We implemented the four main aspects into the software that are essential for true self-organization in an equal discussion process: 1) Scalability through division of labor (realized by transitive delegations / liquid democracy); 2) Proportional representation of minorities (realized by collective moderation = no moderator / no leader needed); 3) Protection against non-transparent lobbying (realized by a fully transparent decision process); 4) Equal treatment of competing alternatives (realized by preferential voting).</p> <p>These four essential principles of LiquidFeedback guarantee a fair process of proposition development and decision-making. Even the "delegates" (people who receive many proxies through LF) are not leaders in a traditional sense. The division of labor does not empower people who give voice to an opinion—there are no “opinion leaders.” The status of opinion-leader is a real-world experience based on psychological aspects of life has nothing to do with LF. Any person within the system may lose delegations immediately if he or she starts to do odd things that are not accepted by the participants delegating their vote to them. That is why the system is not static but dynamic ("liquid").&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>MD.</strong> <em>Are you suggesting that leadership is based exclusively on the force of an argument? If that is the case, LF would be the ultimate instantiation of the Habermasian ideal of a public sphere based on rational-critical debate.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></em></p> <p><strong>AK.</strong> Yes, especially Habermas’ "Concept of Political Participation" and his critique published in the book <em>Kultur und Kritik</em> identifies the basic problems of European society. All turmoil in contemporary Europe has its roots in the problems described by Habermas back in the early 1970s.</p> <p><strong>AN.</strong> I am inclined to agree but we do not ignore the existence of interfering interests and dummy arguments. However, these are less likely to harm the debate in a fully transparent process. Likewise we do not think there are only rational reasons for delegations. The reason for choosing a specific delegate is a personal mix of assumed expertise, reputation, trust and sympathy (pretty similar to elections).</p> <p><strong>MD. </strong><em>One of the arguments in favor of embodied forms of decision-making is that humans need bodily and emotional cues in order to really trust each other. What is your view on this topic?</em></p> <p><strong>AN.</strong> LF users know each other, can identify each other, and meet in the real world. To make an example, the Berlin pirates organized proposition conferences for their upcoming party convention and focused each event on a certain topic area. Right after the meetings, the impact of these discussions became visible in LF. Real-life discussion formats—e.g. among co-workers, in town hall meetings, in talk shows—have their own pros and cons. They are either limited in the number of active participants or they are moderated, which limits the ability of participants to speak as they see fit. They also usually do not embed a quantification of the support for the points of view being expressed. On the other hand, these comparatively unstructured discussions have a great creative potential. We think it is a perfect symbiosis to see results of all these discussion formats reflected and measured in LF's structured discourse.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>MD. </strong><em>The question of measuring consensus is central to LF. Can you explain how consensus is measured through the various stages of the decision-making process?</em></p> <p><strong>Jan Behrens</strong> <strong>(JB</strong>.) LF does not measure "consensus." It measures a collective preference based on the democratic principle of majority rule. As we explain in <em>The Principles of LiquidFeedback,</em> decisions are made by majorities in LF, while <em>every</em> minority is able to put their point of view up for discussion. This allows people to reach a consensus when it is possible [edited]. But demanding a consensus, in the sense of “unanimity” or large supermajority requirements, is undemocratic because the majority can be taken hostage by a minority (which would assign more power to members of the minority than to other individuals). As explained by Anthony J. McGann at the University of California in Irvine in his paper <a href="">“The Tyranny of the Super-Majority: How Majority Rule Protects Minorities”</a>, only majority rule satisfies political equality. Consensus requirements increase the risk of resentment, hidden conflicts, stagnation, and, last but not least, preservation of existing power structures. </p> <p>Therefore, LF uses proportional representation algorithms during the discussion of an issue and a variant of the Condorcet Method (the Schulze Method) for its final decision. The proportional representation in admission, discussion, and verification phase enables every minority to put their point of view to discussion. The Schulze Method ensures that minorities cannot enforce the status quo against a majority of eligible voters.</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>. <em>Can you explain how the Schulze method works and why or when is it better than proportional or single-winner voting systems?</em></p> <p><strong>AK.</strong> The Schulze method as used in LF is a single winner voting system determining the collective preference by pairwise comparison of all alternatives. The Schulze method is a state of the art preferential voting system. Its scientific roots go back as far as the work of Condorcet during the French revolution.</p> <p><strong>MD. </strong><em>Can you say a little bit about the connection between the Condorcet method and the French Revolution?</em></p> <p><strong>BS</strong>. The development of the Condorcet Method and the French Revolution were both driven by the cause of justice. And Condorcet was involved in both as well. As many of his time, Condorcet saw a deep injustice in the treatment of the people, and this perception influenced his entire work. As a mathematician, he had proved that juries with more members (statistically) made less mistakes (and vice versa, nowadays known as Condorcet Jury Theorem). He worked on the concept of the "pairwise comparison" (Condorcet Method) and discovered "collective cyclic preferences" (Condorcet Paradox). As a rationalist politician he promoted his own findings as well as progressive (at least for his time) ideas, such as rights for women and for blacks, immediate freedom for all slaves and abolition of the death penalty, and he fought on the side of the French revolutionaries.</p> <p><strong>MD</strong>. <em>Do you see a similar connection nowadays between the attempts to use the Schulze method for decision-making and the cause of justice?</em></p> <p><strong>AN</strong>. Absolutely, it is all about justice and fairness. The aim is to determine the collective preference without the encouragement of tactical voting. Every voter shall be able to express his or her true preference without being manipulated by tactical considerations.</p> <p><strong>MD.</strong> <em>My last question is about the current and future development plans for LF.</em></p> <p><strong>BS.</strong> We will combine the concepts of LiquidFeedback with revision control systems, such as the software Git developed by Linus Torvalds, the [first] developer of Linux. This allows a democratic software and product development as well as broad democratizing of collaborative knowledge management. Until today, particular decisions within software and product development have to be decided by privileged people. LiquidFeedback can democratize the decision-making process. The same is true for conflict resolution in collaborative projects, such as the free encyclopedia Wikipedia. The required add-on will be integrated in LF soon.</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="">@oD_Europe</a></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"> 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 Axel Kistner Björn Swierczek Marco Deseriis Andreas Nitsche Jan Behrens Fri, 09 Oct 2015 18:08:55 +0000 Marco Deseriis, Björn Swierczek, Andreas Nitsche, Axel Kistner and Jan Behrens 96696 at Rolling back corporate capture will take more than EU lobby transparency <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If Europe is serious about regulating the car industry and protecting public health and the climate, it needs to stand up to the car lobby rather than allowing those resisting regulation to write it.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><p><strong>#rebuildingtrust</strong></p><p>The Vienna Policy Conference, October 29-30, 2015, will delve into one of the most important trends driving change in European politics: the dramatic drop in public trust in many political institutions.&nbsp;Policy researchers, activists, leading European thinkers, and political figures will discuss new research and analysis of the causes and consequences of the trust gap across the European continent.&nbsp;<a href="">Debating Europe</a>&nbsp;and openDemocracy will be&nbsp;covering the event and its follow-up, and we begin here with the debate that Olivier Hoedeman, research and campaigning coordinator of the Corporate Europe Observatory most wants to see take place under this heading.</p></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="September 24, 2015, BMW forecd to deny rigging emissions test, while VW issues profit warning. " title="" width="460" height="545" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>September 24,2015.BMW forced to deny rigging emissions test while VW issues profit warning. Demotix/ Richard Jay. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>One of the key factors behind the growing crisis in public trust is the perception – to a large extent justified – that governments are increasingly captured by powerful special interests and therefore unable (or even unwilling) to protect the public interest. Trust in the European institutions is at an all-time low, with barely a third of the public saying they trust the European Union, according to a December 2013 Eurobarometer poll (down from 57 % in 2007, before the financial crises). Meanwhile, 70% of EU citizens believe there is corruption in the EU institutions.</p><p> The Vienna conference asks whether trust can be rebuilt and accountability strengthened through anti-corruption efforts and transparency. My answer is that strong and well-enforced transparency and ethics rules are a pre-condition for trust, but that this is not sufficient. Citizens will not trust the state unless it acts in ways that effectively avoid capture by special interests. Governments and public institutions must earn the respect of the public. This requires defending the public interest by standing up to powerful economic interests. Unfortunately there is very little appetite for this among political elites in Europe today.</p><p> Far too often, transparency and ethics initiatives are introduced in reaction to lobbying scandals, but deeper problems of capture continue regardless of the transparency and anti-corruption frameworks. </p><p>After ten years of campaigns against the corporate capture of EU decision-making, its clear that some progress has been made in lobby transparency and ethics rules, but genuine transparency is still far from achieved, let alone adequate regulation to prevent conflicts of interest, undue influence and the capture of decision-making by narrow economic interests. The European Commission's typical pattern of reaction to the many lobbying scandals that have emerged in Brussels over the last ten years has been first denial and dismissal of concerns, and then in some cases a half-hearted proposal for reform that does not effectively solve the problem. <span class="mag-quote-right">In areas such as banking regulation and international trade policy, 80% or more of the meetings are with big business. Promises of striving for balance in meetings with different stakeholders appear to be empty words.&nbsp;</span></p><p>After seeing concerns about corporate lobbying power becoming an issue in several countries in the run-up the European Parliament elections in 2014, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made several surprise announcements. All meetings that Commissioners and top officials have with lobbyists are to be listed online. While this has been refreshing compared to the inertia of the Barroso years, these measures are quite limited. Research by watchdog groups has revealed that more than 75% of the lobby meetings of Commissioners and high-level Commission officials are with lobbyists representing business interests. In areas such as banking regulation and international trade policy, 80% or more of the meetings are with big business. Promises of striving for balance in meetings with different stakeholders appear to be empty words. Transparency measures reveal an extreme imbalance in access to decision-making, a strong indication of capture. Being transparent while at the same time continuing business as usual is obviously not going to help build public trust.</p><p> The consistent refusal to take the kind of determined action needed to prevent corporate capture scandals reflects a flawed political culture at the Commission. Excessively close contacts and cooperation with big business lobbyists are considered natural and unproblematic, because large parts of the Commission see it as their mission to promote these interests. The EU's trade department, for instance, prepared a negotiation position in the TTIP talks with the US by actively seeking guidance from big business lobby groups, while other interests were largely ignored. The result: negotiations were launched towards a deal with the US that include controversial investor-to-state courts (ISDS) and a regulatory harmonisation system that fits corporate interests but would have disastrous consequences for EU citizens. Only after an unprecedented wave of citizen protest had emerged, did the Commission introduce a number of transparency measures but without changing the negotiating objectives that had sparked the public's concern.</p><p> A fundamental problem is the dominance of neoliberal ideology within the EU institutions, a set of beliefs that is centred around marketisation, deregulation and the idea that what is good for big business is good for society. This approach has an inherent risk of enabling the corporate capture of decision-making.</p><p> The Volkswagen scandal that broke a few weeks ago will undoubtedly severely damage public trust in the ability of governments and the EU institutions to regulate the auto industry. Volkswagen was caught red-handed , having installed illegal software in 11 million diesel vehicles to ensure that they provided false information about emissions. “What were they thinking at Volkswagen?”, one commentator asked: “Very likely that governments are impotent, or co-opted, or lack the staff to regulate and prosecute.”&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-left">"What were they thinking at Volkswagen?”, one commentator asked: “Very likely that governments are impotent, or co-opted, or lack the staff to regulate and prosecute.”</span></p> <p>The problem in fact goes even deeper: the scandal exposes what has been termed “Europe’s automotive-political complex”: the far too cosy relations between car industry lobbyists and decision-makers, both in Brussels and in key member states such as Germany. The European Commission and the German government both knew of the 'defeat devices' fitted into cars to cheat under testing conditions – but failed to act. That it took US regulators to declare there was a problem is a serious blow to the EU and lays bare the consequences of bringing business to the regulating table – in this case hundreds of deaths and a huge amount of extra dangerous emissions.</p><p> The European car industry has been successfully flexing its lobbying muscles for decades: back in the mid-90s it successfully lobbied against binding emissions targets, instead proposing a voluntary, industry-led scheme. The scheme failed – industry did not meet its voluntary target – but managed to delay binding targets for a decade. When binding targets were finally introduced, they were greatly watered down. Industry has since used the industry-dominated Commission advisory group 'CARS21' to further delay emissions standards, while BMW even enlisted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to lobby on their behalf to further delay the introduction of standards. There have also been ongoing lobbying efforts to delay a more rigorous testing regime, although this scandal will surely move things along more quickly.</p><p>New transparency and ethics rules to prevent undue lobbying influence are important in all of this, but the reality is that this scandal reflects a cultural problem within the Brussels Bubble that has seen regulators and industry in bed for decades. Until EU decision makers stop conflating the interests of big corporations with those of the public, profit will come before climate and public health. If we want policies in the interests of the environment and public health, then the same companies most likely to resist them should not be allowed to write them. This applies at all stages of legislation – from ensuring expert groups are independent, to stopping MEP-industry&nbsp; fora, to seeing which industry players are lobbying and which member states are&nbsp; trying to weaken legislation. </p> <p>Change will have to go far beyond transparency. The car industry's lobbying is fairly transparent: almost all car manufacturers and their trade associations are in the EU lobby transparency register which shows that they in 2014 spent more than €18 million lobbying in Brussels. Also the car industry's heavy presence in Commission advisory groups is visible, but this in itself does not prevent scandals like Volkswagen-gate. If Europe is serious about regulating the car industry and protecting public health and the climate, it needs to stand up to the car lobby rather than allowing those resisting regulation to write it. </p> <p>The political response to the Volkswagen scandal will be a crucial test case in the wider battle against corporate capture and for public institutions that deserve the trust of citizens.</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/thomas-fazi/failure-of-mainstream-european-federalism">The failure of mainstream European federalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/nils-r%C3%B6per/volkswagens-insider-system-isnt-necessarily-bad-system">Volkswagen&#039;s insider system isn&#039;t necessarily a bad system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/molly-scottcato/meps%27-mounting-ttip-opposition-scandalously-silenced-ahead-of-knifeedge-us-vo">MEPs&#039; mounting TTIP opposition scandalously silenced ahead of knife-edge US vote</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-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"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Olivier Hoedeman Fri, 09 Oct 2015 13:46:23 +0000 Olivier Hoedeman 96687 at The failure of mainstream European federalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Simply stating over and over again that something – in this case a European democratic federation – is <em>possible</em> and <em>desirable</em> does not make it more <em>likely</em>.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Jens Weidmann, President of Deutsche Bundesbank speaks on Rebalancing Europe, 2012." title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jens Weidmann, President of Deutsche Bundesbank speaks on Rebalancing Europe, 2012. Wikicommons/Magnus Manske. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In <a href="">a recent paper</a>, Guido Montani – professor of international political economy at the University of Pavia and former secretary general and president of the European Federalist Movement – takes a look at the recent clash between Greece and its creditors, and what this means for the future of European integration and of the monetary union (EMU) in particular. </p> <h2><strong>Exportnationalismus </strong></h2> <p>In the first part of the paper Montani analyses the current state of play in Europe. He does so without attempting to downplay the seriousness of the situation or to sugarcoat the facts. On the contrary, he states in no unclear terms that ‘the dramatic Eurosummit of 12-13 July 2015 marked a turning point in the history of European integration’: by threatening to expel Greece from the monetary union, ‘core Europe’ – essentially Germany and its economic satellites, led by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble – broke the original pact for the EMU. ‘Monetary union is no longer seen as irreversible, and neither is the EU’, Montani correctly assesses. ‘If Greece, and other overspenders, can be pushed out of the euro area, monetary union becomes similar to a system of fixed exchanged rates: the only difference is that it is more difficult and expensive to get out’. </p> <p>Moreover, Montani seems to share <a href="">Yanis Varoufakis’ view</a> that Grexit was part of a wider strategy, aimed at radically restructuring the EMU into a smaller union of fiscally-tight, export-led core economies – <em>Kerneuropa</em> – by forcibly ejecting those countries deemed structurally unfit (such as Greece), in turn disciplining those governments that might be tempted to challenge the existing/new rules (such as in Italy or France). </p> <p>Montani then goes on to explain how this reflects Germany’s rise as the hegemonic (or rather semi-hegemonic) power within the Union, acknowledging (with some reserves) that ‘there is a new German question in Europe’. Montani’s analysis of this issue is mostly based on the one put forward by Hans Kundnani in his book <em>The Paradox of German Power</em>. The crucial concept at the basis of Kundnani’s analysis – which in turn is drawn from the classic work of German historian Ludwig Dehio – is that of semi-hegemony: </p> <blockquote><p>The unified Germany was too big for a balance of power in Europe and too small for hegemony. The German historian Ludwig Dehio would later aptly identify Germany’s problematic position in continental Europe during the <em>Kaiserreich </em>as one of ‘semi-hegemony’: it was not powerful enough to be perceived as a threat by other powers. Thus its size and central location in Europe – the so-called <em>Mittellage </em>– made it inherently destabilising. This, in essence, was what became known as the ‘German question’. </p></blockquote> <p>Kundnani argues that Germany’s economic success in the first decade of the euro, during which it went from a current account deficit to a huge surplus – largely as a result of two factors: the restructuring of German manufacturing by way of outsourcing to the Eastern länder and Eastern European countries, leading to the creation of a German transnational value chain; and Germany’s policy of internal devaluation (wage restraint) – also had the effect of dramatically altering the perception of the German identity, leading to what Kundnani dubs <em>‘Exportnationalismus’</em>: essentially, a new form of ‘economic nationalism’ based on the supposed superiority of the German hyper-mercantilist economic model (<em>Modell Deutschland</em>). </p> <p>Kundnani’s general conclusion – shared by Montani, though with a <em>major caveat</em>, which I will return to later – is that Germany can now be viewed as a geo-economic semi-hegemonic power: </p> <blockquote><p>With the transformation of Europe since the end of the Cold War, Germany returned to the <em>Mittellage</em> in a geographic sense… Germany has not created stability… but instability in Europe. Germany’s rhetoric focuses on stability: it talks about a ‘stability union’ and is proud of its <em>Stabilitätskultur</em>, or ‘stability culture’. But its definition of the concept is extremely narrow: when Germany talks about stability it means price stability and nothing else. In fact, in attempting to export its ‘stability culture’, Germany has in a broader sense created instability.</p></blockquote> <h2><strong>Ordoliberalism</strong></h2> <p>As a result, Kundnani argues, ‘Germany has returned to the position of semi-hegemony that Ludwig Dehio described – except in geo-economic form’. In the subsequent section of the paper, Montani goes on to discuss the dominant economic doctrine in Germany, deeply rooted in the country’s major political parties and public opinion: ordoliberalism (also known as a social market economy). He writes: </p> <blockquote><p><em>A crucial aspect of ordoliberalism is its rejection of macroeconomic policies to manage effective demand, as supported by Keynesian economists</em>. If the social market economy is well regulated, with effective competition rules, with a central bank independent from the government and capable of fulfilling the goal of price stability, with a system of social relations complying with the rule that wages increase <em>pari passu </em>with productivity, the social and political goal of full employment can easily be reached. This approach is therefore similar to that of the modern neo-classical school of supply-side economics [my italics]. </p></blockquote> <p>Montani than looks at how the doctrine of ordoliberalism, championed by Germany, deeply influenced both the EMU’s original architecture – the strict limits imposed on government deficits/debts by the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), further tightened in recent years by the so-called Fiscal Compact; the principle of the independence of the ECB from national governments and European institutions; the no-bailout clause, etc. – as well as the eurozone’s response to the crisis. In general, Montani argues, Germany’s attitude vis-à-vis crisis-stricken countries such as Greece ‘reveals the ordoliberal conception of the EMU’ as ‘nothing but a gold standard… a monetary agreement for the stability of prices and exchange rates, and nothing more’. </p> <p>Finally, Montani notes that the ordoliberal views of the German monetary and political establishment (and especially of the Bundesbank, considered to be the temple of ordoliberal orthodoxy) haven’t softened over time. On the contrary, they have gotten more entrenched. On this point, he quotes the President of the Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann: </p> <blockquote><p>It was a long-held belief, above all in Germany, that in the long run monetary union would, out of necessity as it were, culminate in political union. Addressing the Bundestag in November 1991, Helmut Kohl remarked that ‘the idea of sustaining economic and monetary union over time without political union is a fallacy’. I believe, however, that monetary union can also function without political union. The Maastricht framework, which was adjusted in the light of the crisis, offers a sensible foundation for this in principle. </p></blockquote> <p>Montani also notes that ‘this view seems to be fully shared by the finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble’.</p> <p>To recap, in the first part of the paper Montani concedes the following:</p> <p>a)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; that Germany and the other self-appointed members of <em>Kerneuropa</em> (‘core Europe’) no longer see the monetary union as irreversible, and actually view the expulsion of non-compliant countries as a feasible political choice for the building for a two-speed Europe centred around a ‘core EMU’ restructured along even stricter ordoliberal lines; </p> <p>b)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; that since the introduction of the euro Germany has emerged once again as a geo-economic semi-hegemonic power with a strong belief in the supposed superiority of its economic model (<em>‘Exportnationalismus’</em>), and that this process has dramatically accelerated since the outbreak of the crisis, leading to the resurgence of ‘a new German question in Europe’; </p> <p>c)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; that ordoliberalism – an economic doctrine similar to that of the modern neo-classical school of supply-side economics, and based on the radical rejection of Keynesian macroeconomic policies – is deeply engrained in Germany’s major political parties and public opinion; </p> <p>d)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; that Germany’s current monetary and political establishment (or a significant part of it) – along with that of the other core economies – believes that monetary union can function just fine without political union – all it needs is tighter rules and strict punishment for non-compliance.</p> <p>In light of this, one would expect the second part of the paper to be dedicated to an equally lucid analysis of the implications of these worrying developments for the prospects of European integration, especially considering Montani’s federalist vocation. Instead, what we get is little more than the same old shopping list of reforms needed to ‘complete the EMU’ and ‘build a supranational federal union’: a federal budget, a central fiscal authority with real spending power, a supranational economic policy aimed at keeping the balance of payments of the euro area in equilibrium, a public bonds market based on federal bonds, a reform of the role of the ECB, a democratic European government, etc. </p> <h2><strong>King Canute and a very different tide</strong></h2> <p>I found this very disappointing. What I take issue with are not the proposals per se – which I generally agree with – but rather the complete lack of political strategy. Montani offers no insight whatsoever into how we are supposed to achieve these noble objectives, especially in view of the fact that the current European trend – so accurately described by the author in the first part of the paper – appears to be moving in the <em>exact opposite direction</em>. Instead, he seems to rest all his hopes on a pseudo-materialistic faith in the fact that sooner or later – if we simply keep stating our case – the ordoliberals will come to their senses and ‘accept that Europe’s aggregate demand must be managed to ensure growth, full employment and social cohesion in the European economy’ and that ‘all the member states of the euro have a common interest in abandoning a decision-making system that causes national rivalries among them’. </p> <p>Unfortunately, seventy years of federalist thinking prove the contrary: in the political realm, simply stating over and over again that something – in this case a European democratic federation – is <em>possible</em> and <em>desirable</em> does not make it more <em>likely</em>. Moreover, underpinning Montani’s entire analysis is the assumption that ‘without the EU and the euro area, Germany would be nothing but an old, declining European power’, which is dubious to say the least. &nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is that while an approach that favours idealism over pragmatism may be justified in ‘normal’ times – i.e. times of economic growth and relatively low unemployment –, since progress appears, often deceivingly, to be moving forward (though maybe not at the speed or in the direction we desire), or at the very least not to be moving backwards, it is debatable whether that same approach can be justified in times of economic and political turmoil, such as we one that we find ourselves in today, in which the clocks of history are clearly starting to turn backwards (with nationalism and xenophobia on the rise again). </p> <p>The EU is a great case in point: while a generalised pro-European sentiment was common before the crisis – thus providing a fertile terrain in which to sow the seeds of European federalism – the opposite is true today. In today’s Europe, the old ‘enlightened’ approach – making impassioned appeals based on reason and logic, like Montani does in his paper – simply isn’t going to cut it. As mentioned, we face a situation in which the general tide appears to be moving in the <em>exact opposite direction</em> of the federalist cause – and where an exogenous shock, such as a breakup of the EU/EMU, risks relegating the very notion of European federalism to the dustbin of history. Surely such a dramatic situation warrants a change of strategy? </p> <h2><strong>Take a deep breath and regroup for something worthwhile?</strong></h2> <p>Federalists today have a political obligation to think in <em>strategic terms</em>: is it in the interest of the democratic federalist cause to support the current process of authoritarian, centralised, top-down ‘federalism’ championed by Germany and the European establishment? Is it realistic to assume that ‘it is possible… to strike a compromise between ordoliberal and Keynesian economics’ in the near future, as Montani does? Do we really think that Germany’s deeply engrained ordoliberal political-economic culture can be swayed? If so, how do we go about changing it? Who should we direct our appeals to, the German political elites or its workers and citizens? More in general, can a global superpower like Germany really be tamed through reason and logic? Or should we acknowledge that restraining Germany’s power requires other member states taking a more active role on the European stage? These are questions that federalists cannot avoid asking themselves any more. </p> <p>Changing perspective entirely, maybe the problem isn’t that federalists aren’t pragmatic enough but that they are <em>not utopian enough</em>? Another thing that struck me about Montani’s case was how, well, uninspiring it was. To give ‘the federal government’ more spending power Montani proposes to increase the EU budget from 1 per cent of the EU’s GDP to… 2-2.5 per cent of GDP or little more. Really? </p> <p>That’s not much a cause to fight for, to be honest. In a way, Montani’s brand of federalism succeeds in being at once too idealistic to be taken seriously by the European political establishment – as we all know the EU budget has been steadily shrinking since the start of the crisis – and too pragmatic to inspire European citizens. If we are to speak of federalism, we might as well aim high and demand (as argued by<span> </span><a href="">Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer</a>) an effective fiscal union with tax-raising powers at the EMU level in the order of at least 10 per cent of the EMU’s GDP; fiscal transfers from richer to poorer countries; a federal authority with the capacity to engage in deficit spending; the support of the ECB in the operation of fiscal policy; etc. </p> <p>Personally, I believe that we should simply acknowledge that the political conditions are not ripe – and will not be for quite some time – for a move towards a fully-fledged fiscal and political union, and that it would be in the long-term interest of the federalist cause to take a step back in the integration process by demanding greater flexibility at the national level, <a href="">as advocated by Philippe Legrain</a>, thus slowly recreating the conditions for moving towards a true solidarity-based and democratic fiscal and political union.&nbsp;</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><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"> 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? Conflict Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics Thomas Fazi Fri, 09 Oct 2015 11:18:03 +0000 Thomas Fazi 96682 at The airstrike harvest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Afghanistan to Syria and Iraq, western assaults take lives and fuel enmity. Now Russia has joined in, the chances of blowback grow yet higher. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="AC-130H Howitzer. Flickr/US Air Force. Some rights reserved."><img src="" alt="AC-130H Howitzer. Flickr/US Air Force. Some rights reserved." title="AC-130H Howitzer. Flickr/US Air Force. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>AC-130H Howitzer. Flickr/US Air Force. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The United States air-force's assault on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on 3 October 2015 is <a href="">reported</a> to have killed twenty-two people and injured thirty-seven, with twelve staff of the aid organisation <span><em>Médecins Sans Frontière</em>s (Doctors Without Borders</span> / MSF) among the dead. Whatever investigators discover about the <a href="">exact</a> details, the implications of the "tragic incident" (as President Obama described it) go wider than can be explained away by any technical or military error. They relate not just to recent developments in Afghanistan, but also to the evolving war in Iraq and Syria.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>For a start, the <a href="">attack</a> shows how an accurate targeting-system, which is supposed to avoid civilian casualties (“collateral damage”), is dependent on the target being correctly identified. The plane used in the Kunduz hospital operation was a variant of the AC-130 gunship, itself based on the <a href="">workhorse</a> C-130 Hercules military transport that was in use during the Vietnam war. It operates by circling a target slowly at low altitude and firing its weapons sideways, <a href=" ">aiming</a> to be highly accurate while maintaining a sustained attack.</p><p>The plane fires 25mm and 40mm cannon and a much more powerful 105mm howitzer, the latter releasing explosive shells. Avoiding high-explosive bombs, intended to allow the steady and systematic destruction of the target, helps explain why the hospital walls were left standing. The MSF trauma centre was <a href="">under</a> attack for an hour or more with considerable precision; neighbouring buildings were scarcely touched.</p><p>The AC-130 has been used many times in Afghanistan and Iraq. An instance in Iraq in 2004 acquired some notoriety when a reprisal raid following an ambush of a US marines unit resulted in the destruction of six blocks of the city of Fallujah.&nbsp; No information was forthcoming as to civilian casualties (see "<span class="st"><a href="">Between Fallujah and Palestine</a>"</span>, 22 April 2004).</p><p>Such issues of <a href="">civilians</a> killed or wounded by military action are also relevant to what is now happening in <a href="">Syria</a>, even more in light of repeated claims from western military and political sources that Russian <a href="">strikes</a> are taking many civilian lives. This is said to contrast with the results of the many thousands of coalition airstrikes conducted since August 2014, which are said to have taken the lives of some 15,000 ISIS supporters - but not of <a href="">civilians</a> to any measurable extent. The western claims, however, require a suspension of belief, not least as ISIS makes great play in its vast social-media output of repeated civilian casualties.</p><h2><strong>Evasion, London style</strong></h2><p>The relevance of the issue extends to the United Kingdom, and the evolving debate over <a href="">whether</a> to bomb targets in Syria. An underlying theme here is that if Britain does so decide then its actions will be precise, quite unlike Russia's. A clear signal to this effect comes from the ministry of defence, which otherwise rarely talks about casualties at all.</p><p>A revealing illustration is the answer provided by the secretary of state for defence Michael Fallon to a question from Caroline Lucas, the sole Green Party MP, which asked what estimate had been made of "the number of ISIL fighters killed as a result of UK strike activity; and what estimate the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL has made of civilian casualties arising from its activities". Fallon's figure was reported in the media but the full written <a href="">response</a>, submitted on 16 September 2015, is significant in another way:</p><p>“The estimated number of ISIL fighters killed as a result of UK strikes from September 2014 to 31 August 2015 is around 330. The figure is highly approximate, not least given the absence of UK ground troops in a position to observe the effects of strike activity.&nbsp; We do not believe there have been any civilian casualties as a result of UK strike activity."</p><p>The problem here is that a “highly approximate” figure for paramilitary casualties is combined with a simultaneous claim that UK attacks have inflicted no civilian casualties. The two points are, to put it kindly, contradictory. </p><p>In the greater scheme of things it may not matter. But much of the argument being made for extending the air-war is that it is a precise endeavour: yet the lack of objective evidence available directly on the ground makes this impossible to justify, especially as the Kunduz hospital incident is a stark reminder of <a href="">probable</a> outcomes.</p><h2><strong>Blowback, Moscow style</strong></h2><p>In fact the <a href="">air-war </a>is already being intensified. The United States is now able to make extensive use of bases in Turkey. France and Australia are joining in, while Britain is likely to do so. And Russia's own <a href="">involvement</a> complicates just about everything.&nbsp; </p><p>But turn the whole thing round and see it from the perspective of the ISIS leadership. Its consistent message, that the movement is the true protector of an Islam under "crusader" attack, is bound to <a href="">receive</a> a considerable boost.</p><p>Furthermore, the Israeli-Russian <a href="">dialogue</a> reinforces the ISIS <a href="">narrative</a> of a “Crusader-Zionist” axis, and much of the propaganda over the coming weeks will be directed at potential recruits in all four countries. Indeed, the attention that will be <a href="">paid</a> to Russia is likely to be intense, with the country's 16 million-plus Muslim population a target for propaganda.</p><p>The ISIS planners are particularly keen to build up their existing <a href="">links</a> with extreme Islamists in the Caucasus, and the turn of events in Syria gives them a chance. Any prediction is risky but it will be very surprising if there isn’t a major domestic attack in Russia, most probably in Moscow, during the coming winter.</p><p>Vladimir Putin is riding high, having put himself and Russia once more at centre-stage and seriously <a href="">annoying</a> Washington. It is a stance which may give short-term satisfaction but it is also one he may come to regret.</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=""><span><span>Department of peace studies, Bradford University</span></span></a></p><p><a href="" target="_blank"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p><p><a href=""><span><span>Remote Control Project</span></span></a></p><p><a href=""><em><span>Russia in Global Affairs</span></em></a></p><p><a href=""><span><span>Recording Casualties in Armed Conflict </span></span></a>(RCAC)</p><p><em><a href=""><span><span>Moscow Times</span></span></a></em></p><p><a href=""><span><span>Costs of War</span></span></a><em><span><span><br /></span></span></em></p><p>Paul Rogers, <em><a href=";" target="_blank"><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span></span></a></em> (Pluto, 3rd edition, 2010)</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="/paul-rogers/russia-in-syria-and-flawed-strategy">Russia in Syria, and a flawed strategy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/air-war-vs-islamic-state-myth-and-reality">Air war vs Islamic State: myth and reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/blowback-iraq-war-to-islamic-state">Blowback: Iraq war to Islamic State</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/thirtyyear-war-renewed">The thirty-year war, renewed</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-why-so-resilient">Islamic State: why so resilient?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/on-not-bombing-syria">On not bombing Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/islamic-state-long-war">Islamic State, the long war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/remote-control-vs-islamic-state-new-phase">Remote control vs Islamic State: a new phase </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> global security Paul Rogers Fri, 09 Oct 2015 11:04:17 +0000 Paul Rogers 96643 at What the Belarusian elections will not be about <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="line-height: 1.5;" src="" alt="11069552133_a01b475e54_z.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>If we’re going to understand what happens next in Belarus, we need to listen to the people.&nbsp;<a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="">на русском языке</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Belarus’ presidential elections, due to take place on Sunday, are once more likely to be largely interpreted in the west through the prism of the country’s poor human rights record, as well as its infamous status as the </span><a href="">'last dictatorship of Europe’</a><span>.</span></p><p>Such readings, coupled with the lack of competition and fairness characterising such elections, mask a greater appreciation of the genuine, real-life concerns of ordinary Belarusian voters, not articulated in the Belarusian political system, nor likely appreciated by observers outside of Belarus.</p><p>Instead, we should turn to the major social, economic and political concerns, as well as aspirations, of Belarusian voters. Hence, there’s another question we should ask, one goes beyond western coverage of how life in Belarus will change after the election: what do people think about what’s happening in their country? What problems matter to them?</p><h2>‘Window of opportunity’</h2><p>With conditions of socio-economic crisis setting in, Belarus’ 2015 presidential elections are far from typical. For the first time in his career, Aleksandr Lukashenka is not only <em>not</em> giving a pre-election speech to the <a href="">All-Belarusian People’s Assembly</a> on the achievements of his last electoral programme, but isn’t even hosting the assembly.</p><p>The situation in Russia, the Belarusian regime’s main sponsor, has also affected the country’s economic stability, limiting the scope for financing populist programmes.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Downtown Minsk. Thomas Depenbusch / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>If in 2010, Belarusian citizens were promised higher salaries (up to $1,000), then in 2015, neither that amount, nor any other numbers indicating economic progress have featured in the regime’s election campaign.</span></p><p>Instead, we have the slogan of ‘For the future of independent Belarus!’, claims to maintain peace on Belarusian soil in contrast to the ‘chaos’ nearby, and an admission that ‘we didn’t do everything we came up with’. Lukashenka’s election programme has also featured rather different instruments of economic regulation (export and investment) than those we might associate with the long-term advocate of a pseudo-Soviet model of economic development.</p><p><span>We might be forgiven for assuming that this could open a ‘window of opportunity’ for a change of president. (After all, he’s been there for 20 years.) The situation in Belarus, however, will develop along less obvious lines.</span></p><p>The external political situation (the war in Ukraine and the refugee crisis), rather than the domestic economic crisis, has defined Lukashenka’s presidential campaign. These events have allowed Lukashenka to position himself as a peacemaker figure, <a href=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=5&amp;ved=0CDgQFjAEahUKEwj115nunbXIAhVBHB4KHcTwA3M&amp;;usg=AFQjCNFS14U6tDNmJBoaXvvd7FS3zjjkAw&amp;bvm=bv.104615367,bs.1,d.bGQ">playing the role of the unbiased mediator in Ukraine</a>.</p><p>Indeed, <a href="">Lukashenka’s policy of economic and political balance between Russia and the west has continued to develop</a>. With the west, in particular, there has been an unprecedented ‘renaissance’ in relations, including numerous conversations about the probable removal of sanctions, as well as <a href="">the photographs of Lukashenka’s son with Barack Obama</a>.</p><h2>What is an ordinary resident of Belarus worried about?</h2><p>First off, one has to admit that, naturally, Belarusian society’s moods are far from homogenous. There are serious differences between the active residents of Minsk (and other big cities) and residents of smaller urban areas, between public service employees and people in new high-paid jobs (particularly IT), between those ready to get involved in protests and those who aren’t.</p><p>However, it’s still worth trying to characterise a few general tendencies typical of the majority of Belarusian society.</p><p>For instance, the current economic crisis is an important factor in the life of Belarus today. Sociological surveys from September 2015 conducted by the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research (IISPR)<a href=""> indicate that somewhere around 43% of people asked said that their standards of living had dropped in the past three months</a>.</p><p>Moreover, most of the respondents stated that the country’s economy was in crisis. Less than a quarter of respondents (20%) expressed hope for positive change, with 36% of people believing that the situation was just going to get worse.</p><p><span>The everyday life of your average Belarusian citizen can be seen as the product of survival strategies, with a particular focus on one’s immediate family and friends. Things to be valued in this situation include material wealth, comfortable everyday life, the opportunity to guarantee a better future for one’s children, a summer holiday, as well as weekend shopping trips to Poland and Lithuania.</span></p><p>As a rule, people are not interested in politics in Belarus (and often consciously so). For a start, <a href="">an interest in politics can lead to unpleasant consequences</a> (if you’re employed by the state, you can lose your job, and attract the attention of the KGB). Second, most people see political participation as leading nowhere (as confirmed by the post-election protests). The situation inside the Belarusian opposition, with its many internal splits (of their own making and the regime’s), only fosters this kind of attitude further.</p><p>After events in Ukraine began though, depoliticised Belarusian citizens—thanks to their geogpraphical proximity and intense media coverage—found themselves following the situation closely. Russian-language news from either Belarus (or more neutral sources) or official Russian state media became the main sources of information.</p><p>As a result, public opinion seems to have settled on the idea that the situation in Belarus isn't so bad. The refugee crisis in Europe, and its coverage in Russian-language news, has only strengthened the authorities' emphasis on the important of Belarus' 'neutrality'.</p><p>In the lead up to the elections, then, Aleksandr Lukashenka has managed to find an additional source of legitimacy, which might be expressed as 'you can do whatever you want, as long as there isn't war'.</p><h2>'You can do whatever you want, as long as there isn't a war'</h2><p>External political circumstances tend to quash people's concern over the everyday. In fact, the situation in Ukraine gives rise to the feeling that the current Belarusian authorities are still 'more reliable' than the administrations of Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin or even neighbouring European states. So, when faced with the question of 'what are the most important problems affecting who you vote for?' in September, most people cited 'peace and stability'.</p><p>As sociologists point out, in previous years, 'peace and stability' didn't even feature on the list of electoral preferences in Belarus. For instance, in 2006 and 2010, the most important questions for people were 'general quality of life', 'rising prices', 'employment and unemployment', and the opposition's call for civic and political rights did not find sufficient support with their electorate.</p><p>But just as peace and stability are defining issues for the Belarusian electorate, so are socio-economic problems. Respondents in the September poll expressed concern for quality of life (37%) and rising prices (30%). This most likely explains why <a href="">the programme of Tatyana Korotkevich</a>, who positions herself as an opposition candidate, is dominated by how to respond to immediate economic questions, rather than political rhetoric.</p><p>This kind of approach finds support with the population as a whole, <a href="">with 17.9% of respondents suggesting they were ready to vote for the uncharismatic, young and largely unknown Korotkevich</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>That said, Korotkevich's relative popularity can hardly challenge Lukashenka, whose rating goes to 45.7% and above. Both independent and state survey teams <a href="">talk of how Lukashenka enjoys high level of trust from the populace</a>. Indeed, Lukashenka seems to have carte-blanche from his voters, <a href="">who in 2011 were far more likely to believe the president was responsible for the worsening economic situation in Belarus than now</a>.</p><h2>Elections 2015: there's no way out</h2><p>Of course, when dealing with an undemocratic and closed regime, survey data can lead to mistakes in interpreting events.&nbsp;<span>No one could have predicted what happened after Belarus' 2010 elections. </span></p><p><span>Despite the high indicators of trust in the president, <a href=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=9&amp;ved=0CFAQFjAIahUKEwjZ78DXrLXIAhXLPBQKHaRgAOg&amp;;usg=AFQjCNELyiRPL4ms9X0UlSdHYAraOAL2yQ&amp;bvm=bv.104615367,d.bGQ">30,000&nbsp;citizens came out on the streets of Minsk to protest</a>. As a result, 700 people were detained, including four presidential candidates, and civil society was purged.&nbsp;</span><span>Even now, you can't exclude potential unknown factors that could lead to unforeseen consequences in 2015.</span></p><p>As a popular song of the time put it: <a href="">'there's no way out'</a>. Whatever happens after the elections, the elections will be a victory for Lukashenka—despite the economic crisis. And this will, to a certain extent, reflect the will of the people. In a country without elections, where there are strict limits to the public sphere and media operations, such an expression of will can't be seen as 'free'. Only an election without the participation of the 'candidate' who has dominated the public sphere for 20 years could be considered free.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>This is why there's 'no way out' for Belarusian citizens. It seems Lukashenka's 'guarantee of stability', which speaks to the majority of people's moods concerning the instability in Ukraine and the 'end of Europe', is going to last for another five-year term. The Belarusian opposition will have to deal with the split which emerged during the campaign between the 'old, moral' generation (Vladimir Neklyaev, Anatoly Lebedko and Mikola Statkevich) and the 'new, amoral' generation (Tatyana Korotkevich).</p><p>Moreover, people who vote for Karatkevich won't even find out how many votes she'll receive in reality. Despite all the announcements on the liberalisation of the electoral process, election day will see falsifications (the so-called <a href="">'parade of spines'</a>, whereby election commission officials crowd around the vote counts) rather than a real vote count. The international community, meanwhile, will note the string of electoral violations but, on the whole, will recognise the results and, most likely, <a href=";IR=T">move towards removing sanctions on Belarusian officials and companies</a>.</p><p>Belarusian citizens will continue to develop new ways of adapting to the political and economic situation on 'peaceful Belarusian soil'. That is, if the Belarusian regime doesn't make another move in the direction of its 'big brother', and it doesn't find itself caught up in Russia's foreign policy.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>But that will be quite a different story, and one which will be crowned with popular – albeit rather sad – loyalty to Aleksandr Lukashenka. The good news for Belarusians, though, is that <a href="">Lukashenka's balancing act between Russia and the west</a> continues to pay off.</p><p><em>Standfirst image: Minsk. Aliaksandr Palanetski / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>Glossary</strong></p><p><strong>All-Belarusian People's Assembly: </strong>pseudo-representative assembly held before presidential elections in Belarus&nbsp;<span> </span>since 1996. Enterprises and local administrations send delegates to account for progress made on Belarus' socio-economic progress.</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="/od-russia/anna-shadrina/blacklists-in-belarus">Blacklists in Belarus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/%E2%80%98parasite-law%E2%80%99-in-belarus">The ‘parasite law’ in Belarus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/volha-piatrukovich/in-belarus-women-need-not-apply">In Belarus, women need not apply</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> oD Russia oD Russia Tatsiana Chulitskaya Politics Belarus Fri, 09 Oct 2015 10:34:57 +0000 Tatsiana Chulitskaya 96680 at Politics as therapy: they want us to be just sick enough not to fight back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On 10 October it is World Mental Health Day. I used to be outgoing, but a descent into crushing depression left me housebound. After Occupy I started asking: how does social environment shape our psychology? CW.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Asylum: madness returns"><img src="" alt="individualisation of suffering is key to the prevailing ideology surrounding mental illness. Credit:" title="Asylum: madness returns" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Individualisation of suffering is key to the prevailing ideology surrounding mental illness. Credit:</span></span></span></p><p>I used to buy the Sun newspaper. Not just to fit in with mates at secondary school but right into my first year at university. I knew there was something to be ashamed of in this filthy habit, armed as I was with my oft-deployed excuse: "I only buy it for the crossword and the football transfers."</p> <p>This was true. I never read the news. In general, I lived a remarkably apolitical existence. This was some feat considering I have a Jewish communist great grandfather, socialist grandparents, a union lawyer dad and an older brother who went through his Che Guevara phase at around fifteen.&nbsp;</p> <p>I dropped out of university in early 2007, five months before Northern Rock bank <span><a href="">hit the skids</a></span>. Who knows whether the student experience would have politicised me? Perhaps the process would have been helped along by the backdrop of the approaching financial crisis?</p> <p>But something else politicised me instead: a crushing, rapid descent into depression, social wilderness and personal crisis.</p> <p>I experienced anxiety and depression as a hostile takeover of my life and sense of self. I went from being outgoing and sociable to being unable to talk to people or leave the house. This was within the space of a few days. There was no discernible cause.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was quickly clear that I couldn't continue at university and so I moved back into my parents’ house, where I have lived ever since.</p> <p>Several years of isolation, suicidal thoughts and internal struggle followed. I remained unable to escape the confines of my bullying psyche, let alone my house.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unable to work or study, have friendships, or experience joy, reading became my true love, my source of meaning, my attempt to make sense of what had happened to me. I obsessively read classic literature, history, philosophy, political economy - I had felt a profound sense of loss at not being able to finish university. I became determined that I would instead educate myself.</p> <p>But an impenetrable sense of terror and despair continued to accompany me through my every waking and sleeping hour. I began to work my way through an impressive list of psychotropic medications and psychotherapies and eventually attended an NHS psychiatric day hospital for six months.</p> <p>A "service user" within the psychiatric system gains a unique insight and practical education in state discipline as well as the lengths gone to in enforcing normativity. Having grown up white, straight, male and middle class, I was privileged to rarely, if ever, be told that I had to be something other than what I was.</p> <p>I seldom encountered gross injustice or violence, blatant discrimination or the kind of treatment faced from the earliest ages if you happen to be a person of colour, don't fit a gender binary or adhere to accepted ideals of sexual behaviour.&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from being a non-religious Jew and encountering minimal levels of playground anti-Semitism, this was the first time I found myself in a situation of social and political ostracism (as well as a self-ostracism that proved just as powerful). I discovered for myself that the experience of the personal deeply informs the political.&nbsp;</p> <p>Leaving the psychiatric day hospital to instead attend the asylum of Occupy the London Stock Exchange at St Paul's Cathedral was in many ways a descent into further madness. Many "occupiers" were well acquainted with psychiatric services and medications - as well as using drugs not sanctioned by the state, but often taken for similar reasons.&nbsp;</p> <p>Chaotic, naïve, and ultimately <span><a href="">politically problematic and ineffectual</a></span>, the initial occupied space did nevertheless open up the possibility for social and political interaction that is elsewhere absent from society.</p> <p>I felt that I was in crisis, but also that the crisis was much bigger than just me. Getting involved in political praxis seemed to be the best way to channel what I was experiencing.</p> <p>There is a lot to be said for the practice of "politics as therapy."</p> <p>The personal account or "journey" format often proves insufficient when attempting to understand what we do and why we do it. An analysis of political subjectivity is crucial. Shifts in capitalist expansion, social environment and class composition, technological development and the onset of crises tend to precipitate political transformation on an individual and collective basis. </p> <p>The advent of the printing press or the collapse of the automotive industry in mid-west America, for example, are not external factors to people’s lives or isolated moments in history. Indeed, any such upheaval is bound to lead to transformative changes in the lives and political ideation of those experiencing it.</p> <p>Our social environment shapes our psychology. We must consider how the policy, ideology and debate that surrounds “mental health” or madness is framed.&nbsp;</p> <p>The individualisation of suffering is key to the prevailing ideology and discourse surrounding mental illness. This will often focus on a supposed misfiring of brain chemicals, a “cure” to which can be found in the form of pharmaceuticals - often prescribed by your GP before any contact with mental health services.</p> <p>Attention may also turn to an individual’s lack of positive attitude, but this problem can be “fixed” by a six-week course of <span><a href="">cognitive behavioural therapy</a></span>. So much human suffering is pathologised and medicated when it is either "natural" (i.e grief or the general variety of mental experience) or is directly or indirectly linked to social, political and economic factors that remain absent from debate, let alone actively contested on this terrain.</p> <p>Psychologist and author Bruce E Levine suggests that much of today's intervention under the auspices of "mental health" is all too political.</p> <p>"What better way to maintain the status quo," <span><a href="">Levine asks</a></span>, "than to view inattention, anger, anxiety, and depression as biochemical problems of those who are mentally ill rather than normal reactions to an increasingly authoritarian society?"&nbsp;</p> <p>He also argues that many potential activists and "natural anti-authoritarians" are prevented from opposing power: "Some activists lament how few anti-authoritarians there appear to be in the US. One reason could be that many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologised and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society’s most oppressive authorities."&nbsp;</p> <p>The historical origins of madness within western culture and how it became increasingly medicalised should not be forgotten. <span><a href="">Michel Foucault exposed</a></span> how the origins of "confinement" of the "insane" in asylums and workhouses were an integral part of the violent replacement of the feudal commons way of life with capitalist work discipline during the 16th and 17th centuries.</p> <p>This process is in keeping with <span><a href="">continual "primitive accumulation"</a></span> akin to and contemporary with the conquest of the “New World” and the persecution of heretics and witches. Their land and means of reproduction were stolen and appropriated, while authorities continually oppressed and attempted to proletarianise them.</p> <p>Initially, the "Great Confinement" saw the imprisonment of the old, the unemployed, the "criminal", the "insane."</p> <p>As Foucault explains: "Before having the medical meaning we give it, or that at least we like to suppose it has, confinement was required by something quite different from any concern with curing the sick. What made it necessary was an imperative of labour. Our philanthropy prefers to recognise the signs of a benevolence toward sickness where there is only a condemnation of idleness."&nbsp;</p> <p>The conflation of pejoratives like lazy, sick, unemployed, idle are more than <span><a href=";client=firefox-a&amp;hs=sjU&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&amp;channel=sb&amp;source=lnms&amp;tbm=isch&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=hREjU-Ia0MSpAbLJgeAC&amp;ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&amp;biw=1093&amp;bih=488">familiar to us</a></span> in today's discourse surrounding welfare benefits and the imperatives of labour. And it is not just the DWP and Atos who pressure people back into work, NHS psychiatric services also seem to believe that <span><a href="">it is work that sets you free</a></span>.</p> <p>The capitalist class would like us to be just sick enough not to fight back, but not so sick that we cannot work. The challenge for us is to find ways of organising and helping each other so that we can find adequate levels of social reproduction, care and support to give us a platform to engage in the therapy of class struggle.</p><p class="image-caption">This article was originally published in 2014, and is republished here for World Mental Health Day.</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/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/huma/i-wrote-to-recover-from-honour-based-violence">Feminism helped me survive a forced marriage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/alex-langford/mental-health-cinderella-service-no-more">Mental health - a Cinderella service no more?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rebecca-solnit/joy-arises-rules-fall-apart-thoughts-for-second-anniversary-of-occupy-">Joy arises, rules fall apart: thoughts for the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Civil society Michel Foucault Bruce E. Levine Occupy Michael Richmond The politics of mental health Fri, 09 Oct 2015 10:29:38 +0000 Michael Richmond 81131 at More than a refuge, a welcome <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In today’s world, it is essential to take welcoming into account in the cycle of reproduction of social life.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="No One is Illegal! May Day of Action, 2009. Flickr/Tanya Liu." title="" width="426" height="640" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>No One is Illegal! May Day of Action, 2009. Flickr/Tanya Liu. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people have come to our towns and cities in the last week seeking a safe place to live. They escape dire economic and political situations, and many have lost all they had in violent conflict, loved ones and their homes. We want to welcome them. </p> <p>Welcoming and hosting newcomers must be intelligently imagined and enabled. It needs to go beyond the violence of an ‘integration’ that makes newcomers solely responsible while placing them in hostile conditions. We need forms of welcoming that enable respect and friendship. Rather than the verticality of ‘us’ helping ‘them’, we need to welcome people in a way that enables mutual relations and the construction of a new ‘we’.</p> <p>In recent weeks, we have seen that civil society has the tools to welcome newcomers in this way. People arriving have not only encountered the violence of our borders, but determined acts of solidarity by thousands of Europeans. This mostly logistical support has revealed a capacity and will to engage in a sustained welcome.</p> <p>But to continue welcoming requires resources. We will need to free up time and make space for new friends and colleagues. New people constantly come to be part of our societies and we should all have the same rights and responsibilities as those that come, for living together. Only then can we create a social fabric strong enough to resist exclusion, division and hostility. </p> <p>In many European countries the preferred mode of welcoming has been delegated to the state, which has isolated the newly arrived in reception centres and camps. Many normal residents have either trusted the benevolence of the state, or look with suspicion at those who are being isolated in this way.</p> <p>Now it is clear to more and more people that the way states receive newcomers is isolating and often violent and paternalistic. And they have taken the initiative themselves. The task now is go beyond the old methods – either leaving all responsibility to a civil society that lacks resources, or clamouring for the state to take it on itself again. <br /> Instead, what we need to develop is ways in which the state can provide an economic and legal base for a popular welcome. Newcomers and collective initiatives need to have rights and access to resources. Networks of cooperation and care can enable both more autonomy and more interconnectedness this way. All this is about learning from existing ways of welcoming and developing them.</p> <h2>Cooperation across the cycle of welcoming</h2> <p>Welcoming is not just about giving shelter, it is about sharing social life. This is the task of integration beyond coercion: to combine the life of those who are here with those who arrive.<strong> </strong>Both sides need agency in this process. This means to think about the cycle of welcoming in its integrity, enabling different options for arriving and staying. Not only the urgency of asylum, but also the guarantee of social, civil and political rights as well as the inclusion of newcomers in the reproduction of life in common. </p> <p>Some components of this cycle are: first reception and accommodation; legal, social and trauma support; housing; access to healthcare, education and other social and civil rights; access to work and reproductive rights. Many cooperative and institutionally transformative models exist at each of these levels.</p> <p>The integral welcoming circuit has provided the basis for <a href="">Sanctuary Cities</a> in the United States since the 1980s. In fact this model, which was developed to welcome political refugees and then the exiled of neoliberalism, disobeys federal laws on discrimination and exclusion: Sanctuary cities, by law or de facto, guarantee migrants and refugee the possibility of accessing social services - education, housing and health - as well as guaranteeing minimum legal rights (a due process and legal representation) in many cities of the United States. Sanctuary cities have provided a framework through which newcomers could settle in close contact with long time residents.</p> <p>With these experiences in mind we want we want to foreground some examples of public policies that can help us address the complex question of welcoming refugees and migrants in our cities.</p> <h2>Receiving and hosting</h2> <p>In the first place there is the task of asylum - in its etymological sense, a task of giving shelter and protection to those who need it. Asylum need not be paternalistic - gathering people in big public centres whilst ignoring the conflicts and precarity this confronts them with, and the habitual scepticism surrounding society tends to develop towards anyone who the state chooses to isolate. Beyond emergency mass accommodation, a database of available stand-by flats in our councils could enable quick temporary hosting of newly arrived persons. </p> <p>Similar databases and mechanisms for sharing private housing have been developed in Germany and Austria by civil society, enabling refugees to find accommodation in private houses (flatshares/families/housing coops) and helping them secure the financial rent support available from the state (this is the case of <a href="">Refugees Welcome</a>). </p> <p>Different city councils across Europe have taken this model up and are building databases and mechanisms to mediate between refugees and locals (Vienna, Berlin, Aarhus, Barcelona, where else?). Some of those databases also enable the donating of time, money or other resources, and this model could be expanded towards enabling a series of matchmaking functions - also relating to language swaps, leisure activities, etc. </p> <p>For this to function, hosts and refugees must have access to translation. Hosts can be great entry points for refugees into their new country, and if they receive sufficient counseling they can be great native-speaking advocates for the newly-arrived as they encounter asylum procedures and other public institutions, and finally the labour market. </p> <p>In Tuscany, the Local Government deals with recently arrived refugees by engaging local cooperatives in a <a href=";rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CCAQFjAAahUKEwjdjIXciYPIAhVL2BoKHSM7A5M&amp;;usg=AFQjCNG1FnKKfXCkmmDGUnUq-zNsUwAglw&amp;sig2=vB691ZL2kr1NWWnyWZ1JGQ&amp;bvm=bv.103073922,d.d2s&amp;cad=rja">distributed mechanism of welcoming</a>, that works with small groups of people, guaranteeing legal and social support for refugees. They offer a mechanism of integration to avoid conflict with local populations and the exclusion of the newcomers.</p> <h2>Legal and trauma support</h2> <p>But to guarantee a warm welcome is not just about providing resources or services but also about empowering the people and to renew their forms of participation in society by managing social problems. One of the questions raised and addressed in the definition of refugee policies has been that of post-traumatic help. Yet we cannot think about trauma as a merely “technical” problem, rather we need to approach it as an issue crucial to the empowerment of people as political actors in society. </p> <p>The <a href="">Plataforma Afectados por la Hipoteca</a> in Spain,<strong> </strong>for example, organises collective processes of legal assistance, where the act of sharing one’s experience with other people in the same situation helps break down loneliness and isolation, by creating a space for trust, mutual aid, and for reflecting on how shared problems can be dealt with in a collective manner. This can be a tool for dealing with the situation of refugees too: what are the procedures for getting asylum, what is the experience of being a refugee - of moving through war, precarity and abandonment in the attempt of building a safe life for oneself and her family? </p> <p>Following the examples of the <a href="">Legal Clinic of UniRoma 3</a> in Italy, we should involve students, activists as well as refugees themselves in legal counselling - with the support of universities and as part of their education, affected persons can become ‘experts’ capable of taking their own and other’s cases to courts. This is crucial for the de facto activation of rights. In Denmark, the principal of the University of Copenhagen has requested an official dispensation from Danish law and the rigid Bologna rules in order to enroll refugees in free degree programs upon arrival.</p> <p>Translation and language learning also can be organised in integrated ways with everyday life and work. The <a href="">X:talk Project</a> in London<strong> </strong>created a space of work-related language learning for migrant sexworkers. Such projects can be developed for other categories of migrants workers, and enables them to share experiences and build solidarities, as well as to enable them to claim their rights and negotiate the conditions under which they work. </p> <h2>Producing rights, reproducing life: health, care, work</h2> <p>Third is the task of reinventing forms of organisation that will allow the newcomers to produce and claim social, civil and political rights. Rights are not just laws, rights are practices and responsibilities. If we think about rights in this operative way, as a way of being part and participant of a society - of a life in common -, then we understand how welcoming is also about making migrants co-producers of rights. It is a way to work against the current situation, in which migrants often end up as underpaid and rightless workers and inhabitants, used as a lever to undermine the rights and working conditions of others.</p> <p>Because migration is used to create such a race to the bottom, migrant rights is a way to raise the bottom. Here it is not enough to consider the inclusion of migrants in existing rights struggles, for instance when other groups fight to defend rights migrants don’t have, but also of how the newly arrived can configure welfare services starting from their experiences and problems, as well as desires of building a new way of living together.</p> <p>Healthcare access is generally scarce for refugees and non-existing for undocumented migrants. Where access is given, this often comes without translation or continuity. Here the Italian city of Trieste provides a reference point for a politics of welcoming, which integrates the question of the <a href="">system of healthcare</a> with questions of language, housing and social participation. This system is geared towards intervening on the small scale of neighbourhoods or housing estates with supporting mechanisms for the access to social housing, the creation of cooperatives and economic support for young people to study or learn a job. It engages social networks to manage public spaces, social centres and healthcare activities suited to everyday life. </p> <p>Another crucial aspect of enabling social composition is access to work. We need to think the cycle of welcoming as an opportunity to strengthen different ways of working and producing together. Cooperatives can be one important tool for this. The Catalan system of integrated cooperatives, providing financial support (<a href="">Coop57</a>), services, commodity production (<a href="">Can Batllo</a>) and the development of public space (<a href="">La Borda</a>) might be taken as a reference point for economic integration at the European level. Here it is crucial to avoid free labour and ensure formal and economic valorization of apprentice- and internships.</p> <p>In today’s world, it is essential to take welcoming into account in the cycle of reproduction of social life. Welcoming is about reproducing a complex ecology of care that reaches across the private and the public. It is a way to avoid the ethnicized competition and fear that arises from regimes of differential rights and inclusion. </p> <p>Our cities, institutions and laws must reflect this reality rather than reproduce the violence of separation - we have the tools to do this.</p> <p>* This text was written in the context of Barcelona en Comú and the incipient <a href="">Refuge Cities network</a> and edited with David Llistar for publication in<a href=""></a></p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="">@oD_Europe</a></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"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> Austria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Transformation UK Austria Germany Spain Italy United States EU Francesco Salvini Bue Rübner Hansen Manuela Zechner Thu, 08 Oct 2015 20:29:55 +0000 Francesco Salvini, Bue Rübner Hansen and Manuela Zechner 96669 at Time for nuclear sharing to end <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You have to keep threatening to use nuclear weapons to make nuclear deterrence work.&nbsp;A view from Germany on the planned deployment of new US nuclear weapons.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Old B-61: primary thermonuclear weapon in US stockpile since the end of the Cold War." title="" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Old B-61: primary thermonuclear weapon in US stockpile since the end of the Cold War.Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It was already announced some years ago, but last week Germany woke up to the fact that new US nuclear weapons are actually going to be deployed at its base in Büchel. <em>Frontal 21</em>, a programme on the second main TV channel reported last Tuesday that preparation for this deployment was due to begin at the German air force base. The runway is being improved, perimeter fences strengthened, new maintenance trucks arriving and the Tornado delivery aircraft will get new software. </p> <p>It is a little known fact: Germany (and four other European countries) host nuclear weapons as part of NATO “nuclear sharing”. This means that in a nuclear attack the US can load its bombs onto German (or Belgian, Italian, Turkish and Dutch) aircraft and the pilots of those countries will drop them on an enemy target. This arrangement pre-dates the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which explicitly disallows any transfer of nuclear weapons from a nuclear weapon state to a non-nuclear weapon state, thus undermining the spirit of the treaty.</p> <p>This new nuclear bomb – the B61-12 – is intended to replace all its older versions and be able to destroy more targets than previous models. It is touted by the nuclear laboratories as an “all-in-one” bomb, a “smart” bomb, that does not simply get tossed out of an aircraft, but can be guided and hit its target with great precision using exactly the right amount of explosive strength to only destroy what needs to be destroyed. Sound good? </p> <p>Not to us – a guided nuclear bomb with mini-nuke capability could well lower the threshold for use. And the use of any kind of nuclear weapon would lead to the use of more nuclear weapons – this we know from the policies and planning of all nuclear weapon states. It has already been well established by three evidence-based conferences in recent years on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.</p> <p>This new “magic bomb” is not yet with us. It is still being developed and is planned to be deployed in five years time, if there are no more delays. The development of the B61-12 – euphemistically called a “Life Extension Programme” although it is a full redesign not just an update – has fortunately taken longer than intended, giving us more time to convince European leaders what a bad idea it is to deploy new nuclear weapons in Europe.</p> <p>The debate is already under way in the “host” countries, most prominently in the Netherlands where the parliament has already voted not to task the new F35 aircraft with a nuclear role. However, the Dutch government is not listening. The German Bundestag voted in 2010 to get rid of the B61, and the government was nominally in favour, but after the change of government in 2013, Foreign Minister Steinmeier put the decision on ice, quoting the new security situation.</p> <p>Yet the current confrontation between NATO and Russia needs deescalation, not rearmament. Sending a signal to Russia that NATO is modernising its European infrastructure and deploying new high-tech bombs is bound to elicit a reaction. Even as we write, reports are coming in that Russia will respond by withdrawing from the INF-Treaty, basing SS-26/Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad (didn't they already do that?) and targeting Germany with nuclear weapons. </p> <p>And what will be the NATO response to all of those threats? When will this escalation become hysteria and the first ‘shot across the bows’ start a nuclear war? Nuclear deterrence is the archetypal security dilemma. You have to keep threatening to use nuclear weapons to make it work. And the more you threaten, the more likely it is that they will be used.</p> <p>This is the moment where nuclear weapon-free countries need to call out for a ban on nuclear weapons to stop this madness. It is also the right time for nuclear co-dependents, like Germany, to make up its mind to give its nuclear dependency up. </p> <p>Deploying new nuclear weapons is forbidden by the NPT, which obligates its members to end the arms race. The transfer of nuclear weapons from the US to Germany and any plans to do so also undermine the NPT. As a responsible member state of this important treaty, it is time to denounce nuclear weapons and to join the international community of nuclear weapon-free countries that is signing the ‘Humanitarian Pledge’, calling for the legal gap to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons to be closed. Time for Germany to show some real leadership for nuclear disarmament.</p><p><em>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking <em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em> on <a href="">Facebook</a> and following us on Twitter <a href="">@oD_Europe</a></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"> Germany </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"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Science </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? United States Germany Conflict Democracy and government International politics Science Xanthe Hall Thu, 08 Oct 2015 19:38:06 +0000 Xanthe Hall 96666 at