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Tag Archives: Politics

The AfD’s breakthrough shows that parties of the left must get radical

Some of us are beginning to think it is the end of the project.” That was how a senior European social democrat spoke to me of the future of mainstream socialism last week. The German SPD’s abject failure in Sunday’s election will have done little to lift the gloom. After 12 years of mostly playing sidekick to Angela Merkel, it will go into opposition again, bereft of a strategy and rightly worried about the breakthrough of the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

If the leaders of German social democracy are feeling responsible for their own collapse and the far-right’s gain, they can at least take comfort that they are not alone. The French socialist party evaporated in the run-up to this year’s presidential election; the Dutch Labour party saw its vote slump to 5.7%; and the Austrian socialist party is facing defeat in next month’s election – which will likely bring to power the first coalition of mainstream conservatives and neo-fascists in the EU.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/25/afd-germany-sdp-social-democracy-jeremy-corbyn

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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in European Union

 

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Why referendums – like with Brexit, Kurdistan and Catalonia – are always doomed to fail

Brexit, Krexit and Crexit: Britain leaves the EU, Kurdistan declares independence from Iraq, Catalonia secedes from Spain – three massive political changes either underway or put on the political agenda by recent referendums. Three very different countries, but in all cases a conviction among a significant number of voters that they would be better off on their own outside any measure of control by a supranational authority like the EU or a nation state like Iraq or Spain.

Referendums have a lot to answer for: no wonder divided governments, demagogues and dictators have such a fondness for them. They have the appearance of popular democracy and give the impression that important decisions are finally being made by reducing complex questions into an over-simple “yes” or “no”. They make public opinion easy to manipulate because what voters are being asked to assent to is most often wishful thinking and what they are opposing is a rag-bag of unrelated grievances. There are a great many unhappy and dissatisfied people in the three countries which have voted in referendums in the last fifteen months, but no reason to suppose that their vote will make them happier or better off.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-catalonia-referendum-kurdish-independence-always-doomed-to-fail-a7986836.html

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Europe, European Union, Middle East

 

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A new shock doctrine: in a world of crisis, morality can still win

We live in frightening times. From heads of state tweeting threats of nuclear annihilation, to whole regions rocked by climate chaos, to thousands of migrants drowning off the coasts of Europe, to openly racist parties gaining ground: it feels like there are a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about our collective future.

To take one example, the Caribbean and southern United States are in the midst of an unprecedented hurricane season, pounded by storm after storm. Puerto Rico – hit by Irma, then Maria – is entirely without power and could be for months, its water and communication systems severely compromised. But just as during Hurricane Katrina, the cavalry is missing in action. Donald Trump is too busy trying to get black athletes fired for daring to shine a spotlight on racist violence. A real federal aid package for Puerto Rico has not yet been announced. And the vultures are circling: the business press reports that the only way for Puerto Rico to get the lights back on is to sell off its electricity utility.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/28/labour-shock-doctrine-moral-strategy-naomi-klein

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Revolution

 

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The World Risks Replacing Compassion With Cruelty

A culture of cruelty is sweeping the world and it cuts across ideological as well as national borders. In India last week, the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a prominent journalist and critic of Narendra Modi’s government, was met with euphoria by his online supporters. One of Modi’s own ministerial colleagues felt compelled to “strongly condemn & deplore,” as he wrote on Twitter, “the messages on social media expressing happiness on the dastardly murder.”The left-leaning French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo responded to the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey with a cover cartoon that showed swastika flags and Nazi salutes poking out above floodwaters. The caption read, “God exists! He drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas.”Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who is Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, not only remains unconscionably silent about an official and intensifying campaign of murder and persecution against her country’s 1.3 million strong Rohingya minority. She won’t lift the severe restrictions on humanitarian access to the victims.

Source: The World Risks Replacing Compassion With Cruelty – Bloomberg

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Silicon Valley has been humbled. But its schemes are as dangerous as ever

Just a decade ago, Silicon Valley pitched itself as a savvy ambassador of a newer, cooler, more humane kind of capitalism. It quickly became the darling of the elite, of the international media, and of that mythical, omniscient tribe: the “digital natives”. While an occasional critic – always easy to dismiss as a neo-Luddite – did voice concerns about their disregard for privacy or their geeky, almost autistic aloofness, public opinion was firmly on the side of technology firms.Silicon Valley was the best that America had to offer; tech companies frequently occupied – and still do – top spots on lists of the world’s most admired brands. And there was much to admire: a highly dynamic, innovative industry, Silicon Valley has found a way to convert scrolls, likes and clicks into lofty political ideals, helping to export freedom, democracy and human rights to the Middle East and north Africa. Who knew that the only thing thwarting the global democratic revolution was capitalism’s inability to capture and monetise the eyeballs of strangers?

Source: Silicon Valley has been humbled. But its schemes are as dangerous as ever | Evgeny Morozov | Technology | The Guardian

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Economy

 

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Pankaj Mishra reviews ‘The Retreat of Western Liberalism’ by Edward Luce, ‘The Fate of the West’ by Bill Emmott, ‘The Road to Somewhere’ by David Goodhart, ‘The Once and Future Liberal’ by Mark Lilla and ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ by Douglas Murray · L

Is it finally closing time in the gardens of the West? The wails that have rent the air since the Brexit vote and Trump’s victory rise from the same parts of Anglo-America that hosted, post-1989, the noisiest celebrations of liberalism, democracy, free markets and globalisation. Bill Emmott, the former editor of the Economist, writes that ‘the fear now is of being present at the destruction’ of the ‘West’, the ‘world’s most successful political idea’. Edward Luce, for example, a Financial Times columnist based in Washington DC, isn’t sure ‘whether the Western way of life, and our liberal democratic systems, can survive’. Donald Trump has also chimed in, asking ‘whether the West has the will to survive’. These apocalyptic Westernists long to turn things around, to make their shattered world whole again. David Goodhart, the founding editor of Prospect, told the New York Times just before the general election that he believed Theresa May could dominate British politics for a generation. Mark Lilla, a professor at Columbia and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, wants the Democratic Party, which under Bill Clinton captured ‘Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny’, to abandon identity politics and help liberalism become once more a ‘unifying force’ for the ‘common good’. Douglas Murray, associate editor of the Spectator, thinks that Trump might just save Western civilisation.The ideas and commitments of the new prophets of decline do not emerge from any personal experience of it, let alone adversity of the kind suffered by many voters of Brexit and Trump. These men were ideologically formed during the reign of Reagan and Thatcher, and their influence and prestige have grown in step with the expansion of Anglo-America’s intellectual and cultural capital. Lilla, a self-declared ‘centrist liberal’, arrived at his present position by way of working-class Detroit, evangelical Christianity and an early flirtation with neoconservatism. The British writers belong to a traditional elite; shared privilege transcends ideological discrepancies between centrist liberalism and nativism, the Financial Times and the Spectator. Murray and Goodhart were educated at Eton; the fathers of both Luce and Goodhart were Conservative MPs. Inhabitants of a transatlantic ecosystem of corporate philanthropy, think-tanks and high-altitude conclaves, they can also be found backslapping in the review pages and on Twitter: Murray calls Goodhart’s writing ‘superb’ and Luce’s ‘beautiful’; Emmott thanks Murray for his ‘nice’ review in the Times.

Source: Pankaj Mishra reviews ‘The Retreat of Western Liberalism’ by Edward Luce, ‘The Fate of the West’ by Bill Emmott, ‘The Road to Somewhere’ by David Goodhart, ‘The Once and Future Liberal’ by Mark Lilla and ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ by Douglas Murray · L

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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You Are Not a Rebel

In real life, nobody has the decency to realize that they’re the bad guy until it’s too late. The worst thing about the historical record is that it is usually written after the fact. Just think, if we could only get our hands on advance copies of tomorrow’s historical bestsellers, we could work out once and for all how we fit into this cruel and anxious age we’re living through, and get a sneak peek at the ending to see who ends up dead, decked out with medals, or living incognito in South America. Sadly, that would hardly help those of us who are most dangerously confused. The people who most urgently need to consider which side of the moral ledger their story will be written on tend to read few books in which they are not the hero.It’s hard realizing that you’re the bad guy, because then you have to do something about it. That’s why the most aggressive players on the gory stage of political melodrama act in such bad faith, hanging on to their own sense of persecution, mouthing the plagiarized playbook of an oppression they don’t comprehend because they don’t care to. These people have a way of fumbling through their self-set roles till the bloody final act, but if we can flip the script, we might yet stop the show.

Source: You Are Not a Rebel | Laurie Penny

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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How do we get out of this mess?

Is it reasonable to hope for a better world? Study the cruelty and indifference of governments, the disarray of opposition parties, the apparently inexorable slide towards climate breakdown, the renewed threat of nuclear war, and the answer appears to be no. Our problems look intractable, our leaders dangerous, while voters are cowed and baffled. Despair looks like the only rational response. But over the past two years, I have been struck by four observations. What they reveal is that political failure is, in essence, a failure of imagination. They suggest to me that it is despair, not hope, that is irrational. I believe they light a path towards a better world.The first observation is the least original. It is the realisation that it is not strong leaders or parties that dominate politics as much as powerful political narratives. The political history of the second half of the 20th century could be summarised as the conflict between its two great narratives: the stories told by Keynesian social democracy and by neoliberalism. First one and then the other captured the minds of people across the political spectrum. When the social democracy story dominated, even the Conservatives and Republicans adopted key elements of the programme. When neoliberalism took its place, political parties everywhere, regardless of their colour, fell under its spell. These stories overrode everything: personality, identity and party history.

Source: George Monbiot: how do we get out of this mess? | Books | The Guardian

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints

Terrorist attacks, and the emotions they spawn, almost always prompt calls for fundamental legal rights to be curtailed in the name of preventing future attacks. The formula by now is routine: The victims of the horrific violence are held up as proof that there must be restrictions on advocating whatever ideology motivated the killer to act.In 2006, after a series of attacks carried out by Muslims, Republican Newt Gingrich called for “a serious debate about the First Amendment” so that “those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are, in fact, subject to a totally different set of rules.”

Source: In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Who are the antifa?

On Monday, President Trump capitulated to the popular demand that he distance himself from his comment that “many sides” were to blame in Charlottesville by explicitly denouncing white nationalism. “Racism is evil,” he appeared to grudgingly concede, “including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.”

A day later, however, Trump reversed course by clarifying that there were “very fine people” at the white power rally, while casting “blame on both sides” including the allegedly “alt-left” antifa.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/08/16/who-are-the-antifa/

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2017 in North America

 

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