openDemocracy en Azerbaijan's Nardaran affair <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Aliyev regime's crackdown on Azerbaijan's Islamic opposition is smoothing the way for further consolidation of power.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="// Shot 2016-08-24 at 06.23.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>22 July: family members wait outside as the Baku Court on Serious Crimes opens proceedings against Taleh Bagirzade, members of Muslim Unity and others. Source: Meydan.TV. </span></span></span>This month, a trial underway in Baku is bringing to light the conflict between Azerbaijan’s secular majority and the poor, religious communities found across the countries sparsely populated regions.</span></p><p>It involves an accused aspiring ayatollah, a prominent politician seemingly roped in at random and dozens of ordinary Azerbaijan’s citizens who may be little more than innocent bystanders. The confusion around the proceedings reveal the dichotomies of modern Azerbaijan — rich vs. poor, secular vs. religious, the state vs. the citizen.</p><h2>Courtroom farce</h2><p>The defendants are Taleh Bagirzade, a prominent Shiite cleric and former political prisoner, sixteen members of his <a href="">Muslim Unity movement</a> and one secular politician arrested for a critical Facebook post. These men face <a href="">a litany of charges</a>, including murder, terrorism, and attempts to seize power through violence.</p><p>As with many high-profile trials in Azerbaijan in recent years, a guilty verdict is assured. Perhaps this explains why prosecutors appear untroubled by a trial that so far has hosted an uninterrupted stream of testimony on torture, forced confessions and brutality at the hands of security services. Most notably, the state has yet to provide a clear explanation of what the defendants are supposed to have done.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">As with many high-profile trials in Azerbaijan in recent years, a guilty verdict is assured</p><p>Even those who managed to gain entry to the courtroom — a few journalists, relatives of the defendants and representatives of foreign embassies — did not hear, literally, a coherent explanation of the state’s case, as the <a href="">prosecutor spoke quietly and did not use a microphone when laying out the state’s case</a>.</p><p>Such courtroom farces are not uncommon in modern Azerbaijan. Earlier this year, Mammad Ibrahim, an adviser to the leader of the Popular Front Party, was <a href="">sentenced to three years imprisonment for hooliganism</a>, despite the fact that prosecution witnesses refuted the government’s case and instead <a href="">complained of extra-legal pressure to testify</a>.</p><h2>No politician</h2><p>Taleh Bagirzade is not a politician. The head of Muslim Unity, <a href="">an avowedly non-violent, conservative Shiite Islamist movement</a>, Bagirzade has already served two terms as a political prisoner in the last five years. Prior to his current legal troubles, Bagirzade’s greatest offense appears to have been representing <a href="">a moderate Islamist alternative to the state</a>.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="// (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Taleh Bagirzade, head of Muslim Unity, has been accused of plotting a coup and establishing "a religious state under Sharia law". Source: <a>MeydanTV</a>.</span></span></span>Reports of torture at the hands of security services have been common since Bagirzade and the first of 76 other defendants (not all are being tried at once) were swept up in a raid on the evening of 26 November 2015 in the town of Nardaran, a conservative Shiite community about an hour’s drive north of Baku with <a href="">a long history of anti-government protests</a>. Inside a modest house, the imam and several fellow believers were celebrating the sacred month of Muharram when armed riot police arrived from Baku and surrounded the building.</span></p><p>Everything that happened next is in dispute.</p><p>The official narrative is that authorities were tipped off that Muslim Unity was planning an armed insurrection against the state. Officials at the scene claimed someone inside the house opened fire on police. At some point a grenade was thrown. In the end, six people were dead, two of them police officers, and 15 men were in custody.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Testimony from the defendants and witnesses described a chaotic scene where peaceful citizens are set upon by black-masked security forces, and dragged, conscious and unconscious, into a waiting furniture van, according to testimony reported by the independent news agency <a href=""></a>:</span></p><p class="blockquote-new">“We were thrown into a furniture van, where they began to beat us with rifle butts. It was there that our friend Farahim died from the beatings. Besides him in the car there already were several bloodied prisoners unconscious."&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new">“When I was examined by the doctor, a police officer told him to cut off my nose," said the defendant. The last defendant Ali Nuriyev said the police knocked out his tooth and smashed his face, and later he was put four seams so that he could speak with his broken lips.</p><p>In reporting on the second day of testimony (<a href="">which is worth reading in full</a>), investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova described one defendant’s ordeal. Shamil Abdulaliyev spoke of lengthy extralegal detentions and repeated beatings at the hands of security personnel. He declined to describe either as torture:<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="blockquote-new">"I haven't been tortured like others", said in Baku Grave Crimes Court Shamil Abdulaliyev, who carries in his body two of the three bullets shot at him in Nardaran by the police. Only one day after he passed surgery in hospital he was taken out of intensive care for interrogation. He said he was threatened to be killed in hospital and forced to sign papers with false confession reading that as if Muslim Unity Union gave him arms for overthrow. He says he was not tortured. Two months incarceration in the penitentiary hospital for no reason, he thinks is not a torture…&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new">Farhad Balayev was beaten and arrested inside the hospital. The real ordeal started after that. He was taken to Bandotdel (anti-organized crime unit of the Interior Ministry) and kept there illegally for more than two weeks. Interrogations followed beatings, beatings followed interrogations when Balayev refused to sign testimonies on his behalf, falsely accusing Tale Bagirzade and Muslim Unity Movement in preparing an armed coup. Finally he had to give up.&nbsp;</p><p>Official press coverage of the trial in Azerbaijan <a href="">largely consists of lengthy descriptions of defendants’ disavowed pre-trial testimony</a>, which they universally argue was obtained through torture. No reference is made to why they may have recanted.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The town roundly rejected the official story, and <a href="">men and women took to the streets</a>. Townspeople held rallies demanding the return of the bodies for proper burial, and local journalists who were able to enter the town before the government closed the roads and shut off electricity and other services, uploaded emotional, often harrowing footage that spread quickly across Azerbaijan’s gossipy social media.</span></p><p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe><em>November 2015: Independent Azeribaijani news station <a href="">MeydanTV</a> interviews people affected by the raid in Nardaran.</em></p><p>Searches continued for a week, dozens of local residents were detained, and a total of 78 alleged Muslim Unity members were arrested in a nationwide sweep. Some, according to police, were carrying both weapons and narcotics at the time of their arrest — an apparently commonplace habit in Azerbaijan, according to police reports of arrests of journalists, politicians and their friends and family.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Many of the accused claim they aren’t members of Muslim Unity — something the group’s leadership has argued as well, said human rights activist Anar Mammadli. “The judge didn’t pay attention to this,” Mammadli told me, “or about the facts of torture by the staff of the Major Police Department… These facts were not reviewed by the court either.”<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The disorganised nature of the trial raises the question of what exactly the Azerbaijani state hopes to achieve&nbsp;</p><p>The absurdity hit a fever pitch when opposition politician Fuad Gaharamanli was arrested on 11 August for objecting to the accused’s treatment in a Facebook post. He stands charged with <a href="">three violations of the criminal code</a>, including Article 281 (making public appeals for the violent overthrow of the state).</p><p>According to Bagirzade, the <a href="">defendants were tortured</a>&nbsp;and asked to implicate Gaharamanli’s party, the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP), in the alleged uprising. Other defendants <a href="">have testified to their bewilderment</a> at the charges leveled against them and the methods used to force them to confess.</p><h2>Misplaced paranoia<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></h2><p>The disorganised nature of the trial raises the question of what exactly the Azerbaijani state hopes to achieve.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Although both secular and religious opposition leaders have been swept up in a single move and will almost certainly stay in prison at president Ilham Aliyev’s whim, the complete dearth of incriminating evidence or a coherent narrative guarantees their convictions will be eventually overturned upon appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, according to observers and human rights activists following the case.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>As cases take years to make their way through the overloaded Court, mass convictions in the "Nardaran affair" could guarantee years of negative foreign press and uncomfortable conversations with the international lenders <a href="">it will rely upon to build gas pipelines crucial to the state budget</a>.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="// - peter leonard ap nardaran.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Further muddying the waters is the lack of widespread popular support of the accused. Although the Popular Front Party managed a good showing in the rigged 2013 presidential elections, the thorough crackdown on civil society that followed left the democratic opposition fractured and disorganised. Bagirzade himself readily admits that there is neither the support nor ideological infrastructure <a href="">to establish an Islamic state in today’s Azerbaijan</a>.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></span></p><p>It is possible the state has completely misapprehended the threat posed by both parties. Although the Azerbaijani security services face few limits on their ability to detain, interrogate, and torture citizens at will, it would be a mistake <a href="$384000-on-spyware-but-lacked-tech-skills-to-use-it.htm">to confuse this authority with competence</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Perhaps Azerbaijan believes a few dozen convictions of so-called Islamic terrorists will aid its efforts to become a vital ally in the west’s ongoing war on terror&nbsp;</p><p>If misplaced paranoia is not the culprit, perhaps Azerbaijan believes a few dozen convictions of so-called Islamic terrorists <a href="">will aid its efforts to be remain a vital ally in the west’s ongoing war on terror</a> — an increasingly valuable diplomatic objective in the face of Europe’s slow realisation that Azerbaijani gas <a href="">can only minimally reduce the continent’s dependence on Gazprom</a>.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>As the primary battleground has shifted from Afghanistan to Syria, Azerbaijan is now l<a href="">ess important as a transit route for US troops</a>, and Baku has been keen to compensate by proving itself an important actor in the fight against ISIS.</p><p>State media <a href="">regularly publishes detail-free reports</a> of arrests of Azerbaijanis returning from or heading to Syria to take up arms, but independent analysis <a href="">has only identified about 200</a>&nbsp;(including non-combatant family members) — a miniscule portion of the <a href="">estimated 27,000 or so foreign fighters that have made the trip</a>. Furthermore, there is no record of a <a href="">Shiite Azerbaijani traveling to fight in Syria</a>, despite attempts in the Azeri press <a href="">to tie conservative, Iran-friendly towns like Nardaran to this larger global conflict</a>.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Despite the superficiality of the narrative, it is never wise to underestimate Azerbaijan’s willingness to push its agenda through high-priced lobbyists</p><p>President Aliyev may be trying to build a reputation as the key actor preventing Azerbaijan from slipping into religious chaos by padding his government’s statistics with a few dozen convictions — <a href="">a tactic common in Central Asia</a>, and <a href="">also practiced by the FBI</a>.</p><p>Despite the superficiality of the narrative, it is never wise to underestimate Azerbaijan’s willingness to push its agenda <a href="">through high-priced lobbyists</a> and the <a href="">odd unscrupulous parliamentarian</a>.</p><p>Policymakers may decide that the potential domestic political cost for supporting political prisoners like Bagirzade is too great. Rights groups <a href="">have long struggled to get official support for Azerbaijan’s several dozen less-famous political prisoners</a>, and few of them have been accused, however spuriously, of seeking to emulate Ayatollah Khomeini.</p><p>To date, a passing reference in the US State Department’s annual <a href="">International Religious Freedom Report</a>&nbsp;constitutes the sole official foreign statement from a foreign government on the nearly year-long affair.</p><h2>A curious silence</h2><p>Most curious is the impact, or lack thereof, that the case is having on Azerbaijan’s politically engaged community.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Some activists and journalists have aggressively covered the trial, but Azerbaijani social media has been much more engaged in a scandal around <a href="">an activist’s cheeky video of an MP’s oversized dacha</a> and the Ministry of Education’s decision to charge fees for university entrance exams.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p>Even a <a href="">highly critical essay</a> condemning Bagirzade (and Nardaran in general) by prominent human rights activist Eldar Zeynalov failed to make an impact. In the course of reporting this story, the author did not speak with anyone who had read it of their own accord. A rally led by opposition politician Ali Karimli attracted only a few dozen, and the video of it has been viewed less than 2,500 times.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Nardaran affair has been pushed out of the headlines by a crackdown on Azerbaijan’s secular civil society&nbsp;</p><p>“I am not surprised that no one is talking about it. It’s a sensitive topic to openly discuss, and I think some people are afraid of what they might say and how it might backfire,” said Azerbaijani journalist <a href="">Arzu Geybulla</a>. Liberal-minded Azerbaijanis may worry that expressing concern for the Nardaran defendants could be interpreted as support for their politics, and keep quiet to avoid unpredictable backlash from their peers.</p><p>Geybulla added that even Azerbaijani human rights lawyers seemed disinterested in the case. Many of the defendants relied upon public defenders, who they complained actively worked against their interests until several days into the trial.</p><p>On the other hand, the incomplete and polarised coverage of the events — which was largely split between emotionally-charged cinema verite-style footage from independent media and dry, bare bones accounts in official outlets — has left average Azerbaijanis uncomfortable expressing strong opinions on the case, says veteran human rights activist Anar Mammadli.</p><p>“At the beginning of the case, local and international audience didn’t get proper information… We hoped the court would clarify all questions and concerns on the operation. However, the current court process is under political control of the government and the independence of the judge is under doubt,” said Mammadli.</p><p>At the time of writing, the Nardaran affair has been pushed out of the headlines by <a href="">a fresh crackdown on Azerbaijan’s secular civil society</a>. This is likely tied to an upcoming constitutional referendum in September <a href="">which will centralise more power in the office of the president</a>. Youth activists, journalist, opposition politicians and three unknown employees of mobile telecomms companies have been detained with regularity over the past ten days.</p><p>It is too early to predict how these parallel crises will resolve, or whether Azerbaijan’s Islamist or democratic opposition will be in anything but shambles by the end of the year. No matter the fate of the persons involved, they represent the challenges of reconciling the authoritarian, democratic, and Islamist strains of modern Azerbaijan — none of which are disappearing anytime soon.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/azerbaijan-ruling-in-bad-faith">Azerbaijan: ruling in bad faith</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dominika-bychawska-siniarska/azerbaijan-s-unconstitutional-future">Azerbaijan’s unconstitutional future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sabir-akhundov/azerbaijanism">“Azerbaijanism”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/arzu-geybulla/exclamation-mark-that-terrified-azerbaijani-authorities">Meet N!DA, the exclamation mark that terrified the Azerbaijani authorities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/gabriel-levy/break-silence-on-azerbaijan-oil-workers-deaths">Break the silence on Azerbaijan oil workers’ deaths</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 Mike Runey Religion Azerbaijan Wed, 24 Aug 2016 17:21:58 +0000 Mike Runey 104925 at 38 Degrees and the 52 per cent: 'Members who voted Leave are just as much members as those who voted Remain.' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>38 Degrees responds to criticisms of its neutral stance in the EU referendum, saying that it'scommitted to inclusive, participatory democracy.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">The second part of our debate over what</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">'neutrality' means in these fractious times</span><span style="text-align: center; line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p><div><span style="text-align: center; line-height: 1.5;"><br /></span></div> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Labour&#039;s Sadiq Khan joins David Cameron on the &#039;Vote Remain&#039; campaign trail. Photo:Yui Mok / PA Wire/Press Association Images. A"><img src="//" alt="Labour's Sadiq Khan joins David Cameron on the 'Vote Remain' campaign trail. Photo:Yui Mok / PA Wire/Press Association Images. A" title="Labour&#039;s Sadiq Khan joins David Cameron on the &#039;Vote Remain&#039; campaign trail. Photo:Yui Mok / PA Wire/Press Association Images. A" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour's Sadiq Khan joins David Cameron on the 'Vote Remain' campaign trail. Photo: Yui Mok / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Martin Shaw has <a href="">recently criticised</a>&nbsp;38 Degrees for adopting a neutral stance on whether or not the UK should leave the European Union. Quite a lot of members voted for Brexit on 23 June; probably around half. It’s no wonder that some people find this surprising – Brexit is a polarising issue, and it’s been widely observed that social media feeds can amplify a sense that all our friends share all our views. Particularly in the immediate aftermath of the vote, when emotions were running high, I heard some 38 Degrees members on both sides of the divide express incredulity that they shared values and campaigns with people who’d voted the opposite way to them.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span>But plenty of other 38 Degrees members could easily understand the opposite point of view, even on 24 June. The reality is that good people who share similar values made different choices. 38 Degrees members who voted Leave have previously participated, in similar numbers to those who voted Remain, in campaigns to protect the NHS, challenge the TTIP trade deal, stop cuts to tax credits, welcome refugees or ban bee-killing pesticides.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The reality is that good people who share similar values made different choices&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Understanding and serving the wishes of 38 Degrees members on the EU referendum &nbsp;– and its aftermath – was and remains a tricky task for the 38 Degrees staff team, and I wouldn’t for a minute claim we’ve always got it 100 per cent right. But before I go on to explain our approach in more detail, I want to challenge the assumption which seems to underpin much of Martin Shaw’s analysis. He seems to believe that not siding with Remain, and “arguing about the terms of Brexit, rather than Brexit itself” means “38 Degrees can no longer be seen as a major home of the progressive community in Britain” because it signifies a betrayal of 38 Degrees’ mission and values.</p><p><span>Shaw suggests that seeking to maintain the involvement of 38 Degrees members who voted Leave could only have been done for cynical reasons. His “most generous interpretation” is that “in a movement that is crowdfunded, the loss of ten or twenty per cent of supporters would have had significant financial implications.” Actually, the key principle driving the staff’s approach was that 38 Degrees members who voted Leave are </span><em>just as much</em><span> 38 Degrees members as those who voted Remain. Shaw has got good reasons, underpinned by good values, for his passionate support for remaining in the EU. However, his position doesn’t have a monopoly on decency, and 38 Degrees belongs just as much to its members who chose to vote the opposite way to him as it does to those in his Remain camp. As a staff team, it’s our mission to serve a mainstream, inclusive, non-partisan campaigning community, not to privilege the views of some members over others.</span></p><h3>Pre-referendum position: fact-checking and voter-participation<span>&nbsp;</span></h3><p dir="ltr">It became clear to the staff team that there wasn't a clear consensus on Brexit at the beginning of 2016. At a series of regional meet-ups of <a href="">38 Degrees local groups</a>, which used an “Open Space” agenda process, Brexit increasingly came up. In Leicester, there was a well-attended session about working together to campaign in favour of Brexit, whilst in Exeter another took place about campaigning for Remain. We started to include questions about the EU in <a href="">the regular survey</a> we send each week to a random sample of our membership and saw a variety of opinions.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Navigating the Brexit debate was going to be challenging and require careful thought and consultation. We devised quite a lengthy survey, which we emailed out twice in late February. The <a href="">results</a> showed we wouldn’t be able to please everyone – 28 per cent of respondents wanted 38 Degrees to campaign to Remain, 13 per cent to campaign to Leave, and 52 per cent to stay neutral. &nbsp;When asked how they’d feel about 38 Degrees taking different courses of action, 73 per cent said they’d feel “good” or “okay” about 38 Degrees playing a neutral, fact-checking role – this fell to 53% if we campaigned to stay in and 38 per cent if we campaigned to leave.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span>On this basis, the staff team tentatively concluded that the best course of action to serve the 38 Degrees membership was to stay neutral, but play a proactive role in fact-checking and encouraging voter registration (as proposed by different members at different points). We sent out another email to all members, on 7th March, proposing t</span><a href="">his approach,</a><span> and inviting members to click Yes or No to indicate whether they agreed. 95 per cent clicked yes, and then completed a follow up survey indicating support for different activities and tactics which they could get involved with.&nbsp;</span><span>Every week between March and June 23rd we included a question in our </span><a href="">weekly survey</a><span> to 38 Degrees members, asking “Is staying neutral on the EU referendum still right for 38 Degrees”? Every week, members voted yes by a ratio of more than 8 to 1.</span></p><h3>Crowdsourcing a 'DIY Brexit'</h3><p dir="ltr">On June 24th, after the referendum result was announced, the 38 Degrees staff team identified two key challenges: getting input from the membership as to what the organisation should do next; and reaffirming common values and common purpose after a divisive few weeks. We also saw quite a big opportunity – as a movement which genuinely straddled both sides of the referendum debate, our members could be well placed to influence what happened next.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">“Following our vote to leave Europe, whether people voted to remain or leave is irrelevant."</p><p dir="ltr"><span>We sent out a </span><a href="">quick email survey</a><span> and solicited views via the </span><a href="">38 Degrees facebook page</a><span>, asking members what their priorities were for post-referendum campaigning. &nbsp;Maintaining protections in areas like consumer and employment rights, and holding Brexit campaigners to their pre-referendum promises, both gained support of around 90 per cent of respondents. In addition, thousands of 38 Degrees members sent in their own individual suggestions for ways in which 38 Degrees should seek to influence Brexit, and began to set up their own campaigns on the </span><a href="">Campaigns By You</a><span> part of the 38 Degrees website. 38 Degrees members are a pretty pragmatic, action-focused bunch, and within days of the referendum large numbers of remainers as well as Leavers were expressing a strong desire to get stuck in and try to influence Brexit for the better.&nbsp;</span><span>For example, this is how a Jake, member from from Yorkshire, put it:&nbsp;</span><span>“Following our vote to leave Europe, whether people voted to remain or leave is irrelevant. &nbsp;The die is cast and we need to make the best of it we can.”</span></p><p dir="ltr">It was on the basis of all this input that 'DIY Brexit' was <a href="">conceived</a> as a project. The <a href="">basic idea</a> was to identify key demands for how Brexit should work, which enjoy the broad support of 38 Degrees members across the Leave/Remain divide. The plan is to use this set of demands as a rallying point for people-powered campaigning activities over the coming months – advocacy to MPs, discussion and debate in local neighbourhoods, research and investigative work. For those who voted Leave, this strategy would serve them by helping them seize the opportunities presented by the referendum going the way they’d hoped. For those who voted Remain, this strategy would enable them to make the best of an outcome about which they had grave reservations.</p><p dir="ltr">So 38 Degrees staff sent out another survey asking members to rank various different issue areas which could form part of a people-powered plan, and to make suggestions for specific content. Alongside this, we worked with a polling company to run some focus groups and opinion polling to give us some additional insights into how our members were feeling in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and where their views overlapped and differed with public opinion at large.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">On the basis of all this, staff team drew up a draft set of&nbsp;<a href="">75 statements</a>, covering 6 different areas of policy relevant to Brexit: NHS, the economy, trade, immigration, rights, and the environment. &nbsp;We emailed these all out to members, asking for them to vote on each of the individual statements, and to submit comments and additional suggestions. Alongside that, we’ve thus far hosted 17 hour-long conference calls where hundreds of members have discussed the plan with each other. Googledocs of each section of the plan have been made available, with thousands of other comments left there.</p><p dir="ltr">Shaw identifies some flaws and omissions in the statements the staff team emailed out. So have lots of other 38 Degrees members who’ve participated in the process so far - that was the whole point of sending out a draft and asking for feedback. The staff team is now in the process of working through all those suggestions, identifying proposed amendments, deletions and additions prior to another survey to get another round of feedback. Shaw interprets flaws in the initial draft as deliberate manipulation, accusing the staff team of “shaping and hyping their preferred options and keeping other key options out of play.” Actually the initial draft was flawed because we sent it out quickly, knowing that the best way to identify improvements was to enable the whole membership to feed-in.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">the best way to identify improvements was to enable the whole membership to feed-in</p><p dir="ltr">So for example, Shaw identifies gaps in the statements about immigration which members were asked to feed back on, specifically on the question of Freedom of Movement within the EU. That’s a gap something several members expressed to me on the conference calls I was part of. Options for a statement about that will be drafted and sent out for feedback. Similarly, Shaw talks about the exaggerated and at times deceitful claims made during the referendum campaign – many other 38 Degrees members highlighted the same issue, leading to a proposal to include a demand around giving the ASA the power to regulate political ads.</p><p dir="ltr">The DIY Brexit project is 38 Degrees’ most ambitious attempt at crowd-sourcing policy so far. We’re better known for relatively straightforward (our critics would say simplistic) campaigns, usually asking the government to stop doing something bad or start doing something good. The consultation process so far has at times been a bit haphazard. The volume of suggestions has been difficult to sift. Some of the conference calls have felt rushed. Some comments left on the google docs have been hard to make sense of. &nbsp;Participation rates (over 300,000 members leaving over 8 million votes or suggestions) are among the highest we’ve ever had, but Shaw’s correct to point out that many 38 Degrees members haven’t yet taken part.</p><p dir="ltr">Shaw doesn’t offer much evidence for his assertion that the process shows the “power of a small group of unelected people to set the agenda”. Actually it’s been quite a rich process, conducted in good faith. But it’s not gone totally smoothly, and I hope that 38 Degrees’ approach to participative policy-making will improve technologically and methodologically in the future.</p><h3><span>Post-Brexit lessons for new politics?</span></h3><p dir="ltr">Martin concludes his piece by disapprovingly quoting Paul Hilder, who in 2008-9 helped found 38 Degrees, and who pointed out recently that Leave campaigners have “learnt many of the lessons of new politics and are well-positioned to apply them”. He implies that Paul’s words should make us more suspicious of the whole idea that politics can and should evolve in a more participative, people-powered direction.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span>While I’m grateful to Shaw for sharing his critique and sparking a debate which I hope will help 38 Degrees improve, I think he risks falling into two quite dangerous traps: assuming that Remain voters are in some way better than Leave voters; and responding to a referendum not going the way you wanted it to by becoming more suspicious of participative and people-powered approaches to politics. I don’t think either of those responses will get us very far. I</span><span>n the aftermath of the shocking murder of Jo Cox MP, 38 Degrees members (including leave voters) donated hundreds of thousands pounds to her </span><a href="">memorial fund</a><span>, inspired by her statement that “we have more in common than that which divides us”. Her words are surely relevant as we grapple with how to work together to secure the best possible Brexit.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>***</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The second part of our debate</span>.</p><p dir="ltr">Click <a href="">here</a> to read Martin Shaw's original article.</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="/martin-shaw/lexit-by-theresa-may-s-rules-38-degrees-people-powered-brexit">38 Degrees and the 52 per cent: ‘Neutrality on the EU means &#039;lexit&#039; by Theresa May’s rules’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk David Babbs Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:54:16 +0000 David Babbs 104938 at Worlds Beyond: how young adult fiction can explore the lives of the marginalized <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Even in science fiction and fantasy, we're used to hearing the stories of the rich and the white. This represents an enormous failure of imagination.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">Cover of the Future Fiction magazine, November 1939. Source: Wikimedia Commons. (Public domain).</span></p><p>Having been the base of a human pyramid in an All Star circus and the maestro of a Moko Jumbie carnival band for a few hot summers, I’m a signed, sealed and delivered lover of the magical, the fabulous and the spectacular. So I watch the development of fantastical Young Adult (YA) fiction—shot through with runes, witches, latin puzzles and classical wizardry—with with genuine wonder. I have one large caveat: the omission of marginal voices from all this Young Adult fiction imagineering.</p> <p>In the spirit of the&nbsp;<a href="">Bechdel Test&nbsp;</a>movement, I suggest three quick tests can be applied to YA literature to determine whether it has an ambition of inclusiveness: &nbsp;(1) Does this novel acknowledge the existence of or tell me anything about the lives of those excluded from economic prosperity? (2) Does it suggest or stand with a society that is recognisably diverse? (3) Does it embrace a concept of humanity that is inclusive?</p> <p>Applied prospectively, the three tests are for writers as much as readers. When we as writers take that deep breath and start Chapter 1, we carry with us a bag of assumptions, preferences and passions, usually drawn from our life experiences. &nbsp;Taking a cool look at some of them before we embark can be a tough but rewarding exercise, pushing us to imagine wider, to innovate greater and to acknowledge our power to include as well as exclude: we have that power, we make that choice.</p> <p>Sadly, the answer to the three tests that most YA novels give today is a dispiriting ‘no’. To focus on one element of the margin, when have the young, poor “working” class ever been so little represented in literature as they are now? A few authors keep a flickering flag flying—Melvin Burgess (<a href="">Kill All Enemies</a>) and Malorie Blackman (<a href="">Boys Don’t Cry</a>)—but the point generally holds true.</p> <p>That had me pondering: what has caused the stifling of this voice? &nbsp;There was a time when you could write about a distinct and distinctive working class, a time which produced novels such as the much loved&nbsp;<a href="">'A Kestrel for Knave'</a>&nbsp;by Barry Hines, stories about the children of factory workers and miners. But the proletariat of the industrial age has dwindled in the post-industrial western countries that produced this literature, its raison d’etre sucked away by globalisation. </p> <p>The big, beating, cultural rhythms of the industrial age machines have gone quiet with the closure of the mills and factories and the class which served that age as factors of industrial production is no longer employed there. The working class became an under-class, and is now routinely ignored.</p> <p>Perhaps the YA genre’s absence of concern with material conditions is in sync with the post-modern phase of capitalism. The focus on semiotics, surface and un-realness—all is sign and nothing is substance—manifests itself in fiction in an emphasis on the magical and the fantastical. Literature becomes the ultimate post-factual art: its articulation is digital, its presence is virtual, and its creators are not real people but personas or constructs. &nbsp;</p> <p>Nearly 50 years ago, Roland Barthes signaled the '<a href="">death of the author</a>'. These times have also seen the birth of ‘Any Author’: teams of literary functionaries adhering to a formula supplied by the dominant culture. For example, Mills &amp; Boon has its guide-sheets which set out how you should write. Best-selling thrillers are currently being written by individuals or teams under the direction of the undoubtedly talented, ex ad-man turned author, James Patterson. And YA fiction too has its own formulas for marketability, including a heavy disconnect from the experiences of a significant percentage of the population, an erasure of whole communities.</p> <p>The YA genre erases by omission the lives of ordinary black, brown and poor white people, the majority of whom go to state not private school, don’t live in white middle class models of the family and are more likely to hear, not church bells at dawn but an evening chorus of desperate blips as card meter emergency electricity credit expires.</p> <p>There are some promising voices that break with this tradition. Against the grain of Harry Potter-led magicalism and its associated stories of the derring-do of privately-schooled Isabellas and Rogers, <a href="">the Striker series</a>&nbsp;depicts the hybrid, make-do lives of those living in post-industrial hinterlands. These books retain an element of the playful and fantastical, and are full of humour. But they also have a commitment, in the tradition of Hines, Dickens, and Zola, to being grounded in the real.</p> <p>The cultural theorist bell hooks speaks about “<a href="">the authenticity of experience</a>” as a counter narrative to post-modernism’s nevertheless-important critique of essentialist notions of identity and culture. &nbsp;I’ve spent most of my life living on (ex) council estates and in areas of economic deprivation. Reflecting these experiences in writing gives the ability to chart the sentiment which hooks suggests many poor white communities share with black communities—a sense of deep alienation, of uncertainty and a loss of identity-fixing purpose. It allows us to give voice to the joy and celebrate the conviviality that these communities often achieve—visible, for example, in my local public parks where white dog walkers and third generation Pakistani cricket enthusiasts rub along with kite flyers, keep fit joggers and mooching teens.</p> <p>What is to be the fate of the grounded writer who wants to depict lives that reflect and transmute experiences other than those of the white middle classes? The current publishing world is not keen on them. The lives we describe are seen by the centre as anomalous, atavistic, perhaps irritating, the ghost at a wedding—wished away at the point of editorial and marketing decision making. If we could hurry up and vanish then that would be convenient.</p> <p>The greater project then, whatever form or genre is chosen—whether poetry or fiction, horror or scifi, YA or adult literary—is to include all these lives in the national literature. To show the kindness and love, the magic and ingenuity, the resourcefulness and invention, the healings and life-affirming celebrations that make the margin a willed place of great creativity—not just a place from which you journey to the centre, or from which you aspire to become socially mobile outwards. </p> <p>Instead, it’s a place where values are sustained that can lift and renew not merely an area or an (under) class but an entire nation. The territories of the poor and marginalised may be zombie-lands seen through mainstream and tabloid lenses, but they are also the lifeblood of the country, harbouring alternative value systems and ways of seeing—think of rap, disco, jazz and scratching, the glorious musical innovations that all emerged from society’s margins. These ways of seeing are themselves magical, fabulous and spectacular in their ability to endure—to find, as <a href="">the poet Lemn Sissay puts it</a>, “gold from the stone.”</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/andr-carrington/whiteness-of-science-fiction">The unbearable whiteness of science fiction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/florence-okoye/black-to-future-afrofuturism-and-tech-power">Black to the future: afrofuturism and tech power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/adrienne-brown/visionary-fiction-when-social-justice-means-giving-up-on-utopias">Science fiction and social justice: giving up on utopias</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> Transformation Transformation Utopia and Science Fiction Peter Kalu Activism Culture Wed, 24 Aug 2016 09:44:55 +0000 Peter Kalu 104902 at The end of the grant era <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>Asking donors for money and then implementing programs is an old model from which civil society must break free. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on <a href="" target="_blank">funding and human rights</a>. &nbsp;<span><em><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Español</a></strong></em></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">The changes in the funding landscape are fast and furious, especially for organizations that promote equality, human rights, and climate justice. We are increasingly witnessing efforts by governments and big corporations to silence dissent or clamp down on foreign funding.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is no surprise, therefore, that CSO leaders globally tend to share the same two main concerns: the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">shrinking of civic space and securing their financial resources</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. While there are ongoing discussions about overhead and “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">pay what it takes philanthropy</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” (e.g., allowing non-profit organizations to use what they truly need for administration costs, rather than allocating an arbitrary 10-15%), only a small group of funders are actually changing their practices. Most still believe that investments in learning and innovation, state of the art technologies, good salaries and a healthy workspace are luxuries that CSOs can do without. But when grants have unrealistic overhead expectations—as most traditional grants do—organizations simply </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">starve</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">Now is the time to rethink the financing of the critical work of ending inequality and securing rights and climate justice.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Now is the time to rethink the financing of the critical work of ending inequality and securing rights and climate justice. In fact, while this shift might be driven by necessity, it also presents a real opportunity for greater influence and impact. The vast majority of CSOs promoting rights and justice globally still have the support of traditional, mostly foreign grants—where a donor supplies money for a program or project. These grants can actually leverage innovation through investment in financially resilient models that sustain the work beyond grants.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">New financial models are a great opportunity to affect change. Asking donors for money and then turning around to implement funded programs is an old model—so is making a grant and waiting for results. CSOs need to break with the notion that funds are a means to an end, and begin to develop financial models that are integral to the mission of their organizations.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Accompanied and supported by </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">Spring Forward</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, close to 100 CSOs globally have moved towards becoming more financially resilient by building greater fiscal strength in a radically changing funding landscape. Once leaders take the time to reflect on their specific funding model, along with the developments and trends affecting this model, they are quick to become pro-active and innovative. Building and sustaining financial strength requires the same level of innovation and resilience as running high impact programs.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In a world where boundaries between “doing good” and “making money” are increasingly blurred, a whole new array of financing opportunities are beginning to present themselves. For example, the Kenya-based&nbsp;Arid Land Information Network&nbsp;(ALIN) has developed a social enterprise model by creating a company called Sokopepe Limited. Through Sokopepe, ALIN helps to strengthen farming practices with record keeping and marketing. As a result, farmer’s revenues have gone up considerably, enabling them to pay for services. In turn, this has generated a new revenue stream&nbsp;that helps ALIN&nbsp;advance its&nbsp;mission.</span></p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//" width="444" /> <br />Image by Apptio (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> In a world where boundaries between “doing good” and “making money” are increasingly blurred, a whole new array of financing opportunities are beginning to present themselves.</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Another case is </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">Hivos Impact Investments</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and its Mideast Creatives program, which aims to grow a youth-driven creative sector. They do this by investing in collaborative workspaces, business development trainings and improved access to financing by mobilizing additional capital from financial institutions, individuals and through crowd-funding. </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">Mideast Creatives</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> supports young people in building social enterprises in areas of&nbsp;design, music, arts and the gaming sector. The goal is to promote disruptive ideas that challenge the status quo and introduce sustainable change in the Middle East, where sustainability is defined in terms of social impact as well as financial return.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But creative financing models aren’t limited to social enterprise. By creating a partnership with the New Delhi municipal government and a corporate partner, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="" target="_blank">Manas Foundation</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> was able to train close to 200,000 New Delhi based </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href=";app=desktop" target="_blank">auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in preventing sexual harassment and violence against women. The municipal government provided access to the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers by making the training a requirement for maintaining their license while the corporate player, through its Corporate Social Responsibility program, provided the funding. In the process, the three partners are learning from each other and attracting new players to replicate this public-private partnership as they move into other urban areas, making India’s cities safer for women.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Another example is <a href="" target="_blank">The East Africa Sexual Health and Rights Initiative</a> (UHAI), whose financial model is focused on the following three steps: generating funds to purchase their own office building, creating an endowment that will generate a return to cover their entire operating budget and finally, expanding the endowment to a level where returns cover the vast share of their annual budget. UHAI recently purchased its new office building and step two is currently underway. </p><p dir="ltr">Then there is <a href="" target="_blank">Conectas</a> in Brazil, which committed to lowering its foreign grant dependency by making a strategic investment in engaging individual donors, as well as more pro-active engagement with national level foundations. Such an individual engagement strategy will grow the support base for their work, building credibility while at the same time generating revenue.</p><p dir="ltr">All of these examples are a clear departure from the traditional grant system. But while new financing models have great potential, they also present certain risks. Even though CSOs need to pursue alternatives, contexts vary and organizations learn and adapt in different ways. These processes require strong visionary leadership, excellent teamwork of leads on finance, resource mobilization and communications, effective positioning and communications, as well as an injection of investment capital. For this to happen, frontline leaders and their grant makers need to move from a transactional to a transformational relationship. CSO leaders need to develop and share their vision and model for future financial resilience, and traditional grant makers need to think of themselves as investors, trusting their partners to find their own unique way to adapt to changing contexts. And this includes giving them permission to fail. </p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We are at an inflection point. Those able to find inspiration in this disruption are able to turn the challenging external context into a real opportunity. Only when frontline leaders and their grant makers, embrace a new way of working and innovating together, are they able to deliver real transformation and big impact. Both want to get to a more just future faster. The key to doing that is to change the conversation on financing for equality, rights and climate justice.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""><img src="//" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="" target="_blank" onMouseOver="document.Imgs.src=''" onMouseOut="document.Imgs.src=''"> <img src="" width="140" name="Imgs" border="0" alt="New High Commissioner for Human Rights – Read on" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/edwin-rekosh/old-dogs-and-new-tricks-rethinking-human-rights-business-models">Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models</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> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights Ellen Sprenger Global Funding for Human Rights Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:30:00 +0000 Ellen Sprenger 104931 at Slavery: memory and afterlives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What role does memory play in the politics of the present? How can we build better futures through politicising the past? The <a href="">Brigstow Institute</a> brings us a series reflecting on these questions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="//" width="100%" /> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">A procession for Slavery Remembrance Day. Department for Local Communities and Government//</p> <p>Tomorrow, 23 August 2016, is International Slavery Remembrance Day; yesterday, the UK’s first ever <a href="">memorial service to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade</a>/African holocaust was held in Trafalgar Square. But what exactly should or can we remember, and why, and what should we ‘do’ with these memories? The forthcoming series of articles will reflect on these questions as they relate to the memory of slavery and the different conversations that can be had about its past and present. But they do not, and cannot, provide <em>the</em> answer to these questions, for there is no simple or single answer.</p> <h2>History and Remembrance</h2> <p>A call for remembrance is not necessarily a call for closer attention to the details of history. It is not essential to be well acquainted with geopolitics or military history in order to remember the war dead. Nor does remembering those whose lives were destroyed by slavery require a knowledge of historic slave regimes. But in former slave and colonial states like Britain, there is a difference between the remembrance of war and the remembrance of transatlantic slavery. Because the latter disrupts the dominant, self-congratulatory national narrative about a country’s love of liberty, equality, democracy and justice.</p> <p>There is also a perceived question mark over the ‘we’ who will do the remembering. In nationalist acts of remembrance, all citizens alike are positioned as owing a debt to the soldiers who are said to have ‘given’ their lives in defending (or aggrandising) the nation. But do all citizens stand in the same relation to the Africans whose lives were stolen to fuel a system that enriched nations, cities, and private individuals? Even if remembrance is made international and imagined as an act of humanitarian mourning, the problem remains. Transatlantic slavery divided and dislocated human populations, and its abolition <a href="">did not undo those divisions</a> or restore communities. &nbsp;The particular character of slavery’s violence is, in <a href="">Stephen Best and Saidiya Hartman</a>’s words, “ongoing and constitutive of the unfinished project of freedom”. If ‘we’ look back in sorrow, we do not do so from the same blank territory of a presumed universal humanity. We do so from our own particular position in the ugly tapestry of inequality woven by the violence and displacement of transatlantic slavery.</p> <h2>A Question of Race?</h2> <p>Race is central to that horrible tapestry, but also complicated. Though every person racialised as black and now living in former slave or colonial states will have experienced, in one way or another, the destructive powers of the anti-black racism spawned by transatlantic slavery, not all will have or feel any personal connection to those who were once enslaved. In fact, for many, their first experience of racism may only have been when slavery was mentioned in the classroom. Plus, as Edson Burton points out in his article for this series, those racialised as black are also divided by class, as well as gender, religion, sexuality, and so on.</p> <p>It is also complicated because being anti-slavery is not the same as rejecting the ideology of race. Many white nineteenth century abolitionists bitterly condemned the human suffering wreaked by slavery without at the same time considering black people to be qualified for freedom and citizenship in white societies. Today, it is perfectly possible for people racialised as white to sincerely mourn the fate of the enslaved without simultaneously challenging anti-black racism or questioning their own white privilege. In this context, what are the dangers and the possibilities opened up by calls for transatlantic slavery remembrance?</p> <h2>Remembering Transatlantic Slavery as a Holocaust</h2> <p>A <a href="">poster</a> created by British-based slavery remembrance activists is currently displayed on a billboard on South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall. It features a photograph taken in 1863 of a man named <a href="">Gordon</a>, who had been enslaved on a Louisiana plantation. The photograph shows him in sitting posture. His face is clear in full profile, but the viewer’s attention is commanded by his bared back, described by a <a href="">contemporary observer</a> as, “Scarred, gouged, gathered in great ridges, knotted, furrowed, the poor tortured flesh stands out a hideous record of the slave-driver’s lash…From such evidence as this, there is no escape, and to see is to believe”.</p> <p>Why ask people in 21<sup>st</sup> Century London to look at this image? One reason is that <a href="">the way history is taught</a> and publicly commemorated in Britain and other former slaving powers <em>does</em> allow escape from evidence like the photo of Gordon’s scourged back. In fact, in Britain, the story of transatlantic slavery is frequently used primarily as a vehicle for proud memories of the white Britons who played a role in its legal abolition. And such national or civic pride is often equally taken in white Britons who, despite actively profiting from their involvement in the murderous trade, also contributed to the wellbeing of their British brethren (to be discussed in forthcoming articles by Olivette Otele, Madge Dresser, and Christine Townsend on Edward Colston’s public memorialisation in Bristol).</p> <p>Against this, Gordon’s image publicly recalls the immense violence enacted upon the victims of transatlantic slavery, and the overwhelming physical force required to transport people into, and prevent them fleeing from, slavery. It acts as a reminder of the many millions who died en route, who were gruesomely tortured and executed by state officials, and who were starved, beaten or worked to death by slaveholders. It focuses attention on transatlantic slavery <em>as a holocaust</em>, in the sense that it entailed the systematic destruction and slaughter of Africans and their descendants on a mass scale.</p> <p>The billboard is titled ‘the African Holocaust Censored’ because when the Stop the Maangamizi organisation sought to advertise its annual march for Reparatory Justice in a major national newspaper earlier this year, <a href="">it was told the paper would not print an advert containing the phrase ‘African Holocaust’ because the word ‘holocaust’ was reserved for the Jewish community</a>. But use of the term ‘holocaust’ and demands for public acknowledgment of the suffering of the enslaved does not detract from similar claims by any other group.</p> <p>Reflecting on the vast disparity between the public outpouring of grief in the US for the lives lost in the attacks of 11 September 2001, and the lack of interest in the hundreds of thousands of civilians who subsequently died as a result of the US ‘War on Terror’, <a href="">Judith Butler</a> has observed that not all lives are regarded as grievable. Some lost lives are not publicly mourned because they are not seen “as worthy of protection, as belonging to subjects with rights that ought to be honored”. Calls to remember transatlantic slavery as an African holocaust are, at one level, calls for its victims to be brought into the fold of the grievable. This is not a competition to win a share of a finite quantity of grief, but an assertion of belonging to humankind. No community loses out by its endorsement. In fact, some might argue that it is the poster’s reproduction of the image of Gordon that raises the more difficult ethical questions.</p> <h2>Memory, Bodies and Subjects</h2> <p>Gordon’s back, upon which the violence and suffering of slavery was so inescapably visible, became an iconic anti-slavery image. Yet Gordon was much more than his bodily surface. He was a man who managed to escape the plantation, outwit the slave patrols and bloodhounds that hunted him, and reach the safety of the Union encampment at Baton Rouge. He subsequently joined the Union States Colored Troops and fought in the Civil War. But his courage, ingenuity, and political commitment are not what he is remembered for.</p> <p>It is true that were we to remember only the bravery of the individuals who escaped, rebelled, and resisted slavery, we would risk minimising the overwhelming structural violence of slavery as an institution, as well as overlooking the quiet courage of the women, men and children who, against such appalling odds, <a href="">made their lives as best they could within its confines</a>. Yet what kind of memory is invited by a photo that focuses attention on Gordon as a suffering body (the image is sometimes even referred to as ‘<em>the</em> scourged back’)? In the context of the racism that insists on seeing white people as individuals, while reducing Others to mere bodies bearing a racialised category, this image can make people uncomfortable not because they want to deny transatlantic slavery’s mass destruction of African lives, but because they do not want be complicit in the kind of voyeuristic gaze so eloquently interrogated in Susan Sontag’s book, <a href=""><em>Regarding the Pain of Others</em></a>.</p> <h2>Mourning and Activism, Mourning As Activism</h2> <p><a href="">Courtney Baker</a> has recently observed that to look at the pain and death of others is not necessarily to exercise a dangerous or disabling power. There is also a form of looking, ‘humane insight’, that actively seeks out knowledge about the humanity of the sufferer. And, she concludes, with humane insight comes an understanding that some modes of mourning are also forms of activism. Here is another sense in which historical context matters. Calls for transatlantic slavery remembrance are today being made in the context of a new wave of black political mobilisation to assert the <a href="">value of black life</a>, <a href="">resist mass incarceration</a>, call for <a href="">reparatory justice</a>, demand that public monuments to colonists and slave traders <a href="">‘must fall’</a>, insist on the <a href="">public memorialisation of victims of white supremacist terror</a>, and so on. The important point is not whether remembrance campaigners have satisfactorily resolved every ethical dilemma surrounding the visual representation of slavery; or whether campaigns for reparations or to remove historical monuments succeed; or even whether everyone agrees that they should. The important point is that contemporary black activists are successfully generating public awareness and political debate on transatlantic slavery’s afterlives in Europe and the Americas. In so doing, they are opening up more and different possibilities for collectively remembering transatlantic slavery and collectively weaving a different future from its living remains. And <em>that </em>is a project that all of us can and should get behind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond Trafficking and Slavery<em> would like to thank Bristol University’s </em><a href=""><em>Brigstow Institute</em></a><em> for this series on Slavery, Memory and Afterlives. Brigstow look at what it means to be human in the 21<sup>st</sup> Century, and that necessarily involves examining the past as it forms the present. This series will do just that, building bridges between past and </em><em>present, between different disciplines, and between academics and activists.</em><em></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</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> Julia O'Connell Davidson Wed, 24 Aug 2016 06:23:38 +0000 Julia O'Connell Davidson 104887 at Voices from the supply chains: an interview with the International Trade Union Confederation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>BTS speaks with Georgios Altintzis of the International Trade Union Confederation on the lag between globalisation and governance that is devastating the global work force.</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe width="460" height="259" src=";showinfo=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p class="image-caption" style="margin-top:0px;padding-top:0px;">A 14-minute master class on all that's wrong with global supply chains.</p> <p><strong>BTS: Georgios, thanks for joining us. Can we start by asking you to explain why <a href="">ILC 2016</a> was so important?</strong></p> <p>GA: It was dealing with an important issue – global supply chains – which involve a number of major governance gaps. The economy has globalised over recent decades but the institutions and means to govern the economy haven’t caught up. This year’s ILC and the wider push towards a global supply chain convention was therefore crucial because it was about building towards global governance. Without that, we have problems. Currently, the way supply chains are structured ensures a race to the bottom when it comes to labour standards and wages. The lower these are, the more value big companies can capture – which is why they like things the way they are.</p> <p><strong>BTS: So in your ideal scenario, we will have a global convention on supply chains?</strong></p> <p>GA: That would be a key first step towards proper global economic governance. It would oblige governments to oblige their multinational companies to apply rules throughout their supply chains. It would force them to conduct meaningful due diligence. </p> <p><strong>BTS: What about the issue of ‘accountability?’</strong></p> <p>GA: Accountability is critical, but that is missing at the moment. Major companies build the <em>lack</em> of accountability into their business plans. They organise production in places with weak or no rule of law, at least with regard to worker protection. This needs to change and we need to hold these companies accountable. </p> <p><strong>BTS: Do you think major companies intentionally build an economic system that fosters exploitation?</strong></p> <p>GA: Definitely. That is how the system works. You have big multinational enterprises designing their products, selling them, and then capturing all the value from the process. While actual production is outsourced and underpaid.</p> <p><strong>BTS: I know that the International Trade Union Confederation has recently released some research about value capture along the value chain…</strong></p> <p>GA: Yes, this was the <a href="">Scandal Report</a>. We showed that companies are making vast profits while workers work in poverty and exploitation. Amazingly, we also found that 94% of the work force in global supply chains is ‘hidden’, working in the informal economy.</p> <p><strong>BTS: This means that there really is a gigantic governance gap.</strong></p> <p>GA: Absolutely.</p> <p><strong>BTS: Moving on, can I ask you to talk to us a bit about ‘due diligence’?</strong></p> <p>GA: Well this is a complicated issue that has been made somewhat clearer by the <a href="">Ruggie Principles on Business and Human Rights</a>. These outline the responsibility that companies have to respect human rights and labour rights, and they outline the responsibility they have to put in place processes that identify, prevent, mitigate and in the end account for the different human rights abuses that may happen in their value chains.</p> <p>In simple terms, when a company directly causes a rights abuse, they have to fix it and compensate for it. Likewise, when that abuse is linked to the company’s operations but not directly caused by it, they have a responsibility to use their influence to address that abuse. Or they have to stop working with, for example, the supplier that abuses.</p> <p>In the end, these principles and this due diligence are important and even if they cannot replace national and international governance, they have the potential to be very powerful. Because if due diligence becomes mandatory, then the entire business model of global supply chains will have to change. Enterprises at the top will have to factor in costs that are now being externalised onto workers and the environment.</p> <p><strong>BTS: Presumably, this will also imply a certain degree of transparency on the part of the multinationals regarding their supply chains?</strong></p> <p>GA: Absolutely. Transparency is a necessary requirement without which we won’t get anywhere. In order to be able to map out supply chains, to know where the responsibility lies and from whom we should be expecting responsibility, we need full transparency.</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> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Georgios Altintzis Voices from the supply chain Wed, 24 Aug 2016 06:00:00 +0000 Georgios Altintzis 103802 at Got tagged? Get fined! Russia’s battle against “digital extremism” <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Russia, the fight against online extremism looks good on paper. But look closer and you’ll find many arbitrary and even absurd convictions.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;<em><strong><a href="">Русский</a></strong></em></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The number of convictions for "extremist expression" in Russia is growing significantly. (с) Vladimir Trefilov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Television remains the main source of information on politics in Russia, but the number of people who get news online grows by the year. Indeed, it’s online that Russia’s independent public discourse and opposition campaigning, as well as, of course, radical campaigning, takes place. This makes the Russian government uncomfortable — and discomfort inevitably results in crackdowns.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Being too broad and vague, Russia’s anti-extremism legislation is ideally suited for punitive measures and its targets can change depending on the political situation and attitudes in society.</p><p>As part of its work monitoring radicalism in Russia, the Sova analytical centre has <a href="">just published a report analysing the Russian state’s fight against “extremism”</a>&nbsp;on the Runet over the last two years.</p><p>The state’s most important measures against “extremist speech” online are criminal proceedings. In 2015, out of 232 convictions over extremist speech that we know of, 194 concerned online speech — about 84%. In 2014, it was no less than 138 out of 165 convictions (the same 84% of the total). And the guilty verdicts are growing annually.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>This tendency is especially picking up online. The main reason for this trend is that Russia’s law enforcement agencies are obviously reorienting toward pursuing those cases that can easily be discovered and prosecuted. The data for the first half of 2016 supports this: of 102 convictions handed down for “extremist expressions”, 92 dealt with online expression — that’s 90%.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Get connected… to the cops<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Since 2010, most proceedings against Russia’s extremists concern their social media activity. By 2015, the number of convicted social media users was twice as big as in 2010. Most of them are users of VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social media network, which is especially beloved by younger citizens, including radical youth.</p><p>VKontakte users are easy to track — they have to add contact information and phone numbers when they register. VKontakte administrators hand over personal data to law enforcement as soon as they’re requested to do so, while foreign administers (at Facebook and Twitter, for example), will actually analyse police requests, and can even deny them.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//–_September_27,_2012_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maxim "Tesak" Martsinkevich, a far-right activist, was sentenced in August 2014 to five years in prison (later reduced to 2 years, 10 months). (c) Maxim Blinov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Traditionally, criminal proceedings are launched against random, unknown VKontakte users and local radical activists. But in 2014 and 2015, the campaign against social media users grew more “politicised” — convictions were handed down to far-right nationalist activists such as St. Petersburg’s </span><a href="">Dmitry “Besheny” Yevtushenko</a><span>, </span><a href="">Nikolai Bondarik</a><span>, and </span><a href="">Maxim Kalinichenko</a><span>, as well as Moscow’s </span><a href="">Maxim “Tesak” Martsinkevich</a><span> and </span><a href="">Vitaly Shishkin</a><span>, plus others.</span></p><p>But the evidence, and how the materials used by the prosecution were chosen, are doubtful in some of the cases. It is possible that the principle of “let’s get them on the first thing we find” is at work. For example, in August 2014, when Maxim Martsinkevich was convicted of posting three videos, they certainly fell under criminal activity, while the popularity of Tesak’s videos carried an obvious public threat. But it’s still uncertain why the least demonstrably criminal videos were chosen. Martsinkevich, for example, has other videos, featuring cruel torture of people, but the violence in them takes place under homophobic slogans.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is hard to tell where the boundary between something objectionable (but legal) and something outright criminal lies&nbsp;</p><p>A number of cases involve abuse of anti-extremist legislation. It’s hard to tell where the boundary between something objectionable (but legal) and something outright criminal lies. When we consider cases where the courts clearly ignored the literal meaning of legislation, we realise that <a href="">at least nine people were wrongly convicted for online posts in 2015</a>. In 2014, there were two such convictions.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The problem is not just with these cases, which aren’t that frequent. The problem also has to do with the unthinkable (by European standards) amount of people convicted of hate speech, even real hate speech involving racist epithets or jihadism. The main reason for launching a criminal case has to do with the level of danger to the public. This has concerns not just the text itself, but who and how many read it.</p><p>Potential readers don’t matter — real readers do. This is especially important for online speech — potentially everything that isn’t password-protected can be read by all of humankind. But the police and the courts don’t see it that way.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Thought crimes in words and pictures</h2><p>Since 2011, the percentage of convictions for multimedia (video, audio, illustrations and photos) has risen considerably. But the videos themselves are often not deemed criminal — only reposting. Those who are convicted over them usually did not create the videos, nor were they the first to post them.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Until recently, sentences for online speech were, by Russian standards, not very harsh — usually community service or fines. But in 2015, both the number and percentage of people sentenced to real time behind bars grew significantly.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In August 2014, Darya Polyudova was sentenced to two years in prison on extremism charges for posting pictures of her activism online. Source: personal page on VKontakte.</span></span></span><span>A percentage of these sentences were handed down for multiple criminal convictions (race-related violence, weapons possession, theft, etc.). Some were sent to prison for violating parole, or else were in prison already. Some were convicted of “extremist speech” for the second time, which seriously increases risk of incarceration — in 2015, there were five of these people, in 2014, one person had a second conviction.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p>But in 2015, at least 16 people were imprisoned for “extremist expressions” alone. Sixteen such sentences is an unprecedented increase for Sova centre analysts. In 2014, harsh sentences were handed down three times. In 2012 and 2013 – one time. In 2011, though, there were four sentences against a total of six people.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Most of those imprisoned spoke against the government and the president of the Russian Federation, against Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine, or for armed jihad&nbsp;</p><p>Most of those imprisoned spoke against the government and the president of the Russian Federation, against Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine, or for armed jihad. At least five were sentenced for calls for xenophobic violence. Based on what we know, nine cases involved calls for violence, two had nothing to do with violence (these are the famous cases against <a href="">Darya Polyudova</a> and <a href="">Raphis Kashapov</a>), and five cases we have no information on.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In total, 14 out of 16 verdicts cannot be called unlawful, but time behind bars is still a very harsh sentence. In almost all of these cases, the principle of the punishment fitting the crime and the balance between restriction and free speech were violated.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Russian law vs. space Nazis<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Besides criminal proceedings, Russia’s administrative code is also widely used. </p><p>In 2015, we know of at least 81 administrative convictions for “the propaganda and public display of Nazi paraphernalia and symbols” handed down for online posts. In 2014, we know of 42 such cases. In 2015, there were 24 unlawful convictions. In 2014 – just three.</p><p><span>The police and the courts take virtually no notice of context in these cases. Often, people convicted over swastikas were using it in a historic context or as a polemic device against an opponent.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="// Shot 2016-08-22 at 15_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In 2012, the clip "Last interview of the Primorye partisans" was declared extremist in court and registered on Russia's list of banned materials. Source: <a href+>YouTube</a>.</span></span></span><span>There have been some outright ridiculous cases. In 2015, a Chelyabinsk resident was convicted over a VKontakte post featuring a still from the movie <em>Iron Sky </em>– <a href="">a sci fi comedy about Earth doing battle with Nazis who took refuge on the moon following the Second World War</a>.</span></span></p><p>In 2014, there were 70 administrative convictions for “mass propagation of extremist materials and/or their production or possession with intent of mass propagation.” In 2014, there were 43. At least 14 such convictions were unlawful in 2015, and nine in 2014.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">A harmless Disney film somehow wound up on the federal list of extremist materials in 2013 — and was finally removed in 2016.&nbsp;</p><p>We also know of a completely absurd case from Siberia’s Tomsk region, where two people were fined for posting a <a href="">classic anti-fascist Donald Duck cartoon</a>&nbsp;“Der Fuhrer’s Face” from 1942. This harmless Disney film somehow wound up on the federal list of extremist materials in 2013 — and was finally removed in 2016.</p><p>There have been no convictions over social media “likes,” although we do know of a conviction over a social media tag. In September 2014, Perm resident Yevgeniya Vychigina <a href="">was fined for being tagged in a repost of a banned video</a>&nbsp;called “The last interview of the Primorye guerrillas”, which details the final address of the group behind a 2010 killing spree in Russia’s Far East. Some “friend” of Vychigan’s on VKontakte tagged her and 30 others when he posted the video, and Vychigna confirmed the tag.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Convicting this user for “propagation of extremist materials” makes little sense. Tagging people on photos and videos to get their attention is common social media practice — there is nothing odd about Vychigina confirming the tag without even seeing the video. This was the first and, so far, only “extremism” case over tags. But should others follow the Perm example, we may see yet more arbitrary convictions.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Russia’s administrative code is also actively used in the campaign to filter content in schools, libraries, internet cafes, post offices and other organisations which provide people with internet access. In 2015, at least 17 individuals and organisations were fined for not blocking “extremist” content. In 2014, there were six such convictions.</p><p>The people who were fined were owners of computer clubs, shopping malls, cafes, a railway station restaurant, a library director and several school administrators.</p><p>In 2015, the owner of a bakery in Penza region was fined for providing WiFi access with no content filtration, therefore, the prosecutor argued, “children visiting the bakery could use access WiFi via telephone” and could therefore gain access to banned informations.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Banned content providers</h2><p><span>Over the last three years, the main targets of the war with extremism online were internet service providers — <a href="">who first and foremost must block access to “extreme” content</a>.</span></p><p>Russia has maintained a unified registry of banned websites since November 2012. At first, Russia’s consumer watchdog Roskomnadzor included websites on the registry if they were judged extremist in court. But in 2014, courts began blocking websites based not on extremism, but whether they provided content similar to already banned content (we’re talking about virtually the same content, usually).</p><p>According to the <a href="">Roskomsvoboda</a> site, by June 2016, there were at least 566 “extremist items” on the register. Based on available data (only Roskomnadzor has access to the full data), 283 sites wound up on the register via court order in 2015. In 2014, 139. In 2014, 20 items placed on the register were doubtful or even outright unlawful. In 2015, 72 such items were placed.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Data centre at telecommunications service Rostelecom, St Petersburg. (c) Vadim Zhernov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Another censorship mechanism came about as the result of the so-called <a href="">“Lugovoi law”</a>,&nbsp;named after Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi (suspected by British police for his alleged role in the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London), which since 2014 has allowed Russia’s general prosecutor to force Roskomnadzor to instantly block sites featuring “calls for mass unrest, extremist activity, ethnic and/or religious strife, participation in terrorist activities, participating in mass activities that violate the established order [i.e. any unsanctioned mass activity].”</span></p><p>Roskomnadzor has a separate registry for working via this mechanism. In 2015, 133 websites were listed there, 166 websites were listed in 2014 (these numbers don’t take into account mirror sites, as well as sites that were unblocked after undesirable content was removed). In 2014, there was doubt of outright illegality in about 53 cases on the so-called “Lugovoi registry,” most of which were opposition sites and sites featuring announcements of dissident activity. In 2015, around 25 pages were blocked unlawfully.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Many absolutely harmless sites are blocked simply for being on the same server&nbsp;</p><p>Although the banned sites registries are formally separated, procedurally speaking, they’re treated the same. Roskomnadzor blocks a URL or a subdomain or even an IP address, which means that many absolutely harmless sites are blocked simply for being on the same server.</p><p>In the last two years, the unified registry has become just another hamfisted mechanism for the Russian state. Websites with calls for violence by skinheads and jihadists are interspersed with peaceful Muslim sites and other harmless resources, while URLs with radical statements from Ukraine are similarly interspersed with perfectly decent articles by Ukrainian media outlets.</p><p>The “Lugovoi registry” features even more ridiculousness and arbitrariness. In most cases, immediate blocking of materials (such as Islamic texts) that have existed online for many years makes no sense. The registry features longtime bans over texts with dates for planned protests that have long since passed. That’s beside the fact that these bans are against the law on freedom of assembly and free speech.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is obvious that stopping mass unrest by blocking information access is impossible — people use too many channels for communication</p><p>The “Lugovoi law” was passed right after violence in the Moscow neighbourhood of Biryulyovo in October 2013, and was justified by a need to quickly stop the mobilisation of people with potential for mass unrest. But it is obvious that stopping mass unrest by blocking information access is impossible — people use too many channels for communication. And anyway, many pages that are similar or even identical to banned websites remain unblocked.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The battle against online extremism has intensified — there are more criminal and administrative convictions than ever before. More and more websites are banned or forced to remove content. But the quality of the legal proceedings is clearly degrading. There is more and more pressure on social media users. Sentences are generally growing harsher.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Why is this happening? Besides the obvious political goals, “bureaucratic inertia” in law enforcement remains a problem. The Russian state’s online anti-extremism warriors are more interested in social media reposts and constant and often meaningless demands to block not very dangerous or even absolutely harmless materials.</p><p>More serious issues, such as the prevention of racist violence, are neglected. Furthermore, measures against “extremist speech” of all kind appear random, while many serious cases simply go unnoticed.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In other words, on paper, the statistics in the fight against extremists look good. But in reality, this battle is not making society safer — it only further limits free speech.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/confession-of-russian-internet-provider">Confession of a Russian internet provider</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/dark-doings-of-russia%E2%80%99s-centre-e">The dark doings of Russia’s Centre E</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-yudina/runet-hate-crime-and-soft-targets-how-russia-enforces-its-anti-extremism-la">RuNet, hate crime and soft targets: how Russia enforces its anti-extremism law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/knocking-back-russia%E2%80%99s-nationalists">Knocking back Russia’s nationalists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-konradova/usenet-coup">The Usenet coup: how the USSR discovered the internet in 1991 </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 Natalia Yudina Wed, 24 Aug 2016 03:30:58 +0000 Natalia Yudina 104923 at The world’s citizens need to take back control – with a Global Parliament <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Brexit vote is an anomaly and an irrational response. We can democratise international organisations - rather than leave them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="252" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hands Around the World: Ugandan Mural – Kampala. Flickr/UK Parliament. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>As global interdependence becomes ever closer and more complex, more and more issues cannot be dealt with by states acting alone. To a large degree, achieving prosperity, development, and security depends on international collaboration and integration.</span></p><p> The Brexit vote is an anomaly and an irrational response to this global trend. While the new British government is preparing for the exit negotiations with the EU, the African Union&nbsp;<a href="">plans to introduce a continental passport</a>&nbsp;and to abolish border controls just as it’s the case in the EU Schengen area. </p><p>Whatever xenophobic and nationalistic demagogues would want people to believe, a Zombie-like resurrection of “national independence” is not a viable option and will only wreak havoc in the world.</p><h2>Intergovernmentalism undermines democracy</h2><p>There is a&nbsp;<a href="">growing recognition</a>, however, that the current form of globalization cannot continue. It accentuates class divisions as economic benefits are distributed in a very uneven way. At the same time, it undermines democracy through intergovernmental cooperation. In many cases, national parliaments are reduced to rubber-stamp institutions that are expected to approve of whatever the government negotiated, if they are consulted at all.</p><p>The UN and its many specialized agencies, the international financial institutions, the World Trade Organization and various intergovernmental networks already perform many of the functions of a world government. But this regime primarily serves the interest of a global elite. As Mary Kaldor&nbsp;<a href="">put it some weeks ago</a>, “in theory we should be able to influence decisions through national membership in global institutions, but in practice such institutions are shaped more by the interests of the global elite than by ordinary citizens.”</p><p>In a&nbsp;<a href="">previous post</a>, Danny Sriskandarajah argued that the system of global governance is supporting “the blatant, endemic collusion between economic and political elites.” He made the case for “radical new forms of representation and oversight” at the global level. </p><p>At the EU level, the directly elected European Parliament guarantees that there is a democratic connection to the citizens. It is the most distinctive expression of the global democratic deficit that no such thing exists in the system of global governance.</p><h2>Strengthening world citizens against the global elite</h2><p>Tax evasion and the use of anonymous shell companies by the super rich is a major assault on the capability of states to provide public services and augments global inequality.&nbsp;<a href="">It is said</a>&nbsp;that between $24 to $36 trillion are hidden in tax havens today. In June, following the spectacular publication of the Panama Papers, the European Parliament established an&nbsp;<a href="">inquiry committee</a>&nbsp;to look into the issue of tax evasion and money laundering.</p><p>Why is there no elected world parliament that would do the same and exercise democratic oversight on behalf of the 99% of the world’s citizens? “The Panama Papers confirm that the world’s elite cheat, lie, and steal,”&nbsp;<a href="">wrote Fred</a><a href="">rik Deboer</a>&nbsp;and proclaimed, “Taxpayers of the World, Unite!” Considering the inability or unwillingness of national governments, the OECD and other bodies to actually deal with the problem, a world parliament composed of government-independent delegates seems to be the best way forward.</p><h2>A UN Parliamentary Assembly</h2><p>Bold thinking is necessary. The concept of global governance—that pretends that government functions can be provided at the global level without the form—is past its best. It is a good sign that leading scholars in international relations, political science, philosophy, sociology, economics and other fields have joined last year to establish a&nbsp;<a href="">World Government Research Network</a>.</p><p>For sure, a world parliament cannot be established from one day to the other. But it’s an alternative and progressive approach to the notion of “taking back control.” It is based on the values of global solidarity and world citizenship. A first step would be possible right now if sufficient political will existed: the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). It could be set up by the General Assembly without the need of Charter reform or the Security Council’s approval.</p><h2>More than 1,500 parliamentarians support a UNPA</h2><p>Boutros Boutros-Ghali who was UN Secretary-General from 1992 to 1996 (ousted by the United States) was an outspoken proponent of this project. When the&nbsp;<a href="">international campaign for a UNPA</a>&nbsp;was launched in 2007, to no small part due to his encouragement,&nbsp;<a href="">he declared</a>&nbsp;that “we need to promote the democratization of globalization, before globalization destroys the foundations of national and international democracy. The establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations has become an indispensable step to achieve democratic control of globalization.”</p><p>To date, the international appeal for a UNPA is supported by a broad range of individuals and institutions from more than 150 countries—in particular, around 1,500 sitting and former members of parliament. Last May, the Pan-African Parliament&nbsp;<a href="">called on the African governments</a>&nbsp;to advance the project at the UN. </p><p>The African Union’s parliament declared that “a UNPA is necessary to strengthen democratic participation and representation of the world’s citizens in the UN” and that the new assembly would “contribute to strengthening democratic oversight over UN operations, particularly in Africa.”</p><h2>The best interest of humanity</h2><p>Indeed, there would be a lot to do for a UNPA. Who, for instance, would be in a better position than the representatives of the world’s citizens to assess the progress on the new sustainable development goals? A UNPA should set up its own human rights commission. It should pressure governments to proceed on disarmament issues. It could monitor the progress on climate change mitigation efforts. Over time, a UNPA should be vested with rights of information, participation, and oversight vis-à-vis all relevant global governance institutions.</p><p>According to&nbsp;<a href="">a recent poll</a>&nbsp;in 18 countries, more than half of those surveyed in emerging economies saw themselves first and foremost as global citizens rather than national citizens. This sentiment would be the dominant feeling of most world parliamentarians. They would be called upon to pursue the best interest of humanity as a whole. In contrast, whatever career diplomats might feel, their duty is to represent their government’s views.</p><h2>The most important proposal to give world citizens a say at the UN</h2><p><a href=""></a>The UN and the institutions of global governance are in dire need of reform. The system is fragmented and often ineffective. There are a myriad of issues that need to be addressed. One of the best overviews in recent times was provided by Joseph Schwartzberg in his book&nbsp;<a href=""><em>Transforming the United Nations System</em></a>. Many proposals are also included in the report of the Commission on Global Security, Justice, and Governance&nbsp;<a href="">that was released last year</a>.</p><p>The creation of a UNPA, however, is the most important one if the world citizens are to have a say at the UN and in the future direction of globalization.</p><p><em>This article was originally published <a href="">here</a></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Andreas Bummel Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:22:54 +0000 Andreas Bummel 104922 at A revolution is not a dinner party <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does the word “revolution” mean the same thing to the Kurdish liberation movement and to American leftists who supported Bernie Sanders? A little history...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;In the 20th century, it was clear what people meant when they used the word “revolution”. <a href="">Mao Zedong</a> said it as well as anyone: “A revolution is not a dinner cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another”.</p> <p>The founders of Turkey’s <a href="">PKK</a> (Kurdish Workers Party) had this definition in mind in 1978 when they laid out a strategy of people’s war leading to an independent Kurdish state. They initially focused on “propaganda of the deed” and military training, building what eventually became an extremely capable force, as ISIS discovered in Syria. But their vision of revolution expanded enormously during the nineties, when a civil resistance movement called the<em> <a href="">Serhildan</a></em> &nbsp;took off in the Kurdish areas of Turkey, along with efforts to build a parliamentary party that could combine electoral and advocacy work. </p> <p>This wasn’t easy since every time the Kurds founded a parliamentary party and ran people for office, the Turkish state made their party illegal—this happened in 1993, 1994, 2003, and 2009 and is <a href="">now happening</a> to the <a href="">HDP</a> (Peoples Democratic Party), despite (or because of) the fact that it won 13.1% of the national vote in the parliamentary election of May 2015. Erdogan’s response to this election was to call another election, and at the same time begin an all out military assault on Kurdish cities in southeastern Turkey, where civilians were subjected to bombardment, depopulation, and massive <a href="">war crimes, </a>their homes and neighborhoods destroyed. This was in the name of fighting PKK terrorism.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Kurdish PKK guerillas.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Kurdish PKK guerillas.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kurdish PKK guerillas. Flickr/David Holt. Some rights reserved</span></span></span></p> <p>In fact, the PKK rejected terrorism over twenty years ago, at their Fifth Congress in 1995, when they <a href="">publicly swore</a> to abide by the Geneva Convention and laws of war, disallowing crimes against civilians while maintaining the right of armed self-defense against the Turkish government. At the same Congress, they founded a separate women’s army to build women’s capacity for leadership in the struggle. Co-mayor of Diyarbakir &nbsp;Gültan Kişanak talked about the way the PKK transformed itself in a <a href="">recent interview</a>, saying that in the early days the perspective was to make a revolution first and then do something about women, but that changed in the nineties because of the influence of the international movement for women’s rights:</p> <p>&nbsp;“Within this new environment, women began to assume important roles and created their own separate branches, not just following what the general political movement says, but also creating alternative policies, which the party must follow.... These changes were not easy and the rights were not just given by men: Kurdish women have fought at all levels and achieved these changes despite barriers within patriarchal society and despite the resistance of some of our male comrades.”</p> <p>The Rojava Kurds follow the same political philosophy as those in the Turkish movement. Thus, despite the newness of Rojava, which became autonomous in 2012, the movement there draws on forty years of accumulated political experience, the last twenty of which have emphasized the development of local democracy, community organizing, and women’s leadership. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Star_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Star_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kongra Star meeting in Rojava. Photo: JINHA Agency</span></span></span></p> <p>I began studying the Kurdish women’s movement during the siege of Kobane and soon became convinced that their story is so important that I had an obligation to get it out in English as fast as I could, even though I couldn’t go there and was limited by my lack of language skills. As I worked on <a href=""><em>A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State</em></a><em>,</em> I was constantly pulled up short by the radical nature of this revolution and the way it questions the most basic leftwing assumptions, not only about women, or about the relationship between armed struggle, mass movement, and parliamentary party, but about the state itself. </p> <p>Marxist-Leninist revolutions of the 20th century were based on the premise that the state was an instrument of bourgeois class domination that could be captured and turned to the interests of the working class under the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. &nbsp;At its <a href=";nom_site=Agence%20Presse%20Associative%20%28APA%29&amp;url_site=">Fifth Congress</a> in 1995, the PKK described how that had worked out in the USSR: </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; “Ideologically, there was a decline to dogmatism, vulgar materialism, and pan-Russian chauvinism; politically, there was the creation of extreme centralism, a suspension of democratic class struggle, and the raising of the State’s interests to the level of the determining factor; socially, there was a reduction in the free and democratic life of the society and its individuals; economically, the state sector was dominant and there was a failure to overcome a consumer society which emulated what was abroad; militarily, the raising of the army and acquiring weapons took precedence over other sectors. This deviation, which became increasingly clear to see during the 1960s, brought the Soviet system to a condition of absolute stagnation”. </p> <p>In 1989, Abdullah Öcalan&nbsp; was captured and <a href="">charged with murder, extortion, separatism, and treaon;</a> his death sentence was commuted to life in prison because of EU regulations. He started to study and write in prison, and began to seriously rethink the role of the state. In his 2005 <a href="">Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan</a>, as well as his writings on women, he laid out a theory that is a complete break with the Leninist playbook. Today the Kurdish liberation movement <a href="">argues</a> that nation-states are intrinsically hierarchical, ethnically based, and sexist; and that rather than seizing the state apparatus, a liberation movement should be involved with the state only to the point of insisting that it be democratic and permit autonomy; beyond that, the movement should focus its energy on developing democratic economies and local self-governance based on anti-capitalist, feminist, and ecologically sound principles. &nbsp;</p> <p>This strategy, as put into practice in Rojava, has not yet been able to reach fulfillment because of<a href=""> war and the embargo</a>. Rojava is surrounded by hostile forces on all sides: battling ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra (now with a <a href="">new sanitized name</a>) and other Islamists in Turkey; <a href="">fired on</a> by the Turkish army and <a href="">recently bombed by Assad</a>; and <a href="">blockaded by Turkey's KDP allies</a> in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region that borders Syria. Together Turkey and the KDP have imposed a brutal economic siege upon Rojava, refusing to let in food, building supplies, drugs and medical equipment, and making it very hard for people to get in or out. As UN aid shipments pile up at the border, Rojava <a href="">can't even feed</a> the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have sought refuge there, the latest wave coming from Manbij and Aleppo. NATO has not put sufficient pressure on Turkey to insist that it lift the siege, nor has the US used its considerable influence with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) </p> <p>July’s attempted military coup in Turkey - which was immediately <a href="">denounced</a> by the HDP - does not seem to have changed anything for the better as far as the Kurds are concerned.</p> <p>Though the coup was led by the same officers who had been bombing Kurdish cities, Kurdish spokespeople see what has happened since as a counter-coup, with Erdogan intent on imposing an Islamist dictatorship rather than a military one. It is surely significant that the only party Erdogan has <a href="">excluded</a> from his post-coup grand democratic coalition is the HDP, party of Kurds, hipsters, intellectuals, feminists, minorities, and gays.</p> <p>It was a strange experience to be writing <em>A Road Unforeseen</em> just as <a href="">Bernie Sanders' </a>“political revolution” was taking off in the US. I supported Sanders; it felt great to hear a politician of national stature use the language of the left which became virtually taboo in mainstream US after the fall of the Berlin Wall. &nbsp;And it was extremely moving to watch a new generation respond to radical ideas. But Bernie never really explained what he meant by a “political revolution” and many of his supporters were young, had not studied much history, and seemed to think it was possible to make a revolution in one electoral campaign. Their pain when Bernie endorsed Hillary Clinton - as he had always said he would if she got the nomination - was understandable, as was their outrage that the party system turned out to be partisan, ruled by considerations of long-term career affiliation, and unfriendly to sudden democratic eruptions from outside.</p><p>The history of the Kurdish movement could teach them how hard it is to make a revolution, how long it takes, and why women are key to the process. As <a href="">Frederick Douglass</a> said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” The history of US labour shows that when substantial economic interests are at stake, the powers-that-be fight to hold every inch. The kind of change we need in the US will not happen in one electoral cycle. It will not happen through electoral politics alone, or protests alone either. It will only happen through the kind of dedicated long term organizing the Kurds have done. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Kurdish liberation movement developed the strength we see today through many years of public education, building its own institutions, combining electoral and parliamentary work with nonviolent resistance and armed self-defense when necessary, striving to “serve the people,” as the Black Panthers used to say, and build democratically-run organizations that can be held accountable. This is why it is so important to support them as well as learn from their example. &nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="">A Road Unforeseen: Women fight the Islamic State</a></strong> <em>is published by Bellevue Literary Press in August 2016</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nadje-al-ali-latif-tas-g-ltan-ki-anak/kurdish-women-s-battle-continues-against-state-and-patriarchy-"> Kurdish women’s battle continues against state and patriarchy, says first female co-mayor of Diyarbakir. Interview </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/revolution-for-our-times-rojava-northern-syria">A revolution for our times: Rojava, Northern Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-it-s-raining-women">Rojava revolution: It’s raining women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-on-hoof">Rojava revolution: on the hoof </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/rojava-s-commitment-to-jineoloj-science-of-women">Rojava’s commitment to Jineolojî: the science of women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-reshaping-masculinity">Rojava revolution: reshaping masculinity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/who-are-they-these-revolutionary-Rojava-women">Who are they, these revolutionary Rojava women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/writing-new-feminist-text-for-our-times">Writing a new feminist text for our times </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> 50.50 50.50 Revolution in Rojava 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick Meredith Tax Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:27:33 +0000 Meredith Tax 104893 at Job automation threatens peoples' livelihoods. Can universal basic income save the day? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Technological developments are rendering many jobs obsolete. Can implemeting a universal basic income provide a way of managing the social and economic implications of such a radical transformation?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A robot faces off against a human in a game of &#039;rock paper scissors&#039; at the Science Museum, London."><img src="//" alt="A robot faces off against a human in a game of 'rock paper scissors' at the Science Museum, London. Photo: Ian Nicholson / PA Ar" title="A robot faces off against a human in a game of &#039;rock paper scissors&#039; at the Science Museum, London." width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A robot faces off against a human in a game of 'rock paper scissors' at the Science Museum, London. Photo: Ian Nicholson / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>In early 2013, a colleague and I attended the inaugural meeting of the UK Robot Ethics association. There, we suggested that developments in robotics and computing technology meant that we needed to re-evaluate some of our economic thinking. Machines were now increasingly capable of replacing human cognitive power as well as physical power, as had primarily been the case in the past. There is an orthodox idea in economics according to which increases in productivity driven by technology will not create long-term or ‘structural’ unemployment. Conventional thinking has it that as technology-driven productivity increases expand the economy, new jobs will be created. And indeed, this has been the case historically.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">Machines are now increasingly capable of replacing human cognitive power as well as physical power</p><p dir="ltr"><span>We pointed out that while in the past the automation of traditional physical-labour-intensive jobs had led to the expansion in the labour market of jobs requiring cognitive rather than physical force, this time around the automation of human cognitive power would leave us struggling to figure out what capacities we had left to exploit in the labour market. There are three obvious answers: really high cognitive function roles, such as computer programming; emotional work like therapy and some care roles; and jobs requiring a great deal of physical human-to-human contact like physical or massage therapy. But these are relatively niche parts of the labour market. When machines replaced horses as the main suppliers of power for the transport industry, horses did not vanish altogether from the economy, they simply became confined to very niche areas of it, namely recreation. Could something similar happen to human beings in the age of intelligent machines?</span></p><p dir="ltr">At that meeting in 2013 we were politely ignored by the organisers and gently mocked by precocious engineering post-doctoral researchers, who endeavoured to teach us a bit of economics 101. However, when we queried these bright young minds about what roles humans might continue to play in an economy where machine power could increasingly replace human power both physically and intellectually, the answer also seemed to refer to niche parts of the economy and often to artisanal baked goods. Sadly, banana muffins do not an economy make. </p><h3>Do androids dream of a 9-5?</h3><p dir="ltr">Fast-forward to today and the story is completely different. Not only in academia, which is usually slow to adapt, but also in the mainstream media, articles about robots stealing our jobs appear at such a frequency that one could be forgiven for suspecting that they were written themselves by highly efficient intelligent machines. </p><p dir="ltr">The idea that automation could lead, in the not so distant future, to large-scale unemployment has been discussed by <a href="">Paul Krugman</a>, <a href="">Paul Mason</a>, and many people not named Paul (like <a href="">Moshe Vardi</a>). It is an academic paper written by two Oxford economists, Michael Osborne and Carl Frey, that has perhaps had the largest impact on the debate. Their paper, ‘<a href="">The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?</a>’ argued that 47% of American Jobs were at risk of automation in the near future. Even if their findings are off by half, it would still be enough to raise the prospect of a major social and political crisis. </p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">Political resistance to automation has been weakened by the decimation of labour unions</p><p dir="ltr">Critics of Osborne and Frey’s findings have pointed out that their methodology does not take into account job growth as a result of increased economic productivity, the possible impact of falling labour costs, or political resistance to automation. These are good points, but may not carry the kind of weight needed to comfort us. As <a href="">Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee</a>, <a href="">Paul Krugman</a>, and the global consultancy <a href="">McKinsey</a> have pointed out, US dept. of Labour statistics show us that the link between productivity increase and job growth in the US economy has been seemingly severed since about 2000. </p><p dir="ltr">Political resistance to automation has been weakened by the decimation of labour unions in the United States and Europe. And as technology grows cheaper, the amount of flexibility in labour costs will diminish (McKinsey predicts that ‘Advanced robotics, for example, has the potential to affect $6.3 trillion in labor costs globally’). Any major further reduction in labour costs will likely have a negative impact on the capacity of national governments to provide the basic services of the welfare state. </p><h3>Silver linings</h3><p dir="ltr">Some see a silver lining in all of this. A proposal that is increasingly gaining traction is that job losses can be offset by the introduction of a universal basic income (UBI). Each citizen would be paid a basic income by the government regardless of whether they worked or not. Any job that a citizen might have would be income above and beyond the basic income. </p><p dir="ltr">There are many versions of basic income theory. It’s an idea that for various reasons is embraced by many on the left and the libertarian right, though often in very different ways. <a href="">Basic Income pilot studies</a> have been conducted around the world, usually with successful results. The dreaded lack of incentive for work that many critics of UBI worry about does not materialise. Given the greater economic freedom offered by a basic income, people don’t tend to become lazy dossers, but instead work differently and in ways that could easily be considered better. There are currently pilot projects planned in the city of <a href="">Utrecht</a> (Netherlands) and in <a href="">Finland</a>, where there has been some criticism that rolling all existing welfare payments into a single basic income will leave some of the most vulnerable recipients worse off. </p><h3>Testing the law of unintended consequences</h3><p dir="ltr">I don’t have any objection in principle to the idea of a basic income. Indeed, I agree that it may be the best approach to tackling the social and political fallout of automation. There are however some issues that I think need to be investigated, alongside the big question of how to pay for it. I’ll briefly mention three of those here. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Firstly, we live on a planet of finite and increasingly dwindling resources. The replacement of human labour by machine power will still require energy resources, although there are likely savings to be made. A driverless car or lorry, for example, may have an overall lower energy requirement than a lorry or car with a human driver. However, increases in productivity will also likely require increases in energy requirements. A population freed from labour by basic income will presumably still want to do things, and these things will require energy. In a world where humans engage in leisure while machines labour, energy requirements will very probably place an increased strain on the environment. UBI as an answer to automation does not address the ecological challenges posed by the growth-model of the economy. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Secondly, people don’t work solely to fill their stomachs. In modern industrial and post-industrial societies, we very often construct our social and political identities in large part from the work that we do. The German political philosopher Hannah Arendt famously made a distinction between labour and work. Labour is what we do to survive, but work, which goes well beyond its narrow traditional meaning, is what gives our lives meaning. Work is how we build a meaningful world around us. The problem that Arendt pointed to was that in modern society work had largely been reduced to labour. This reduction means that many people lack identity and indeed public meaning-creating activity in their lives outside of their job and profession. </p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">We very often construct our social and political identities in large part from the work that we do</p><p dir="ltr">Freed from the necessity of labour and jobs in a traditional sense, I imagine that many people will not so easily find work that will give their lives meaning. We need not simply accept this situation: it’s perfectly feasible that new social structures could be created that allow people to find public identity and meaning outside of the frame of traditional employment. Some of these already exist, but not nearly on the scale that would be needed to address the challenge of a jobless society. </p><p dir="ltr">A third reason to be concerned about job automation beyond the loss of income has to do with political power. The political power of the working classes, of the majority, has nearly always been based on the power that the workers had to slow or stop the economy. Where political and economic concessions that have improved the lives of working people have been won, it has happened not out of the kindness or principles of capitalists, but because working people had the power to bring the economy to a halt. </p><p dir="ltr">In breaking the power of the labour unions, political leaders in the west have already greatly degraded the political power of working people. One of the few areas where labour unions are still able to exercise some power is in transport. Rail workers, lorry drivers, and port-workers are still able to leverage their political power through strike action. This is, coincidence or not, one of the areas where automation looks to have a huge impact. </p><p>Were it not for the power wielded in the nineteenth century by organisations like the Birmingham Political Union, whose members were drawn largely from the working class, the franchise may never have been granted to non-landowners. This power was in large part based on a fear of political and economic unrest – fear of striking workers. The basic point is this: there is a fundamental relation between the capacity of the working classes to slow or stop economic activity and social or liberal democratic governance as we know it. The loss of this power by the majority has already had and will very probably have further negative impact on our democratic institutions. Universal basic income is an idea whose time has come in no small part due to the threat of job automation. However, it is an idea, which if it is to be implemented, will require a major rethink of &nbsp;major facets of our current societal arrangement. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jurgen-de-wispelaere/after-swiss-basic-income-vote-learning-political-lessons-is-">After the Swiss basic income vote – learning political lessons is key!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rajesh-makwana/rethinking-basic-income-in-sharing-society">Rethinking basic income in a sharing society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/francesca-bria/robot-economy-full-automation-work-future">The robot economy may already have arrived</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Darian Meacham Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:46:18 +0000 Darian Meacham 104921 at