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Saturday, 24 September

21:18

Theresa May, this is not a ‘crisis of migration’, but a crisis of inhumanity "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

In a carefully coded speech, the UK Prime Minister categorises people on the move as “threats that we face” alongside war and global terrorism.

Survivors and relatives of the victims of the Lampedusa shipwrecks of 3 & 11 October 2013 mark the second anniversary of the tragedy (S. Parker)

The so-called Mediterranean migration crisis has focussed Western attention on the desperate lengths that people fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty will go to in search of a chance of survival. But those arriving in Europe since the start of 2015 still only account for less than 2.5% of the world’s forcibly displaced population, and only 1 in 500 of the population of the European Union. Of the 4.8 million refugees who have fled Syria since the conflict began, the United Kingdom has agreed to take just 4,000 vulnerable persons per year over five years from refugee camps in the countries surrounding Syria. But many UK local authorities, particularly in London, are refusing to offer sanctuary to any refugees under the vulnerable persons scheme.

The Lord Dubs Amendment in the 2016 Immigration Act allowing for an unspecified number of unaccompanied children to be brought to the UK at the request of local authorities has yet to see any progress according to Citizens UK. Meanwhile tragedies continue unabated including that of a 14-year-old Afghan boy who, desperate to join his family in Britain and having lost all hope of legal re-unification, fell from the roof of a lorry and died in a hit and run accident in Calais. His was the 13th fatality at the port this year where UK taxpayers’ money is contributing to the construction of a 4m high barrier that will extend a further 1km along the approach road to the ferry terminal with the single purpose of preventing “illegal entry” into the UK.

50 million children

As delegates gathered for the first United Nations General Assembly Summit on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants in New York last week, UNICEF drew attention to the fact that of the 50 million children around the world who have been uprooted from their homes, 28 million have been forced to flee as a result of conflicts. UNICEF’s new report, Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Migrant and Refugee Children highlights the fact that children make up a growing and disproportionate number of the world’s forcibly displaced people, which is estimated to have reached 65 million — equivalent to the population of the entire United Kingdom.

When Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the UN Summit on Large Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants last week (20 September) she framed “mass movements of people” as “t...

20:13

Don’t think we’ve forgotten: why Cambodia’s leadership needs to change its tune "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Hobbe’s state of “continual fear, and danger of violent death,” prevails for those thinkers and artists in Cambodia who dare to dream a different future.

Flickr/Michael Coghlan. Some rights reserved. Flickr/Michael Coghlan. Some rights reserved.“I am thankful for Hun Sen,” a Cambodian actress once told me. “Without him, the Khmer Rouge would have killed off every last one of us.” Her gratitude is no platitude. It is anchored in grief for the countless theatrical kin she lost to a regime that epitomised Hobbe’s leviathan: "No arts; no letters; no society.”

The Khmer Rouge regime was (per Hobbes), “nasty, brutish and short." Founded in April 1975, it was toppled on 7 January 1979 not through international action but by a renegade movement, backed by Vietnam and spearheaded by three ex-Khmer Rouge cadre. The most junior in age and rank was Hun Sen, who is now in his thirty-first year in office and Asia’s longest serving prime minister.  

The actress who expressed her debt to Hun Sen was speaking from the heart. From such sentiments, Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party have carved their redemption narrative. The message is clear: we have saved you from terror, and if we fall, Cambodia will return to darkness. A major plank of propaganda in the 1980s, this mantra of self-sacrifice has been a mainstay of the Party’s campaign trail since the UN-sponsored election of 1993. A keynote of this anthem is that the Khmer Rouge killed off Cambodia’s artists and intellectuals, reducing a once glorious culture to rubble.

The message is clear: we have saved you from terror, and if we fall, Cambodia will return to darkness.

One such artist was singer and songwriter Sinn Sisamouth (1932-1976), whose genius is celebrated in the 2015 documentaryDon’t think I’ve forgotten: Cambodia’s lost Rock and Roll. If digital retouch has restored fresh intimacy to Sinn Sisamouth’s voice, the passage of time has worked a different magic, rebirthing the title love-song as a posthumous threnody to its creator and, by extension, to all artists killed by the Khmer Rouge.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten” Sinn Sisamouth croons, “I remember everything, so many stories.” The Khmer word for “stories”(roeung) has a wide range. It can also refer to “events”, including those of a political nature. To “seek” (rook) roeung means to look for trouble or stir things up. 

This summer, a new murder story has given Don’t think I’ve forgotten fresh traction. On 10 July, 40 years after Sinn Sisamouth died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, public intellectual and master raconteur Kem Ley was shot dead in Phnom Penh. Where Sisamouth was killed in the darkroom of an isolationist and deeply paranoid communist regime, Kem Ley wa...

16:57

MERITOCRATS – THE REAL DESPICABLES! "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

During the same week in September 2016, Teresa May in the UK and Hillary Clinton in the USA made interesting and revealing statements. May on the need to ‘improve access to the meritocracy’ in Britain; Clinton on stereotyping half the supporters of Donald Trump in the United States of America as a ‘basket of despicables’. Both these opinions were met with a considerable degree of media surprise in their respective countries. Yet the only thing that was really surprising was the fact that these two opinions were openly articulated by members of the political elite who were both alpha-females. Otherwise these views were just modern versions of an age old elite prejudice arising from the division of societies into two great classes.

Lower class citizens, who don’t follow the wishes or dictates of the ruling elite have always been considered troublesome or despicable. Elites can never imagine ordinary people as having ‘merit’ or being capable of self-governance. They automatically assume we need them to guide us. In the ancient world societies were split into Patricians and Plebians, Despots and Helots, etc., the latter catagories being frequently described as troublesome or despicable. During the Feudal mode of agricultural production the predominant class divisions within societies were between the Aristocracy (power originally gained by the sword) who owned and controlled the main means of production (land) and the peasants who were forced to work for them upon it.

In contrast to the medieval period, the representatives of the capitalist mode of production, by means of a political and economic revolution, introduced the domination of a capital-owning meritocracy. It was this new class which became the economic elite and came to own and control the dominant means of production (land and industry) and created a working class who supplied the labour to operate them. The bourgeois mode of production, based upon the ownership and control of capital, created the possibility (and consequently a widespread illusion) that things could be different under this new mode of production. That particular illusion was (and still is) promoted in the form that; ‘we can be whatever we want to be’.

Bourgeois Meritocracy.

Supporters of the capital dominated mode of production claimed that by individual and family effort, ordinary working people could become part of the elite. It was further suggested that this would require considerable effort in the areas of thrift and educational attainment. By this logic an illusion was created that by unrelenting application of these characteristics, the old barriers of class could be overcome for anyone who wanted it enough. Eventually Grammar schools and the new universities in the UK and their equivalents in Europe, the USA and elsewhere, became...

11:59

Diversity - what Ofcom needs to do "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Ofcom's new CEO has pledged to make diversity and inclusion a priority. The regulator needs to improve or it could face judicial review.

Idris Elba, who has called for a more diverse media. Frantzesco Kangaris / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Ofcom is now the regulator for the entire broadcasting sector and has a decisive role to play in driving diversity and inclusion. For the commercial sector, Sections 27 and 337 of the Communications Act requires Ofcom and broadcasters to promote equal opportunities. Now, the BBC White Paper has said the BBC should be at the forefront of representing diversity on and off screen and that it needs to do better. The Charter gives Ofcom the power to ensure the BBC delivers.

In the past Ofcom did not take its equality duties seriously. Had it done more than the bare minimum, we might have expected to see an increase in BAME employment and the industry would look very different today.

One key driver of diversity is transparency of diversity data. The Independent Television Commission (ITC) made it a licence requirement that the licencees supply their equality monitoring data to the regulator. The data was published annually for each named licence together with a commentary on their actions and progress. Ofcom decided not to publish such data.

Even though it was the duty of Ofcom to take all such steps as they consider appropriate for promoting equality of opportunity, Ofcom Standards and Content partner, Tim Suter, told an Information Tribunal that while Ofcom could publish diversity data from licensees, it just didn’t think it was appropriate in 2005 (the year in the Tribunal action).  Ofcom still hasn’t changed its view.

Skillset data shows that between 2006 and 2012, with no data from Ofcom, the reported BAME numbers working in the UK television industry declined by 30.9%.

This is in stark contrast to the success under the ITC policy of data transparency.

In 1996, the ITC showed the total number of BAME workers employed by licencees was 298. In 2002 the ITC's data showed that this had increased to 565 - an increase of 89.6%. The biggest increases were shown at LWT (increasing from 73 to 184 people), Channel 4 (55 to 105) and Carlton (28 to 82). 

Ofcom has prided itself on being an evidence driven regulator. The evidence is clear – an 89% increase in BAME employment over 6 years with ITC transparency against a 30.9% decline with Ofcom opacity.

Ofcom now has a different CEO, Sharon White, and she has made it clear that diversity and inclusion are high on her agenda. In March, Ofcom told DCMS that it would now look at the maximum possible it could do under its statutory duties. If Ofcom is serious, this is what it should do.

  • Ofcom should commit to publishing an annual report setting out the action taken under its duties to promote – and require broadcasters to promote – equality of opportunity in TV and radio (Sections 27 and 337 of the Comms Act).   The report would include:

    • ...

00:15

Twadell deal shapes up at last (but WTF kept youse?) "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

One of the massively frustrating aspects of the parading problem in North Belfast has been is just how arch and false the whole thing has been. Well, if Fresh Start means anything to real people in a real space it may just mean a whole bunch of pointless street trouble is coming to an end: more...

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Friday, 23 September

19:27

Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety, but reform is a ‘chaser game’: refugee women are pressuring the Home Office to improve decision making and end detention, says Beatrice Botomani.

In 2012, 6,071 women came to the UK to seek asylum, representing around one third of total applications. Many of these women, like those who came before them, have suffered unimaginable hardship upon arrival in the UK having been stripped of their dignity. Many have been placed in indefinite detention, a context in which, this weekend, a 40 year old woman died.

My experience as a refugee woman in the UK has taught me many things about injustice, among them, that women need to work together to make change. For as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said in 2012: “while there is now greater awareness of the problems women face, there remain deep-seated areas of discrimination and there is none greater than in the field of asylum and immigration.”

Thousands of refugee women, in the asylum system, and inside and outside of detention, struggle in the UK each day, their minds filled up, saturated and overwhelmed with questions that have no answers. They ask themselves, why us, refugee women? Why are we treated as animals?  Why are we treated like criminals?  Why are we treated as if we have no feelings? Why, why, why refugee women? Why are they –  and perhaps, why are you, Reader – indifferent?

Our questions correspond to an endless list of hardships. It is estimated that around one third of women who sought asylum from persecution in the UK in 2012 were held in indefinite detention for committing no crime; thousands of asylum seeking women are going hungry as I write; others struggle on around £5 a day. From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety. We stand amazed and astonished at how our lives have become other people’s property. G4S; Serco; Reliance: private corporations fight to control our bodies.  Detention, destitution, bars on employment: instead of getting answers, the list of questions becomes more complicated as refugee women move through the asylum system in the UK.

While other sectors are looking forward to new developments and to better their lives, unafraid to close their public offices to go outside and strike for more money and against poor conditions, refugee women face constraints mobilising. Yet refugee women are fighting to confront these questions with answers that we have ourselves devised.

Why Refugee Women

...

Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety, but reform is a ‘chaser game’: refugee women are pressuring the Home Office to improve decision making and end detention, says Beatrice Botomani.

In 2012, 6,071 women came to the UK to seek asylum, representing around one third of total applications. Many of these women, like those who came before them, have suffered unimaginable hardship upon arrival in the UK having been stripped of their dignity. Many have been placed in indefinite detention, a context in which, this weekend, a 40 year old woman died.

My experience as a refugee woman in the UK has taught me many things about injustice, among them, that women need to work together to make change. For as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said in 2012: “while there is now greater awareness of the problems women face, there remain deep-seated areas of discrimination and there is none greater than in the field of asylum and immigration.”

Thousands of refugee women, in the asylum system, and inside and outside of detention, struggle in the UK each day, their minds filled up, saturated and overwhelmed with questions that have no answers. They ask themselves, why us, refugee women? Why are we treated as animals?  Why are we treated like criminals?  Why are we treated as if we have no feelings? Why, why, why refugee women? Why are they –  and perhaps, why are you, Reader – indifferent?

Our questions correspond to an endless list of hardships. It is estimated that around one third of women who sought asylum from persecution in the UK in 2012 were held in indefinite detention for committing no crime; thousands of asylum seeking women are going hungry as I write; others struggle on around £5 a day. From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety. We stand amazed and astonished at how our lives have become other people’s property. G4S; Serco; Reliance: private corporations fight to control our bodies.  Detention, destitution, bars on employment: instead of getting answers, the list of questions becomes more complicated as refugee women move through the asylum system in the UK.

While other sectors are looking forward to new developments and to better their lives, unafraid to close their public offices to go outside and strike for more money and against poor conditions, refugee women face constraints mobilising. Yet refugee women are fighting to confront these questions with answers that we have ourselves devised.

Why Refugee Women

...

19:20

Sports diplomacy: Bahrain’s martial arts venture distracts from human rights abuses "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

While the use of successful sporting events is a persuasive approach to international relations, it is limited in its ability to disguise Bahrain's true nature.

Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.On Friday, September 23, the inaugural combat sports event entitled Brave Combat Federation (BCF) is taking place in Khalifa Sports City in Isa Town, Bahrain. The event, which features a headlining bout between Iraq’s Rami Aziz and Jordan’s Abdulkareem Selwady, represents the small Island kingdom’s attempt to become a significant player in the world of mixed martial arts. However, it also represents an attempt at sports diplomacy to distract international stakeholders from ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

Brave Combat Federation was founded by Sheikh Khaled Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the fifth son of Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa. Prince Khaled began his career as a military man with the rank of first lieutenant. He then focused his attention on local sports, where he is now the first deputy chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports and the founder of KHK MMA, a mixed martial arts gym that covers the costs of its fighters’ training fees and medical bills. 

Over the past few months, Prince Khaled has been seen supporting his team, providing ice buckets for his teammates, and even competing in an amateur bout himself. However, despite his seemingly positive vision for the sport, questions have been raised about Bahrain’s shocking human rights violations and how the nation’s politics intersects with their growing interest in sports. Evidently, Bahrain has continued to use the cultural effects of sports for domestic policy and international relations. It has also arguably used sports as a tool to distract from the last five years of tension and turmoil.

Allegations of torture & royal immunity

Sheikh Khaled’s full brother, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, is also heavily immersed in sports. He is the president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, the Bahrain Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation and the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports. He also happens to be a fan of endurance racing and won a silver medal at the Asian Games in Doha before he led the Bahrain National Endurance team to an eighth place finish in the 2007 European Open. Sheikh Nasser’s most recent venture was launching the Bahrain Cycling Team. Yet despite his attempt to increase Bahrain’s state prestige through success in sports, various allegations against Prince Nasser have arisen following the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

Sheikh Nasser, Commander of Bahrain's Royal Guard, was accused of tortur...

Sports diplomacy: Bahrain’s martial arts venture distracts from human rights abuses "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

While the use of successful sporting events is a persuasive approach to international relations, it is limited in its ability to disguise Bahrain's true nature.

Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.On Friday, September 23, the inaugural combat sports event entitled Brave Combat Federation (BCF) is taking place in Khalifa Sports City in Isa Town, Bahrain. The event, which features a headlining bout between Iraq’s Rami Aziz and Jordan’s Abdulkareem Selwady, represents the small Island kingdom’s attempt to become a significant player in the world of mixed martial arts. However, it also represents an attempt at sports diplomacy to distract international stakeholders from ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

Brave Combat Federation was founded by Sheikh Khaled Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the fifth son of Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa. Prince Khaled began his career as a military man with the rank of first lieutenant. He then focused his attention on local sports, where he is now the first deputy chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports and the founder of KHK MMA, a mixed martial arts gym that covers the costs of its fighters’ training fees and medical bills. 

Over the past few months, Prince Khaled has been seen supporting his team, providing ice buckets for his teammates, and even competing in an amateur bout himself. However, despite his seemingly positive vision for the sport, questions have been raised about Bahrain’s shocking human rights violations and how the nation’s politics intersects with their growing interest in sports. Evidently, Bahrain has continued to use the cultural effects of sports for domestic policy and international relations. It has also arguably used sports as a tool to distract from the last five years of tension and turmoil.

Allegations of torture & royal immunity

Sheikh Khaled’s full brother, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, is also heavily immersed in sports. He is the president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, the Bahrain Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation and the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports. He also happens to be a fan of endurance racing and won a silver medal at the Asian Games in Doha before he led the Bahrain National Endurance team to an eighth place finish in the 2007 European Open. Sheikh Nasser’s most recent venture was launching the Bahrain Cycling Team. Yet despite his attempt to increase Bahrain’s state prestige through success in sports, various allegations against Prince Nasser have arisen following the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

Sheikh Nasser, Commander of Bahrain's Royal Guard, was accused of tortur...

14:52

Israel’s right to exist "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The reason why the claimed ‘right to exist’ is problematic is a question of definition, not of dematerialisation. A reply to Mary Davis’ reply.

Activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a global campaign started by over 150 Palestinian non-governmental organizations, protesting in August, 2014. Nasser Ishtayeh/Press Association. All rights reserved.First a mea culpa. Mary Davis accuses me of making an ‘incorrect and snide’ assertion that she wrote her first piece to support the Jewish establishment’s attack on Corbyn. I see how it can be read that way. What I wrote was “The issue is: just why Mary Davis is writing this piece now?” and went on to detail the coordinated, no-holds barred onslaught alleging that antisemitism that has been taking place. What I meant was that antisemitism in the Labour Party was a significant issue only because of this onslaught; and that she was writing her piece only because this misplaced salience had made it an issue. I did not mean that she was part of that campaign.

Before getting down to business I should also mention her rebuttal of my assertion that actual anti-Semitic incidents were relatively insignificant. She cites Community Security Trust figures for anti-Semitic incidents running at a total of 557 in the first 6 months of 2016. For a sense of scale, official figures show the total number of hate crimes averaged 222,000 per annum over the years 2012-5. I rest that part of my case.

To business. What ultimately divides our positions on the contentious issue of how anti-Zionism relates to antisemitism? It does not seem, at least directly, to be our views on Zionism itself. Mary says that she does not regard herself as a Zionist, and it is quite a few decades since I did so. And we are both highly critical about what Israel actually does. Yet it is clear that we do have grave differences on what can legitimately be done to end these excesses. These disagreements seem to stem ultimately from what she identifies as “the issue of the right of the state of Israel to exist”.

The right to exist

This is treacherous ground. In the present era of witch-finders general in the Labour Party I could still lose my leadership vote. (I am writing just ahead of the result being announced.) Many have already lost theirs for less. So forgive me if I tread warily. To question this ‘right to exist’ is not to toy with the idea of ejecting the 5 million or so Jewish inhabitants of Israel plus its illegal settlements into some external dumping ground (or worse). All the same, don’t forget that this dumping is exactly what happened to those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ejected in 1948 who have since been denied their internationally attested right to return.

The reason why the claimed ‘right to exist’ is problematic is a question of definition, not of dematerialisation. States come and go, change their names and their b...

Israel’s right to exist "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The reason why the claimed ‘right to exist’ is problematic is a question of definition, not of dematerialisation. A reply to Mary Davis’ reply.

Activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a global campaign started by over 150 Palestinian non-governmental organizations, protesting in August, 2014. Nasser Ishtayeh/Press Association. All rights reserved.First a mea culpa. Mary Davis accuses me of making an ‘incorrect and snide’ assertion that she wrote her first piece to support the Jewish establishment’s attack on Corbyn. I see how it can be read that way. What I wrote was “The issue is: just why Mary Davis is writing this piece now?” and went on to detail the coordinated, no-holds barred onslaught alleging that antisemitism that has been taking place. What I meant was that antisemitism in the Labour Party was a significant issue only because of this onslaught; and that she was writing her piece only because this misplaced salience had made it an issue. I did not mean that she was part of that campaign.

Before getting down to business I should also mention her rebuttal of my assertion that actual anti-Semitic incidents were relatively insignificant. She cites Community Security Trust figures for anti-Semitic incidents running at a total of 557 in the first 6 months of 2016. For a sense of scale, official figures show the total number of hate crimes averaged 222,000 per annum over the years 2012-5. I rest that part of my case.

To business. What ultimately divides our positions on the contentious issue of how anti-Zionism relates to antisemitism? It does not seem, at least directly, to be our views on Zionism itself. Mary says that she does not regard herself as a Zionist, and it is quite a few decades since I did so. And we are both highly critical about what Israel actually does. Yet it is clear that we do have grave differences on what can legitimately be done to end these excesses. These disagreements seem to stem ultimately from what she identifies as “the issue of the right of the state of Israel to exist”.

The right to exist

This is treacherous ground. In the present era of witch-finders general in the Labour Party I could still lose my leadership vote. (I am writing just ahead of the result being announced.) Many have already lost theirs for less. So forgive me if I tread warily. To question this ‘right to exist’ is not to toy with the idea of ejecting the 5 million or so Jewish inhabitants of Israel plus its illegal settlements into some external dumping ground (or worse). All the same, don’t forget that this dumping is exactly what happened to those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ejected in 1948 who have since been denied their internationally attested right to return.

The reason why the claimed ‘right to exist’ is problematic is a question of definition, not of dematerialisation. States come and go, change their names and their b...

14:24

What will make for a good opposition at Stormont? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The two main government parties seem to have convinced a large chunk of the media that in order to be effective as an opposition, the UUP and the SDLP must form a government-in-waiting. It suits the DUP and Sinn Fein to paint it that way in order to cover their many splits on policy. Unfortunately, it more...

14:14

Russia’s security services are trying to reform their way out of the shadows "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

10838229_1015976098430355_7234058766256563378_o.jpgSweeping reforms to Russia’s power ministries show that the FSB has the country’s security monopoly in its sights.

 

Sudden and sweeping reforms to Russia’s security ministries don’t signal a return to the Soviet Union, but a new balance of power. (c) Ivan Sekretarev / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.This article originally appeared in Russian on RBC. We are grateful for the opportunity to repost it here. 

For 17 years now, the KGB’s offspring has ruled Russia. They’re everywhere — business, politics, public services. They run the economic security departments in the majority of banks and the most important departments in Russia’s “power ministries” (known informally as the siloviki). Outside the capital, young security officers become regional ministers and heads of various agencies. These are the people that, at the start of the Putin era, consciously chose to build a career in the FSB. Often, they’re the sons of Soviet security men. 

Today, the FSB is in a non-stop regime — vacuuming up all the information it can, launching various campaigns (whether political or criminal) and controlling them. People in the legal profession often come across polite letters from the heads of regional FSB departments addressed to local prosecutors or police chiefs with requests to keep a particular someone under watch. These requests often end in administrative or criminal cases against that particular individual, or law suits with a guaranteed result. 

The chekists, as they’re known, have long believed that they are Russia’s chosen ones. In recent months, the FSB has moved against two of its main institutional rivals and, on Monday, it was revealed that the Kremlin plans to create a new “Ministry of State Security”. What is going on?

Out of the shadows

In the beginning, Russia’s security services were careful to hide their involvement. But gradually, they stopped being so shy, though they continued to act through intermediaries: the Center for Combating Extremism (“Center E”) and the Investigative Committee worked against Russia’s opposition, the police force’s economic crimes department focused on business, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice – against NGOs, and the penitentiary service (FSIN) – against already convicted activists.

But then, together with their rivals in the Investigative Committee and Ministry of Internal Affairs, we began to catch glimpses of the FSB in investigat...

Russia’s security services are trying to reform their way out of the shadows "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

10838229_1015976098430355_7234058766256563378_o.jpgSweeping reforms to Russia’s power ministries show that the FSB has the country’s security monopoly in its sights.

 

Sudden and sweeping reforms to Russia’s security ministries don’t signal a return to the Soviet Union, but a new balance of power. (c) Ivan Sekretarev / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.This article originally appeared in Russian on RBC. We are grateful for the opportunity to repost it here. 

For 17 years now, the KGB’s offspring has ruled Russia. They’re everywhere — business, politics, public services. They run the economic security departments in the majority of banks and the most important departments in Russia’s “power ministries” (known informally as the siloviki). Outside the capital, young security officers become regional ministers and heads of various agencies. These are the people that, at the start of the Putin era, consciously chose to build a career in the FSB. Often, they’re the sons of Soviet security men. 

Today, the FSB is in a non-stop regime — vacuuming up all the information it can, launching various campaigns (whether political or criminal) and controlling them. People in the legal profession often come across polite letters from the heads of regional FSB departments addressed to local prosecutors or police chiefs with requests to keep a particular someone under watch. These requests often end in administrative or criminal cases against that particular individual, or law suits with a guaranteed result. 

The chekists, as they’re known, have long believed that they are Russia’s chosen ones. In recent months, the FSB has moved against two of its main institutional rivals and, on Monday, it was revealed that the Kremlin plans to create a new “Ministry of State Security”. What is going on?

Out of the shadows

In the beginning, Russia’s security services were careful to hide their involvement. But gradually, they stopped being so shy, though they continued to act through intermediaries: the Center for Combating Extremism (“Center E”) and the Investigative Committee worked against Russia’s opposition, the police force’s economic crimes department focused on business, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice – against NGOs, and the penitentiary service (FSIN) – against already convicted activists.

But then, together with their rivals in the Investigative Committee and Ministry of Internal Affairs, we began to catch glimpses of the FSB in investigat...

12:48

It’s a no brainer. Dublin will cleave to the British-Irish relationship to navigate through Brexit rather than become persuaders for unity "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Chris Donnelly is right to believe that Brexit will give an immediate boost to the cause of a United Ireland and he expresses it in terms well removed from the old Sinn Fein mantra. In the longer term, Brexit presents an unexpected opportunity for many in nationalist Ireland to develop a vision of an Ireland more...

12:37

If the UK intervenes in conflict, we must plan properly for peace "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

From Bosnia to Iraq to Libya, the UK has failed to learn from its disastrous history of neglecting post-war planning.

FIghters in Libya fire at Islamic State military positions. Photo: Manu Brabo / AP/Press Association Images Fighters in Libya fire at Islamic State military positions. Photo: Manu Brabo / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reservedFor the second time this year, a parliamentary inquiry has examined a British military intervention that resulted in the collapse of a dictatorship, and found a disastrous lack of planning for the aftermath. After Iraq in 2003, came Libya in 2011. But the history of failures in long-term planning following British intervention in conflicts stretches back to long before Iraq; I experienced similar problems when working in Kosovo and Bosnia. Why does this keep happening? One reason is a failure to take basic rights and the rule of law seriously in the critical months after fighting has ended.

In the summer of 2011, Human Rights Watch documented serious human rights abuses by the Gaddafi government, but also the failure to protect basic rights in the growing amount of territory under opposition control.  Our information on Gaddafi’s crimes was welcomed in NATO capitals; our concerns about opposition abuses much less so. Western countries displayed a profound lack of interest in addressing abuses by the armed groups they supported - and this became even more apparent when those forces took power. 

The UN Human Rights Council had set up a Commission of Inquiry on Libya as unrest began in February 2011. It reported on serious rights violations in the country in the year that followed, including by anti-Gaddafi forces. But the Council - with the strong support of Britain - shut down this Commission in early 2012, a few months after Gaddafi was toppled. UK officials told Human Rights Watch that such monitoring was no longer needed, and that the new Libyan government objected to being monitored. And although a UN mission was set up in Libya with a substantial human rights component, it decided to focus on elections rather than rights abuses. The result was that, at this critical time, there was little public scrutiny of what was going wrong.

Another key mistake was not to focus on the rule of law. When the governing structures of a country collapse, as may happen at the end of civil war, one of the urgent tasks is to ensure basic rule of law so that crimes, both serious and petty, can be dealt with by a functioning police force and justice system. This cannot be delayed; if a law and order vacuum emerges, those with guns will quickly fill it. Creating a robust justice system means ensuring there is a police force that has clear powers but also respects the rule of law and basic rights. It also needs, from the start,...

If the UK intervenes in conflict, we must plan properly for peace "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

From Bosnia to Iraq to Libya, the UK has failed to learn from its disastrous history of neglecting post-war planning.

FIghters in Libya fire at Islamic State military positions. Photo: Manu Brabo / AP/Press Association Images Fighters in Libya fire at Islamic State military positions. Photo: Manu Brabo / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reservedFor the second time this year, a parliamentary inquiry has examined a British military intervention that resulted in the collapse of a dictatorship, and found a disastrous lack of planning for the aftermath. After Iraq in 2003, came Libya in 2011. But the history of failures in long-term planning following British intervention in conflicts stretches back to long before Iraq; I experienced similar problems when working in Kosovo and Bosnia. Why does this keep happening? One reason is a failure to take basic rights and the rule of law seriously in the critical months after fighting has ended.

In the summer of 2011, Human Rights Watch documented serious human rights abuses by the Gaddafi government, but also the failure to protect basic rights in the growing amount of territory under opposition control.  Our information on Gaddafi’s crimes was welcomed in NATO capitals; our concerns about opposition abuses much less so. Western countries displayed a profound lack of interest in addressing abuses by the armed groups they supported - and this became even more apparent when those forces took power. 

The UN Human Rights Council had set up a Commission of Inquiry on Libya as unrest began in February 2011. It reported on serious rights violations in the country in the year that followed, including by anti-Gaddafi forces. But the Council - with the strong support of Britain - shut down this Commission in early 2012, a few months after Gaddafi was toppled. UK officials told Human Rights Watch that such monitoring was no longer needed, and that the new Libyan government objected to being monitored. And although a UN mission was set up in Libya with a substantial human rights component, it decided to focus on elections rather than rights abuses. The result was that, at this critical time, there was little public scrutiny of what was going wrong.

Another key mistake was not to focus on the rule of law. When the governing structures of a country collapse, as may happen at the end of civil war, one of the urgent tasks is to ensure basic rule of law so that crimes, both serious and petty, can be dealt with by a functioning police force and justice system. This cannot be delayed; if a law and order vacuum emerges, those with guns will quickly fill it. Creating a robust justice system means ensuring there is a police force that has clear powers but also respects the rule of law and basic rights. It also needs, from the start,...

02:00

What can be learned from recent studies on nonviolent action? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Books about peace are rare when compared to books about war, but a raft of new work expands our understanding enormously (3k words).

This article was first published by Waging Nonviolence.

Peace Abbey archives at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Credit: WNV/Peace Abbey. All rights reserved.

Interest in nonviolent action is greater today than it ever has been before. This is reflected in the number and sophistication of nonviolent campaigns, in media coverage and popular understanding—as well as a spate of new books, several of which were published in 2015.

Decades ago, really good books in the area were uncommon. There was Gandhi’s autobiography, Richard Gregg’s 1934 “The Power of Nonviolence” and Joan Bondurant’s 1958 “Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict.” These classic treatments are all in the Gandhian tradition, and each one is still worth reading today. Another favorite of mine is Bart de Ligt’s 1937 “The Conquest of Violence: An Essay on War and Revolution.”

Then came Gene Sharp’s 1973 epic “The Politics of Nonviolent Action.” Each of its three parts is available separately and is a book in itself. Back in the 1970s, I read it from beginning to end, but these days many just look at Sharp’s list of 198 methods of nonviolent action. Sharp put so-called pragmatic nonviolent action on the agenda as an alternative or complement to the Gandhian tradition.

Here I comment on four books published last year that make important contributions to the field. I should mention that I’m not a neutral commentator. For each of the first three books, I either commented on drafts of the text or on the book proposal. As you’ll see, I think they are all excellent and well worth reading.

Nonviolent Struggle

Sharon Erickson Nepstad is a prominent figure in the field, noted for her book “Nonviolent Revolutions.” She has a new book simply titled “Nonviolent Struggle.” It’s intended as a textbook and covers the field systematically. It is clear and logically organized. More than clear, it is engaging, with a combination of analysis and case studies serving very effectively to convey ideas in a way that will stick with readers and no doubt inspire a few.

The scholarship behind the text is impressive, with coverage of Gandhian, Sharpian and other frameworks. The references show an up-to-date familiarity with the literature. One of the strongest aspects of the book, one easily missed, is the use of simple categories in nearly every chapter to give structure to the discussion.

Some of these categories are standard ones in the literature; others are—so far as I know—original. A critical scholar might quibble with some of the categories, but I think they will work very well pedagogically, and therefore are superior to more complicated frameworks. “Nonviolent Struggle” deserves to become the recommended reading for anyone starting out to understand the field of nonviolence.

The first chapter is an excellent overview of meanings and misconceptions concerning nonviolence, beginning with pacifism and misconceptions about it, then moving to principled and pragmatic nonviolence. The book goes on to demonstrate how the teachings of major religions are compatible with or encourage nonviolence, as well as provide informative overviews of perspectives on power, methods of nonviolent act...

What can be learned from recent studies on nonviolent action? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Books about peace are rare when compared to books about war, but a raft of new work expands our understanding enormously (3k words).

This article was first published by Waging Nonviolence.

Peace Abbey archives at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Credit: WNV/Peace Abbey. All rights reserved.

Interest in nonviolent action is greater today than it ever has been before. This is reflected in the number and sophistication of nonviolent campaigns, in media coverage and popular understanding—as well as a spate of new books, several of which were published in 2015.

Decades ago, really good books in the area were uncommon. There was Gandhi’s autobiography, Richard Gregg’s 1934 “The Power of Nonviolence” and Joan Bondurant’s 1958 “Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict.” These classic treatments are all in the Gandhian tradition, and each one is still worth reading today. Another favorite of mine is Bart de Ligt’s 1937 “The Conquest of Violence: An Essay on War and Revolution.”

Then came Gene Sharp’s 1973 epic “The Politics of Nonviolent Action.” Each of its three parts is available separately and is a book in itself. Back in the 1970s, I read it from beginning to end, but these days many just look at Sharp’s list of 198 methods of nonviolent action. Sharp put so-called pragmatic nonviolent action on the agenda as an alternative or complement to the Gandhian tradition.

Here I comment on four books published last year that make important contributions to the field. I should mention that I’m not a neutral commentator. For each of the first three books, I either commented on drafts of the text or on the book proposal. As you’ll see, I think they are all excellent and well worth reading.

Nonviolent Struggle

Sharon Erickson Nepstad is a prominent figure in the field, noted for her book “Nonviolent Revolutions.” She has a new book simply titled “Nonviolent Struggle.” It’s intended as a textbook and covers the field systematically. It is clear and logically organized. More than clear, it is engaging, with a combination of analysis and case studies serving very effectively to convey ideas in a way that will stick with readers and no doubt inspire a few.

The scholarship behind the text is impressive, with coverage of Gandhian, Sharpian and other frameworks. The references show an up-to-date familiarity with the literature. One of the strongest aspects of the book, one easily missed, is the use of simple categories in nearly every chapter to give structure to the discussion.

Some of these categories are standard ones in the literature; others are—so far as I know—original. A critical scholar might quibble with some of the categories, but I think they will work very well pedagogically, and therefore are superior to more complicated frameworks. “Nonviolent Struggle” deserves to become the recommended reading for anyone starting out to understand the field of nonviolence.

The first chapter is an excellent overview of meanings and misconceptions concerning nonviolence, beginning with pacifism and misconceptions about it, then moving to principled and pragmatic nonviolence. The book goes on to demonstrate how the teachings of major religions are compatible with or encourage nonviolence, as well as provide informative overviews of perspectives on power, methods of nonviolent act...

01:52

A rule of law crisis overshadows the refugee one "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

This week Greek officials agreed to deport a Syrian refugee back to Turkey. Without guarantees that his rights will be protected this risks contravening the EU’s established rules on asylum and human rights. 

Refugees watch a boat come into the harbour at Lesvos. Picture by Victor Roman.Greece is obligated to do so under the EU-Turkey deal agreed on 20 March 2016 where Turkey agreed to take back migrants and police its borders in exchange for $6bn and improved visa conditions for Turks in Europe.

The deal was intended to curb the flow of migrants arriving from Turkey to Greece and Italy.  The effect has been short-lived. The recent attempted coup in Turkey led to the withdrawal of Turkish police and liaison officers from the Greek islands and saw a new rise in arrivals.

Last week Lesvos received over 600 new arrivals, many of them children. A now familiar scene, they were met on the shoreline by strangers bearing space blankets. They were taken to the Moria refugee camp on the outskirts of Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos. Refugees are detained there for up to 25 days after which they can exit the camp but cannot leave the island.

Described by many as a prison, the camp has a capacity of 1200 and it is currently home to over 4000 refugees. Sanitation systems cannot cope and there have been reports of the camp running out of bread at crisis periods. Food provision is supplemented by No Borders Kitchen, a band of volunteers who cook and distribute 650 free vegan meals every day on Lesvos, but who are constantly being moved on by the Greek police. 

Many of those detained in camps have family members resident in other EU states who passaged through Europe prior to the March 20 deal and they have a right to family reunification under the EU’s Dublin III regulation.

Following that regulation the onus to start the relevant legal processes is placed on Greece as the country where those refugees first entered the EU. Debt-ridden Greece does not have the resources to do this, consequently few refugees have adequate legal representation for family reunification and this time it is refugees who pay the price for IMF loans. 

Greece is therefore compelled to commit human rights violations in the three directions set out above: (1) in the deportation of refugees to an unsafe country (the principle of non-refoulement), (2) in the inadequate resourcing of camps, and (3) in the inability to provide effective administration to process asylum and family reunification claims.

The right to asylum, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, the rights to health, education, housing, food, the right to a fair hearing and family reunification are violated as a result of the disproportionate burden placed on Greece to deal with a global crisis.  

Uncertainty over their legal status has caused growing unrest and discontent amongst refugees on Lesvos. Last week brought protests by refugees on Lesvos. - Around 100 refugees of diverse origin protested outside the gate to port, chanting ‘Open the Borders’, and then came the fire that swept through and destroyed the Moria camp in the early hours of Tuesday 20 September.

Thousands of refugees on Les...

A rule of law crisis overshadows the refugee one "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

This week Greek officials agreed to deport a Syrian refugee back to Turkey. Without guarantees that his rights will be protected this risks contravening the EU’s established rules on asylum and human rights. 

Refugees watch a boat come into the harbour at Lesvos. Picture by Victor Roman.Greece is obligated to do so under the EU-Turkey deal agreed on 20 March 2016 where Turkey agreed to take back migrants and police its borders in exchange for $6bn and improved visa conditions for Turks in Europe.

The deal was intended to curb the flow of migrants arriving from Turkey to Greece and Italy.  The effect has been short-lived. The recent attempted coup in Turkey led to the withdrawal of Turkish police and liaison officers from the Greek islands and saw a new rise in arrivals.

Last week Lesvos received over 600 new arrivals, many of them children. A now familiar scene, they were met on the shoreline by strangers bearing space blankets. They were taken to the Moria refugee camp on the outskirts of Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos. Refugees are detained there for up to 25 days after which they can exit the camp but cannot leave the island.

Described by many as a prison, the camp has a capacity of 1200 and it is currently home to over 4000 refugees. Sanitation systems cannot cope and there have been reports of the camp running out of bread at crisis periods. Food provision is supplemented by No Borders Kitchen, a band of volunteers who cook and distribute 650 free vegan meals every day on Lesvos, but who are constantly being moved on by the Greek police. 

Many of those detained in camps have family members resident in other EU states who passaged through Europe prior to the March 20 deal and they have a right to family reunification under the EU’s Dublin III regulation.

Following that regulation the onus to start the relevant legal processes is placed on Greece as the country where those refugees first entered the EU. Debt-ridden Greece does not have the resources to do this, consequently few refugees have adequate legal representation for family reunification and this time it is refugees who pay the price for IMF loans. 

Greece is therefore compelled to commit human rights violations in the three directions set out above: (1) in the deportation of refugees to an unsafe country (the principle of non-refoulement), (2) in the inadequate resourcing of camps, and (3) in the inability to provide effective administration to process asylum and family reunification claims.

The right to asylum, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, the rights to health, education, housing, food, the right to a fair hearing and family reunification are violated as a result of the disproportionate burden placed on Greece to deal with a global crisis.  

Uncertainty over their legal status has caused growing unrest and discontent amongst refugees on Lesvos. Last week brought protests by refugees on Lesvos. - Around 100 refugees of diverse origin protested outside the gate to port, chanting ‘Open the Borders’, and then came the fire that swept through and destroyed the Moria camp in the early hours of Tuesday 20 September.

Thousands of refugees on Les...

01:01

The familiar axes of politics are changing, with momentous consequences "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Political identities have changed significantly, and politics has shifted with them.

Storming of the Tuileries on 10. Aug. 1792 during the French Revolution

From the time of the French Revolution, mass politics has revolved around two core conflicts: that between preferences for more or less economic inequality; and that between conservative, authoritarian values and liberal ones. The main divisions among political parties in most countries fit into this frame, but we have become accustomed to seeing the former, raising issues of redistributive taxation, the welfare state, and the role of trade unions, as the senior partner. In western Europe, if not in the USA, this has become even more the case as organized religion, the main historical carrier of social conservatism, has declined in importance.

This situation is challenged by the growing prominence of a chain of partly associated, partly quite independent, forces: economic globalization, immigration, refugees and the assertion of Islamic identities, which includes terrorism as its extreme. Together these reassert the old struggle between authoritarian conservatism and liberalism. Many people feel that everything familiar to them is being threatened, that they are being confronted with decisions, cultural artefacts and the presence among them of persons, all coming from outside their familiar and trusted sphere. They seek security by trying to exclude the forces and people that are doing this to them. Most affected are those whose own working lives give them little control in any case, and who are accustomed to the security that comes from the enforcement of rules that exclude troubling diversity. This response takes various forms. Many Russians become both highly nationalistic and also stress their homophobia. Many people in the Islamic world assert their religion (which is here far more important than nationality as a symbol of a pre-globalized past) and impose strict dress codes on women. Many Americans not only become fearful of Mexican immigrants and Islamic terrorists, but become agitated about abortion. A more general social conservatism, most powerfully embodied in deep-rooted feelings around sexuality, mixes with xenophobia to produce new social supports for the traditional, not the neoliberal, right.

Europe, especially western Europe, has been a partial exception. The final great battles of the 1970s in Catholic lands over contraception, divorce and finally abortion petered out, the churches, the main bearers of European social conservatism, became weak and in many cases often liberal in their social attitudes. There are today few supports for general authoritarian conservatism, and matters have narrowed down more closely to immigration and the following chain: the European Union is a super-national force that suppresses traditional national identities; in particular, it brings immigrants with unfamiliar cultures and languages; it is difficult to distinguish immigrants from refugees, who come in alarming numbers from even more unfamiliar cultures; and since these refugees are Moslems, they are likely to...

The familiar axes of politics are changing, with momentous consequences "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Political identities have changed significantly, and politics has shifted with them.

Storming of the Tuileries on 10. Aug. 1792 during the French Revolution

From the time of the French Revolution, mass politics has revolved around two core conflicts: that between preferences for more or less economic inequality; and that between conservative, authoritarian values and liberal ones. The main divisions among political parties in most countries fit into this frame, but we have become accustomed to seeing the former, raising issues of redistributive taxation, the welfare state, and the role of trade unions, as the senior partner. In western Europe, if not in the USA, this has become even more the case as organized religion, the main historical carrier of social conservatism, has declined in importance.

This situation is challenged by the growing prominence of a chain of partly associated, partly quite independent, forces: economic globalization, immigration, refugees and the assertion of Islamic identities, which includes terrorism as its extreme. Together these reassert the old struggle between authoritarian conservatism and liberalism. Many people feel that everything familiar to them is being threatened, that they are being confronted with decisions, cultural artefacts and the presence among them of persons, all coming from outside their familiar and trusted sphere. They seek security by trying to exclude the forces and people that are doing this to them. Most affected are those whose own working lives give them little control in any case, and who are accustomed to the security that comes from the enforcement of rules that exclude troubling diversity. This response takes various forms. Many Russians become both highly nationalistic and also stress their homophobia. Many people in the Islamic world assert their religion (which is here far more important than nationality as a symbol of a pre-globalized past) and impose strict dress codes on women. Many Americans not only become fearful of Mexican immigrants and Islamic terrorists, but become agitated about abortion. A more general social conservatism, most powerfully embodied in deep-rooted feelings around sexuality, mixes with xenophobia to produce new social supports for the traditional, not the neoliberal, right.

Europe, especially western Europe, has been a partial exception. The final great battles of the 1970s in Catholic lands over contraception, divorce and finally abortion petered out, the churches, the main bearers of European social conservatism, became weak and in many cases often liberal in their social attitudes. There are today few supports for general authoritarian conservatism, and matters have narrowed down more closely to immigration and the following chain: the European Union is a super-national force that suppresses traditional national identities; in particular, it brings immigrants with unfamiliar cultures and languages; it is difficult to distinguish immigrants from refugees, who come in alarming numbers from even more unfamiliar cultures; and since these refugees are Moslems, they are likely to...

Thursday, 22 September

20:35

A very Brazilian coup "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

In removing the elected president for ostensibly political reasons, the impeachment of Dilma is a coup against democracy. Español 

President Michel Temer shakes hands with Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski as Senate leader Renan Calheiros, center, looks on during Temer's swearing in ceremony. Aug. 31, 2016, Brasilia. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres. All rights reserved.

With a rom-pom-pom, the Brazilian Marine Corps brass band introduced the national anthem and brought a packed Senate to its feet. Scanning over a sea of bald heads, rarely interrupted by islands of crimson- or mauve-coloured padded shoulders, the TV Senado camera homed in on the vampiric figure of Michel Temer, whose lips barely curved as words escaped from the side of his mouth, as if in an act of ventriloquial deception. ‘But if thou raisest the strong gavel of Justice/Thou wilt see that a son of thine flees not from battle’.

Little more than two hours after senators had voted in favour of the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, in the very same chamber, Temer was officially instated as the new president of the republic. In the nearby Alvorada Palace, Dilma, vested in the red of her Workers’ Party (PT), surrounded by supporters, had already pronounced to a pack of journalists that she had been ousted by a coup d’état.

Coups, democratic rupture, and unelected government are the rule in Brazil, not the exception. It was a coup, organised by military men, that established the republic in 1889. Getúlio Vargas, one of Brazil’s most loved presidents, took power in a bloodless coup in 1930. Then, after a short period of constitutional rule beginning in 1934, he established the ‘Estado Novo’ (‘New State’) through a self-coup in 1937. Vargas was deposed in 1945 by a military coup that led to the reintroduction of presidential elections. Less than twenty years later, the military coup of 1964 plunged the country into the darkest period of its modern history, during which a murderous dictatorship proscribed political parties and clamped down on free expression. Even during the country’s three brief experiments with representative democracy (the first of which restricted the vote to white, literate males), few presidents who have come to power through the ballot box have remained in office until the end of their mandate; just two since 1985.

Coups, democratic rupture, and unelected government are the rule in Brazil, not the exception. 

If ruptures in governance have differed in consequence and design, their architects have invariably presented them as necessary to modernise Brazil and propel the ‘country of the future’ towards its destiny. History has been the pretext for cynical politicking, intrigue, and sabotage that have reconfigured, and usually shrunk, the space for democratic contestation. History has trumped politics, with the positivist ideal of ‘order and progress’ proclaimed as guiding the transformation of a backwards ‘banana republic’ into a serious, civilised, and developed nation state.

Dilma’s impeachment represents yet another rupture in Brazilian democracy, albeit not one brought about through a fundamental break with the constitution....

19:46

ISIS against, and in, the west "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The retreat of the caliphate in Iraq-Syria signals a new phase in the 30-year war.

Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved. Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.ISIS's first two years of development, 2012-14, were primarily concerned with creating a new caliphate. This period culminated in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's announcement of the new entity in Mosul on 4 July 2014. ISIS propaganda greeted this as the distinguishing feature of the whole movement.

Now, over two years on, ISIS's continued loss of ground in Iraq and Syria fuels its strategic aim of taking the war directly to the “far enemy”.

In contrast to the failure of al-Qaida to take over a state in full, ISIS was able to establish a hugely significant presence in the heart of the Islamic world. Moreover, this was in parts of two states that had been artificially created by the far enemy nearly a century earlier. This achievement alone supported its claim to be the true defender of Islam against the crusaders and Zionists.

The new caliphate, with al-Baghdadi as the leader, could stand in the tradition of the Ottoman-era institution dismantled in 1923 – and all the other caliphates from the time of the Abbasids in the eighth to thirteenth centuries. True, It would be extreme and radical compared with the latter civilisation; but then even that, for the new ideologues, had not been true to their perceived vision of Islam.

Within months of the declaration, the United States and some of its regional allies had recognised the threat from this new creation. In August 2014 they launched a hugely violent, intensive and continuing air bombardment. This “remote-control war”, including the use of special forces and private military companies, has been a foremost instrument in containing ISIS. In the process it has killed tens of thousands of the movement's supporters and helped the Iraqi army and its allied Shi’a militias to retake territory.

The Shi’a element alone makes unlikely the complete decay of support for ISIS among Iraq’s Sunni minority. This factor apart, ISIS has long since recognised the need to take the war to the west. This has involved both direct involvement in some attacks and intensive proselytising to motivate local sympathisers. It now looks certain that as its territory recedes, many of its most experienced paramilitaries will move to western Europe.

But not only there: Saudi authorit...

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