openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en What came before #MeToo? The ‘himpathy’ that shaped misogyny https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lilian-calles-barger/what-came-before-metoo-himpathy-that-shaped-misogyny <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kate Manne’s “<a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/down-girl-9780190604981?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">Down Girl</a>” describes the origins of a punitive social system that keeps women in their place by rewarding compliance and punishing resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LilianBarger.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">llustration&nbsp;by Fran Murphy for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The #MeToo movement has brought unprecedented attention to sexual harassment and assault. It’s revealed just how many women feel besieged by sexually predatory behavior—especially in the workplace. The wave of women coming forward has shown that sexual harassment is the rule in many institutions.  </p> <p>And #MeToo has only revealed a small piece of a much larger problem. Although the most high-profile #MeToo stories have focused on celebrities or executives, most victims are disproportionately young, low-income, and minority women. Also less evident in the #MeToo movement have been cases of sexual violence: where shaming, trolling, threats, and unwelcome advances have given way to rape, physical violence, and even forms of torture—of which choking is the most common. </p> <p>In its most extreme cases, it can literally be a matter of life and death, and yet sexual harassment and violence remain largely hidden by an elaborate system of denial, gaslighting, and retraction of accusations by women. Meanwhile, unrepentant abusers are often comforted or excused while victims are blamed. </p> <p>How did we get here? Moral philosopher Kate Manne’s book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/down-girl-9780190604981?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny</a></em>, helps explain. Thanks to Manne, the undue comfort that men receive now has a name: It’s called himpathy. And, together with how she defines misogyny, Manne provides a useful framework for understanding not just the present #MeToo moment, but what came before. </p> <p>For Manne, misogyny is not simply “men who hate women.” That’s far too simplistic, she says. Rather, it’s a far-reaching, punitive social system that keeps women in their place by rewarding </p> <p>Himpathy, a term destined to become part of the feminist vocabulary, names a problem previously unrecognized—and perhaps that’s the first step in solving it. Manne defines himpathy as the “excessive sympathy sometimes shown to male perpetrators of sexual violence,” in the attempt to preserve their reputation, power, or status. Accused men, especially those with privilege, are broadly treated with deference by the media and the public, and if they’re brought to court are given lenient sentences. </p> <p>This is so common as to be a given for men in power. Harvey Weinstein is a case in point. Wielding control over the film careers of many and trading on his artistic reputation, he escaped unscathed for decades. Excuses are abundantly generated: alcohol, flirtation taken too far, or provocation on the part of the victim. Himpathy builds on the idea that sexual predators and rapists are creepy monsters, not “golden boys.” Correspondingly, the women in these situations are characterized as hysterical, misguided, or liars who misread the intentions of their attackers. </p> <p>Himpathy is a helpful explanation of the response after sexual abuse allegations are revealed. Over and over, we’ve seen victim blaming and rewriting of the story by friends, family, media, and sometimes even the victim. Responses to #MeToo revelations by close-at-hand onlookers are often characterized by shock and guilt for having looked the other way when powerful and respected men are involved. </p> <p>But himpathy is certainly not a recent phenomenon. Historically, misogyny and himpathy have been normal, if unrecognized, fare for women in the workplace. </p> <p>Sexual coercion at work had to be named before it could be fought, and feminists of the 1970s identified common experiences women suffered by naming marital rape and domestic abuse. The term “sexual harassment” in the workplace was defined by Lin Farley in her 1978 book, “Sexual Shakedown: The Sexual Harassment of Women on the Job,” as “unsolicited nonreciprocal male behavior that asserts a woman’s sex role over her function as a worker.” </p> <p>Farley joined the legal scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon in pressing the courts to consider it part of “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act gave women and minorities new rights in employment. But there was still backlash. A law on the books is only the first step in triggering a cultural shift. And law is not useful unless some are willing to use it and make a claim.</p> <p>The recognition of sexual harassment as a form of employment-related discrimination opened the floodgates: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began receiving tens of thousands of claims each year. Even with a rush of claims, many from low-wage workers, the definition of sexual harassment as interpreted by the courts is narrow and fails to consider the disadvantaged social circumstances of women that dissuade many from seeking legal recourse. Over the next 40 years, as women entered previously male-dominated fields, sexual harassment, though illegal under the law, persisted. </p> <p>Take, for example, the high-profile cases of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas in 1991 or Bill Clinton and Paula Jones in 1994. Despite attracting a great deal of attention, these failed to mobilize a mass movement. In both cases, the men involved were held by many to be blameless while Hill and Jones were scrutinized for ill intentions. Hill’s accusation on national television ultimately did not stop the Thomas confirmation, and Jones faded into obscurity. High-profile cases like these are easily dismissed as aberrations, a moral failure of one individual, a political plot, or gold-digging on the part of victims. Non-transgressing men benefit from a system that keeps women in their place, and low-profile cases continue to be invisible. </p> <p>The backlash against #MeToo, in an already global movement, has begun. Sometimes the case is taken up by women, such as the actress Catherine Deneuve, who evoked the French tradition of seduction against sexual puritanism: “Clumsy flirting is not a crime,” she said. Claire Berlinski, writing for The American Interest, charged that in #MeToo, “mass hysteria had set in [as] a form of moral panic” that misinterprets naturally romantic interactions as nefarious. </p> <p>This women-against-women narrative is part of the story of misogyny and himpathy—and it’s part of why it’s so difficult to remedy. By standing by their man, “good women” show their deference and act as enforcers. In exchange for upholding gender norms—and participating in misogyny by punishing those who don’t—they earn favors and advancement, which reinforces even further the social deviance of the victims.</p> <p>After all, women can say no, these defenders say. But if you are not a woman with executive power or Meryl Streep, saying no is difficult.</p> <p>Women who work to support their families have few options. When the choice is between your job and your dignity, himpathy is likely to work as a silencing mechanism. Unless #MeToo successfully expands beyond professional women by reaching out to empower pink- and blue-collar women who suffer in silence under male supervisors, it will leave its mark but will not have done its most significant work. </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/ruth-c-white/is-toxic-masculinity-mask-for-anxiety">Is toxic masculinity a mask for anxiety?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/perry-dougherty/metoo-dialogue-and-healing">#MeToo, dialogue and healing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/women-beware-president-trump-and-promise-of-violence"> Women beware: President Trump and the promise of violence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lilian Calles Barger Liberation Intersectionality Care Thu, 18 Oct 2018 18:28:39 +0000 Lilian Calles Barger 119873 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Christian right and some UK feminists ‘unlikely allies’ against trans rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-nandini-archer/christian-right-feminists-uk-trans-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New analysis shows that groups that traditionally disagree are now on the same side – against reforming the Gender Recognition Act.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CPNA4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women opposing trans rights reforms protest in London."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CPNA4.png" alt="Women opposing trans rights reforms protest in London." title="Women opposing trans rights reforms protest in London." width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women opposing trans rights reforms protest in London. Photo: Sophie Hemery.</span></span></span>Christian conservatives have become the unlikely allies of women’s groups mobilising against trans rights reforms in the UK, openDemocracy can reveal. </p><p dir="ltr">There is no evidence that they are actively working together. But our analysis of <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Topics/Justice/law/17867/gender-recognition-review/review-of-gender-recognition-act-2004-list-of-orga">responses</a> to a Scottish consultation on potential reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) found that <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cq4CzRgTso9Vc3o67T4rwAMKIOxrqpHzvuqScmJCWuA/edit?usp=sharing">opposition</a> came from these two groups. </p><p dir="ltr">Roughly half of the anti-reform submissions came from Christian conservative groups, which traditionally oppose abortion and same sex marriage; the other half were submitted by women’s groups that fight for these rights. </p><p dir="ltr">Some of their arguments in response to the consultation’s questions were also markedly similar: that reforms would threaten women-only spaces, marriages, families, and the safety of women and children.</p><p dir="ltr">The UK government is <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004">considering reforms</a> to the 2004 law, which enables people to change their gender on legal documents, after a survey found the current process “too bureaucratic, expensive and intrusive”. </p><p dir="ltr">A public consultation on these reforms in England and Wales closes on 19 October. A separate consultation in Scotland earlier this year attracted an avalanche of <a href="https://consult.gov.scot/family-law/review-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004/">more than 15,500 submissions</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Our analysis of more than 150 published responses to the Scottish consultation shows that only about 20% opposed reforms – and how groups that sharply disagree on other rights issues have converged against this one.</p><p dir="ltr">Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance policy officer at the Equality Network, said the opposition is likely to fail. “However, it is having a big personal impact on trans people at the moment,” as “many trans people feel under attack.”</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s groups opposing reforms “might want to consider what it says about their campaign,” Valentine added, that others taking similar positions are “conservative religious lobby groups [that] are no friends of women’s rights.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Conservative religious lobby groups are no friends of women’s rights”</p><p dir="ltr">Valentine added that the proposed reforms won’t affect access to single-sex spaces, which is covered under <a href="https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance">separate equality legislation</a>. </p><p>The reforms would “simply improve the process for trans people to change the gender on their birth certificates – and when was the last time you were asked to show your birth certificate before using a toilet or changing room?”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CPNA3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Submissions to the Scottish consultation, opposing reforms."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CPNA3.png" alt="Submissions to the Scottish consultation, opposing reforms." title="Submissions to the Scottish consultation, opposing reforms." width="460" height="274" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Submissions to the Scottish consultation, opposing reforms. Image: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>The <a href="https://consult.gov.scot/family-law/review-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004/user_uploads/sct1017251758-1_gender_p4--3-.pdf">proposed reforms</a> would enable trans people to legally self-identity their gender, “removing requirements… to provide medical evidence and to have lived in their acquired gender for two years before applying”.</p><p dir="ltr">The government’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004">web page</a> insists its consultation “does not consider the question of whether trans people exist”. People can already legally change their gender, it says, “and there is no suggestion of this right being removed”. </p><h2>Christian opposition</h2><p dir="ltr">The Scottish consultation asked questions including: if respondents agreed with a self-declaratory system; if reforms should apply to younger people; and whether spousal consent should be required for legal gender recognition. </p><p dir="ltr">Submissions came in from across the UK – as well as from groups in other countries including Canada, the US, and Australia. </p><p dir="ltr">ADF International, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-ella-milburn/christian-legal-army-court-battles-worldwide">the global branch of a US Christian ‘legal army’</a> that defends opponents of sexual and reproductive rights in courts around the world, <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539269.pdf">said</a> in its submission that “gender dysphoria” is “as rare as it is serious”.</p><p dir="ltr">“Persons with such presentations,” ADF International claimed, “have testified that they felt nothing less than their sanity to be at stake".</p><p dir="ltr">The Newcastle-based Christian Institute – which previously worked with ADF International to support a London registrar who <a href="https://adfinternational.org/legal/ladele-v-united-kingdom/">refused to officiate at same-sex civil partnerships</a> – also submitted to the Scottish consultation. </p><p dir="ltr">It <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539465.pdf">criticised</a> the “fundamental premise” that “a man can become a woman and that a woman can become a man”, saying the current law “creates a legal fiction” and that reforms could “abolish” women-only spaces.</p><p dir="ltr">Other Christian groups <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539279.pdf">warned</a> that women and girls could end up in “vulnerable and potentially risky situations” under the reforms and <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539283.pdf">cited</a> "the mental suffering of wives and children of men who decide to live as transgendered”. </p><p>The Maryburgh and Killearn Free Church of Scotland <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539377.pdf">said</a> gender is “decided by GOD… while in our mother's womb” and “that lovely woman they fell in love with and married who now wants to be a man – such horror is incredible!”</p><h2>‘Unlikely allies’</h2><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, women’s groups opposing the reforms include Midlothian Women's Spaces, which <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539381.pdf">said</a> “a man in a dress is not a woman” and the YES Matters group, which <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539509.pdf">said</a> “gender dysphoria is a mental health condition”. </p><p dir="ltr">Women's Place UK <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539502.pdf">said</a> the proposed reforms may have “unintended consequences for the safety and well-being of women and girls” as “predatory men could demand access to women-only spaces and services”. </p><p dir="ltr">Some women’s groups also argued that people are born male or female and cannot change this and that reforms could negatively affect marriages.</p><p dir="ltr">OBJECT – Women Not Sex Objects! <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539395.pdf">argued</a>: “We are a sexually dimorphic species, born (not 'assigned') male or female at birth. This is a scientific fact.” Recognising other genders “is a recipe for madness”, it added.</p><p dir="ltr">Lesbian Strength Scotland <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539371.pdf">said</a> that one partner in a same-sex relationship deciding to change their gender can affect “the nature of a marriage, and is likely to be linked to a distressing and sudden change in character”.</p><p dir="ltr">Fair Play for Women <a href="https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00539305.pdf">added</a> that if a woman’s husband changes his legal gender to female, “her marriage has fundamentally and dramatically changed” while divorce “may not be an easy option” for some, including “devout Catholics.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Would set trans rights back decades’</h2><p dir="ltr">Valentine, the Scottish Trans Alliance policy officer, told us that most of the largest Scottish women’s groups support the proposed reforms while a “small minority” is “organising a campaign, which relies heavily on misinformation”.</p><p dir="ltr">They said that groups opposing reforms are not focusing on the specific law and reforms under consideration “but seeking to repeal trans people’s protection from discrimination, which would set trans rights back decades”.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s not surprising to see Christian fundamentalists in this opposition, said Isabel Marler at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), describing them as “quick to deploy” whenever legal changes might grant marginalised groups more rights. </p><p dir="ltr">Their interest in this topic, she said, may be because “they see it as a ‘wedge’ issue” with less social consensus and “potential to whip up a moral panic.” </p><p dir="ltr">But she argued that anti-reform women’s groups should “reflect on the fact that they are aligned with some of the most patriarchal ideologies around, and ask themselves if their version of feminism is working for the liberation of all women and oppressed people”.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fopendemocracy5050%2Fvideos%2F2039472552776087%2F&show_text=0&width=476" width="450" height="450" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>* 50.50 is tracking the backlash against trans rights in the UK as part of our ongoing series <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">tracking the backlash</a> against women’s and LGBT rights. </em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Civil society Equality Tracking the backlash women's movements gender fundamentalisms feminism young feminists Nandini Archer Claire Provost Thu, 18 Oct 2018 11:47:30 +0000 Claire Provost and Nandini Archer 120110 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Bolsonaro effect https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/henrique-furtado/violence-bolsonaro-effect-and-crisis-of-brazilian-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: left;">It sounds like a distasteful joke, but Brazilians are on the verge of electing a far-right president (Jair Messias Bolsonaro) and it is difficult to estimate what this means to progressive forces in Brazil. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/henrique-furtado/el-efecto-bolsonaro">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/8R61ZqcS_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/8R61ZqcS_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="241" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>It sounds like a distasteful joke, but Brazilians are on the verge of electing a far-right president. After winning the first ballot on 7 October, candidate Jair Messias Bolsonaro (Social Liberal Party) now leads the polls for the second ballot enjoying 58% of voting intentions (<a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/brazil/2018/10/as-runoff-campaign-begins-bolsonaro-has-58-and-haddad-42.shtml">considering only the valid votes</a>). It is difficult to estimate what this means to progressive forces in Brazil. </p><p>Much more than a controversial figure, Bolsonaro has become famous for expressing openly homophobic, unapologetically misogynist, shamelessly racist and hysterically anti-communist views. The presidential candidate represents the ugliest and most violent face of the global far-right movement, currently on the rise in all corners of the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Bolsonaro stands out as the messiah of what many have dubbed a conservative counter-offensive in the making after decades of leftist governments.</p> <p>A former military officer Bolsonaro remained a marginal figure within Brazilian politics for the good part of his 27 years as a congressman. Only recently has the far-right candidate experienced a stratospheric rise in notoriety. Bolsonaro stands out as the messiah of what many have dubbed a conservative counter-offensive in the making after decades of leftist governments. </p><p>His radical anti-leftist rhetoric (accusing progressives of corrupting Brazilian democracy) and hyper-liberal agenda (in defence of <a href="https://br18.com.br/wp-content/uploads/sites/683/2018/08/PLANO_DE_GOVERNO_JAIR_BOLSONARO_2018.pdf">property and minimum state</a>&nbsp;interference) seems to be especially appealing to those who were “never left behind by anything”: the well-educated, male middle classes that saw their privileges relatively undermined by small distributive gains during the Worker Party’s administrations. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">The “Bolsonaro effect” already raises serious questions regarding the relationship between violence and democracy in Brazil.</p><p>Despite a longstanding political career, Bolsonaro managed to play the role of an “outsider” capable of cleansing the Brazilian political system from a series of impurities (<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-35810578">ranging from crime and corruption scandals</a>, to Bolivarianism and “gender ideology”). </p><p>Seen as a joke by many, Bolsonaro became a serious contender when Lula da Silva (the historic leader of the Worker’s Party) was first imprisoned and later <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2018/08/31/politica/1535731172_241117.html">forced out of the presidential campaign</a>&nbsp;on account of controversial corruptions charges. </p><p>To this very day, the far-right leader shows ever stronger signs that he might, against all odds and against all good sense, become the next president of Brazil. &nbsp;</p> <p>Irrespective of the results, the “Bolsonaro effect” already raises serious questions regarding the relationship between violence and democracy in Brazil. </p><p>First and foremost, Bolsonaro’s constant flirtation with violent ideas and behaviour is simply incompatible with the basic tenets of democracy. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">The frontrunner has more than once expressed abject political views regarding the rights of minorities. He has condoned rape, stated that African-descendants are useless, and confessed he would rather see one of his sons&nbsp;dead than in the arms of another man.</p><p>The frontrunner has more than once expressed abject political views regarding the rights of minorities. He has condoned rape, stated that African-descendants are useless, and confessed he would rather see one of his sons <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-who-is-quotes-brazil-president-election-run-off-latest-a8573901.html">dead than in the arms of another man</a>. </p><p>Bolsonaro’s views on public security (and specially state-led violence) are at best rudimentary and at worst truly frightening. A passionate advocate of relaxed ownership laws for small weapons, <a href="https://politica.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,policial-que-nao-mata-nao-e-policial-diz-bolsonaro">Bolsonaro believes that a police officer</a> who does not kill is underserving of the blue uniform. </p><p>A stark supporter of the civic-military dictatorship (1964-1985), the far-right leader has many a times expressed his admiration for former state terrorists and agents of the political police. </p><p>In his view, the fact that political dissidents were systematically tortured during the dictatorship is not a problem. <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-who-is-quotes-brazil-president-election-run-off-latest-a8573901.html">The real problem is that some of them survived</a>. </p> <p>Brazil is already an unacceptably violent country. Last year, <a href="http://www.forumseguranca.org.br/publicacoes/anuario-brasileiro-de-seguranca-publica-2018/">more than 60,000 people were assassinated</a>. Between 2003 and 2011, the number of homicides in Brazil (449,985) went well beyond the overall <a href="https://www.iraqbodycount.org/">casualties of the Iraq Wa</a>r&nbsp;(251,000). Such high levels of violence include risks to the safety of politicians and social leaders. </p><p>This year, the death of Marielle Franco (Socialism and Liberty Party) – a black and LGBT rights activist, and councillor, assassinated by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/18/marielle-franco-brazil-favelas-mourn-death-champion">unidentified suspects in Rio de Janeiro</a>&nbsp;– spurred outrage and commotion throughout the World. Without exaggeration, engaging in politics could well be classified as a high-risk job in Brazil.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Even in a context marked by violence, no one can honestly and responsibly dismiss the risks that Bolsonaro’s strategy of embracing violence entails.</span>In the past five years alone, at least 194 people were<a href="https://brasil.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,pais-tem-pelo-menos-194-assassinatos-de-politicos-ou-ativistas-sociais-em-5-anos,70002231748"> assassinated due to political reasons</a>. If we go back in time from 1979 onwards (when Brazil was giving the first, baby steps towards transitioning from being a civic-military dictatorship to a liberal democracy) the <a href="https://brasil.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,pais-tem-pelo-menos-194-assassinatos-de-politicos-ou-ativistas-sociais-em-5-anos,70002231748">figure rises to staggering 1345</a>&nbsp;documented cases.</p> <p>Even in a context marked by violence, no one can honestly and responsibly dismiss the risks that Bolsonaro’s strategy of embracing violence entails. </p><p>There is a serious concern that the “Bolsonaro effect” could lead to an even more sombre scenario, in which republican ties of conviviality are dissolved. </p><p>So far, Bolsonaro has done very little to dispel this risk. On the contrary, expressing a trademark contempt for civility, the far-right leader jokingly suggested during one of his political rallies that “supporters of the <a href="https://extra.globo.com/noticias/brasil/campanha-confirma-video-em-que-bolsonaro-fala-em-fuzilar-petralhada-do-acre-foi-brincadeira-23033904.html">Worker’s Party should be gunned down</a>”. </p><p>To make things worse, days after his reproachable comment, Bolsonaro himself was the victim of a failed assassination attempt. The candidate was stabbed by a member of the public during one of his rallies,<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/06/brazil-jair-bolsonaro-far-right-presidential-candidate-stabbed"> in the city of Juiz de Fora, state of Minas Gerais</a>.</p><p>Similar to what happened in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/06/brazil-jair-bolsonaro-far-right-presidential-candidate-stabbed">Britain after the Brexit vote</a>, a series of violent incidents involving far-right supporters have been reported on social media after Bolsonaro’s resounding victory in the first ballot. These range from verbal aggression (including chants that Bolsonaro will order the deaths of LGBT people) and multiple beatings to gruesome episodes. </p><p>Two cases worth mentioning involve far-right supporters carving up a swastika on <a href="https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-45767481">the flesh of an anti-fascist activist</a>, and murdering a capoeira master, stabbed 12 times for voting for <a href="https://extra.globo.com/casos-de-policia/mestre-de-capoeira-morto-com-12-facadas-apos-dizer-que-votou-no-pt-em-salvador-23139302.html">the Worker’s Party candidate</a>, Haddad. </p><p>Brazil was no paradise before it was seized by the “Bolsonaro effect”, but there is now a palpable fear that a bad situation could significantly worsen.</p> <h3><strong>The question of political violence</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p>Bolsonaro’s endorsement of political violence has even managed to scare the fervently anti-leftist liberal media. Alluding to the murder of political leaders and dismissing death threats to advocates of specific causes obviously leads to the question of a form of violence that is inherently political (terrorism, however defined it may be, could also be inserted here, but let’s not complicate things further). </p><p class="mag-quote-center">If the far-right candidate wins the Brazilian elections, the issue of political violence is likely to take to the news once again.&nbsp;</p><p>The relationship seems obvious. Political violence refers to the instrumental use of violence (in whichever way or form) in order to achieve a certain political goal, or in this case, to prevent others from doing so. If the far-right candidate wins the Brazilian elections, the issue of political violence is likely to take to the news once again.&nbsp;</p> <p>But fearing Bolsonaro for his failure to reproach political violence has some limitations. In theory the concept of political violence works well. It is clean, easy to understand and provides an immediate account of which acts are not to be tolerated under democratic rule (such as murdering those you disagree with). But in practice, things are always more complicated. </p><p>To speak of “political violence” requires clear definitions of what both politics and violence mean. In other words, in order to classify an act as such we have to make uncomfortable, and many times unhelpful distinctions between which motives are political, and even worse, which actions can fit into the category of violence.</p><p> There are also further complications. The concept of political violence mobilises a liberal tradition of blaming that struggles with complex chains of responsibility and assumes clear-cut distinctions between those who perpetrate and those who are the victims of violence. In practice, things are never that simple.&nbsp; </p> <p>Effectively, the concept of political violence creates a series of problematic and arbitrary distinctions that end up concealing the ways in which violence is embedded in our modern societies. </p><p>A couple of examples might clarify the issue. Often. drug-related homicides are not treated as political violence (for the absence of a clear “political” motive) even though they are clearly affected by a certain politics (from policing, to the criminalisation of drugs).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;Why aren’t deaths caused by austerity cuts to social welfare seen as political violence? Isn’t dying a form of violence? Aren’t fiscal policy choices political?</p><p> Likewise, the assassination of “adulterous” partners (sic), a crime that disproportionately affects ex-wives or ex-girlfriends, is often treated as a personal/passional crime and not as a political crime as such, even though feminists have tirelessly reminded us that the personal is deeply political. </p><p>We could go on. Why aren’t deaths caused by austerity cuts to social welfare seen as political violence? Isn’t dying a form of violence? Aren’t fiscal policy choices political? </p><p>There is an endless list of other real-case examples where a rigorous and honest distinction between what constitutes political violence and what doesn’t is nearly impossible. </p><p>In other words, violence always betrays a certain politics even when its motivations are not seen as properly political.</p> <h3><strong>Structuring violence</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p>A much more helpful way of looking at the relationship between violence and democracy in contemporary Brazil would be to avoid an excessive focus on the question of political violence (although it obviously matters) and to try and analyse the “Bolsonaro effect” through more holistic and systemic lenses. </p><p>This means understanding that the relationship between violence and politics is much deeper and, sadly more sedimented within the fabrics of Brazilian democracy. </p><p>Movements normalising or advocating violence always happen in specific historical and social contexts and are as much responses to the circumstances in which they happen as they are somehow enabled by them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The institutional racism that is still rampant throughout the world, and particularly in Brazil, would be violent because it prevents people of colour from realising the liberal promises of equal treatment.</p> <p>Attempts to understand violence from a holistic and systemic perspective have long defined what one could loosely call the field of violence studies. </p><p>Some, like Norwegian scholar Johan Galtung, famously argued that violence also has a structural face, expressed as a series of impediments to the full realisation of human potentials. </p><p>In this account, the institutional racism that is still rampant throughout the world, and particularly in Brazil, would be violent because it prevents people of colour from realising the liberal promises of equal treatment. </p><p>We could also say, borrowing from Amartya Sen’s somehow similar thesis, that the features of socio-economic underdevelopment (such as lack of access to education, sanitation and secure housing) also constitute forms of structural violence. </p><p>With one of the highest levels of inequality in the world, with more than half the adult population <a href="https://agenciadenoticias.ibge.gov.br/agencia-noticias/2013-agencia-de-noticias/releases/18992-pnad-continua-2016-51-da-populacao-com-25-anos-ou-mais-do-brasil-possuiam-apenas-o-ensino-fundamental-completo.html">without basic education</a>&nbsp;and with 61% of the population without <a href="http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/137005/ccsbrief_bra_en.pdf;jsessionid=66878449A0269052B8D1993EFCBD141C?sequence=1">access to safely managed sanitation</a> services, Brazil is certainly defined by high levels of structural violence.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">These violent impediments to the full realisation of human potential (exclusion, exploitation and repression) are mechanisms that have long played a crucial function in the process of capital accumulation.</p><p>But as the Marxist tradition suggests, violence is not only structural but it is also a <em>structuring factor</em> of modern capitalist societies. In other words, impediments to the full realisation of human potential are not simply barriers that can be lifted by economic development and the strengthening of institutions. </p><p>These violent impediments to the full realisation of human potential (exclusion, exploitation and repression) are mechanisms that have long played a crucial function in the process of capital accumulation. </p><p>According to this current of thought, the exclusion of large masses of the global population from the promises of liberalism is not a flaw, but a pre-condition for the smooth functioning of the ways in which we produce and distribute wealth. Quite simply, without dispossession there is no impulse to work. </p><p>Without the impulse to work there is no worker. And with no worker there is no industry. The consequence is that, in order to produce at an ever-increasing rate, capitalist societies have to constantly reproduce a certain level of insecurity (the fear of joblessness, the fear of mounting debt, the fear of capital flight and etc…). </p> <p>It is no exaggeration to say that Brazilian history is the history of enforcing a brutal compulsion to work via the dispossession of the most basic rights. Since the days of colonial slavery, local authorities strived to secure high returns on investments by producing a state of generalised social insecurity. </p><p>And at no point did the connection between accumulation, violence and insecurity become clearer than during Bolsonaro’s beloved dictatorship (1964-1985). </p><p>Generously supported by business, the authoritarian regime liberalised capital flows, violently repressed strikes, and systematically reduced real wages.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">In effect, decades of violent insecurity have created an atmosphere in Brazil where life itself is seen as disposable.</span></p><p> And the sad realisation is that, whereas the transition to democracy (1985-1988) managed to democratise the political sphere, the Brazilian economy remained tied to the authoritarian-like dictates of neoliberalism. </p><p>The democratic New Republic (1988-?) was characterised by the undisputed rule of austerity (sucking even the once socialist Worker’s Party into its ranks), fluctuating levels of informality and unemployment, the permeant blackmail caused by fear of capital flights, and the decision to privilege “law and order” policies over the protection of basic human rights. </p><p>Some of these elements were mitigated by decades of leftist governments, but it might have been too little, too late. In effect, decades of violent insecurity have created an atmosphere in Brazil where life itself is seen as disposable. </p><p>The disregard for life that defines the “Bolsonaro effect” is nothing but the most recent, and most extreme expression of the general disregard for life that has structured contemporary Brazil.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>Violence and the failure of democracy</strong></h3> <p>However we chose to understand violence, one thing is undisputable: violence is always bad for democracy. The immediate effect of violent acts can be catastrophic to political life. As Hannah Arendt once brilliantly put it, political violence is unpredictable as it risks destroying the foundational promises of collective life.</p><p class="mag-quote-center"><br />When invisible violence is left unaddressed for too long, as&nbsp; it has been in Brazil, then it is no wonder that society becomes a fertile ground for the type of authoritarianism demonstrated by Bolsonaro and his supporters.</p><p>Liberal segments see this violence as the imminent danger posed by the “Bolsonaro effect”: the danger of authoritarianism and radicalisation. But we cannot forget that Brazilian democracy has already been struck from within, by the silent and invisible threat posed by <em>structural forms of violence </em>(such as exploitation and exclusion). </p><p>When this invisible violence is left unaddressed for too long, as they have been in Brazil, then it is no wonder that society becomes a fertile ground for the type of authoritarianism demonstrated by Bolsonaro and his supporters.</p><p>Not everything is lost, though. There is still a slim, but real chance that Fernando Haddad (Worker’s Party) might win the second ballot. </p><p>This would be a first, vital step in the struggle to halt the rise of the far-right. But even in a best-case scenario, the “Bolsonaro effect” will not stop unless something is done about the structural and structuring forms of violence that exist in Brazil. And this is the real challenge faced by the left.&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="/democraciaabierta/pedro-henrique-leal/bolsonaro-and-brazilian-far-right">Bolsonaro and the Brazilian far right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/francesc-badia-i-dalmases/brazil-elections-avoidable-catastrophe">Brazil elections: an avoidable catastrophe </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/jos-maur-cio-domingues/new-brazil-new-left">A new Brazil, a new left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Brazil Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Elecciones 2018 Henrique Furtado Thu, 18 Oct 2018 11:24:01 +0000 Henrique Furtado 120153 at https://www.opendemocracy.net FP October 18 https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/fp-october-18-1 <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-fps-settings"><div class="field field-fp-section"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Select </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-frontpage-yn"> <div class="field-label">Show on Front Page:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Show on Front Page </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-of-display"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Right Image </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-primary-article"><div class="field field-promoted"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/danica-jorden/new-caravan-from-honduras-heads-for-american-dream">A new caravan from Honduras heads for the American Dream</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-hide-in-waterfall"> <div class="field-label">Hide in waterfall:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Do not include in section waterfall ? 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</div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-fps-summary-override"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest experiment in religious nationalism.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/fp-october-18-1#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2018 11:03:34 +0000 openDemocracy 120152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Agenda 2030 marred by MDG mindsets on steroids https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/mandeep-tiwana/agenda-2030-marred-by-mdg-mindsets-on-steroids <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Business as usual is bad news for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, arguably the greatest human endeavour ever attempted to create just, equal and sustainable societies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-38809443.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-38809443.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Clarke Gayford, partner of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, holds their three-month-old baby at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on Sept. 27, 2018. (Xinhua/Wang Ying/PA Images. all rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>This year’s United Nations General Assembly had its usual share of highs and lows. Headlines contrasted between the drama, nervous laughter and pessimism of US President <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trumps-speech-at-the-un-triggers-laughterand-disbelief">Trump’s speech</a> and hopes of a new kind of political leadership offered by New Zealand Prime Minister, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/28/we-are-not-isolated-jacinda-arderns-maiden-speech-to-the-un-rebuts-trump">Jacinda Ardern</a> who urged renewed commitment to gender equality and multilateralism. </p> <p>Now that the motorcades have departed, it’s back to business as usual at the UN. </p> <p>But business as usual is bad news for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, arguably the greatest human endeavour ever attempted to create just, equal and sustainable societies. As is the norm, several new initiatives were launched by billionaire philanthropists and the UN’s leadership. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Decision makers and technocrats still appear to be stuck in a Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) mindset, albeit on steroids.</p> <p>Notable among these is a new partnership initiative involve <a href="http://sdg.iisd.org/news/un-launches-2030-strategy-and-global-partnership-initiative-for-youth/">youth in Agenda 2030</a>. Nonetheless, decision makers and technocrats still appear to be stuck in a Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) mindset, <em>albeit </em>on steroids. Too many of them continue to see poverty and exclusion as economic problems to be solved rather than as governance failures and grave human rights violations. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Conspicuously, three things have changed in Agenda 2030 mainstream approaches to justify the “MDGs on steroids” label. </p> <p>First, massive efforts are being made on the data front to create and curate data through cutting edge technology. This is positive but it’s important to keep in mind that data without access to information and fundamental freedoms can be easily skewed by those in power to serve their interests. Ironically, the <a href="https://undataforum.org/">UN’s World Data Forum</a> is taking place this October in partnership with the United Arab Emirates’(UAE) Federal Statistics and Competitive Authority.</p> <p>It should surprise no one if that country’s official data on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets will tell a story very different from that experienced by trade unionists, human rights activists and investigative journalists. &nbsp;Freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are virtually non-existent in the UAE as attested by the <a href="https://monitor.civicus.org/country/united-arab-emirates/">CIVICUS Monitor</a>. </p> <p>Second, the UN has wooed an unprecedented number of private sector actors both individual philanthropists and large corporations at a time when donor governments are balking at persistent funding gaps in development finance. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of an exponential rise in private wealth and balance-sheets of mega corporations, many of whose <a href="https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2016/sep/12/10-biggest-corporations-make-more-money-most-countries-world-combined">revenues</a> exceed that of governments. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">There’s welcome emphasis on the universality of Agenda 2030. This constitutes an improvement over the MDGs which often felt like impositions on the Global South by heavily industrialised economies of the Global North.</p> <p>It might be useful to interrogate the impact of unprecedented private sector involvement in UN activities on SDG commitments to protect labour rights, reduce corruption and address income inequality. &nbsp;Oxfam has recently released a report on companies’ <a href="https://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/are-big-companies-walking-their-talk-on-the-sdgs-new-report-digs-into-the-evidence/">commitment to the SDGs</a> which concludes that while uptake on SDGs by companies is high there’s little evidence of corporations changing sustainability strategies with regards to priorities, ambition or transparency. Few are taking up human rights commitments. </p> <p>Third, there’s welcome emphasis on the universality of Agenda 2030 and its applicability to all countries. This constitutes an improvement over the MDGs which often felt like impositions on the Global South by heavily industrialised economies of the Global North. </p> <p>However, while government officials and development economists have no hesitation to play up the universal nature of the SDGs they are less enthusiastic to admit the holistic and interdependent nature Agenda 2030. This might be deliberate to divert attention from two key areas for political reasons. These are the commitment to sustainable consumption and production in Goal 12 and the commitment to fundamental freedoms, equal access to justice and rule of law in Goal 16. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The focus on data collection needs to move from reporting and creative curation to accountability. Data presentation is intensely political.</p> <p>Agenda 2030 provides a road map to address global challenges of conflict, climate change, extreme poverty and inequality. This was reiterated in UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ <a href="https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2018/09/un-secretary-generals-welcome-message-to-unga-73/">welcome message</a> in advance of the UN General Assembly session. But to achieve progress, significant mindset changes and policy reorientations are required. </p> <p>Three key shifts are thus vital. One, the focus on data collection needs to move from reporting and creative curation to accountability. Data presentation is intensely political. Moreover, conditions need to be created for civic and political participation to enable people to tell their own story about their lives. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Non-monetised, accessible and good quality basic services are the key to reducing inequality and enabling equal opportunity.</p> <p>Two, the viability of the current economic discourse with its emphasis on dismantling social protection and deregulating markets needs to be deeply interrogated. Non-monetised, accessible and good quality basic services are the key to reducing inequality and enabling equal opportunity. </p> <p>Lastly, multi-stakeholder partnerships need to be leveraged to advance the social justice and human rights underpinnings of the SDGs. This cannot be achieved without empowered civil society organisations engaged in policy making.&nbsp; </p> <p>A notable highlight of the UN General Assembly session were numerous calls from member states on the value of multilateralism and the need to support a rules-based international order. Indeed, this intent should apply as much to countries’ compliance with the internationally agreed human rights framework as to trade and commercial agreements.&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="/democraciaabierta/mandeep-tiwana/backsliding-on-civic-space-in-democracies">Backsliding on civic space in democracies </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Mandeep Tiwana Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:22:23 +0000 Mandeep Tiwana 120151 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s time to talk about what a lack of access to safe abortion means https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/viviana-waisman/it-s-time-to-talk-about-what-lack-of-access-to-safe-abortion-means <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This year, something has changed about the way we talk about abortion. You can feel it on the street, on Twitter, in the media.... Something has changed, and there’s no turning back. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/viviana-waisman/hablemos-de-lo-que-implica-no-tener-acceso-un-aborto-seguro">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/irelandmural.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/irelandmural.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mural in Ireland in favour of abortion. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>This year, something has changed about the way we talk about abortion. You can feel it on the street, on Twitter, in the media.... Something has changed, and there’s no turning back.</p> <p>In May, the vote on the Irish referendum to legalize abortion filled me with hope. Thanks to the energy of young Irish people, a major victory was won for women’s rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The causes are many, but the effects are the same in countries where abortion is outlawed. Poor women die from unsafe clandestine abortions, while rich women go to clandestine abortion facilities or travel abroad to get abortions in private clinics.&nbsp;</p><p>A few short months later, the decision by the Senate of Argentina, the country of origen of my family, plunged me into a state of mourning and disbelief. How could 38 senators fail to grasp the impact that a lack of access to safe and legal abortion has on the lives of women and their families?&nbsp;</p> <p>Women’s rights advocates know all too well the consequences of decisions like that of the Argentine Senate. We see it again and again in countries where abortion is outlawed or access to abortion services is limited. Simply put, when women lack access to safe and legal abortion, they die.</p> <p>In Ireland, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/shaunagh-connaire/nice-irish-girls-dont-have-sex-abortion-referendum">those who voted to overturn the ban</a> understood that the choice is not between abortion and no abortion, but between safe abortion and unsafe abortion. Between life and death for thousands of women. </p><p>And yet there are still so many people, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/diana-cariboni/argentina-abortion-vote-divides-nation-from-senators-to-doctors">like those 38 Argentinian senators</a>, who either don’t understand or don’t care, but still call themselves “pro-life.” </p><p>That’s why we have to talk more about what a lack of access to safe abortion means for women, their communities, and their families. We need to speak plainly, without mincing words, without taboos.</p> <p>On Wednesday, August 8, while the Argentine Senate debated legalization of abortion, Romina was trying to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. </p><p>She did it alone and told no one, not even her siblings. But she had complications and ended up in the hospital. A few days later, she died, leaving four children behind.</p><p>“She died because she was poor. She died because the poor do not exist,” <a href="https://www.pagina12.com.ar/136650-se-murio-porque-era-pobre-a-los-pobres-ni-nos-miran">said her brother Miguel to the Argentine newspaper <em>Página 12</em></a>. “I used to be against abortion, until now,” he added. Miguel found out what a lack of access to abortion means to women because it affected his life, and he lost his sister.</p> <p>When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, all she can think about is how to end it. It could be for any number of reasons: because her family will reject her, because she will lose her job, because she needs medical treatment that is incompatible with pregnancy, because the pregnancy poses a risk to her health, because she already has many children and can’t afford any more, because the pregnancy is the result of rape....</p><p class="mag-quote-center">What truly reduces the number of abortions is when women have access to sex education, contraceptives, healthcare services, and sexual and reproductive rights. And when the rates of violence against women go down, so do abortion rates.&nbsp;</p><p>The causes are many, but the effects are the same in countries where abortion is outlawed. Poor women die from unsafe clandestine abortions, while rich women go to clandestine abortion facilities or travel abroad to get abortions in private clinics.&nbsp;</p> <p>I think more and more people are beginning to understand that restrictions or total bans on abortion do not reduce the number of abortions. They just sweep them under the rug. </p><p>What truly reduces the number of abortions is when women have access to sex education, contraceptives, healthcare services, and sexual and reproductive rights. And when the rates of violence against women go down, so do abortion rates.&nbsp;</p> <p>Banning abortion does not reduce maternal deaths either. On the contrary, it increases them. In countries in which women are granted the authority to decide what is best for their lives and where abortion is broadly legalized, such as Uruguay and Spain, maternal deaths have dropped dramatically.</p> <p>The debate has changed. Women are fighting for their lives. And we will never give up. We will take to the streets however many times we have to, whenever and wherever we need to, until not one more woman dies for lack of access to safe abortion.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Viviana Waisman Thu, 18 Oct 2018 09:36:22 +0000 Viviana Waisman 120142 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iranian pseudo anti-imperialism https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/rahman-bouzari/iranian-pseudo-anti-imperialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first prerequisite of fighting imperialism is to fight the imperialist relations at home.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-38945709.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-38945709.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses tens of thousands of Iranian voluntary forces (Basij) at the Azadi Stadium in the Iranian capital Tehran, Iran, on October 4, 2018 . Picture by Parspix/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Anti-imperialism comes in various shapes and forms in Iran, ranging from hard-nosed to soft-bellied. However, with the rise of reactionary forces, the history of anti-imperialism in post-revolutionary Iran has been the triumph of the latter. The 1979 Revolution in which the religious forces seized the power and tried to redirect the anti-imperialist discourse, brought the long-term Iran-America honeymoon to an end. It led to a misconception among western intellectuals that the Iranian government is at the forefront of resistance against American imperialism. There were also some people among the secular Iranian intellectuals who endorsed this anti-imperialism – most importantly Tudeh Party (Party of the People) that was the admirer of imperialist discourse of the Islamic Republic, until the regime imprisoned and executed its main leaders in 1983. </p><p class="western"> The hostage crisis in 1979 marked a turning point in Iran-United States relations. It derailed the leftist anti-imperialist discourse and turned it into shallow rhetoric against the so-called Great Satan with the unifying slogan ‘Down with America’. </p> <p class="western"> Thirty years later, when Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad took power, even some western intellectuals fell for a misleading vision that considered him a leftist fighting against the dominant global system. </p> <h3 class="western"> <strong>Cartography of a revolution</strong></h3> <p class="western"> In order to understand the history of anti-imperialism in Iran, a retrospective reflection on the ’79 Revolution is necessary. To cut a long story short, the Revolution happened at the dawn of the <span><a class="western" href="https://www.amazon.com/Brief-History-Neoliberalism-David-Harvey/dp/0199283273">neoliberal counter-revolution</a></span>, which brought Thatcher and Reagan to power. The first decade of the Revolution coincides with the alteration of the global scene: the cold war was about to come to an end and the Soviet Union collapsed. </p><p class="western">Leftists and anti-colonialists all over the world, the main agents of anti-imperialist discourse, were forced to retreat. In Iran, the first decade was that of antagonism between the forces involved in the ’79 Revolution. The dominant political Islamism that came out of it suppressed all the rivals, including the secular leftists and the liberals, which culminated in the <span><a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988_executions_of_Iranian_political_prisoners">1988 massacre</a></span>. It ended up in a new ambivalent order in which it opposes politically what it endorsed economically. </p><p class="western">The regime follows the <span><a class="western" href="https://books.google.com/books?id=DmZ5pHVhPk8C&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q=IMF&amp;f=false">World Bank instructions and IMF discipline</a></span>, subjugating workers and their few trade unions, implementing the <span><a class="western" href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/iran-protests-preliminary-account-180105232533539.html">structural adjustment program</a></span>, establishing itself as a <span><a class="western" href="http://www.kanoonm.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/ketab_1391_Maljoo_eghtesad_siasi_niroo_kar_sanat_naft_Iran.pdf">low-wage market for capital</a></span>. The political economy of the Islamic Republic is in accordance with the world order, serving the <span><a class="western" href="https://www.reuters.com/investigates/iran/#article/part1">one percent</a></span> local oligarchy that is anything but anti-imperialist. </p><p class="western">Yet in terms of political rhetoric, it presents itself as an anti-imperialist regime, considered by the so-called international community as a ‘rogue state’. The international policies of the Islamic Republic, its regional alliances and animosities that sporadically shift in contrast to the United States- Israel- Saudi Arabia camp to spark the flames of Sunni-Shia divide, can be explained in these terms. The regime takes full advantage of the regional demography, the existence of Shia minorities in every corner of the Middle East. Ironically, any western intervention in the region plays into the hands of the Islamic Republic. As the central governments fall apart, these minorities reorganize themselves to find their allies. </p> <h3 class="western"> ‘<strong>Neither war nor peace’ strategy</strong></h3> <p class="western"> The Janus-faced nature of the Islamic Republic manifests itself in the principle of ‘neither war nor peace’ on the international scene. Indeed, it engages in both coercion and cooperation simultaneously, though the balance between these two facets in the exercise of power may shift from one period or administration to another. After eight-years of Iran-Iraq war, <span><a class="western" href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/iran-khamenei-war-negotiations-trump-180813135405516.html">this principle</a></span> has always guided the Iran-America relations. It constitutes a gray zone in which the government can utilize the confusion on both sides: whenever necessary the war threat comes to the fore, allowing the government to intensify the domestic suppression. When the threat is unable to mobilize the international consensus, the government slips into negotiations with the West, without reducing the scale of domestic oppression. </p><p class="western">The move toward negotiation and peace in this case is, however, not drastic enough to keep the war threat on the table. As a result, we are faced with a fluid, vague, indeterminate situation in which the government can still use the advantages and drawbacks of war threat as well as an unsustainable peace, both in terms of domestic and international policies. </p> <p class="western"> Despite the geopolitical power asymmetries between the US and the Islamic Republic, the continuation of ‘neither war nor peace’ situation is in line with the United States interests. It allows both to hold sway over the region, even if by proxy wars. Moreover, there has been some clandestine cooperation between the two behind the scenes, most importantly the <span><a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair">Iran–Contra scandal</a></span>, that betrays the hollowness of the Iranian anti-imperialist megaphone. </p> <h3 class="western"> <strong>Soft-bellied anti-imperialism</strong></h3> <p class="western"> Looking at this picture, it is hard to buy into the anti-imperialist rhetoric proposed by the Islamic Republic for decades. All the same, shallow anti-imperialism continues to create its new agents. In recent years, a heterogeneous array of <span><a class="western" href="https://twitter.com/ali7adeh?lang=en">journalists</a></span>, <span><a class="western" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP59A4rQdh8&amp;t=147s">social media activist</a></span>, think tanks, <span><a class="western" href="https://www.niacouncil.org/">organizations</a></span>, ex-politicians, <span><a class="western" href="https://www.democracynow.org/2018/8/13/former_iranian_ambassador_trump_s_re">former ambassadors</a></span>, and <span><a class="western" href="http://jadaliyya.com/Details/37649">European academics</a></span> have cropped up to propagate, intentionally or unwittingly, the Islamic Republic rhetoric, by appealing to its role in confronting with the United States. </p><p class="western">Though with different motivations, they constitute a pseudo anti-imperialism by demonizing the United States’ president Donald Trump and providing the Islamic Republic with a human face. This generation of media activists mostly lives abroad, whether born in Europe, Britain, and North America or migrated to these countries. They idealized the western democracies in their hometowns, found liberal-democratic promises at odds with their reality, and turned to a kind of shallow anti-imperialism by inflating their Iranian identity. </p><p class="western">Overlooking the history of anti-imperialism in Iran – the nationalization of Iran oil industry by Mohammad Mosaddegh – and in the region, they substitute anti-imperialism with a superficial form of anti-Americanism in post-revolutionary Iran. Imperialism, in their view, is not a stage in the global development of capitalism, but rather a geopolitical competition. </p> <p class="western"> With no illusions of being exhaustive or all encompassing, here are three components of this pseudo anti-imperialism, interconnected with each other. </p> <p class="western"> 1. They lack a fine-grained structural analysis of imperialism. This kind of anti-imperialist discourse does not put the <span><a class="western" href="http://journal.telospress.com/content/2001/120/174.abstract">new world order</a></span> into question, but merely roots for the underdogs. It prefers the Islamic Republic to gain global and regional leverage, rather than challenging the very global and regional relations based on domination. </p> <p class="western"> 2. It is indifferent to the reproduction of the global power relations, based on coercion, at the local level. The result is a discourse unconcerned about the bourgeois-democratic rights of citizens such as freedom of assembly, freedom of unveiling, freedom of expression. Their position reflects more that of the powers-that-be than that of the people. They have nothing to say about the popular struggles of the past four decades, or the suppression of workers, teachers, students, and women in Iran. They are not only silent on the analysis of current struggles in Iran, but also cannot provide empirical evidence of domestic politics for the intellectuals and academics around the world. </p> <p class="western"> 3. The third feature has to do with state-based international relations. All they do is to discuss the geopolitical competitions in the region and the balancing role of Tehran, which means neglecting the international solidarity of popular struggles throughout the region. Their statist internationalism leads to a simplified description of periphery countries, and they try to prove the US is not much better than those countries. Instead of insisting on the solidarity and equality of all Middle Eastern people, they focus on asymmetries among the Middle Eastern governments, asking for the hegemony of one over another. </p> <p class="western"> In doing so, they reduce anti-imperialism to anti-Americanism, and then to anti-Trumpism, which would make sense if they located it in a history of <span><a class="western" href="https://www.amazon.com/Imperialism-Clarendon-Lectures-Geography-Environmental/dp/0199278083">capitalist imperialism</a></span>, not just at the level of the US administrations. At the level of Tehran domestic politics, they consider a distinction between the two factions of the regime, hardliner versus reformists, without paying attention to the rigid structure of the Islamic Republic. Their political hypocrisy is revealed as they were silent to Obama’s sanctions on Iran, when Ahmadi-Nejad was in power. </p> <h3 class="western"> <strong>What conflict?</strong></h3> <p class="western"> Shallow anti-imperialism is heavily emphasized in the way in which the Islamic Republic typically views and presents itself to the rest of the world, though here there is as much myth-spinning as truth-telling. The more general truth is that the Islamic Republic and the United States are, above all, ideological supplement to one another. They feed each other ideologically. </p><p class="western">Without the domestic despotic rule of the Islamic Republic posed as a democracy, as well as its imperial policies in the region, American bellicosity of ‘the axis of Evil’ would appear empty. In the same vein, however, without the history of American military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, as well as the dark history of coups in Latin America, Iran and elsewhere, the Islamic Republic would have no grounds for reactionary anti-American discourse. </p><p class="western">This is not to say that they are commensurable powers but that, in order to gain control and preside over the world economy, the American dominance needs a political exception, a country outside the civilized world in opposition to which the totality of capitalist civilization is constituted. Though it has been shifted constantly during the past decades, from Saddam Hussein to Muammar Gaddafi, the Islamic Republic has been always the main exception that has made the American dominance possible.</p> <p class="western"> The religious governments of Iran and Israel also supplement one another in the same fashion. As we have witnessed, any structural change in the Middle East, the kind that the Arab revolutions aspired to bring about, has been responded by Israel distastefully. It seems that the survival of Israel in the region is bound up with the current state of the Islamic Republic in relation to Hezbollah and Hamas. </p> <p class="western"> So the real conflict lies not between Iran and the United States, but between the poor people of the Middle East and their corrupt oligarchic rulers, and in the case of Iran, between the Iranian people and the plutocratic oligarchy of the Islamic Republic. It is a conflict best exemplified by the urban poor of the Arab revolutions – those masses that poured into the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, etc., in 2011 – in contrast to <span><a class="western" href="https://www.amazon.com/Lineages-Revolt-Issues-Contemporary-Capitalism/dp/1608463257">Gulf Cooperation Council policies</a></span>. It is worth recalling that when Jordanians began to protest just recently against the austerity measures in early June 2018, three Gulf Arab states pledged <span><a class="western" href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/gulf-nations-pledge-25bn-economic-aid-package-jordan-180611055833875.html">$2.5bn in aid</a></span> to Jordan to stabilize the kingdom and stifle a popular youth movement. </p> <p class="western"> For those Gulf States and the corrupt theocratic autocracies very little can be said. But advocates of shallow anti-imperialism need to answer a series of crucial questions. Do they try to campaign for solidarity between diverse struggles in the region? Do they defend the practical freedom of assembly, trade unions, parties, and so on in autocracies like Iran? Do they start petitions and initiatives with the help of intellectuals and independent activists against discriminatory laws in the Islamic Republic, most importantly <span><a class="western" href="https://radicaleducationdepartment.com/2018/03/19/the-compulsory-veiling-syndrome-in-iran-rb-sn/">the compulsory veiling</a></span>? Do they battle against a religious, sexual, ethnic, political, apartheid regime, regardless of defending this or that faction of the Islamic Republic? Do they agree that the nuclear programme has had a devastating impact, economically and politically, on the lives of ordinary Iranians? Do they support a popular effort on impeding such programme beyond the international rivalry of corrupt politicians? </p> <p class="western"> What is at stake in the leftist ‘<span><a class="western" href="http://jadaliyya.com/Details/37649">third way</a></span>’ is to oppose <span><a class="western" href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/iranian-people-nuclear-deal-180604101300453.html">the nuclear programme</a></span> from the outset which will take the very deal off the table by a popular agency. If one puts the state-centered perspective aside, one can realize that not a deal between certain governments but a strong bottom-up opposition toward a nuclear programme is the only way to prevent further escalation in the region. </p> <p class="western"> Popular agency in Iran is not a mystical formulation. It has been determined, at least during the last decade, by the 2009 as well as 2017/2018 protests. Since the 2017 protests, it has taken on the form of daily activism all around the country. The latest example of such agency is to be found in a recent speech by <span><a class="western" href="https://twitter.com/SoheilAsefi/status/1030769754900840448">Esmail Bakhshi</a></span>, a representative of the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane complex workers. After long successive strikes, he insists on the formation of independent workers unions as the only way out of the current predicament.</p> <p class="western"> On such quaint agency, a structural change of current Iran is built. A democratic Iran, hopefully a democratic region, unfettered from capitalist relations of corrupt leaders and oligarchic kings, will be able to confront capitalist imperialism. The first prerequisite of fighting imperialism is to fight the imperialist relations at home. Trump is nothing but one of the blathering dummies of the American-style <span><a class="western" href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/16/corporate-idiocracy-and-the-manufacturing-of-productrump/">corporate democracy</a></span> at work. To fight Trump, one needs to fight their own domestic Trumps.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mehrdad-khonsari/can-iran-turn-crisis-into-opportunity">Can Iran turn crisis into opportunity?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ahmad-mohammadpour/looking-from-within-is-nuclear-deal-big-deal-for-iranian-p">Looking from within: is the nuclear deal a big deal for the Iranian people?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/jubin-afshar/iran-gripped-by-strikes-and-protests">Iran gripped by strikes and protests </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sara-takafori/eyes-of-iran-and-its-children-ordinary-lives-iranian-sanctions-and-donald-trump-s-reje">The eyes of Iran and its children: ordinary lives, Iranian sanctions and Donald Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iran Trump Left imeprialism Rahman Bouzari Thu, 18 Oct 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Rahman Bouzari 119967 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the editors of a new journal challenging prejudices about eastern Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/kajet-journal-interview <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Bucharest-based Kajet journal was founded to challenge cliches about eastern Europe — a region that can be “more than a sheer pile of debris awaiting reconstruction.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen_Shot_2018-10-09_at_14.58.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen_Shot_2018-10-09_at_14.58.57.png" alt="" title="" width="398" height="333" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Kajet Journal. </span></span></span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span>Read the latest in our ongoing </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/odr-debates/unlikely-media">Unlikely Media series</a><span>. As part of this series, we profile new independent (and independently-minded) publications from across the postsocialist space, interviewing editors who are trying to make spaces for alternative journalism, political commentary and reporting.</span></em></p><p dir="ltr">For the generation of western European journalists writing about post-Socialist Europe after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, eastern Europe was a often exotic land of hopeful optimism. </p><p dir="ltr">Twenty-five years and dozens of tabloid headlines about Romanian immigrants later, much of the region’s exoticism to western European audiences has disappeared – and in post-Socialist Europe, so has a great deal of the hope. Today, this Europe is making headlines again, whether as a testing ground for illiberal democracy or a battleground between Russian and the EU/NATO. Yet the region is still written with as the same paradigms (a Europe in imitation that is struggling to become Normal) or as the frontline between liberal democracy and revanchist Putinism.</p><p dir="ltr">Some eastern Europeans are speaking out against this binary between the west and the rest, and seek to salvage the region’s post-socialist identity as a potential source of transformation. Take the editors of Bucharest-based <a href="https://www.kajetjournal.com/">Kajet Journal</a>, who flaunt an unapologetically post-socialist identity and put western cliches about the region under a microscope. The journal, which has just released its second issue, is the brainchild of “Founding Mother” Laura Naum and “Founding Father” Petrică Mogoș. </p><p dir="ltr">Naum is a writer and graduate in Cultural Economics from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. She’s proud of her Aromanian roots and is first and foremost interested in the ethnic melting pot which characterises eastern Europe and its representation (the topic of Kajet’s first issue). Mogoș holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the Erasmus University and researches precarity under neoliberalism and the post-socialist art word. They were recently joined by Bucharest-based graphic designers Gabriel Barbu and Ana Maria Dudu. This growing team is fascinated with archival materials and printed matter from the socialist period, a passion reflected in Kajet’s design. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />I spoke to Naum and Mogoș about what it means to be eastern European today – and what it means to write about eastern Europe.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Let’s start with the name, from the French “cahier” (a worn notebook). Why did you choose it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> We consider KAJET to be a forever work in progress, and just like a notebook that is bursting with scribbles and scrawls, doodles and sidenotes, eastern Europe is a region that seems to be ever-changing, a cultural-geographic concept whose historical as well as political marks and dents are still visible. KAJET – an easternised version of the cahier – is also a personal and above all nostalgic tribute to our childhood and school paraphernalia (God forbid that your notebook’s corners were bent over!) The journal’s name is also a reference to <em>samizdat</em>, writings that were voluntarily enclosed within the limits of a writer’s workspace, not to be read, distributed, or commercialised within the outside world, but secured in personal notebooks. </p><p dir="ltr">In addition to our attempt to evoke a tangible form of nostalgia, KAJET is a platform where we can freely disseminate a revised perspective of eastern Europe, and this vision is transmitted both through content and form. It only makes sense for us that the visual identity is representative of the area and the social critique that it aims to convey. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><strong>Kajet’s design is striking, as is its amazing photography. A small-circulation print journal is a brave choice in today’s media environment. Why did you choose print, and who are your audience?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> We fight against the abundance of information (and very often misinformation) that harrasses us on a daily basis. Most of the times this bombardment takes place online, so by choosing recycled paper, we extract ourselves from the noise. And although this limits our scope of reach, we do not deceive ourselves that this is not a niche publication, because it is. For the first issue we had an overall print run of 1,000 copies, whereas for the second we have put in circulation an overall of 4,850 copies (out of which a considerable amount has been included in <a href="https://www.stackmagazines.com/">Stack Magazines</a>’ own distribution network of subscribers).</p><p dir="ltr">With help from Stack Magazines, we hope to enlarge our audience and to popularise not just the project itself but also the underlying discourse regarding the future of Europe in general and the eastern European one in particular. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We fight against the abundance of information (and very often misinformation) that harrasses us on a daily basis”</p><p dir="ltr">Ultimately, we don’t believe that print is dead. Of course long gone are the days when newspapers used to be the only means of information, but you’d be surprised how varied our readership is, from Hong Kong to Stockholm, from Zurich to New York, or Warsaw to Sydney, the interest in the region exists and cannot be ignored. Having said that, we are still aware that such a project cannot change perceptions en masse regarding eastern Europe, but if with each issue we manage to provide a new consciousness to at least some of our readers, it means that we are doing something right. Of course, we also see printed matters to still be piercing political weapons; let’s not forget about this region’s past, where printed content could be a form of dissidence, one that currently bears the spirit of samizdat. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Who are your authors? And why did you decide to publish in English, rather than German or even in the languages of the region?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> In addition to commissioning various artists and writers, we place great emphasis on the open character of our project. For each issue we launch an open call for entries based on an eastern European theme that we find both timely and timeless. We cherish greatly the interdisciplinary nature of our initiative, as we work with visual artists, illustrators, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, geographers, architects, graphic designers, poets, musicians, undergraduate and PhD students, IT programmers, and the list can go on. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/ok_12_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/ok_12_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inset from Kajet Journal. Source: Kajet Journal. </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">From the very beginning of this project, we have been aware of the fact that the west (here represented by the English language) has done us a huge favour in spreading our eastern European agenda to take over the world. This also made us mindful and cautious that, in order to reach one of our most important objectives – that of decolonising eastern Europe, the publishing industry, and the way printed matter is scattered across the globe – we had to make a compromise and accept a tender form of self-colonisation. We paradoxically embraced the English language as a tool of spreading knowledge; instead of seeing this choice as a limitation or a cause of invalidating the legitimacy of our project, we acknowledge that in order to prompt any kind of social change or to stimulate any sort of shift in the popular perception vis-a-vis eastern Europe, we do not only have to appeal to western readers, but we also have to – quite literally – speak their own language. </p><p dir="ltr">However, this does not mean that our eastern European readership is less important; on the contrary, it transcends a simple writer-reader relationship, as we believe that there is a certain responsibility on our behalf regarding the means through which we choose to represent other eastern Europeans. We have a steadfast ambition to be accepted by the eastern European community, for eastern Europeans to identify with our content, and for them to feel represented by it. If this is not the case, then the journal becomes simply useless. We like to believe that this almost contractual exchange between writers and readers is based on a bifold process of empowerment. After all, this is a process whose ultimate purpose is to provide eastern Europeans with a louder and sharper means of expression.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Your first edition opens with a <a href="https://www.kajetjournal.com/manifesto/">Manifesto</a>, in which you say that “as eastern Europeans who have decided to come back home after (varied) experiences in the west, we attempt to dismantle the aura of mythical irrationality that obscures the popular belief, together with the region’s counterfeit sense of inferiority against the powerful, the prosperous, and the advanced.” What were those experiences in western Europe, how did they inform your decision to found Kajet?&nbsp;</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> Our project departs from the premise that there is a sharp contrast between what happens intellectually, socially, or culturally in the east and how these ideas are disseminated within the western sphere. It is as if the traffic between eastern outsiders and and our more privileged western equals works exclusively in one direction: as though works of art or manifestations of culture can move only eastward, whereas anything originating in the east is deemed to be mocked, ignored, or rejected (at best), or consumed, appropriated, metabolised, and absorbed (at worst). And KAJET started precisely out of this kind of frustration. </p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, if we are to actually think about the patronising sentiments of disdain and superiority coming from the west, most of them stem from a lack of awareness regarding what is happening outside their own bubble. Some may call this ignorance, but we think that this may not be entirely the case. Instead, we believe, that such sentiments have been perpetuated through repetition and unjustified fear by mainstream media looking to sensationalise subjects and sell stories. </p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, most of our Dutch/British/foreign colleagues, professors, neighbours, etc. were driven by a self-declared desire to know more about this mythical place we came from. And although the desire was most of the times stained with outrageous (as well as hilarious) claims, we appreciated their effort and took it upon ourselves to address this deficiency through print. </p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, KAJET remains a personal project, a therapeutic one, that we hope can help us recover from our anxieties and our own sense of inferiority against the other “better” citizens of the world. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>No publication about eastern Europe is complete without navel-gazing about the term we use for the region. You’ve written that “eastern Europe is more than a sheer pile of debris awaiting reconstruction,” and that the image of “lagging behind or being late bloomers” is a “terminological cloak” which drapes from Tallinn to Tirana. Is this what defines “eastern Europe” for you? </strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> This is a good time to come back to the previous rhetorical question regarding the ability (or lack thereof) to easily pinpoint eastern Europe. By negation, if this area is neither western European, nor Russian, then what is it? The intricacies of the region are greater than ever. How come that Prague is regarded as more eastern European than Vienna, despite that it is situated further westward? Are Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia part of Central Europe, or what Milan Kundera and others refer to as <a href="https://www.eurozine.com/growing-up-in-kunderas-central-europe/">Mitteleuropa</a>? Should the Balkans – the plot of land stretched between the Adriatic and the Black Sea – be seen as a sub-region of eastern Europe or a completely different territory? What about the Baltic region? If we are to base our rationale solely on ideology, how eastern European is the post-Soviet side of Eurasia? Alternatively, how much can we leave behind from the legacy of the Cold War imagination when we try to understand the intricacies of a region such as eastern Europe? Perhaps we’d be uselessly adding fuel to the already existent terminological debates if we were to go on like this. </p><p dir="ltr">Instead, what we are interested in is the ideological, political, social, and cultural differentiation made through discourses and practices through which Europe is divided in two separate, self-contained spaces: western liberalism as prosperous and eastern post-socialism as retrograde; the civilised and the barbarians; the core and the periphery; essentially, the west and the east. Eastern Europe is not just a (as one of our articles from the first issue ironically puts it “scary and different and, for the everyone’s sake, far away”) geographical part of Europe. It is an imagined, translocal community, that comes with its own quirks, embellished with both perils and delights. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Eastern Europe is an imagined, translocal community, that comes with its own quirks, embellished with both perils and delights”</p><p dir="ltr">But what is even more perplexing regarding eastern Europeans is the disabling lack of capacity to understand themselves. So rather than being interested in the cultural geography of the area, we’d say we are more keen to engage with its psychogeography. Molded by a distinct social and cultural hybridity, eastern Europeans have been on a perpetual journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and approval regarding their roots and origins. In fact, we are defined by this constant feeling of uneasiness; we are utterly incompetent to come to terms with our own past, while this alienated sense of rootlessness and isolation, alongside a majestic sense of inferiority, seems to have marked us forever. These are all sentiments that we have firmly anchored within ourselves, and undoubtedly our desire to explore eastern Europe stems from them. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A lot of writing about Poland or Hungary uses that kind of teleological language. Beyond the “democratic backsliding” of governments in Budapest and Warsaw, there’s even talk of a <a href="https://www.li.com/activities/publications/is-transition-reversible-the-case-of-central-europe">“reversal of the transition”</a>, a process which some analysts considered completed. With Romania and Slovakia potentially following their neighbours’ concerning examples, is it time to call this style of populism ahead of the curve?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura: </strong>The transition – explored critically either as an absolutist necessity of the post-communism condition or as a forever undergoing project of catching up – is a subject that we deal with consistently in our work. Although some argue that the transition hasn’t been sharp enough, that it hasn’t achieved a desirable degree of westernisation, the free market is clearly both king and queen in eastern Europe, as much as it is almost elsewhere around the world. </p><p dir="ltr">What draws the eastern European case apart from others is the context in which the free market has been adopted: on the ruins of utopia. Post-socialist eastern Europe has been fully dragged into the neoliberal capitalist universe, but this happened with a strident twist: its already characteristic position at the (semi-)periphery has stood still, ever present and more bitter than ever. In this regard, eastern Europe has borrowed the governing strategies of capitalism and is currently suffering miserably: a minimal state, the disposal of highly educated yet precarious labour, nationwide privatisation and retrocession, dependence on multinational corporations and banks, accumulation of debt as a way to subjugate the individual, and ultimately, a predominantly aged population with most labourers leaving the region for a better life in the west.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">What draws the eastern European case apart is the context in which the free market was adopted: on the ruins of utopia</span></p><p dir="ltr">And while we see this kind of transition to be long realised, there is, as you said, a new wave of backsliding and retrogression happening at democracy’s most basic levels. One reason for this is that the mainstream political imagination is limited as well as limiting: some are smitten with populist visions of gliding back in the <em>Belle Époque</em> and the subsequent glorified interwar period, to the pure, traditional Orthodox family, to restoring so-called true, ancestral values (which are nonetheless the invention of modernity) where iron hand autocracies represent the only viable alternative. Others are still captivated by the American/European dream and enamoured by the prospect of an Occidental utopia guided forward by de-politicised technocrats who will tame our barbarian innerness and re-civilise eastern Europe through a governing exclusively for a decaying middle class. We refuse to believe that an alternative to both of the aforementioned cults does not exist. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>It sometimes seems political debates in Central and eastern Europe are still fighting perceived (neo)communism in various guises, over 25 years after its collapse. As such, the ghosts of communism are still seen to have an explanatory power for so many societal ills, which possibly weakens a more critical analysis of the western ideal which is to be embodied. Boris Buden even <a href="http://politicalcritique.org/cee/2016/the-ideals-of-1989-turned-upside-down-interview/">links</a> this “mimicry,” the figure of “children learning democracy” to a form of colonialism. From your first volume, it seems that you agree.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> Undoubtedly, a review of today’s eastern Europe that exclusively focuses on the perils of communism is doomed to provide no fruitful outcomes. Communism in post-communism becomes either a mnemonic device for the nostalgic masses, or a key element of a legitimising witch-hunt unfolded by the transition’s winners. For instance, the discourses that view homophobia or poverty as the last living remnants of the former communist regimes are nothing else but part of the hegemonic mold through which all shortfalls of contemporary capitalism are artificially explained. </p><p dir="ltr">This kind of colonising – as well as patronising – discourse makes its subjects believe that eastern communities were cut off from their so-called normal historical development by nothing else but communism, and that only now, although belatedly, they are getting accustomed to the normal way of life, that they are essentially catching up with the rest of the developed world. And in post-communist capitalism there is nothing more important than this process of catching-up, of emerging, and recovering the time lost during communism. </p><p dir="ltr">This is a sentiment that has been buried deep in the post-communist social imaginary, to the extent that it is now engrained in the anxieties and the sense of inferiority that most easterners unwillingly comply with. And thinkers like Srećko Horvat, Igor Štiks, Ovidiu Ţichindeleanu, or Boris Buden have been talking about this for at least the past decade or so. Anyway, it is interesting (and somewhat scary) to see how the discourse has developed over three decades of post-communism and how it continues to degenerate in the future. </p><p dir="ltr">Ultimately, it is obvious that while clearly delineated political systems seem to be losing trust, ground, and legitimacy, we could indeed be faced with similar situations to those in Hungary or Poland, where fanatically anti-communist rhetoric is deviously intertwined with right-wing mobilisation and anti-democratic principles. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Nostalgia for the communist past can have many causes and takes many forms. But among citizens of post-communist Europe one thing that lingers is still an abiding sense of the state as a social provider, even if it routinely fails to meet those obligations. Do any “ghosts of the communist past” still have emancipatory potential?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura: </strong>Unfortunately, the rhetoric of transition has been fixed on destroying the legacy of socialism through mischievous attempts of rewriting the past. But the so-called ghosts or zombies survived in most cases through collective nostalgia. Therefore we are still able to find fragments of the recent past with its inner dynamics and complexities, with failures, as well as accomplishments, with a living history of detachment from the capitalist world, an environment which in itself should provide social and cultural critics with a great deal of inspiration. </p><p dir="ltr">Even though most products of the past have been either destroyed or rendered pointless by the winners of the transition, present-day eastern Europe remains a living trace of the past. In addition to a sense of inclusiveness, as well as a rule for the many instead of the few, the legacy of communism teaches us about a powerful internationalist dimension, one that leaves room for a post-national model of humanity to emerge, one that has the potential to break the unbearable spell of neoliberalism. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen_Shot_2018-10-09_at_15.00.17.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/Screen_Shot_2018-10-09_at_15.00.17.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Kajet Journal. </span></span></span>Having said this, the emancipatory potential of nostalgia shouldn’t be ignored: the past shouldn’t be regarded as a sensitive topic, whereas its passive dimension shouldn’t be exaggerated until acceptance. Nostalgia after all is an acute indicator of the contemporary bleak state of affairs and embodies an emerging desire to build toward a better future. This nostalgia is the result of an impulse that opens up political questions at their most basic political, as well as human, level. The ensuing nostalgia–regardless of it form, be it ostalgia, yugonostalgia, or simply a nostalgia toward the bygone times – can indeed function as a proficient method that condemns the contemporary ruling elites, as well as the underlying status-quo.</p><p dir="ltr">However, in order to stimulate change, we need to replace the sentimental, teary side of nostalgia with a proactive, engaged, and radical nostalgia, one that has its fists raised up in the air. Only in this way ghosts may have emancipatory potential. Otherwise, they will be kept at the level of electoral promise and political opportunism. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Your current edition, released last month, asks whether there are utopias after utopia. But it seems to me that after 2008, a lot of old certainties have collapsed on the other half of the continent, and people are seeking new political alternatives. This could be a major challenge to <a href="https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/explaining-eastern-europe-imitation-and-its-discontents">how we’ve been invited to view eastern Europe</a> in the continent’s cultural geography. What lessons does post-socialism have here, and what comes after it?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> The second issue begins with an extensive discussion regarding the idea of a utopian eastern-futuristic society that is based on hope. Instead of futile, fragmentary explosions of despair, we argue that we need to organise a mechanism for social autonomy that can empower new subjectivities and sensibilities. A new social model that borrows from the past yet is upgraded for the needs of the many in contemporary times: in this regard, such a model of the future needs to balance the failures of the past with an actually emancipatory movement inclusive of all human beings, that is also aware of the surrounding ecosystem. </p><p dir="ltr">Such a post-(or even anti-)national mankind needs to be recognised as a vital position in the current state of affairs, where new visions arise from the idea of an emerging class without a nation. An eastern society of the future (but perhaps not only eastern, for the west needs also to be liberated) should be built around the action of learning how to practice hope. Hope in this sense acts as a new terrain for a struggle of the future, insofar as hope itself is actively sustaining thought into action, discourse into praxis. After all, in this desert of transitioning in perpetuity, we don’t need to wait for an oasis to reveal itself, but to actively pursue it.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">We need to bring the politics of imitation to a halt and to start assembling our own eastern future</span></p><p dir="ltr">It is upon the current distrust of business elites that we can start building. Instead of turning toward profound conservatism (just like Hungary or Poland did), however, we need to bring the politics of imitation to a halt and to start assembling our own eastern future. Even more so, in the case of postsocialist eastern Europe, it is the very fluid history of the region that makes it the perfect site for critically delving into its troubled relationship with the notion of utopia. That is why, we argue, it is especially in the context of post-socialism, that we must continue to juxtapose the current desolate order with a well-established ideal. </p><p dir="ltr">With utopia itself becoming utopian – a forsaken relic of the past and a symbol of failure to many, our second issue seeks to revive a hopeful perspective upon everyday life, as well as politics, in eastern Europe. After all, post-communist countries of the former eastern bloc were not exclusively established upon velvet revolutions, as for the most part they were guided forward by the iron fist of military violence and economic remodelling toward systemic material scarcity and an addiction to private funding: in Darko Suvin’s words, a violent transition dependent on tanks and banks. The recent history teaches us that the deficiencies of the 1980s were swapped – without a coherent intermediate passage of recovery – with the catastrophic hopelessness of the 1990s, with a depression of the soul and body alike. </p><p dir="ltr">As you rightly noticed, we do seem to assemble the entire issue around an open-ended question (Is there room for utopia after utopia?) However, we like to think that this question is by no means rhetorical, as it has a clear answer, and that answer is an affirmative one. Hoping that this sort of spoiler hasn’t cast off any potential readers but has intrigued them, we do believe that a better future, a utopian future awaits us, if we learn how to build. After all, this is what the second issue is about: how do we use our radical imagination in order to build a better future and what mechanisms and strategies do we employ in order to ignite our advancement toward utopia… </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Your third issue will be about “struggle,” against a “dogmatic present and apparently inescapable future.” What does this struggle mean to you, and what other issues are in the pipeline for Kajet?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Petrică &amp; Laura:</strong> Our interpretation of struggling inside eastern Europe can be actually very broad, but the third issue will be focusing on: how should the act of struggling against the emergent status-quo look like? What conditions do we need to create in order for our struggle to be fruitful? Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, where should this struggle take us? </p><p dir="ltr">The kind of eastern Europe we envision through KAJET shall remain open toward the possibility of a socially reformed tomorrow. By changing the paradigmatic understanding of the region, what if eastern Europe is better off as a space of transcultural existence under continuous construction, or a transitory stage toward an improved geopolitical arena of a revolutionary future that can allow us to form an experimental post-Europe – an environment marked by the legacy of shared upheaval, the existing time of collective struggle, and the potential of joint cooperation in pursuance of social change and social revolution. After all, struggling remains completely ineffectual if it does not follow a thoughtful scheme toward a better future. Struggling shall not be just about past/current conflicts; instead, we consider that struggling needs to be planned, and it is only through perceptive planning that we can redeem our salvation.</p><p dir="ltr">We usually take projects one at a time, so for now all our attention is focused on trying to spread around our second issue and on putting together our third. </p><p dir="ltr">&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="/od-russia/thomas-rowley/diy-magazine-taboo-topics-russia-moloko-plus">How this DIY magazine is making space for taboo topics in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/feeling-yerevan-s-pulse-new-media-talking-about-armenia-s-blind-spots">Feeling Yerevan’s pulse: the new media talking about Armenia’s blind spots </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/behind-russian-mirror">Behind the Russian mirror</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-rowley/russia-s-wild-decade-how-memories-of-1990s-are-changing">Russia’s wild decade: how memories of the 1990s are changing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maxim Edwards Unlikely Media Cultural politics Thu, 18 Oct 2018 05:43:40 +0000 Maxim Edwards 120097 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Colonialism can’t be forgotten – it’s still destroying peoples and our planet https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik/colonialism-can-t-be-forgotten-it-s-still-destroying-peoples-and-our-pl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From the population decimation of the first colonies to the recent murders of environmental activists in Honduras, the arithmetic of cruelty and destruction is still unfolding.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/daniel 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/daniel 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Tar sands, Alberta. Credit: Dru Oja Jay/Flickr, CC 2.0.</span></span></span></p><p>The consequences of colonialism and imperialism, in all their forms and across all their epochs, defy our imagination. Unspeakable cruelties were inflicted, their scars and agonies are unspeakable. </p> <p>Colonialism was, and remains, a wholesale destruction of memory. Lands, the sources of identity, stolen. Languages, ripped from mouths. The collective loss to humanity was incalculable, as cultures, ideas, species, habitats, traditions, cosmologies, possibilities, patterns of life, and ways of understanding the world were destroyed. Countless ecological traditions – involving diverse ways of being with nature – were swept away. </p> <p>As formal colonialism came to an end, the process of erasing its crimes from public memory and effacing history began. The forces of forgetting crafted and promulgated mythological narratives of innocent imperial greatness, unblemished by enslavement or genocide. When forced to give away the Congo, King Leopold took to burning all documents associated with his brutal rule. ‘I will give them my Congo, but they have no right to know what I did there,’ Leopold said. His palace’s furnaces burned for eight days (1). </p> <p>There are many such shredded chapters that we will never reconstruct. Every death count, every statistic, every fragment of history, is bitterly incomplete. But the preliminary arithmetic of cruelty is enough to illustrate the sheer magnitude of destruction. </p> <p>So catastrophic and widespread was the decimation of human life in the Americas that nine-tenths of its original population was extinguished through war, epidemic diseases, enslavement, overwork, and famine (2). Most of us have heard the simplistic story of a genocide by germs, where populations were wiped out by diseases to which they had no immunity. But the vulnerability of communities to maladies was not just a product of biological misfortune. Malnutrition, exhaustion, absent sanitation, enslaving missions and overcrowding helped to weaken people’s protection (3). Demographic research has shown, for example, that on Hispaniola, the indigenous population plummeted before any smallpox cases were documented (4).</p> <p>In the last decades of the 19th century, tens of millions of Indians died of famine, while British colonial policy forced the country to export record levels of food. &nbsp;If their bodies were laid head to foot, the corpses would cover the length of England 85 times over (5). The evisceration of the Congo, designed to extract maximum levels of ivory and rubber, killed at least 10 million people – half the country’s population at the time (6). </p> <p>The bounties of colonialism underwrote the wealth of Europe. Seams of silver and gold swelled the coffers of banks and merchants. The fortunes made from metals, slave trading, and plantation commodities, served as direct stimuli to colonial economies, helping to bankroll the Industrial Revolution (7). Consumers in the colonies proved vital to purchasing products and supporting Western European industries (8). By the late 19th century, over half of the British state’s revenue stemmed from its colonies. </p> <p>Colonialism reconfigured the world economy. India’s share of the global economy shrank from 27 per cent to 3 per cent. China’s share shrank from 35 per cent to 7 per cent. Europe’s share exploded from 20 per cent to 60 per cent (9). The tables of development were overturned. In the 18th century, differences in income across the world’s leading civilizations were minimal. It is in fact likely that average living standards in Europe at this time were lower than elsewhere (10). </p> <p>The story of colonialism, sanitized and blotted out from the historical consciousness, needs to be recalled, for many reasons – not the least of them because of our concerns about the climate. Colonialism’s ledger of lavish of destruction – its wholesale removal of ecosystems, and the subjugation of those communities that had nourished them – unleashed major rises in emissions. Between 1835 and 1885, deforestation in the territories of the United States was the largest global contributor to emissions (11). </p> <p>Ultimately, colonialism transformed the speed, scope and scale of ecological destruction. It generated dramatic changes in land and marine ecosystems, and transformed the dynamics of economic growth. Political ecologist Jason Moore argues that ‘the rise of capitalist civilization after 1450, with its audacious strategies of global conquest, endless commodification, and relentless rationalization’, marked ‘a turning point in the history of humanity’s relation with the rest of nature, greater than any watershed since the rise of agriculture and the first cities’ (12).</p> <p>Across most continents and contexts, the grip and influence of empire impelled an era of major devastation. As environmental historian Joachim Radkau outlines, ‘[i]n the opinion of the vast majority of scholars, a large-scale ecological crisis developed in the 18th century and became acute and obvious in the 19th… In China, as in Europe, one can detect in the 18th century a desire to use natural resources to their limits and to leave no more empty spaces…’ (13).</p> <p>Its legacies endure today in colonial complexes that underlie our visions of nature, and other humans. Economically, its inheritance was the naturalization of a model of intense cost-shifting, which allowed for states to offload resource-consuming industries, and the costs of ecological damage. By the birth of the New World, silver mines and seams in Bohemia and Saxon had been exhausted. European forests were bearing the burden of centuries of exploitation for use in shipbuilding. Around 3,000 oaks were required to build a single warship (14). Iberian shipbuilding, which had eaten through the forests of Catalonia, was transplanted to Cuba and Brazil (15). The construction of British battleships was transferred from London to Bombay shipyards (16). Once the industries had been externalized, resources could be extracted with scant attention paid to the environmental consequences. Japanese policies for example, protected forests in Japan, but exploited them during Japan’s rule of Korea (17).</p> <p>Colonialism also firmly shaped the ways we view conservation and ecology. Colonial efforts to protect nature, particularly popular at the end of the nineteenth century, became further opportunities for colonial control. Inhabitants were removed from areas of ‘pristine nature’ that then became national parks, while lands outside these were devoted to intensive extraction. Ahwahneechee communities were, for example, expelled from the valleys that today make up Yosemite Park in California. </p> <h2>Neocolonialism: the metabolism of misery</h2> <p>During the 19th and 20th centuries, formal colonialism came to an end. Countries were liberated, new flags unfurled, and rewritten constitutions adopted. But although imperial states were forced to relinquish their hold, their legacies prevailed. Centuries of enslavement, despotism, crushed sovereignty, and ecological demolition, had guaranteed a long afterlife to imperial haunting, and its logics of conquest and predation. Many of the new nation states carried on down tracks laid for them by the colonial powers and continued the process of ecological destruction. Under the banners of development, thousands of communities were evicted and displaced in development programmes. </p> <p>In India, between 1947 and 2000, around 24 million Adivasis (indigenous peoples) were displaced by large development projects. The construction of the Narmada Dam displaced over 100,000 people alone. In Brazil, military and non-military governments triggered the wholesale destruction of huge areas of the Amazon rainforest, subsidizing road building, clearing the way for large cattle ranches, and opening up the land for migrants. In Egypt, the regime of Hosni Mubarak transferred control of land to large landowners, evicting hundreds of thousands of farmers were evicted, under the banner of ‘development’. </p> <p>In 1972, following colonial precedents, the Nigerian government outlawed traditional agriculture by fire clearance, a move that would subsequently contributed to devastating famines (18). In addition, the government’s encouragement of new oil projects was described by prominent Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa, as ‘recolonization’ (19).&nbsp; </p> <p>Deforestation took hold across former colonies. Between 1960 and 1980, Indonesia’s timber exports rose 200-fold. Côte d’Ivoire’s timber exports rose from 42,000 tonnes in 1913 to 1.6 million tonnes in the early 1980s; less than a fortieth of the country’s forests remain (20). Between 1900 and the present day, over half the ‘developing world’s’ forests were removed (21).</p> <p>Those resisting these models, were met with severe repression, and extrajudicial violence (22). This metabolism of misery continues to this day, with hundreds of social leaders and community activists killed worldwide every year, for resisting the encroachment of extractive frontiers. Between 2010 and 2017, at least 124 environmental and land activists were murdered in Honduras (23). </p> <p>The frontiers of ecological destruction are constantly expanding, as the global economy’s appetite for new materials staggers on. Between 2003 and 2015, the number of mining projects in Argentina rose from 40 in 2003 to 800 in 2015 (24). A fifth of Peru has been conceded to mining companies (25).</p> <p>Today’s world is a landscape scarred by environmental violence: the monocultural soybean fields of Brazil’s Mato Grosso; the modern gold rushes of Madre de Dios and Zamfara; the vast tar-sands ponds of Canada; the forest-consuming coal mines of Kalimantan; the megadams of the Mekong Delta; the rivers dredged to yield sand; the phosphate mines of Western Sahara; the palm plantations of Tela; the bauxite mines of Guinea; the mesh of pipelines across the Niger Delta; the sugarcane fields of Uttar Pradesh. </p> <p>It is also a world of furnaces: the brick kilns of Peshawar; the smelters of Norilsk; the glass industries of Firozabad; the chemical factories of Dzerzhinsk; the steel mills of Xingtai and Mandi Gobindgarh; the fertilizer plants of Baocun; the tanneries of Hazaribagh and Rawalpindi; the aluminium smelters of Al Jubail; the polluted deltas of Ogoniland; the ship graveyards of Bangladesh; the cancer villages of industrial China. </p> <p>The full impact of colonialism would be revealed in its long-term impacts. It radically transformed landscapes, state relations, philosophies and cultures, leaving as one of its inheritance an intensive and plunderous economic model. In pursuit of resources, countries ran roughshod over limits, and destroyed many of the ecosystems necessary for preventing climate change.</p><p><em>This is the second of two extracts from ‘<a href="https://ethicalshop.org/the-memory-we-could-be-by-daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik-pb.html">The Memory We Could Be</a>’, Daniel’s new book published this Autumn by New Internationalist Books.</em></p> <h2>Notes</h2> <ol><li>Adam Hochschild, <em>King Leopold's Ghost</em>, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999. </li><li>JR McNeill, <em>Mosquito Empires</em>, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p 16.</li><li>Justin McBrian, ‘Accumulating Extinction’, <em>Anthropocene or Capitalocene?</em> PM Press, 2016, pp 116-137.</li><li>Massimo Livi Bacci, <em>Conquest: The Destruction of the American Indios</em>, Polity, 2008. </li><li>Cited in Jason Hickel, 'Enough of aid – let’s talk reparations', <em>Guardian</em>, 27 Nov 2015.</li><li>Adam Hochschild, op cit.</li><li>Jason Hickel, <em>The Divide</em>, William Heinemann, 2017.</li><li>Joseph Inikori, <em>Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England</em>, Cambridge University Press, 2002.</li><li>Angus Maddison, <em>The World Economy</em>, OECD, 2006.</li><li>Mike Davis, ‘The Origin of the Third World’, <em>Antipode</em>, Vol 32, No 1, 2000.</li><li>John L Brooke, <em>Climate Change and the Course of Global History</em>, Cambridge University Press 2014, p 496.</li><li>Jason W Moore, ‘The Capitalocene, Part I’, <em>The Journal of Peasant Studies</em>, Vol 44, No 3, 2017.</li><li>Joachim Radkau, <em>Nature and Power,</em> Cambridge University Press, 2008, p 111.</li><li>Jeremy L Caradonna, <em>Sustainability: A History</em>, Oxford University Press, p 33.</li><li>Jason W Moore, ‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’, <em>Journal of Agrarian Change</em>, Vol 10, No 1, 2010.</li><li>Joachim Radkau, op cit, p 173</li><li>Ibid, p 117.</li><li>Michael J Watts, <em>Silent Violence</em>, University of Georgia Press, 2013.</li><li>Silke Stroh, ‘Towards a Postcolonial Environment?’, <em>Local Natures, Global Responsibilities, </em>Rodopi, 2010, p 197.</li><li>Clive Ponting, <em>A New Green History of the World</em>, Random House, 2007, p 192.</li><li>John H Bodley, <em>Anthropology and Contemporary Human Problems</em>, Rowman Altamira, 2012, p 47.</li><li>Such as in the case of the Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala.</li><li>Autumn Spanne, ‘Why is Honduras the world’s deadliest country for environmentalists?’, <em>Guardian</em>, 7 Apr 2016.</li><li>Darío Aranda, ‘Qué hay detrás de la campaña antimapuche’, <em>La Vaca</em>, 27 Nov 2017.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li>Gestión, ‘Concesiones mineras ocupan la quinta parte del territorio del Perú’, 14 Sep 2014, nin.tl/Peru</li></ol><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/daniel-macmillen-voskoboynik/to-fix-climate-crisis-we-must-acknowledge-our-imperial-past">To fix the climate crisis, we must face up to our imperial past</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik Thu, 18 Oct 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik 120127 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What went wrong in eastern Europe? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tom-junes/what-went-wrong-in-eastern-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">A new book sheds light on the early warning signs of illiberalism – and gives some modest hope for the future.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/1024px-Praha_1989-11-25_2C_Hrad_C4_8Dansk_C3_A1_2C_dav_se_val_C3_AD_na_Letnou.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562891/1024px-Praha_1989-11-25_2C_Hrad_C4_8Dansk_C3_A1_2C_dav_se_val_C3_AD_na_Letnou.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>25 November 1989: people walk from Prague cathedral to Letná Plain. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>A review of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/aftershock/">John Feffer’s Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr">On the eve of the 30th anniversary of 1989, one could be forgiven succumbing to pessimism following the news coming out of Eastern Europe. Apart from the alarmism about a resurgent and aggressive Russia, it is the “rise of illiberalism”, for instance, in Hungary and Poland, or instability in the Balkans that has captured the imagination of media commentators and political scientists. </p><p dir="ltr">Students of the region’s history can read about that “we-the-people” moment in which the nations of eastern Europe took to the streets demanding freedom and democracy. In a seemingly ironic twist of history, merely a generation later, conservative, populist and far-right parties are capitalising on the same “we-the-people” slogan to advance nativist and xenophobic policies. “What has gone wrong?” is the question now asked about a region once thought by some to have heralded “the end of history”.</p><p dir="ltr">John Feffer’s <a href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/aftershock/"><em>Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams</em></a> is a book that ventures into this question from a unique perspective. Based on an impressive number of in-depth interviews collected over nearly a quarter century and spanning a geographical scope from the Baltic coast to the Balkans, <em>Aftershock</em> unlocks a plethora of personal stories and experiences from the region, showing the complexity of the post-1989 transition and political trajectory of eastern Europe.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Illiberalism as a transnational phenomenon</h2><p dir="ltr">The book’s main premise is to trace the causal processes that precipitated the rise of illiberalism in eastern Europe by re-assessing the hopes and fears of 1989. Writing from the vantage point of an American observer (who also aims to draw lessons for western societies), Feffer relies on an analytical framework grounded in the work of political scientists such as <a href="https://www.yaschamounk.com/">Yascha Mounk </a>and <a href="https://www.princeton.edu/~jmueller/">Jan-Werner Müller</a>. This framework leads Feffer to conclude that illiberalism owes its appeal to three overlapping “anti-internationalist” backlashes that have materialised over the past decades: resentment against “multiculturalism”, anger with the negative effects of economic globalisation, and mistrust in the functioning of liberal democracy.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1024px-WieczorWroclawia20marca1981.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/1024px-WieczorWroclawia20marca1981.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="319" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Editions of Polish newspaper Wieczór Wrocławia for 20-22 March 1981. Censors removed texts concerning the violent suppression of trade unionists at Bydgoszcz. CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Feffer’s approach provides a useful integrative plain through which to look at the countries in eastern Europe given some apparently similar developments in the west: the victory of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, and the relative success of populist and far right parties in western Europe. However, such an approach also obscures part of the longer historical process that is idiosyncratic to the region. No western state has seen a simultaneous political, social and economic transformation take place on a similar scale and depth.</p><p dir="ltr">None of the Eastern European countries tackled in the book are close to resembling the multicultural societies of the west. Eastern Europe did not experience similar levels of immigration for a variety of reasons, while the treatment of the region’s national minorities has been left wanting for decades. In addition, the region’s communist regimes were decisively conservative when it came to social and cultural rights – a trend that was perpetuated after 1989 despite the political changes that took place, for instance, in the sphere of women’s and LGBT rights. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The post-1989 transition dismantled what was left of the imperfect welfare provisions of state socialism in eastern Europe </p><p dir="ltr">After the experience of fascism and the Second World War, liberal democracy became widely accepted in western Europe as it was simultaneously entrenched in a social-democratic welfare state. Eastern Europe was subject to a Soviet-style modernisation project of state socialism which, though combining state-led industrialisation and a paternalistic form of welfare state, was based on non-democratic authoritarian rule.</p><p dir="ltr">The post-1989 transition dismantled what was left of the imperfect welfare provisions of state socialism in eastern Europe just at a time when the social-democratic achievements were being rolled back in western Europe under the banner of neoliberalism. But in eastern Europe, the weakening of the state was a far more pervasive process leaving its institutions vulnerable. </p><p dir="ltr">There are still significant portions of the region’s population who have first-hand memory and experience of authoritarian and thus “illiberal” rule. Given the shortcomings or deficiencies of the transition, one cannot exclude a certain persistence of nostalgia, be it for the welfare state or the efficacy of a “strong state”. Given the region’s relatively short experience with liberal democracy, it might not be so surprising that it is seemingly coming undone more rapidly than expected.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The end of a utopia</h2><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, it is the hopes of 1989 that make Eastern Europe stand out. With the people’s revolutions and demise of communist rule came a utopian moment, one embodied by a desire to catch up with the west. But utopian feelings soon gave way to the realities of the transition. Issues that represented the promise of a bright future for the peoples of eastern Europe like German unification or integration into the European Union, a “membership in an idealised West” as Feffer calls it, have lost their appeal. The fall-out from the financial crisis and then the refugee crisis have served to bolster populist rhetoric blaming Brussels for the weakening of the nation-state.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-30671745.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-30671745.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kelebija, a recently constructed detention camp for migrants at the Serbian-Hungarian border. (c) Krystian Maj/Zuma Press/PA Images.</span></span></span>Feffer identifies the urban-rural divide as perhaps the most important issue on which eastern Europe’s populists have managed to capitalise politically. The regions felt the brunt of the negative impact of the shock therapies of the transition, while a fledgling middle class in the cities at least managed to grasp some opportunities ushered in by the economic transformation. This experience of differing economic fortunes resulted in a societal divide that Feffer somewhat problematically labels an “Eastern Europe A” and an “Eastern Europe B”.</p><p dir="ltr">At the root of this divide, according to Feffer, lies the fact that the post-1989 transformation reflected the concerns of urban intellectuals whose biographies reflected their struggle against communism and who then arguably stood closer to the liberal values of the west. The overall majority of the countryside’s populace did not share such a worldview, adhering rather to traditional conservative and nationalist values.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Many of the liberal and cultural freedoms that are under assault in eastern Europe are, in fact, the result of hard-fought struggles that only came to fruition in western Europe in the 1990s and later</p><p dir="ltr">In addition, the reforms of the 1990s were macro-economic, focusing on the financial sector and dealing with the major factories bestowed by state socialist regimes. Though most of the countries were still predominantly agricultural societies, less attention was paid to agriculture. A miscalculation, Feffer underlines, that has come with a high political cost. The illiberal challenge that has emerged essentially started as a reaction of “the people” in the provinces against the “cosmopolitan elites” of the cities. </p><p dir="ltr">What Feffer omits is that many of the liberal and cultural freedoms that are under assault in eastern Europe are, in fact, the result of hard-fought struggles that only came to fruition in western Europe in the 1990s and later – that is when eastern Europe was “catching up” during the transition. Given the fact that a large part of Eastern Europe’s urban dwellers also vote for populist parties, and that the region’s urban elites’ support for liberal values (such as women’s and LGBT rights) remains in doubt, it is questionable whether a breakdown between an Eastern Europe A and an Eastern Europe B captures the problem. The idealised west of eastern Europe was and still is the pre-1989 west, a beacon of desired prosperity and consumerism, but significantly more conservative than today. Perhaps the real issue stems from the fact that eastern Europe didn’t “catch up”, and might not do so in the foreseeable future.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The legacy of the past </h2><p dir="ltr">Taken at face value, the illiberal challenge in Eastern Europe can be seen as a rhetorical proclamation of a verdict or condemnation of the transition in name of “the people”. Populists everywhere make promises about correcting erroneous ways of the past as they attack corruption or feed on economic resentment. In eastern Europe, however, there is an additional specific problem that relates to dealing with the communist past and in particular the approach to those who had been targeted by or collaborated with the former regimes’ security apparatuses. Anti-communism is a common branding adopted by today’s populists in the region.</p><p dir="ltr">The exposure and sometimes prosecution of communist crimes was part of a <a href="https://www.e-ir.info/2012/06/01/is-it-possible-to-devise-a-fair-system-of-lustration/">legitimate campaign for transitional justice</a>, but the various attempts at lustration ended up being a botched process practically everywhere, often victimising those who had actively contested the communist regime. As Feffer convincingly demonstrates in the book, the issue of haphazard lustration mixed with the wild capitalism and corruption of the 1990s helped create a culture of suspicion that was ultimately easy manipulated by populists to undermine trust in the institutions of liberal democracy. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Nationalism, often under the banner of patriotism, was an integral part of the events of 1989 and the democratisation that followed</p><p dir="ltr">But populism and illiberalism are not recent or new phenomena in the region. As Feffer poignantly observes, some warning signs were already visible in the 1990s. Shortly after 1989, Poland’s first presidential election was unexpectedly contested in a second-round run-off by Lech Wałęsa, Solidarity’s legendary leader, and Stanisław Tymiński, an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1990/12/02/world/evolution-in-europe-tyminski-in-peru-spiritual-awareness-then-cable-tv.html">obscure émigré businessman</a> promising an easy fix to the country’s problems and prosperity for all. Tymiński’s proclamations, as Feffer duly notes, uncannily resembled the soundbites of Donald Trump’s populist campaign more than a quarter century later.</p><p dir="ltr">In Slovakia, the 1990s were dominated politically by Vladimír Mečiar, a former dissident, whose brand of policies included playing on economic resentment, espousing nationalism and anti-Roma sentiments. Mečiar was <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/02/23/my-country-had-its-own-trump-heres-how-we-beat-him/?utm_term=.ca2bb7653f9c">ultimately defeated at the polls</a> in 1998 thanks to an internationally supported grassroots campaign, which as Feffer aptly notes, relied on the legacy of the Velvet Revolution but also served as a precursor to the Colour Revolutions of the 21st century. Indeed, Mečiar’s politics could be seen as a forbearer of the illiberal and authoritarian tendencies we see today. While these tendencies ultimately did not manage to break through in the 1990s, from today’s perspective they should be interpreted as a warning not heeded. Populism is a symptom of our times, but illiberal ideas are not new.</p><p dir="ltr">Feffer rightly points out how nationalism has fuelled the rise of illiberalism in eastern Europe. The regions’ communist parties were already decisively playing the nationalist card in the 1980s and their opponents were often conservatives and nationalists rather than liberals. Nationalism, often under the banner of patriotism, was an <a href="http://neweasterneurope.eu/2016/04/20/a-struggle-for-ideals/">integral part of the events of 1989</a> and the democratisation that followed. In the decades after 1989, mass protests throughout eastern Europe have more often than not been characterised by the use of national flags; conservatives and liberals have found it difficult to criticise such expressions of “patriotism”. Meanwhile non-nationalist liberal or left-wing parties have floundered, and ultra-nationalist and far right parties have flourished, leading the region’s political centre to have <a href="https://www.eurozine.com/bulgarias-post-1989-demostalgie/">decisively shifted to the right</a>, thereby embracing nationalist and illiberal positions.</p><h2 dir="ltr">What can the future bring?</h2><p dir="ltr"><em>Aftershock</em> not only explores the failures of the transition. It also highlights positive developments and offers hopeful alternatives. Some of Feffer’s respondents recount their personal success stories allowing for a more nuanced understanding of people’s diverging trajectories since 1989. The plight of national and sexual minorities, or the transnational predicament of the region’s Roma communities are reason for grave concern, but Feffer’s book engages with local activists who have taken up these causes showing that there is also some cause for hope. In addition, the EU has managed to play a positive role in part by empowering aiding human rights campaigners over the years.</p><p dir="ltr">Feffer introduces an array of political and cultural activist milieux, dubbing them “the new dissidents” creating “islands of hope” or even “new worlds”. He also points to a generational element at work. The young generation has grown up with all the benefits of EU membership, but rejects the orthodox liberalism of those who constructed the post-1989 order. This generation also believes its voice must be heard, leading Feffer to conclude that in future the members of this generation could hold the key to decisions whether the old order will be reformed or a new world would be created. </p><p dir="ltr">At this point though, it is hard to share Feffer’s moderate optimism. His new dissidents, ranging from the milieu of <a href="http://politicalcritique.org">Krytyka Polityczna</a> in Poland to that of <a href="http://novilevi.org/nlpenglish">New Left Perspectives</a> in Bulgaria, do not have much impact on the political process in the region. Polls and surveys show that many among the younger generation are critical of the old order, but in fact <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/why-central-europes-youth-roll-right-voting-politics-visegard/">support the far right</a>. Yet, the question about the future of Eastern Europe that Feffer puts forward in his book through its plethora of elucidating personal testimonies is a crucial one: what can we expect for the future in eastern Europe? Will we see more nationalism, more populism and possibly the rise of a new political order? Or will we see a reformed EU that could mitigate the negative consequences of economic liberalisation and restore faith in liberal democracy?</p><p dir="ltr">Illiberalism in Eastern Europe is certainly not a predetermined outcome just as the acceptance of liberalism did not hail the end of history. In the past decade, the region has both witnessed the rise of populist politics and mass grassroots protest movements challenging the status quo. There is cause for pessimism, but also for optimism. If the history of the region teaches us something, then it is that it never ends and it can be unexpected and surprising. After all, to many at the time the events of 1989 seemed unexpected and surprising.</p><p dir="ltr">&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="/od-russia/william-jay-risch/turning-a-protest-into-metaphysics">Turning a protest into (someone else’s) metaphysics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/stephen-f-jones/kakha-bendukidze-and-georgia%E2%80%99s-failed-experiment">Kakha Bendukidze and Georgia’s failed experiment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach-oles-petik/fear-and-loathing-in-ukraine-european-kind-of-protest">Fear and loathing in Ukraine: a very “European” protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/georgi-derluguian/on-25-years-of-postmodernity-in-south-caucasus">On 25 years of postmodernity in the South Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-alyukov/conspiracy-theory-has-gone-mainstream-in-russia">Conspiracy theory has gone mainstream in Russia. But how does it work?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/kajet-journal-interview">Meet the editors of a new journal challenging prejudices about eastern Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tom-junes/where-does-key-to-political-change-in-post-soviet-space-lie">Where does the key to political change lie in the post-Soviet space?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tom Junes Thu, 18 Oct 2018 04:43:00 +0000 Tom Junes 120098 at https://www.opendemocracy.net