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Thursday, 23 November

07:30

How did 1917 change the west? openDemocracy

Failed utopias lead to the death of idealism, and the likes of Putin and Trump are symbols of this process. As we watch Russia struggle with history, the US and UK cannot afford to pretend that this history doesnt affect us too.


October 1917: Red guard unit at the Vulkan factory in Petrograd. Source: Public Domain. Revolutions and their centenaries are best dealt with in the first person. That, of course, creates a certain awkwardness for an academic, whose stock in trade is meant to be distance from the subject of study. But nothing forces a reckoning with ones place in the order of things quite like a revolution, and that is true of academics even 100 years after the fact. Witness, for example, the never-ending debates about what a revolution even is.

Slipping into the first person reckoning with my place in the order of things allows me to admit another awkwardness that has arisen in this centenary season: That of an American, living in the UK, who is expected by virtue of his profession to pronounce on the Russian revolution. If any combination of subject, audience and personal heritage could make me feel like more of an imposter, I dont know what it is.

To lessen that awkwardness, I have told myself and a handful of audiences that October 1917 was not just a Russian revolution. February had already done away with monarchical absolutism and the doorway to modernity at least in the Euro-centric conception that dominated the age was open. But Bolshevism, as the name would suggest, was meant to be about more than that: about more than Russia, perhaps about more than modernity.

The Bolsheviks looked at western modernity and found it lacking in need of transformation. However misbegotten, and without regard to its eventual mutations, the communist ideal what Yuri Slezkine has described as a millenarian, utopian vision for the fall of Babylon and the establishment of Justice was to its adherents a universalist idea. It was a pathway t...

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Wednesday, 22 November

20:36

What is the future of the NHS in the 21st century? Slugger O'Toole

In his 1942 Report, Sir William Beveridge, a Liberal patrician, identified five giant evils Want, Ignorance, Squalor, Disease and Idleness. The Welfare State was founded in the immediate post-war period to improve the social conditions in the UK. The country was then bankrupt from war exertions; despite warnings, mainly from Conservatives, that the Welfare State was unaffordable, the Labour government, trusting in Maynard Keynes assertion that we can afford whatever we want went ahead.

The National Health Service was born on 5 July 1948; strictly, the term National Health Service applied only to England and Wales; there were very similar services in Scotland and N Ireland, though these werent called the NHS. Responsibility for Wales passed to the Welsh Office in 1969. With devolution, there has been divergence in the administrative structures of the four health services; in N Ireland, Social Services are integrated into the health service while elsewhere they are the responsibility of the local authority.

The health service in England is by far the largest. The Ministry of Health in Westminster and the Secretary of State for Health, at present Jeremy Hunt, are only responsible for England. Changes in organisational structures, often called reforms are usually first introduced in England; the regions may choose to adopt them later, or come under political pressure to do so.

When first introduced, it was naively thought that once disease had been controlled, funding requirements for the NHS would reduce. In reality, such was the extent of ill-health that the service came under financial pressures almost from the start. While all service provision was initially free at the point of service, charges were introduced for prescriptions; later charges were more generally applied in dentistry, eye examinations and spectacles etc. Enoch Powell, when Minister of Health, thought that there would never be enough money for the NHS.

The Conservative manifesto before the 2010 election indicated that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS; as soon as they were in coalition with Liberal Democrats, they began such a reorganisation. This struggled through Parliament and emerged as a different creature at the end. The result is remarkably complex, as this video from the Kings Fund illustrates:

All organisations have problems; for the health services these have been about funding, staffing and the provision of services what services, where and how. The population is changing;...

10:23

Three things we know about Brexit.. Slugger O'Toole

Nicholas Whyte reports on three things we now know about Brexit:

  1. According to Barnier the British are talking about a Canada type model, no sector by sector deals and no passporting for the financial sector.
  2. The Irish border issue is serious and as yet has no solution (which is why the Taoiseach has been upping the stakes)
  3. The emergence of news of a 40 Billion figure emerging from the British side Nicholas suggests this means theres going to be a deal rather than no deal.

The border issue is whats holding Phase One up. Ireland will need a concession on that. A border down the Irish Sea is not happening; for the simple reason that the DUP wont let it happen. Looks like its solution will dictate the nature of the overall deal.

09:06

Swords in the hands of children: an insiders account of what happened to Americas New Left openDemocracy

How Weatherman confused violence with militancy and triggered the downfall of Students for a Democratic Society.

This article was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

Students for a Democratic Society logo. Credit: By Tim Lourd - Own work, via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.

To those of us deeply immersed in the New Left in the summer of 1969, apocalypse felt imminent. Despite growing opposition, the war in Vietnam was still escalating, with no end in sight. There had been strikes and building seizures at scores of campuses. Demonstrations were increasingly confrontational and bloody. The civil rights movement was reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the year before, and the massive riots that followed, and from the emergence of separatist groups that rejected the goal of integration. Some of those were armed, including the Black Panthers, whose offices were routinely and lethally attacked by police.

Within Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, the New Lefts principal organization, there was desperation to articulate a strategy in responseand to create the conditions for revolution, which many of us had convinced ourselves was necessary. Factions formed and competed bitterly. At the SDS convention in June 1969, the organization burst apart. Control was seized by a group called Weatherman, which eventually went underground and carried out a campaign of bombings. But in the months before doing so, we trashed SDS, abandoned the mass movement it represented, and dedicated ourselves to ultra-militancy and fighting in the streets.

To many people today, apocalypse feels imminent once again. And activism feels mandatory. How to build organization, devise strategy and be effective are pressing questions. So is the distinction between militancy and violence. What follows is an excerpt from Swords in the Hands of Children: Reflections of an American Revolutionary, the story of my path through SDS and the Weather Underground. For activists grappling with those questions, it should be a cautionary tale.

Through the summer and into the fall of 1969, we forged ourselves into an infantry of swaggering kamikazes dedicated to the ideas in the Weatherman position paper. Every effort was aimed toward a series of demonstrations we called for Chicago in October. They became kno...

07:48

Modern slavery, Brexit, migration, and development: connecting the dots openDemocracy

Regardless of how one feels about migrants, protecting them in the labour market will bring benefits to all workers.

'Refugees welcome' Matt Brown/flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Modern slavery has been gaining salience in British media and public awareness. This resonates with recent international trends, and renewed attention to the plight of those exposed to the harshest forms of exploitation deserves our support. But a narrow focus on modern slavery steers the discussion away from broader systemic issues, which must be considered if we are to maximise the effectiveness of actions aimed at lowering national and global inequalities.

What happens if we consider the modern slavery campaign, Brexit, and migration and development policies all at the same time and then connect the dots? It becomes apparent that national workers and (willing or unwilling) labour migrants are linked together into global hierarchies that generate a large supply of cheap and vulnerable labour. This pool of vulnerable workers is internally diverse and contains multiple groups struggling with different constraints. They all deserve attention. And yet official campaigns and policies obfuscate the picture by focusing on narrow issues with high media-shock potential and compartmentalising connected problems.      

Some migrants see their livelihoods as dependent upon their ability to remain and endure exploitative working conditions.

The official narrative that contrasts innocent victims of slavery and evil traffickers, and targets the latter as the primary cause for slaverys endurance, is misleadingly simplistic. Only a minority of the exploited workers identified through the modern slavery campaign were forced into the UK against their will. Increased security and policing aimed at protecting 'slaves on our streets' result in more thorough controls on migrants, some of whom are not compliant with the UKs immigration laws but are in the country willingly.

These migrants may see their livelihoods and those of others who receive their support as dependent upon their ability to remain and endure exploitative working conditions. They may not be de facto enslaved initially, but are made increasingly vulnerable to the worst forms of exploitation when they are criminalised and denied support as migrants. Whatever ones views of the UKs immigration regulations, we should try to understand these migrants circumstances: the hardship they struggle with at home; why they would rather live abroad and face exploitation than remain...

07:26

The inside story of Russias failed social media revolution openDemocracy

A nationalist populist promised a new Russian revolution in November 2017. But despite intense plotting online, the revolution failed to materialise. RU

Vyacheslav Maltsev. Source: Youtube.0 days, 0 hours, 0minutes, 0 seconds until the new historical epoch begins - this is what the timer on the website of Vyacheslav Maltsev's Artpodgotovka movement currently reads. Maltsev, leader of the radical populist movement, promised that Russia would experience a revolution on 5 November 2017. Regime change would be heralded by spontaneous protests, with cities occupied across the country. Artpodgotovka would storm the Kremlin, before holding a popular referendum. Raising their hands, those present would vote for the overthrow of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russias new revolutionaries hoped to repeat Ukraines EuroMaidan scenario, but this Russian Maidan did not happen. On 5 November, more than 400 people were detained 302 of them in Moscow. Many arrestees had weapons confiscated from them. (There were clearly less protesters on Russias streets than the security services anticipated.) At the same time, the security services conducted a series of raids across Russia, with 14 alleged activists of Artpodgotovka detained with ready-made Molotov cocktails and explosive devices in their possession.

Alexey (name changed) came from the Urals town of Perm to St Petersburg to make revolution. In a secret chat on the Telegram messaging app, Alexey told me how he had planned to steal weapons from police officers during the failed coup. He travelled to Russias northern capital with 10 other men, all wearing balaclavas and shin-pads. A friend of Alexeys had taken 40,000 roubles (510) in credit to buy food for the plotters while they occupied St Isaacs Square in the centre of Petersburg. He was counting on the f...

07:22

The government need to come clean urgently on their bungled proposal for a security forces amnesty Slugger O'Toole

After Sinn Fein held their meeting with Theresa May this afternoon,  Gerry Adams diverted from the apparent failure to make progress on restoring Stormont with a genuine issue:

a potential amnesty from prosecution for security force members who served in the Troubles is to be floated by the British government.

Concerns however are valid as this was precisely what the Commons Defence Select Committee proposed just before the last Westminster general election accompanied by approving noises from James Brokenshire.  This was one of the moves Gerry Adams pounced on to refuse to recognise the Secretary of State as an impartial mediator in the Stormont stand off. Todays leak if thats what it is is unlikely to improve his standing with Sinn Fein.

By failing to come clean immediately on the scope of the consultation, the government are bungling the issue again, despite having months if not years to prepare for  this most sensitive of proposals.

The Defence Committee seemed to believe that an amnesty for the security forces would be matched by truth recovery under privilege  i.e.  confessions by former paramiltaries . Amnesty  would not be appropriate for them as they already have the concession which  the government and many MPs  seem to believe  does not apply to the security forces of a maximum  two year sentence under the GFA, under the early release scheme of the Northern Ireland Sentences  Act.

But you do not correct an imbalance by creating another one and one moreover which has no chance of winning cross community consent.

In any case the widespread belief of an imbalance seems be wrong. As has been explained in Eamonn Mallies blog,

leading legal authority Kieran McEvoy  argued in his evidence to that committee, there is nothing in the legislation that would prevent it applying to any member of the security forces if they were to be convicted of a scheduled offence.

The Sentence Commissioners were empowered to grant releases so long as the prisoner was not a suppo...

06:09

Andrew Neil just made an absolute tit of himself on Twitter AAV


The most infuriating thing about Andrew Neil is that we all know that he's well capable of being a ferocious interviewer, but his pro-Tory and pro-Brexit biases prevent him from holding right-wing politicians and Brexiteers to account in the same way as he savages people he's ideologically opposed to.

His pro-Brexit bias is as obvious as it is understandable, after all he's a right-winger who has worked for all three of the main pro-Brexit mainstream media propaganda outlets in his time (the Murdoch empire, the Daily Mail, and the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings).

Anyone who is aware of Neil's background must be continually on the look out for the pro-Tory and pro-Brexit spin he puts on the news.

On the evening of Monday 20th November Neil posted a bizarrely hyperbolic tweet claiming that the breakdown in the German coalition government talks represented the worst political crisis in Germany since the 1940s, which he claimed to be even more severe than the Brexit mess the UK has been enduring for the last year and a half.
The reason he came out with this hyperbolic nonsense is obvious. The latest delusional Brexiteer trope is that a weakened Germany would somehow be good for the Brexit negotiations, as if the rest of Europe are just go...

05:47

Why economic suicide is a bad idea AAV


It seems such a ridiculous thing to have to explain, but the outburst of Twitter outrage over the failure of Ian Murray's economic suicide amendment kind of makes it necessary to explain why economic suicide is actually a bad idea.

The likes of ex-Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron and the usual suspects from the Labour right bombarded Twitter with howls of protest after the amendment to the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill by the right-wing Labour MP Ian Murray was defeated by 311 votes to 76.

Tim Farron put up a Twitter rant claiming that he'd voted to keep Britain in the Customs Union, but in reality he did no such thing. An amendment to keep Britain in the Customs Union would have specified that Britain should stay in the Customs Union, but what Ian Murray's ludicrous amendment sought to do was to force the UK to continue behaving as if it was in the Customs Union, even if we end up out of it!


Murray's amendment sought to prevent the UK from imposing tariffs or quotas on imported goods from the EU, regardless of whether the hard-right Tories contrive the "no deal" cliff edge Brexit they're craving or not.

However, the World Trade Organisation rules are clear that countries can't offer favourable trade terms to other countries unless they do it through a formal trade agreement, so that means the Murray economic suicide amendment would have forced the UK to drop import tariffs and quotas on all imports from anywhere in the world, whilst leaving the rest of the world free to impose tariffs and quotas on UK exports!

The UK trade deficit is already enormous, so just imagine the impact of eliminating all tariffs and quotas on imports while simultaneously allowing the rest of the world to impose WTO level ta...

05:23

The Labour leadership were absolutely right to oppose Ian Murray's economic suicide amendment AAV


When the right-wing Labour MP Ian Murray's proposed amendment to the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill was defeated there was an eruption of outrage amongst the right-wing of the Labour Party and the appalling self-declared centrist types who propagandise for them on Twitter and in the mainstream media.

How they howled and shrieked that some Labour MPs had voted against the amendment designed to stop the UK from imposing tariffs and quotas on produce from the EU.

In reality the vast majority of Labour MPs abstained on the vote, with just 18 voting against the amendment and 28 voting in favour, meaning that the amendment was always going to fail, and was beaten by 311 votes to 76.

The furious centrist narrative was quickly set that the 18 Labour MPs who voted against the Murray amendment were traitors who were determined to force a Tory hard Brexit by ruling out membership of the EU Customs Union. However this  propaganda narrative couldn't be further from the truth.

In reality the Murray amendment would have worked to create an even harder Brexit than even the most foaming-at-the-mouth hard-right Tories are aiming for.

The Murray amendment would have caused a British economic catastrophe by making it impossible for the UK to apply import tariffs or quotas on any products from anywhere in the world, while all other countries could continue to apply import tariffs on the UK!

The reason for this is that if the UK reverts to World Trade Organisation rules (which seems increasingly probable given the shambolic Tory handling of the Brexit process) the WTO "Most Favoured Nation" rule states that unless you have a specific trade agreement, then you must offer the same deal to everyone. So if you've legislated to make it illegal to apply tariffs or quotas on imports from EU countries, then you can't apply tariffs or quotas from imports from literally anywhere else in the world either.

Just think back to...

04:21

Latin America: fertile ground for political innovations openDemocracy

Within the framework of this year's "Fearless Cities" summit, Fundacin Avina and DemocraciaAbierta established a special collaboration to explore the most memorable poltical experiences arising from Latin America. Espaol Portugus

urea Carolina de Freitas e Silva, councilor elected through PSOL, Belo Horizonte (Brasil), speaks at the Fearless Cities event in Barcelona, June, 2017. Image: Marc Lozano/Fearless Cities/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

A partnership project examining the power of political innovations

Latin America has become a formidable hub for multiple political transformations, most of them still in an embryonic state, but capable of planting seeds for the future and encouraging changes in the present. The region's civil society dynamics aim, as they do in other regions of the world, to improve political praxis, democratic institutions and the quality of leadership, with a view to democratising power, adding delibaration and participation to representation.

In its area of innovation, AVINA promotes the strengthening of the social rule of law and the further development of democratic quality and effectiveness through social, technological and institutional innovations that guarantee citizens the exercise of their rights..

For its part, democraciaAbierta works to support democratic debate on politics and society, continuously posing questions on the subjects of justice, democracy and freedom. democraciaAbierta contributes to the emergence of a global public sphere in Spanish and Portuguese. In its Political Experimentation section, it opens the field to account for the great amount of political innovation ideas and projects which, through the use of technology, are transforming debate and political action in Latin Ameri...

04:12

Home truths for Sinn Fein on sectarianism from Pete Shirlow Slugger O'Toole

Pete Shirlow the director of the School of Irish Studies in the University of Liverpool made a guest appearance  at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis last week.

As an academic, much of his work is designed to make an impact on public policy. He speaks with vast experience of contacts with paramilitaries and community workers of various kinds. In his speech he brilliantly describes the nature of sectarianism. He pulls no punches against the pharisaical view that some in his audience think of themselves as essentially free of sectarianism, even while admitting it exists within the movement.  I wonder who he had in mind?

Apparently they took it well!

Will the DUP invite him next year?

You can watch his speech, download the PDF, or read extracts below.

Professor Peter Shirlow FAcSS, Irish Studies, University of Liverpool: Speech at Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2017.

Extracts

Although I am from a unionist background but I do not feel out place. That is due to the fact that I have been welcomed.

My forebears were anti-sectarian, but they were pro-union. The idea that being pro-union is inherently sectarian is not only wrong it is inherently sectarian.

Question 2: What is sectarianism?

Sectarianism has two forms prejudice and exclusiveness

Prejudice is the obvious form: Sectarianism is vicious, insidious and repugnant.  It is unjust and acrimonious.  It is both within and without the groups that we belong to. Sectarianism is not a natural state. We are not born sectarian.

One reason why people were pro-union was as recognised, in your own motion, was due to the souths religious doctrinealienating sections of the Protestant people.

We must consider that we can be both sectarianized but not sectarian.

How could the treatment o...

04:12

Crowd-control weapons: "These weapons should not be interpreted as less than lethal" openDemocracy

We need a structured debate about the lethality of crowd-control weapons, as well as a broader discussion on the core of the problem, which is the inability of states to respond peacefully to peaceful protest.

An interview with Homer Venters from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), discussing the health implications of crowd-control weapons, and how states choose to use them.

 This video interview is part of Right to Protest, a partnership project with human rights organisations CELS and INCLO, with support from the ACLU, examining the power of protest and its fundamental role in democratic society

Interview transcript

"Something that's assumed to be rather innocuous, such as tear gas, can cause burns, and not just external burns to the skin and the face, but actually can cause long-lasting scarring of the lungs. The kinetic impact projects, rubber bullets, things of that nature, they can cause permanent damage to bones and muscles. They are often fired at people at such close range that they cause death. They simply cause death. 

"These weapons should not be interpreted as less than lethal. They should be interpreted as lethal weapons and they are often deployed against peaceful protesters. 

"Manufacturers of these weapons are engaged in a highly profitable and growing trade and as companies that are seeking primarily to amass more profit through the sale of these weapons, their motives are actually rather transparent. What is most concerning is that the purchasers of these weapons governments, security forces often take most or all of their counsel from the companies that are seeking to sell them, that there's not a broad discussion about the broad responses to peaceful protest, and certainly there is not a structured discussion about the lethality of these weapons. 

"These are often violent responses to peaceful protest and that is the core element of how people come to be injured and killed in these situations. The mechanism is through these weapons t...

03:56

We are just 500 days from chaos, warns immigration charity openDemocracy

The British immigration system that EU nationals are about to be plunged into, has been broken for a long time. Its time to improve everyones rights.

Image: Protests at Yarls Wood immigration detention centre, iDJ photography/Flickr.

Fewer than 500 days are left until the UK is due to leave the European Union. Yet the most significant obstacles to the smooth, orderly Brexit promised by Theresa May have not been created by Brussels. They lie in wait in Croydon, Sheffield and the half a dozen other sites where the Home Office is shamefully unprepared for the most significant challenges our immigration system has faced in four decades.

The Home Affairs Select Committee today grills Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis on his departments ability to deal with these challenges. Three million EEA nationals and their families currently residing in Britain will have to be processed and regularised. And 450 million Europeans will become subject to broken and cruel systems hitherto reserved for the rest of the world.

Officials have conceded that the department is struggling to increase its capacity. Ironically, the Home Office may have to recruit new staff from the EU to handle the strains of leaving the EU. The Home Office already faces accusations of incompetence as it fails to respond to a growing backlog, with procedural errors and poor decision-making leaving workers and families waiting up to two years for a decision. At current staffing levels, each caseworker will process an additional 1500 European applications. Yet even a doubling of capacity will not change the fact that the system itself does not work. Without a significant shift in the way Britain deals with both the idea and the reality of people on the move, we are just 500 days from chaos.

To address this looming crisis, last week saw leading progressive organisations, politicians and think tanks gathered i...

03:37

If Philip Hammond wants to reduce debt, he must draw a line under austerity openDemocracy

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond is likely to use his Budget speech on Wednesday to declare that the UK has turned the corner on public debt. Recent tax receipts have been higher than expected and the def...
UK Chancellor Philip Hammond is likely to use his Budget speech on Wednesday to declare that the UK has turned the corner on public debt. Recent tax receipts have been higher than expected and the deficit continues to fall. As a result, we are likely to see some small but headline-grabbing giveaways to a nation weary of austerity. He is less likely to note that the Coalition and Conservative governments have so far missed all of their self-imposed debt targets. Or that beyond the short-run jump in tax revenues, the longer term outlook is darkening: the Office for Budget Responsibility has finally conceded it has been guilty of "supply-side optimism" and will downgrade growth forecasts. Even the revised forecasts are likely to be unrealistically optimistic. The chancellor is also unlikely to discuss a different kind of debt: that of households. Household debt, particularly unsecured debt such as credit cards and car loans, is growing rapidly. The total stock of unsecured debt has reached around 200bn and is increasing by around 20bn per year. The relationship between deficit reduction austerity and the growth of household debt is remarkably stable. Adjusting for inflation, for every 2bn in public sector deficit reduction, the annual rate at which households have taken on new debt has increased by 1bn. Over the longer term, the connection between the two is surprisingly persistent and also appears to work in reverse. During periods in which the deficit has been growing, household debt accumulation fell. So the chancellor's inevitable claim that the UK's debt problem is finally under control should be taken with a large dose of salt. By squeezing incomes, rolling back crucial public services and refusing to invest for the future, governments since 2010 have consigned the UK to nearly a lost decade of stagnating wages and incomes. The Bank of England has done what it can to make up for the shortfall in spending power but monetary policy is the wrong tool for the job. In holding interest rates at nearly zero and pumping money into the financial s...

02:00

Mary Lou to pick up Gerrys legacy or just to orchestrate his long good-bye Slugger O'Toole

Given the previously cited ten-year transition, sceptics will doubt the reality of Adams departure. In fact, hell likely melt back into the collective leadership of Sinn Fein. With only Sean Murray left on the Ard Comhairle, the military men now mostly sit back in the shadows.

Their names are not widely known to the public but they are familiar to senior members in other parties from the periodic bouts of negotiations that might almost have been engineered to give them a role in the politics if not the government of Northern Ireland.

Partition is failing SF

Concerns about the continuing coherence of the party north and south are well founded, but it is the divergence of the material politics of the two jurisdictions which have created that incoherence, making hard-to-manage problems for the central controllers of the party.

As John Manley notes in todays Irish News, last autumn was supposed to herald the beginning of a new era of cooperation but it instead provided the bookend to a decade of devolution.

Fighting southern cuts whilst mandating them in the north forced them to choose a live game in the south and mothballing the north. Behind them is a trail of half-promises on health and infrastructure, an agreed draft Programme for Government.

And the first-ever Sinn Fein budget remains something of a mythic creature: ie, much talked about but never actually seen.

Michelle ONeill quipped that she would have her hands too full in Northern Ireland to become Deputy President. A sliver of a hint, perhaps, that someway into the new year that she may finally return to the northern job she eschewed last January.

The DUP, now with a much larger game of their own to play (including the deepening of British sovereignty across the UK) is in no hurry to press them for an early return, and may even be prepared to let them fight a southern election early in the new year before a restart.

And letting Brexit and the welfare cuts run their course they will claim it was like that when we got here. They will tell their voters that delivery can wait until they eventually win a border poll in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years times. Always jam tomorrow.

Southern repositioning

As for the southern strategy, Mary Lou has two potential advantages. Getting Gerry off the TV screens of the leaders debate disposes of a huge weakness for the party in making a successful pitch to middle Ireland which has much more to do with competence than his past.

She is a good debater with the potential to reach middle-class voters the party needs to become invaluable to any future coalition. She must also maintain Gerrys visceral appeal to the current southern base which is overrepresented among...

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Tuesday, 21 November

23:59

Syrian cultural policies in Turkey: Islamists and secularists beyond the wall Part II openDemocracy

Changing mocking views of Syrian culture demands endless efforts. 

Boris Roessler/DPA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved Jasmin Siddiqui from the street art project "Herakut" stand in the exhibition "Colours of Resilience" in Frankfurt Main, Germany, 06 June 2014. The exhibition deals with pictures and memories of Syrian refugee children in the various refugee camps that they have visited. Boris Roessler/DPA/Press Association Images. All rights reservedOn 28 March 2011, less than two weeks into the Syrian uprising, the then Syrian Culture Minister Riad Esmat inaugurated the Syrian Cultural Days in Turkey event with his Turkish counterpart Ertugrul Gunay. The Syrian minister described the event as a symbol of the deep-rooted and developed relations between Syria and Turkey, which was not merely an occasion for cultural and artistic exchange between the two countries; but rather an everlasting festival of love between Syrian and Turkish intellectuals.

Yet this festival of everlasting love barely lasted a month: in late April of that year, Ankara recalled its ambassador in Damascus as one of its escalating actions against the Syrian regime, followed by the severing of relations between the two governments, and of course the annulment of the festival of eternal love that Esmat had spoken about.

If we were to review the Syrian cultural sphere in Turkey today, it would be clear that its reality is far more complex than a seasonal cultural festival between two neighbouring countries. Now that Syrian refugees have grown into large communities within Turkey, analysing the map of Syrian cultural work would...

23:48

Nationalised pasties the new divide in British politics openDemocracy

When millennials are told it's their lunch-buying habits that put home-buying out of reach, no wonder they respond with demands to #NationaliseGreggs.

Image: Greggs, King Street in Hammersmith. WikiCommons.

Last month a young Labour Party member asked Jeremy Corbyn about his thoughts on nationalising essential public services such as Wetherspoons and Greggs. The room chortled, then applauded. Jeremy gave a scripted answer about Greggs being a living wage employer and quickly segued into an amicable stub speech about housing and energy. Corbyn says that nationalising rail, mail and utilities are his priorities, but crucially did not rule out nationalising Greggs said the official Young Labour Twitter account. Imminently, conservatives were in full blown moral panic; they can't nationalise Greggs, it's a private company! What if they don't want to be nationalised?!? Keep your filthy socialist hands off our pasties chimed a thousand Kremlin run social media accounts with EU/hammer and sickle flags as avatars.

Last week the plucky young sparks at Progress took a break from running the website of a faction-free-slate to pen an opinion piece about why nationalising Greggs is the Wrong Thing to do and young people can't be trusted to have their own in-jokes.

If Obamas dream started as a whisper in Springfield, then the National Greggs Service (NGS) started as a jest in Sheffield. A single payer bakery, free at the point of use, how we laughed. In a few short months the NGS has already made waves. Weve had endorsements from left wing high flyers such as Owen Jones, an opinion piece in the Independent bemoaning the pantomime level outrage from centrist dads across the...

22:40

Brexodus Has Begun Jonathan Fryer

BrexodusWhen a slim majority of the UK electorate voted in June last year in favour of leaving the European Union it became inevitable that Britain would lose the two European agencies that it has been hosting, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Agency (EBA). Sure enough, yesterday it was announced that the EMA will move to Amsterdam and the EBA to Paris. The number of staff involved are 900 for the EMA and 150 for the EBA, but the knock-on effect of the departure of well-paid employees on service industries in London will be significant. This is only the start of Brexodus the departure of institutions and staff who are in Britain (notably London) because it is currently an EU member state, a situation that is scheduled to end in March 2019. Already banks in particular have been making preparations to shift operations to Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg and so on. That change is likely to accelerate now that Michel Barnier has confirmed that if Britain leaves the single market (as both the Tory and Labour leadership are determined will happen) then banks and financial institutions will lose their passporting rights to operate throughout the EU. This is a catastrophic blow to the City of London; over a comparatively short period London is now likely to lose its status as the unmatched financial capital of Europe. And it is not only the fnancial sector that is going to suffer. Universities currently employ a lot of other EU nationals, but many of them have started to make plans to leave. Similarly, the NHS depends quite heavily on EU migra...

22:31

Brexit and the border is widening the gap between London and Dublin and depressing further the chances of a return to Stormont Slugger O'Toole

It has started to happen. Will it continue?  Can it be reversed? The politics of Brexit  is openly dividing the UK and Irish governments and further polarising the DUP and Sinn Fein,  making a return to the Executive less likely than ever.  Predictably Brexit is increasingly becoming domesticated as the new big theme  in a revived unionist v nationalist struggle.

Whats just happened?  The sequence was best described in a cool- headed column in the Indo by Dan OBrien, chief economist in Dublins Institute of International and European Affairs who has worked for the  EU Commission and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Eleven days ago, the Taoiseach told the Dail that he was upbeat about the Brexit talks. He said that there was a good chance his 26 EU counterparts would agree to move to the second phase of the exit negotiations in December

Then things changed. The following day, Michel Barnier, the man who negotiates on behalf of the EU 27, shared a paper with all the national delegations that his team had drawn up on Irish border issues, and one which Irish diplomats were centrally involved in drafting. As tends to happen when European Commission documents are circulated to all member countries, it leaked immediately.

The Irish position was, and remains, that there is nothing new in the document. The British thought otherwise, with the following paragraph causing consternation in London.

It seems essential for the UK to commit to ensuring that a hard border on the island of Ireland is avoided, including by ensuring no emergence of regulatory divergence from those rules of the internal market and the Customs Union which are (or may be in the future) necessary for meaningful North South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mention in the paper of no regulatory divergence means Northern Ireland, alone or with the rest of the UK, would have to adopt all EU new single market laws in the future. The Irish side has been looking for written guarantees on these issues in return for moving to phase two of the Brexit talks next month. The British side (and unionists) viewed this as Ireland attempting to force Britain into accepting all future EU legislation or, effectively, erecting barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and Britain so that the North could remain a de facto part of the EU. It was also construed as a threat to veto moving forward on the entire Brexit process to the detriment of the UK.

The British government retaliated. London newspapers ran stories, sourced from Whitehall, that the Irish Government had made a grab for the North an...

21:40

Job: Managing Editor openDemocracy

Seeking an experienced and creative Managing Editor to lead our global team and play a key role in growing our organisation.

Shutterstock/erce. All rights reserved.

openDemocracy is looking for an experienced and creative Managing Editor to manage and support our global team of editors and contributors, and to play a key role in growing our organisation at a pivotal moment. 

  • Hours: 28-35 hours a week, five days a week.
  • Pay: Competitive for non-profit sector, matched to hours and experience
  • Contract: Permanent
  • Location: London office, with the option of some remote working
  • Application deadline: 12th December 2017

About openDemocracy

openDemocracy (established in 2001) is a global, non-profit media platform that seeks to challenge power and inspire change through tenacious reporting, thoughtful analysis and democratic debate. We run deep investigations; we partner with NGOs, think tanks, activists and academics across the world; and we have an open submissions policy committed to diversity of voice and perspective. We publish in Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese as well as English, with an ambition to bring on more languages. We also partner on major global conferences, and occasionally run specialist on-the-ground events ourselves, bringing together innovative activists and thinkers from across the globe to try and solve some of the worlds most entrenched problems. 

The role

Working closely with the Editor in Chief, Head of Operations and openDemocracys lead editors, you will be responsi...

20:49

FRancesc Badia november 21 openDemocracy

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Detail of Lenin in the work Man at the Crossroads (1934), by Diego Rivera. Mural in permanent exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts of Mexico City. Image: Jaontiveros /Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

18:00

Even if we could clean up our own murky waters, and not be seen as a chasm of dysfunction and smuggling Slugger O'Toole

So back in the real world, theres Brexit. Newton Emersons piece from last weeks Irish Times is well worth reading into the Slugger record (whilst so much that gets written about Brexit these days is not):

In Northern Ireland, some business and political figures have expressed the hope of becoming a post-Brexit bridge between the UK and the EU.

An outline of this structure has been glimpsed in the proposal, currently being examined by EU officials, for Northern Ireland to become an autonomous customs territory modelled on Hong Kong and Macau.

Pascal Lamy, a former director general of the World Trade Organisation, made the same suggestion two weeks ago, also citing Chinas special autonomous regions.

However, given the inability of the current political leadership to walk in a straight political line for longer than 12 months at a time

Is there some way Northern Ireland could become a link between the EU and the UK, as Hong Kong in particular has been between China and the rest of the world?

The short answer is no, but the reasons are worth exploring.

Hong Kongs status as a bridge has always been overstated China was essentially a closed country for the first 30 years after the second World War, forcing Hong Kong to develop as a manufacturing powerhouse in its own right.

That phase of Northern Irelands history is behind it.

When China began opening up from the early 1980s, Hong Kong did function as a bridge but only because Beijing chose it for this purpose, establishing a special economic zone on its side of the border and expanding a small fishing village into an industrial city of 10 million people.

Does even Leo Varadkar have such ambitions for Dundalk?

...

17:12

A Cold War youth festival ages well, but leaves too much unsaid openDemocracy

This year, Russia hosted the World Festival of Youth and Students with a mix of Cold War slogans and modern realpolitik.

Mingling at the main festival site in Sochi. (c): Kristiina Silvan. All rights reserved.Calling on the worlds youth to unite for peace, solidarity and social justice and to struggle against imperialism sounds slightly outdated in Russia today. But those were the phrases that rang out on 13-22 November, when the country hosted the 19th World Youth Festival. The event brought 20,000 young people from across the world to Sochis now empty Olympic Park to participate in a bizarre re-enactment of a Cold War era mega-event.

The result? A celebration of youth, peace and international friendship overshadowed by the realpolitik and geopolitics of todays Russia.

Uniting the youth, 60 years on

An obvious point of departure for the 2017 festival was the legendary Moscow Youth Festival of 1957. In Soviet and Russian historiography, the festival was an unforgettable event in the lives of a whole generation of Soviet youth.

It was a chance for the USSR to show the rest of the world what a developed, democratic and, above all, attractive superpower the Soviet Union really was one that, according to accounts oozing with nostalgia, genuinely created a platform for international peace and friendship. Those who were able to take part (many capitalist governments boycotted the festival and barred their citizens from participating) instantly fell in love with the USSR and its people.

The Moscow 1957 Festival of Yo...

08:23

Populism matters beyond just Europe and the US. Heres why openDemocracy

Our key finding is that the international structure and the regional context are decisive in determining the exact content of populist ruptures around the world.

lead Thaksin Shinawatra, who has just become 23rd PM of Thailand, with George Bush in the Oval Office in 2001. Wikicommons/White House photo by Eric Draper. Some rights reserved. It is difficult to think of a political phenomenon that has gained more currency in public and policy debates internationally in the last few years than populism.

Already the object of analysis in a voluminous literature, populism proved to be a highly relevant factor in momentous political events such as the emergence of radical left anti-austerity government in Greece in 2015, and the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States and the vote of the British people to leave the EU (Brexit) in 2016.

These events came on the heels of a longstanding process of strengthening of populist forces in the West more generally. But populism has now become a relevant phenomenon in many other world regions as well. Long a dominant force in Latin America, populism has now emerged as a distinct feature of politics in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Why is this so, and what does the global emergence of populism mean?

In a recent special issue of the International Political Science Review, experts in the politics of a broad array of regions West and East Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Muslim world, and Africa reflected on the emergence and impact of populism. As a scholarly exercise, our special issue is an addition to a growing but still underdeveloped literature on cross-regional comparisons of populism. But even this literature is primarily concerned with comparisons between the two regions with the strongest populist footprint Europe and Latin America.

In our special issue, we extend the geographical range of comparison by looking as well at regions that rarely appear in cross-regional analyses.

Conceptually our special issue integrates discursive, critical and s...

07:43

Arts, participation, exchange: who are 'we' in a moving world? openDemocracy

Can politics be more artful and art be more political? Here, we ask if art and digital communication can create new ways to talk about belonging, exclusion and responsibility.

Who are we banner_0.jpglead The new union jack. Image: Tate/OU/CPA. All rights reserved.Borders, citizenship and migration dominate political and media agendas. The referendum on EU membership in 2016 in Britain and the so-called refugee crisis in particular have sparked intense polarisation, leading rises in both xenophobic attitudes and solidarity activism. In times of social upheaval and transience we need to find spaces to ask who we are and how we know who we are.


Sara de Jong
Words alone can fall short of capturing what is really meant, even creating barriers rather than shared understandings. Post-truth politics and echo chambers challenge a sense of the possibility of meaningful communication. Where to go from here? Can politics be more artful and art be more political?

This special feature asks if art and digital communication can create new ways to talk about belonging, exclusion and responsibility. Can we form new collective identities and actions through engaged practice, visual, audio, and digital arts, film, photography, theatre and the spoken word?


Giota Alevizou
This special feature is developed by academics from The Open University who formed a collaboration with Counterpoints Arts (CPA) and the Universities of Loughborough and Warwick to organize a free 6-day cross-platform event in March 2017 entitled Who Are W...

07:33

We need to talk about Sisis twisted take on human rights openDemocracy

No one is keeping the Egyptian government from fighting terrorism. But Sisis rhetoric on the right to combat terrorism underlies his belief of an Egyptian exceptionalism. 

MENA/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi delivers a speech at the inauguration of the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, November, 2017. MENA/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.On November 4, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt inaugurated the World Youth Forum, an international conference hosted in the countrys Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

Dozens of Egyptian and foreign officials as well as hundreds of foreign and Egyptian youthmany of whom Egypt luxuriously funded to comeattended the conference organized under the catchy phrase We Need to Talk. 

The question is, talk about what?

Sisis inaugural speech left no mystery about his priorities. He immediately began with his favorite subject, terrorism, and proceeded to propose a novel legal innovation to confront it. He declared that combating terrorism is a human right, a new right that I am adding to human rights in Egypt.

Many Egyptians, whose voices are excluded from such conferences, say they would rather talk about the array of existing rights they cannot practice, or have found themselves thrown in prison for attempting to exercise.

These include the rights to...

We need to talk about Sisis twisted take on human rights openDemocracy

No one is keeping the Egyptian government from fighting terrorism. But Sisis rhetoric on the right to combat terrorism underlies his belief of an Egyptian exceptionalism. 

MENA/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi delivers a speech at the inauguration of the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, November, 2017. MENA/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.On November 4, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt inaugurated the World Youth Forum, an international conference hosted in the countrys Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

Dozens of Egyptian and foreign officials as well as hundreds of foreign and Egyptian youthmany of whom Egypt luxuriously funded to comeattended the conference organized under the catchy phrase We Need to Talk. 

The question is, talk about what?

Sisis inaugural speech left no mystery about his priorities. He immediately began with his favorite subject, terrorism, and proceeded to propose a novel legal innovation to confront it. He declared that combating terrorism is a human right, a new right that I am adding to human rights in Egypt.

Many Egyptians, whose voices are excluded from such conferences, say they would rather talk about the array of existing rights they cannot practice, or have found themselves thrown in prison for attempting to exercise.

These include the rights to...

06:08

Womens rights in the EU: a privilege for some women? openDemocracy

The European Commissions annual colloquium on fundamental rights calls for reflection on intersectionality. A trendy buzzword for policy makers, but can it lead to equality in practice for all women?

lead Screenshot: Addressing the 2017 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.Equality between women and men is one of the European Union's founding values says the website of the European Commission. Since inclusion of the principle of equal pay for equal work in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Union has made gender equality a priority of its work. Through legislation, gender mainstreaming and specific measures, the Union has achieved great strides in social, economic and political progress for women in Europe.

But did these strides benefit all women? To what extent are considerations of race, religion, class, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity germane to the EU conception of gender equality?

These questions form a critique of European policies from the concept of intersectionality. Originating from black feminists in the US, intersectionality is the awareness that mainstream feminist approaches do not necessarily address the multiple forms of discrimination and oppression faced by some women. Inherent to the concept of intersectionality is the view that a universalist feminist approach is not sufficient to achieving equality for all women. Women are not a homogeneous group, they are not affected by discrimination and misogyny in the same way because of their different backgrounds and profiles. The 2017 Women Who Shape Brussels Power List was described by Politico Editor as inescapably white. Without women of colour in positions of power, the policy is unlikely to change any time soon.

Assessing European Union gender equality policies from an intersectional perspective, we see that in their universalism, they primarily serve white, middle-class, straight, cis-women. In fact, women of colour[1] and issues directly impacting them are, for the most part, ig...

Womens rights in the EU: a privilege for some women? openDemocracy

The European Commissions annual colloquium on fundamental rights calls for reflection on intersectionality. A trendy buzzword for policy makers, but can it lead to equality in practice for all women?

lead Screenshot: Addressing the 2017 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.Equality between women and men is one of the European Union's founding values says the website of the European Commission. Since inclusion of the principle of equal pay for equal work in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Union has made gender equality a priority of its work. Through legislation, gender mainstreaming and specific measures, the Union has achieved great strides in social, economic and political progress for women in Europe.

But did these strides benefit all women? To what extent are considerations of race, religion, class, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity germane to the EU conception of gender equality?

These questions form a critique of European policies from the concept of intersectionality. Originating from black feminists in the US, intersectionality is the awareness that mainstream feminist approaches do not necessarily address the multiple forms of discrimination and oppression faced by some women. Inherent to the concept of intersectionality is the view that a universalist feminist approach is not sufficient to achieving equality for all women. Women are not a homogeneous group, they are not affected by discrimination and misogyny in the same way because of their different backgrounds and profiles. The 2017 Women Who Shape Brussels Power List was described by Politico Editor as inescapably white. Without women of colour in positions of power, the policy is unlikely to change any time soon.

Assessing European Union gender equality policies from an intersectional perspective, we see that in their universalism, they primarily serve white, middle-class, straight, cis-women. In fact, women of colour[1] and issues directly impacting them are, for the most part, ig...

03:53

Ellecer Budit Carlos: We are going through a revival of the Marcos dictatorship openDemocracy

What appeared to have been a people's revolution was in fact a revolution of the bourgeois, hijacked by lites. Another elite simply took the place of Marcos and his cronies.

Frank Barat (FB): Hi Budit and thanks again for doing this, I know the situation in the Philippines is bad at the moment so it is great you're taking the time to talk to us.

Budit: Thanks to you and TNI for making these interviews possible and giving us an opportunity to foreground the situation in the Philippines and what the many stakeholders around the world can do to help us.

FB: About your personal situation, I know you have had issues trying to get back to the Philippines following a trip in Europe, and that you received threats from the government. Can you tell me more about this?

Budit: Actually I did not get threats from the government but this administration has put in place a very well oiled and efficient propaganda machinery. So when Duterte took office in June last year they deployed propagandists here as well as in various parts of the world where you have a huge concentration of Filipino migrants.

Filipino migrant workers are an important support base for this president as they are sort of the decision-makers in the family. Our economy is dependant on them. So it is important that his popularity is sustained there, amongst Filipinos abroad. This administration has also made full use of government information and news agencies to sustain this president's anti-human rights rhetoric. So both online and offline this propaganda machinery actually sustains that culture of bullying and lynch mob methods. Those who provide active consensus to president Duterte's rule. They took advantage of a very disoriented and frustrated public and that is what enables him to operate on what is still a very strong support base. The attacks that I have received that also other human rights defenders receive here in the Philippines is from this propaganda machinery sanctioned by government.

FB: The overall situation in Mindanao and elsewhere is therefore terrible, right?

Budit: Yes, actually, the EJK and forced disappearances and torture, the gravest forms of HR violations, were there even before Duterte. As Philip Alston the former special rapporteur on EJK said during his visit to the Philippines while the Philippines has undertaken admirable efforts to respect HR there is still a strong undercurrent of lawlessness, meaning that the state itself has been making use of vigilante groups and non state armed groups to stifle dissent and eliminate oppositio...

Ellecer Budit Carlos: We are going through a revival of the Marcos dictatorship openDemocracy

What appeared to have been a people's revolution was in fact a revolution of the bourgeois, hijacked by lites. Another elite simply took the place of Marcos and his cronies.

Frank Barat (FB): Hi Budit and thanks again for doing this, I know the situation in the Philippines is bad at the moment so it is great you're taking the time to talk to us.

Budit: Thanks to you and TNI for making these interviews possible and giving us an opportunity to foreground the situation in the Philippines and what the many stakeholders around the world can do to help us.

FB: About your personal situation, I know you have had issues trying to get back to the Philippines following a trip in Europe, and that you received threats from the government. Can you tell me more about this?

Budit: Actually I did not get threats from the government but this administration has put in place a very well oiled and efficient propaganda machinery. So when Duterte took office in June last year they deployed propagandists here as well as in various parts of the world where you have a huge concentration of Filipino migrants.

Filipino migrant workers are an important support base for this president as they are sort of the decision-makers in the family. Our economy is dependant on them. So it is important that his popularity is sustained there, amongst Filipinos abroad. This administration has also made full use of government information and news agencies to sustain this president's anti-human rights rhetoric. So both online and offline this propaganda machinery actually sustains that culture of bullying and lynch mob methods. Those who provide active consensus to president Duterte's rule. They took advantage of a very disoriented and frustrated public and that is what enables him to operate on what is still a very strong support base. The attacks that I have received that also other human rights defenders receive here in the Philippines is from this propaganda machinery sanctioned by government.

FB: The overall situation in Mindanao and elsewhere is therefore terrible, right?

Budit: Yes, actually, the EJK and forced disappearances and torture, the gravest forms of HR violations, were there even before Duterte. As Philip Alston the former special rapporteur on EJK said during his visit to the Philippines while the Philippines has undertaken admirable efforts to respect HR there is still a strong undercurrent of lawlessness, meaning that the state itself has been making use of vigilante groups and non state armed groups to stifle dissent and eliminate oppositio...

03:32

Understanding arms trafficking in Colombia openDemocracy

In Colombia, more than 70% of the homicides are committed with firearms coming from at least twenty countries. Their main recipients are drug traffickers and criminal gangs. Espaol

Image: Polica Nacional de los colombianos/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This article, which is part of the #NiUnMuertoMas project of the Latin American strategy for homicide reduction Instinto de Vida funded by Open Society Foundations and Igarap, is being published as part of the partnership between Pacifista! and DemocraciaAbierta. Read the original content here.

Drug traffickers and criminal gangs are the main recipients of the multimillion-dollar trafficking business in arms, ammunition and explosives which get into Colombia by land and sea, through rivers and air. The Department of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (DIJIN) asserts that arms trafficking is associated, to a large extent, with trafficking in cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs, since they are practically inseparable activities generating multimillion-dollar profits. Its agents warn that arm trafficking is a progressive and cyclical phenomenon which ranks third in the most profitable illegal activities list. Drugs and human trafficking are in the first and second place. 

The generations

The Police have registered the entry into Colombia of large quantities of weapons in waves which they call generations:

The first generation is known as "Genesis": according to the authorities, arms trafficking skyrocketed with the growth of guerrillas in the country in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution.

The second generation is called Rotation by police investigators because the weapons which entered the country came from Central American conflict zones - from the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union, the Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front in...

Understanding arms trafficking in Colombia openDemocracy

In Colombia, more than 70% of the homicides are committed with firearms coming from at least twenty countries. Their main recipients are drug traffickers and criminal gangs. Espaol

Image: Polica Nacional de los colombianos/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This article, which is part of the #NiUnMuertoMas project of the Latin American strategy for homicide reduction Instinto de Vida funded by Open Society Foundations and Igarap, is being published as part of the partnership between Pacifista! and DemocraciaAbierta. Read the original content here.

Drug traffickers and criminal gangs are the main recipients of the multimillion-dollar trafficking business in arms, ammunition and explosives which get into Colombia by land and sea, through rivers and air. The Department of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (DIJIN) asserts that arms trafficking is associated, to a large extent, with trafficking in cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs, since they are practically inseparable activities generating multimillion-dollar profits. Its agents warn that arm trafficking is a progressive and cyclical phenomenon which ranks third in the most profitable illegal activities list. Drugs and human trafficking are in the first and second place. 

The generations

The Police have registered the entry into Colombia of large quantities of weapons in waves which they call generations:

The first generation is known as "Genesis": according to the authorities, arms trafficking skyrocketed with the growth of guerrillas in the country in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution.

The second generation is called Rotation by police investigators because the weapons which entered the country came from Central American conflict zones - from the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union, the Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front in...

03:20

Arts, participation, exchange: who are 'we' in a moving world? openDemocracy

Can politics be more artful and art be more political? Here, we ask if art and digital communication can create new ways to talk about belonging, exclusion and responsibility.

Who are we banner_0.jpg The new union jack. Image: Tate/OU/CPA. All rights reserved.Borders, citizenship and migration dominate political and media agendas. The referendum on EU membership in 2016 in Britain and the so-called refugee crisis in particular have sparked intense polarisation, leading rises in both xenophobic attitudes and solidarity activism. In times of social upheaval and transience we need to find spaces to ask who we are and how we know who we are.

Sara de Jong. Words alone can fall short of capturing what is really meant, even creating barriers rather than shared understandings. Post-truth politics and echo chambers challenge a sense of the possibility of meaningful communication. Where to go from here? Can politics be more artful and art be more political? This special feature asks if art and digital communication can create new ways to talk about belonging, exclusion and responsibility. Can we form new collective identities and actions through engaged practice, visual, audio, and digital arts, film, photography, theatre and the spoken word?

...

03:18

The citizenshop openDemocracy

Freedom of movement means no such thing. Movement is a marketplace how much does it cost?

Who are we banner_0.jpg

This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the Tate Exchange project in which academics and artists together ask who during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly 'we' are, and who gets to decide.
Sideboxes
Rights: 
CC by NC 4.0

The citizenshop openDemocracy

Freedom of movement means no such thing. Movement is a marketplace how much does it cost?

Who are we banner_0.jpg

This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the Tate Exchange project in which academics and artists together ask who during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly 'we' are, and who gets to decide.
Sideboxes
Rights: 
CC by NC 4.0

03:17

Solidarities outside the box openDemocracy

Can the expression of conviviality act as a reminder of everyday acts of kindness?

Who are we banner_0.jpg Solidarities outside the box. All rights reserved.With constant news about growing islamophobia and anti-semitism, and the rise of right-wing movements and parties across Europe and the world, the media is dominated by stories documenting and trying to understand our age of anger as the essayist Pankai Mishra has called it in his recent book. Public displays of anger, anxiety and resentment hold our attention. In a political climate shaped by uncertainty and competition, the social is increasingly understood in ethno-nationalist/monocultural/religious terms and the ability to live together in diversity is thrown into question. In a recent survey by the 2017 Aurora Humanitarian Index, for instance, which was reported in the Guardian found that more than half of Britons believe their culture is threatened by ethnic minorities living in the UK.

Such situations allow for ordinary and unspectacular encounters with others in which difference is routinely rendered insignificant.

Laura Sorvalas installation Outside the Box provides a counterpoint to the depictions of an increasingly divided society shaped by stereotypes and resentments. As part of the Who are we? project at Tate Moderns Tate Exchange programme she sent out a call via social media for stories that document kindness and solidarity that people have experienced in their everyday lives. People were asked to share their stories on the projects Facebook page, post them on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #OutsideBoxArt or send t...

Solidarities outside the box openDemocracy

Can the expression of conviviality act as a reminder of everyday acts of kindness?

Who are we banner_0.jpg Solidarities outside the box. All rights reserved.With constant news about growing islamophobia and anti-semitism, and the rise of right-wing movements and parties across Europe and the world, the media is dominated by stories documenting and trying to understand our age of anger as the essayist Pankai Mishra has called it in his recent book. Public displays of anger, anxiety and resentment hold our attention. In a political climate shaped by uncertainty and competition, the social is increasingly understood in ethno-nationalist/monocultural/religious terms and the ability to live together in diversity is thrown into question. In a recent survey by the 2017 Aurora Humanitarian Index, for instance, which was reported in the Guardian found that more than half of Britons believe their culture is threatened by ethnic minorities living in the UK.

Such situations allow for ordinary and unspectacular encounters with others in which difference is routinely rendered insignificant.

Laura Sorvalas installation Outside the Box provides a counterpoint to the depictions of an increasingly divided society shaped by stereotypes and resentments. As part of the Who are we? project at Tate Moderns Tate Exchange programme she sent out a call via social media for stories that document kindness and solidarity that people have experienced in their everyday lives. People were asked to share their stories on the projects Facebook page, post them on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #OutsideBoxArt or send t...

03:16

Fifty rooms openDemocracy

As the body moves and migrates, it holds memories, it breaks and repairs, ages and becomes infected with new thoughts, utopian dreams. It arrives in a space already claimed by others.

Who are we banner_0.jpg

This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the Tate Exchange project in which academics and artists together ask who during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly 'we' are, and who gets to decide.
Sideboxes
Rights: 
CC by NC 4.0

Fifty rooms openDemocracy

As the body moves and migrates, it holds memories, it breaks and repairs, ages and becomes infected with new thoughts, utopian dreams. It arrives in a space already claimed by others.

Who are we banner_0.jpg

This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy, The Open University and Counterpoints Arts to reanimate the Tate Exchange project in which academics and artists together ask who during a time when the lines marking out citizens, borders and nations are being redrawn, or drawn more starkly 'we' are, and who gets to decide.
Sideboxes
Rights: 
CC by NC 4.0

03:14

Stealing stories for art: migration, voyeurism and the appropriation of injustice openDemocracy

In On a Wing and a Prayer, we cross London's Rotherhithe tunnel by foot, mirroring the journey of people like Abdul Haroun arrested on arrival. Why are some rewarded for making such a journey, others incarcerated?

Who are we banner_0.jpg Rotherhithe Tunnel: on a wing and a prayer. Image: The Open University. All rights reserved.On the 17th of August 2015 Abdul Haroun, a Sudanese refugee, walked the 31-mile Channel tunnel to Britain in order to reach safety in the UK. Artist Alia Syed read the news reports of Abdul Haroun walking through the Channel Tunnel and was astonished that somebody could survive walking through the tunnel. She was further surprised that having survived the journey, he was then arrested at the other end. Why can some people swim across the Channel and be rewarded for that with a gold medal, or even swim the Channel to raise money for refugees, while Mr Haroun walks through the Channel Tunnel only to find himself under arrest? Syed wanted to make visible the contradictory ways in which different people are allowed or not allowed to travel across geographies, highlighting how borders prevent some from travelling, but not others.

What are the artistic and ethical challenges to engaging with refugee experiences such as Mr Harouns? Inspired by Mr Harouns case, Alia Syed filmed herself crossing the London Rotherhithe tunnel by foot. Her film On a Wing and a Prayer is shot using two Go Pro video cameras attached to her body. The view offered is the imprint" of Syeds bodys movement through the tunnel creating a sensation akin to vection: locomotion caused by visual perception alone. (...

02:55

Brexit has already cost the average British worker the equivalent of a week's wages AAV


Ever since the EU referendum Brexiteers have continually promoted the myth that Brexit is not going to be a disaster because the "project fear" predictions of the Remain campaign supposedly didn't come true after the referendum.

The main problem with this myth of course is that the predictions of an economic downturn have largely proven quite accurate since the Brexit vote. 

It's clear that what has actually happened to the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote actually lies pretty much in the middle of what the various Brexit forecasts predicted (see image).

It's also worth remembering that many of the pre-Brexit forecasts were built on the (somewhat naive) assumption that David Cameron would stick to his word and trigger Article 50 on the day after a Leave vote.


So when Cameron didn't actually do that, he dramatically softened the immediate economic impact of Brexit by deferring a significant measure of the economic damage (thus helping to generate the seemingly ubiquitous 'Brexit isn't so bad' trope).

Even though Cameron handed the Brexiteers a huge propaganda boost by renageing on his empty threat to trigger Article 50 on the day after the EU referendum, the Brexit vote still caused a significant measure of economic damage.
 

...

02:40

The Adams Legacy Slugger O'Toole

Gerry Adams departure is a defining moment for Sinn Fein. It will signal a changing of the guard that will be both a challenge to and opportunity for the party.

Gerry Adams was the personification of the armed force Republican tradition in Irish politics- hence why many political opponents, victims and Troubles survivors can not look past that when considering the man and his role over the past half-century of Irish politics.

Yet this is also why his achievements, when analysed in an historical context, will mark him out from others of his generation.

His leadership was critical to navigating a Republican Movement through conflict to ceasefire and the subsequent compromises of the Good Friday Agreement, onward to the closing down of militant republicanism (including decommissioning and disbandment) and shaping of an effective and credible all Ireland political party- all achieved whilst ensuring the notoriously fractious republican tradition remained remarkably cohesive, fraying only at the edges.

He decided in the final phase of his career as leader to leave west Belfast for Louth, taking a seat in the Dail to help embed and grow the party in the South, ensuring that the centre of gravity for Sinn Fein moved decisively southwards in the process.

The longevity of his service as party leader, some 34 years, was crucial to allowing him to steer republicanism onto a new path, though it did ensure that the partys evolution in the post-conflict and post-peace process era was (and remains) stunted.

His greatest strength was in his capacity to plan and strategise for the medium and long term, something that has borne fruit through the shaping (and very existence) of the peace process and the healthy electoral condition of the party he led for so long.

He helped the party grow from bit player in the Dail to the third largest party and pre-eminent voice of the Irish Left, a position which will likely be consolidated by the ascent of an emerging leadership more ideologically (as opposed to merely rhetorically) pivoted on the Left.

But whilst Sinn Fein at National level in the Dail would appear well positioned to smoothly transition to a Mary Lou McDonald leadership, supported by an impressive legislative tier of spokespersons, it is in the north that the party faces its greatest challenge today.

In the absence of McGuinness and Adams, northern Sinn Fein collectively cuts a much diminished figure, and it will be interesting to see if Michelle ONeill can begin to make her own mark as leader, drive a leadership core team that can help her mould the party.

That is no easy task for, whilst Adams and McGuinness excelled at a leadership approach which prepared the party support base and activists for significant changes to republican orthodoxy, the price of prioritizing cohesion included slowing the pace of reform, resulting in the evolution of a party in the north not yet functioning as...

02:01

I'm a trans teenager in Northern Ireland, where bigotry is taught at school openDemocracy

While LGBTQ+ rights groups are deemed inappropriate for educational environments, abusive and anti-choice activists are currently welcomed with open arms.

Classroom in Northern Ireland. Classroom in Northern Ireland. Photo: Vincent Li/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.LGBTQ+ lives and rights in Northern Ireland are treated as nothing more than a controversial topic for a debate show. Bigots and crypto-fascists and we have many are constantly given platforms, soapboxes and huge live audiences to spread vile and dangerous views.

Transphobia and homophobia are entrenched in our culture and across the vast majority of our media. In my experience, this manifests itself most painfully and repeats itself most dangerously in our schools.

Northern Irelands Department of Education has no guidelines in place for supporting trans young people in school. There are no LGBTQ+ diversity workshops or education for either pupils or staff. Many of our state schools are specifically religious. Intolerance is not just allowed, but encouraged. Even within non-denominational schools, bigotry is rife.

Intolerance is not just allowed, but encouraged.

In 2015, a bill to address bullying in schools was introduced by Sinn Fin, when they held the Education ministry. But it has amounted to faux-progressive window dressing, doing nothing to help LGBTQ+ youth.

Audaciously, the party claims to champion and support queer young people but their bill failed to require schools to record homophobic or transphobic bullying for what it is, or to specifically tackle such bullying in their policies.

A 2017 Department of Education report brought the issue of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying to the fore, along with institutional neglect within the education system. This re...

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Monday, 20 November

21:54

All hail the real king openDemocracy

The Saudi Monarchs 4 November purge threatens the kingdoms longstanding policy on dynastic rule, and paves the way for Salmans abdication of power to his son Mohammed.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo by Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM. All rights reserved. Mohammed Ben Salman (MBS), with the acquiescence of Salman, is now in control of the kingdoms three centres of military power, its media narrative and much of the funds of the countrys business elite, and is thus able to wield immense influence.

The simultaneous, but not coincidental, forced resignation of Lebanons Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, formed part of this, and together with the purge, threatens to cause regional ructions. Already we have observed an escalation of Saudi rhetoric towards Iran, and the blocking of Yemens ports. This is especially the case in Lebanon, where this is likely to lead to the collapse of the current government, which took more than two years to form.

Implemented under the auspices of the newly formed anti-corruption committee, headed by MBS, the purge saw eleven princes initially detained (including Abdullahs two sons Mutib and Turki) together with dozens of businessmen including the influential prince and media mogul Walid bin Talal as well as Walid Al-Ibrahim. King Fahds son Abdulaziz, was also reportedly killed trying to evade arrest although it is more likely that he has been banished from the country. Mansour, the son of former Crown Prince Muqrin perished in a helicopter crash close to the Yemeni boarder, reportedly on route to visit local projects in Acir, but whose death is attributed to his attempts to escape capture. In addition, Mohammed bin Nayef, who had previously been placed under house arrest, saw his assets frozen, as well as the assets of thousands of other citizens.

MBS consolidates control

The arrests are part of an MBS pattern of consolidating control over the levers of the countrys power, particularly the political, security, econ...

21:47

The Brazilian paradox openDemocracy

The putschist Brazilian administration is not addressing the previous policy shortcomings constructively. Heres the Foreword of Lena Lavinas' new book: The Takeover of Social Policy by Financialization the Brazilian Paradox. Espaol Portugus

Photo: Lula Marques/Agncia PT (Flickr), CC BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.

The Takeover of Social Policy by Financialization the Brazilian Paradox explores three closely related issues, at distinct levels of analysis: first, neoliberalism and financialisation, both as defining features of contemporary capitalism and as drivers of social reproduction. Second, financialisation in Brazil, focusing on the macroeconomic and financial policies implemented by the federal administrations led by the Workers Party (PT, in power between 2003 and 2016). Third, the unique, and uniquely significant, role of social policy in Brazilian financialisation. In doing this, The Brazilian Paradox offers a searing indictment of the social- or neo- developmentalist model associated with Presidents Lus Incio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Neoliberalism is the current phase of global capitalism, and financialisation is the economic core of neoliberalism. In country after country, neoliberalism and financialisation have reorganised the processes of production, exchange, distribution and accumulation of value, and led to the emergence of distinctive modes of social reproduction including specific modes of governance, ideologies, and subjectivities. In this context, the financialisation of daily life has intensified the subjection of households to financial markets and processes almost everywhere.

Financialisation of daily life has intensified the subjection of households to financial markets and processes almost everywhere

These statements are generally correct but they lack historical content: even though neoliberalism and financialisation are analytica...

21:46

German-Turkish tensions in a collapsing Jamaica coalition openDemocracy

While the Turkish narrative in the close-alliance-cum-uneasy-stand-off between Germany and Turkey remained constant over the past decade, momentous changes have now occurred to the German political system.

lead Federal chairman of The Greens, Cem Oezdemir in conversation with chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) during failing exploratory talks between the CDU, CSU, FDP and Green Party in Berlin, Germany, 10 November 2017. Gregor Fischer/Press Association. All rights reserved.After the September 2017 federal elections in Germany, the conservative Union parties, CDU/CSU, the liberal FDP party and the Green party set out to form the so-called Jamaica coalition government, which have failed after the liberal party withdrawal in mid-November and may lead to a minority coalition government (CDU/CSU and Green party). Ever since the 2002 federal election campaign, when the then German chancellor Gerhard Schrder was reelected, mainly because of his game-changing refusal to support the USs Iraq invasion, contention over foreign policy has been absent from Berlins political competition. Hence, the Bundestag has predominantly seen largely unified positions, also with regard to Ankara. The political situation in Turkey and the combination of an electorally soaring populist radical-right challenger party and a deliberately oppositional Social Democratic party prophesy stormy times ahead for German-Turkish relations.

In the last decade or so, German foreign policy has been largely characterized by a broadly unified stance towards Turkey. Berlin perceived the first ten years of AKP rule as moderately positive. On the EU level, EU accession negotiations with Turkey commenced in 2005 and Germany, holding vast leverage in EU politics, proved to be far from vetoing the opening of accession talks. However, the authoritarian suppression of the 2013 Gezi protests in Istanbul darkened Germanys view of Turkey; and its image of the then prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, was accordingly impaired.

From 2013 onwards, German politics has increasingly presented a united, critical shoulder-to-shoulder stance against the Turkish government concerning the unhappy state of democracy in Tur...

21:18

Gerry Adams and Robert Mugabe have something in common Slugger O'Toole

How ironic that the eras of Mugabe and Adams are drawing to a close at roughly the same time. Both are men of blood. Both remained in office for unhealthily long periods of time, reflecting the essentially undemocratic nature of their political machines and their origins in armed insurgency. It now turns out that neither is departing immediately.

Of course  there are significant differences. Adams will go with the adulation of his followers and  continuing influence. Mugabe led  the majority fraction of a liberation movement which ruthlessly crushed opposition on his own side and is dragging his ageing feet in the teeth of party as well as popular clamour urging him to quit.

Or is there more of a similarity here than appears on the surface? In each case nirvana has not arrived. Irish unity remains a viable vision as much despite Sinn Fein as because of it.  Whether Zimbabwes future is democratic or just another Zanu PF stitch- up remains to be played out.

The most salient difference is the rapt attention paid to  every move over Mugabe in the  British media, while  Adams rather clearer announcement  was virtually ignored.  In the chaotic state of Westminster politics, Ireland north and south feature only as a footnote to Brexit. Zimbabwe is  more interesting as  part of the post-colonial angst, even though British  influence in the country is notably absent.

Sinn Fein now  takes a major step  towards becoming just another Irish minority  leftish party rooted in history and eligible as a coalition partner, like  Clan na Poblacta and  the Workers Party before them. Currently they stand a better chance than Labour of becoming the minority left coalition partner of choice, whatever Fianna Fail may say just now.  A good deal less likely is the realisation of Sinn Feins ambition to force a new polarity between left and right in Irish politics to become the official opposition and ultimately a main party of government.

In years to come, Mugabe will revert to iconic status as a founding father with complications.  Gerry Adams will continue to exemplify toxicity and unique appeal in equal measure. as Ed Moloney explains with his usual force.   He is unlikely to disappear without trace for as long as he lives, however much time he now spends on the trampoline.

His indispensible role in the peace process is his considerable egacy. He can add to his reputation as a...

21:03

November 20 openDemocracy

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19:47

Mrs Mays Mad Hatters Tea Party Jonathan Fryer

may-johnson-davis-foxYesterday it was revealed that the government is recruiting Poles and other EU migrants to help in the forthcoming registration of EU citizens resident in the UK because there arent enough qualified and willing British workers to do it. The whole Brexit fiasco gets more surreal by the week. Far from saving Britain money and cutting red tape, as the Leave campaign promised, exactly the opposite is proving to be the case. The bureaucracy and expensive delays that will ensue from bringing back customs controls for trade in goods from the EU are mind boggling. But meanwhile the Prime Minister, Theresa May, charges on with her red, white and blue Brexit, with all the crazed energy and delusions of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. David Davis, meanwhile, has taken on the role of the Mad Hatter, with his stupid little grin and evident lack of understanding of how the EU works or even how to negotiate. He was rumoured to be threatening to resign at the weekend (maybe because a top civil servant had vetoed his plan to requisition an RAF plane to fly him round Europe on his Brexit mission?). While that prospect is superficially appealing it is Brexit itself that needs to be done away with, not the nincompoop Ministers dealing with it. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and even the Daily Telegraph have been continuing their disgraceful and often vitriolic attacks on anti-Brexit politicians and the Courts. Remainer Tor...

Monday, 28 August

00:48

Call for submissions: Listening to Libya - Intervention and its aftermath openDemocracy

NAWA seeks to provide a deeper look into Libya by inviting Libyan writers, and readers to submit their thoughts, articles and pitches but also their reading recommendations to us.

Explosive Remnants of War in post revolution Libya. Picture by United Nations Development Programme / Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Some rights reserved. During the month of September, North Africa West Asia (NAWA) is calling for submissions and pitches on Libya.

Since the beginning of the Libyan uprising and especially with the military intervention that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become a ghost haunting any discussion of internationalism in Syria, and as primary evidence of western conspiracies for regime change. While much is discussed about Syria, very little has been heard from Libyans and Libya outside of the simplified dichotomy that we see in mainstream media. While indeed part of the story of Syria is located in Libya, the latters story is crucial to be told for its own sake.  

NAWA seeks to provide a deeper look into Libya by inviting Libyan writers, and readers to submit their thoughts, articles and pitches but also their reading recommendations to us. Though many foreigners have studied and written on Libya, we aim to bolster the voice and experience of Libyans for this series.

Our focus will be on the call for and the aftermath of intervention. How has the Libyan uprising altered internationalism and what is happening in Libya in the aftermath of the intervention?

You can submit your pitches or texts (50 to 100 words) and / or reading suggestions to NAWA@opendemocracy.net

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