openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Reclaiming ritual https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lucy-purdy/reclaiming-ritual <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Traditionally the preserve of religion and state, ritual is being used as a means to connect with others and reshape the future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Lucy Purdy_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nickwebb/7663427814">Flickr/Nick Webb</a>, creative commons 2.0, some rights reserved.</p> <p>Thousands of people holding lanterns stretch in procession along the beach. The lights are clocks made from paper, stretched by hand across bulging, twisting frames. Streamers trail from them, flickering against the dark sky. Drums beat from somewhere near the shore as Catherine wheels spin and spurt out fire in rhythmic jerks. Young and old, people turn to each other grinning, eyes wide, sensing magic in the night air.</p> <p>For 22 years the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.samesky.co.uk/events/burning-the-clocks" target="_blank">Burning the Clocks</a>&nbsp;ritual procession in Brighton has unfolded across the city on 21 December, the shortest day of the year. More than 2,000 people take part, a further 20,000 watch, and it is open to all. The festivities culminate with a lantern bonfire on the beach to mark the passing of the year.</p> <p>From intimate, private ceremonies to vast global spectacles, rituals have been a common thread of all known human societies. While we might think modern, western culture has shunned this form of meaning-making–particularly given the surge in people with no religion in the UK (48.5 per cent in 2014 compared to 25 per cent in 2011)–experts suggest that ritual is ever-present in ways we may not even realise. From the increasingly personalised ceremonies through which we choose to mark marriage and death, to grand-scale Olympic opening and closing spectacles, rituals help express who we are, what we want to be and what we love and fear about the world.</p> <p>John Varah is artistic director of charity arts group&nbsp;<a href="http://www.samesky.co.uk/" target="_blank">Same Sky</a>, which devised Brighton’s Burning the Clocks event. He knows how powerful ritual can be as a conduit for all sorts of emotion, and founded Same Sky as a way of helping people create new civic rituals as forms of expression.</p> <p>“People have always done things to make sense of what they were, where they were and what was going on,” says Varah. “I think we need these things, to make sense of our existence and to meet our need to belong. Everyone in the world has creative energy and this creativity can be unleashed as a mass phenomenon through civic ritual.”</p> <p><strong>Choosing new habitats</strong></p> <p>Linda Woodhead, professor in the sociology of religion at Lancaster University and creator of the&nbsp;<a href="http://faithdebates.org.uk/" target="_blank">Westminster Faith Debates</a>, says there is a significant move toward re-ritualisation at the moment. “There is an explosion of creativity and experiment,” she says. “Ritual is moving towards the heart of spirituality and the making of meaning, both religious and secular.”</p> <p>Ritual is designed to be a ‘focusing lens’, placing our attention on a person, symbol, time of year or day, and connecting those taking part in the ritual with a bigger story. And while historically rituals were regulated and controlled by the church or state, this is no longer the case, says Woodhead. “We’re moving from obligation to ‘voice and choice’. We live in a democratic society where we expect to participate and for our voices to count. And consumer capitalism means we’re used to having choices.”</p> <p>Another driver behind the resurgence of ritual is people’s desire for participatory, embodied experience in the face of a world weighted towards logic and information, suggests Woodhead. “There’s a perception that we live in our heads now and ignore our bodies, but we’re seeing people try to correct that tendency. New patterns are emerging–new habits, new rituals–as people search for belonging, spirituality, meaning and community.”</p> <p>Today, arguably the most interesting forms of ritual tend to happen outside of churches or other institutional constructs. Recent history holds many examples of the deregulation of ritual. “When Princess Diana died, the churches didn’t really play a role at all for a long time, and people did their own things,” notes Woodhead. “They lay flowers, teddy bears and then threw flowers on the hearse. That was a new thing at the time. It wasn’t rehearsed, no one planned it and yet there were crowds of people doing the same thing.”</p> <p>She shares another example: “In Poland when Pope John Paul II died, the huge outpouring of grief took the form of people lighting candles and placing them on the streets. There were seas of flame everywhere. It was an amazing, spontaneous ritualistic expression.”</p> <p>Tellingly, when the Catholic church then sought to repeat the idea in an organised, formal ceremony, people did not join in. “Nowadays, the social elite might try and consecrate a ritual but if people aren’t buying it, it won’t work,” says Woodhead.</p> <p>Clare Amsel produces opening and closing ceremonies for Olympic and Commonwealth Games, including at London 2012. She says that modern societies are “obsessed” with such secular rituals and suggests why: “Maybe they offer an illusion of permanence and continuity in a world characterised mainly by mobility, change and uncertainty.”</p> <p>She points to the way the emotional power of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies was harnessed to raise almost £7 million to help children through Unicef. “These are unique examples of how the entire planet can be compressed into one place,” says Amsel. “It may have changed the focus that a mega ceremony could be a massive party without a purpose, to one that can change the world.”</p> <p>According to Professor Graham Ward, who is regius professor of divinity at Christ Church College, the University of Oxford, a shift toward the ‘remythologisation of reality’ is evident in mainstream culture to an extent not seen for generations.</p> <p>“There’s a reason why Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and Twilight are so popular,” he says. “They are appealing to things that are deeper and more intuitive within people, sometimes to primal fears. We are moving towards a recognition of the immersive nature of our embodiment. All around, there are signs that we are trying to orchestrate deeper immersion into our environments.”</p> <p><strong>The potential of truth</strong></p> <p><span>So could ritual be nurtured more consciously, to help speed the environmental and social changes our society so badly needs?</span></p> <p>Counterintuitively perhaps, today’s digital world may be helping spur new and ‘useful’ rituals. For a start, it spreads word of powerful movements with lightning speed, and is also helping gather information for a new ‘ritual archive’, drawn from people at the grassroots rather than the likes of state and church.</p> <p>Ward’s colleague at the university, professor Harvey Whitehouse, heads up the £3.2 million <a href="https://www.icea.ox.ac.uk/fundedprojects/ritual00/" target="_blank">Ritual, Community and Conflict</a>&nbsp;project, part of the remit of which is to establish a huge new database of the role of ritual in world history. As the ‘conflict’ part of its title hints, the project’s team has also been studying the ‘dark side’ of ritual.</p> <p>“Ritual is a way of convincing people to commit what would otherwise be unthinkable acts of violence,” says Whitehouse. “Ritual produces social glue, bonding groups together. It’s easy to forget that when people go to war or commit acts of terrorism these are often extremely pro-social actions, motivated by love of the group as well as hatred towards perceived enemies.</p> <p>&nbsp;“That same love can be used peacefully as well as violently. For example rituals have contributed to the social glue necessary for the creation of breathtaking monuments; think pyramids and cathedrals, or immense acts of charity such as the Live Aid concerts. If we want to improve the world, we need social glue. Many of the most serious threats currently facing our planet are essentially collective action problems that could be solved overnight with sufficient social glue: the elimination of extreme poverty, overuse or misuse of non-renewable energy, the destruction of wildlife, as well as costly civil wars and state failure.</p> <p>“Whitehouse’s research took him to Libya during the 2011 insurgency, and he remembers travelling along the road from Misrata to Tripoli, against a backdrop of rubble, burnt out cars and palm trees shot to ribbons. “I gazed at mile after mile of curb stones painted by hand in the traditional Libyan flag colours by thousands upon thousands of eager hands,” he recalls.</p> <p>&nbsp;“This love of Libya was never harnessed to rebuild the country when the revolution ended–as happens so often in the wake of civil wars and other conflicts, the social glue available to create public goods and rebuild effective systems of governance is needlessly squandered. So rituals, and the social glue they produce, are both the cause of and the solution to many of our woes as a species–a force for healing, reconciliation, and rebuilding as well as for conflict and wanton destruction.”</p> <p>Rituals can shift our understanding about the world in which we live and help us to act upon that understanding, suggests Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. “Just as the rituals of the old world create and sustain it, so also can we use rituals to create and sustain the new world-generating stories,” he writes. “They are among our most powerful tools of reality creation. Rituals bridge the distinction between symbol and reality.”</p> <p>But putting conscious effort into using ritual is probably the wrong approach. Eisenstein calls rituals “actions infused with sacredness”, and suggests spontaneity and authenticity are most important. “Perhaps one day, a fully healed humanity will no longer distinguish something called a ritual, because all actions will be sacred. Until then, just as prayers can remind us of the sacredness of all speech and holy sites can remind us of the sacredness of all the earth, rituals serve to remind us of the sacred, world-creating power of all we do.”</p> <p>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.positive.news/2016/society/22229/reclaiming-ritual/">Positive News</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lucy-purdy/work-less-play-more">Work less, play more</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion">Will the left ever get religion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/carolyn-baker/welcome-to-planetary-hospice">Welcome to the planetary hospice </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 Lucy Purdy Culture Love and Spirituality Wed, 31 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Lucy Purdy 105016 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Two halves: Poland copes with freedom https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/adam-chmielewski/two-halves-poland-copes-with-freedom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the 35th anniversary of Poland’s modernising transformation, the question arises, how was the emancipatory potential of the ‘Solidarity’ movement squandered?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-25664553.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/PA-25664553.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of Lech Walesa, Feb. 28, 2016. PAimages/Czarek Sokolowski. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Toward the end of his adventurous, unhappy and brief life, an émigré Polish writer Marek Hłasko wrote that at the moment of his defection from post-Stalinist Poland in 1958 he did not yet realise that the world is divided into two halves, the life in one of them being unbearable, while that in the other was – intolerable<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn1">[1]</a>. </p> <p>The Polish ‘Solidarity’ movement, which sprang to life in 1981 to shake the whole of Europe and precipitate the fall of really existing socialism, was animated by an idea that through abolishing an oppressive regime the life of the people in Poland, as well as in the other Central European countries, would become if not altogether happy, then at least bearable and tolerable. It may be appropriate to ask, thirty-five years after the birth of ‘Solidarity’ in August 1981, whether it succeeded in achieving its goals.</p> <h2><strong>‘Solidarity’ from Edward Abramowski to Cal Schmitt</strong></h2> <p>How should we assess the results of the peaceful transformation of Poland initiated by the emergence of the ‘Solidarity’ movement in 1981 and the first semi-democratic elections held in 1989, which brought victory to that movement? </p> <p>The first ideological vision of the future Poland, adopted by the first Assembly of the ‘Solidarity’ Trade Union on October 7, 1981<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn2">[2]</a>, was based on the idea of “the self-governing Republic”, inspired to some extent by the ideas of the Polish political philosopher Edward Abramowski, champion of anarcho-syndicalism. The “self-governance” advocated in this programme did not go so far as to demand the complete sovereignty of the Polish state. Having timorously assumed that Poland would have to remain within the sphere of influence of the still powerful Soviet Union, it proposed, in accordance with Abramowski’s idea of “state-rejecting socialism”, the construction of a socialist civil society which would be able to take care of itself without help from the state. </p> <p>However, as soon as the activists of the Solidarity Trade Union found themselves swept to power in 1989, this idealist programme was tacitly abandoned. Despite Adam Michnik’s personal admiration for Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy, which proposed a form of a non-liberal and non-representative “direct democracy”, her political ideas did not become the basis for the design of the future Poland, nor did Isaiah Berlin’s relativistic and agonistic liberalism. </p> <p>An ideological framework for the political programme of the new sovereign Polish state was provided rather by Karl Popper’s idea of an open, civil and liberal society. At that time every Polish student knew the name of Karl Popper. His ideas, however, were soon reinterpreted in a conservative manner, just as Popper himself had gradually replaced his initial object of political admiration, the German socialist democrat Helmut Schmidt, with the conservative Christian democrat Helmut Kohl<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn3">[3]</a>. Large sections of the Polish political and intellectual elite found Popperian liberal ideas all the more attractive as they were easily combined with the neoliberal ones of Milton Friedman and Friedrich August von Hayek. Fortified by Fukuyama-style propaganda regarding the finality and incontestability of liberal democracy, they set the political agenda for the social and economic transformation of Poland over the following decades. </p> <p>Such an agenda was pursued not only by conservative liberals and other groupings emerging from the original mass movement of ‘Solidarity’, but also by the post-communist, nominally leftist social-democratic parties. Eager to free themselves from the burden of their inglorious past, they disregarded the egalitarian policies of the traditional left. In doing so, they gradually became alienated not only from their own nostalgic post-communist electorate, but also from what remained of the working classes. As a result, they have found themselves in a predicament in which their attempts to recover their old vigour and popular support seemed futile and misbegotten. </p> <p>A striking example of the failure of an attempt to revive the Polish political left, initiated in the run-up to the general elections in 2007, may be attributed to the fact that a coalition of several leftist parties ignored the potential for political discontent of the Polish workers, organised, if only to a limited extent, by disunited trade union associations. It should come as no surprise that after the general elections of 2015 the once popular post-communist party Democratic Left Alliance found itself on the brink of total demise. To employ a term from Michel Houellebecq’s early novel<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn4">[4]</a>, their disregard of the interests of the working classes boiled down to a failure to expand the political battlefield beyond the one delineated by the liberal agenda, to one that might stand for a more egalitarian political agenda.</p> <p>I would argue that the chief reason for the current crisis of liberal democracy in Poland may be sought in a general tendency toward self-limitation of the Polish liberal and social democratic parties’ agendas. From the very beginning of the socio-political transformation of the country, Polish liberals deliberately confined their political interests to the economic sphere and worked to create an entrepreneurial class from scratch. Having created it, they subsequently exerted themselves to enhance its social and political role. At the same time, no less deliberately, they neglected egalitarian demands for the emancipation of wide social strata within the social, cultural and political spheres. It is fair to say that this specific brand of liberalism, which played a hegemonic role in the Gramscian sense within Polish political discourse, both in its practical as well as doctrinal dimensions, is responsible for squandering the emancipatory potential of the ‘Solidarity’ movement, for generating a variety of political problems which stand in the way of the badly needed and much delayed modernisation of the country, and for contributing to the rise of authoritarian populism in Poland. </p> <p>For the policies pursued by both the neoliberal section of the post-Solidarity elites, and the equally neoliberal post-communist elites, came at a price. As a result of this deliberate self-limitation of the political agenda, some important issues of the public life, abandoned both by liberals and post-communist social democrats, were picked up by radical, nationalist and fundamentalist political parties. In the general elections in 2005 these parties won significant popular support, claiming their first significant victory, and marginalising both liberal and social-democratic parties. </p> <h2><strong>Psychopathologies of Polish politics</strong></h2> <p>Emotions unavoidably play a crucial and indispensable role in the functioning of human societies. The dynamics of human subjectivity is of a fundamental importance in the sphere of knowledge, in moral conduct, artistic creation, as well as in the matters of politics. It is only natural that one of the chief tasks of a science of politics should be seen as an intelligent understanding of them, their adequate interpretation, and an innovative search for effective methods of their regulation and control. Conceptions of political philosophy which disregard the sphere of human emotions cannot be adequate.</p> <p>The psychological aspects of political life have constituted a subject of keen philosophical interest ever since ancient times. Insightful observations of the psychological phenomena which filled the political space established by the Athens’s democratic experiment were the basis for the political theories of the greatest Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. </p><p>A deep appreciation of the political significance of human social emotions has played an equally fundamental role in the political works of Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith and John Locke. They were of the greatest import for David Hume, the leading thinker of the Enlightenment who in this, as well as in other matters, adopted a deeply sceptical attitude toward the Enlightenment belief in reason as capable of exerting its regulatory and controlling power over emotions. Hume famously argued that reason is and ought only to be a slave of the passions.</p> <p>Athenian democracy opened the space for a more egalitarian expression of the political agency of human individuals for the first time in human history. The development of contemporary democracies, together with their accompanying technological and social advances, has resulted in opening up the public space for human individuality more widely than ever before. Since the sphere of human subjectivity is capable of more dynamic transformation than other aspects of social life, and since, within liberal democracies, human subjectivity and emotionality reveal themselves both to an unprecedented degree and in a diversity of novel forms, some of which tend to undermine social stability, they often come to be perceived as pathological. For this reason, an inquiry into political phenomena considered pathological has now become an independent and well-defined subject of scholarly interest.</p> <p>It is often claimed that the presently dominant forms of Polish politics, and new developments within it, are a result of psychopathologies responsible for a gradual decline and degradation of the Polish politics as a whole. The degradation in question, it is argued, stems to a large extent from a failure of the Polish political elites adequately to understand and manage the emotions of Polish society. The failure has been a cumulative effect of various modes of political disregard, misuse and abuse of social emotions. </p><p>More specifically, as David Ost argued in his book <em>The Defeat of “Solidarity”</em><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn5">[5]</a>, this has been a failure resulting from the inability of one part of the Polish political elites to understand the role played by the “political emotional variable”, and, one may add, of the cynical instigation and exploitation of it in political struggles by another part. All these forms of misuse have together resulted in a manifest disregard of a common good.</p> <h2><strong>Authoritarian populism </strong></h2> <p>This degenerative trend in Polish politics may be attributed to pathological modes of employment of social emotions by some figures of the Polish post-‘Solidarity’ right, who through the manipulation of the popular emotions, have successfully dragged politics into the abyss of a new form of authoritarian populism. Jarosław Kaczyński, ambitious leader of the Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice), has been particularly resourceful in this respect. Undeniably talented in orchestrating public emotions, he led his party to an electoral victory in the general elections in 2005. </p> <p>This marked the beginning of a dramatic change in many respects of Polish public life. The atmosphere of the country under the rule of the Law and Justice Party, when one of the twin Kaczyński brothers (Jarosław) became Prime Minister of Poland and the other (Lech) served as President, has been adequately captured by Andrew Nagorski who wrote that the Poland of that time did not in the least resemble the country from 1989 when ‘Solidarity’ triumphed and not only toppled the communist government in Warsaw but set off a chain reaction throughout the region. </p><p>Commenting upon the situation in Poland in 2006 Nagorski wrote that “[d]espite enormous economic gains that have transformed the country from a land of chronic shortages into a bustling consumer society, despite Poland’s membership in NATO and the European Union, despite the banishment of fear and the emergence of a free society, many Poles are in a sour mood. It’s a mood that accounts for the recent emergence of a wobbly coalition government composed of right-wing populists, who are constantly bickering among themselves. What once was the ‘Solidarity’ camp is now split a half-dozen ways, and the air is filled with mutual recriminations about alleged collaboration under the old regime and corruption in the new era. In short, the romance of the revolution is largely forgotten”<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn6">[6]</a>.</p> <p>The reorientation of Polish politics effected by Jarosław Kaczyński cannot be attributed to his personal political skills alone. It resulted rather from an unabashed rejection of the thus far dominant liberal political rhetoric, entrenched amongst the elites, but not amongst the rest of the people. This involved bringing to the fore social issues, neglected by liberal and social democratic parties. But it also involved references to nationalist and patriotic ideologies. The reversal thus achieved affected the country not only internally, but also had important consequences for Polish foreign policy as a whole; especially the relations with Germany and Russia. </p> <h2><strong>Polish foreign policy</strong></h2> <p>The peaceful transformation of Poland initiated by the roundtable talks in 1989 was not only the symbol of an unprecedented change in the course of Poland’s recent history. It was also a turning point in the traditional Polish attitude to history itself. Roughly the first two decades of the transition from really existing socialism to democracy were dominated by the spirit of peaceful transformation. It seemed that history for the Poles would henceforth be changed not so much by desperate violent uprisings but rather through peaceful processes of negotiations and an effort toward mutual understanding with its neighbours.</p><p> Poland would be eager to learn, like other European countries did, to reconcile its newly regained national sovereignty with those of others within the European framework. During that time Polish foreign policy was almost unanimously understood as a way of promoting national interest through cooperation and agreement, and not through, often futile, even if justified, resistance or violence.</p> <p>Post-war reconciliation between Poland and Germany was bringing its positive effects. For some time, it seemed certain that an old Polish saying which may be roughly translated: “As long as the world is the way it is, a German will never be a Pole’s brother”, would never be revivified to the rank of chief principle governing Poland’s relations with Germany. But this policy was abandoned by the Law and Justice government in the years 2005-2010. </p><p>Within a very brief period of time, Poland has found itself in the midst of a cold war with Germany and Russia, conducted by extreme nationalist and populist parties of the Polish right who profess a specific version of hostile winner-take-all politics. Polish foreign policy once again has become almost completely subsumed to the disastrous pre-war principle of ‘two enemies’, the enemies being Poland’s powerful neighbours, Russia and Germany. At the same time Poland has been searching for friendship, unreasonably and in vain, from a distant and increasingly aloof United States.</p> <p>If one were to point out an ideological framework which would help to understand the politics of these Polish authoritarian tendencies, the most likely candidate would be the ideas of Carl Schmitt, an ideologue for the German Third Reich. The cultural repression of liberal and leftist ideals effected by the regime led by Jarosław and Lech Kaczynski, turned Poland, a country which suffered from the Nazi regime more than any other, into the place of an incomprehensible scandal, when if a crypto-Nazi assumed a prominent public position in Poland, this generated much less controversy than when a post-Communist did. No wonder that Polish young people nowadays have increasing difficulty in understanding why the liberal democracies of Great Britain and the United States formed an alliance against the German Nazi regime, rather than unite themselves with the Nazis against the Soviet empire of evil.</p> <h2><strong>Fear of authoritarianism</strong></h2> <p>But this period in Polish politics came to an abrupt end due to the tragic event which occurred on April 10, 2010, when a Polish governmental plane carrying president Lech Kaczynski with his wife and ninety-four members of the Polish political elite, crashed into a forest near Smolensk airport in Russia, killing everyone on board. The Polish delegation were to attend a ceremony that marked the seventieth anniversary of the massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in Katyn forest near Smoleńsk by the Soviet secret police in April 1940. This traumatic event, which continues to divide Polish society until today, heralded the end of the radical and internally inconsistent coalition of right wing, nationalist parties, formed by Law and Justice in 2007. </p> <p>Bronisław Komorowski of the Civic Platform, the Speaker of the Polish parliament Sejm, took over the presidential seat of the deceased Lech Kaczyński. As a result of the general elections held the following year, a neoliberal party, Civic Platform, won the majority. For eight years the Poles seemed to enjoy the predictability of this new government and its drive toward the modernisation of the country. Party officials were so far emboldened by the popular support they received for the leader to claim that his party had no one to lose the election to. In 2015, with the presidential elections approaching, Adam Michnik, in much the same arrogant mood, publicly claimed that the Civic Platform presidential candidate, Bronisław Komorowski, would lose the presidential election only if he had run over a pregnant nun on a zebra crossing while drunk driving. </p> <p>He could not have been more wrong. Towards the end of its eight-year term, Civic Platform was in deep trouble due to quite plausible accusations of corruption of some of its ministers. Compromising conversations between Civic Platform’s members and businessmen secretly recorded and made public dealt it a bitter blow. The only remaining and incontestable strength of this neoliberal and conservative party seemed to be fear of the repetition of authoritarianism, consistently promised by the leaders of Law and Justice. </p> <p>Despite these calculations and the self-assuredness of the liberal political elite, Civic Platform rule came to an unexpected end with the presidential and general elections held in 2015. In June little known Andrzej Duda, supported by Jarosław Kaczyński and Law and Justice, won the presidency against the incumbent Bronisław Komorowski. In October the same year Law and Justice swept to power, winning a majority sufficient to form a first post-transformational government without the need to enter any coalitions. The key to this astounding success was an ingeniously engineered campaign built, once again, upon corruption charges against Civic Platform, the appeal to nationalist and patriotic feelings, an ostentatious even if not quite genuine religiosity, and blatantly xenophobic innuendos formulated amidst a growing Syrian refugee problem.</p> <p>The new government formed by the seemingly unelectable Law and Justice did not wait too long to confirm fears of authoritarianism. In no time the Parliament, dominated by the deputies of Law and Justice, had passed a new law concerning the functioning of the Constitutional Tribunal. The true aim of the new regulation was to make it difficult, if not altogether impossible, for the top court to overturn any parliamentary legislation. </p> <p>This has been interpreted as a violation of the separation of powers and as opening the door for the authoritarian and unchecked rule of the party or rather its leader. Subsequently the government refused to recognize the court’s decision which deemed the new law unconstitutional. This has created an impasse for both sides of the disagreement, and generated both internal and international concern. Institutions of the European Union, as well as the US President Barack Obama, have rebuked Poland’s new government for violation of the rule of law, with little impact, however, on the ruling party officials.</p> <h2><strong>A great vacuum</strong></h2> <p>Despite the gravity of the situation, the largest opposition party Civic Platform has lost its steam and demonstrates an inability to present any persuasive alternative, while its leaders have become engaged in mutual recrimination. This has left a great vacuum on the opposite side of the profoundly refurbished Polish political spectrum. Some of the former Civic Platform electorate is now represented by a new party Nowoczesna.pl (Modern.pl), led by a former pupil of Leszek Balcerowicz. The concern about the rule of law has been exploited more successfully, with the help of social media, by a Committee for the Defense of Democracy (Komitet Obrony Demokracji, KOD; it’s name deliberately refers to Komitet Obrony Robotników, KOR, the key Polish opposition movement against communism). Even though KOD has managed to stage several great demonstrations against the new regime in major Polish cities, it has not yet turned itself into a political party. </p> <p>The vacuum on the left side of the political scene is now being gradually filled by a sensible and energetic young party ‘Razem’ (‘Together’) which has secured for itself 3 per cent of the voters. All these political fractions, however, are being systematically undermined in their opposition against the Law and Justice. A reform package undertaken by this party on behalf of the underprivileged segments of the Polish society, is meanwhile being rewarded by growing popular support.</p> <p>The question frequently asked is why the Poles have chosen, again, Law and Justice, a party which does not have any qualms whatsoever in appealing to nationalist and xenophobic ideology, as their political representation. Many commentators, like Nagorski quoted above, point to the enormous gains Poland has achieved thanks to its wholesale transformation. </p><p>The transformation initiated in 1989 has brought to Poles a tremendous change: they now live much more dignified and prosperous lives than they did under a communist regime. One has to add that Poland indeed fared quite well through the post-2008 economic downturn. The country has been consistently presented by political propaganda as a “green island” of growth amid the shrinking economies of the European Union. However, even if all this is largely true, there are several things to be borne in mind. </p> <p>First of all, what has been rarely mentioned during these transformative decades was that the wealth produced by Poles has been unequally distributed among them. This economic growth should rather be seen as an indicator of the level of poverty from which this country was trying to emerge, rather than as a sign of its economic strength. Secondly, this growth has been achieved at the cost of the low wages of Polish workers. </p><p>Moreover, 8.6 per cent of the workforce in Poland are presently out of jobs, with few of them eligible for state support. Poland is among the most unequal societies, with the value of the Gini coefficient of equivalised disposable income at 30.08, rather distant from the prosperous egalitarian countries. Yet another indicator is much more telling: out of 23.5 million Europeans living off an income of less than 10 euros per day, 10.5 million, i.e. nearly a half of them, are Polish citizens. The authors of the statistical European Union survey of 2008 state that “[l]ooking at those with the lowest incomes [i.e. below €5 a day], we find that 44% of them live in Poland”<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn7">[7]</a>. With subsidies for research and innovation at a consistently low level, the Polish economy continues to be rather outdated and European Union handouts are the only reliable source of cash helping to modernize this backward country.</p> <p>Poles suffer also from a number of other iniquities and exclusions. Women, who are denied equal access to jobs and equal pay, are also the first to be fired from their jobs. Under the pressure of the politically dominant Catholic Church, they are denied a right to abortion; and the allegedly liberal Civic Platform, under the pressure of the Catholic Church, also considered a ban on in vitro fertilization, even if the state (once again because of the unyielding stance of the Church) had not been financing this. </p><p>Civic Platform had also been planning to castrate pedophiles, while appealing, in the same breath, for mercy for Roman Polanski who some time ago was jailed for sexual intercourse with a minor. Sexual minorities are repressed, critical and innovative artists are censored, while the state turns its gaze the other way. Public access to arts and cultural events is marred by economic exclusion and psychological attitudes of self-exclusion: less than ten per cent of Poles take part in cultural events on a regular basis<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn8">[8]</a>. </p> <p>Polish society is also coping with the grave consequences of four structural reforms which were intended as a Polish version of the Great Leap Forward. The four reforms, effected by the liberal conservative government in the years 1997-2001, turned out to be disappointing four steps backwards. After a decade, the pension system, reformed along the lines of neoliberal principles, has crumbled, leaving a large hole in the state budget and the future if pensioners deeply impoverished. </p><p>A decade after the reform of the health system, medical services were diagnosed as very inadequate and are steadily deteriorating<a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftn9">[9]</a>. The administrative reform – an attempt to introduce the idea of self-governing Poland in practice – has only multiplied the army of bureaucrats at all levels. A reform of the educational system produces now hordes of semiliterate philistines, as do the higher education institutions. Cultural institutions, courts of justice, the police and other public services, are inadequate due to their underfunding. </p><p>This, ironically, may be read as a proof of the statement once made by a leading member of the Civic Platform government who has been recorded as saying that the Polish state exists only theoretically. </p> <h2><strong>One world, vanquished hope</strong></h2> <p>Some two million Poles took the opportunity afforded to them by the accession to the European Union to improve their lives by emigrating to other European countries, especially Great Britain and Ireland, but also Germany; a majority of them do menial jobs. This is the largest emigration in the Polish history. </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, it generates a strong backlash among host societies. This has been so especially in Great Britain, where the overwhelming Polish presence was a strong card in the successful Brexit campaign. The number of Polish emigres itself should be interpreted as an another telling indicator of the quality of life in present-day Poland. In view of the great number of Poles who found themselves in a situation desperate enough to emigrate, one may be permitted to speculate that a much larger army of them might be ready to follow suit. Indeed: the 2016 survey suggested that another 4 million Poles are willing to leave their country, while 1.5 million are ready to do so. </p> <p>It is for such reasons that the year of celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the commencement of the liberal and democratic transformation of Poland is not universally felt as a moment of contentment or as an occasion for self-congratulation.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Marek Hłasko, <em>Piękni, dwudziestoletni</em> (first edition Paris 1966) Warszawa, Czytelnik, 1989, p. 182.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Cf. <a href="http://www.solidarnosc.org.pl/archiwum/ikzd/dokumenty/program/program.pdf">http://www.solidarnosc.org.pl/archiwum/ikzd/dokumenty/program/program.pdf</a>.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref3">[3]</a> Karl R Popper, <em>Unended Quest. An Intellectual Autobiography</em>, Routledge, 1992; Polish edition: <em>Nieustanne poszukiwania, Autobiografia intelektualna</em>, transl. by Adam Chmielewski, Kraków: Znak, 1997, p. 5.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref4">[4]</a> Michel Houllebecq, <em>Extension du domaine de la lutte</em>, Paris 1994; Polish edition: <em>Poszerzenie pola walki</em>, transl. by Ewa Wieleżyńska, Wydawnictwo WAB, Poznań 2005;</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref5">[5]</a> David Ost, <em>The Defeat of “Solidarity”. Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe</em>, Cornell University, 2005; Polish edition: <em>Klęska “Solidarności”. </em><em>Gniew i polityka w postkomunistycznej Europie</em>, transl. by Hanna Jankowska Warszawa: Warszawskie Wydawnictwo Literackie MUZA SA, 2005;</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Andrew Nagorski, “Poland’s Imperfect Revolution”, <em>Foreign Policy</em>, July/August 2006.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref7">[7]</a> <em>The Social Situation in the European Union 2007. Social Cohesion through Equal Opportunities</em>, European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities – Unit E.1, Eurostat – Unit F.3, Brussels 2008, section 1.3.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref8">[8]</a> Cf. Adam Chmielewski, “Uses of art in the urban space”, in: <em>International Journal of Social Economics</em>, Vol. 42 Issue 9, pp. 841-851.</p> <p><a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/Chmielewski%20Adam,%20Poland&#039;s%20Coping%20with%20Freedom.doc#_ftnref9">[9]</a>“Polish health care system one of the worst in Europe”; cf.: Radio Poland, <a href="http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/99519,Polish-health-care-system-one-of-the-worst-in-Europe">http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/99519,Polish-health-care-system-one-of-the-worst-in-Europe</a>, accessed July 21, 2016.</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/alex-sakalis-rosemary-bechler-adrian-zandberg/interview-with-adrian-zandberg-part"> Interview with Adrian Zandberg, Partia Razem</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/tom-junes/rise-of-youth-nationalism-in-poland">The rise of &#039;youth nationalism&#039; in Poland</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"> Poland </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? Poland Adam J Chmielewski Tue, 30 Aug 2016 23:16:35 +0000 Adam J Chmielewski 105022 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #PayPal4Palestine https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/sam-bahour/paypal4palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While Israeli&nbsp;settlers&nbsp;living in the West Bank are completely integrated into the Israeli system and have access to PayPal and other technologies, the Palestinians they live among do not.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-23979225.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Dan Balilty/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-23979225.jpg" alt="Dan Balilty/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Dan Balilty/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Employees working at the SodaStream factory built deep in Israel's Negev Desert that replaced the West Bank facility when it shut down. September 2, 2015.</span></span></span>As a&nbsp;Palestinian-American&nbsp;management consultant in Ramallah, Palestine, I advise my Palestinian clients living under Israeli military occupation to use world-class software and online services, assuring them that it will help them enter global markets. </p><p>Some of these clients are not-for-profit outfits, like the Palestinian Circus School and Birzeit University; others are tech start-ups, many of which are funded by US tax dollars via USAID. Time and again, I regretfully must explain to clients that the most popular worldwide online payment system, PayPal, is unavailable to them.<br /><br />As an American from Youngstown, Ohio, trying to contribute to building a modern Palestinian economy; and a former software developer who worked all over the US, I can never offer a satisfactory answer to those who ask why PayPal refuses to follow the lead of technology giants like Google, Cisco, HP, Oracle, and many others, that all operate in Palestine.</p><p>Palestine has a thriving banking sector and all Palestinian banks make money transfers daily to corresponding US banks. The US Treasury Department is also active in Palestine and has praised the level of Palestinian banking compliance. Considering these financial ties, it is a mystery why PayPal, which is widely considered the most trustworthy company in its sphere, continues to ignore this market. </p><p>While it’s available to users in Israel and to Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land, PayPal does not extend its services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Many of these illegal Israeli settlers live literally a few minutes walk from my home. This is doubly unfortunate since Palestinians who live in other parts of the world, and are regular users of PayPal, cannot use the platform to conduct business with Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza.</p><p>Israel has continuously placed suffocating limitations on the Palestinian economy, many which have been directly challenged by successive US presidents, such as Israel’s refusal to release the needed frequencies for Palestinians to have 3G services. The internet age has brought with it a bit of relief from these physical limitations, and the Palestinian tech sector is a key area of the economy with potential to grow, especially considering how young the population is. </p><p>Palestine produces roughly 2,000 IT&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/world/middleeast/palestinians-building-tech-hub-in-west-bank.html?_r=0" target="_blank">graduates</a>&nbsp;per year who are well-positioned to address the huge&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/apr/28/global-development-digital-arabic-content" target="_blank">gap</a>&nbsp;between growing demand for online Arabic content and the current lack of supply. However, only one-third of these graduates find work in their field. Without access to the needed services that facilitate the growth of businesses, they fall into the despair of unemployment and all that it carries with it.</p><p>In order to meet these market needs and generate employment opportunities, Palestinian startups and entrepreneurs need equal access to services, like PayPal, for business and charitable services. </p><p>In December,&nbsp;the President of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE), Edward Thompson, and myself, as Chairman of AVPE, wrote to inform PayPal CEO Daniel Schulman of the company’s shortcomings in Palestine, but our request for a meeting went unheeded. Now, a group of 40 prominent Palestinian organizations have penned <a href="http://a4vpe.org/pages/a-letter-to-paypal.php" target="_blank">a public letter</a> asking Mr Schulman to reconsider.</p><p>Among the signatories are the Palestinian Telecommunications Group (Paltel) the largest private-sector company in Palestine, and one that I assisted in establishing, the renowned startup incubator&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gazaskygeeks.com/" target="_blank">Gaza Sky Geeks</a>, and Palestine’s National Beverage Company, whose CEO Zahi Khouri is an early stage startup investor through another signatory, the Ibtikar Fund. These are just a few examples -- those in tech, business and finance have come together from across the span to also make this request. Seemingly small but poignant indignities like this one block the road towards freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians, and we hope to methodically clear them from our path.</p><p>In the letter, we explain that while other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly to those unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The most disturbing thing about PayPal’s presence in Israel-Palestine is that access to it depends on ethnicity</p><p>Perhaps the most disturbing thing about PayPal’s presence in Israel-Palestine, however, is that access to it depends on ethnicity. Again, while Israeli&nbsp;<a href="http://www.btselem.org/settlements" target="_blank">settlers</a>&nbsp;living in the West Bank are completely integrated into the Israeli system and have access to PayPal and other technologies, the Palestinians they live among do not. These are settlements that are considered illegal under US foreign policy and international law.</p><p>In fact,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/01/19/occupation-inc/how-settlement-businesses-contribute-israels-violations-palestinian" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch released a report</a>&nbsp;earlier this year that stated that businesses should withdraw from the settlements entirely to end their complicity in "an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians.”<br />This is not just about access to PayPal.&nbsp;It is about PayPal’s role in empowering&nbsp;entrepreneurs, small businesses, and individuals to make a living and conduct commerce,&nbsp;particularly in parts of the world where physical barriers and limitations are established by governments.&nbsp;</p><p>We would be doing ourselves, as Americans and Palestinians, a disservice by allowing any&nbsp;company to deny their service based on ethnicity, heritage&nbsp;or because of&nbsp;Israeli pressure to enforce a clear suppression of the Palestinian economy via the limitations of occupation.&nbsp;</p><p>It is our sincere hope that our latest attempt to right this wrong will not fall on deaf ears. For the Palestinian people, breaking free from Israeli military occupation will mean carving out a meaningful space in the global economy. And we cannot do that without equal access to indispensable tools like PayPal.</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="/arab-awakening/sam-bahour/palestinians-must-not-fall-into-this-trap-again">Palestinians must not fall into this trap, again!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/sam-bahour/resetting-palestine%27s-political-system">Resetting Palestine&#039;s political system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/sam-bahour-tony-klug/palestinian-gamechanger-ultimate-act-of-resistance">Palestinian game-changer: the ultimate act of resistance</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"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Palestine Israel Conflict Economics Equality International politics occupied territories Sam Bahour Tue, 30 Aug 2016 18:45:51 +0000 Sam Bahour 104982 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Belling the trolls: free expression, online abuse and gender https://www.opendemocracy.net/bishakha-datta/belling-trolls-free-expression-online-abuse-and-gender <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Freedom of expression is fundamentally about power: about who gets to speak or express themselves and on what terms and platforms.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/finalbannerhri2_0.jpg" alt="HRI" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25531093.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25531093.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lawyers protest against JNU student union president,Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested and accused of sedition, February, 2016. Manish Swarup/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The things you learn from search engines. I’d always attributed this iconic quote to the French philosopher Voltaire: “I wholly disapprove of what you say, and will defend to the death your right to say it.” And then, idly googling the exact phrasing, I discover that this profoundly expansive ‘Voltairean principle’ did not spring from Voltaire’s lips at all. No, this quote is by his <a href="http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/06/01/defend-say/">biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall</a>, who sometimes wrote under the ‘male’ pseudonym SG Tallentyre.</p> <p>Now, you might ask what this historical misrecording has to do with the price of eggs. Or with freedom of expression. A lot, I’d say. How do we look at a woman’s words attributed to a man’s mind? As a genuine mistake? Sleight of mind? As a manifestation of the assumption that women were not expected to think lofty thoughts at the turn of the twentieth<sup>th</sup> century? Or a subtle reminder that in speech too, there’s a gender divide, with some genders being given more weight, more freedom to express in the public sphere than others? </p> <p>In any event, even as we celebrate the 110<sup>th</sup> anniversary of this enduring phrase, I think it’s time to use it with caution. And with context. Why? Because, err, digital. Given the zettabytes of digital memory devoted to recording, sharing and storing every expressive urge – including those that should have been filtered at the thought level before being typed – this phrase seems a bit like a dinosaur. When the phrase first appeared in 1906, the means of expression were scarce: photography was not even 100 years old, cinema was in its infancy, and the internet wasn’t anywhere near the womb. There was text (not texting), telephones and telegrams. A trickle of speech.</p> <p>Today, it’s the opposite. </p> <p>We’re flooded with the means to express, just as we are with the means to remember. In his book, <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9436.html">Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, scholar Viktor Mayer-Schonberger</a> reminds us how the advent of digital technology has forever changed the balance between remembering and forgetting. </p> <p>For centuries, individuals, communities and societies struggled to remember – as technologies evolved from the oral to the written and the printed. Now, for the first time, with digital technologies, including vast storage capabilities, at our beck and call, we’re flipping the switch: remembering is becoming the default, forgetting the exception. “Until recently, the fact that remembering has always been at least a little bit harder than forgetting helped us humans avoid the fundamental question of whether we would like to remember everything forever if we could,” writes Mayer-Schonberger. “Not any more.”</p> <p>Is something similar going on with expression nowadays? Does the capability to infinitely express oneself help us avoid the fundamental question: to say or not to say? To express or not to express? Or to think before we type?</p> <p>And are the opportunities for expression being increasingly usurped by those in power?</p> <h2><b>Speech, expression and power</b></h2> <p>Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me explain what I mean. For me, freedom of expression – analog, digital, offline or online – is fundamentally about power. Or about who gets to speak or express themselves. And on what terms and platforms. Just as the struggle for gender equality tries to re-allocate power between the genders, the battle for freedom of expression is about re-allocating the power to speak. </p> <p>We’ve heard the powerful – individuals, corporates and governments – speak for far too long through mainstream media and the other megaphones of the powerful. For the first time, digital technologies have given us – the less powerful – the everyday means not just to speak out, but to actually be heard. To voice every silent, silenced, unheard, marginal, discounted, or ‘illegitimate’ thought we ever had. Loud and clear. When digital technologies first allowed me to make <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2002/08/26/stories/2002082600040100.htm">a documentary about three sex workers</a>, in their own voices, the Indian government banned it, not just for expressing their points of view, but also for the use of ‘vulgar’ language. #Powerplay. <span class="mag-quote-right">It’s deeply depressing to see the growing number of tools being used to quell speech. Law. Mobs. Murder. </span></p> <p>That was 15 years back. In the last decade, the battle for speech has only heightened. Even though the avenues of digital expression have multiplied, <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2016%20">Freedom House notes that</a> press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015 – as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power. In Bangladesh, the country that neighbours mine, <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/another-secular-blogger-murdered-in-bangladesh/">five bloggers and one publisher have been killed since 2015</a>. Can there be a more disquieting way to quell speech, thought and opinion? </p> <p>And in India, where I live, laws are increasingly misapplied to curb dissent – or speech that challenges those in power. Amnesty India has temporarily shut its India offices after being unjustly <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/amnesty-india-closes-offices-postpones-events-after-sedition-allegations/story-XnG4zmxBg5FBBuIPDaRwtK.html">accused of sedition</a>. Greenpeace India was made to shut up (to some extent) through the <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/greenpeace-indias-registration-cancelled/article7613184.ece">cancellation of its licence to receive foreign funding</a> or “the government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent. A group of <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/specials/in-depth/jawaharlal-nehru-university-row-what-is-the-outrage-all-about/article8244872.ece">students in a Delhi university faced sedition charges</a> for organising a dissenting campus event. And an author temporarily <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/perumal-murugan-book-controversy-and-madras-high-court-judgement/article8816393.ece">‘killed himself’</a> as a writer when faced with a mob of opposition in his hometown.</p> <p>It’s easy to be lonely in a crowd. And it’s hard to uphold the right to dissent when you’re a minority of one. And it’s deeply depressing to see the growing number of tools being used to quell speech. Law. Mobs. Murder. </p> <p>As Perumal Murugan, the author who temporarily 'killed himself' said once he started writing again, “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/23/books/indian-novelist-stages-a-comeback-after-threats-in-his-hometown.html?_r=0">A censor is seated inside me now.</a>”</p> <h2><b>Gendered speech, online abuse and #FoE</b></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/2004_Al_Azm_Mernissi_Soroush_Mernissi_laudatio.tif_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/2004_Al_Azm_Mernissi_Soroush_Mernissi_laudatio.tif_.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fatima Mernissi accepting the Erasmus Prize 2004 (the Netherlands). Wikicommons/Praemium Erasmianum Foundation. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The speech of the powerless is not what I have in mind when I caution against the untrammelled use of Beatrice Hall’s iconic quote. I’m thinking of other kinds of speech which digital technologies have enabled, and which the digitally powerful wreak on us, day in and day out. </p> <p>I’m talking online abuse. </p> <p>Online abuse – especially against women – has now become like one of those rapidly-mutating viruses that resists all antibiotics. It’s everywhere, in many different forms. I’m not talking about the ingrained everyday sexism that’s our daily bread. That we fight, day in, day out. I’m not talking about androcentrism, or the assumption that men, and male experience, are at the centre of the universe. That we fight like guerrillas, constantly rolling our eyes in our heads. </p> <p>I’m talking rape threats. Gang rape threats. Graphic gang rape threats with vivid descriptions of postures. Death threats. Hate speech that meets the <a href="http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.27_en.pdf">legal criteria for spewing hate</a>.&nbsp; Those, in my view, are not free speech. They’re a call to arms, incitements to violence. More so when it’s an invisible or paid cyber-army behind the threats, backing each other up, preying on a woman. Wilding. Trying to break her. Trying to humiliate her. Trying to get her to shut up, out of the misplaced notion that only men have the right to air their thoughts and opinions online. In public space. &nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-left">We want full citizenship. The freedom to be ourselves. The freedom to loiter online, full-throated.</span></p> <p>In one of her essays, <a href="http://www.mernissi.net/">Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi </a>introduces the concept of ‘trespassing in the nude’ to explain how men in Morocco think of public space as a men-only zone. Social norms dictate that Moroccan women are not supposed to be in public space; women who break that rule are seen to be trespassing. But women who dare to step into public space without their veils – that’s even worse. That’s trespassing in the nude. And trespass, of course, demands punishment.</p> <p>On the internet, women who speak out are seen as trespassers. And women who speak out about things that men reserve as their own preserve are seen to doubly trespass. Or trespass in the nude. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/laurie-penny-a-womans-opinion-is-the-mini-skirt-of-the-internet-6256946.html">As British writer Laurie Penny famously said, “A woman’s opinion is the mini skirt of the internet.”</a> Meaning, an excuse to harass.</p> <p>Women on Morocco’s streets were punished through stoning, as are women who loiter on the streets of the internet. Just think of online abuse as stoning with words – that’s violence, right? When journalist Swati Chaturvedi got massively harassed last year, she <a href="http://www.dailyo.in/politics/twitter-trolls-swati-chaturvedi-lutyensinsider-presstitutes-bazaru-media-delhi-police/story/1/4300.html">wrote about her experience</a>. “Journalists specially women are hunted for sport, abused, slandered and hounded by trolls who hunt in hyena-like packs. The problem is that you have an opinion and are behaving like a journalist, not a cheerleader.“ </p> <p>Many women have grown rhinoceros hides to ignore online abuse. It continues. Others have tried fighting back. It continues. Some have tried humour, including the Peng Collective’s brilliant <a href="http://https://www.pen.gg/zerotrollerance">Zero Trollerance</a> campaign. The trolls march on, undeterred, like Tolkien’s Orcs. Of course, it’s important to distinguish between trolling and abuse, but sometimes when you’re facing the shitstream, there’s just so much semantic jugglery you can take. No matter what you call it, you just want it off. </p> <p>Some women have stopped expressing themselves for fear of ‘inviting’ abuse. They’ve tied their tongues. Others hold back, or self-censor, again for fear of ‘inviting’ abuse. On the one hand, this is uncannily similar to women and girls not going out at night or not dressing how they please for fear of ‘inviting’ abuse or harassment. On the other, this is also about #FoE. Surely, freedom of expression cannot be defined to mean that only some get to speak – at the cost of others’ speech? And that those in power along the axis of gender should appropriate the means to express?</p> <p>This is not even just about speech. It’s about digital citizenship. Women are neither interlopers not outsiders in digital spaces. We belong online as much as we belong offline. We want full citizenship. The freedom to be ourselves. The freedom to loiter online, full-throated. To comfortably exist in a space that we can call ours. Without abuse, harassment and violence.</p> <p>That’s why I say, let’s use that iconic #FoE phrase with caution. And not in all contexts. If I wholly disapprove of what you say, I will not defend to the death your right to say it. Because no one should have the right to abuse another under the guise of freedom of expression.</p> <p><i>This piece was first published in <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/social-media-trolls-rape-threats-online/1/714343.html">India Today</a> on July 13, 2016 and is republished with kind permission here. </i></p> <p>&nbsp;</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="https://opendemocracy.net/hri"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/smallhribanner.jpg" alt="" /></a></p> <p>More from the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/hri">Human Rights and the Internet</a> partnership.</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="/funda-ustek/mayor-of-ankara-diary-of-troll">Mayor of Ankara: the diary of a troll</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sally-kohn/dont-feed-trolls-cultivating-civility-online">Don&#039;t feed the trolls? Cultivating civility online</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/rachel-schmidt/activists-get-creative-in-their-push-for-moroccan-women-s-rights">Activists get creative in their push for Moroccan women’s rights</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"> Morocco </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Bangladesh </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"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </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> hri digitaLiberties openIndia Bangladesh India Morocco Civil society Conflict Culture Equality Ideas International politics Internet Bishakha Datta Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:59:34 +0000 Bishakha Datta 105017 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If we really want to take back control, the UK must push for a 'Controlled Brexit' https://www.opendemocracy.net/alex-goodman/controlled-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A gradual EU opt-out might provide a way of balancing the competing demands of stability and democratisation in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/PA-26772229.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="An EU balloon flies next to a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas / PA Wire/Press Associ"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/PA-26772229.jpg" alt="An EU balloon flies next to a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas / PA Wire/Press Associ" title="An EU balloon flies next to a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas / PA Wire/Press Associ" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An EU balloon flies next to a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas / PA Wire/Press Association. All rights reserved</span></span></span>Boris Johnson rightly says that the dominant reason people voted to leave the EU was for the sake of <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/26/i-cannot-stress-too-much-that-britain-is-part-of-europe--and-alw/">democracy</a>: to “take back control”. This clarion call poses a challenge to the negotiatiors of Brexit: what withdrawal method best respects that demand for democracy and minimises the costs, risks and duration of the departure exercise? One answer to this lies in what I call a 'Controlled Brexit'. This involves continuing to opt in to each component of EU membership until we have considered and prepared for opting out.</p><p dir="ltr">Since the referendum, I have been running a project called <a href="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/conference/1564ba05c2cd4bb0">Opportunity in Crisis</a> which involves hearing from people around the country, from London to Merthyr Tydfil, to Hawes in Wensleydale. We collected opinions about what they want for Britain’s future. The views of 200 participants can be summarised as follows:</p><ol><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">There is an urgent yearning for great improvements to the lives of British people: people want greater community engagement; and improvements in public services, housing and the economy. </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Whether or not people wish to leave the EU, they want the burden, risks and costs of leaving the EU on our politicians, civil servants, public bodies and private enterprises to be minimised so that we can get on with revitalising our society. </p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">People are fed up with the old politicians and politics: They want “grown-up politicians”, “statesmen” and “leaders”; no more fantasies, lies, slogans and self-promotion, but responsible approaches to the difficulties Brexit will pose.</p></li></ol><p dir="ltr">Controlled Brexit responds to what people have been saying they want for the country. &nbsp;The first step in the Brexit process is likely to be agreeing a withdrawal treaty pursuant to article 50. Thereafter, there will have to be further treaties dealing with the basis of future EU/UK relations. A Controlled Brexit seeks to do the minimum with the withdrawal treaty and postpone the remainder of re-aligning our relationship with the EU to be dealt with subsequently at a manageable pace. The need for this approach has to be understood in the context of an honest appreciation of the scale of work involved in Brexit.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">the UK will have to do an enormous amount of running just to stay still</p><p dir="ltr">Commentators are starting to focus on the <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/brexit-bureaucracy-will-infuriate-out-voters-xcwcmrjwg">scale and bureaucratic complexity of Brexit</a>: the UK will have to do an enormous amount of running just to stay still if it adopts any of the off-the-shelf relationships with the EU, such as those enjoyed by <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/#q=brexit+guardian+canada+ceta">Canada</a> or Norway. Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office describes Brexit as like a “<a href="http://economia.icaew.com/news/july-2016/eu-exit-tidal-wave-could-engulf-whitehall-nao-head-warns">tidal wave coming up the beach</a>” for which the civil service is unlikely to have capacity. To try to understand this, consider the main aspects of the task that faces us: reviewing and rewriting our legislation; drawing up new international treaties and building new UK policy fields to replace those we lose by exiting the EU.</p><h3>Reviewing and re-writing legislation</h3><p dir="ltr">Professor Michael Dougan has given persuasive evidence to the <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/cb083c53-3998-4f3a-8eca-e114e3dbdf0b">Treasury Select Committee</a> that Brexit- however it is done- will necessitate a complete spot-check of the entirety of the UK’s legislative scheme. From environmental regulation, to employment law, to product regulation to the criminal law: EU law is integrated into UK law at every level. If we do not review and amend it thoroughly, unintended chaos and litigation deadlock could ensue. To undertake this necessary review is, Professor Dougan explained, a “gigantic task”. The government has not begun to engage with the scale of this work: even to quantify it (surely necessary for budgetary and resource considerations) is a task that is seemingly yet to be performed. Most of this gigantic task will not achieve anything better, it will be necessary simply to maintain some legislative order and minimise the disruption and litigation which will ensue on any form of Brexit other than the Controlled Brexit I advocate.</p><h3>Treaty-making with countries outside the EU</h3><p dir="ltr">There has been no official quantification of the scale of the treaty-making, with which the UK will have to engage, but the complexity, scale and cost of this task is also daunting and well beyond the current capacity of our government. &nbsp;The Treaties Office Database records that the EU has concluded more than 25 bi-lateral treaties in the past 12 months. It lists in total <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/world/agreements/searchByType.do?id=1">880 bi-lateral treaties</a> and 259 multi-lateral treaties concluded by the EU over the past 60 years with most countries of the world. It will not be possible for the UK to recreate the depth and sophistication of international relations achieved by the EU over sixty years. The most obviously viable way out of this predicament is to achieve some sort of shadow accession to these treaties from outside the EU. But even that will be difficult since most of the treaties are with the EU and depend for their functioning vis-à-vis the UK on its membership of the EU. </p><h3>Free Trade Agreements</h3><p dir="ltr">The focus of UK action over the next decade will be upon re-negotiating the most important free-trade agreements with the EU and other major trading partners. By way of indication of the scale of this task, the EU-Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has just (in July 2016) <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ceta/index_en.htm">been proposed by</a> the European Commission to the EU Council for agreement, negotiations having begun in 2007. It is expected to be implemented in 2017. Reportedly, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/15/uk-canada-advice-post-brexit-trade-deals-eu-ceta">Canada engaged 300 negotiators on the deal</a>. The UK may have to complete its own free trade deals not just with the EU, but with every major trading partner. A <a href="http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2012/november/tradoc_150129.pdf">European Commission memo of December 2013</a> states that the EU had around 50 free trade deals with other countries (including customs unions). The scale and duration of bureaucratic activity is difficult to estimate (and again is not something the UK government has yet engaged with), but it will be vast. Much of this work will be simply an attempt to recreate what we already have: there is no guarantee these relationships will be any better for the UK (and considerable risk that with our weaker negotiating position they may be worse).</p><h3>New domestic policy fields</h3><p dir="ltr">At a domestic level there will be a huge amount of work replacing policy fields that have been operated for decades at an EU level. There are a few of them to consider.&nbsp;<span>The UK would, even in a future Norway-type arrangement with the EU, need to develop an agricultural policy and a fisheries policy from scratch to replace the common agricultural and common fisheries policies.&nbsp;</span><span>Last week the government said it would match EU science funding to the tune of £4bn - a simple enough idea, but spending £4bn rationally requires a lot of work.&nbsp;</span><span>If we depart from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice: presumably there will have to be a new international court established to determine disputes arising from whatever new legal order we establish with the EU. Even if we submit to the jurisdiction of the EFTA court (used by Norway and others) that will still involve a complex bureaucratic task and that court will need considerable additional resources.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Many more examples could be given. Establishing new policy fields and major institutions should be the work of many years. It ordinarily involves a department of state engaging in consultation and preparing policy papers with legislation being carefully debated and scrutinised through parliament by interested groups and the public. After that policies are implemented gradually, becoming more complex and sophisticated as time progresses. </p><p dir="ltr">The first indications of bureaucratic costs (without any real precision as to what is involved) are apparently that the process<a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/brexit-bureaucracy-will-infuriate-out-voters-xcwcmrjwg"> will cost over £5bn</a>. &nbsp;The government’s primary duty now must surely be to publicly lay out in detail, and to cost, the ramifications of Brexit for every department of state; for every public body that will need to engage with it and, moreover to estimate the huge burden on private sector organisations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The problem created by the scale of the Brexit exercise is one which feeds back to the central ideological justification for Brexit: reclaiming sovereignty</p><p dir="ltr">The problem created by the scale of the Brexit exercise is not just one of resources and finance, but one which feeds back to the central ideological justification for Brexit: reclaiming sovereignty. If, as Boris Johnson has said, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/26/i-cannot-stress-too-much-that-britain-is-part-of-europe--and-alw/">the central justification for the exercise of leaving the European Union is to restore British democracy</a>, that means presumably both empowering the UK parliament, as well as revitalising the democratic system which elects that Parliament. Yet in truth the scale of the Brexit exercise is not one which Parliament can cope with. It cannot possibly hope to scrutinise the huge legislative review that leaving the EU will entail. The almost inescapable irony of the Brexit process is that the forms of Brexit being proposed will require one of the greatest diminishments in parliamentary sovereignty in its history. This is because the only way of dealing with the exercise will be a massive transfer of power to the executive- and in more pithy reality- to a newly appointed swathe of unelected bureaucrats.</p><p dir="ltr">But there is a way out of all of this which will satisfy the democratic imperative to leave the European Union. It is a withdrawal method which avoids the risks posed by most of the alternatives being discussed in the media and, according to the <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/2016-08-16/brexit-means-a-canadian-trade-deal-for-uk/">fairly reliable hearsay of Robert Peston</a>, in Whitehall too.&nbsp;<span>If Controlled Brexit is pursued, the withdrawal treaty will provide that the UK leaves the EU, meaning the UK will no longer elect members of the EU parliament or appoint EU commissioners and will cease to participate in some of the other political institutions of the EU. The withdrawal treaty may also seek to address one or two other priorities, but the general principle is to ensure that the UK respects the referendum by actually leaving the EU expeditiously and simply. A Controlled Brexit withdrawal treaty will provide that apart from leaving the EU and its political institutions, in every other respect the two EU treaties (the TEU and TFEU), European Law, UK contributions to the EU budget, and all forms of cooperation with the EU and by the EU continue until such time as any further treaties are agreed. Having thus achieved a swift and simple form of departure from the EU, it would then be left to Parliament to consider how much farther to go. Parliament would be able, in appropriate timescales, to consider the ramifications of opting out of each element of EU membership; to prepare a transition programme; and for the executive to thereafter negotiate alternatives with the EU (whether as a series of discrete negotiations or in one further big-bang treaty). &nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">any changes to the UK and its relationship with the EU will not simply come out of the blue at the whim of the executive or the vicissitudes of the negotiating table</p><p dir="ltr">There are manifold benefits of this approach. Rather than the UK being confronted with the abrupt chaos of having to desperately negotiate hundreds of international treaties and free trade agreements; Controlled Brexit allows for the gradual dismantling of integration with the EU. This allows us to avoid&nbsp;<span>being forced to review and amend thousands of pieces of domestic legislation; to replace the common agricultural policy; replace the common fisheries policy; replace science funding; replacing the European Court of Justice; enduring decades of litigation.</span><span>&nbsp;It provides foreseeability and stability to the changes: any changes to the UK and its relationship with the EU will not simply come out of the blue at the whim of the executive or the vicissitudes of the negotiating table. Controlled Brexit ensures that the UK can cope with the whole process: changes will take place at a manageable pace according to the resources available. It minimises the risks of unruliness and economic shock consequent upon leaving the EU.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Controlled Brexit represents the most realistic means of ensuring Brexit actually occurs, since it is simple enough to be achievable. It thereby ensures respect for the referendum vote, but does not encourage an opportunistic ideological grab at more than is mandated by the simple instruction to leave the EU. &nbsp;At the same time it keeps open the democratic opportunity for debate and for a sovereign decision as to whether ultimately our break with the EU is a radical or conservative one. It avoids what will, given the scale and complexity of the task of leaving, otherwise be a process of replacing Parliamentary sovereignty by executive- led bureaucracy. </p><p>It is a process that may appeal to the EU and its member states, not least because it minimises the shock of Brexit to the EU. For example it ensures continued UK contributions to EU budgets for the meantime so that the EU too can plan in a controlled way for major changes to its functioning. Of course, even this proposal will be difficult, uncertain and dependent on the agreement of the EU and its member states, but that is true of any form of withdrawal process. The UK will lose much of its influence over the making of EU policy, but that is also inevitable in any form of Brexit. It is the smallest price that can be paid to achieve the outcome the country chose.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Alex Goodman Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:36:49 +0000 Alex Goodman 105012 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The war on cash https://www.opendemocracy.net/brett-scott/war-on-cash <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Banks,&nbsp;governments and fintech evangelists all hail a 'cashless future' as both inevitable and good. But this isn't a frictionless utopia; it means that banks mediate our lives to an ever-greater extent.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/PA-21238753.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Apple Pay has become a popular cashless payment service. Photo: Jordan Strauss / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserve"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562227/PA-21238753.jpg" alt="Apple Pay has become a popular cashless payment service. Photo: Jordan Strauss / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserve" title="Apple Pay has become a popular cashless payment service. Photo: Jordan Strauss / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserve" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Apple Pay has become a popular cashless payment service. Photo: Jordan Strauss / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved</span></span></span>Several months ago I stayed in an offbeat Amsterdam hotel that brewed its own beer but refused to accept cash for it. Instead, they forced me to use the Visa payment card network to get my UK bank to transfer €4 to their Dutch bank via the elaborate international&nbsp;<a href="http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/correspondent-bank.asp">correspondent banking system</a>.<span>&nbsp;</span><span>I was there with civil liberties campaigner&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.tni.org/en/bio/ben-hayes">Ben Hayes</a><span>. We were irritated by the anti-cash policy, something the hotel staff took for annoyance at the international payments charges we'd face. That wasn't it though. Our concern was an intuitive one about a potential future world in which we'd have to report our every economic move to a bank, and the effect this could have on marginalised people.</span></p> <p>'Cashless society' is a euphemism for the "ask-your-banks-for-permission-to-pay society". Rather than an exchange occurring directly between the hotel and me, it takes the form of a "have your people talk to my people" affair. Various intermediaries message one another to arrange an exchange between our respective banks. That may be a convenient option, but in a cashless society it would no longer be an option at all. You'd have no choice but to conform to the intermediaries' automated bureaucracy, giving them a lot of power, and a lot of data about the microtexture of your economic life</p> <p>Our concerns are unfashionable. Without any explicit declaration, the 'war on cash' has begun. Proponents of digital payment systems are riding upon technology-friendly times to proclaim the imminent Death of Cash.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/04/sweden-cashless-society-cards-phone-apps-leading-europe">Sweden leads</a>&nbsp;in the drive to reach this state, but the UK is edging that way too. London buses&nbsp;<a href="https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/buses/cash-free-buses">stopped accepting cash</a>&nbsp;in 2014, but do accept MasterCard and Visa contactless payment cards.</p><p><span>Every cash transaction you make is one that a payments intermediary like Visa takes no fee from, so it has an interest in making cash appear redundant, deviant and criminal. That's why, in 2016, Visa Europe launched its&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.visa.co.uk/newsroom/cash-free-and-proud-video-female-22806?returnUrl=%2Fnewsroom%2Flisting.aspx">"Cashfree and Proud" campaign</a><span>, to inform cardholders that "they can make a Visa contactless payment with confidence and feel liberated from the need to carry cash."&nbsp;</span><span>The company's&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.visa.co.uk/newsroom/visa-europe-launches-cashfree-and-proud-campaign-1386958?returnUrl=%2fnewsroom%2fcash-free-and-proud-video-female-22806.aspx">press&nbsp;release</a><span>&nbsp;declared the campaign&nbsp;"the latest step of Visa UK’s long term strategy to make cash 'peculiar'&nbsp;by 2020."</span></p> <p>There you have it: an orchestrated strategy to make us feel weird about cash. Propaganda is a key weapon of war, and all sides present themselves as liberators. Visa comes across like a paternalistic commander when assuring us that we – like a baby taking first steps – will feel a sense of achievement at liberating ourselves from the burden of cash dependence. Visa's technology offers freedom without dependence or dangers.</p><p>Visa is joined by other propagandists. In 2014&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pennyforlondon.com/">Penny for London</a>&nbsp;arrived, an apparently altruistic group set up by the mayor's Fund for London and Barclaycard, using charity as a hook to switch people to contactless cards on the London Underground. PayPal plastered cities with billboards claiming that "new money doesn't need a wallet", along with a video proclaiming: "New money isn't paper, it's progress". Astroturfing campaigns like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nocashday.org/">No Cash Day</a>&nbsp;are backed by American Express, highlighting such anti-cash themes as the environmental impact of banknotes. Other tactics include pointing out that criminals use cash, that it fuels the shadow economy, that it's unsafe, and that it facilitates tax evasion.</p> <p>These arguments have notable shortcomings. Criminals use many things that we keep – like cars – and fighting crime doesn't take priority over maintaining other social goods like civil liberties. The 'shadow economy' is a derogatory term used by elites to describe the economic activities of people they neither understand nor care about. As for safety, having your wallet cash stolen pales in comparison to having your savings obliterated in a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34654400">digital account hack</a>. And if you care about tax justice, start with the mass corporate tax avoidance facilitated by the formal banking sector.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Criminals use many things that we keep – like cars – and fighting crime doesn't take priority over maintaining other social goods like civil liberties.</p> <p>The peculiar feature about this war, however, is that only one side is fighting. Very few media champions defend cash. It is like a taken-for-granted public utility, whereas digital payments platforms are run by private companies with an incentive to flood the media with their key messages. When they fight this war, their target is our cultural belief in cash, and the belief that its provision should be a public right.</p> <p>The UK government does not plan to maintain that right, and is siding with the payments industry. Their position is summed up by economist Kenneth Rogoff in his new book&nbsp;<a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10798.html">The Curse of Cash</a>. He argues that, apart from facilitating crime and tax evasion, cash hampers central banks from setting negative interest rates. In the absence of cash, everyone must keep their money in the form of digital bank deposits. During recessions central banks could then use the banking system to deliberately corrode people's deposits via negative charges, 'inspiring' them to spend rather than hoard.</p> <p>The emergent consensus among economic and political elites is that this is the direction to go in, but to manufacture consent for this requires a drip-drip erosion of public resistance. Hearts and minds must be shown that the change represents inevitable and desirable progress.&nbsp;<span>Anyone defending cash in this context will be labelled as an anti-progress, reactionary, and nostalgic Luddite. That's why we must not defend cash. Rather, we should focus on pointing out that the Death of Cash means the Rise of Something Else. We are fighting a broader battle to maintain alternatives to the growing digital panopticon that is emerging all around us.</span></p><p>To understand this conflict, we must step back. A monetary transaction involves specific goods or services being exchanged for tokens giving access to general goods and services from others. The pub landlord hands me beer at night if I transfer tokens that allow him to get cigarettes from a shopkeeper in the morning.&nbsp;<span>There are two ways to implement this though.&nbsp;</span><span>The first is to give the tokens a physical form. In this scenario, 'getting rich' means accumulating those physical things and 'making a payment' means handing them over to someone else. They are&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bearer_instrument">bearer instruments</a><span>, which means nobody keeps a record of who owns them. Rather, whoever holds them owns them. This is your wallet with notes in it. This is cash.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Alternatively, you can use a ledger. Someone sets up a database with spaces allotted to different people. This is then used to keep a record of who has tokens. These tokens have no physical form, but are written into existence. They are 'data objects', and they are 'moved around' by editing the record. The keeper of the ledger thus maintains an account of what money is attributable to you, 'keeping score' of it for you. In this system, 'getting rich' means accumulating a high score on your account. 'Making a payment' involves identifying yourself to the keeper of the ledger via a communications system, and requesting that they edit your account, and the account of whoever you are paying.&nbsp;Does this sounds familiar? It is your bank account.</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">Over 90 per cent of the UK's money supply exists nowhere but on bank databases.</span></p><p>Old banks used actual books to maintain these account ledgers, but modern banks use digital databases housed in huge datacentres. You then interact with them via your internet banking portal, your phone app, or by going into a branch. This is not a minor part of the monetary system. Over 90 per cent of the UK's money supply exists nowhere but on bank databases. I<span>t is upon this underlying infrastructure that payment card companies like Visa build their operations. They deal with situations in which someone with one bank account finds themselves in a shop owned by someone else with another bank account. Rather than the pub landlord giving me his bank details for a manual transfer, my card sends messages through Visa's network to automatically arrange the editing of our respective accounts.&nbsp;</span><span>Many fintech – financial technology – startups specialise in finding ways to augment, gamify or streamline elements of this underlying infrastructure. Thus, I might use a mobile phone fingerprint reader to authorise changes to the bank databases. Much fintech 'disruption' merely involves putting slicker clothes on the same old emperor.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The use of high-speed communications systems to rearrange binary code information about who has what money might be new, but ledger money is as old as any bearer form. The&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rai_stones">Rai stones of the island of Yap</a>&nbsp;were huge and largely unmovable stones that, while seeming like physical tokens, were a form of ledger money. Rather than being physically moved – like cash would – a record of who owned the stones was kept in people's heads, stored in their communal memory. If the owners wished to 'transfer' a stone to another, they 'edited the ledger' of who possessed the tokens by merely informing the community. Why physically roll the stone if you can just get everyone to remember that it has 'moved' to somebody else? The main reason that we struggle to recognise this as a form of cashlessness is that the ledger is invisible and informal.</p> <p>Cashless society, though, is presented as futuristic progress rather than past history, a fashionable motif of futurists, entrepreneurs and innovation gurus. Nevertheless, while there are real trends in behaviour and tastes to be spotted in society, there are also trends in behaviour and taste among trend-spotters. They are paid to fixate upon change and so have an incentive to hype minor shifts into 'end of history' deaths, births and revolutions. Innovation communities are always at risk of losing touch within an echo chamber of buzzwords, amplifying one another's speculations into concrete future certainties. These prediction factories always produce the same two unprovable sentences: "In the future we will… " and "In the future we will no longer… ". Thus, in the future we will all use digital payments. In the future we will no longer use cash.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Cashless society is presented as futuristic progress rather than past history</p><p><span>This is the utopia presented by the growing digital payments industry, which wishes to turn the perpetual mirage of cashless society into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indeed, a key trick to promoting your interests is to speak of them as obvious inevitabilities that are already under way. It makes others feel silly for not recognising the apparently obvious change.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>To create a trend you should also present it as something that other people demand. A sentence like "All over the world, people are switching to digital payments" is not there to describe what other people want. It's there to tell you what you should want by making you feel out of sync with them. Here's fintech investor Rich Ricci&nbsp;<a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/barclays-rich-ricci-says-fintech-is-fundamental-shift-2016-5">invoking the spectre of millennials</a>, with their strange moral power to define the future. They are repulsed by the revolting physicality of cash, and feel all warm towards fintech gadgets. But these are not, on the whole,&nbsp;real people. They are a weapon in the arsenal of marketing departments used to make older people feel prehistoric. We're not pushing this. We're just responding to what the new generation demands.</p> <p>And so we get Visa's Cashfree and Proud campaign. If people really were ashamed of cash, they wouldn't need ads to tell them. Visa must engineer that shame to teach you that what you want is the same as what they want. And if you don't want it, just remember that cashless society is inevitable. Don't get left behind.&nbsp;<span>But this system will leave many behind. It is hardwired to include only those with access to a bank account; and bank accounts are hosted by profit-seeking corporations that operate at scale. They have no time for your individual idiosyncrasies. They cannot make profit off anyone who cannot easily be categorised and modelled on a spreadsheet.</span></p><p>&nbsp;<span>o, good luck to you if you find yourself with only sporadic appearances in the official books of state, if you are a rural migrant without a recorded birthdate, identifiable parents, or an ID number. Sorry if you lack markers of stability, if you are a rogue traveller without permanent address, phone number or email. Apologies if you have no symbols of status, if you're an informal economy hustler with no assets and low, inconsistent income. Condolences if you have no official stamps of approval from gatekeeper bodies, like university certificates or records of employment at a formal company. Goodbye if you have a poor record of engagements with recognised institutions, like a criminal record or a record of missed payments.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Apologies if you have no symbols of status, if you're an informal economy hustler with no assets and low, inconsistent income</p> <p>This is no small problem. The World Bank estimates that there are two billion adults without bank accounts, and even those who do have them still often rely upon the informal flexibility of cash for everyday transactions. These are people bearing indelible markers of being incompatible with formal institutional space. They are often too unprofitable for banks to justify the expense of setting them up with accounts. This is the shadow economy, invisible to our systems.</p> <p>The shadow economy is not just 'poor' people. It’s potentially anybody who hasn't internalised the correct state-corporate narrative of normality, and anyone seeking a lifestyle outside of the mainstream. The future presented by self-styled innovation gurus has no scope for flexible, unpredictable or invisible people. They represent analogue backwardness. The future is a world of endless consumer choice built upon an inescapable digital uniformity of automated rules, a matrix outside which you can neither exist nor think.</p> <p>Back in Amsterdam I hang out with&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ncilla">Ancilla van de Leest</a>&nbsp;of the Netherlands&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Party">Pirate Party</a>. She only visits establishments that accept cash, true to her political belief in individual privacy from prying eyes.&nbsp;<span>It would be wrong to assume, however, that Ancilla's primary concern involves surveillance by a Big Brother-style bogeyman. It's true that your spending patterns reveal much about how you actually live, and the privacy implications of having these recorded in searchable database format are only starting to be uncovered. We know that targeted&nbsp;</span><a href="http://business.time.com/2013/06/11/big-brother-is-watching-you-swipe-the-nsas-credit-card-data-grab/">individual surveillance of payments</a><span>&nbsp;occurs by the likes of the FBI and NSA, but routinised mass surveillance could become a norm. Imagine automatic flagging systems triggered by anyone engaging in a combination of transactions deemed subversive. Tax authorities are bound to be building systems to flag discrepancies between your spending patterns and your declared profits.</span></p> <p>It's also true that at London fintech gatherings the excited visions of cashless society now occasionally come with a disclaimer that we should think about the power granted to those who control the system. Not only can payments intermediaries see every time you buy access to a porn site, but they have the ability to censor your transactions, like Visa, PayPal and MasterCard attempting to&nbsp;<a href="https://wikileaks.org/Banking-Blockade.html">choke WikiLeaks</a>&nbsp;by refusing to process people's donations. We could imagine some harsh sci-fi scenario in which a theocratic regime issues decrees to payments processors to block anyone buying books deemed sexually deviant. Such decrees could be automatically enforced via code, with subroutines remotely triggering smart locks to place the offending miscreant under house arrest while automatically deducting a fine from their account.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">a dose of paranoia about digital payments systems is a healthy impulse</p><p>Such automated dystopias should ideally be avoided, so a dose of paranoia about digital payments systems is a healthy impulse, even if it might be unwarranted.&nbsp;<span>But that isn't really the point. What's more important to Ancilla and me is the looming sense of an external watcher that 'assists', 'guides' or 'helps' you in your life, tracking and logging your moves in order to influence you. The watcher is not a single entity. It's a collective array being incrementally built in stages by startups and companies around the world as we speak. We feel it seeping deeper into our lives, a mesh of connected devices,&nbsp;</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie#Tracking">cookies</a><span>&nbsp;and sensors. Whether we visualise it as the benevolent eyes of a parent, or the menacing eyes of a tyrant doesn't matter. The point is that the eyes have the potential to monitor you, all the time.</span></p> <p>The proclaimed Death of Cash is thus an episode in the broader drama that is the Death of Privacy, the death of breathing room, and the death of informal, non-measured, unaccounted-for behaviour. Every action you take must forever be attached to your digital persona, dragging with it a data trail extending back to the day you were born. We face creating an entire generation of people who do not know what it feels like to not be monitored.&nbsp;<span>For many economists, the war on cash will be resolved by their favourite mystical demigod, the market. This guiding force prevails when utility-maximising producers and consumers go around making rational choices with perfect information about their options, and with total freedom to choose whether or not to exercise those options. If digital payment transaction costs are lower, then cash will rightly die.</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The pristine realm of market theory is unfit to assess the dynamics of this situation.</span></p> <p>The pristine realm of market theory is unfit to assess the dynamics of this situation. Our sense of what constitutes a legitimate choice does not form in a vacuum. We are born into social power structures that tell us what normality is, and that shame us for not choosing 'correctly'. You might be a rebel who challenges prevailing cultural norms, but those norms are conditioned by those with the greatest financial and media clout. At this moment the blaring of propaganda extolling the short-term conveniences of digital payment is dulling our critical impulses to rearrange our cultural DNA. Who is thinking about the longer-term implications of building our lives around these systems, and thereby locking ourselves into dependence upon them?</p><p>Unlike a battle fought using violence,&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony">hegemony</a>&nbsp;is the assertion of power by getting people to believe in it, to see it as inevitable, unassailable and normal. Visa's four-year plan is one such exercise, and once we've internalised it, we'll choose to build their power. We'll feel strangely comforted by the MasterCard billboard endorsed by the mayor of London. We'll find ourselves downloading ApplePay like a dazed child accepting a gift.</p> <p>So, let's prepare for the war on cash. Remember, this is not about romanticising the £10 notes with the Queen on them. This is about maintaining alternatives to the stifling hygiene of the digital panopticon being constructed to serve the needs of profit-maximising, cost-minimising, customer-monitoring, control-seeking, behaviour-predicting commercial bureaucrats. And fear not,&nbsp;<a href="http://qz.com/262595/why-germans-pay-cash-for-almost-everything/?utm_source=qzfbarchive">the Germans</a>&nbsp;are onside, along with the criminals, the homeless, the street-side buskers and an army of people whose lives will never get a five-star rating on a mainstream reputation scoring system. We will forge alliances with purveyors of non-bank alternative currency systems; and yes, we will maintain the option to use our payment cards. Because what we fight for is precisely that. The option.</p><p>***</p><p>This article was first published on <a href="http://thelongandshort.org/society/war-on-cash">'The Long and Short'</a>, republished here under Creative Commons License 4.0.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openeconomy/peter-johnson/how-banks-make-money">How banks make money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/nozomi-hayase/bitcoin-innovation-of-money-and-evolution-of-governance">Bitcoin: innovation of money and evolution of governance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brett Scott Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:59:13 +0000 Brett Scott 105011 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is Europe's old order too big to fail? https://www.opendemocracy.net/jan-surotchak-and-thibault-muzergues/europe-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="p1">Are the two major party blocs that have dominated European politics since the immediate post-WWII period too big to fail? The evidence suggests not — so what are they going to do about it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><a style="line-height: 1.5; text-decoration: underline;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-banner%402x.png" alt="howDoParls-banner@2x.png" width="100%" /></a></p> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/PA-26413717.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: Ronald Zak/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/PA-26413717.jpg" alt="Credit: Ronald Zak/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Credit: Ronald Zak/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Election posters of Alexander Van der Bellen (right) and Norbert Hofer, two successful alternative candidates in Austria's presidential elections earlier in 2016. Credit: Ronald Zak/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For the past five decades, European politics has been characterised by a simple paradigm: alternating power between two large blocs. Usually, this includes a Christian-democratic centre-right group and a social-democratic centre-left one — with a substantially smaller liberal party often playing kingmaker between the two.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">The domination of continental politics by these two political families has been such that, in th<span style="line-height: 1.5;">e mid-2000s, it was very difficult for a party to imagine itself as a party-in-power if it did not belong to — and have the support of — one of the two major European political families.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">They were the European People’s Party (christian democrats) and the Party of European Socialists (which, despite the term, has been essentially social-democratic since at least the mid-1980s, with some member parties having already rejected Marxism as early as the 1950s and 1960s).&nbsp;<br /><span style="color: #666666; font-size: 22px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 28.6px; text-align: center;"><span class="mag-quote-right">Conventional wisdom has always assumed that these two major party blocs, which have dominated European politics since the post-World War II period, are too big to fail.&nbsp;</span><br /></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Conventional wisdom has always assumed that these two major party blocs, which have dominated European politics since the post-World War II period, are too big to fail.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">Statistics comparing their performance over time suggests that they are not.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the 1976 </span><em>Bundestag</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> elections in the Federal Republic of Germany, the two major parties —the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD — together took 91% of the vote. By 2013, this total had fallen to 67%.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">In Austria in 1956, the total for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) was 89%; by 2013, their combined total was just over 50%. In the United Kingdom, the combined total of 96% for the Conservatives and Labour in 1955 fell to 67% by 2015.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">And even in famously fractious Italy, the 1976 elections gave the (evolutionary, not anti-establishment) Italian Communist Party, the Italian Socialist Party and Christian Democracy over 82% of the vote; today it’s hard even to find these parties on the spectrum, but their successors take only just over 50%.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Clearly these numbers suggest a trend, but what’s really going on here? And what implications can we draw for the future of political party work in Europe?</p> <h2>A challenge to the Washington consensus</h2> <p class="p2">Since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis, voter disaffection and social difficulties across the continent have ushered in an atomisation of political life to the detriment of the classic, umbrella parties of both the centre-right and centre-left.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Spain’s recent election results are a perfect illustration of this trend.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Since the first post-Franco democratic election in 1977, Spain’s political scene had been dominated by a large centre-right and a large centre-left grouping. That all began to fall apart in 2015 with the emergence of two strong new parties on the spectrum: Podemos on the left and Ciudadanos on the centre-right.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Here, as elsewhere, these new players challenge the old paradigm, which even in its most competitive periods was essentially a highly consensual deal between centre-left and centre-right.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">As the cultural and economic institutions that provided them with ideological and institutional infrastructure — the church for the centre-right and the trade union movement for the social democrats — decline across Europe, identification on both sides becomes less clear.&nbsp;<br /><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class="mag-quote-left">The ‘challengers’ are certainly not homogenous in their ideological views, apart from their mutual hatred of the present liberal system.&nbsp;</span><br /></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It now seems that in the future we will no longer see systems in which two party blocs committed to opposite but equivalent sides of the ‘social market economy’ debate are the major players.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">Systems might rather be dominated on one side by a classical-to-social-liberal core and emerging anti-establishment movements that challenge the old order on the other.</p> <p class="p2">The ‘challengers’ are certainly not homogenous in their ideological views, apart from their mutual hatred of the present liberal system.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">One could perfectly well argue that very few things link the pro-asylum, pro-regionalist and economically neo-Marxist Podemos in Spain with the largely anti-immigration, anti-Islam and sovereigntist Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, or the ever-shape-shifting Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, or the star-quality, omni-issue Five Star Movement in Italy.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">But scratching the surface, it is not that difficult to find common ground among such groups: most challenge the Washington consensus of free trade and <em>laissez-faire</em> economics and call for more state intervention, whether direct or indirect, in the economic sphere.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">They also tend to portray their objectives as restoring an Eden-like order, usually historically located between the 1960s and the 1980s in Western Europe – more often the 1920s in Central Europe, before the original sin of globalisation supposedly wrecked their hopes for a better future, be that sovereign or a socialist-internationalist one.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">Finally, almost all of these parties and groups favour a re-appraisal of foreign policy, usually away from a close-knit alliance with America to a pivot towards the East — whether in a balance of power between Washington and Moscow, or in an outright alliance with “Eastern” powers, which are portrayed as a model for development.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Europe’s new anti-establishment family&nbsp;</h2><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/Open_the_Door_to_Transparency-_-StopTTIP_-_15543248792.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="MEPs demand transparency in TTIP negotiations, 2014. Credit: Flickr/greensefa. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/Open_the_Door_to_Transparency-_-StopTTIP_-_15543248792.jpg" alt="MEPs demand transparency in TTIP negotiations, 2014. Credit: Flickr/greensefa. Some rights reserved" title="MEPs demand transparency in TTIP negotiations, 2014. Credit: Flickr/greensefa. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Is the old order too big to fail? MEPs demand transparency in TTIP negotiations, 2014. Credit: Flickr/greensefa. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Although this latter viewpoint is usually a minor part of the challenging parties’ platforms, and certainly a minor point in their appeal, it is surely one that should raise concerns in US foreign policy circles — although experience with trouble-makers like De Gaulle and Mitterrand in the past have shown that foreign policy is more of a rhetorical tool for challengers to come to power.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">Once they take office, a smart foreign policy allows the pivot to be limited, if not disregarded outright. The mention of both De Gaulle and Mitterrand should also reassure the reader: this is not the first time we are seeing the emergence of a family of anti-establishment actors in European politics.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">The difference this time is that they are now more integrated with each other and can share best practices to find their way to power.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Many of them, having performed particularly well in elections to the European Parliament, are gathered in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The concepts of left and right as defined by social and Christian democracy are greatly weakened.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">The question therefore seems to be whether we are witnessing a fundamental threat to modern, liberal-democratic institutions — which, in some cases is certainly the case — or a not-so-harmful shift in the notions of left and right with a re-politicisation of so-far relatively consensual policy solutions among elites, particularly on issues such as immigration, the European Union or the role of the state in the economy.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">In both cases, however, the concepts of left and right as defined by social and Christian democracy are greatly weakened.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">In the ‘new’ democracies of Central and Southeastern Europe, democratic political parties had really only begun to find their own footing when the seismic shifts going on elsewhere reached their countries.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">The salad days of political party formation in this region in the 1990s and early 2000s seemed to indicate that the two-bloc system would dominate (after a period in which universal anti-communist movements segmented themselves along more traditional right-left lines).&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">In the Czech Republic, the Civic Democratic Party and the Czech Social Democratic Party were the major players, just as in Hungary Fidesz and the Hungarian Socialist Party almost fully covered the centre-right and centre-left, respectively.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Today a range of non-orthodox, anti-establishment parties have emerged in all the countries of the region, some with very dark, racist and fascist roots.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">As examples, it is easy to identify Jobbik in Hungary or the People’s Party/Our Slovakia in the Slovak Republic, where hopes of building a strong, Christian-democratic centre-right have all but collapsed, despite an excellent record of governance in the 2000s.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">These parties and others have put significant pressure on the more moderate parties that German, American, British and other democracy-assistance providers sought to help build more-or-less in their own image.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">They have also, in some cases, pulled the more centrist parties toward one pole or another, as in Hungary, where Fidesz must constantly calibrate policy to the right in order to preclude greater leakage to Jobbik, which is now the country’s main opposition party.</p> <h2>Surviving the populist wave<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></h2> <p class="p2">Much of the future evolution across the continent will depend on the capacity of European systems to answer the challenges posed the ‘populists’, or in some cases to co-opt the less extremist elements of the challengers’ appeal to reinforce the system.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">When it comes to answering the challenge, established parties are now faced with the need to fundamentally transform themselves in order to survive, both ideologically by redefining and re-politicising what had so far been technical issues, and institutionally by lightening their operations and making their structures more manoeuvrable.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">In some other cases, survival will also depend on the capacity of the existing structures to absorb the challengers by giving them a stake in the system.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">This tactic of co-opting the more radical elements is nothing new — in the late 1990s, then centre-right ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel in Austria refused a grand coalition with the Social Democrats to rule in partnership with Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), thereby making the challengers face their responsibility (which they were ultimately unable to do).&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">In the early 1980s, Francois Mitterrand invited unreformed communists to hold ministerial powers in his new Socialist government – a move which in the middle of the Cold War certainly raised a few eyebrows in Bonn and Washington, but in the end managed to tame the French Communist Party and started the assimilation of its Eurocommunist elements into the mainstream while isolating the real anti-establishment individuals from the majority.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="p2"><span class="mag-quote-center">Survival will also depend on the capacity of the existing structures to absorb the challengers by giving them a stake in the system.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">Other examples abound, from Christian Democracy’s deal of power-sharing with the communists in Italy in the post-war period and ill-fated rapprochement in the 1970s, to the story of the French Third Republic, still the longest serving regime in France in the last 200 years, which rested on the assimilation of radical elements to its core – to such an extent that the original Radical Party of the 1870s was the most conservative centrist party of the late Republic.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">This strategy is not without its own challenges and requires particularly leadership skills, as there is an inherent risk that once associated to power, the ‘populists’ might use it to overtake their liberal rival in order to kill the established order.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p2">But it is also one that confirms the idea that historical parties now need to think outside of the box if they are to survive — for the old conundrum of social versus Christian Democracy is no longer relevant to today’s Europe. Recognising this shift and adapting to the new realities (with or without rebranding) will be the only way in which Europe’s institutional parties can survive the current wave of populism that threatens to flood them.</p><div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.wfd.org/">Westminster Foundation for Democracy</a>, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.</span></div><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="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-sideBar%402x.png" alt="howDoParls-sideBar@2x.png" width="140" /></a></p> <div><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster/devin-oshaughnessy/why-parties-play-vital-role-in-parliamentary-strengthening">Political parties are motors of democracy. We must help them with a diversity of approaches</a></div> <hr /><p> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster/fighting-corruption-what-should-political-parties-do">Fighting corruption: What should political parties do?</a></p> <hr /> <div><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster/andrea-mammone/european-democracies-and-far-right">Does calling far-right parties 'populist' legitimise them?</a></div> </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="/can-europe-make-it/alessio-colonnelli/five-star-movement-italys-populist-progressives">Five Star Movement: Italy&#039;s populist progressives?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/marta-lobato/back-to-basics-why-podemos-lost-support-in-last-spanish-election">Back to basics: why Podemos lost support in the last Spanish election</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jean-de-munck/dilemma-of-european-left">The dilemma of the European Left</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-pikulicka-wilczewska/to-confront-polarisation-one-must-look-into-abyss">To confront polarisation one must look into the abyss</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> westminster Thibault Muzergues Jan Surotchak Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:39:08 +0000 Thibault Muzergues and Jan Surotchak 105008 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A flashpoint in South Asia? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openindia/l-k-sharma/flashpoint-in-south-asia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“You question India’s territorial integrity, I will question Pakistan’s. You interfere in our internal affairs, we will interfere in yours.” </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26055209_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26055209_2.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>April 2016.Pakistan's Army Chief General addresses a seminar on 'Prospects of Peace And Prosperity In Balochistan.'Anjum Naveed/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Pakistan and India are engaged in a war of words at the highest level. Unusually provocative statements have been made by the two Prime Ministers. The area of contest and conflict has been widened. The TV channels in the two countries beat the war drums every night.</p> <p>Pakistan queered the pitch when it saw India failing to deal with the Kashmiris protesting against the killing of a terrorist. Pakistan’s Prime Minister dedicated his nation’s Independence Day to Kashmir’s freedom from India! Provoked, India stooped to Pakistan’s level, engaging in a tit-for-tat game. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could hardly allow himself to be seen as a wimp. He made references to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, to some other Pakistani territories and to the human rights violations in Balochistan. </p> <p>A dignified silence was not an option for the Indian Prime Minister. Not when a wave of hyper-nationalism has been set off by his party and its extended political family. By referring to Balochistan, Prime Minister Modi signalled: You question India’s territorial integrity, I will question Pakistan’s. You interfere in our internal affairs, we will interfere in yours. </p> <p>Modi’s fans were elated. They saw it as a fitting riposte to Pakistan! The ruling BJP saw aggressive patriotism fetching it more votes in the coming state-level elections. The jingoistic utterances by the ruling party leaders and by the TV channels energise the BJP support base: &nbsp;but these make the restoration of normalcy in the troubled Kashmir a bit more difficult.</p> <p>Pakistan feels encouraged to provoke New Delhi because of its close ties with China and its successful use of Islamic terrorism against India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It sees an opportunity in the upsurge of sectarian sentiments in India. Will Pakistan be deterred from organising more terror strikes in Kashmir as a result of the Indian Prime Minister opening the Balochitsan front? This remains to be seen.</p> <p>For different reasons, India’s new approach also touches India’s ties with China, Iran and Afghanistan. China has stakes in Balochistan because of the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Iran and Afghanistan have problems with the vision of a Great Balochistan.</p> <p>The world always made a distinction between India and Pakistan, even though because of the Cold War, India’s moral standing or its democratic credentials did not earn India any bonus. India’s new pragmatic foreign policy practitioners may argue that morality does not pay. In one more sphere, India now mirrors Pakistan.</p> <p>The Modi Government’s capacity to make peace overtures to Pakistan as also its ability to deal with the separatists in Kashmir are at a low point. Both have been constricted by the outbreak of hyper-nationalism in India. Domestic politics should not influence the conduct of foreign policy but it does.</p> <p>There is a concerted campaign to fuel jingoism in India as a winning political strategy. The vigilante groups intimidate the “anti-national elements”. Those discussing Rabindranath Tagore’s criticism of nationalism are called unpatriotic intellectuals. </p><h2> </h2><h2><strong>A fashion for aggressive patriotism</strong></h2> <p>Displaying aggressive patriotism has become fashionable. Those who consider it disgusting hesitate to express their views lest they get abused on the road. Some vigilante groups have ruled what is nationalism and they track those not following their diktat. A visiting foreign correspondent would get the impression that two rival tribes inhabit India, the nationalists and the anti-nationals.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Some political outfits in India, flaunting aggressive patriotism, have been opposing visits by Pakistani musicians, singers and film actors. India’s public diplomacy campaign is not helped when its defence minister calls Pakistan, “Hell”. </p> <p>When a former woman MP on her return from Pakistan says Pakistan is no Hell, a “patriotic” person filed a sedition case against her! The ideological followers of the Indian Prime Minister routinely ask his critics to migrate to Pakistan. Vigilante groups intimidate the “anti-nationals” with impunity.</p> <p>Taking a cue from the Prime Minister, Indian TV channels suddenly discovered the Pakistani territory called Balochistan. They began showing Al Jazeera’s archival footage of the Pakistani forces committing atrocities against the civilians there. One TV channel blatantly boasts of its “patriotic coverage” and attacks the rivals for the lack of it. Every channel carries interviews with the exiled Baloch separatist leaders who express their gratitude to Modi. </p> <p>Some critics call Modi’s Pakistan policy inconsistent. This was the same Modi who had invited the Pakistani Prime Minister to his inauguration. He let a Pakistani team visit the sensitive Pathankot air base that was attacked by Pakistani terrorists. Also, in a surprise move, Modi joined the Pakistani Prime Minister at his home in celebrating a family function. </p> <p>After this fruitless endeavour to be seen in South Asia as an emerging statesman, Modi returned to his default position. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he had won a state election by deriding “Mia Musharraf” of Pakistan. He had relentlessly attacked the weak-kneed Manmohan Singh Government.</p> <p>India’s “muscular” response may or may not restrain the official Pakistan; it will adversely affect the way Pakistanis see India. That the good will they harbour towards Indians does not influence Pakistan’s official policy is another matter. The state has always used Islamic terrorism to harm India by a thousand cuts and yet wars and war-mongering by Pakistan failed to vitiate the people-to-people relations. </p> <p>Every Pakistani visiting India and every Indian visiting Pakistan would testify to a reservoir of mutual good will. Despite Pakistani military dictators orienting their nation towards the Islam of the Arabic nations, the people of Pakistan continue to cherish their South Asian ethos. India must not lose an advantage in the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of a neighbouring country.</p> <p>&nbsp;The Pakistani rulers through their history text-books have tried for years to alienate the young from India and fuel anti-India sentiments. This process will now be helped by the aggressive rhetoric coming from India’s political leaders. </p> <h2><strong>Early consequences</strong></h2> <p>New Delhi’s new approach has already led to some consequences. The Balochi dissidents living in Pakistan face increased violence from the Pakistani forces. Pakistan says that Modi’s statement proved that India was creating trouble in Balochistan.</p> <p>How will the Indian Prime Minister follow up the Balochistan issue? Opposing the separatists in Kashmir and supporting them in Balochistan will be a complex exercise. </p> <p>Modi has raised the expectations of the Baloch freedom-fighters. The Baloch exiles, who thank Modi from Europe and America, have come to expect more than just statements. Their gratitude will last as long as the war of words between India and Pakistan continues. The Baloch freedom-fighters have for decades seen the powerful nations using or misusing the issue of “human rights violations”.</p> <p>If the Indo-Pak equation happens to improve, where will it leave Balochistan? How will the Baloch leaders, persecuted by Pakistan, feel if Modi were to stop making statements on their plight? Some of them may then be reminded of the phrase “thrown to the wolves”.</p> <p>Modi’s activism will partly depend on the signals from a US that has always overlooked the human rights violations in Balochistan and the killing of eminent opposition leaders in Pakistan. Is America, in its own national interests, ready to make a departure in this regard? China’s role in Pakistan and specifically in Balochistan is another factor being examined by the foreign policy experts.</p> <p>Normally, such a significant, though symbolic, change in India’s stance would have sparked a vigorous debate. In the current atmosphere, an Indian diplomat is unlikely to give a frank opinion in official meetings. This makes any rational discussion difficult. </p> <p>Some commentators did refer to India giving up its high moral ground etc. but the weak notes of dissent were drowned in the loud applauding noise emanating from the TV studios. The Opposition leaders do not wish to be called “pro-Pakistan”. In the present political scenario, public perception is influenced by fiction.</p> <h2><strong>Face-saving formulae</strong></h2> <p>India has in the past had a distinctive conflict-resolution policy. &nbsp;It ignored some provocations by Pakistan and carried on the path of development. Consequently, India emerged as a growing economic power. Now there is rethinking on that Pakistan policy, as past leaders have to be discredited.</p> <p>The current wave of hyper-nationalism has made a meaningful diplomatic engagement with Pakistan difficult. However, given the erratic nature of Indo-Pak relations, usually such spells do not last. At times, some wise counsel prevails in New Delhi and Islamabad. At times, a third powerful country forces the two sides to break the impasse. Pakistan may find it necessary to follow up its hostile rhetoric with friendly messages! </p> <p>Modi will then have to find a face-saving formula because he leads a democracy. Pakistan can take a U-turn without any risk. The Modi fans will have to justify the Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan for a South Asian summit, if that takes place. They will have to justify it should New Delhi invite the Pakistani Prime Minister to watch a cricket match in India!</p> <p>&nbsp;The Modi Government’s inconsistent Pakistan policy makes the dangerous rhetoric less credible. Had it not been so, foreign TV reporters would have rushed to this region once described as the most dangerous in the world. This has not happened because these two nuclear-armed nations are still not considered quite mad. </p> <p>In the crucial coming weeks, one will know whether a meaningful Indo-Pak dialogue will be resumed or new fronts of contest will be opened. Will war-mongering be followed by friendly gestures and invitations for talks? Perhaps the charade will go on because the alternative is too horrendous for the world. It looks like a flashpoint but then it may not be one!</p> <p>The world as well as Modi’s critics and fans at home will watch the impact of his audacious move to give a new twist to India’s Pakistan policy. If a nation abandons a foreign policy tempered with ethics, it must have the capacity to succeed in the world of realpolitik. The euphoric reaction being worked up in India to Modi’s muscular approach will last as long as the new policy shows some success.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> <div class="field-item even"> Pakistan </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"> 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> openIndia openIndia Pakistan India Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics L K Sharma Tue, 30 Aug 2016 11:11:13 +0000 L K Sharma 105006 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Opening up civic space requires creativity and careful navigation https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-hayman/opening-up-civic-space-requires-creativity-and-careful-navigation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Hayman.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>Even where civil society space is constrained, local organisations can create positive relationships with state and external actors. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/closing-space-for-civil-society" target="_blank">closing space for civil society</a>.&nbsp;<em><strong><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-hayman/per" target="_blank">Ру́сский</a>,&nbsp;</span><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-hayman" target="_blank">العربية</a></span></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">On 27 June the UN Human Rights Council adopted a <a href="http://ecnl.org/dindocuments/454_HRC%20resolution%20on%20civil%20society%20space.pdf" target="_blank">resolution</a> on protecting civil society space. This move is extremely welcome, particularly with the latest CIVICUS <a href="https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiYwsGespnOAhWmxYMKHTlhCC8QFggbMAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fcivicus.org%2Findex.php%2Fen%2Fmedia-centre-129%2Freports-and-publications%2Fsocs2015&amp;usg=AFQjCNF5oCk_CALQYEiASDjoAznUgXdMHQ" target="_blank">State of Civil Society Report</a> that again emphasises the growing threat to civic freedom worldwide. But my eye was immediately drawn to the list of voting countries that abstained or rejected the Resolution: Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria to name a few. They include countries where civil society is under pressure through restrictive regulations or other forms of repression, so the voting patterns may not seem surprising. </p><p dir="ltr">These are also countries where the credibility and sustainability of many civil society organisations (CSOs) that traditionally have been funded by external sources is in doubt. Shifting aid patterns are part of this, but as funding sources change other problems are exposed, including internal weaknesses and disconnection from communities and citizens. Other authors have made important points on the issue of civil society funding: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/edwin-rekosh/old-dogs-and-new-tricks-rethinking-human-rights-business-models" target="_blank">Edwin Rekosh</a> discusses alternative business models, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/jenny-hodgson/local-funding-is-not-just-option-anymore-it-s-imperative" target="_blank">Jenny Hodgson</a> talks about the imperative of local funding, while <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/hussein-baoumi/local-funding-is-not-always-answer" target="_blank">Hussein Baoumi</a> addresses the limitations of local philanthropy. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Many organisations have been ill prepared to cope with this serious moment of disruption. &nbsp;</span>Ultimately we are witnessing a confluence of factors affecting the sustainability of different aspects of civil society (its organisations, actors and actions) in different places in different ways. A group of scholars and practitioners explored this in a recent issue of <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cdip20/26/5" target="_blank">Development in Practice</a>. We find that many organisations—at local, national and international levels—have been ill prepared to cope with this serious moment of disruption. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">However, the list of abstentions and rejections includes countries where INTRAC has been working with local CSOs—with funding from external actors—to improve their practices and advance their missions. This has often involved working with government officials at sub-national levels. Does this mean that civic space in these places is not as closed as we might think?</p><p dir="ltr">Take Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where we have managed to get local government officials involved in joint research and reflection on social and economic issues with representatives of local NGOs. This work often touches closely on governance questions, but it is done in ways and within spaces that can produce mutual respect and trust. For example, between 2012 and 2015, we helped CSOs in four cities across southern Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to carry out <a href="http://www.intrac.org/pages/en/more-on-our-work-in-central-asia.html" target="_blank">research and initiatives on youth employment</a>, identified as a root cause of conflict in the Fergana Valley. Local officials participated in a Community of Practice (i.e., a group of people who share a profession or craft) throughout the project. Over 2015-16 we supported local trainers to build capacity of civil society actors in poorer areas of Kyrgyzstan. Officials took part in events and showed a genuine interest in the roles that civil society can play in these regions, including giving funds and political support to new social enterprises set up within the project. We always work with facilitators and consultants who are local, but these initiatives are funded by external actors.</p><p dir="ltr">Ethiopia is another example, where the <a href="http://cssp-et.org/" target="_blank">Civil Society Support Programme</a>—funded by a number of external donor agencies and involving international consultants and trainers—has provided small grants and capacity development initiatives to over 500 local organisations. The programme found that emphasising support for “hard to reach populations” provided a common focus and language that government representatives and CSOs could agree on. There are signs that this has helped build trust and led to more positive collaboration between government and CSOs. In Kenya, the Kenyan Community Development Fund and other national organisations have been identifying ways to strengthen civil society from within, while improving relationships with decentralised authorities and the private sector. In Nigeria, the State Accountability &amp; Voice Initiative (<a href="http://www.intrac.org/blog.php/84/social-justice-leadership-and-civil-society-the-nigerian-example" target="_blank">SAVI) programme</a> used political economy approaches to identify issues that might have traction with a variety of stakeholders, and then helped CSOs to engage with the media and state level policy-makers on common agendas for change.</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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Hayman.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Flickr/United Nations Photo (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Women receive weaving training from an NGO in Addis Ababa. In Ethiopia, over 500 local groups have been supported through the provision of small grants and capacity development initiatives.</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">These initiatives are often small-scale and might not appear to have immediate or widespread impact in the grand scheme of global issues. They aren’t revolutionary, overtly disrupting or threatening entrenched political elites and systems. They are often based on well-established capacity-building approaches. They are essentially about organisations having agency to <a href="http://intrac.org/data/files/resources/874/ONTRAC-60-FindingAspace-to-manoeuvre-local-and-national-CSOs-in-complex-and-politically-charged-contexts-September-2015.pdf" target="_blank">find their own ways</a> to navigate space to bring about localised change. This is about prying open small spaces in which relationships of trust can be formed where lines between political, civil and private spaces are <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/araddhya-mehtta/are-we-being-innovative-in-protecting-civic-space" target="_blank">very blurred</a>. It is a long-term approach that contributes to social and civic awareness-raising, and to convincing people throughout society of the <a href="https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjVnL3k4pjOAhWJ5IMKHQk9DWEQFggdMAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fcivicus.org%2Findex.php%2Fen%2Fmedia-centre-129%2Freports-and-publications%2Fsocs2015&amp;usg=AFQjCNF5oCk_CALQYEiASDjoAznUgXdMHQ" target="_blank">value of civil society</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Our experience calls for more nuance in the debate on closing space. The recent conference of the <a href="http://www.istr.org/?StockholmConference" target="_blank">International Society for Third Sector Research</a> featured numerous panels, papers and round table debates on aspects of civil society space, including foreign funding, civil society sustainability and democracy interventions. Many presented new evidence on the all-too-familiar story of closing space. But there were also valuable contributions on the numerous places where civil society is “stretching” a space that evolves constantly and requests for more evidence from the ground about how organisations are coping in practice.</p><p dir="ltr">Head-on campaigns and global movements in defence of civil space are important, but tackling closing space head-on can also <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/hussein-baoumi/local-funding-is-not-always-answer" target="_blank">backfire for local activists</a> and <a href="http://www.intrac.org/data/files/resources/832/ONTRAC-59-The-role-of-INGOs-in-complex-and-politically-charged-contexts.pdf" target="_blank">human rights defenders</a>. There are creative ways that local organisations are building trust and navigating spaces in ways that work for them, including with foreign funding and external support. We need to bring this evidence to the fore and explore the options for scaling up initiatives that appear to work without destroying the fragile relationships between civil society and government, or the credibility of the CSOs involved. </p><p dir="ltr">Funders of civil society need to think much more creatively about how they support organisations in ways that enhance their long-term viability, credibility and sustainability, and help them to navigate the regulatory frameworks and political environments that surround them. Spaces that appear closed may still have cracks wide enough for civil society to make gains. Indeed, moments of disruption can also represent opportunities to do things differently going forward.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/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><aonmouseout="document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ClosingSpace_Inset_11.png'" onmouseover="document.Imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ClosingSpace_Inset_22.png'" target="_blank" href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/closing-space-for-civil-society"> <img alt="Closing space for civil society? – Read on" border="0" name="Imgs" width="140" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ClosingSpace_Inset_11.png" /></aonmouseout="document.imgs.src='http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/closingspace_inset_11.png'"></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/kendra-dupuy-james-ron-aseem-prakash/what-drives-crackdown-on-ngos-and-how-can-it-b">What drives the crackdown on NGOs, and how can it be stopped?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/annika-e-poppe-jonas-wolff/foreign-funding-restrictions-far-more-than-just-illegiti">Foreign funding restrictions: far more than just “an illegitimate excuse”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/ezra-mbogori/in-for-long-haul-creative-fight-for-space-in-kenya">In for the long haul: a creative fight for space in Kenya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/edwin-rekosh/old-dogs-and-new-tricks-rethinking-human-rights-business-models">Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/hussein-baoumi/local-funding-is-not-always-answer">Local funding is not always the answer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jenny-hodgson/local-funding-is-not-just-option-anymore-it-s-imperative">Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/orysia-lutsevych/civil-society-in-post-soviet-space-fighting-for-end-of-history">Civil society in the post-Soviet space: fighting for the “End of History” </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/araddhya-mehtta/are-we-being-innovative-in-protecting-civic-space">Are we being innovative in protecting civic space?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights Rachel Hayman Global Closing Space for Civil Society Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:30:00 +0000 Rachel Hayman 104998 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ossetians in Georgia, with their backs to the mountains https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/ossetians-in-georgia-with-their-backs-to-mountains <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the shadow of conflicts past and present, Ossetians and Georgians have found ways to coexist. Twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR, how do they fit into the post-Soviet story?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Tskhinvali 2009 - PA Sergey Ponomarev AP Press Association Images.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tskhinvali, South Ossetia: the anniversary of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is often a tense occasion. (c) Sergey Ponomarev / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></span><span>While some villagers in western Georgia&nbsp;<a href="http://dfwatch.net/stalin-monument-restored-in-georgia-58792-1492">restore statues to Stalin</a>, the people of Areshperani celebrate another prodigy. This small village of 150 in Kakheti, western Georgia, is a centre for the country's Ossetian community, and a home to an immense statue of Kosta Khetagurov, the Ossetian national poet.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Every year on 21 October, Ossetians come from across Georgia to Areshperani for the Kostaoba festival, paying homage to Khetagurov and his work. Not all are so appreciative. In 1995-1996, the monument was blown up with explosives by persons unknown, probably in an act of xenophobic vandalism. It was only reconstructed under Georgia’s reformist president Mikheil Saakashvili.</p><p>It was an important gesture. Relations between Georgians and Ossetians may be cordial, but they haven’t always been easy. In this month in 2008, war broke out between Georgia and Russia over the small, mountainous territory of South Ossetia.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Surviving the peace has proven difficult. Hard times, not hatred, has led many ethnic Ossetians to leave Georgia</span></p><p>The five-day conflict saw hundreds of civilian casualties. Hundreds of thousands of local residents, mostly ethnic Georgians, were displaced. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev then recognised South Ossetia as an independent state. Georgia, along with the vast majority of states, considers this region to be under Russian occupation.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>But surviving the peace has proven difficult. Hard times, not hatred, has led many ethnic Ossetians to leave Georgia, and those who remain are rapidly assimilating.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>To Vladik<span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>We’re drinking coffee outside the house of Zeinab Khusoeva, 61, who well remembers the day when Saakashvili restored Areshperani’s statue to Khetagurov. “We stood there with our khachapuri [geo: cheese pie] and wine as Saakashvili arrived with his retinue to rededicate the statue,” she tells me. “They landed in the schoolyard... in two helicopters”.</p><p>A few dogs wander through the dust, a couple of local kids are watching with interest as Zeinab teaches me a few words in Ossetian. Judging by their curious faces, I can tell it’s a learning curve for them too.</p><p>“Buznyg — thank you”. “Booz-neg?” “Buznyg”.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Zeinab estimates that today just ten percent of the local residents are Ossetians, adding that migrants from Ajara, western Georgia, resettled after landslides and floods, now live in their empty homes.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Areshperani is seen as a centre for Ossetian culture due to the Kostaoba festival. However, it took some searching to find local Ossetian residents.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/IMG_8233.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This statue to Kosta Khetagurov, the Ossetian national poet, stands outside Areshpani's secondary school. (c) Maxim Edwards. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Nino Margeeva, Zeinab’s neighbour, approaches us, squinting in the sunlight. She sits in the shade, and turns to squint at me instead. Margeeva’s story is common for many Ossetians in Georgia — she’s married to a Georgian, and has a Georgian grandmother too. Most people have a mixed heritage around here.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p>Georgia is known for its ethnic diversity. Its largest minority groups, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/onnik-james-krikorian/karabakh-view-from-georgia">Armenians and Azerbaijanis in the south</a>, are poorly integrated — <a href="http://dfwatch.net/ethnic-and-religious-minorities-affected-by-population-decline-census-42339">many don’t speak Georgian fluently</a>. In contrast, Ossetians are traditionally Orthodox Christians like the Georgian majority, and overwhelmingly speak fluent Georgian.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Since 2002, the Ossetian population in Georgia (excluding the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) has more than halved — from 38,028 in 2002 to 14,385 in 2014. A similarly sharp drop can be seen in two Georgian provinces with a traditionally high Ossetian population: the far eastern province of Kakheti and the government-controlled areas of Shida Kartli. Much of this central province is controlled by the breakaway South Ossetian government.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Walking the streets of Areshperani, it’s not difficult to see why people are leaving. Kakheti is rich in fertile land, vineyards and tourist attractions. But it’s not enough</span></p><p>The long-awaited census of 2014 confirmed grim suspicions. Georgia’s population had shrunk by 15% in just 12 years. Poor economic prospects in rural areas have led to depopulation — another 61 villages were abandoned in the same period. In fact, the capital Tbilisi was the only region of the country whose population grew at all.</p><p>Walking the streets of Areshperani, it’s not difficult to see why people are leaving. Kakheti is rich in fertile land, vineyards and tourist attractions. But it’s not enough.</p><p>Villagers are leaving, says Margeeva. According to <a href="http://www.ecmi.de/publications/detail/45-ossetians-in-georgia-in-the-wake-of-the-2008-war-151/">unofficial estimates</a>, some 40% of them have left since the 2008 war. The Ossetians are going over the mountains “to Vladik”, as she affectionately calls Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, which is an autonomous republic in Russia.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Speaking lessons</h2><p>The school at Areshperani is one of three left in Georgia where Ossetian remains a compulsory subject. According to the 2014 census, only 5,968 of Georgia's Ossetians can speak Ossetian, an Indo-Iranian language. This is part of a broader trend — local authorities in both North and South Ossetia are concerned about its fate. </p><p><span>In “Vladik”, they’re switching to Russian; in Tbilisi, to Georgian. There’s been an Ossetian language Sunday school in Georgia’s capital since 1907. A large proportion of Tbilisi’s Ossetians arrived here during Soviet-era industrialisation, settling in the new suburban districts adjacent to the main railway line. Some Ossetians still live here on Java Street, in the suburb of Nakhalovka.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>If you’re lucky, you’ll find Khabidzgina (Oss: ossetian cheese pie) in a few local restaurants. However, there are no Ossetian monuments to speak of, save for a small statue to Khetagurov in the centre, unveiled by Saakashvili in 2007.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The name of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia’s first post-Soviet president, conjures up dark times for Georgia’s ethnic minorities</p><p>Mariam Dzagoeva, a Tbilisi-based Ossetian journalist, <a href="http://women-peace.net/gruzinskij-yazyk-v-osetii-i-osetinskij-v-gruzii-kak-obstayat-dela/">writes of one ambitious project in the city to rekindle the Ossetian language</a>. Founded in 2015, the Centre for Georgian-Ossetian relations at Tbilisi’s Javakhishvili State University offers courses for Ossetian language learners, and much more besides.</p><p>Nailia Bepieva, the centre’s director, and her colleagues have published Ossetian-Georgian dictionaries and phrasebooks, as well as the translated works of Ossetian poets in Georgian. Bepieva aims for the centre to be of practical use to the Ossetian community.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Despite census figures to the contrary, Bepieva told me that reports of the Ossetian language’s death have been greatly exaggerated. In any case, she adds, Ossetian is far from alone in UNESCO’s handbook of endangered languages. Despite Bepieva’s best efforts, it’s rarely heard on the streets of Tbilisi.</p><h2>“Guests”</h2><p>The name of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia’s first post-Soviet president, conjures up dark times for Georgia’s ethnic minorities. A dissident-turned-demagogue, Gamsakhurdia promoted an extreme Georgian nationalist political programme in the early 1990s. In this view, Ossetians were guests on Georgian territory, and their political demands meant they had overstayed their welcome.</p><p>In 1990, Gamsakhurdia revoked the autonomy of South Ossetia. Enraged Ossetians then demanded an upgrade of their autonomous republic to a union republic, which would have eased their succession after the unravelling of the USSR. The writing was now on the wall.</p><p>By December, a military conflict was imminent — between 60 and 100 villages were burnt down and Georgian and Ossetian militias (the latter with some Russian military assistance) committed numerous human rights abuses.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>In 1992, Georgia’s new president Shevardnadze brokered a ceasefire in Sochi. South Ossetia was to remain a confused patchwork of Georgian government and Ossetian militia-controlled enclaves and exclaves until 2008.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Gamsakhurdia.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A banner depicting Zviad Gamsakhurdia flickers in the wind at Tbilisi’s Dry Bridge market (c) Maxim Edwards. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Some Ossetians fled Georgia for Russia, crossing the mountains to their compatriots in North Ossetia. By 1992, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/fatima-chumakova/five-bloody-days-in-north-ossetia">a brutal territorial conflict broke out between North Ossetians and their Ingush neighbours to the east</a>. The presence of between 70,000 and 100,000 Ossetian refugees from Georgia only fuelled the flames.</span></p><p>Ethnic solidarity proved a fickle thing. In troubled times, these Ossetian refugees were useful in keeping statistics favourable. Yet <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/valery-dzutsati">Valery Dzutsati</a>, a North Ossetian analyst, told me of several “layers of intolerance” towards the new arrivals. The more standard complaints against labour migrants and refugees (perceived competition for housing and jobs) soon emerged.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Not only are North Ossetians more Russified — they also speak a different dialect of Ossetian. The Digor and Iron dialects are distinct, and not entirely mutually intelligible</span></p><p>More than mountains divide Ossetians north and south of the Caucasus mountains. According to a 2013 estimate, up to 15% of North Ossetia’s population practice Islam. Some Muslim Ossetians, says Dzutsati, feared that the influx of Christian Ossetians would undermine their already precarious situation in the region.</p><p>Not only are North Ossetians more Russified — they also speak a different dialect of Ossetian. The Digor and Iron dialects are distinct, and not entirely mutually intelligible.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>“A couple of weeks ago, my cousin visited from North Ossetia,” Zarina Sanakoyeva, a&nbsp;<span>South Ossetia-based journalist,&nbsp;</span><span>told me in an online exchange. “We strolled around Tskhinvali [the de-facto capital]. When I mentioned to him that young people here regularly speak Ossetian, or when the waiter in a cafe addressed us in Ossetian, he laughed. He simply wasn’t used to it.”</span></p><h2>De-facto lives</h2><p>The central motorway connecting central and western Georgia passes just kilometres from the de-facto border of South Ossetia. </p><p>As you head to the regional capital of Gori from Tbilisi, a large green warning sign can be seen in the fields to the right. In recent years, the sign has crept closer as Russian soldiers and their South Ossetian colleagues <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/south-ossetia%27s-creeping-border">unroll the barbed wire deeper into Georgian territory</a>, cutting off fields, roads, and even individual villagers in the process.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Here in Shida Kartli region, this “borderisation” has dealt an economic blow to the locals. Times past had seen small-scale commerce and the personal contact it brings. Observers lauded the nearby Ergneti market on the de-facto border as an example of local co-operation — others slated it as a conduit for corruption (Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili closed it down in 2004).<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>While up to 23,000 ethnic Georgians may have fled South Ossetia in the 1991-1992 war, nearly 15,000 more did so in 2008. There are approximately around 125,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from South Ossetia in Georgia today. Together with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/georgia-exiles-election">IDPs from Abkhazia</a>, they number 265,000.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Shavshvebi.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The IDP camp where Galina Kelekhsayeva lives, lies just off the main road between central and western Georgia. (c) Maxim Edwards. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Displaced people are poorly integrated and await an ever-receding return home. Georgian politicians <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/georgia-exiles-election">may nurture these grievances in public</a>, but IDPs say that they rarely — if ever — make good on their promises.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>A small IDP camp on this road, between the villages of Natsreti and Shavshvebi, is but one example. A couple of hundred IDP families live here, in small concrete huts capped with red metal roofs. It’s spartan, efficient enough. Some IDPs have made ends meet; vegetable gardens are in bloom, South Ossetia is (technically) just down the road.</p><p>“It’s not about raising awareness,” sighs Galina Kelekhsayeva, “everybody’s aware. It’s about resources”. Galina should know. Born in South Ossetia in 1959, she’s seen her own successes. She’s worked on a number of projects empowering refugee women, and has received grants from international donors. On the side, Galina sews bedsheets to sell at the market in Gori.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Galina is an ethnic Ossetian, a fact which — in the grand scheme of things — only came to matter not so long ago. Her husband, who sits here with us in her living room, is Georgian. In the 1990s, she tells me, Ossetians were harassed by Georgian militias and many of their villages burnt. “In 2008, it was the Georgians’ turn to leave.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The story of Galina’s flight from South Ossetia begins with the same tragic words of many refugee histories, particularly in the South Caucasus: “We thought we’d only be gone for a few days”</p><p>For nationalists, mixed families could mean mixed loyalties. Galina’s roots lie in the Java region of South Ossetia, a mountainous, mostly Ossetian-populated area. As was common for many minority groups, Galina studied in a Russian-language school. After graduation in 1981, she soon found work as a teacher of German and Ossetian.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>She can even write her grant applications in Georgian now. There’s little need for Ossetian anymore — her three grandchildren can’t speak it.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The story of Galina’s flight from South Ossetia begins with the same tragic words of many refugee histories, particularly in the South Caucasus. “We thought we’d only be gone for a few days”.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>By 2008, Galina and her family were living near the mostly Georgian village of Kurta, where she worked as a teacher.</p><p>On the eve of the war that August, Georgian villagers fled Kurta. Galina, her husband and her children followed suit, running through the forest.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Shavshvebi 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Galina Kelekhsayeva was resettled to this IDP camp outside Shavshvebi in December 2008. (c) Maxim Edwards. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The following month, Galina managed to visit her old house outside Kurta. South Ossetian militias had looted and torched the village. “I found two of my dogs alive, and a few chickens. Otherwise, nobody and nothing was left. I wasn’t there long”.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>At the time of writing, Kurta remains a ghost town.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>For three months, the family lived in a converted kindergarten in Tbilisi. In December 2015, the state resettled them here, a stone’s throw from the de-facto border. The conditions were pretty de-facto too, although over the years she has been able to make a home of this concrete hut.</p><p>Galina left family in South Ossetia — her infirm mother stayed behind in the hamlet of Kemerti. For several months, the family knew nothing about her fate. One day, a phone call came from the Red Cross. They’d found Galina’s mother alive, if not so well, in Vladikavkaz, where she died six years later.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the story of Georgia’s Ossetians sheds light on the scramble for Soviet spoils</p><p>Occasional incidents aside, her ethnicity is of no concern. She has good relations with her Georgian IDP neighbours. The nearby villages here are poor places, whose Georgian and Ossetian residents have bigger problems to tend to than old wounds. Gamsakhurdia is dead and buried, though perhaps not deep enough. Shortly after her arrival, a local official asked Galina why she hadn’t changed her surname.</p><p>Galina suggests that I visit her daughter in the nearby village of Tsitelubani. I’ll have to get permission from the local police headquarters in Gori. Their house is a couple of hundred metres from the de-facto border. Last year, South Ossetian border guards annexed the village cemetery, and a sizeable piece of the family’s land.</p><p>Ethnic Ossetians are among those Georgian citizens <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-edwards/south-ossetia%27s-creeping-border">who have suffered from the creeping border</a>. It is a raw tragedy they too must share.</p><h2>Modern passions</h2><p>Twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the story of Georgia’s Ossetians sheds light on the scramble for Soviet spoils.</p><p>Looking back at the South Caucasus in those years demands that we think again about “ethnic conflict”. Many writers on the region describe the insurgencies and wars which erupted in the 1990s as the result of ancient hatreds. As the USSR fractured, the argument goes, these thawed and ran amok.</p><p>Yet the bloodshed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was an all too modern tragedy. The USSR was built as a multi-ethnic federation; those ethnic groups provided with autonomous regions and republics gained the institutions of (mini)-statehood.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The bloodshed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was an all too modern tragedy</span></p><p>In Georgia, conflict didn’t break out among the most numerous or even least integrated minorities. It began with those who feared the loss of their autonomy and institutions with the rise of a Georgian nationalist government.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Ossetians spoke Georgian, worshipped alongside Georgians and married Georgians. That they took up arms in the 1990s does not reflect the “narcissism of small differences”, but a failure to compromise after these small differences had been institutionalised by the Soviet state. Weak states could not prevent the escalation to war.</p><p>That many Ossetians leave their villages in search of a better life places them alongside their Georgian neighbours in a broader post-Soviet story of rural poverty and migration. A story which, for what it’s worth, treats all its characters — Georgian or Ossetian — with equal indignity.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/fatima-chumakova/five-bloody-days-in-north-ossetia">Five bloody days in North Ossetia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maxim-edwards/south-ossetia%27s-creeping-border">South Ossetia&#039;s creeping border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/onnik-james-krikorian/karabakh-view-from-georgia">Karabakh: the view from Georgia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mari-nikuradze/georgia-exiles-election">Georgia: the exiles’ election</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia 25 years of change Maxim Edwards South Ossetia Georgia Conflict Caucasus Tue, 30 Aug 2016 07:59:35 +0000 Maxim Edwards 105005 at https://www.opendemocracy.net