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Saturday, 16 September


If not loyalists, who else will do this job? Slugger O'Toole

Ive rarely heard such a lack of political sensitivity as Jim Wilson telling Stephen Nolan that, in applying to the British government to be deproscribed, the Red Hand Commando wants their place in the sun.

What a disturbing way to put it.

But at the same time, Wilsons interview on the Nolan Show tells us so much about where loyalism is at in 2017. Still grasping for a political voice, still resentful of their exclusion from big house unionism, still frustrated that they cant seem to access the kind of social and political legitimacy that they perceive republicans to have accessed.

In the mid 2000s, when I was lecturing in Sociology at QUB, I did some work with the RHC and UVF around their efforts to transition from paramilitarism to peace. Billy Mitchell (no relation), a former UVF commander and PUP strategist, who died in 2006, had invited me to spend some time looking into their work as hed read some stuff Id written on Protestantism and liked it.

A few years of hanging around with ex-prisoners, going to loyalist meetings, interviewing in the community, observing their interactions with OFMDFM (for whom I co-wrote an internal report, some of the research methods/findings from which are here), I learned a few things

Loyalism craves political legitimacy. Most loyalists working in conflict transformation groups that I met, did not seek to excuse their violence during the Troubles, at least not to me. In fact many privately expressed regret. Instead, their real motive was to be understood as combatants who are on a journey from war to peace, and to be given some credit for the ways they were trying to move forward. Because this was, and is, a context where many unionists talk to loyalists in private, yet wash their hands of them in public. Where so much of what they do and say is mocked as the rantings of knuckle dragging thugs and fleggers. And it is a context where they havent been able to find a place in the political mainstream, often because of their own limitations, of which more below

Calling this desire for legitimacy a place in the sun is horrendous, utterly offensive to victims. Im out of the loop now, so I cant claim to know what the RHCs sentiments in saying this, or applying for deproscription, really are. But what I heard in Wilsons interview was the familiar frustration that whilst many loyalists have been working for positive change in their areas for a long time now, they feel that few people either notice or care.

To be specific about what I mean by positive change I spent time in restorative justice programmes which tried to replace punishment beatings with community-based alternatives. Loyalist conflict transformation groups liaised between parami...


#IslandsOfInnovation: Where shared memory and story intersect lies something valuable Slugger O'Toole

I was lucky enough to be asked by Youth Action Northern Ireland to present a workshop at their two-day Islands of Innovation conference/symposium attended by young leaders (18-35) yesterday in Belfast.

The key purpose was to explore what Britain and Ireland could look like in 2021, consider how they can contribute and assess what decisions need to be taken now and in the future. A welcome shift from the resolutely backward focus of our stranded politics right now.

Its hard not to come to the conclusion that were running out of good stories to tell. If, for instance, Stormont feels like the bedeviled Castle in Sleeping Beauty, reviving democracys dozing inhabitants has proven a lot more problematic than many of us first imagined.

One or two set-piece cinematic moments (or kisses for the purposes of this analogy) clearly arent enough (think Trimble, Hume and Bono, think Chuckle Bros?).

In my session (with four different self-selecting groups) I asked people to identify shared memories (collective experiences with some broad social or political impact), then identify some of the stories that arose from them and, if time permitted, examine the impact line between them.

Its the first time Id had a chance to work in that way with any group, so it was a little stop/start at times (thanks, Ann-Marie!). But the general idea was to try and reach the issues to look at how stories arise from events and to see what we might learn from them.

There were lots of interesting themes, some of which we had too little time to explore. The Belfast Agreement was particularly rich with one person relating a personal story of how it had meant a turning within his own from pure tribal identity and towards something greater.

Others saw it as a governing point, and whatever the twists and turns ever since, they still view it as a story of aspiration. As Deirdre Heenan pointed out this is a generation many refer to as the GFA generation: ie, folk whose lives are marked more by peace than conflict.

Shared memories are often large-scale events and, often as not, traumatic. Brexit, for instance, looms large in all five territories but particularly in the Republic where it is experienced as an external threat and according to one voice has had an odd unifying effect on national politics....


Central American Independence Day Jonathan Fryer

IMG_2772Last night I nipped back to London from the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth to attend the Central Independence Day celebration at the Churchill Hotel. Its a unique event in the diplomatic calendar, as five countries mark their freedom on the same day: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In a nice gesture of solidarity, the much younger state of Belize (former British Honduras) was represented as well, and the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, attended. As Her Majestys Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, Alistair Harrison, commented in a short speech, it was all a great example of growing regional cooperation (the unspoken parenthesis being in contrast to the UK and Brexit). As an unreconstructed foodie, I could not but notice that the catering was stunning, including quite the best cured salmon (with sour cream, capers, chopped onion and lemon) I have ever had. Each of the Central American embassies had also brought along the finest examples of their national rums for me, as a rum-baba of long standing, the Guatemalan was the pick of the crop. Representatives of the Mes Amigo, the London month of celebration of things Ibero-American, were out in force, so it was altogether a fiesta to remember.



In some Unionist areas, it would be tantamount to erecting a Tricolour from a flagpole. Slugger O'Toole

The root cause of our current political crisis remains political unionisms opposition to the development of a shared and equal Northern Ireland.

Of course, twas ever thus.

The Loyal Sons will not be rerouted on their fateful march to Ulsters precipice in spite of more enlightened pro-Union voices regularly exposing the hypocrisy and instinctively supremacist thinking at the core of Unionist politics.

The News Letters recent campaign rallying Protestant and Unionist opinion against an Irish Language Act has included a remarkably non-newsworthy front page lead proclaiming that the Orange Order Grand Master opposed an Irish Language Act (I kid you not.)

But this gem, from the DUPs East Antrim MP, Sammy Wilson, in todays paper stands out for obvious reasons:

[On Irish language road signs] But Mr Wilson has claimed such a move would prove foolish and divisive, adding: It would lead to Irish street signs being imposed in places where they are not welcome and where few people would understand them. In some unionist areas, it would be tantamount to erecting a tricolour from a flagpole. They would be vandalised and torn down.
In the centre of the overwhelmingly nationalist village of Crumlin, of which I am a resident, a Union Flag is currently flying from a flagpole.
Across the north, in many majority nationalist towns and villages, unionist flags fly from flagpoles (and quite a few lamp posts.)
In many of these same towns and villages, many roads, bridges and buildings are named for British and Unionist figures from our past.
There are quite a few British war memorials dotted across town and village centres where nationalists form a clear majority of the local residents.
Should they all be renamed, vandalised or torn down, Sammy?



Two new books appearing in the aftermath of the (ongoing) Grenfell tragedy attempt to take stock of the UK 'housing crisis':  Anna Minton's Big Capital and Josh Ryan-Collins, Toby Lloyd and Laure Macfarlane's, Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing. Danny Hayward argues that, despite the insights into housing policy and struggles here, the new discourse of 'crisis' in both cases functions to prevent the drawing of socially necessary conclusions 


In every social formation there exists a form of criticism whose twofold purpose is to express discontent and to minimise blame. Like music piped into a strip mall, these languages of establishment dismay are intended to be sufficiently dreary to get their users to move through them quickly but not so piercingly untrue that they walk straight out without buying anything. Decadence in plantation-holding eighteenth-century England, corruption in industrialised early twenty-first-century China, poverty in the USA of the 1960s, are the names given to social problems that dominated groups are encouraged to feel bad about. In the case of the first two, the criticism is simultaneously a diagnosis, which in turn insinuates a group that might be held responsible, disciplined, or diminished in social importance: the aristocracy, or the stratum of municipal officials. In the case of the third, the criticism specifies only an object, which is typical of developed capitalist societies in which ruling groups are terrified of criticizing one another and increasingly uncertain of their ability to conceive of a culture of discontent in any language other than that of a returns policy.  


In the UK, the object currently at the centre of most legitimate criticism is the housing crisis. Today the housing crisis is proclaimed in every imaginable political forum and serves the purpose of articulating an abstract kind of political sympathy. Like previous crises, such as the energy crisis, the homelessness crisis, and the financial crisis, it has the advantage of naming a problem without yet specifying anything about its causes, its solution, or even yet its ultimate identity. By bringing under the same roof the frustrations of liberals anxious at the breakdown of an intergenerational contract and conservatives reduced to bluster by the betrayal of a whole generations aspirations, the headline is customizable for the most studious middle-class navel gazing and the most cramped petty nationalism. It clears away the waste of merely sectional privations and leaves open a bit of underused space for the articulation of real social problems, like forced displacement and retrenchment in state provision; and in so doing it provides to state politicians a convenient ethical alibi. Just as in capitalist urb...


If Belfast is a beautiful city, then why plague it with a black sticker pox? Slugger O'Toole

A nasty disease is spreading across Belfast. The Assembly Rooms which nestle at the intersection of Donegall Street, North Street and Waring Street have recently been the victim of the ugly pox which can is identifiable by its black triangular stickers bearing three letters and a tag which refers to an Instagram account, a hashtag and a website. It seems to be contagious and has spread to other disused premises, noticeably in and around property that is connected with Castlebrook Investments Royal Exchange development.

Belfast City Councils website explains that fly-posting is the illegal posting of adverts or posters to any structure. Low level fines of 80 can be handed out to graffiti and fly-posting offenders.

In my minds sliding scale of infraction and this definitely isnt a legally tested spectrum its one thing to paste a poster or two* for a gig or campaign, bu...


German elections 2017: 8 proposals for Germany's progressives openDemocracy

Germany needs new narratives and policy agendas in order to energise a new politics across Europe a politics which will reflect the common interest of the majority of Europeans.

German elections 2017 - ballot paper. Angela Merkel (CDU) has represented Stralsund in the German parliament since 1990. Stefan Sauer/Press Association. All rights reserved.Germany is pivotal. It is, and ought to be, a country central to the European project. But this project is in trouble because of a political failure to align the interests of most Germans with those of most other Europeans. Thus, Germany needs new narratives and policy agendas in order to energise a new politics across Europe a politics which will reflect the common interest of the majority of Europeans. But who will spread these new narratives and policy agendas? So far, the campaign for the upcoming German elections has not been encouraging in that regard. Ahead of the 2017 German federal elections next September 24, DiEM25 acknowledges the issues at stake and has taken action. Heres how:

We tabled a proposal for DiEM25s German Provisional National Committee to circulate among our German collectives. They discussed the document, whenever possible took it to public gatherings, amended it, and most critically, reached out to like-minded Bundestag candidates to endorse and commit to enact if elected. This was in the same spirit as our French members approached their parliamentary elections last June.

DiEM25s German activists have moved fast and are in the process of confirming a list of candidates willing to adopt DiEM25s proposed policy agenda for Germany. We will publish the list ahead of the elections. Below you can read our original proposal, 8 proposals for Germanys Progressives.

Germany is pivotal. It is, and ought to be, a country central to the European project. But this project is in trouble because of a political failure to align the interests of most Germans with those of most other Europeans. All sentences beginning with the Germans, whether they contain positive or negative evaluations, are misl...


Power relations in New Turkey and the naked truth openDemocracy

The power holders have almost unrestricted control over peoples freedoms and lives, as well as over how they perceive reality.

lead A view of Silivri Prison, near Istanbul,Turkey, 2014. Wikicommons/CeeGee. Some rights reserved.When the anti-terror squad raided the hotel on the island of Bykada near Istanbul in the morning of July 5, the door of the meeting room was open. It was the fourth day of a training workshop, in which eight Turkish activists and two trainers from Germany participated. They were all arrested in the conference room of the hotel for their alleged association with an unspecified terrorist organization. The eight activists were Gnal Kurun (IHGD, Human Rights Agenda Association), dil Eser (Amnesty International), lknur stn (Womens Coalition), Nalan Erkem (hYd, Citizens Assembly), Nejat Tatan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights), zlem Dalkran (hYd, Citizens Assembly), eyhmus zbekli (Rights Initiative) and Veli Acu (IHGD, Human Rights Agenda Association).

In addition, the two trainers Ali Ghavari and Peter Steudner were also taken into custody. The workshop was organized by IHOP (Joint Platform of Human Rights NGOs). The aim of the workshop was to increase awareness about the risks and threats that human rights defenders face, including information security and high-stress, and to develop the skills necessary to deal with them.[1]

The case reflects the sort of power relations and the particular conception of morality that dominate the so-called New Turkey that is to say Turkey as it is re-constructed under Erdogans strong-willed leadership. In this New Turkey a form of violence that disregards human rights, even including the right to life and the manipulation of reality and morality to suit the interests of power holders, are part and parcel of everyday life.

Nowadays the power holders of Turkey dont need to go to great lengths to fabricate evidence or elaborate legal justifications to be able to arrest people, hold them in prolonged periods of pretrial detention, or even deprive them of their right to life. T...


German Federal Elections: Chancellor Merkel is a beacon of consistency in turbulent times Slugger O'Toole

On 24 September, the German people will head to the polls for federal elections. Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term, with her Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) defending its position against the Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by former European Parliament President, Martin Schulz. In the 2013 elections, the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), received a combined 42% of the vote, their best result since 1990, and subsequently formed a Grand Coalition with the SPD. With a recent ARD-DeutschlandTrend poll putting Chancellor Merkels approval rating at 64% and her CDU party consistently polling between 35-40% (compared to the Social Democrats 20-25%), it would appear she is poised to cruise to victory again this time around.  This is following a strong performance in the much-anticipated TV debate with Martin Schulz on 3 September.

Importance of the  German elections for Ireland

The importance of these German elections for Ireland cannot be overstated. As it stands, arguably Irelands largest trading and investment partner is the United Kingdom, although Irelands reliance on the UK has diminished since we entered the European Economic Community in 1973. Irelands membership of the EEC, and later of the EU, allowed us to diversify and look to a wider European market. In the context of the UKs withdrawal from the EU, it is crucial that Ireland continues to further diversify its commercial ties with remaining EU member states with whom it can trade freely through the European Single Market. Germany is the worlds fourth largest economy and Europes largest, with its GDP representing almost a third of the economy of the Eurozone. It is the worlds leading industrial nation in a number of sectors, including automotive, life sciences, agri-tech, software and engineering services.

The good news is that Ireland already has an extensive trading relationship with Germany. Bilateral trade between the two countries is estimated at around 25 billion per year and almost 10% of Irish exports go to Germany. Irelands trade with Germany is also hugely beneficial in the areas of foreign direct investment (only the United States directs more FDI into Ireland), tourism (it is the third-largest source of visitors to Ireland), and the food and drink industry (it is Irelands sixth-largest market for food and drink exports, worth around 600 million annually).  However, as part of its aim to further diversify Irish trade post-Brexit, the Government plans to build on this solid ground and increase these numbers. To this end, in April 2017, the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, travelled to Germany to promote increased political, economic and commerical ties between Ireland and Germany, launching the Enterprise Ireland Going Global Exporting to Germany Guide in Frankfurt.

Chancellor Merkel has long been a good friend to Ireland. She and her CDU party maintain a...



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The Irish border as a Brexit bargaining chip: A rejoinder to Legatum Slugger O'Toole

The Legatum Institutes Special Trade Commission published a paper this week on the subject of Brexit and what it terms the Irish border issue. Citizens on the island of Ireland need to take note of this for two main reasons.

First, Legatum is one of the most influential think tanks in London on the subject of Brexit at the moment its views are likely to have traction at the highest levels. And, secondly, it perpetuates egregious views of Northern Ireland, British-Irish relations and the border that can only cause damage if they find their way into government policy.

Leveraging a partisan opportunity from a shared problem

In their endeavour to turn a problem into an opportunity (p.3), the authors present the most miserly account of what a hardening of the border (p.3) after Brexit would mean:

The imposition of tariffs between NI and ROI would suggest that NI and ROI are returning to the days of trade barriers, and could increase the perception of division, as well as giving rise to economic hardships. (p.4)

Dear Special Trade Commission: the imposition of tariffs isnt a suggestion of a return to trade barriers it is a trade barrier. Similarly, people on the island of Ireland are not worried that a hard border would increase the perception of division they know that it would constitute just such a division. And the economic hardships that would occur as an effect of this harder border are of far more social and political consequence than this throwaway remark would imply.

The second line from this paragraph is even more remarkable:

Equally, the ROIs economic reliance on trade with the UK means it would be adversely affected if the UK and EU fail to agree a free trade agreement (FTA) after Brexit, with suitable interim measures if no trade deal has been agreed by March 2019. (p.4)

As if the welfare of Northern Ireland wasnt enough collateral, Legatum sees fit to present the Republic of Ireland as potential leverage for a means getting a Free Trade Agreement from the EU.

Indeed, much effort is exerted by the authors towards aggrandising Great Britain in comparison to its nearest neighbour. They even go so far as to parade the legacy of British colonialism in Ireland as a negotiating strength: Broadly, the pre-1973 trade pattern, with roots in the 19th century, has proved remarkably resilient (p.12). Never mind north/south cooperation, British-Irish trade is far more important for Ireland and this can be a bargaining chip for the UK to play against the EU.

The underlying premise of this paper, after all, is that the Irish border presents the UK gov...

Friday, 15 September


Russias gubernatorial elections marred by political pressure openDemocracy

Seventeen Russian regions went to the polls this week. Activists and politicians have, however, been met with significant pressure and restrictions at polling stations. 

Alexander Zykov, a volunteer for Alexey Navalny's campaign in Kostroma, was attacked on 17 August. Image: 7x7. All rights reserved to the author.

We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly.

This weeks municipal and gubernatorial elections have been the most important event of recent days, and they didnt pass without more political harassment from the Russian authorities.

In this text we have collected all the routine examples of harassment that occurred last Sunday, during Russias gubernatorial elections. These include denying access to the media, refusing to allow observers into polling stations, restricting movement and filming, and people being forced to vote. The source for most of this information has been the hotline for complaints, which has a handy Russian-language map here.

But there were also more serious incidents. For example, in Moscow, someone slashed the tyres of a car belonging to a group of lawyer-activists. In Kaliningrad, a member of the election commission was threatened with having their trousers removed and being beaten up, while in Chita one of the candidates for the city legislative assembly was detained in the polling station itself.



Ethnic cleansing and the price of silence openDemocracy

For years Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar by any means possible. It is time to re-examine theses advanced by Arendt and Staub, taking the role of bystanders far more seriously.

lead Aung San Suu Kyi, second Vice President of Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy, U Henry Van Thio and military-assigned First Vice President U Myint Swe attend the president power handover ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, March 30, 2016. Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved.Archbishop Desmond Tutus condemnation of fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence in the face of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya has stirred the worlds conscience. If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep, he wrote.

For decades, the Rohingya have faced persecution in Burma. Stripped of their nationality in 1982 they have been repeatedly victimised at the hands of the military and local fanatics who are now burning their villages. In addition to the physical attacks, since losing their rights to citizenship the Rohingya have been denied a host of other rights, including the right to marriage, freedom of movement, access to hospitals and schools, and state protection.  All of this has precipitated their exodus from Myanmar.

Bangladesh has however been a far cry from sanctuary. In 2010 Physicians for Human Rights reported how once in Bangladesh the Rohingya were forced into bonded labour or languished in make-shift camps and suffered serious malnutrition. Others were pushed back by the police into Myanmar.  Like many other states, Bangladesh has been quickly constructing a...


Were not just here to learn we can lead too: young women human rights defenders speak out openDemocracy

Young activists from four continents talk about their local struggles and what motivates them.

Madeline Wells (right). Madeline Wells (right) at a march supporting Aboriginal and Islander rights in Burnie, Tasmania, 2015. Photo: Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation. All rights reserved.Millennials often get a bad rap, accused of being politically apathetic and selfie-obsessed. But around the world, young people who are sick of government inaction are stepping up to speak passionately on behalf of their communities.

These four young women live in different continents and have had diverse experiences. Each is involved in Amnesty International campaigns, fighting for human rights from Australia to Peru. Here they talk about their local struggles, and what motivates them.

Madeline Wells, indigenous rights activist in Tasmania.

Madeline Wells. Madeline Wells. Photo: Lara Van Raay. All rights reserved. Wells represented Australia at last years UN Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law. As a First Nations person, I have always felt I have a duty to fight for the rights of my people, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than me, she said.

Activism can come in many different forms. It doesnt have to be rallies or marches."

Climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and indigenous youth face many other injustices: deaths in custody, high rates of youth detention, racism and discrimina...


Insurgent feminisms in Colombia openDemocracy

The unlikely alliance between the FARC and the Trans Community Network in Colombia provides grounds for hope in the building of peace and a dignified existence for transgender people. Espaol

Marcha LGBT in Bogot 2013. Some rights reserved.

It all starts with a love story in times of change. Of the many prisoners in the Colombian prison La Picota, this story touches on the life of Laura, a transgender woman, from the Santa Fe neighborhood in Bogot, a city area where transgender women find themselves confined in a context of poverty and street-related practices for survival. Structural violence and criminalization result in high levels of incarceration of transgender women from Santa Fe. In La Picota Laura met Jaime, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP). In prison, they came to love each other during the initial period of the peace talks in 2012.

In La Picota, the relationship between Laura and Jaime got the attention of other incarcerated FARC-EP members. Given that the vast majority of FARC-EP militants come from rural, religious and socially conservative backgrounds, they accused their comrade Jaime of being a queer. His love affair undermined their conception of hetero-normative revolutionary masculinity and they condemned him, labeled him a traitor and suggested that he should be expelled from the ranks of the FARC-EP. After receiving much abuse, Jaime requested the FARC-EP Secretariats intervention.

The political climate during the inception of the peace negotiations created a context of re-evaluation of the FARC-EPs stance towards people of non-hegemonic genders and sexualities, and the FARC-EPs presence in the gender sub-commission of the Peace Accords opened up a space of deep reflection. In addition, Jaimes high intellectual capacity was particularly valued and his dismiss...


Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting openDemocracy

Red Pepper, Lacuna, openDemocracy, battling under-representation/ mis-representation of people of colour in the UK media. All people of colour welcome at Brighton meeting, 23/9/17 - 3pm ( during Labour Party conference).

Image: Red Pepper's June/July 2017 edition, written exclusively by black writers

What is the Black Journalism Fund?

The Black Journalism Fund is an initiative of Red Pepper magazine. It was launched through a crowd-funding campaign in the summer of 2016, with the aim of addressing the disproportionate representation of BAME journalists in the UK media and the distorted perspective that comes from that basic inequality.

Since March 2017, the fund has been run through open editorial meetings that have taken place so far in London and Leeds. They are designed to offer a space where BAME writers, organisers and activists of varying levels of experience can get together to share stories, skills and points of view and work collectively to create an autonomous editorial agenda.

What have we created?

In its first few months, the open editorial meetings of the Black Journalism Fund have resulted in the publication of the June/July issue of Red Pepper Empire Will Eat Itself which was written exclusively by black writers and where previously unpublished writers, reporting directly from their own communities, sat comfortably alongside acclaimed authors and artists like Walden Bello and Barby Asante, who have written on issues including the failure of Obamas Keynesian reforms and the enduring legacy of American writer, James Baldwin.

Paid commission opportunities



Participatory democracy in emerging contexts: Fiji and Nepal openDemocracy

They used to insist that they were sufficiently conversant with the issues. How would they know unless they discuss with us, or at least ask us?

lead The Inaugural Pacific Feminist Forum, held in Suva, Fiji in 2016. Citizens often find informal political spaces more effective than formal. Formal spaces have their own obligations which limit the possibility of genuinely engaging citizens in the decision-making process. Their mechanisms are often rigid in terms of structure and procedures which hinder the engagement of ordinary people in decision-making. Formal spaces equipped with so-called technocratic expertise may not understand the language ordinary people use. Hence citizens tend to also assemble in informal spaces to discuss their most pressing social problems.

Finally, each and every individual in informal space is regarded as equal, as opposed to in formal spaces where individuals are hierarchically placed in different rankings. These logics have been well studied in the literature of participatory governance, and have been supported by prominent thinkers of participatory and deliberative democracy. But what happens to citizen participation in a context of emerging democracy? Which informal participatory routines manage to cut through when formal spaces are difficult? How can citizen participation in informal spaces enrich the practice of participatory democracy?

Although this discussion has been proliferating across many emerging and advanced democracies alike, we identify significant gaps that can be traced through the literatures of political science and democracy studies alike, and in praxis across many political contexts. 

So here we aim to present two different cases of...


When is a genocide a genocide? openDemocracy

(Or, why is the world allowing the Rohingya to be slaughtered?) There is a genocide happening before our eyes. If only we can bear to look.

lead Rohingya Muslim refugees wait for relief on the Bangladesh side of the border after fleeing violence in western Myanmar, Sept. 11, 2017. NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association. All rights reserved.My heart has broken. Many times, in many ways over the past twenty days. It has been splintered, hammered, shattered, parched, starved and numbed beyond recognition.

As a human rights advocate who has worked on the Rohingya issue for about ten years, I have experienced my fair share of despair in the face of the many atrocities this community has endured. Through my work, I have become familiar with an ever-growing list of violations against them, which have increasingly convinced me that the Rohingya widely recognised as the most persecuted minority in the world are the victims of crimes against humanity and genocide. Not a conclusion I arrived at lightly, but one which I have grappled with over time.

Even so, nothing prepared me for the last twenty days.

I lack the vocabulary to process, let alone describe what has been happening in Rakhine state. Such extreme expressions of hatred, bigotry and violence are beyond my comprehension. The thought of being at the receiving end, beyond my imagination.

What words do I know to capture the agony of a two-year-old being burnt alive, her parents forced to watch. Or a teenager gang-raped by a horde of men, just after her father has been shot point blank? How can I even begin to describe the sheer fatigue of a man forced to walk for a week, gun-shot wounded, without any food, while carrying his grandmother? Or the all-encompassing loss of a woman home burnt, family killed, dignity torn to shreds?

Can my imagination be wild enough to understand the courage of a mother who gives birth to her baby while fleeing blood thirsty genocidaires, or the desperation of another whose starving, traumatised and fatigued body cannot produce breastmilk for her infants? What about the nine-year-old chi...


Frontpage 15th Sept openDemocracy

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Do not include in section waterfall ? - free thinking for the world
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English Disco Lovers against the EDL. Credit: Flickr/Tim Buss. Some rights reserved.


Russias wild decade: how memories of the 1990s are changing openDemocracy

A time of freedom and survival, memories of Russias first post-Soviet decade have come to divide people. The editors of a new collection on the 1990s share their thoughts.

Artifact of the 90s: a visit to McDonald's captured on Polaroid. Image from the personal archive of Olga Ostapova, courtesy of Dmitry Okrest. Check out the latest in our Unlikely Media series, which profiles independent (and independently-minded) publications from across the post-Soviet space. As part of this series, we interview editors who are trying to make space for alternative journalism, political commentary and reporting.

Here, Dmitry Okrest, Stanislav Kuvaldin and Evgeny Buzev speak about their new book, It fell apart: Everyday life in the Soviet Union and Russia, 1985-1999, which traces forgotten moments of the 1990s how people switched to the market economy, the Russian and Ukrainian miners strikes, the growth of radical movements and the legacy of Soviet dissidents. Specifically, we deal with memories of Russias experience of the 1990s, the retroactive politicisation of this time and what the future holds for the wild decade.

Thebook is based on your VKontakte group It fell apart, which was set up in June 2014. Could you tell us what led you to start this group? What role did it play when it come to financing the actual book?

Dmitry Okrest: Its worth noting that our VK group came about as a platform to share photos and videos on the theme of the Soviet collapse. EuroMaidan, the Russian spring, Crimea, the 2 May fire in Odessa, the start of the Anti-Terrorist Operation all these events reminded strongly us of how events started in the Caucasus, Transnistria and Central Asia in the early 1990s. And judging that we now have over 200,000 people signed up to our groups, they didnt remind just us.

Evgeny Buzev: Crowdfunding didnt play a decisive role in publishing our book. We collected funds rather slowly, but because we started the process ourselves, a lot of people found out about our plans to publish a...


Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns? openDemocracy

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich.

This article was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

English Disco Lovers protest against the English Defense League. Credit: Flickr/Tim Buss. CC BY 2.0.

Trolls chanted in the streets the day of a planned neo-Nazi rally in the small ski town of Whitefish, Montana earlier this year. But they were not the trolls that residents had been expectingnamely, white supremacists from around the country, who had been harassing the towns Jewish community with death threats.

These trolls wore bright blue wigs and brandished signs that read Trolls Against Trolls and Fascists Fear Fun, cheerfully lining the route where the neo-Nazi march had been slated to take place. Due to poor organizing and the failure to obtain proper permits, the demonstration had fallen through, leading to what the counter-protesters gleefully deemed a Sieg Fail. So locals held their own counter-event, gathering together to share matzo ball soup and celebrate the towns unity, whichwith a dose of humor and a denunciation of hatredhad successfully weathered a right-wing anti-Semitic troll storm and strengthened the community as a whole.

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians against the Nazi occupation to The Great Dictator speech by Charlie Chaplin. In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clownstroupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. This puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what c...


The end of anonymity? Trump and the tyranny of the majority openDemocracy

Worldwide, there is an administration-sanctioned attack on anonymity, online and off.


lead Protesters stand in solidarity with the "Native Nations Rise" march on Washington, D.C. against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Portland, Ore., on March 10, 2017.Alex Milan Tracy/Press Association. All rights reserved. Long before the trickle of anonymous leaks from the White House became a steady downpour, President Trump delivered a characteristically meandering address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, in February this year. Tucked into a library catalogue of complaints (against bloodsucker consultants, Obamacare and bad dudes) and compliments (for miners, Bernie voters, border police, and really strong and really good regulations), was a brief tirade against anonymous sources. Im against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldnt be allowed to use sources unless they use somebodys name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out, the President declared. A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.  Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources.

The Presidents remarks, and his subsequent sustained and vitriolic attacks on the news media, reveal as much about the severity of his personality flaws as they do about his dangerous disregard for an independent and pluralistic media. But they also suggested a more fundamental contestation of a key pillar of democratic and human rights-respecting societies ...


Domela Nieuwenhuis-dag 19 november 2017 in het Domela Nieuwenhuis Museum Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam

Zondag 19 november wordt in het Domela Nieuwenhuis Museum in Heerenveen weer de Domela Nieuwenhuisdag gehouden. Dit keer wordt het een bijzondere dag, want dan zal tevens een tentoonstelling geopend worden die gewijd is aan het engagement van de schilder Melle. Hieronder daarover meer informatie. De dag ziet er als volgt uit: 13.00 uur: rondleiding door Bert [...]


DiEM25: A historic moment for the international progressive movement? openDemocracy

DiEM25 needs to create a Janus-faced, progressive union out of the cooperation of every individual individuals who in turn need to willingly relax their egos for the bigger cause.

lead DiEM25 workshop in progress opposite Bozar, September 9, 2017, Brussels. Anja Schurman. All rights reserved. What is the purpose of a movement such as DiEM25? A question not to be taken lightly; a very fundamental question indeed, and impossible to answer quickly certainly not within a meagre five hours. But in this room many brave people are present, and precisely this question was submitted to a delegation of over a hundred members last Saturday, during DiEM25s first World Caf, where more than eighteen nationalities are represented.

The workshop, presented as a series of mixed-table-discussions, is the start of an ongoing dialogue about DiEM25s purpose and values; and more practical questions such as, how can we communicate our intentions to a broader audience, and how do we organise ourselves in a sustainable manner? Here we find people trying to understand one another, to develop constructive debate, to take into consideration the full scope of modern politics.

But by far the most pressing item on the agenda proved the most basic: what could be the purpose of DiEM25? In dealing with this tangled issue, more questions arose: is giving power back to the people the final goal, when power to the people can ostensibly backfire, as in the recent cases of Poland and the UK? So can we trust ourselves? Or do we need to solidify around a set of values?

The goal should not be merely to prod people into reacting (through referenda or propaganda), as this can lead to emptiness, meaninglessness, and fascism; but to present people with a vision for Europe and themselves thats truly radical; thats not a mere reaction to populist politics; one that frightens politicians across Europe, for this is the sign of a truly revolutionary proposal.

But who will implement this vision? Is it possible to challenge politicians from within the system? Furthermore: will creating a European consciousness be enough to prevent (civil) war, and the torture of countries such...


ISIS: a war unwon openDemocracy

The Philippines, as much as Iraq and Syria, is a measure of the "war of terror" in 2017.

Female members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police wait to board a plane at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City Aug. 29, 2017. The female troops will be sent to Marawi City in south Philippines. Rouelle Umali/PA Images. All rights reserved.In the past month, ISIS has suffered serious reversals in Iraq and Syria. The Baghdad government, with essential help from the United States-led air-power coalition and Iran, has consolidated its control of most of the former ISIS-held territory. But the prolonged onslaught on Mosul saw its special forces taking severe casualties, which improves ISIS's chances of being able to move into a guerrilla war. In turn that will oblige even greater reliance on Iranian support. That is but one of the ironies in Iraq's long conflict, which Washington launched in 2003 against Saddam Hussein's regime partly to curb Iranian power in the region.

The related war in Syria has its own twists. ISIS there is under pressure from two alliances: of Kurdish-plus-western forces and Syrian army-plus-Russian. There is now little talk in western capitals of the Bashar al-Assad regime being soon ousted, in spite of all its brutality and use of chemical weapons. Turkey is concerned about the increasing power of the Syrian Kurds as well as Assad's survival, while the Saudis and their western Gulf allies fear the Shia crescent stretching from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea through Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Against this, though, western capitals are tempted into cautious optimism that the war against ISIS might at last be coming to an end. Whatever the problems and complexities now emerging, at least that particular one is receding. Or is it? For at each stage in the "war on terror", the same positive outlook has emerged...


Introducing a special theme series on gender-based violence in the workplace openDemocracy

As the deadline for government representatives to submit comments in support of an ILO convention to end gender-based violence in the workplace approaches, this series brings together voices from the labour movement.

Photo from 2014 "16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign" launch in the Solomon Islands . UN Women/Patrick Reoka/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

No one should have to give up their safety to make a living or participate in the labour movement. Yet gender-based violence impacts the working lives of many people around the world, particularly women and girls, at alarming rates.

Globally, women workers disproportionately do not have access to living wages, healthcare and a secure retirement, and labour in unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. Women constitute approximately 49% of the global workforce, but are concentrated in low-income, precarious and informal jobs. New forms of work are often built on old structures of exploitation and discrimination, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. On top of that, women workers access to political and labour organising spaces is often limited by the violence and discrimination they encounter.

Unequal power relations are at the root of violence in the world of work. Gender-based violence both reflects and upholds a gendered power hierarchy. Women are disproportionately affected, as are LGBTQIA+ and gender non-conforming workers. This power hierarchy can intersect with other identities subject to marginalisation and repression including racial minorities, migrants, and indigenous peoples to increase the risk of violence.

Unequal power relations are at the root of violence in the world of work.

Currently, there is no comprehensive international standard that specifically addresses violence and harassment in the world of work in all its dimensions. International trade unions and womens rights activists have pushed to have this addressed by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Labour rights are at the heart of pushing back against gender-based violence: workers need to be empowered to speak out about abuses, hold perpetrators accountable without fear of retaliation, and shape appropriate responses to prevent abusive practices from occurring in the first place.

In 2018, the ILOs Governing Body is planning to set an international labour standard to address violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work. This will involve...


Grenfell Inquiry held in Conservative Party supporting luxury hotel group Pride's Purge

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry opened today in the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms.

An advert for the hotel was prominently on show as the inquiry opened:

The CEO of the De Vere group is Andrew Coppel who was one of the business leaders who signed a letter to the Telegraph in 2015 urging people to vote for the Conservative Party.

Just saying




Review Maze a balanced retelling of UKs largest prison breakout (from 22 Sep) Slugger O'Toole

Watching Stephen Burkes new film Maze in order to write a review is exhausting. The film is only ninety minutes long, but because its based on real events, and because those real events happened locally and continue to have socio-political ramifications, theres a tick list as long as my arm of aspects to remember: glorification to be on the look out for, details to check for inclusion, accuracy of portrayals to judge and thats even before assessing whether the shots are in focus and it has been edited into a watchable film.

The story picks up after the end of the hunger strike. Republican prisoners want to do something spectacular to repay a debt to the ten who died says Larry Marley (played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). A group of inmates are address their ignorance about the layout and organisation of the site in which many have been incarcerated for years on end. They surprise guards by volunteering for prison work and begin the laborious process of intentionally gathering intelligence.

Whats the worst that can happen? Place might get a bit cleaner?

Prison Officer Gordon Close (a fictional construction played by Barry Ward) admits to being trapped in the prison system too, a theme that is also explored in Steve McQueens Hunger. We see the draconian, though necessary, security measures inside the homes of targeted prison staff. An incident on the outside disrupts Closes home life: a situation and weakness that Marley can exploit.

The first two thirds of the film concentrates on the planning. The remainder follows the breakout, fairly faithfully documenting the armed attempt to gain control of one of the H-Blocks without the alarm being raised and the subsequent tense ride towards the gatehouse.

My mental tick list of potential snags and snafus is largely covered off by this production. Nothing is glorified other than 1...

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