openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Research the revenge: what we’re getting wrong about Russia Today https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vasily-gatov/what-we-are-getting-wrong-about-russia-today <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/Screen%20Shot%202018-08-15%20at%2009.15.58_0.png" alt="" width="80" />Data-mining and analysis will not reveal what makes Russian propaganda tick.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-33961593_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>(c) Jaap Arriens/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I personally know many people who work at RT, and I have known some of them for over 20 years. When we first met in the “stormy 1990s”, some of them, like myself, were working for foreign TV bureaus in Moscow, others for independent radio. All those aspiring young people were enthusiastic, cosmopolitan, spoke a number of languages and loved bourgeois traits (which, yes, includes golf).</p><p>These boys and girls eventually hit western media’s glass ceiling. In the early 2000s, the big TV and news media bureaus in Moscow were curtailed — either due to economic constraints or decreasing interest in Russia. Very few of the capable producers, field reporters and editors continued their careers at the BBC, Australia’s ABC News, German public service broadcaster ZDF or Reuters. Western media, once enchanted with perestroika and glasnost’, and later the seismic events of the Yeltsin era, trained and taught this “local staff”, myself included. In the 2000-2004 period, most of these people lost their comfortable jobs, failed to qualify for transfers to other countries or find places for themselves at the Moscow offices of other foreign media outlets.</p><p dir="ltr">A decade later, most of them were working for Russian state television and other state media such as the newly born Russia Today. Today, they are the bosses and leaders of this TV channel, which is now regarded as a major threat to western democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">It is well known that Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, developed some sort of hostility to the USA after a <a href="https://exchanges.state.gov/non-us/program/future-leaders-exchange">FLEX exchange</a> she attended at the age of 15. A girl from the bustling seaside resort of Sochi found herself in Bristol, New Hampshire (population 1,688 in 2010) — not exactly the centre of the universe. Imagine someone who grew up at the seaside of Miami beach being diverted to an obscure depopulated village in Karelia, northwest Russia? You may fall in love with lakes and rocks, even with the nice cumbersome people who live there, but you’ll never sympathise with the country which sent you to the middle of nowhere — in the case of Simonyan, that’s FLEX (and the State Department that oversaw the programme).</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">There’s no algorithm in RT’s malevolence, no scrupulous propaganda technology. What powers it is the burning hatred of smart boys and girls who once thought of the West as the “shining city on the hill”</p><p dir="ltr">But Margarita Simonyan isn’t alone in her vigorous love-hate relationship with America and the west. Many of her accomplices at RT are disgruntled former staffers of western media in Moscow. These people are well-trained, well-educated, well-travelled — and completely disillusioned in press freedom, having formed their opinions after the abrupt ending of their comfortable and well-paid careers in western bureaus in Moscow. They all have this unifying event in the past: when you’re fired (or rejected) by someone who defined you and your life, it leaves a taste of betrayal in the mouth.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">When academic colleagues <a href="https://reframingrussia.com/">collect data and dissect RT’s malignant practices</a> in an attempt to reconstruct the massive system of orchestrated agenda manipulation, I have to say — I don’t see anything of the sort. What I see are the faces of my former friends and colleagues who, in Star Wars terms, went to the Dark Side. Most of RT’s professional Russian leadership have the following background: once a ZDF producer, once a Agence France Press reporter, once a Golf Digest publisher… Each of them has a desire for revenge, and with time this desire only intensifies.</p><p dir="ltr">To <a href="https://medium.com/@d1gi">my colleagues researching Russian propaganda</a>, I have this advice: don’t overcomplicate RT’s practices. It is possible you will find some vicious patterns and suspicious signs of high intelligence capabilities — but this evidence is false. What you see is not a calculated offensive operation with long-term goals, but a pattern of rage and revenge. Furious in their revenge, people of RT and other Russian “disinformation troops” are merely trying to implement their sense of betrayal. They share this feeling with the Kremlin, which feels deceived by the triumphant post-Cold War West. And, because of this shared hate (and zeal), they tirelessly work and direct work of others — to revenge, to humiliate and deceive in return.</p><p dir="ltr">While I agree generally with the importance of scientific and data-rich research of RT’s activities, I see fewer reasons to develop any recommendations based on these kind of studies. There’s no algorithm in RT’s malevolence, no scrupulous propaganda technology. What powers it is the burning hatred of smart boys and girls who once thought of the West — and particularly Western media — as the “shining city on the hill”, but now feel offended and deceived. The ingenuity of broken illusions is the fuel of RT, coupled with lavish state funding and emotional reimbursement. Nothing is more creative than a desire for revenge — and this means that no “computational” or restrictive measures for opposing this revenge will be successful.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, a very similar ethos is present among RT’s western staff. Most of them are either outcasts in the journalism of their respective countries (and therefore join RT to wage revenge as well) or junior graduates who had never been really accepted into western journalism, and who easily consume tales and truths, “shaken, not stirred” and supplied by older and more experienced RT staffers.</p><p>That said, I am quite pessimistic about any perspective of policy or other means of response to RT’s continuing campaign. The broadcaster’s staff share the employer’s passionate position against liberal values, free and independent journalism, impartial and balanced reporting — and do their best to perform. Unless the Kremlin decides to opt for some sort of “informational détente” with the West — guided by some pragmatic reasons or terms of trade — RT will continue to efficiently overcome international barriers, playing on the devils and perils of Western societies and cleverly exploiting the weaknesses of the liberal political order. Well, “efficiently” is something of an overstatement: RT <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/11/technology/youtube-fake-view-sellers.html">continuously inflates its audience</a>, which has been reported <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/putins-propaganda-tv-lies-about-its-popularity">time and again</a>, and this doesn’t bode well for the declarations of grandeur for which Margarita Simonyan is so well known.</p><p dir="ltr">It is powered by revenge for a personal offence, nothing else.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vasily-gatov/over-barriers-in-us-russian-discourse">Russia, America, it&#039;s time to talk face-to-face</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexey-kovalev/life-after-facts-how-russian-state-media-defines-itself-through-negation">Life after facts: how Russian state media defines itself through negation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nataliya-rostova/in-russia-s-media-censorship-is-silent">In Russia’s media, censorship is silent </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ilya-yablokov/russian-media-s-double-white-lines">Russian journalism’s double white lines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elisabeth-schimpfossl/reporting-on-russian-television">Reporting on Russian television</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/sergey-smirnov/ban-rt-uk-helps-putin-campaign-freedom">By banning Russian propaganda, the UK will help Putin in his campaign against press freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nicolai-paholinitchi/moldovas-battle-against-russian-propaganda">Why Moldova’s battle against Russian propaganda isn’t what it seems</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vasily Gatov Beyond propaganda Wed, 15 Aug 2018 15:33:05 +0000 Vasily Gatov 119262 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tackling the trolls: how women are fighting back against online bullies https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/tackling-trolls-how-women-fighting-back-online-bullies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Refusing to be silent, women are leading research, campaigns and new strategies to stop trolls and create safer online spaces.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Some of the abuse the author received on Facebook in 2012. Image: screenshot.</span></span></span>Back in 2012, I went to the police to report an incident of online harassment. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/09/closure-of-hooters-breastaurant-welcome">A man</a> had called me an obscene name, threatened to find out where I lived in order to post my details on 4Chan, and wrote “she must pay!!”. He accepted a caution.</p><p dir="ltr">This wasn’t my first incident of online abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">There was the rising academic and popular environmentalist who commented on everything I wrote, in a way that amounted to sustained harassment. When I wrote a piece on abortion rights, he called me a “fucking baby killer.”</p><p dir="ltr">In recent years, I’ve been told to <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-2/#topanchor">drink floor polish</a> and <a href="http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-hope-some-c-rapes-you-online.html">that I need to be raped</a>. I’ve been repeatedly called a bitch and a cunt. People have responded to my articles with images of dead babies. Last month, I was told to “shut my libtard cock-holster’.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/sep/03/caroline-criado-perez-rape-threats-continue">Feminist activists </a>have received endless abuse leaving some with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. I know of women who have received <a href="https://longreads.com/2018/03/28/who-does-she-think-she-is/">bomb threats</a>; friends who have had their faces Photoshopped onto obscene images.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“When I wrote a piece on abortion rights, he called me a “fucking baby killer.”</p><p dir="ltr">Women, however, are refusing to be silent, striking back against online abuse and taking action to tackle the trolls. From <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/intimidation-in-public-life">governments</a> to <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-1/#topanchor">NGOs</a> and grassroots <a href="http://www.troll-busters.com/">activists</a>, there is a growing effort to respond to online harassment.</p><p dir="ltr">One campaign is called <a href="https://yoursosteam.wordpress.com/about/">Troll Busters</a>. Founded in 2014, the project offers practical advice and support to journalists experiencing online abuse. It was set up with a clear message: “the trolls don’t have to win. We have your back!”</p><p dir="ltr">For founder Michelle Ferrier, this project is a chance to “create an anti-<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/gamergate-scandal-erupts-video-game-community">Gamergate</a>”. Gamergate was the notorious and vicious online attacks co-ordinated by Men’s Rights Activists against women in the gaming industry.</p><p dir="ltr">Ferrier had been targeted by an increasingly violent stalker ten years previously, when a columnist for a Florida newspaper. She’s also experienced abuse online.</p><p dir="ltr">“I noticed that attacks on women online were increasing,” she told me recently, over Skype. “It wasn’t just me who was being attacked – it was other women, and other women of colour, journalists.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I wanted to try and stem the hate that I had seen happening online around the Gamergate movement,” Ferrier continued. “And to try and find some way of helping those women.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Our strategy is to find and address online attacks when they’re happening, so we can diminish the severity and the pile-on effect,” Ferrier told me.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Our strategy is to find and address online attacks when they’re happening, so we can diminish the severity and the pile-on effect.”</p><p dir="ltr">“We do that in two ways. We have a reporting mechanism, so people can contact us and we can go and operate in their social media feed,” Ferrier said.</p><p dir="ltr">“And we use social media monitoring and machine learning to find instances where journalists are under attack, and get their consent to operate in their feed.”</p><p dir="ltr">Troll Busters helps journalists deal with attacks, but also offers “one-on-one support to help them gather evidence for law enforcement, and to deal with management so they can restore their reputations and be protected from further abuse,” Ferrier said.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (2).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (2).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="219" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Troll Busters project website. Image: screenshot.</span></span></span>Recently, 50.50’s Lara Whyte experienced exactly the kind of pile-on that Troll Busters aims to tackle and diffuse. Following her report on a men's rights conference in London, she was subject to a coordinated online attacks.</p><p dir="ltr">"I suddenly had loads of new followers who had done so for the explicit purpose of abusing me, or liking or commenting on others doing so,” Whyte told me. “I felt threatened because fringe elements of the MRA movement can be explicitly violent,”</p><p dir="ltr">“Online, there was a real pack mentality and none of the empathy or reasonableness that I had experienced in some of my offline interactions with individuals at the conference,” she added.</p><p dir="ltr">Comments ranged from "telling me how stupid I was, or how much of a liar I was, and lots of words and comments that were specifically targeted in order to upset me as much as possible,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the comments directed at Whyte. Image: screenshot. </span></span></span>“I felt that this group of men who feel disempowered and furious were taking revenge, collectively, in a space where they still have a disproportionate amount of power – the internet," Whyte added.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I felt that this group of men who feel disempowered and furious were taking revenge, collectively, in a space where they still have a disproportionate amount of power – the internet."&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, the <a href="http://www.lwn.org.uk/">Labour Women’s Network</a> is currently putting together guidance on how to cope with trolling. This is, in part, a response to how during the 2017 election, women in all political parties were subject to torrents of online abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">One Labour MP received a staggering <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/05/diane-abbott-more-abused-than-any-other-mps-during-election">half of all abuse</a> sent on social media – Diane Abbott. The abuse sent to her was a toxic mix of racism and misogyny.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The discovery that Abbott received half of all the abuse sent to women MPs during the 2017 election campaign was made by <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/">Amnesty International</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The charity commissioned research to better understand the treatment of women on Twitter (declaration: I was interviewed about my own experience as part of this research). Their report, <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-1/#topanchor">Toxic Twitter</a>, was a damning indictment of the social media giant’s failure to protect women users.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (3).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/online abuse (3).png" 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'>Diana Abbott speaking at Corbyn leadership rally, 2016. Photo: <a href="https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Diane_Abbot_Corbyn_leadership_rally_August_2016.jpg">Paul NUK.</a> CC 2.0.</span></span></span>Amnesty researcher Azmina Dhrodia said they approached online abuse from a human rights perspective to “ask what are the government’s obligations to protect women from violence online, and what responsibilities social media companies have to make sure women aren’t experiencing abuse on their platforms.”</p><p dir="ltr">“We wanted to understand any patterns or trends of how women experience abuse online,” she told me, “in order to use human rights standards to look at solutions.”</p><p dir="ltr">Their <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-5/#topanchor">research</a> warned that online abuse can have a “chilling effect on women speaking out online”.</p><p dir="ltr">The report <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-5/#topanchor">warned</a> that the “silencing and censoring impact of violence and abuse against women on Twitter can have far-reaching and harmful repercussions on how younger women, women from marginalised communities, and future generations fully exercise their right to participate in public life.”</p><p dir="ltr">“When women experience abuse online,” Azmina told me, “it can negate the future of women and girls engaging in civic and political spaces. We don’t want women forced into silence, we want to see women able to express themselves in a free and equal way.”</p><p dir="ltr">Amnesty is now campaigning to get Twitter to improve its recording of women’s reports of abuse, and be more transparent about how they moderate these reports.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We don’t want women forced into silence, we want to see women able to express themselves in a free and equal way.”</p><p dir="ltr">In March, a UK government report on <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/intimidation-in-public-life">Intimidation In Public Life</a> said: “the intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, and others in public life, has become a threat to the diversity, integrity, and vibrancy of representative democracy in the UK”.</p><p dir="ltr">The report reviewed the “intimidation of parliamentary candidates in July 2017” when it said that “a significant proportion of candidates... experienced harassment, abuse and intimidation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Its authors argued “that our political culture can be protected from further damage if action is taken now” at this “watershed moment in our political history.”</p><p dir="ltr">Social media companies, it said, should “implement tools to tackle online intimidation through user options”; “do more to prevent users being inundated with hostile messages on their platforms; and “support users who become victims of this behaviour.”</p><p dir="ltr">Some magazines and newspapers have taken their own steps to reduce the abuse sent to their writers.</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, the <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/">New Statesman</a> was one of the first publications to remove comments from their website. Associate editor <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/writers/helen_lewis">Helen Lewis</a> explained the decision to me over email, saying that “in 2012, I argued that unfiltered, un-moderated comments were ruining news sites. I stand by that analysis.”</p><p dir="ltr">Lewis found that “topics such as feminism, race, identity politics and immigration all attracted big reactions, and it wasn't clear whether that was an authentic expression of the feelings of regular [New Statesman] readers, or whether some topics attract ‘drive by’ comments from a handful of people across all the major news sites.”</p><p dir="ltr">She’s introduced other avenues for reader feedback, including a digital letters page.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve spoken publicly about the abuse I’ve experienced online, here and elsewhere. Sometimes I tweet about it as and when it happens. This can bring solidarity into your timeline at a time when you are enduring a pile on or being targeted.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Because social media companies and the authorities often fail to deal with online abuse, there’s a lack of trust from women that reporting will be effective. Beyond reporting to the police, I’ve never contacted Twitter about the abuse I’ve received.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Online abuse doesn’t exist because of the internet. It exists because of misogyny.”</p><p dir="ltr">Sharing our experiences can be a powerful antidote to that distrust of these platforms. It helps to feel heard, believed, and listened to – especially when those hosting the abuse, or responsible for prosecuting the abuse, aren’t paying attention.</p><p dir="ltr">But it is exhausting to disclose over and over again what happens to you, as a woman online. Worse, it can be triggering for women who have experienced more severe abuse than me.</p><p dir="ltr">Research, campaigns, one-on-one support and government-led recommendations are all part of the fight against online abuse. But fundamentally, online abuse doesn’t exist because of the internet. It exists because of misogyny.</p><p dir="ltr">The visceral hatred of women experienced by me and other women online is an expression of the deep-seated misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism and transphobia that permeates our societies.</p><p dir="ltr">Social media has given that hatred a platform, but Twitter didn’t invent sexism.</p><p dir="ltr">If we are to end online abuse, then we have to tackle the anger some men feel against women who speak up, and take up public space. Until we tackle the misogyny that brews offline, we won’t succeed in combating it in the digital sphere.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 violence against women feminism women's work young feminists Sian Norris Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:55:16 +0000 Sian Norris 119208 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK Labour supports a United Nations Emergency Peace Service https://www.opendemocracy.net/howard-peter-langille/uk-labour-supports-united-nations-emergency-peace-service <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘What’s radical one year may be accepted the next.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Eisenhower_farewell.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Eisenhower_farewell.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address, 1961. Wikicommons screengrab. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;‘We the people’ share a problem – one that’s defied solution since the United Nations was founded – how to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’? The worst wars may be elsewhere for now, but they are not going away.</p> <p>Over the past decade, the incidence of armed conflict tripled. Last year, UN officials warned of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/11/world-faces-worst-humanitarian-crisis-since-1945-says-un-official">worst humanitarian crisis</a> since 1945. Then, the world also simply watched as nearly a million Rohingya people were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. Now, sixty-nine million people are desperately fleeing war, violence and persecution. In June, the <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/crisiswatch">International Crisis Group</a> reported deteriorated situations in: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Somalia, Somaliland, Mali, Niger, Taiwan Strait, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iran and Yemen. More recently, the <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2018/06/Global-Peace-Index-2018-2.pdf">Global Peace Index 2018</a> estimated the annual cost of war and violent conflict at a staggering $14.7 trillion (US). Even children recognise that’s unsustainable.</p> <p>UN peace operations definitely help, but they’re now relegated to post-conflict stabilization – putting a lid on a crisis – once the fighting slows to allow the start of a peace process. For every operation, the UN faces an arduous process of renting the highly-valued resources of its member states, negotiating around their terms and accepting their conditions.&nbsp; Instead of <a href="https://www.ipinst.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/ipi_e_pub_improving_un_rapid_deployment.pdf">UN rapid deployment</a> to prevent worse, routine delays allow worse. Now, it usually takes six-to-twelve months to deploy. As a result, conflicts tend to escalate and spread, setting back the prospects for development and disarmament for decades. Then, they also require larger, longer UN operations at far higher costs. </p> <p>The UN confronts a crisis. With the Trump administration pushing for unprecedented military spending while making deeper cuts to the UN budget, there will be even less chance to stem violent conflict. The ‘<a href="https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/yb_18_summary_en_0.pdf"><em>SIPRI </em>Yearbook 2018’</a><em> reports, “</em>the number of personnel deployed with peace operations worldwide continues to fall while the demand is increasing.” </p> <p>Sadly, on the issue of UN reform, the official preference is for austerity ‘do more with less’ and, for more of the pragmatic, incremental approach (the tippy-toe steps), which haven’t worked for twenty years and won’t work to inspire more. But can’t we step up to do better? </p> <p>There is no magic wand. But Labour’s Manifesto, <a href="https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf"><em>For the Many, Not the Few</em></a> suggests a very promising step: “Labour will commit to effective UN peacekeeping, including support for a UN Emergency Peace Service.” &nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Labour’s Manifesto proposal</strong></h2> <p>A <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/h-peter-langille/united-nations-emergency-peace-service-one-step-toward-operational-prevention-and-p">United Nations Emergency Peace Service</a> (UNEPS) is one step towards meeting these serious, recurring challenges. </p> <p>With this one development – effectively a standing ‘UN 999’ first responder for complex emergencies – the UN would finally have a rapid, reliable capacity to help fulfil four of its tougher assigned tasks. A UNEPS is designed to help prevent armed conflict and mass atrocity crimes, to protect civilians at extreme risk, to ensure prompt start-up for peace operations, and to address human needs where others either can’t or won’t.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ten core principles are central to the proposal. A UNEPS is to be:</p> <ol><li>a permanent standing, integrated UN formation;</li><li>highly trained and well-equipped; </li><li>ready for immediate deployment upon authorization of the UN Security Council; </li><li>multidimensional (civilians, police and military); </li><li>multifunctional (capable of diverse assignments with specialized skills for security, humanitarian, health and environmental crises); </li><li>composed of 13,500 dedicated personnel (recruited professionals who volunteer for service and are then screened, selected, trained and employed by the UN); </li><li>developed to ensure regional and gender equitable representation; </li><li>co-located at a designated UN base under an operational headquarters and two mobile mission headquarters; </li><li>at sufficient strength to operate in high-threat environments; and,</li><li>a service to complement existing UN and regional arrangements, with a first responder to cover the initial six months until Member States can deploy. </li></ol><p>Aside from sufficient police to restore law and order, a UNEPS includes a military formation to deter aggression and maintain security, as well as an array of civilian teams to provide essential services for conflict resolution, human rights, health, disaster assistance and peacebuilding quick impact projects. </p> <p>Arguably, its most distinctive feature is that it would be a standing UN formation, prepared and ready to serve in diverse UN operations, immediately available upon authorization of the UN Security Council. With advanced doctrine, training and equipment, UN operations could get off to a good start quickly at the outset of a crisis. A UNEPS could also serve as a vanguard, strategic reserve and a modest security guarantor, both to deter violent crime and respond, when necessary, to prevent and protect. Clearly, it would also help to develop higher standards system-wide.</p> <p>Unlike previous proposals, a UNEPS is to complement existing UN arrangements, with a &nbsp;service that’s gender-equitable. It is likely to be both a life-saver and a <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/la/book/9781137603388">cost-saver</a>. </p> <h2><strong>A cooperative process</strong></h2> <p>The proposal for a <a href="http://globalcommonsecurity.org/drpeterlangille/initiatives/united-nations-emergency-peace-service-uneps/">United Nations Emergency Peace Service</a> (UNEPS) largely stemmed from a former <a href="http://www.worldfederalistscanada.org/programdocs/UNEPSfiles/RR_eng2.pdf">Canadian government study</a> on UN rapid deployment in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. That was a cooperative process carried out in close consultation with multinational partners, military advisors and the advice of UN officials. It was followed by a multinational initiative of twenty-eight UN member states in the Friends of UN Rapid Deployment. On a routine basis, the plans are updated to ensure it corresponds to the more recent developments in UN peace operations.</p> <p>The inspiration for the earlier <a href="http://www.centerforunreform.org/?q=node/517">option</a> and <a href="https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137603388">ongoing efforts</a> was wider, but often from Sir Brian Urquhart, the study’s co-chair and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs. In his words:</p> <blockquote><p>This venture is of the greatest importance both to the UN as a responsible institution and to the millions as of yet unknown, innocent victims who might, in the future, be saved by this essential addition to the UN’s capacity to act on their behalf. There is one overwhelming argument for the United Nations Emergency Peace Service. It is desperately needed, and it is needed as soon as possible.</p></blockquote> <p>Among the useful insights from the earlier process and similar experience are the following:</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; First, when the need is most evident, the prior preparation isn’t. To succeed, there would be a need for a viable, widely appealing plan, with a global constituency of support.&nbsp; The UNEPS proposal covers both.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Second, any new UN service would have to complement existing UN and regional arrangements and correspond to the requirements of complex emergencies. A multidimensional ‘first-responder’ of civilians, police and military in a coherent UN formation does both.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Third, to be cost-effective, a new service would have to be multifunctional and capable of various assignments in security, humanitarian, health and environmental crises. There is little tolerance within the UN system for any post or service that is idle, under-utilized and expensive. With a modular formation, UNEPS’ deployments can be tailored for a wider array of mission-specific requirements.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">–&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Fourth, official consultations world-wide revealed near-unanimous opposition to the term, ‘UN Standing Force’. Yet that concept might be reframed and redesigned to do better and do more. As a result, the focus shifted to a standing emergency group/service composed of individuals volunteering to serve who would be screened, selected, trained appropriately and compensated with status similar to UN civil servants. The UNEPS option ensures that the UN would have dedicated personnel within a dedicated service.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">People and politicians tend to be more receptive to legitimate emergency services.<strong> </strong>&nbsp;They’re easier to defend; another armed force is far tougher. But there’s no agreement on this either.</p> <h2 class="xmsonormal"><strong>A UN ‘Standing Force’</strong></h2> <p class="xmsonormal">To cite one example, <a href="https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/sustainable-security-global-ideas-for-a-greater-britain">Paul Rogers and the Oxford Research Group</a> now suggest a UN ‘Standing Force’ that draws from national militaries, with UK forces in a lead role. While perhaps more convenient, this option leaves national governments and military establishments in control to decide if, when and how they may contribute. As with the UN standby arrangement system and the earlier SHIRBRIG, governments and militaries tend to wait, watch, assess the risks and usually decline participation. In short, with a few exceptions, northern militaries proved to be far better at standing by than standing up to help.</p> <p>Do we really want a United Nations where national military establishments have even more influence? A militarized UN is neither needed nor a coherent plan for military transformation. Isn’t that<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/beyond-%E2%80%9Cliddism%E2%80%9D-towards-real-global-security"> liddism</a> on a new level? Are national militaries likely to support participation in a UN Standing Force? No! They would neuter any prospect of it working. And, a UNEPS offers a more promising alternative. As the official <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/piquant/Langille/Towards+a+Rapid+Reaction+Capability+for+the+United+Nations.pdf">Canadian study</a> on rapid deployment highlighted: </p><blockquote><p>UN volunteers offer the best prospect of a completely reliable, well-trained rapid reaction capability. Without the need to consult national authorities, the UN could cut response times significantly, and volunteers could be deployed within hours of a Security Council decision… Ultimately, a UN rapid reaction capability can be truly reliable only if it no longer depends on Member States of the UN for the supply of personnel for peace operations.</p></blockquote> <p>Clearly, a UNEPS would help to offset the political pressure many contributing governments face when confronted with awkward decisions about whether to deploy their people into potentially high-risk operations. </p> <p>Understandably, many now ask what might be able to intervene and stop the brutal wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen? But perhaps the key question is why those conflicts had to escalate into larger, longer wars? A rapid and reliable UN ‘first responder’, arriving at the outset, with an array of useful services, might have had a far better chance of preventing each from ever becoming a war. No, a UNEPS isn’t designed for war-fighting or large-scale enforcement action. But it’s sufficiently robust to work within armed conflict in either a civilian protection role or in preventing escalation and spread.</p> <p>Finally, if there is one lesson that should have been learned over the past decade, it’s that security in the future is likely to depend on our capacity to help others, not on building more capacity to fight more wars. </p> <h2><strong>Costs and cost-effectiveness&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></h2> <p>Obviously, a UNEPS would be costly to develop; $3 billion in start-up costs, with annual recurring costs of $1.5 billion, shared proportionally among 193 Member States. Yet it should help to prevent the escalation of volatile conflicts; to deter groups from violence; and, to cut the size, length and frequency of UN operations. Even with success in just one of those areas, it would provide a substantive return on the investment. </p> <p>In the UK and elsewhere, the ‘costs’ tend to be assessed against preferred priorities and interests. Developing a UNEPS is roughly equivalent to the cost of building four naval frigates, similar to the cost of refitting four diesel submarines, close to the base purchase price of thirty-five F-35 multi-role fighter jets and almost one quarter the cost of the sale of LAV6 (light armoured fighting vehicles) to Saudi Arabia. Officials often berate the cost of UN peace operations yet seldom question whether the more expensive war-fighting systems are needed or useful in wars that threatens our species.</p> <p>In making the case for UNEPS advocacy <a href="http://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/13/11/2013/gp-responses-shouldn%E2%80%99t-uneps-advocacy-be-front-and-centre">Robin Collins</a> astutely notes,&nbsp;ʺif political will is the central issue – and it is – that roadblock is not being held up by the costing formula. Understanding the wider potential here may help to explain a lot, including the current lack of political will. </p> <h2><strong>Wider benefits</strong></h2> <p>As early as 1961, officials in the US State Department <a href="http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/arms/freedom_war.html">identified</a> a UN Peace Force as the key to disarmament. In their words,</p> <blockquote><p>There is an inseparable relationship between the scaling down of national armaments on the one hand and the building up of international peacekeeping machinery and institutions on the other. Nations are unlikely to shed their means of self-protection in the absence of alternative ways to safeguard their legitimate interests. This can only be achieved through the progressive strengthening of international institutions under the United Nations and by creating a United Nations Peace Force to enforce the peace as the disarmament process proceeds.</p></blockquote> <p>These are intimately related, overdue processes with the potential to free up substantive resources for addressing other pressing global challenges. </p> <p>A more effective UN, which can actually prevent armed conflict, protect civilians and begin to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ would encourage a progressive, overdue shift. A big joint project might help to revitalize cooperation among the more powerful states on the UN Security Council. </p> <h2><strong>The impediments</strong></h2> <p>So, why haven’t governments supported such an option? Political realism – the pursuit of power – dominates and incurs a deep dependency, while stifling vision and idealism. Most of the UN’s 193 member states maintain independent national armed forces to deter perceived aggression either from neighboring countries or intervention from abroad, as well as to maintain sovereign control over citizens. In the absence of a rapid and reliable security guarantor, governments assume the international level is marked by more anarchy than cooperation. Many see ‘self-help’ with traditional military approaches as the only available option to secure their interests.</p> <p>Occasionally, a fraction of these military resources are used progressively in support of a UN peace process. But, most are constantly engaged in preparing for more war. As Dwight Eisenhower’s <a href="https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&amp;doc=90&amp;page=transcript">farewell address</a> warned in 1961, this dependency has deepened: </p> <blockquote><p>This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.</p></blockquote> <p>With globalization, the military-industrial complex has expanded worldwide into finance, banking and insurance sectors, big oil and gas, logistics and tele-communications, media, academe and high-tech. The military-industrial complex sets the global agenda by harmonizing interests and building bridges to ensure their constituents get a piece of the pie. For those with the resources, investing in protracted violent conflict remains a pretty safe bet, with substantive profits and few risks, especially when aligned to overwhelming political, economic and military power.</p> <p>For now, the net effect is that people and governments have a small, underfunded, semi-dysfunctional peace system dominated by an extravagantly funded war system. So, one critical question is what might start to take the profit out of war? In his 2015 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/sep/24/pope-francis-addresses-congress-annotated">address</a> to the US Congress, Pope Francis tried a combination of persuasion and guilt:</p> <blockquote><p>Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade.</p></blockquote> <p>Yes, it’s our shared duty to confront the problem. But how? Recently, the UN managed a wonderful Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but the awkward question for many parties is ‘how and with what’ might the shift be effected without a very expensive build-up of conventional forces? An unarmed, <a href="http://nvpf.org/">nonviolent civilian peace force</a> may merit consideration as a nice step, doing wonderful work, but is it sufficient to provide the security guarantor that many countries need before dismantling the offensive capacity of their armed forces? As <a href="http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD2.5.pdf">John Burroughs</a> writes, "the abolition of nuclear weapons will not be possible so long as nuclear deterrence holds sway as an alleged means of defense and ensuring peace and security." Yet governments sustain nuclear deterrence, the arms trade and the war system at enormous expense, not only because it serves powerful interests and profits, but also from perceived insecurity due to the lack of a viable UN system to deter aggression and maintain security.</p> <h2><strong>What’s next?</strong></h2> <p>Writing in prompt response to the mention in the Labour Manifesto, the head of the <a href="https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/un-peacekeeping-and-the-2017-election">Oxford Research Group</a> greeted UNEPS as a “supranational standing army” as “the most radical of the ideas” within its pages. &nbsp;Another astute <a href="https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/22350/in-the-u-k-elections-a-post-brexit-internationalist-vision-comes-into-focus">source</a> of ‘strategic purpose’ in UN affairs followed up, lamenting the leadership of Corbyn, then ridiculing Labour’s support of a UNEPS as, “… the sort of concept that you only promise to back if you write a manifesto believing you have no chance of victory”. Yet just last month, the same source concluded his<a href="https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/24974/under-assault-multilateralism-needs-big-ideas-more-than-ever"> column</a> conceding, “right now, agonizing caution is not going to save the global system. Big ideas just might.” </p> <p>Yes, heavier opposition and unwarranted influence are also inevitable from those dependent on or profiting from the prevailing approach, particularly the expert gatekeepers within the security sector. But Labour could encourage a better, more inclusive approach. </p> <p>Labour’s Manifesto remains popular as does the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service, although more could be done if simply to explain the idea and its potential. A UNEPS is no panacea, just one step toward <a href="http://www.wfmcanada.org/2016/12/sustainable-common-security/">sustainable common security</a>. The wider enthusiasm for progressive options is unlikely to fade. With a modest boost enabling prior preparation and outreach, a UNEPS might be ready and worthy of a serious push around and abroad. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>In his seminal study of A United Nations peace force, William R. Frye provided a useful observation:</p> <blockquote><p>Establishment of a small, permanent peace force, or the machinery for one, could be the first step on the long road toward order and stability. Progress cannot be forced, but it can be helped to evolve. That which is radical one year can become conservative and accepted the next. </p></blockquote> <p>Who knows? In the recent words of <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-44819444">Jeremy Corbyn</a>, "when we unite together with common objectives, we can all win."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk United States UK H. Peter Langille Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:18:17 +0000 H. Peter Langille 119271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The great Greek wildfires https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alexandros-alexandropoulos/great-greek-wildfires <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With incentives for property speculators being as high as ever and budgets shrunk to a bare minimum, the Greek fire brigade might not have faced its hardest test yet. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37914965.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37914965.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Greek PM Alexis Tsipras pledges demolition of 3,200 illegal constructions in Attica region in wake of deadly wildfires, Lavrio, Aug. 7, 2018. Marios Lolos/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Like the Grenfell Tower fire that shook London in 2017, the Greek wildfires of 2018 cost the lives of dozens of people. This too is a story of austerity cuts prioritised over human safety. Unlike, the 2017 fire that shook London, the Greek wildfires were fuelled by a property speculation raging out of control. </p> <p>Dozens of people died in heart-breaking circumstances. In one case 26 people – including children – were trying to head to the sea, escaping the raging fires. They were able to come close to the shore, only to find the only access to the beach, down a cliff, was blocked by the fence of a private property. There shouldn’t be private property there, in a forested area, a few metres from the shore. But firemen found that the 26 perished embracing each other.</p> <p>The Athens fire made international headlines, as one of the most extreme <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2018/aug/01/the-heat-is-on-record-48c-temperature-on-the-way-for-spain-and-portugal">manifestations of the changing climate</a> and the unusually high temperatures that are observed across the Mediterranean this summer. In Greece the debate has shifted towards the government’s poor management of the crisis. All existing evidence is pointing towards a gross mismanagement of the fire by the Syriza government. Like their conservative predecessors in the New Democracy party who badly managed the wildfires of 2007, which also resulted in several dead, Syriza’s cabinet seems to have wildly underestimated the extent of the catastrophe. </p> <p>The exact conditions that led to fire consuming a good part of eastern Attica and the deaths of so many have not yet been established. Investigations, however, have established that the fire started as a result of <a href="http://www.kathimerini.gr/979078/article/epikairothta/ellada/emprhsmos-apo-ameleia-h-fwtia-poy-stoixise-th-zwh-se-92-an8rwpoys">a person starting a fire using a pile of wood and then proceeding to hide his traces.</a> Whether the fire was placed intentionally or not is undoubtedly hard for the authorities to establish, but Greeks have strong reasons to be suspicious. </p> <p>Fires have been intentionally lit in such forested areas on several past occasions, especially close to Athens. Greece has a painful history of property developers setting fire on purpose to forest areas in order to clear land for building. Whereas Greek law doesn’t permit construction in forested areas, a wildfire can blur the lines between forested and non-forested land. Property speculators can purchase property titles inside forest zones literally for pennies. If they succeed in destroying the evidence of the presence of forest on their property, the price of their formerly valueless land will increase sharply, as they gain permission to build in an area of natural beauty. <a href="https://www.fireservice.gr/dynamic/c235982/news.file/0/stat_daee_el_GR.pdf">Between 2009-2013 the Greek Fire Brigade arrested 110 people on these charges of purposefully causing forest fires</a>. </p> <p>Some forest fires, however, raging out of control, are far more lethal than property speculators might have originally calculated. Individuals who commit arson take every conceivable measure to ensure that the fire is not easily extinguishable. Usually they choose days that are particularly hot, dry and with strong winds. In many cases, multiple fires are set at various vantage points in order to make it as hard as possible for the fire brigade to bring the fire under control. Fires are often in mountainous areas or areas with no road access. It is for that reason that the Greek fire brigade relies so heavily on fire-fighting planes and helicopters to be able to keep fires under control. This equipment is costly, however, and Greece is undergoing the biggest austerity program of its recent history. </p> <p>There has been speculation about what impact the prolonged programme of austerity that has been implemented in Greece has had on the efficiency of the country’s fire brigade. In early May, just two months before the disaster, the Chiefs of the fire-fighting force warned that <a href="https://www.newsit.gr/ellada/katastasi-dialysis-stin-pyrosvestiki-en-opsei-kalokairiou-ektos-leitourgias-2-sta-3-kananter/2505856/">only one third of the country’s fire-fighting planes were operational</a> due to austerity cuts in maintenance and investment. Cuts have gone so deep that at the beginning of the summer firemen were still waiting for new boots and helmets. <a href="http://www.kathimerini.gr/940510/article/epikairothta/ellada/kyrw8hke-3139-twn-dasikwn-xartwn">Precise forest maps that could help deter property speculators are, also, long overdue</a> with only one 32% of Greek forests having being mapped. In a case where vested interests and austerity combine, the relevant authorities are struggling to complete the maps, due to the lack of the necessary public service personnel and a series of legal challenges brought by property developers. &nbsp;</p> <p>At the same time property speculation has been emboldened in austerity Greece. Post-crisis Greek governments are consistently deprived of cash and large debt repayments suck up the country’s liquidity every year. Athens has been desperate for new sources of income. The Greek parliament has voted through a series of laws that allow owners of homes built without permission to get permission post-construction, with the payment of a small fine. From the beginning of the crisis in 2009, one and a half million homeowners have made use of these provisions. For property speculators who have managed to destroy all evidence of the presence of a forest on their property, it’s a golden opportunity to see the value of their assets rising. On the eve of the wild-fire this July, <a href="http://www.tovima.gr/politics/article/?aid=1009334">the government was planning to announce a law that would allow even homes that are undeniably built on forested land to acquire permission, </a>post-construction, with the payment of a fine. <a href="http://www.kathimerini.gr/946785/article/epikairothta/ellada/taktopoihsh-ay8airetwn-me-kerdh-24-dis-eyrw">The Greek government has been able to raise 2.4 billion euros as a result of these measure</a>s. <a href="https://graphics.wsj.com/greece-debt-timeline/">On July 20, 2018, the Greek treasury paid 1.8 billion to the European Central Bank</a>, as part of the country’s debt repayment program. That was only one of numerous repayments that Athens had to fulfil in 2018 alone. </p> <p>The situation on the ground speaks volumes. <a href="http://www.kathimerini.gr/940510/article/epikairothta/ellada/kyrw8hke-3139-twn-dasikwn-xartwn">Greek investigators have only managed to map 32% of the country’s forests and so far they have discovered 75 million square metres of illegal structures within these forests</a><span>.</span> With record-breaking high temperatures affecting the whole of the Mediterranean, the risks for a new wildfire in Greece are high. With incentives for property speculators being as high as ever and budgets shrunk to a bare minimum, the Greek fire brigade might not have faced its hardest test yet. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Democracy and government Economics International politics Alexandros Alexandropoulos Wed, 15 Aug 2018 07:45:46 +0000 Alexandros Alexandropoulos 119268 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who can we trust? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-blain/who-can-we-trust <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we cultivate a healthy skepticism of our institutions even as we rely on them for information, knowledge, and crucially, protection from aspiring autocrats?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HarryBlain7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">MRC billboard, Charlotte 2016. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlotte_billboard_1.jpg">Emolchan1 via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>At some point since the US presidential election on November 8 2016 you’ve probably been told that ‘our institutions are in crisis.’ The media is menaced by Twitter mobs taking their cues from the White House. Academics are ignored even more than usual. The intelligence community is subjected to ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories. Scientists are treated with mindless suspicion. What brought us to this point? </p> <p>For many people the answer is obvious: Donald Trump. But there are two big problems with this view: firstly, the idea that we can’t trust those with polished credentials and college degrees isn’t new, nor has it been confined to the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzagate_conspiracy_theory">Pizzagate</a>” wing of the far-right. In fact, it has deep roots on the left. </p> <p>Moreover—and perhaps more disturbingly—the whirling diatribes of Trump and his supporters do actually hint at some truths. We don’t have to wear ‘Make America Great Again’ hats to realize that the media <em>is</em> often corrupt, that the FBI is <em>not</em> a dispassionate guardian of the US constitution, and that scientists <em>can </em>be wrong or misleading. </p> <p>This speaks to the core of the challenge we face: how can we cultivate a healthy skepticism of our institutions even as we rely on them for information, knowledge, and crucially, protection from aspiring autocrats? Who can we trust? </p> <p>Throughout American history these questions have been particularly difficult for the left. On the one hand, there is the legacy of ‘progressives’ emerging at the beginning of the 20th Century: men (and they were mostly men) whose gospel was science, rationality and enlightened political leadership. </p> <p>In his days as a political scientist, <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2009-05-01/reconsidering-woodrow-wilson-progressivism-internationalism-war">Woodrow Wilson</a> was a leading figure in this movement, blending reformism with elitism in his <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Congressional-Government-American-Politics-Library/dp/0765809281">call for</a> the United States to embrace more elements of the British constitution. With fewer restrictions on party leaders and less rigid ‘checks and balances,’ he argued, Britain had become much better at empowering wise men than the Americans, who were stuck with their messy separation-of-powers and ponderous congressional committees.</p> <p>Like many of his progressive contemporaries, Wilson also believed passionately in Science (with a capital ‘S’), including <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-liberals-who-loved-eugenics/2017/03/08/0cc5e9a0-0362-11e7-b9fa-ed727b644a0b_story.html?utm_term=.548e701af96c">the promise of eugenics</a> &nbsp;through which society could be remade from its biological foundations. His shameless racism and aggressive repression of the left during the First World War has led to Wilson’s exclusion from many progressive narratives, but the next Democratic President, Franklin Roosevelt, remains front-and-center. </p> <p>Roosevelt’s own faults are numerous, including his timidity on African-American civil rights and his irredeemable assault on Japanese-Americans in World War II. But his role in creating the modern American welfare state ensures that he is still frequently venerated. In pursuing this mission, his commitment to expertise—embodied in the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_trust">Brain Trust</a>” network of economists, lawyers, sociologists, scientists and social workers who designed the “<a href="https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/fdr-brain-trust">New Deal</a>”—stands in sharp contrast to President Trump and his cabinet of unqualified, unprincipled and self-enriching vandals.</p> <p>This was old-school progressivism at its finest: recruiting and trusting the best available minds to grapple with stubborn social injustices. Yet the left has never fully embraced this strand of thought. For one thing, high-minded and public-spirited “Brain Trusts” have often let us down. Roosevelt’s, for example, surgically excluded African-Americans from almost every New Deal program, especially <a href="https://www.amazon.com/When-Affirmative-Action-White-Twentieth-Century/dp/0393328511">labor protection, social security</a> and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Color-Law-Forgotten-Government-Segregated/dp/1631492853">federal housing assistance</a>, largely to mollify a Southern-dominated Congress. The Wilsonian experts also <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Opponents-War-1917-1918-Gilbert-Fite/dp/0313251320">became autocratic</a> as soon as they lurched into World War I. More recently, Barack Obama’s professorial team promised the necessary revolution of universal health care—and instead delivered a 900-page bureaucratic maze. </p> <p>The left, then, has good reason to treat even the most brilliant progressive minds with suspicion, but this impulse goes beyond the question of trusting or distrusting politicians and their advisers. </p> <p>Take, for instance, the left’s approach to science. Today, we ridicule the flat earthers, the young earthers, the creationists, the biblical literalists and the climate deniers for their rejection of scientific facts. However, we also know that science is often distorted and abused: to <a href="https://www.centeronaddiction.org/the-buzz-blog/revealing-bad-science-behind-oxycontin">sell heavy and addictive narcotics as every-day painkillers</a>, for example; to <a href="http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/controversies/thalidomide">promote new drugs before their side-effects are known</a>; or to <a href="http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/tuskegee">conduct experiments on the most vulnerable people in society</a>. </p> <p>These tensions were best exemplified by the three-time Democratic Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who is often remembered for his <a href="http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/william-jennings-bryan.html">fumbling attack on the teaching of evolution</a> in the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” trial. Now mainly the subject of scorn, in his time Bryan was considered one of the great spokesmen of the left, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/william-jennings-bryan.html">and his concerns</a> that science could be “an evil genius” in war, or could build a cold society of “intelligence not consecrated by love” are far from antiquated. Indeed, they reflect intellectual and spiritual dilemmas that we are yet to overcome.</p> <p>There are similar difficulties with the media. At the most basic level, journalists, like scientists, have the mundane yet indispensable job of giving us information. They also—depending on our mood and political allegiances—regularly alternate in the public mind between the image of guardians of heroic truth and scurrilous servants of those in power. </p> <p>Because the Trump movement has taken so much joy from hitting the ‘fake news’ punching bag, many on the left have rallied around the cause of press freedom. In principle this is a very good thing, but again, the larger picture is complicated. </p> <p>Even as we condemn the notion that the <em>New York Times</em>, the <em>Washington Post</em>, MSNBC or CNN constitute “enemies of the people,” we shouldn’t forget that they all, to some extent, <a href="https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2004/02/26/now-they-tell-us/">sold us the Iraq War</a>, or—in the case of the broadcasters—gave Candidate Trump the <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/12/03/how-media-iced-out-bernie-sanders-helped-donald-trump-win">endless free publicity</a> that was central to his campaign’s success. And in their zeal to report on the ‘epidemic of fake news’ online, some of these media outlets have also, since the election, played <a href="https://fair.org/home/public-radios-mccarthyite-smear-of-black-activists-shows-danger-of-russia-panic/">an unpleasant role</a> in <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/washington-post-disgracefully-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist-from-a-new-hidden-and-very-shady-group/">smearing</a> small, often left-wing websites as tools of ‘<a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/washington-post-disgracefully-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist-from-a-new-hidden-and-very-shady-group/">Russian propaganda</a>.’</p> <p>To the extent that there is a crisis of confidence in the American media, it cannot solely be attributed to Trump. Instead, it stems from the commercialization and centralization of media ownership—trends that have crushed local, independent media and promoted the kind of ratings-worship infamously distilled in <a href="https://fair.org/home/trump-bad-for-america-good-for-cbs/">Les Moonves’s summary of Trump</a> as “bad for America” but “damn good for CBS.” </p> <p>Comparable pressures have squeezed the knowledge and information producers of academia. Although there is no clamor for ratings or sensational headlines, there is the same financial and employment insecurity that constricts time, freedom and independence. The results are predictable: history professors scrambling around desperately for funding; new PhDs taking jobs with whatever lobbying firm will <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/poverty-u-many-adjunct-professors-food-stamps-n336596">keep them off food stamps</a>; and overworked graduate students mumbling ‘<a href="https://www.chronicle.com/article/Publish-or-Perish-Yes/235319">publish or perish</a>’ in their sleep.</p> <p>In this context, it’s no surprise to hear stories of <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/07/25/professor-behind-pro-fracking-study-slammed-for-oil-industry-connections/#20ab28f29b27">respected academics selling their expertise to the oil industry</a> or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/oct/10/the-science-of-spying-how-the-cia-secretly-recruits-academics">freedom-loving government agencies like the CIA</a>. It’s even less surprising to see the public’s total lack of enthusiasm for ‘outreach’ proposals like teams of academics<a href="https://www.poynter.org/news/these-academics-are-frontlines-fake-news-research"> sifting through the news</a>: separating real from fake; good from bad; and, presumably, Russian from red-white-and-blue American.</p> <p>To be sure, market forces can’t take all the blame for this situation. Few peer-reviewed journal articles, even in supposedly accessible fields like my own (international relations), make the slightest effort to use language that connects with anyone other than the mysterious gatekeepers who are empowered to say ‘accepted,’ ‘rejected’ or ‘revise and review.’ Everyone else can justly claim to be suspicious of self-appointed authority figures who seem to deliberately exclude them from discussion and debate. </p> <p>In short, despite their differences, society’s expert authorities display several common signs of decay. Although some are undoubtedly self-inflicted, many are also structural, rooted in a near-crippling exposure to the imperatives of what we fatalistically call ‘the market.’ </p> <p>But this market has not been created by an ‘invisible hand’ or by the actions of Donald Trump alone, but by much longer-term actions and institutions: the profit-driven patent regime that pushes medical research towards <a href="https://newint.org/features/2016/05/01/medical-research-priorities">male baldness over malaria</a>, for example; the <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-lost-decade-in-higher-education-funding">collapse of public funding for universities</a>; and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/nyregion/dnainfo-gothamist-shutting-down.html">refusal of media barons to tolerate even minimal job security demands from their newsrooms</a>.</p> <p>Because this mess is human-made, we can collectively clean it up. A good start would be to pursue the complete opposite goals and policies of Trump and his friends. Their attempt to eviscerate public science agencies was thankfully <a href="https://www.aip.org/fyi/2018/trump-fy19-budget-spares-some-science-agencies-slashes-others-following-deal-boost-spending">contained by Congress</a>, but this is small consolation when the Secretary of Education is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/business/education-department-for-profit-colleges.html">killing investigations into fraudulent colleges</a> and the Federal Communications Commission is encouraging the growth of media monopolies (<a href="https://money.cnn.com/2018/02/16/media/doj-trump-bias-att-lawsuit/index.html">except CNN</a>) <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/ajit-pai-man-who-killed-net-neutrality/">on</a> and <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/11/16/fcc-repeals-decades-old-rules-on-media-monopolies/">offline</a>. What is needed is more, not less public money in all these areas; strong, not supine regulation of media oligarchs; and an attack on, not an embrace of, snake oil universities.&nbsp; </p> <p>Would this be enough to restore trust? It wouldn’t eliminate the expert who abuses their power or the citizen who hides their cash in a mattress. But it could go some way towards eliminating a culture in which knowledge is the property of the highest bidder, helping us to tell the difference between the scientist and the fracking lobbyist, the journalist and the lurid entertainer, the historian and the paid-for hagiographer. </p> <p>Perhaps then we could begin the task of refining our old and precious gifts of skepticism, doubt, critical thought and imagination. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-left-needs-to-re-embrace-first-amendment">Why the left needs to re-embrace the First Amendment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/can-there-be-progressive-patriotism">Can there be a progressive patriotism? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-is-american-left-so-prejudiced-about-south">Why is the American left so prejudiced about the South? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Harry Blain Trans-partisan politics Culture Tue, 14 Aug 2018 19:35:28 +0000 Harry Blain 119232 at https://www.opendemocracy.net New President, the extreme right and popular resistance in Colombia https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/danilo-urrea-lyda-forero/new-president-extreme-right-and-popular-resistance-in-col <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The outcome of the Colombian presidential elections will have dire political consequences, visible even before the new president took office last August 7. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/danilo-urrea-lyda-forero/duque-presidente-ultra-derecha-y-resistencia-popular">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/557099/1024px-Casa_de_Nariño_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/1024px-Casa_de_Nariño_0.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'>Casa de Nariño, Bogotá, Colombia. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>On June 17th, presidential elections for the period 2018-2022 were held in Colombia. The extreme right-wing candidate Ivan Duque, supported by former president Alvaro Uribe, <a href="http://www.eltiempo.com/elecciones-colombia-2018">obtained 10,373,080 votes (equivalent to 53,98%)</a>. </p><p>In this second round, Duque ran against the ‘Human Colombia’ proposal, represented by Gustavo Petro, who won the support of 8,034,189 voters (41,81%) expecting a transformation in the way in which the country has been ruled until now.</p><p>This election will have consequences in different areas, which were already becoming apparent before the new president officially took power on August 7th.</p> <p>In the first place, the worrying trend towards growing numbers of assassinations of social leaders and territorial defenders has shot up exponentially. This growth trend began in 2016, after the cease fire and the signing of the Havana Agreement between the Colombian government and the former Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC, by its acronym in Spanish; now known as the political party Common Alternative Force). </p><p>In July 2018, seven peasants were assassinated in the village of Argelia, Cauca, a region where peasant and ethnic (indigenous and afro-descendant) movements have organized to defend their territories from foreign investments and against armed conflict. <a href="http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/otras-ciudades/asesinatos-de-lideres-sociales-en-colombia-en-lo-que-va-del-2018-239834">Between January and June 2018, 123 activists were assassinated in Colombia.</a></p><p class="mag-quote-center">In relation to the peace process with the FARC,&nbsp;the elected president has made public his intention to substantially reform some elements of the agreement, mainly those related to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.</p> <p>In relation to the peace process with the FARC, <a href="http://www.eltiempo.com/elecciones-colombia-2018/presidenciales/entrevista-de-yamid-amat-con-ivan-duque-candidato-presidencial-del-uribismo-225870">the elected president has made public his intention to substantially reform some elements of the agreement</a>, mainly those related to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP, by its acronym in Spanish). Days before the Argelia massacre, the <a href="https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/ley-de-procedimiento-de-la-jep-fue-aprobada-por-senado/573226">Congress of the Republic ruled on how the JEP should function, approving deep changes proposed by the Democratic Centre (Duque’s party)</a>. </p><p>Those changes impose limitations on the assessment and judging of National Army members and changes in the agreements around extradition cases. In this sense, the possibilities for integral justice are reduced. &nbsp;</p><p>Integral justice refers to processes of prosecutions, reparations, and reconciliation which also have the power to take on State crimes and which, relatedly, can contribute to broader social processes of reconstructing memory and truth in the wake of conflict and human rights violations. Crucially, these processes must usually include, for example, confessions by the public forces, revealing their motivations and connections.</p> <p>However, beyond the dissapointing outlook inspired by the extreme right-wing victory, it is important to bring up here a series of possibilities which have emerged as a result of the years of public debate before and after the electoral confrontation of 2018.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is vital to begin by indicating the importance of the eight million votes that supported an alternative proposal, which placed itself outside the liberal-conservative bi-party tradition that, in its multiple expressions, has ruled the country since its constitution as a Republic in 1819. </p><p>This was the first time that a political proposal approached this level of popular support without buying ballots, or relying on armed pressure or other fraudulent or clientelist strategies. This is a milestone, indicating the beginning of a new era in the struggle for governmental power, in popular power building and, ultimately, in the exercise of politics.</p> <p>This new period wouldn’t be possible without the foregoing process of social and popular movement building and strengthening that has been developed over decades, but especially since the appearance of the <a href="http://www.onic.org.co/noticias/879-minga-social-y-comunitaria-por-la-defensa-de-la-vida-el-derecho-a-la-protesta-social-y-la-jurisdiccion-especial-indigena-jei">Social Indigenous and Communitarian Minga in 2005</a>, as an expression of popular organizing processes to reclaim rights and defend territories. <a href="https://www.semana.com/nacion/multimedia/conflicto-armado-destruccion-de-las-armas-de-las-farc/541459">It is also necessary to mention the weapons turned in by the former FARC rebel group.</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>These two processes have broadened the possibilities for consolidating articulations among social organizations and movements, have allowed the participation in politics of historically invisibilized sectors and, as a consequence, have created opportunities for the re-organizing of forces in the popular field.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>This new organizational possibility has also been expressed in the dynamics of the electoral public debate. In three key ways, this expression goes beyond discussions amongst social organizations and movements:</strong></p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In the recent elections, diverse social movements and organizations decided to support and build the Human Colombia proposal from the local level, leaving aside political and ideological differences in a bid for strategic unity at the electoral conjuncture in 2018. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The mass turning in of weapons by the FARC insurgency changed some of the terms of the electoral and political debate. For years, and especially since 2002 elections (when Alvaro Uribe was elected president in his first mandate), the majority of the country’s problems have been presented as a result of the armed confrontation with the FARC.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Historically the corrupt dominant forces have used the war as an excuse to grab territories and violate rights, and have made a profitable business out of these practices.In the 2018 electoral process, an important part of the Colombian population saw the real origin of this political practice. For the first time, topics such as corruption, land concentration, and systematic violence by right-wing political and armed actors were at the core of the public debate.</p> <p><strong>In the weeks since the presidential election, some announcements have been made regarding economic, social and juridical reforms, as well as the composition of the new government. Based on these statements we can identify issues which will be central to the agendas of resistance movements between 2018 and 2022:</strong></p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Manipulations of issues in the Havana peace agreement and substantial modifications to the JEP, which risk continuing the peace process.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The <a href="https://lta.reuters.com/article/topNews/idLTAKBN1K7281-OUSLT">return of forced eradication</a> of so-called illicit use cultivation through aerial glyphosate spraying.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The impossibility of continued negotiation with the National Liberation Army (ELN by its acronym in Spanish). <a href="https://www.rcnradio.com/politica/duque-le-pone-condiciones-la-negociacion-con-el-eln">This negotiation seems to be vanishing with the conditions proposed by the elected president</a>. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The economic and foreign investment agenda includes a <a href="http://www.eltiempo.com/economia/sectores/bases-de-la-reforma-tributaria-de-ivan-duque-232058">tax reform</a>, reducing taxes for the business sector and redefining territorial ones. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The continuity and <a href="https://www.elespectador.com/economia/reunion-de-empalme-mostro-avances-en-sector-minero-energetico-articulo-798036;%20https:/www.americaeconomia.com/politica-sociedad/politica/presidente-electo-de-colombia-nombra-como-ministra-de-minas-y-energia">deepening of territorial exploitation through the mining-energy</a> and <a href="https://www.larepublica.co/economia/gobierno-de-ivan-duque-fortalecera-al-sector-industrial-2750638">agro-industrial model</a>, opening doors for <a href="http://caracol.com.co/radio/2018/07/16/nacional/1531744846_205244.html">fracking</a>.</p> <p>In sum, the announcements by the new president make explicit an agenda that rules in favour of transnational capital and against popular sectors, both in the cities and in the countryside. </p> <h3><strong>What to do in terms of organization</strong><strong></strong></h3> <p>In light of these threats to the rights of the Colombian population, it is critical to imagine how the eight million votes for ¨Human Colombia,” as a rejection of traditional politics, can effectively become a social and political organizational.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Facing a national government controlled by the extreme right wing, resistance movements must consolidate local powers and find the breaks in the antidemocratic model at the territorial level.&nbsp;</p><p>One initial proposal is to aim for governmental power at the local and regional level, especially in those provinces (departamentos) and municipalities where Human Colombia won the majority of the votes. Facing a national government controlled by the extreme right wing, resistance movements must consolidate local powers and find the breaks in the antidemocratic model at the territorial level.&nbsp;</p> <p>In order to do this, it is critical to debate some of Gustavo Petro’s proposals, which are not shared by popular movements and organizations. For example, the idea of agro-industry as the core of economic development is opposed to peasant agriculture as the axis of production and organization in rural areas. </p><p>In the same vein, the proposal to commodify nature as an alternative to the mining-energy model is infeasible from the radical environmentalist perspective, since this is just one more mechanism to strengthen corporate control of territories, whilst green washing.&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides the necessary debates on the Human Colombia proposal, the current conjuncture demands, in order to sustain the social and political articulations around the existing agreements, that movements move towards a debate based on popular participation and, at the same time, to avoid new dispersions and divisions that might negatively impact the delicate balance of forces achieved during the electoral exercise.</p> <p>In the face of the visible threats including the return of '<em>Uribismo</em>' and its national and territorial power structures, democratic forces must reinforce and unite to coordinate actions defending life, and to strengthen the resistance that, in the Colombian context, is as significant as the extreme right-wing counter attack.&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/juan-gabriel-tokatlian/colombia-and-plebiscite-peace-that-wasn-t">Colombia and the plebiscite: the peace that wasn’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/sandra-borda/presidential-elections-in-colombia-polarisation-or-deterioration-of-p">Presidential elections in Colombia: polarisation or deterioration of the political conversation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/francesc-badia-i-dalmases-jonatan-rodr-guez/colombia-and-possibility-of-modernisin">Colombia and the possibility of modernising democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Danilo Urrea Lyda Forero Tue, 14 Aug 2018 16:16:43 +0000 Danilo Urrea and Lyda Forero 119264 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Latin America is the deadliest region for environmental activists https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/parker-asmann/latin-america-is-deadliest-region-for-environmental-activists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More land and environmental activists were killed in Latin America last year than anywhere else in the world, according to a&nbsp;new report by watchdog group Global Witness.<em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/parker-asmann/am-rica-latina-es-la-regi-n-m-s-mort-fera-para-los-defensores-del-me">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/bertacaceres.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/bertacaceres.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'>Protest against the murder of Berta Caceres, environmental activist from Honduras in 2016. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>A total of some 207 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2017, according to Global Witness’s new <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/384595873/Defenders-Report-Layout-AW2-Lowres">report</a>. Nearly 60% of those killings took place in Latin America, making it the deadliest year on record for this community. The report underscores how shifting organized crime dynamics put environmental defenders at greater risk.&nbsp;</p> <p>Brazil recorded the largest number of killings in the region with 57, while Colombia and Mexico recorded the next highest with 24 and 15, respectively, according to the report. Mexico and Peru saw “marked increases” in killings between 2016 and 2017 as their number jumped 400% in Mexico, and 300% in Peru.</p> <p>There was also a significant decrease in the number of land defenders killed in Honduras, down from 14 in 2016 to 5 in 2017, although the report stressed that the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/echoes-2009-honduras-again-approaches-chaos/">repression</a>&nbsp;of civil society there is “worse than ever.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">According to the Global Witness report, the agribusiness industry is one of the main sectors driving attacks against land defenders, in addition to mining and extractive industries and logging.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the Global Witness report, the agribusiness industry is one of the main sectors driving attacks against land defenders, in addition to mining and extractive industries and logging. Criminal gangs are often found to be the suspected perpetrators, followed by soldiers, police and paramilitary forces.</p> <p>In addition, the report finds that there are a number of factors “accentuating and perpetuating” the risks that land defenders face, including widespread impunity, which gives the “green light” to potential attackers, and corruption among government officials and businesses that sometimes also collude with criminal groups.</p> <p>These latest findings reinforce the growing threat that land and environmental activists face when they threaten the lucrative criminal activities of organized crime groups in Latin America, and how shifting criminal dynamics put them at greater risk.</p> <p>For example, the report makes a direct link between the drastic increase in the murders of land defenders in Mexico to a “massive rise” in organized crime-related murders nationwide. Indeed, organized crime-related homicides reached a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/2017-deadliest-year-organized-crime-related-homicides-mexico/">record high</a>&nbsp;in 2017 amid an increasingly&nbsp;<a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/mexico-government-report-points-to-ongoing-criminal-fragmentation/">fragmented</a>&nbsp;criminal landscape.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Colombia is also undergoing intense criminal fragmentation after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and was again among the top three&nbsp;most dangerous&nbsp;countries for land and environmental defenders last year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Colombia is also undergoing intense criminal fragmentation after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and was again among the top three&nbsp;<a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/latam-is-most-murderous-region-for-land-environmental-activists-report/">most dangerous</a> countries for land and environmental defenders last year. Social leaders continue to be killed at an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/colombia-social-leaders-caught-crossfire-battle-pacific-coast/">alarming rate</a>&nbsp;so far in 2018, as competing criminal organizations battle for control over illicit economies.</p> <p>But organized crime is not the only actor at fault. Legislative and other reforms have put Brazil’s environmental activists in greater harm. The Global Witness report finds that President Michel Temer has “systematically weakened the legislation, institutions and budgets” that could have protected human rights defenders and has “skewed the balance of power” against activists. </p><p>This has contributed to Brazil holding the rank as the most dangerous country to be a land defender in Latin America for the last decade.</p><p class="blockquote-new"> This article was previously published by<a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/latam-deadliest-region-environmental-land-defenders-report/">&nbsp;<em>InSight Crime</em></a>.</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/robert-soutar/un-o-despu-s-del-asesinato-de-berta-c-ceres-proteger-el-planeta-sigu"> Berta Cáceres: proteger el planeta sigue siendo una actividad mortal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/verenice-bengtsson/consternaci-n-global-berta-c-ceres-la-l-der-ind-gena-hondure-as">Berta Cáceres, 2 años después: Consternación global: Berta Cáceres, la líder indígena hondureña, asesinada</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/thomas-mc-donagh-aldo-orellana-l-pez/protesta-social-en-per-vista-para-sentencia">Criminalización extrema de comunidades indígenas Aymaras en Perú</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Parker Asmann Tue, 14 Aug 2018 15:20:56 +0000 Parker Asmann 119261 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Feminism is cancer’: the angry backlash against our reporting on the men’s rights movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nandini-archer/feminism-is-cancer-mens-rights-activists-online-backlash <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>50.50's recent dispatch on this movement received hundreds of comments and messages on social media. We read them so you don’t have to.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mra reaction (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mra reaction (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of tweet from @JuliusConrad88. Photo: Nandini Archer.</span></span></span>Men’s rights activists (MRAs) met in London last month at one of the largest gatherings of anti-feminists in the world. 50.50’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/young-men-should-be-furious-inside-worlds-largest-mens-rights-activism">dispatch</a> from the conference aroused an angry backlash, as MRAs mobilised their supporters to try to discredit our report and drown out any positive response to it.</p><p dir="ltr">They left hundreds of comments under the article and on social media – which run from the misguided but sincere, through foolish and provocative to misleading, abusive, and hateful. They show what we’re up against, and reflect the abuse that women journalists so often face online.</p><p dir="ltr">In this case, conference organisers emailed participants to encourage them to attack the dispatch. Many apparently obliged.</p><p dir="ltr">We read their comments, so you don’t have to. If you’re sick of hateful vitriol, take this as a content warning.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“An unfiltered window into this angry, anti-feminist backlash.”</p><p dir="ltr">Countless commenters have left vehemently and explicitly anti-feminist messages, calling us “rabid feminists,” “crazy feminists” and “feminist bullies.”</p><p dir="ltr">Several comments were deleted by openDemocracy’s moderators because they made personal attacks on the article’s author, against our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/info/opendemocracy-comment-guidelines">guidelines for commenters</a> on the website.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">One of these deleted comments asked, about our reporter: “Am I the only one who… thought: ‘something have to be done to keep such monster and her ilks away from male children and boys’?”</p><p dir="ltr">Another deleted comment said: “Why do you hate baby males, Lara? Baby males are innocent and weak, baby males can't beat you, Lara.”</p><p>Yet another was left by Paul Elam, founder of the US ‘<a href="https://www.avoiceformen.com">Voice for Men</a>’ movement who <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/adamserwer/how-mens-rights-leader-paul-elam-turned-being-a-deadbeat-dad?utm_term=.eow8JQ8xV#.ok93j23Ov">rallies against</a> ‘false’ rape accusations and family courts that he says favour women. His deleted comment said: “Feminism is Cancer.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mra reaction (3).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mra reaction (3).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="210" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of comment from Paul Elam. Photo: Nandini Archer.</span></span></span>The same comment, “feminism is cancer”, was posted by another user called ‘Kronk’ (this was also deleted). On Twitter, @JuliusConrad88 also tagged our dispatch with the hashtag #feminismiscancer.</p><p dir="ltr">Others have taken the opportunity to make (unoriginal) objectifying comments about feminists. On Twitter, <a href="https://twitter.com/AlanEngland4/status/1022127515614281729">@AlanEngland4 said</a>: “Many so-called feminist gatherings are not pretty either; it's the three-day stubble which gets me!”</p><p dir="ltr">Still other commenters have been downright nasty. @bonedagger said on Twitter, about our reporter:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“I don't know how she did it either. That bold, brave pathfinder. Incredible stuff. She could have been eaten alive or anything. I'm surprised she wasn't gang-raped and thrown into the Thames to drown.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Watching it unfold, I was particularly struck by how coordinated and quick the backlash against this dispatch was, and how certain themes were repeated in comments. Some of these I want to respond to directly.</p><p dir="ltr">Several people asserted that women were, in fact, welcome and present at the conference. (We know; women attendees featured in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/young-men-should-be-furious-inside-worlds-largest-mens-rights-activism">dispatch</a>, and in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte-adam-bychawski-camille-mijola/backlash-podcast-episode-4-mens-rights-movement">our new podcast episode</a> on this movement).</p><p dir="ltr">MRAs and their supporters insisted that the international conference on men’s issues our reporter attended was diverse. ‘Kaarefog’ commented:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“By the way – I think I remember that one of the men selling food was black. I am not quite sure, but I think so. So maybe not all men in the breakout room at that point of time were white.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Mike Buchanan himself, organiser of the conference, and founder of the <a href="https://j4mb.org.uk">Justice for Men and Boys</a> British anti-feminist political party, added:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Yes, he was. Likewise one of the security men. Though none of this matters. I have never encountered sexism, racism, ageism, or homophobia, in the men's rights movement. Such bigotry is anathema to MRAs.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Considering Mike Buchanan is a white, straight cis-male, it comes as no shock that he’s never encountered these forms of discrimination.</p><p dir="ltr">And as a woman of colour, I’d also remark that if you notice two black men working in service jobs at a conference, this is not a sign of diversity, but more likely, a rather hierarchical system of labour. </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/565074/mra reaction (2)_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mra reaction (2)_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of tweet from @bonedagger. Photo: Nandini Archer.</span></span></span>A common theme in comments has been anger towards the situation of men and boys globally, with some citing domestic violence against men, male circumcision, deaths from industrial accidents and suicide rates.</p><p dir="ltr">“How often are men told they need to be in touch with their emotions, but not anger of course,” said a commenter called ‘Omnia Incendent.’</p><p dir="ltr">We haven’t suggested that men shouldn’t be angry. But if anger is directed in an abusive and oppressive way toward women, rather than toward gender norms which impact both men and women, then it’s hateful, and not okay.</p><p dir="ltr">Mike Buchanan said in another comment:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“But of course men of ALL ages - not just young men - should be furious at the state's assaults on their human rights, almost all of which are designed to privilege women and girls.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">My take on this: whether it's control over women's bodies, the sexualisation of women, the gender pay gap, harassment walking home at night, domestic homicide, or child marriage, it's clear that male privilege is an essential building block of most societies.</p><p dir="ltr">That said, rigid norms which enforce a gender binary or toxic masculinities can, of course, harm men and boys as well, and many feminists work tirelessly to address these forms and impacts of oppression too.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">@Azeraph<a href="https://twitter.com/Azeraph/status/1022200903183491072"> wrote on Twitter</a>, about our reporter’s dispatch on the men’s rights movement: “All I got from this article was threatened woman reaction.”</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, the over 100 comments on this article, among many others on social media, suggest a different story – that MRAs and their supporters are the ones feeling threatened, by feminism and gains in women’s rights.</p><p dir="ltr">If the aim of their coordinated attack was to discredit 50.50’s dispatch, their tactics and insults has rather shown us, again, why many perceive this movement as sexist, misogynistic and hateful in the first place.</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"> 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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Equality Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash violence against women patriarchy feminism Nandini Archer Tue, 14 Aug 2018 12:00:14 +0000 Nandini Archer 119094 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Labour’s economic policy really neoliberal? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/laurie-macfarlane/is-labour-s-economic-policy-really-neoliberal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Acknowledging the risk of capital flight and currency devaluation is not neoliberal – it is the only responsible path.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have become used to diatribes on social media which predict that its policies will lead Britain’s economy into a Venezuela type scenario, with a collapse in the currency and hyperinflation. However, readers of three recent blogs by Richard Murphy on his <a href="http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/08/06">Tax Research</a> website may be surprised to learn that Labour is supposedly trapped in what Murphy describes as “deeply neoliberal and profoundly conventional thinking”.Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party have become used to diatribes on social media which predict that its policies will lead Britain’s economy into a Venezuela type scenario, with a collapse in the currency and hyperinflation. However, readers of three recent blogs by Richard Murphy on his <a href="http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/08/06">Tax Research</a> website may be surprised to learn that Labour is supposedly trapped in what Murphy describes as “deeply neoliberal and profoundly conventional thinking”. They might also be puzzled to discover that this denunciation was provoked not by a new policy statement from John McDonnell, but by a two-sentence comment on someone’s Facebook page by James Meadway, McDonnell’s “chief economic adviser”, on what’s known as ‘modern monetary theory’ (or MMT). According to Meadway: <em>“MMT is just plain old bad economics, unfortunately, and a regression of left economic thinking. An economy ‘with its own currency’ may never ‘run out of money’ but that money can become entirely worthless”</em> In his first response Murphy produced a series of what he claimed to be ‘entirely fair extrapolations’ from those two sentences alone. These concluded with the rather unfair claims that Meadway believes that “achieving full employment and growth will leave the currency valueless”; that under a Labour government “austerity will remain in place”; and even that we can “expect Labour to deliver more Tory economic policy”. Murphy has a well-deserved reputation as a leading figure in the tax justice movement who, as a trained accountant, has expertly dissected the tax avoidance practices of multinational companies and the failures of successive British governments to crack down on them. He is also a vigorous advocate of MMT, which explains why he was so annoyed by Meadway’s somewhat dismissive Facebook comment. Sadly, however, he now seems to have descended into quite seriously misrepresenting Labour’s policy position, and this has much wider implications. One curious aspect to this is that Murphy’s onslaught is almost entirely focused on just one strand of Labour’s current economic policy. This concerns the so-called ‘Fiscal Credibility Rule’ which was formulated by two Keynesian critics of Conservative austerity policies, Simon Wren-Lewis and Jonathon Portes. The rule commits Labour to balancing the budget for current (day-to-day) spending over the first five years and borrowing only to invest in reconstructing the economy. In his first two blogs Murphy disregards all Labour’s proposals for public ownership, ‘democratisation’ of the economy including support for cooperatives and workers’ rights, financial regulation, a national investment bank, and even policies he himself has supported such as a financial transactions tax and cracking down on tax havens. In a third blog, responding to a defence of Labour policy <a href="https://criticalfinance.org/2018/08/07">by Jo Michell</a>, Murphy is dismissive of what he terms unspecified ‘supply-side reforms’. This suggests that Murphy has paid less attention to the debate that has been taking place within McDonnell’s team than The Economist magazine, which devoted a critical but <a href="https://www.economist.com/britain/2018/05/17/corbynomics-would-change-britain-but-not-in-the-way-most-people-think">respectful three pages</a> to those same reforms. Equally problematic is Murphy’s failure to acknowledge what he must know to be the case. Borrowing to invest is very different in its consequences than borrowing to finance tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which is what the Conservatives have been doing since 2010. If Murphy wants ‘demand-side’ policies to generate full employment and growth, job-creating investment programmes, whether they be for housing or for renewable energy and sustainable transport, will be far more effective in achieving those goals. By comparison the ‘multiplier effects’ on aggregate demand of tax-cuts are much more limited, because corporations and the very wealthy are more likely to save the money or invest outside of the national economy. A close reading of Murphy’s argument reveals, however, the critical implication of his reliance on MMT thinking. Murphy believes that governments do not need to borrow on the money markets at all because the Bank of England can simply create as much money as needed with a few keystrokes on a computer. MMT argues that this is what normally happens when Governments spend. It claims that taxes as well as bonds sold to the ‘public’ are only necessary to withdraw excess money from circulation and avoid inflation (an argument which is not that modern, as it harks back to what Keynes argued during the Second World War). As Meadway acknowledged, MMT advocates are correct to insist that states with ‘sovereign currencies’ (which critically no longer includes any of the countries inside the eurozone) can never run out of money. Central banks can create as much of it as they want with a few strokes on a keyboard. Indeed, the so-called quantitative easing (QE) programmes pursued by all the major central banks since the financial crash of 2008 has provided the most spectacular possible confirmation of that. Trillions of dollars, euros, pounds, and yen have been pumped into the system’s money markets over the last decade which, while helping to restore bank balance sheets, has also fueled a boom in asset prices (bonds, shares and property prices) which has mainly boosted the wealth of the 1%. Back in 2013, the fifth anniversary report of the <a href="http://www.greennewdealgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Green-New-Deal-5th-Anniversary.pdf">Green New Deal Group</a>, to which Murphy contributed, called for Green QE. This, along with measures to prevent tax dodging, was to finance a programme of spending on green infrastructure projects of around £50 billion a year. Creation of a Green (or National) Development Bank would bypass the private banking system by issuing bonds which the Bank of England could purchase along with all the other bonds it has been purchasing under its QE measures. The advocates of this plan argued persuasively that this would be a far better use of the additional QE money than feeding into property prices in cities such as London. So what’s the problem? And why did Meadway follow up his initial Facebook comment with the rather cryptic observation that ‘Any country that isn’t the US trying to apply MMT’s prescriptions would find itself in the same position’ i.e. ‘close to catastrophe’? As one commentator quoted by Murphy asked: ‘Why is the US different?’. Meadway did not respond to this, but Wren-Lewis himself has <a href="https://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/2018/08/labours-fiscal-rule-is-progressive.html">replied to Murphy’s</a> critique of the allegedly neoclassical economic assumptions behind his models. I am not concerned here with that rather technical debate. In my view the critical question, which neither Murphy nor Wren-Lewis address, is what happens to the exchange-rate if the Bank of England keeps on pumping out more money when other central banks have called a halt to QE? The MMT school originated in the USA amidst a current of heterodox Keynesians who are understandably insouciant with respect to the strength of the dollar. They stress the willingness of foreigners who want to sell to the US to not only accept dollars in payment, but to hold onto those dollars for extended periods of time. Central banks in China and the rest of East Asia (especially since the region’s financial crisis in 1997/8) as well as the Gulf states of the Middle East continue to hold billions of dollars in their reserves. Indeed, any attempt to swap sizeable quantities of those reserves into another currency or gold would lead to a sharp fall in the dollar and reduce the value of their remaining assets. In summary: the US is different because it retains the <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/exorbitant-privilege-9780199596713?lang=en&amp;cc=cz">‘exorbitant privilege’</a> of controlling the only national currency which also functions as world money. This of course is not true of the pound. But when the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan were all engaged in pressing those keyboards and generating extra liquidity to compensate for the implosion of the global banking system, the Bank of England could join in without worrying about the exchange-rate. A future Labour Government cannot assume it will be in the same situation. If it was, and interest-rates fell again to very low levels, the fiscal rule would, as Jo Michell noted, be suspended and fiscal policy can be used “with all means necessary”. Murphy sneeringly commented that in this case the rule would be "just a sham". He also sneered at the very idea that “Labour thinks it has to live in fear of the money markets. And so bankers. And so their supposed ability to manipulate exchange rates”. Unfortunately, the experience of other radical social democratic governments in Europe (France in the early 1980s, Sweden in the early 90s) as well as the not so radical Wilson/Callaghan government of the mid-1970s suggests that any future Labour government should be worried about the money-markets. Even if exchange-rates are not simply ‘manipulated’ by what in the 1930s was termed a ‘bankers’ ramp’, they are vulnerable to intense speculative pressure. A Corbyn-led government, with its commitments to all the other radical measures Murphy ignores, may well have to ride out a period of capital flight and a sharp fall in the pound. Being aware of this possibility is not "neoliberal". The recent crash of the Turkish lira (by 45% at the time of writing) is an illustration of what can happen in the course of a few days. Some might respond that a fall in the pound will make exports cheaper abroad and contribute to reducing the current account deficit and rebalancing the economy. But Britain’s economy is also far more dependent on imports than the US, and after decades of deindustrialisation rebalancing will take some time. Meanwhile, the higher prices of imported food, energy and manufactured goods will cut into living standards – as they did after Brexit – and potentially fuel an inflationary spiral. In an extreme case this process can, as in Venezuela in recent months, make the currency worthless. Of course, the British state remains in a far stronger financial position than Venezuela or Turkey, but regardless of Brexit we do not and will not inhabit an autonomous national economy. The wartime economy, sometimes referenced when MMTers quote the Keynes of the 1940s, was managed on the basis of tight controls over both prices and cross-border currency flows – as well as cheap raw materials from the Empire and dollar credits from the USA. Today, we have a national economy inextricably enmeshed in both the European and the world market. Most of the major banks and corporations operating in Britain are multinationals capable of transferring funds from one currency to another with the stroke of a keyboard. Imposing effective controls over speculators and tax dodgers will require at a minimum cooperation with the European Union. The best thinkers in the Marxist tradition always understood that socialism in one country was not a sustainable option. One could say the same today for the unfettered demand-side Keynesianism advocated by Richard Murphy and the MMT school. Does that mean we should abandon hope and reconcile ourselves to more austerity? Certainly not. A radical break with neoliberal policies of spending cuts, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing, and anti-union legislation remains on the agenda. There is much that still needs to be thought through about how to manage the threat posed by the money markets which Murphy blithely wants to ignore. There are policy proposals which I disagree with, such as retaining Trident nuclear submarines and wasting more money on HS2, and I am skeptical about recent proposals for a universal basic income. However, I also attended the daylong New Economics conference in London in May which was open to all Labour Party members. What most impressed me was not the lineup of headline speakers, but the diversity of contributions in workshops I attended on finance and housing, and the openness to debate on questions such as alternative forms of public ownership and the urgent challenge of climate change. If Richard Murphy wants to contribute to those discussions, I hope and suspect he would still be very welcome to join.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Pete Green Tue, 14 Aug 2018 09:09:56 +0000 Pete Green 119256 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The NHS deal is not an acceptable settlement https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/rachel-harrison/nhs-deal-is-not-acceptable-settlement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>GMB, the only union to vote against the government's NHS pay deal, pledge to continue fighting it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/22241083476_458f212dda_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/22241083476_458f212dda_z.jpg" alt="Junior doctors protest contract changes in 2015." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Junior doctors protest contract changes in 2015. Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rohinfrancis/22241083476/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Rohin Francis</a> (CC BY 2.0) </span></span></span>Since our members overwhelmingly rejected Jeremy Hunt’s dodgy three year NHS pay deal earlier this year, we have been consulting them on the next steps.</p><p>During the past few weeks, members have used the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-staff-discover-they-will-get-hundreds-of-pounds-less-than-they-thought" target="_blank">ballot process to tell reps on the ground about their huge disappointment at this pay deal and how let down they feel by it</a>.</p><p>After nearly a decade of wage freezes and caps that have seen our dedicated NHS and ambulance workers’ pay pinched and left them thousands of pounds out of pocket, a below inflation wage increase for some of the longest-serving, most dedicated staff in the health service is not good enough. Our members deserve far more than a real terms pay cut.&nbsp;</p><p>We have said all along that we could not in good conscience recommend Jeremy Hunt’s offer to our members. And so we didn’t.&nbsp;</p><p>GMB was the only union of 14 health service representative bodies to have rejected Jeremy Hunt’s offer for what it was, and our ability to take industrial action this year alone has been limited accordingly. That, coupled with the government’s anti-trade union legislation which makes it extremely difficult to meet legal thresholds for a formal industrial action ballot, are why we are unable to trigger a formal industrial action vote over NHS pay this year.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Our members deserve far more than a real terms pay cut&nbsp;</p><p>The message from GMB members has been loud and clear throughout our consultation – we must continue to campaign for more funding for NHS pay. This three year deal is not an acceptable settlement for us.</p><p>A joint meeting between GMB National NHS and Ambulance Service reps and officers has overwhelmingly agreed that although we are not in a position to ballot for industrial action, GMB's campaign does not stop here. As we have promised to members, GMB will continue to push the government into increasing funding into the NHS for pay. Anyone who thinks we will lie down and simply accept this pay deal for the next three years is very wrong. It’s not good enough – and this is not the end of the matter. The strength of feeling among GMB members is very clear on that.&nbsp;</p><p>We’re incredibly proud of our members for taking a stand – and grateful to the support and solidarity we have received from workers across the NHS and from the public at large who support our call for properly funded fair pay for the heroes working in our health service.&nbsp;</p><p>Under this government our NHS is under threat. For it to survive, we need to continue to fight for it and the people who keep it going every day. And GMB will.</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="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-staff-discover-they-will-get-hundreds-of-pounds-less-than-they-thought">NHS staff discover they will get hundreds of pounds less than many thought</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-pay-deal-row-intensifies-as-nurses-call-for-union-leader-to-quit">NHS pay deal row intensifies as nurses call for union leader to quit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS ourNHS Rachel Harrison Mon, 13 Aug 2018 15:45:19 +0000 Rachel Harrison 119249 at https://www.opendemocracy.net