openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en SYRIZA crash-lands against the euro https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/nicholas-vrousalis/syriza-crashlands-against-euro <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tsipras’ room for manoeuvre is completely circumscribed by the euro.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vTGXX05_013HXHcIgjm8c4CW-fZ95fzalxCt2nuCS-4/mtime:1436028308/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/6748132_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/In7FzU8WHBhh78IzJhkf5H9Bxtnf98Vqf-cCnGo6Fvg/mtime:1436028299/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/6748132_0.jpg" alt="Alexis Tsipras addresses the Greek people after the elections, January, 2015." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexis Tsipras addresses the Greek people after the elections, January, 2015. Demotix/Nikolaus Georgiou. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>A man goes to the tailor to pick up a custom-made suit. He puts it on, and notices that the sleeves are too long. When he complains, the tailor says: ‘just bend your arms a little’. ‘But the collar is too low!’ ‘Just raise your back a little’ says the tailor. ‘But the trousers are too long!’ ‘Just stand on your toes’ says the tailor. The man goes out into the street and can barely walk in his new suit. Everyone says: ‘poor guy’. ‘Yes, but great suit!’</p> <p>This joke represents the structure of entanglement of working class Greeks with the euro over the past five years. Unemployment presently stands at 27 per cent. Millions have been plunged into poverty and homelessness. The country has seen the biggest increase in inequality and xenophobia in Europe since the 1930s. But hey, at least we’ve got the euro!</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/29/referendum-greeks-europe-capitalism-greece-eurozone-economic-system?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Facebook">referendum</a> announced by the Greek government on Sunday is its last-ditch attempt to get some leverage against the latest round of <a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/grisis/?_r=0">blackmail</a> by the troika of the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, however, the chances that SYRIZA will be able to orchestrate an economic recovery with Greece in the Eurozone are still virtually nought. Let me explain.</p> <p>During last week’s negotiations, the Greek government and its creditors <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/24/greece-debt-crisis-talks-renewed-deadlock">failed</a> to reach agreement on a new bail-out. Part of the reason was IMF’s insistence that the revenue-raising measures proposed by the government, amounting to some €8bn, involved too many taxes on the rich. They were therefore likely to choke off the chances of economic recovery. The IMF effectively said: if you don’t cut taxes on the rich—while cutting back on everything else—there isn’t going to be more <em>private</em> investment. For greater investment requires greater net profit, and greater net profit only accrues when taxes on the rich are low. Such is the inexorable logic of capital accumulation in the neoliberal era.</p> <p>The irony of all this is that, even if SYRIZA reaches an agreement to cut a ‘mere’ 8bn from an already depressed economy, it will, eventually, have to follow IMF advice. For how else will it get the Greek economy out of depression while committed to the euro? How, in other words, is Greece to reduce its massive reserve army of the unemployed without cutting taxes for the rich, thus raising profits and eventually investment in the <em>private</em> sector? </p> <p>The standard Keynesian response to this question is: by raising <em>public</em> spending and employment. But this avenue is not open to straitjacketed Greece. If the country had its own currency, then it could print its way out of the recession. But this cannot be done while it is dependent on the ECB for liquidity and interest rate policy. On the one hand, the ECB’s liquidity programmes, disseminated as they are through the national central banks—and governed by a colonial ideology worthy of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montagu_Norman,_1st_Baron_Norman">Montague Norman</a>—offer a pittance compared to the country’s spending needs. On the other hand, Greece cannot engage in deficit spending due to prior Eurozone commitments, including the Growth and Stability Pact. For these reasons, Greece cannot fund a recovery by resorting to deficit spending or the printing press. It follows that even in SYRIZA’s best case scenario—where Greece stays in the euro and the government gets the deal it wants—it cannot <em>both </em>reduce unemployment <em>and</em> tax the rich. For Greece there is no such thing as a labour-friendly recovery: the Eurozone is a one-way street to labour emasculation. The implication is that there is no way for SYRIZA to implement its <a href="http://www.syriza.gr/article/SYRIZA---THE-THESSALONIKI-PROGRAMME.html#.VZLHBzuUc3g">programme</a>, or even rudiments thereof.</p> <p>These important but neglected facts have ramifications for Greece’s immediate future. If the Greek people vote ‘no’ on Sunday, then the Greek government might be able to extract some minor concessions from its creditors and reach a new bailout agreement within the week—that is, assuming that the ECB does not <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33350599">force</a> a Grexit. It will then have to enforce further austerity in order to revive the economy. This is likely to destroy SYRIZA electorally, by bringing about its <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n08/richard-seymour/bye-bye-labour">pasokification</a> and eventual demise. This is the message of the previous paragraph: no Grexit, no labour-friendly recovery. </p><p>If, on the other hand, the Greek people vote ‘yes’, then the plot thickens further. Say the government does not declare an election. Then it will have to <em>enforce</em> the same kind of austerity that has decimated the country over the past five years. The Greek Left will be all but eradicated for a generation. Say the government does declare an election. It will then have to give in to the creditors’ threats until such time as the election takes place—or worse, enforce austerity on the event of its reelection! The opposition from the Right will naturally blame austerity on SYRIZA’s ‘capitulation’, on its negotiating ‘ineptitude’, and similar gimmicks. Whatever happens, Tsipras’ room for manoeuvre is completely circumscribed by the euro; and you can’t really conduct an orchestra in a straitjacket.</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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Nicholas Vrousalis Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:29:07 +0000 Nicholas Vrousalis 94106 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Greek burden: confronting neoliberal authoritarianism on July 5 https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/john-weeks/greek-burden-confronting-neoliberal-authoritarianism-on-july-5 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Much like the mythical Atlas, Greece must carry the struggle against austerity on its shoulders as punishment for its government challenging the neo-liberal European consensus in Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/RtQ97V1UU-8GMxrN2-GU6cPnp46VTG2qx5vLuDhxHtE/mtime:1436027089/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/1346325684_9ea65c1cfc_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/F28OtHzD6YOAMI7kw199jK5qAk8TdEDer-C15apbAss/mtime:1436025082/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/1346325684_9ea65c1cfc_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="391" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Atlas. Flickr/H M Cotterill. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>In Greek mythology Atlas is a titan condemned to the task of supporting the world on his shoulders. We could not find a better metaphor for the task before the Greek electorate on Sunday 5 July.</span></p> <p>To understand why the outcome of the referendum vote affects people far beyond Greece, even beyond Europe, I must dispel the many misrepresentations and mendacities that the mainstream media and most politicians use to distort and discredit this exercise in democratic decision making.</p> <p>The forces of neoliberal reaction have challenged the referendum on procedural and administrative grounds in the Greek high court (<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2015/jul/03/greek-debt-crisis-council-of-state-to-rule-on-referendum-live">challenge was rejected</a>). More surprising and quite disappointing is the statement by the Council of Europe that "<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/01/eurozone-greece-rights-idUSL8N0ZH3IO20150701">the vote falls short of international standards</a>, because the poll was called at short notice and the questions asked are not clear".</p> <p>Both arguments, that the referendum comes too quickly and that the question is not clear, are nonsense. Council of Europe's <em>non-binding</em> guidelines call for two weeks notice, and the Hellenic Parliament approved the referendum to be held in eight days. The allegation that six days constitutes a violation of democracy would seem rather bureaucratic in the most favourable interpretation.</p> <p>I find it difficult not to characterise as duplicitous the "short notice" argument. At the end of June the "institutions" (aka Troika, IMF, European Central Bank and euro group of finance ministers) presented the Greek government with a proposal that it had to accept or reject by midnight 30 June when the existing funding programme would expire.</p> <p>By accepting the Troika proposal the Greek government would violate its campaign pledge to end austerity. By rejecting the proposal the government <em>might</em> have set in motion a process leading to an exit of the euro zone, which it had also promised not to do.</p> <p>A critic of the Syriza government could charge that it should have not promised an end to austerity <em>and</em> to stay in the euro zone. Be that as it may, the Syriza government had made that combined promise. Therefore, the Syriza government faced a dilemma; either choice resulted in doing what it promised never to do.</p> <p>The referendum represented the only democratic way to escape this dilemma, and the ultimatum laid down by the Troika required that the date for it be extremely soon. Thus, if the Council of Europe finds fault in the timing of the referendum, it should take its compliant to Washington, Brussels and Berlin, not Athens.</p> <p>The second objection, that the text for the referendum is too vague, unclear and/or complex for an informed vote, is so absurd as to be laughable. The two documents that the electorate is asked to accept or reject have been publicly debated in Greece for at least six months. The documents state the well-known austerity conditions demanded by the Troika.</p> <p>These are essentially unchanged from what the Samaras government accepted in December 2014, and that confronted finance minister Yanis Varoufakis when he attended his first euro group meeting in February of this year. Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister of Germany, has repeatedly stressed the unchanging character of the "bailout conditions", that "Greece will receive no special treatment" (see my previous <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/john-weeks/grexit-end-of-illusion">openDemocracy article</a>).</p> <h2><strong>Neo-colonialism in Southeast Europe</strong></h2> <p>There is a strong scent of neo-colonial condescension in the "unclear" and "complex" criticisms of the referendum text. They suggest a simplicity and innocence among the Greek electorate that makes the Troika the better judge of its interests. This is exactly the <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/economics/article4482361.ece">argument used by a member of the euro grou</a>p to disparage the referendum (and the Greek people), which was compounded by the paternalistic assurance from the president of the euro group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, that he was motivated in his support of austerity by the "best interests" of Greek people.</p> <p>Though the outcome is very uncertain, Greeks are only too aware of what they will vote for or against. That is what causes the anxiety in Brussels, Berlin and Washington. Several media outlets have criticized, even ridiculed, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-33311422">the text of the Greek referendum</a>, asking <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11706391/Does-the-Greek-referendum-ballot-paper-make-sense-to-you.html">the apparently killer question</a>, "could you understand this text?" The fact that "it is all Greek" (apologies requested) to the BBC and <em>The Telegraph</em> is hardly surprising -- the documents in question are unknown in the UK but common knowledge in Greece.</p> <p>Another Council of Europe objection is that because of the short notice it (the Council) could not send observers. This represents nonsense squared. If the Council cannot bring together a few observers with a week's notice to observe a major event in modern European history, it is in serious need of reform.</p> <p>To my knowledge the Council of Europe will not be monitoring the UK referendum on membership in the European Union to be held next year (and I doubt that it will send observers to the next German election). Why does it consider Greece a suitable case for democratic monitoring? Again, the scent of neo-colonialism is strong.</p> <h2><strong>What the Referendum is not</strong></h2> <p>The near hysteria of the EU leaders in anticipation of the democratic vote in Greece on 5 July manifests itself in quite clumsy and extraordinary attempts to influence the outcome. The attempts are not without their comic aspects, such as the offer by the German president of the EU parliament <a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/schulz-greece-campaign-yes-greferendum-grexit-vote-eurozone-parliament-president/">to go to Greece and campaign for a yes vote</a> -- yes a German politician proposing to campaign in Greece! I suspect that Alexis Tsipras would gladly pay his airfare.</p> <p>Not in the least humorous is the misrepresentation of the vote as in/out of the euro zone. The referendum wording is absolutely clear to Greeks (who will do the voting, not the BBC<em>, The Telegraph</em> or <em><a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswright/2015/07/01/will-greece-cancel-the-most-pointless-and-badly-worded-referendum-in-history/">Forbes</a></em>), reject or accept the continuation of the austerity measures that have destroyed the economy and generated social conflict for four years.</p> <p>In a ludicrous attempt to make the austerity vote appear a euro vote -- and simultaneously discredit the referendum -- the euro group (read "Wolfgang Schäuble") and the head of the IMF has announced that the "offer" that Greeks will vote on is "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/03/world/europe/yes-no-greek-voters-are-perplexed-by-a-momentous-referendum.html?_r=0">no longer on the table</a>", rending the vote pointless. In the league of simplistic idiocies this takes first place.</p> <p>Every Greek, whether a "yes" or a "no" voter, knows what will happen if a new Troika programme begins. It will be close to what Samaras accepted last December, and likely to be much more draconic as punishment for Syriza's challenge to the EU neoliberal order.</p> <h2><strong>What the Referendum is</strong></h2> <p>The referendum is the only substantial challenge in Europe to austerity orthodoxy. It is only a slight stretch to write that it is the only substantial challenge in much of the world to this right wing ideology. The leadership of the Scottish National Party pledges to oppose austerity. But the party currently lacks the power to change UK policy, though a Scottish independence referendum could give it that power in Scotland.</p> <p>The Greek referendum may unambiguously commit the country's government to end the austerity policies coming from Berlin, Brussels and Washington, and thus to launch an alternative fraught with uncertainty but creating the possibility of economic recovery.</p> <p>Atlas carries the world on his shoulders as punishment for siding with the titans in the war against the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Olympians">Olympians</a>. The Greek electorate carries the Europe-wide struggle against austerity on its shoulders as punishment for its government asserting the country's policy independence. It is a heavy burden for the people of a small country to bear, and through no fault of its own.</p><p><em><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em><span> on </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/john-weeks/greferendum-once-upon-time-in-europe-democracy-broke-out">Greferendum - once upon a time in Europe democracy broke out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/alex-sakalis/greferendum">Greferendum: an anthology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> </div> </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? Greece John Weeks Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:25:07 +0000 John Weeks 94105 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The last couple of days in Athens and in solidarity https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/michael-chessum/last-couple-of-days-in-athens-and-in-solidarity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tribute to the Greek left from a fellow European who won’t forget the run-up to the historic Greek referendum.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today, if the result is ‘Oxi’, the Syriza government will have a mandate to enter a more radical phase of government. A defeat for Syriza would, at least for the moment, extinguish the only left government and much of the credibility that its existence has lent to its counterpart movements all over Europe. More importantly, it would force any Podemos government in Spain to fight, as Syriza has had to, alone. </p> <p>For Greeks, the impact of the vote will be existential and personal.&nbsp; Last night, at the gigantic ‘Oxi’ rally in Syntagma Square – reportedly the largest demonstration in Greece since the fall of the dictatorship – tension was brimming over. What felt like hundreds of thousands of Athenians sang songs and chanted slogans, some new and some decades old. </p> <p>Many may have known the words because of Greece’s much larger and more serious left political traditions. But the passion of the demonstration had nothing to do with any essentialist tropes about the Greeks, and everything to do with the now desperate social situation, which, as many accept, may well deteriorate regardless of the outcome tomorrow, at least in the immediate term. &nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/KhIHD5fTYsieXzEFlTz5v084dUafC0AHCvAcfm3RnXY/mtime:1436023952/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/rally-thursday-east-end.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/MNigEk5WcZA6BhfHKDVf8jwpY6z4jBrB7TormRRgpa4/mtime:1436023945/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/rally-thursday-east-end.jpg" alt="Thursday rally, Athens. Michael Chessum. " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Thursday rally, Athens. Michael Chessum. </span></span></span>In the middle of the crowd, a woman grabbed my attention: “do you know how many people have <a href="http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2015/06/11/public-hospital-governor-10000-people-committed-suicide-in-the-5-years-of-greeces-crisis/">committed suicide</a> over the past few years?” After we’d spoken, she added: “We need your support”. Some of the biggest cheers at the rally were also for announcements of solidarity demonstrations taking place abroad, but, for all that, the outcome of the vote will now be determined by the voters of Greece – supposedly. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vm6ZPdeAF9rxZcqidG0MKquheDaIhewjG4Wauqhy6I8/mtime:1436024054/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/march-thrusday-oxi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/kRWZHOpPkreQtqftknFE10OMsrAW7376uS1eRh0pmDE/mtime:1436024047/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/march-thrusday-oxi.jpg" alt="March, Athens, Thursday. Author's pic." title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March, Athens, Thursday. Author's pic.</span></span></span>Many commentaries on the situation in Greece have described the referendum as a test of national sovereignty – but in reality, any notion that Greece is a truly independent state has already been swept aside by the events of the past few weeks. The Eurozone creditors have made it plain that what they really desire in Greece is not debt repayment (which, as the IMF now admits, needs a long holiday) but regime change, and they have used their financial muscle in the days running up to the referendum in order to deprive the Greek banks of cash. The capital controls that this has incurred are cited by almost everyone as the number one reason for the narrowing of the polls and the growth of the Yes vote. &nbsp;This strategy has willing domestic participants, in the form of every stripe of the old Greek establishment – including some ‘soft left’ figures (take Athens’s mayor for instance) – and the oligarchs who own almost all of the media. </p> <p>What the referendum will really test is the ability of Greece’s left, through its popular support and its sheer grit and willpower, to win in spite of the overwhelming efforts of both Greece’s creditors and the old Greek establishment. Across the country, a ground war has been waged by thousands upon thousands of activists – outside metro stations, in workplaces, on pavements and in local communities. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5GCNQd3fanyER-IzfDdoyLaJEPa7xuDxGsnKburR3qo/mtime:1436024134/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/friday-big-rally.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/V_9SITak-w2D0X1O2f1cmHgnjoPAlj8YBnkQaMYBBmg/mtime:1436024128/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/friday-big-rally.jpg" alt="March, Athens, Thursday. Author's pic." title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Friday, rally, Athens. Author's pic.</span></span></span>‘Hard-working’ doesn’t really cover the attitude of the Greek left. The picture that one gets from spending time around it is one of constant leafleting, demonstrations and rallies. Then there are the workplace struggles, the constant critical engagement and discussion that so many leftwing activists have about the strategy of the government, and for some the community projects supporting those without access to food and basic amenities – not to mention the task of coping personally effects of austerity. Being in eight places at once isn’t possible, but sleeping four hours a night and taking a lot of vitamins is. This is the movement with which the Troika is now at war. </p> <p>The contrast between the Nai (Yes) and Oxi (No) campaigns is visible on every street corner in Athens. The Nai campaign puts large glossy posters on lamp-posts and takes out bus station adverts, usually with the same design. Oxi posters, stickers and graffiti – coming in a hundred different designs and from a hundred different groups – are fly-posted on walls, sprayed on pavements and tied to lamp-posts all over the city. </p> <p>The whole event is a gigantic exercise in mass, bottom-up persuasion. Local Oxi rallies, like one which we attended in the east end of Athens on Thursday night, march noisily around residential areas, drawing fist-pumps and cheers, as well as the odd bucket of water, from balconies. For the Oxi campaign, building a sense of social solidarity, and counteracting the sense of isolation and fear that many wavering voters may be feeling in the wake of the economic gloom, is just as important as convincing people that the Troika’s demands are unreasonable. </p> <p>In a rapidly polarising atmosphere, both sides are throwing everything they have at the campaign. For the Oxi campaign, this means mass mobilisation. For Nai, it means a fusion of mobilisation and mass organised blackmail. The bias of the mainstream media has been well-reported: one of the favourite anecdotes of our contacts in Syriza Youth was that one of the main stations had just tweeted, from its main account: “Do you want access to medicines on Monday? Yes or no”. </p> <p>But beyond the media, the old Greek ruling class is running at full throttle: whole companies have gone on lock-out. Some employers have reportedly threatened their employees with non-payment if they fail to attend Nai rallies, and with mass redundancy if Oxi wins. The Ministry of Labour has responded with a declaration stating that these practices are illegal, and that it will back workers in this position. Leftwing activists are showing up at workplaces with the declaration in hand, but how effective this proves remains to be seen. </p> <p>If the Yes campaign is being conducted in a language of fear, the No campaign is described just as much in terms of dignity as it is in terms of hope. &nbsp;Nonetheless, a victory for Oxi and for Syriza would give hope to millions across Europe. It would represent the victory of a mass movement of the left over the forces of press barons and the old neoliberal political order – in Berlin, Brussels and the richer side of Athens – which seems intent on making a debt colony of Greece. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics democracy & power Michael Chessum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:30:29 +0000 Michael Chessum 94103 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Drawing the line between free speech and online radicalisation https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/jacob-mchangama/where-do-you-draw-line-between-free-speech-and-promotion-of-terroris <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Two court rulings in Denmark and Sweden reveal the contradictions at the heart of the European debate on free speech versus incitement to terrorism.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/JpjtCUPcGC-aGprOhkXMEhYQTMYq95PGHsASWkd8rcg/mtime:1435911609/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/545816/6915393.jpg" alt="People commemorate the victims of the Copenhagen shootings at a gathering in Århus. Demotix/Gonzales Photo. All rights reserved." title="People commemorate the victims of the Copenhagen shootings at a gathering in Århus. Demotix/Gonzales Photo. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People commemorate the victims of the Copenhagen shootings at a gathering in Århus. Demotix/Gonzales Photo. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>The global spate of terrorist attacks has brought the phenomenon of online radicalisation to the forefront. Governments and intelligence services </span><a href="http://washington.cbslocal.com/2015/03/06/fbi-issues-warning-isis-using-social-media-to-recruit-young-americans/">warn</a><span> that extremist groups use social media to recruit new adherents and potential terrorists. From the perspective of human rights, this raises a question – where should the line be drawn between protecting free speech and criminalising&nbsp;</span><span>“</span><span>extremist speech” related to terrorism? </span></p><p><span>Last week that question was answered very differently in two similar cases by Norwegian and Danish appeal courts. Both cases dealt with radical I</span><span>slamists who had uploaded comments, photos and videos with vocal support of terrorism and violent jihad on their respective Facebook accounts. In the Danish case the defendant had also sent a number of e-mails to a list-serve, and had edited and distributed a number of books on jihad.</span></p> <p>In the Norwegian case the defendant was charged for public incitement to murder with terrorist intent, whereas the Danish case included charges for both “<em>otherwise advanc[ing] the activities of another person, group or association, committing or intending to commit</em>” terrorism, “incitement” to terrorism and “publicly condoning” terrorism. While there are important differences between the relevant provisions in the Danish and Norwegian criminal codes, both have been amended to take into account the <a href="http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/196.htm">Council of Europe’s Convention on Prevention of Terrorism</a> (CPT), which includes an obligation to criminalise the “<em>public provocation to commit a terrorist offence", </em>which means<em> “the distribution, or otherwise making available, of a message to the public, with the intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence, where such conduct, whether or not directly advocating terrorist offences, causes a danger that one or more such offences may be committed</em>”.<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>However, the convention also states that such prohibitions must be implemented “<em>while respecting human rights obligations, in particular the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion</em>” as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). </p> <p>The statements in the Norwegian case included the following comments on a news story about hostages killed by Islamists in Algeria: “<em>May Allah swt reward our brothers with the biggest and best [of] paradise and expel the enemies of Islam from our country and destroy them</em>”. </p> <p>After the Boston bombing in 2013 the defendant wrote “<em>To hell with Boston and may Allah destroy America!! Our prayers and tears go to our loved ones in Afghanistan, Mali, Syria, Iraq, Myanmar, Yemen, Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia, Bosnia and to all the Muslim Ummah</em>” as well as “<em>REAL LIONS!!! May Allah reward them!!! Amiiin!</em>” accompanied by two pictures of the Boston bombers. He wrote similar updates praising the killers of a British solder beheaded by Islamists in London and the perpetrators of a terrorist attack against the Westgate mall in Nairobi. </p> <p>The Danish case involved more than 40 comments on Facebook, e-mails sent to a list serve and a number of books. While some of the comments explicitly called for violent jihad other statements were more ambiguous. For instance a photo of the World Trade Center in flames and a manipulated 7-11 logo, reading “<em>9-11 made by Qaeda</em>”, a picture of horsemen with raised swords and black flags with the following Quranic verse:&nbsp;“<em>Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you”,</em> a picture of water and rock formations with the following quotation from a Danish Islamist killed in Syria: “<em>Paradise has one hundred degrees and between each two degrees is a distance like that between the heaven and the earth, and Allah has reserved these degrees for the Mujahedeen who fight for his cause</em>”, and these quotes also from a known Al-Qaeda member: “<em>any person, who calls for Islam and fights for it, will be persecuted as were the prophets. Every prophet was persecuted due to his calling, so it doesn’t surprise me, but rather it pleases us, since we follow in the footsteps of the prophets</em>”. </p> <p>While The Danish appeal court did distinguish between the above statements and simple quotations from the Quran, the judges had no reservations about treating explicit calls for jihad and the more ambiguous and abstract statements identically and found that all of these comments “advanced” and “publicly condoned” terrorism. The court summarily and with no balancing of competing interests, dismissed the argument that article 10 of the ECHR, protecting freedom of expression, could lead to another result. Perhaps even more controversially, the appeal court also found that by editing and distributing three books that included theoretic, mystical and theological discussions and justifications for jihad, the defendant had “advanced” and “condoned” terrorism.</p> <p>In stark contrast with the Danish case, the Norwegian courts handed down a detailed and meticulous judgment that did not merely pay lip service to the ideals of the rule of law and freedom of expression. At the first instance, charges of “glorification of terrorism” were dismissed as inapplicable since “glorification of already committed acts are not punishable”. Accordingly, in the context of the statements cited above, the appeal court only had to decide whether the defendant was guilty of incitement to murder with a terrorist intent. </p> <p>The appeals court took great care in emphasising that freedom of expression is a fundamental right of great importance. The court scolded Parliament for not having drafted the provision with sufficient clarity and found that the legal uncertainty created by such vague criminal provisions had to benefit the defendant and thus interpreted “incitement” as requiring a “degree of concretisation” and “strength” to be met. The court also confirmed previous Supreme Court case law determining that no one should risk criminal liability for expressions based on inferred interpretation rather than explicit statements. Accordingly, the court found that the statements in question constituted “mere” glorification of already committed terrorist acts, rather than “incitement” to commit new ones and thus acquitted the defendant (who was also acquitted for racist hate speech but convicted for threats in relation to a number of other statements).&nbsp; </p> <p>It is arguable that both the Danish and the Norwegian decision are in line with the CPT as well as the ECHR, since the CPT provides very little guidance on how to reconcile the requirement of criminalising terrorist speech while respecting freedom of expression. Moreover, the most authoritative guide to reconciling these competing interests, the European Court of Human Rights, has <a href="http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Vol.-2_Barak-Erez_and_Scharia_Final.pdf">delivered a number of judgements</a> that set a low threshold for cases where terrorist speech, including glorification, may be restricted. In the <em>Leroy </em>case, a French cartoonist was convicted for “glorification of terrorism” for having made a cartoon of a plane crashing in to two towers with the caption “We all dreamt about it – Hamas did it” days after the attacks on 9/11, which the court found in accordance with article 10. On the other hand the Norwegian approach seems more in line with <a href="http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/IP%20SRES%201624.pdf">Security Council Resolution 1624</a>, which calls upon member states to “Prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts”. The threshold may also well be higher under <a href="http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf">Article 19 of the ICCPR</a>, than under the ECHR, though there seems to be little case law from the Human Rights Committee.</p> <p>Regardless of whether the restrictive Danish approach is consistent with CPT and the ECHR, from the point of view of the rule of law and human rights, the decision of the Norwegian appeals court offers a much more convincing and robust framework for determining where to draw the line between permissible free speech and unlawful statements in support of terrorism. Mere glorification of terrorist attacks that have already occurred (however morally reprehensible) should not be criminalised, and convictions of incitement to terrorism should be based on clear and unambiguous calls for terrorism, rather than inferred interpretations that attribute meaning to words that may or may not be an accurate reflection of what the author intended. While it may be tempting for governments to crack down on extremist speech in order to send a clear signal, the consequences of such a draconian response should not only be measured in the erosion of basic freedoms but also includes social costs. </p> <p>With more than 100 prosecutions for glorification of terrorism after the Charlie Hebdo attack, including for comments that constituted nothing more than poor taste and lack of moral character, it is inevitable that the idea of freedom of expression as a truly fundamental value, is rejected as hypocrisy among communities affected by such spikes in prosecutions. </p> <p>Moreover, the focus on terrorist speech also creates an unacceptable level of arbitrariness and selectiveness. For instance under Danish law it would be legal to glorify and praise Assad’s gassing of children and slaughter of civilians, the Holocaust and Stalin’s mass murder of millions, whereas people have been convicted for praising the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Copenhagen on 14 February 2015. </p> <p>At any rate it is surely naïve to think that overcoming the very real and increasing threat from terrorism can be achieved through cracking down on speech (especially on social media, where identities can be hidden and new accounts can be created at the click of a button). Apart from traditional approaches, including intelligence operations and policing, open societies must be engaging in a battle of ideas with the people who create, share and become attracted to the extremist narrative. That can only be achieved in a setting where the right to freedom of expression is robustly protected.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jacob-mchangama/scopecreep-in-denmark">Scope-creep in Denmark</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/david-krivanek-jacob-mchangama/to-defeat-mass-surveillance-you-have-to-be-pragmatic-">To curtail mass surveillance, you have to be pragmatic: an interview with Jacob Mchangama</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/emmanuelpierre-guittet/how-generalised-suspicion-destroys-society">How generalised suspicion destroys society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ismaail-qaiyim/democracy-and-terrorism-when-definitions-stifle-free-speech"> Democracy and terrorism: when definitions stifle free speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/amandine-scherrer-didier-bigo/will-democratic-debate-over-counterrorism-gain-edge">Will the democratic debate over counterrorism gain the edge in battle? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mathew-burrows-maria-j-stephan/has-west-given-up-on-democracy">Has the west given up on democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/goldsmiths-event/podcast-defending-human-rights-in-digital-age">PODCAST: Defending human rights in a digital age</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/howard-littler/in-privileged-white-man-land-freedom-of-speech-is-always-under-attack">In privileged white man land, freedom of speech is always under attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/cas-mudde/what-freedom-of-speech-of-foxes-chickens-and-jesuischarlie">What freedom of speech? Of foxes, chickens, and #JeSuisCharlie</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Denmark </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sweden </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> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Sweden Denmark Jacob Mchangama Fri, 03 Jul 2015 21:15:27 +0000 Jacob Mchangama 94081 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Public opinion on human rights is the true gauge of progress https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/jeongwoo-koo/public-opinion-on-human-rights-is-true-gauge-of-progress <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/Koo.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>External, “objective” measures of South Korea’s human rights progress will only take us so far. What we need now are the opinions of the people. A contribution to the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights" target="_blank">openGlobalRights</a> debate on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/public-opinion-and-human-rights" target="_blank">Public Opinion and Human Rights</a>. &nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;"><em><strong><em><strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/jeongwoo-koo/la-opini%C3%B3n-p%C3%BAblica-sobre-los-derechos-humanos-es-el-verdadero-indicado" target="_blank">Español</a></span></strong></em>, </strong></em></span><a style="line-height: 1.5; font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/jeongwoo-koo/%EC%9D%B8%EA%B6%8C%EC%A7%84%EB%B3%B4%EC%9D%98-%EC%A7%84%EC%A0%95%ED%95%9C-%EC%B8%A1%EC%A0%95%EA%B8%B0%EC%A4%80%EC%9C%BC%EB%A1%9C%EC%84%9C-%EA%B3%B5%EA%B3%B5%EC%97%AC%EB%A1%A0" target="_blank">한국어&nbsp;</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">In the 1960s, Nordic countries initiated awareness campaigns to mobilize support for their aid programs, which effectively galvanized public enthusiasm for the delivery of aid. Consequently, Nordic aid had a strong development orientation and sustained broader humanitarian goals, including enhancing human rights in developing countries. The same logic can be applied to the connection between public support of human rights and the chances that a national government will set human rights as a public policy agenda. Without insistence from the public, elected leaders will rarely give priority to respecting and protecting human rights in the country and around the world. </p><p dir="ltr">Central to the methods of measuring this public opinion is the social survey. But such a “<a href="http://sskhumanrights.org/ssk-brief-no-1/" target="_blank">human rights survey</a>” has not yet emerged as a substantiated and/or legitimated tool to capture public understanding of attitudes towards and experiences of human rights and their violations. For the most part, only sketchy opinion polls with selected items of human rights have appeared, and these provided a limited understanding of what citizens think about human rights. Consider, for example, the Foreign Policy Leadership Project, conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, which began to assess the significance of human rights as a foreign policy frame in 1978. In particular, it asked the public to rate the importance of various American policy goals—including the goal of defending human rights in other countries—and found that the human rights goal consistently ranked lower than goals serving national interests. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The available opinion polls fall far short of conceptualizing and measuring human rights in a broader spectrum.&nbsp;</span>Even now, the available opinion polls fall far short of conceptualizing and measuring human rights in a broader spectrum, nor do they sufficiently or systematically identify individual traits responsible for higher or lower human rights orientations. Globally, there is an increasing consensus that human rights are multidimensional and that remarkable differences exist among global citizens in their human rights orientation. The existing data limitations have now pushed thoughtful people to design questionnaires explicitly and exclusively focused on human rights and their potential determinants.</p><p dir="ltr">That this innovation was recently made in South Korea contradicts a common belief that the country has a weak liberal tradition, shows reminiscences of authoritarian rules, and faces a continuing conflict with North Korea. After the adoption of a national human rights commission in 2001 under the leadership of President Kim Dae Jung, a Nobel Laureate, the country experienced a breakthrough around human rights. Not long after, in 2005, the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea (NHRCK) conducted the first human rights survey, which despite its considerable limitations <a href="http://cos.sagepub.com/content/55/1/45.abstract" target="_blank">planted the seeds for subsequent improved efforts at capturing public opinion on rights</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The greatly refined 2011 National Human Rights Survey of South Korea (NHRSK) substantially improved upon the previous surveys: first, it was exclusively devoted to understanding general human rights with 170 questions. Second, it was based on a nationally representative sample. Third, many items were systematically derived from existing human rights opinion polls for comparability. Fourth, it captured multiple dimensions of human rights orientations as well as their contributing individual traits. Sponsored by NHRCK, NHRSK was designed by <a href="http://www.iks.or.kr/renew/addition/download.asp?ftype=abstract&amp;ftb=hm_issue_tb&amp;idx=1331" target="_blank">several Korean sociologists trained in eminent sociology programs in the US</a>.</p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/Koo.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Demotix/Ben Weller (All rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> A labor rights demonstration in Busan. "The 2011 NHRSK revealed that respondents had high levels of awareness of human rights. However, levels of actual respondent-participation in rights-promoting activities were much lower." </p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p>The 2011 NHRSK revealed that respondents had fairly high levels of <strong>awareness</strong> of domestic and global human rights. However, levels of actual <strong>behavior</strong>—respondents’ participation in rights-promoting activities, such as making donations in <strong>support</strong> of minorities, signing petitions for human rights causes, having memberships in human rights NGOs—were much lower (see Figure 1). The level of support measured by respondents’ endorsement of pro-human rights policies remains in between. Over time, general awareness levels of both domestic and global human rights have moved upward (see Figure 2), confirming the widely known thesis of worldwide <a href="http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/sof/summary/v087/87.3.koo.html" target="_blank">human rights diffusion</a>. Even more interesting, the findings suggest that urban status, education and global citizenship are closely associated with higher awareness of and higher engagement in human rights. Liberal political outlook and higher level of trust are also correlated with higher awareness. Respondents’ socio-economic status, however, appear to be irrelevant to any dimension of human rights orientation. </p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Figure 1. Dimensions of Human Rights Orientations, South Korea (<a href="http://web.skku.edu/~socioadmin/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/03_Jeong-Woo_Koo_Korea-Observer_Final.pdf" target="_blank">Koo et al., 2015</a>)</strong></p> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic;"><a style="text-decoration: underline; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19.5px; text-align: center;" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KooChart1.jpg"><img width="460" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KooChart1.jpg" /></a></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Figure 2. Awareness of Human Rights Practices, South Korea (<a href="http://web.skku.edu/~socioadmin/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/03_Jeong-Woo_Koo_Korea-Observer_Final.pdf" target="_blank">Koo et al., 2015</a>)</strong></p> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic;"><a style="text-decoration: underline; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19.5px; text-align: center;" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KooChart2.jpg"><img width="460" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KooChart2.jpg" /></a></div> <p dir="ltr">In her <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/louise-arbour/geneva-spring-why-civil-society-needs-northsouth-solidarity" target="_blank">contribution to the debate on internationalizing human rights</a>, Louise Arbour highlighted the need of each country to look for indicators to measure progress, regression or stagnation of human rights. She suggested that a policy measure, such as the Universal Periodic Review, might serve the purpose of comparing each country against its own record. </p><p dir="ltr">Missing here, however, are citizens’ perceptions and experiences of human rights in each country. After all, the practice of human rights is experienced by individuals and thus individual persons are the only genuine bearers and/or appraisers of human rights. The future reforms of the global human rights policy need to be guided by what the local constituents think about the current state of human rights protection for women, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed. Therefore, policy interventions need to be made in ways to monitor their experiences of, and attitudes towards human rights in order to have a real impact on rights practices. For instance, the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea is currently in the process of transforming the survey-based subjective data into the DB of human rights statistics in an attempt to make it publically available. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The UN Human Rights Council, in collaboration with national human rights institutions and NGOs, should take the lead in considering the voices not only from the victims of human rights abuses but also from the local public—normal citizens—in many parts of the world. We need to further develop human rights surveys or other opinion polls into globally agreeable vehicles for the measurement of global citizens’ human rights orientations. In fact, until now, <a href="http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&amp;type=summary&amp;url=/journals/human_rights_quarterly/v034/34.4.koo.pdf" target="_blank">most researchers have looked for “objective” indicators of human rights practices, as perceived by outside observers</a>. What is now required is a better sense of how the people themselves feel about human rights issues, infringements and organizations. If realized, all these promising efforts would eventually lead to the spread of human rights culture worldwide and result in the real improvements of human rights on the ground.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8sCympnF59rl9xrpf82NrL_5-imm9ykh-3B3GXxjnBo/mtime:1431935954/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4N8fiQPBJym-nxI7kqtmv16UaPlM74ci6ksJOeS88Fw/mtime:1432110643/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/mt84PvuUFRfErlW55EkOpcY-RGYkci9CMGvymzH5wHQ/mtime:1432110364/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/public-opinion-and-human-rights" target="_blank" onmouseover="document.Imgs.src=' https://opendemocracy.net/files/Public_opinion_Inset_2.jpg '" onmouseout="document.Imgs.src=' https://opendemocracy.net/files/Public_opinion_Inset_1.jpg '"> <img src=" https://opendemocracy.net/files/Public_opinion_Inset_1.jpg" width="140" name="Imgs" border="0" alt="Public opinion and human rights – Read on" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/sarah-e-mendelson/doubling-down-on-human-rights-data">Doubling down on human rights data</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/rachel-krys/researchbased-messaging-changes-public-support-for-human-rights">Research-based messaging changes public support for human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/kathy-frankovic/does-it-matter-when-polls-go-wrong">Does it matter when polls go wrong?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/james-ron-shannon-golden-david-crow-archana-pandya/datadriven-optimism-for-global-r">Data-driven optimism for global rights activists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jessica-montell/let-pollsters-pick-navigating-public-opinion-in-israel">Let the pollsters pick? Navigating public opinion in Israel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/donagene-barton-courtney-hillebrecht-sergio-wals/more-than-smoke-and-mirrors-citize">More than smoke and mirrors: citizen perceptions of human rights </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/david-crow/mapping-human-rights-skepticism-in-mexico">Mapping human rights skepticism in Mexico </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/dahlia-scheindlin/in-israel-implementing-human-rights-feels-wrong">In Israel, implementing human rights feels wrong</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/scott-d-sagan-benjamin-valentino/use-of-force-american-public-and-ethics-of-war">Use of force: the American public and the ethics of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/sarah-kreps-geoffrey-wallace/international-law-and-us-public-support-for-drone-stri">International law and US public support for drone strikes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/james-ron-david-crow-shannon-golden/struggle-for-truly-grassroots-human-rights-move">The struggle for a truly grassroots human rights movement</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights Jeong-Woo Koo East and South-East Asia Public Opinion and Human Rights Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:00:00 +0000 Jeong-Woo Koo 93834 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Research-based messaging changes public support for human rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-krys/researchbased-messaging-changes-public-support-for-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/Krys1.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>Amidst widespread negative views on human rights in the UK, public opinion research can help improve outreach strategies. A contribution to the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights" target="_blank">openGlobalRights</a> debate, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/public-opinion-and-human-rights" target="_blank">Public Opinion and Human Rights</a>.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;"><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-krys/los-mensajes-basados-en-la-investigaci%C3%B3n-cambian-el-apoyo-p%C3%BAblico-para-" target="_blank">Español</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-krys/les-messages-fond%C3%A9s-sur-la-recherche-font-%C3%A9voluer-le-soutien-public-en-" target="_blank">Français</a></strong></em></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Since the early May election, human rights chatter has taken over the United Kingdom (UK). The Conservatives, now in a parliamentary majority, hope to repeal the Human Rights Act of 1998, which gives citizens the ability to raise human rights cases in UK courts, and change Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights. The pro-human rights camp, for its part, is mobilizing to counter this message.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Research shows, however, that pro-human rights ideas are not getting through to the general public. To up their game, advocates must invest in more and better research, and use the results to reframe their work. Taking audience insight research and turning it into effective communication with human rights sceptics is a significant, but necessary, challenge.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">An </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://valuesandframes.org/how-not-to-talk-about-human-rights/" target="_blank">analysis</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> of human rights discourse by </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://counterpoint.uk.com/" target="_blank">Counterpoint</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://publicinterest.org.uk/" target="_blank">the Public Interest Research Center (PIRC) </a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;and my organization, Equally Ours, shows that in the UK, media narratives typically link human rights to “undeserving” groups and to anti-European views. The media portrays human rights as undermining, rather than enhancing, traditional freedoms, and as purely legal protections, rather than as tools to empower citizens. </span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><strong>Figure 1: % Positive and negative messages about human rights in the UK media, 2013</strong></span></p> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic;"><a style="text-decoration: underline; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19.5px; text-align: center;" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KrysChart1.jpg"><img width="460" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KrysChart1.jpg" /></a></div> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>Source: &nbsp;Building Bridges: Connecting with values to reframe and build support for human rights. Contact <a href="mailto:info@equally-ours.org.uk" target="_blank">info@equally-ours.org.uk</a> for a copy.</em></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Consider Figure 1, which analyses human rights messages appearing in broadsheet and tabloid UK newspapers, political blogs and parliamentary speeches in 2013. Researchers identified, classified and measured the frequency of positive and negative frames, and compared their frequency across the media in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As Figure 1 suggests, the UK human rights conversation that year was overwhelmingly negative. The most frequently repeated frame was that UK human rights protections <em>decrease national security</em>, closely followed by the view that human rights <em>reduce the UK’s sovereignty</em>.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The frames shown in green are positive about human rights. They are not used very frequently; the most common is that human rights laws “protect our basic rights”, a frame that </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.equally-ours.org.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/A-practical-guide-to-communicating-human-rights-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">research at Equally Ours</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> suggests isn’t the most persuasive. Instead, our polling shows that when advocates argue that, “<em>everyone</em> has human rights”, they do a better job of persuading sceptics that human rights are good. The media analysis, in other words, suggests that human rights groups should shift their focus to speak about human rights in more effective ways.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Our analysis of the “everyone has human rights” frame shows that this message </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://valuesandframes.org/handbook/2-how-values-work/" target="_blank">triggers intrinsic values</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that build greater public support for social justice.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Amnesty International UK’s </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://keeptheact.uk/#first-slide" target="_blank">Keep the Act</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> campaign is the kind of research-based campaign we advocate. The research showed that when advocates link the Human Rights Act to ordinary people and everyday concerns, this is more persuasive than citing international or legal standards. Building on our research, Amnesty identified a growing UK cohort that is positive or persuadable about human rights, especially when linked to things they already care about. With the help of advanced statistical analysis, we uncovered messages that target audiences agree with, and that make people feel more positive towards human rights overall.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Based on this research, Amnesty discussed stories like that of </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.equally-ours.org.uk/need-help-disability/" target="_blank">Jan Sutton</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, who has multiple sclerosis and successfully challenged her local authority’s proposed care package, which would have confined her to bed. Jan’s story is human, easily understandable to a UK audience, and is an example of the stories missing from the way human rights advocates generally speak of their work.</span></p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/Krys1.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Flickr/Amnesty International UK (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> British youth outside Amnesty UK's Annual General Meeting. "Amnesty identified a growing UK cohort that is positive or persuadable about human rights, especially when linked to things they already care about."</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Although the legal flavour of human rights may be unavoidable, it is often unhelpful. Human rights practitioners know they need to reach a public that switches off when they hear legal or technical language such as the “universality” of human rights, or “universal jurisdiction” of international courts. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Instead, research shows that the phrase, “human rights are for all of us,” is more accessible than “human rights are universal”. The two phrases resonate quite differently.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Other groups are also taking up the challenge of research-based campaigning. In April 2015, for example, one group launched the <a href="http://rightsinfo.org" target="_blank">Rights Info</a> website to make the law more accessible, and to redress the way in which human rights are talked about. One of the ways they do this it be creating easily accessible infographics, such as this one:</p> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic;"><a style="text-decoration: underline; font-size: 13px; font-style: normal; line-height: 19.5px; text-align: center;" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KrysChart2.jpg"><img width="460" src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/KrysChart2.jpg" /></a></div> <p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Highly trusted NGOs in other issue areas are an important ally. </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.ageuk.org.uk" target="_blank">Age UK</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, for example, is a leading charity for older people, and has been campaigning on behalf of elders abused in care homes. This year, the group released a short film, “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://t.co/fLI6yzQ6CC" target="_blank">Charles’ story</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”, which powerfully highlights links between dignity, respect and human rights. The film was designed to evoke intrinsic values and an emotional viewer response, resulting in positive feelings about human rights. At the time of writing, Charles’ Story had reached over a million people with more than 300,000 unique views. For many, this could be their first exposure to a positive take on human rights.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Consider also </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.womensaid.org.uk/" target="_blank">Women’s Aid</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, a domestic violence charity that launched a film targeting football fans and their clubs. Entitled “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2MFsmpbAlA&amp;feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">Unpunished</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”, the film uses football imagery and metaphors to address domestic violence. Again, the strategy was to introduce human rights to a new audience in an unexpected context. These films do not educate about the details of human rights; rather, they connect issues the viewer <em>already cares about</em> with “human rights”, perhaps for the first time.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When the discourse on human rights is as negative as it currently is in the UK, it’s hard to tell a positive story. And it will take more than a few words or slogans to influence the many unconvinced people that human rights are worth defending. But audience insight research has repeatedly shown that the public is more positive about human rights when it understands how human rights are connected to the values and freedoms they already care about.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Public opinion research helps us understand the frames, values and messages that can help people view human rights more favourably. We must use these insights to change our messages; otherwise, we will just carry on preaching to a choir that sings a song most people don’t like or understand.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8sCympnF59rl9xrpf82NrL_5-imm9ykh-3B3GXxjnBo/mtime:1431935954/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4N8fiQPBJym-nxI7kqtmv16UaPlM74ci6ksJOeS88Fw/mtime:1432110643/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/mt84PvuUFRfErlW55EkOpcY-RGYkci9CMGvymzH5wHQ/mtime:1432110364/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/public-opinion-and-human-rights" target="_blank" onmouseover="document.Imgs.src=' https://opendemocracy.net/files/Public_opinion_Inset_2.jpg '" onmouseout="document.Imgs.src=' https://opendemocracy.net/files/Public_opinion_Inset_1.jpg '"> <img src=" https://opendemocracy.net/files/Public_opinion_Inset_1.jpg" width="140" name="Imgs" border="0" alt="Public opinion and human rights – Read on" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/sarah-e-mendelson/doubling-down-on-human-rights-data">Doubling down on human rights data</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jeongwoo-koo/public-opinion-on-human-rights-is-true-gauge-of-progress">Public opinion on human rights is the true gauge of progress</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/kathy-frankovic/does-it-matter-when-polls-go-wrong">Does it matter when polls go wrong?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/james-ron-shannon-golden-david-crow-archana-pandya/datadriven-optimism-for-global-r">Data-driven optimism for global rights activists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/donagene-barton-courtney-hillebrecht-sergio-wals/more-than-smoke-and-mirrors-citize">More than smoke and mirrors: citizen perceptions of human rights </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/david-crow/mapping-human-rights-skepticism-in-mexico">Mapping human rights skepticism in Mexico </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jessica-montell/let-pollsters-pick-navigating-public-opinion-in-israel">Let the pollsters pick? Navigating public opinion in Israel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/dahlia-scheindlin/in-israel-implementing-human-rights-feels-wrong">In Israel, implementing human rights feels wrong</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/scott-d-sagan-benjamin-valentino/use-of-force-american-public-and-ethics-of-war">Use of force: the American public and the ethics of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/sarah-kreps-geoffrey-wallace/international-law-and-us-public-support-for-drone-stri">International law and US public support for drone strikes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/james-ron-david-crow-shannon-golden/struggle-for-truly-grassroots-human-rights-move">The struggle for a truly grassroots human rights movement</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights Rachel Krys Western Europe Public Opinion and Human Rights Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:00:00 +0000 Rachel Krys 93836 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let's change how we think about mental health https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/charles-merrett/lets-change-how-we-think-about-mental-health <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Seeing psychological distress as a mental health problem supports a modern cultural myth.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/xdrya7RISNztFsFGJa0LLTqNxXD6bkdlaOWUDIV3mRw/mtime:1435913921/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Screen%20shot%202015-07-03%20at%2009.51.31_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="My depression story. Credit: Youtube."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/d-oLCNBAjyMq2aZ4kpQdw3Zs4J3e_SG8L4blEGoO6cg/mtime:1435913709/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Screen%20shot%202015-07-03%20at%2009.51.31_0.png" alt="My depression story. Credit: Youtube." title="My depression story. Credit: Youtube." width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>My depression story. Credit: Youtube.</span></span></span></p><p>Recently it has seemed like attitudes towards mental health are changing. During the UK General Election this year, for example, the seven main political parties all included mental health in their manifestos.</p> <p>Each included the need for more funding for research, the better setting of standards and time-frames for access to treatment, a focus on young people, motherhood, the disabled and prisoners, as well as the need for more talking therapies. There was also talk of mental health being comparable to physical health and an emphasis on the need to tackle discrimination.</p> <p>To many this might seem like progress. Attitudes are developing. So is terminology, with softer language used, and less emphasis on the term ‘mental illness’.</p> <p>Even so, when psychological distress is not explicitly described as mental illness, it is still usually regarded as something different in kind from what would be considered ‘normal’ experience. It is perceived as arising from a 'disorder' or 'condition'. </p> <p>Current ideas around mental disorder pay little attention to the power of human thought and its causal role in our distress.&nbsp;When we regard depression and anxiety as mental illnesses, we should do so with more reflection on the underlying assumptions at work: do we think about the symptoms only when they happen, or does thinking have a part to play in producing the symptoms? </p> <p>An alternative approach would be to recognise thinking’s complexity, richness and especially its power to move us. When&nbsp;we ‘think’, we are not simply seeing the world as it is. We are imposing on it our view of what we like and dislike. what we want or fear. We are considering what we feel the world should be like, and what we hope it is not.&nbsp;As we think, we interpret, predict and judge.</p><p><iframe width="460" height="325" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bjKmpCOrRd0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p>YouTube is a good guide to how ideas about mental health play out in the community. Many people have courageously posted video accounts of their experiences. These are often moving narrations of times in the person’s life when things were difficult. From the supportive comments that many of these have received, they clearly resonate with others. These accounts are clearly useful descriptions of how it can feel to be very distressed.</p> <p>However, there are aspects of the accounts that seem limited.</p> <p>In these video accounts, vloggers almost always present the widely accepted view that their distress is a result of ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’. The vloggers usually describe a difficulty in understanding their experience and a belief that there is something inherently wrong with them. Naturally, from this perspective, they become concerned with identifying what is wrong and seek diagnosis, which will help them towards seeking appropriate treatment. In this situation, the distressed person’s focus is on the feelings, symptoms and thoughts they experience.</p> <p>This may all seem obvious because it is the most common way of thinking in our society, but there is another way of understanding our experience of distress and these videos provide a rich source of evidence for an alternative. </p> <p>To see this evidence we need to watch the videos with fresh eyes.</p> <p>Throughout the videos the bloggers give clear details on how they were thinking when they first became distressed, as well as throughout their journey. Each person is different but it is clear that when we are distressed we can become preoccupied by our situation and do lots of intense thinking. </p> <p>Amongst the thoughts the bloggers describe is confusion at not being able to understand their feelings. They describe: fears of what is wrong and how bad they might become, attempts to trawl through past events to find a cause, intense reactions to specific events they suspect of being the cause, ideas about what they could do to get better, treatments and techniques that might make them feel better.</p> <p>These personal descriptions demonstrate the thought processes at work that are not necessarily considered when labeling distressing experiences ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’. These thoughts matter. They make a difference. They frame our lives. </p> <p>It is also important to see the intimate relationship between the thoughts we have and the feelings and emotions we experience as a result. Our thoughts are the source of our emotions. We can think of ‘thoughts’ a bit like Trojan horses; from the outside they may appear like the gift of rationality but they trick us, take us by surprise. They are full of emotions that can make our heads spin and our stomachs churn.</p> <p>When we regard thinking and emotion as separate we overlook their intimate connection. If we do not see the thinking that lies behind our feelings we are left only to focus on the emotions and their concomitant physical sensations and we fail to recognise the emotional consequences of the thinking we have engaged in as we try to make sense of our psychological distress: What is wrong with me? Am I going mad? How bad will it get? What would people think of me if they really knew what I was like? These are not neutral thoughts that don’t matter. Try thinking them with absolute conviction and you will realise the emotional power they have.</p> <p>Thinking is not simply a rational process. It is an on-going, active, expressive, creative process. It is fast-moving and often restless. It is with our complex subjective, value-laden thoughts that we colour our world and animate ourselves. Since much of the time we are relatively unaware of what we are thinking, we are, in effect, the secret agents of our own experience. If we don’t pay attention to what we are thinking, we will very likely make our predicaments worse.</p> <p>What the YouTubers describe are good accounts of how it can feel to be distressed. Up to a point this is very useful. However, if we listen more carefully to their accounts we find plenty of evidence of extremely powerful thoughts, like the ones described above. These are the thoughts that people are naturally led to once they perceive their distress as a mental health problem they are ‘suffering from’. </p> <p> In the process they are, at the very least, intensifying their distress, making it harder for them to find practical solutions. Though this is entirely understandable, it becomes a problem when they limit their understanding when they think about their distress purely in terms of disorders and conditions. These ideas can be misleading, by focusing solely on symptoms and diagnoses and ignoring the power of thought.</p> <p>When we add our voice to the established view of psychological distress as a mental health problem we support a modern cultural myth. The distinction between the ordinary psychological ups and downs of life and mental health problems rests on the belief that the latter cannot be understood in terms of normal psychological processes. </p> <p>Mental health problems are seen as strange and inexplicable, at least to the layperson. This makes them seem unpredictable and frightening and, ironically, increases stigma and discrimination.</p> <p>Perhaps, what we really need is not campaigns to stamp out stigma, or even necessarily new funding programmes, but new ways of understanding ourselves, based on a recognition of the powerful role our thinking plays in our experiences.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-richmond/politics-as-therapy-they-want-us-to-be-just-sick-enough-not-to-fight">Politics as therapy: they want us to be just sick enough not to fight back</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/simon-vickery/its-off-to-fucking-work-we-go-politics-of-workplace-misery">It&#039;s off to fucking work we go: the politics of workplace misery</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/peter-j-whitehouse-daniel-george/what%E2%80%99s-normal-politics-of-psychiatric-labeling">What’s normal? The politics of psychiatric labeling</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 Charles Merrett Care Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:45:16 +0000 Charles Merrett 94083 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Capitalist dispossession and new justifications of slavery https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/john-holmwood-gurminder-k-bhambra/capitalist-dispossession-and-new-justifications-of-s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Discussions of migration are becoming increasingly dystopian. Based upon either exclusion or exploitation, new neoliberal arguments for open borders are not about freedom, but institutionalised domination.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/zh0_zESB6WlxJpVIw58cEf8Ojn6bR4Zow0uu_nuWMGo/mtime:1435699482/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555228/9622522608_32392dce33_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/683SH-rB6APOp808S1KNK4Bg2WkmAhZ5D3ZVt6oCh3A/mtime:1435699356/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555228/9622522608_32392dce33_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Migrant workers process green peppers in California. Bob Nichols for USDA/Flickr. Creative Commons.</span></span></span></p><p>The plight of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to seek entry to the European Union raises profound issues for Western democracies and their responsibilities for those beyond their contemporary borders. The current response of governments is that maintenance of a ‘European model’ of welfare requires strictly policed borders and populations, as well as military action against the ‘business model’ of those they are pleased to call ‘traffickers’. We suggest a different way of defending welfare regimes and addressing the legitimate claims of the world’s poor through an alternative global social democracy based upon reparations and a collective concept of freedom.</p> <h2>A modest proposal?</h2> <p>The current official EU response <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/twisting-">invokes the language of ‘anti-slavery’</a>, but directs it against migrants fleeing poverty and civil disruption caused by war and other acts of oppression. However, a new ‘economic’ argument has entered the debate. Recently put forward by Chicago University law professor Eric Posner and economist Glen Weyl, and pitched to the World Bank, this is <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies">a ‘pro-slavery’ argument</a> for the free movement of unfree labour. An echo of their argument is heard in the suggestion by Italian interior minister, Algelino Alfano, that migrants should be <a href="http://rt.com/news/256785-italy-migrants-work-free/">made to work for free</a>. </p> <p>Posner and Weyl argue that attempts to address inequality within nation-states do nothing to alleviate global inequality. This is because of a perceived need for closed borders, which are assumed to shield domestic labour markets and welfare budgets from the competition and claims of the migrant poor (notwithstanding that migrant consumption of welfare benefits is greatly overstated). Yet, they argue, it is precisely the movement of poor people from the global South to the North, together with the sending of remittances back to the global South, that will do most to reduce global inequality (even if inequality rises within the national welfare states of the global North). </p> <p>They are conscious that ‘open borders’ would need to be sold to populations and politicians in the global North. Their solution—and this is no Jonathan Swift-style satire—is a rigorous ‘othering’ of migrants, to create what they explicitly describe as a <em>caste</em> system. <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies">Their model is Qatar</a> where migration by co-religionists of the majority population is discouraged in order to reduce the development of solidarities between local populations and migrant workers. ‘Belonging’ is a privilege of local citizens; migrants are displaced from where they belong and are to be offered no recognition in the places to which they move. </p> <p>At the same time, Posner and Weyl suggest that migrants should be paid significantly lower wages than those typical of even low-paid workers in the host society. They must also be deprived of rights to organise and protest, and are to be delivered into a strict subordination to employers as indentured labour. While the exploitation of indentured labour will be to the benefit of employers (and some consumers) in the North, they claim that it will also be to the betterment of indentured labourers themselves, who are escaping the worse conditions they otherwise face ‘at home’.</p> <h2>If only they weren’t serious</h2> <p>The idea of the ‘betterment’ of indentured labourers and those they have left behind, however, depends on the idea that the global North bears no responsibility for the conditions found in the global South. It furthermore relies on the notion that, however constrained, indentured labour represents a ‘choice’. At what point does ‘indentured labour’ become so constrained that it represents enslavement? In a separate piece, Weyl argues that the forced transport of enslaved Africans to the US brought about an improvement in the circumstances of African Americans, when compared to those that remained in Africa. At the same time, he describes systematic racism as the way in which this beneficial outcome was achieved. </p> <p>However distasteful, this is a simple utilitarian argument for the efficiency of free trade. What should be clear, however, is that for Posner and Weyl, freedom of trade is on only one side of the capital/labour relation. Global capital is allowed unregulated free movement, while free movement of labour is to be severely regulated. Domestic capital should be free to exploit indentured labour, while migrant labour should be policed and prevented from claiming rights enjoyed by other citizens (though it is unlikely that local populations in the global North could be insulated from the effects of divided citizenship and merely enjoy the fruits of the indentured labour in the form of cheap services). </p> <p>Like other advocates of free markets, they are doubtful that alternative models of alleviating poverty, such as foreign aid, can ever overcome the corruption of governments (though they endorse private philanthropy). What they ignore, however, is that corruption is very much a product of the free movement of capital that they endorse. ‘Payoffs’ to local elites for access to land, minerals, and fuels are, almost always, cheaper than properly compensating those dispossessed by that access. If there is any ‘business model’ that public policy should disrupt, it is this one.</p> <p>Posner and Weyl furthermore fail to address the fact that while efficiency gains accrue to a tiny minority of the world’s population, all ‘rational’ individuals are enjoined to accept their necessity. They thus argue strongly for market freedom of individuals based on private property, yet do not interrogate how asymmetrical possession of private property itself derives from systematic dispossession. In other words, they do not (or choose not to) see how the accumulation of private property is based on land grabs, enclosures, displacement of local systems of subsistence, and access to mineral extraction through corrupt contracts with local elites. It is dispossession that produces the conditions of impoverishment that make indentured labour a ‘choice’ preferable to starvation. </p> <h2>Reparations in the service of global social justice</h2> <p>Why should public policy support the individual rights of the few over the collective rights of the many? Why should individual rights provide returns to owners of private property while no compensation is offered for the concomitant loss of collective rights? Back in the eighteenth century, Thomas Paine wrote in <em><a href="http://www.ssa.gov/history/paine4.html">Agrarian Justice</a></em> of the need to provide <em>reparation</em> for the loss of concrete and specific rights by agricultural workers following the enclosure movement that drove them off the land (in turn, for some to migrate to settle supposedly ‘virgin’ lands and dispossess indigenous populations elsewhere). Paine’s argument remains urgent in the present as an argument for global social justice. It is one that is potentially transformative in the current debate about migration.</p> <p>Current EU policy towards migration seeks to establish a hostile environment to discourage migration, while the free market option is based on unfree labour. Yet it is possible to envision a different way forward that addresses the conditions from which migrants seek respite. This would involve transfers from the global North to the global South, but they are not well-described as foreign <em>aid</em>. In contrast, they should be described as <em>reparations</em> that compensate for past dispossession (through colonial appropriation and enslavement) and that ensure compensation and proper participation in decisions about current appropriation. </p> <p>A new initiative that is arguing for global social justice on this basis is the Caribbean reparations movement. The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) has established a <a href="http://caricom.org/jsp/pressreleases/press_releases_2013/pres285_13.jsp">reparations commission</a> to design a development agenda for the region based on the redress of historical wrongs associated with colonialism, enslavement, and dispossession. The arguments for reparatory justice are codified in a 10-point plan that includes the address of the public health crisis and combatting illiteracy. Reparations are to enable a social democratic solution to the problems continuing from the legacies of colonialism, enslavement, and dispossession. </p> <p>Once aid is re-described as reparation, it is evident that the UN Millennium goal of <a href="http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/press/07.htm">rich countries contributing 0.7 percent of their GDP</a>—a goal that few meet—is scandalously low in relation to the benefits they derive from the past appropriation of resources from other countries. The problem is not that social rights (embedded in the welfare states of the global North) are an obstacle to market solutions to global inequality, but that the market itself is an obstacle to the internationalisation of social rights and democratic accountability. </p> <p>Now that the language of anti-slavery is used to target the trafficking of migrants, it is time that the plight of migrants themselves, and their rights, become the focus of political attention. We are at a moment when a new slavery is being argued under the guise of a liberal realism. We should be aware that its realism derives from the defence of privilege and not from concern for the global poor. &nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p>Note: As well as the op-ed piece with Posner, Weyl has written ‘<a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2509305">The Openness-Equality Trade-Off in Global Redistribution</a>’, a lengthy paper on the topic. The argument endorsing slavery is made on page 29 and illustrated through the case of slavery in the US on page 32.</p> </blockquote><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="/beyondslavery/joel-quirk/reparations-are-too-confronting-let%E2%80%99s-talk-about-%27modernday-slavery%27-instea">Reparations are too confronting: let’s talk about &#039;modern-day slavery&#039; instead</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/sara-r-farris/servants-of-capitalism">Servants of capitalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/harald-bauder/illegalised-migrants-and-temporary-foreign-workers-new-international-seg">Illegalised migrants and temporary foreign workers: the new international segmentation of labour</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> BeyondSlavery BeyondSlavery Gurminder K. Bhambra John Holmwood Race, ethnicity and belonging Fri, 03 Jul 2015 04:00:00 +0000 Gurminder K. Bhambra and John Holmwood 94003 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What David Cameron could learn from Marx about radicalisation (but probably won't) https://www.opendemocracy.net/william-eichler/what-david-cameron-could-learn-from-marx-about-radicalisation-but-probably-won%27t <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the hands of politicians religion becomes impregnated with 'polemical bitterness' - to talk about religion without considering its 'political tendencies' is to chose a path of willful blindness.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5AHQUIZLIMXARXIm0UoSmGYFVt6tPUUzrCA61weS07I/mtime:1435158305/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557102/Karl%20Marx%202.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Karl Marx. Flickr/Montecruz Foto. Some rights reserved"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5C4R-fxqL0q6uqL8MHDQWrU9lF8MR8w-logQyw64LA4/mtime:1435158283/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557102/Karl%20Marx%202.jpg" alt="" title="Karl Marx. Flickr/Montecruz Foto. Some rights reserved" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karl Marx. Flickr/Montecruz Foto. Some rights reserved</span></span></span></p><p>The government is, apparently, concerned about radicalisation. David Cameron told the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/19/pm-to-urge-muslims-and-isps-stop-giving-credence-to-extremist-ideology">Globsec conference</a> in Slovakia that the Islamist narrative about the evils of the west is given too much credence. “[It] paves the way” he said, “for young people to turn simmering prejudice into murderous intent. To go from listening to firebrand preachers online to boarding a plane to Istanbul and travelling onward to join the jihadis.”&nbsp;</p><p>George Packer, writing in the aftermath of the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/blame-for-charlie-hebdo-murders">Charlie Hebdo massacre</a> last January, put forth a similar argument. He was adamant that the murder of twelve people in the heart of France was not the result of France’s foreign policy, it had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, and it certainly was not connected to Islamophobia. It was, he wrote, “only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades.”</p><p>Ideology alone, according to this line of thinking, creates murderers. Western actions play no part in the process. Jihadists are created, not by war abroad or discrimination at home, but solely by hate preachers and the YouTube videos they use to indoctrinate impressionable young minds.</p><p>This is not, of course, an entirely false picture. Islamism is a noxious ideology (yes, even in its most peaceful forms) and people are manipulated by hate preachers on the Internet. But there is more to it than this and Karl Marx can, perhaps, provide some guidance.</p><p>In an article for the <em>Rheinische Zeitung</em> in 1842, Marx discussed the relationship between religion and political actors. “In their hands” he wrote referring to politicians, “religion acquires a polemical bitterness impregnated with political tendencies”. This is not merely the truism that religion is exploited for political ends. Marx was also saying that religion--and by extension all ideologies--is always infused with and animated by objective, historical factors or, as he put it, “political tendencies”.</p><p>This is most certainly the case with Islamist ideology. It is steeped in the politics of the present and to deny this obvious fact is dishonest. To explain radicalisation simply in terms of an ideology spreading, like a disease, through Muslim communities and infecting the naive without reference to foreign policy in the Middle East or Islamophobia is to opt for a willful blindness to reality.</p><p>Radicalisation <em>is</em> about the “war on terror”. It <em>is</em> about the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and the catastrophic results of this that we are seeing today. And it <em>is</em> about Islamophobia. There are other factors involved, to be sure. But to ignore these very real, concrete issues - the “political tendencies” - is to fall dramatically short of understanding why Islamism is able to find itself an audience and why it is that a minority of Muslims are attracted to its “polemical bitterness”.</p><p>There is another important, and related, aspect to this issue. Who exactly is Cameron talking to? He is happy to upbraid the Muslim community in Britain but he is more reticent when it comes to our allies abroad. The government was less concerned about Islamist ideology when it <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/03/david-cameron-union-flag-king-abdullah-saudi-arabia-half-mast">flew the flag half-mast</a> over Whitehall out of respect for the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or when it sent Prince Charles to develop our <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/11402453/Prince-Charles-begins-Saudi-Arabia-visit.html">“special relationship”</a> with the Wahhabist kingdom. It is easier to preach to Bradford than it is to stand up to Riyadh, and, it seems, “British interests” trump the interests of British people.</p><p>A frequent response to any analysis of Islamism and the attractions of jihadist violence that seeks to view them in their correct historical and political context is one of anger. Explanation, it is argued, is equal to justification. This is nonsense and to avoid approaching the former in a realistic fashion out of fear of drifting towards the latter is simply to opt for a willful blindness.</p><p>David Cameron is unlikely to read any Marx in the near future. Perhaps, though, if he is so concerned about the spread of Islamist ideology and the threat of jihadist terrorism, he should read, and learn from, the recent history of the catastrophic failure of the “war on terror”. War abroad, discrimination at home and the propping up of dictatorial regimes have proven to be ineffective and immoral ways to fight terrorism.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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> OurKingdom OurKingdom Civil society 9/11: islamic worlds William Eichler Thu, 02 Jul 2015 23:11:11 +0000 William Eichler 93844 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Lab-Lib pact that never was, but should have been https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/lablib-pact-that-never-was-but-should-have-been <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What would have happened if Clegg had stood down and allowed Cable to lead?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6WO7PCiLaNK2AnJbJfJf71dab3aZAtIQqoNZZshk9eM/mtime:1435832038/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/cable.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/PsVn4Zj89MzK9tV-LP_pIJOZWdo7OpaBcpGfovH0o_s/mtime:1435832053/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535628/cable.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'>Flickr/Liberal Democrats. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Last year Nick Clegg and his predecessor, coach and trainer Paddy Ashdown, shaped the future of Britain. If only for the briefest of moments it is worth looking back at what happened, not least as it also signals the shallow nature of the Tory victory. </p> <p>Clegg and Ashdown claim to be the tough hard-fighting realists, the true patriots who saved the country from the extremes of Tory supremacy. This conceit is blown out the water by Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt’s long, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/24/the-nick-clegg-catastrophe">fascinating account</a> of the Clegg leadership of the Lib Dems in the Guardian. In May 2014, after the local and European elections prefigured this year’s Lib Dem parliamentary wipeout, Clegg called Ashdown saying, “If I am the problem I will resign”. Ashdown, for it was surely he, replied "tough titties” and told him to carry on. Wintour and Watt quote Ashdown telling them that Clegg moved with “astonishing speed... from the darkest of the dark nights of the soul to utterly on form, utterly clear about what he was doing”. The ridiculously hyperbolic language tells us the opposite: the clarity Clegg enjoyed was the bright light of self-deception.</p> <p>Responding to the article, Clegg kindly agreed to the flattering description that he had experienced “the darkest of the dark nights of the soul” but <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/25/nicke-clegg-early-resignation-not-have-prevented-general-election-disaster-liberal-democrats">insisted</a> that his resigning would have made “no difference” to the outcome of the General Election. Yet the article spells out how he knew that Vince Cable was waiting in the wings as the alternative leader. </p> <p>The decision was not therefore whether Clegg would resign but whether he would allow Cable to be his replacement. Another part of the long account reveals that Naomi Smith and other ‘Social Liberals’ wanted Vince Cable to mount a stronger direct challenge. The real point however is that the risk of their coming political annihilation was clear to all the Lib Dem leaders and the case for a change overwhelming. </p> <p>Cable could have delivered this. Unacceptable as a member of the ‘quad’ (the two Tories, Cameron and Osborne, and two Lib Dems, Clegg and Alexander, that steered the coalition), had Cable become leader he would have taken the Lib Dems out of the coalition. He and his team understood this was the task. </p> <p>Momentum and direction determine much of politics. Leaving the Tories would have turned the Lib Dems facing towards Labour a year before the election. Playing a hard to get piggy-in-the-middle with just twelve months to go would have been ridiculously unconvincing. Anyway an offer from Cable would have been an invitation Labour would have been insane to refuse. An offer, that is, of a pre-election Lib Dem pact. </p> <p>Creating the new coalition in opposition is certainly more principled than doing it after the election. Cable could have become shadow chancellor, relieving Ed Miliband of his heavy chain of Balls. At a stroke it would have shifted Labour from having no answer to the question of whether it had changed from the Brown years. An opposition coalition would also have offered a firm base for opposing the SNP. With Labour and Lib Dem candidates standing down in seats where the other was stronger, Balls would today still be an MP (he lost by 450 votes the Lib Dem candidate got 1,400). Indeed, he would have been in government. </p> <p>The Clegg-Ashdown claim is that their approach allowed their party to moderate and temper the extremes of Tory and/or Labour rule, as demonstrated in 2010 with an original and far-reaching coalition agreement. But as the next election approached this made their posture entirely passive-reactive from the point of view of the voter, while their integrity had been shot to pieces over student fees and the NHS. Meanwhile, the Tories were hunting them down constituency by constituency. Faced with the need to rethink Lib Dem strategy, Clegg urged on by Ashdown put personal pride before party and country and stopped thinking at all. The result delivered the country to unrestrained Tory rule. In this way they buried the very legacy of being the moderating influence that was their most plausible claim to achievement and destroyed their party in the process. </p> <p>Of course, nothing is certain and I am indulging in a ‘what might have been’. The exercise is worth a few seconds of reflection, however. It shows that the self-proclaimed patriots of Clegg and Ashdown were losers not leaders, thanks to their self-righteousness. It shows that the defeated like Cable, Smith and Oakeshott, were right to see the coming disaster and seek to prevent it. And it shows that a quite different election outcome could have taken place in May this year, however much local Labour parties might have resisted an electoral pact. And what all this reminds us of is that the Tory victory rests on a shallow electoral base of 37 per cent support. </p> <p>It does not follow that while Labour and the Lib Dems might well have been in government that either will ever find it possible to return. On the contrary: a pact would have been a desperate measure demanded by the desperate situation both parties were in. Labour too was in denial. Neither now seem likely to undo the self-inflicted damage. Hence the historic character of that moment in the spring of 2014 when Clegg and Ashdown were brought face to face with making way for an alternative.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>If you liked this article, you can support us with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>£3 a month</span></a><span> so that we can keep producing independent journalism. </span></em></strong></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> OurKingdom OurKingdom Anthony Barnett Thu, 02 Jul 2015 23:11:11 +0000 Anthony Barnett 94065 at https://www.opendemocracy.net