Equality

Sacrifice zones in rural and non-metro USA: fertile soil for authoritarian populism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/02/2018 - 7:36pm in

Sacrifice zones –
abandoned, economically shattered places – are spreading in historically white
rural areas and small towns across the United States. Rural decline fosters
regressive authoritarian politics. 

lead Mississippi in 2010. Photograph taken by the author. All rights reserved. This
is the fourth article in a series on ‘confronting authoritarian populism and
the rural world’, linked to the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (
ERPI). The article opening the series can be read here.

‘The United States is
coming to resemble two separate countries, one rural and one urban,’ political
analyst David Graham proclaimed in a 2017 article in The Atlantic. Viewing the map of 2016 presidential election
results, it is hard to avoid a similar conclusion. Donald Trump carried over
2,500 largely rural counties and Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote, less
than 500 mostly urban ones.

The ‘two countries’
thesis echoes scholars of uneven development going back decades, from Michael
Lipton’s study of ‘urban bias’ to Cynthia Duncan’s Worlds Apart and – more recently – Katherine Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment. Too often now, though, ‘rural’ has become a
synecdoche for ‘Trump voters,’ ‘working-class’ or ‘white’ – misrepresentations that
Samantha Bee demolished in hilarious video interviews with small-town
minority voters. In fact, Trump voters had a higher median
income
than
Clinton voters, reflecting backing among affluent whites without university
degrees, many of them business owners in suburban counties. In fact, Trump voters had a higher median
income than Clinton voters.

Multiple studies point
to racial resentment as the strongest predictor of voting for
Trump’s brand of bigotry, faux populism and economic nationalism. Racial anger
intensified in the lead-up to 2016 not just because the US had an African
American president, but also from an accelerated decomposition of community
life and livelihoods that many whites worried could reduce them to what they
imagined as the level of Blacks and other minorities.

It drew on a deep
historical well of entrenched racism and anti-Native and anti-Black violence. These whites feared that the hopelessness and
decay of the country’s rural and urban ‘sacrifice zones’ was spreading. Chris Hedges described ‘sacrifice zones’ as places where ‘the
marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world
are used and then discarded to maximize profit’.

Economic and political transformations

White
privilege
had many dimensions  –  decent wages in largely industrial employment,
defined-benefits pensions, seemingly permanent jobs  – but these began to unravel in the neoliberal
1980s and imploded during the Great Recession of 2008.

The punditry and media
didn’t grasp the enormity of these transformations because so many analyses
were piecemeal, examining home foreclosures but not the opioid epidemic, or
deindustrialization and unemployment, but not the disappearance of
locally-owned financial institutions.

They also failed to
place US decline
in global and historical perspective
, rarely asking why in one of the richest
nations people did not enjoy the right to health or a dignified retirement.

After the mid-1970s wages decoupled
from productivity

gains and stagnated. Internationally, the key factor was the mid-1970s collapse
of the Bretton Woods framework, which since 1944 had promoted protected
national economies, and the subsequent ‘opening up’ of international finance
and trade. Domestically, attacks on unions, particularly once Ronald Reagan
became president in 1981, further eroded workers’ bargaining power.

Income and wealth
inequality soared. By 2016, 63 percent of
Americans
didn’t
have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. Today, nine million have zero cash income. The divide had a pronounced racial dimension.
In 2014, the median earnings gap between black and white men, which narrowed sharply
in 1940-1970, was larger than in 1950. In 2014, the
median earnings gap between black and white men was larger than in 1950.

One striking finding
of Cramer’s Politics of Resentment was that rural Wisconsinites viewed the 2008
Great Recession as ‘unremarkable’. They had been living in a recession for
decades. The economic precarity of low-income Americans is such that the cost of a car repair may initiate a downward spiral that culminates
in job loss and even homelessness. Nationally, residential foreclosures – 383,037 in 2006 – climbed rapidly, with
around one million each year in 2009-2012. The cumulative impact was devastating,
as families doubled up with relatives, went on the road, or moved to shelters.

Rural sacrifice zones

Some features of US
sacrifice zones are specifically rural. The 1980s saw the worst farm crisis since the 1930s depression. Petroleum and
fertilizer costs skyrocketed, grain prices plummeted, and interest rates climbed,
as monetary policies sought to dampen inflation and loans were called in. The
rapid consolidation of input and machinery suppliers, and in the processing,
brokering and exporting of key commodities, allowed a handful of giant corporations to garner a rising share of the total
value-added between the farm gate and the consumer.

Survivors of the 1980s
suffered a second crisis in the past five years, following the end of
the commodities boom of the 2000s. In 2013-2016 US farmers and ranchers
experienced a 52 percent drop in real net farm income, the largest
three-year decline since the 1930s depression. Over
half
of farm households now lose money on farming. As farmers again go bankrupt, the multiplier
effects further destabilize local economies.

Populist demagogues like Trump blame job
loss exclusively on free trade and factory flight:  their liberal critics also cite automation.
But financialization has clearly been a central factor. In the 1980s leveraged
buyout specialists loaded companies with debt, dismembered them, slashed wages
and pensions, and cashed out. One small-town Ohio manufacturer even ordered
executives to live elsewhere
, ‘so they wouldn’t be troubled by requests for
civic involvement or charitable contributions’. Buyout
specialists loaded companies with debt, dismembered them, slashed wages and
pensions, and cashed out.

Big investors also
targeted mutually-owned banks
, which long powered small-town economies.
Directors often donated to local institutions and sometimes made loans based on
trust rather than credit scores. As giant financial institutions took over,
they sucked wealth out of communities, instituting stricter lending criteria, undermining
small businesses, creating ‘banking deserts’, and forcing the newly un-banked into
high-cost check cashing outlets and payday lenders, themselves frequently financed by large banks. During 2008-2016, rural areas, which have
less access to broadband and Internet banking, saw 86 new banking
deserts
.

Like mutual banks, cooperatives and credit unions that reinvested locally the
wealth communities produced had constituted a bulwark against rapacious
corporations and financial institutions. Of the 3,346 agricultural cooperatives – grain elevators and packing houses, among
others – that existed in 2000, 1,350 closed by 2015. Of the more than 8,000 credit unions in 2007, over two thousand closed by 2017.

Family-owned stores
and diners on small-town Main Streets were sites of human contact, invested
profits locally, and provided income and employment for farm and other rural
households. As malls and chain stores proliferated, such businesses withered from
relentless competition. Fewer small businesses means less ad revenue for local
newspapers, thousands of which closed in recent decades, some succumbing to the
Internet and others to the same financialization that was strangling industries and banks.

More recently,
low-wage retail and service jobs in chains and malls began to disappear because of e-commerce.
Empty storefronts and malls and vanished newspapers are not just signs of job
loss and economic precarity. Inhabitants of sacrifice zones read them as stark,
painful reminders of abandonment and a shredded social fabric.

The human toll

In recent decades, federal
and state governments have removed funding from social services of all kinds. Rural hospital closures doubled between 2011-12
and 2013-14. Post offices are closing too. They have long been lifelines for
rural people, serving as meeting places, delivering essential medicines,
information, and human contact.

Because
property taxes are a main source of education funding, when tax bases and
populations decline, schools – typically centers of small-town sociality –
close, cut back or consolidate with
adjacent districts. Thirty percent of all school closures nationwide in 2011-12
were in rural areas. Most recently, the Trump administration let funding lapse
for community health centers used by 26 million
Americans.

As once vital
communities and neighbourhoods hollowed out, losing their institutions and the
capacity to appropriate the wealth that they produce, despair and anxiety
triggered violence and addiction. Economist Umair Haque, in a trenchant essay on the ‘social
pathologies of collapse’ – school shootings, the opioid epidemic, ‘nomadic retirees’ who live in their cars and work low-wage jobs, and the normalization of indifference – concludes
that ‘we are grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”’.

The scale of the
opioid problem – and of the physical and emotional pain behind it – is
staggering. In 2015, some 92 million or
38 percent

of US adults used prescription opioids, with 11.5 million (4.7 percent)
reporting misuse. In 2008-2017 drug companies shipped 20.8 million opioid pills to just two pharmacies in one
town – population 2,900 – in largely rural West Virginia. Drug overdoses now kill more people than gun violence and
auto accidents combined. Drug overdoses now kill
more people than gun violence and auto accidents combined.

Angry politics in shattered communities and
white suburbs

In the 2016 election Trump performed
best
in counties
with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates. In 2017, for the
second year in a row, life expectancy in the US fell, in significant part because of
opioid overdoses and other ‘deaths of despair’. Farmers, in particular, are killing themselves in record numbers.

Trump discerned the
anger, fear and alienation in the sacrifice zones, but directed his racist,
anti-immigrant harangues only at their white inhabitants. His country-club racism, off-hand authoritarianism, simple-minded
nationalism, overblown promises, and claims to be a ‘strong leader’ resonate in shattered communities, as well as among nouveau-riche entrepreneurs and well-to-do
white suburbanites, many of whom bought Republican claims about ‘burdensome’
regulation of business and were uneasy that their heretofore monochromatic
communities were being ‘invaded’ by affluent immigrants and people of colour.

Trump repeatedly
pathologised non-white inhabitants of the sacrifice zones, deploying age-old
right-wing tropes about ‘undeserving’ minorities that in turn served to justify
the traditional conservative agenda of shrinking government and protecting the
interests of the super-rich. Governments appeared unable or unwilling to
address the convergence of multiple crises –employment, housing, education, health,
decaying communities – and this revived memories of past broken promises,
including those of neoliberal Democratic administrations. This feeling of
abandonment, along with downward mobility, made white rural Americans receptive
to a candidate who cast
himself as an ‘outsider’
.

Challenging questions

In
the Emancipatory Rural
Politics Initiative
, activists and researchers are debating pressing
questions.

Should
the resistance in the US try to win over Trump supporters, or is it better to work
on combatting voter suppression, particularly of minorities, fighting for
campaign finance reform, and mobilizing the vast numbers that abstain from electoral
participation? In the #MeToo-Stormy Daniels moment, will white evangelical and white women voters drop their support for
the crude, misogynist, philandering president? Or does having a pliable, if
mercurial, conservative, racist ally in the White House trump all other
considerations?

To
what degree is global and US authoritarian populism a façade for a state-led project
that invokes ‘family values’, retrograde forms of masculinity and
heteronormativity, and an exclusionary vision of the nation in order to exacerbate
social divisions, roll back social conquests, and intensify exploitation of
human beings and the environment? Is it possible to re-legitimize the public
sphere and public investment, funded by progressive taxation, to create a stable
and more just society that provides opportunities for all? Are they taking shape as a global authoritarian populist
axis?

To
what extent are the world’s autocrats – Trump, Duterte, Erdoğan, Modi, Orbán, Putin,
among others – simply a mutually reinforcing collection of erratic rulers? Or are they taking
shape as a global
authoritarian populist axis
? And finally, can movements in different
countries learn from each other to resist the authoritarian wave?

Sideboxes
'Read On' Sidebox: 

The Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) was launched during 2017 as a response to the rise of authoritarian populism
in different parts of the world. Our focus is on the rural origins and
consequences of authoritarian populism, as well as the forms of
resistance and variety of alternatives that are emerging.
 
In March 2018, a major ERPI event will
be held in The Hague, the Netherlands, bringing together around 300
researchers and activists from across five continents. ERPI small grant
holders will present research insights and debates will focus on
mobilizing alternatives, generating new research-activist networks
across the world.   
 
You can also follow updates from ERPI on Twitter and Facebook.

Related stories: 

Confronting authoritarian populism: the rural dimension

Hindu authoritarianism and agrarian distress

Why #DefendAfrin? Confronting authoritarian populism with radical democracy

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Sri Lanka local elections: the return of Rajapaksa

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 10:49pm in

After his
recent win, Mahinda Rajapaksa urged his voters not to attack the losing side,
saying: “No matter what they did to us we must set an example”.        

lead Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa greets supporters after landslide victory in the Local Government Election, February 12, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved. Sri Lanka
celebrates its seventieth year of independence in 2018 in a country where
ethnicity has been a deadly factor, and local elections can turn violent. This
year’s election, held on 10 February, however, has been one of the most
peaceful
the country
has known. The turnout was over 75%, which shows that people are keen
on exercising their right to vote.

The current
government attributes the nonviolent character of the election to a new
election system. As Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe
, of the United National Party (UNP), explained:
"the reason is that the most competitive and conflicting preferential
voting system that was in the previous elections is not seen in the new system
we introduced.”  

Wickremesinghe
added that introducing the new election system would give the current administration
an
advantage
in the upcoming general election. Sri Lanka suffered from a
protracted civil war between 1983 and 2009, so a peaceful election is certainly
a welcome blessing to the fledgling democracy. However, there are signs that the
results of the local election will not turn out to favor the ruling power in
the end.

Rajapaksa’s comeback

Local
elections in Sri Lanka might not have the same impact as the parliamentary or
presidential elections, but the victory of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa means
that he is back in politics full speed ahead and poised to regain political
power.

Rajapaksa
lost the presidency in 2015 when the challenger Maithripala Sirisena won 51% of the
votes. Reportedly, minorities like the Tamil and Muslim communities
of Sri Lanka secured his victory. Sirisena, who now represents the Sri Lankan
Freedom Party (SLFP), joined forces with Wickremesinghe (UNP). Together since
2015 they have politically dominated Sri Lanka. Even though Rajapaksa’s
presidency was filled with allegations of corruption and nepotism, he has never
lost his popularity among the Sinhala community.

Rajapaksa is
back under a new political banner after leaving his former party, the Sri
Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP). Now, with the support of his brothers and former
members of the SLFP, he leads Sri
Lanka Podujana Peramuna
. It seems that Rajapaksa has taken his revenge on
both the UNP and SLFP by winning the recent election. After the election, he
stated that the current government should dissolve parliament
and call for re-elections.  

Given this
background, there is no question that Rajapaksa has little intention of giving
up his desire to become a prominent figure in the country’s political affairs
once again. Knowing that there are potential clashes between supporters, Rajapaksa
has urged
his voters
not to attack the losing side. He says: “No matter what they did
to us we must set an example”.                 

Tamil and Muslim distress

The local
election clearly
shows
that the Tamil community in the North and East do not vote for the
Sinhala major parties. The Tamil nationalist party, the Illankai Tamil Arasu
Kachchi (ITAK), earned major victories in the councils in the north and to some
extent in the east where the majority of the Tamil population resides. During
the civil war, the Tamil guerilla movement Liberation Army of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) and its allies, operated in these areas. LTTE does not exist any more
but its spirit lives
on
in the north.

The Tamil community
is reportedly under stress: reports of torture still
keep coming in. Another big issue for the Tamil minority is land grabbing and
resettlement. The Sinhala-dominated army is taking land from displaced Tamils and
using it to
expand
their own estates. So old problems have persisted under the current
presidency, with the result that the Tamil community does not place much trust
in Sinhalese leadership in general.  

Another
minority community that has been affected by land-grabbing is the Muslim
community. This was confirmed to me when I talked to the Sri Lanka Muslim
Congress leader Rauff Hakeem back in 2013. Hakeem told me that land-grabbing
was the most important question for his community:

“An important issue is land : land distribution
(…) is a very crucial factor which dominates our political tension as well. (…)
in particular because livelihoods depend on land as far as every community is
concerned”.

Another
thing that might worry Muslims in Sri Lanka after Rajapaksa’s success is that Sinhala-Buddhist
nationalist movements might receive a boost. Under the last Rajapaksa rule,
Mahinda’s brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, was associated with the hardline
Buddhist organization Bodu
Bala Sena
(BBS) – an organization that has an anti-Islamic agenda and sees
Sri Lanka as a holy land for Buddhism.  

2020

2020, when
the next presidential election will be held, is the year to look out for. Due
to tenure regulations, Mahinda Rajapaksa will be unable to contest the current
presidency. But in this year’s election Rajapaksa has showed that he is still
popular. Perhaps one of his brothers will become a presidential candidate. The
UNP might drop their support for President Sirisena and present their own
candidate.

So President
Sirisena is likely to face problems no matter who he faces in 2020. While the
major Sinhalese parties are competing for power, the two minorities will be struggling
with their own concerns.

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Evangelicals in South Africa are 'broadcasting hate masked as morality'

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 10:43pm in

Christian right groups are adding to an already dangerous environment for women and LGBTQI individuals, by pushing 'family values' – but not for everyone.

"Giving homophobia a red card," reads a poster for the 2012 Soweto Pride march. Charles Haynes/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved.The website of the Family Policy Institute (FPI) in South Africa greets you with a large banner photo of a man, woman and child on the beach. The woman is holding her pregnant belly with one hand as the couple play with their son on the sand. This is, supposedly, perfection. Utopia encapsulated in a picture.

Founded a decade ago by a man named Errol Naidoo, FPI is a fervent opponent of reproductive choice and LGBTQ rights. It describes itself as “protecting family values” – but apparently only the values of certain, so-called 'traditional' families. It calls for the defense of “faith, family and freedom” – and has a number of international allies.

Last year, Naidoo travelled to Budapest, Hungary for the 2017 World Congress of Families summit of ultra-conservative movements. There, he claimed that “all kinds of wickedness came into South Africa” in the 1990s, after the end of the apartheid regime, when “the doors were thrown open and an ultra-liberal constitution was imposed on us.”

In response to this supposed crisis, FPI says it has “the single-minded objective of making the restoration of marriage and the family the cornerstone of South African social policy.” As such, it aims beyond influencing its own supporters – at impact on our society at large.

It describes itself as “protecting family values” – but only the values of certain, 'traditional' families. 

FPI’s arsenal includes a media production arm, two television programmes, and a YouTube channel, through which it seems to be intent on broadcasting hate masked as morality. 

‘Watchmen on the Wall’ promises a Biblical perspective on the news, while ‘Salt and Light’ covers marriage and family issues. The latter airs on the TBN in Africa satellite channel – part of the now global empire of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), founded in the 1970s by an evangelical couple in southern California.

Videos on FPI's YouTube channel include ‘Breaking News’ segments mimicking the look and feel of mainstream TV news.

One, presented by a member of the anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), discusses South Africa’s 1996 Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act which legalised abortion upon request up to twelve weeks. FPI and the ACDP are lobbying Parliament to amend this law and include mandatory counselling and an ultrasound scan (which many clinics do not have the capacity for).

In another video, Naidoo is positioned as the newscaster in a room dressed up to look like a mainstream news studio, akin to the BBC or the local SABC. The presentation gives the whole production a false air of gravitas and authority. But instead of reporting the news, Naidoo makes a long speech opposing the proposed legalisation of marijuana.

His ‘report’ presents no opposing views and focuses on the concerns of so-called experts from a group called Doctors For Life, who present dagga as wildly evil and harmful, and its legalisation as dangerous for the public.

A third video features Zizipho Pae, expelled from the University of Cape Town’s student council in 2015 for posting homophobic comments on Facebook after the Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality in the US.

International connections

On its website, FPI thanks the “loyal support” of its “friends and partners,” though these (holy) ghostly supporters are not named, nor are their specific contributions. Elsewhere, Naidoo has explained how international support got the group started.

In 2015, Naidoo described how he and his wife attended a "six month training mission with Family Research Council in Washington DC in 2007," and then "returned home and established FPI with nothing else but our faith.”

In an article for the website of “Christian family living magazine” Joy!, Naidoo says that FPI has also lobbied South Africa's parliament on “legislation affecting the family” with written submissions and meetings with various (unnamed) cabinet ministers.

He claims that “attacks against the convictions and Biblical beliefs of Christians” are on the rise in South Africa, including through anti-discrimination laws. He also name-checks international allies including the Family Research Council and the Christian conservative 'legal army' Alliance Defending Freedom.

 Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons. Errol Naidoo. Photo: Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 4.0). Some rights reserved.
“Being part of this powerful global network has significantly improved our ability to analyse and respond to threats against the family,” said Naidoo, of the World Congress of Families. FPI is also a member of the Family Rights Caucus at the United Nations, which works to “prevent destructive anti-family resolutions from being advanced at this global body,” he added.

Through media productions and political lobbying, FPI and its evangelical and conservative Christian allies appear to be positioning themselves as a ‘moral’ force in public spaces and institutions while pushing ultra-conservative and hateful rhetoric.

In doing so, they are adding to an already dangerous environment for women and LGBTQI individuals in South Africa – which has high levels of homophobia and gender-based violence, including homophobic rape and gruesome crimes against queer women.

Though FPI’s TV programmes and videos have arguably limited reach in a country where not everyone has access to digital, satellite channels and the internet – and while Christianity is a major religion in South Africa, a whole host of other leaders influence the way our society thinks about various issues including gender relations.

Traditional and cultural leaders have also lobbied for gay rights to be excised from South Africa’s constitution, for example, promoting anti-rights views as well as xenophobia and practices such as virginity testing, to prove the ‘purity’ of young girls.

The social and political role of traditional leaders within South Africa is wide and complex, including chiefs who preside over kingdoms as well as a council of traditional leaders which sits within the parliamentary structure. According to a government website: "The Constitution states that the institution, status and roles of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised."

These formal and informal structures allow traditional leaders significant influence. Recently, protests around the South African movie Inxeba (“The Wound”), which chronicles a homosexual relationship at an initiation school, provided another example of how culture and the media are battlegrounds in the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights.  

Critics have called for the movie to be pulled because it ‘violates culture.’ The film’s cast and crew had to be moved to a safe house amid security threats. Protests by Xhosa leaders and others across the country eventually led to the film being pulled from cinemas in the Western Cape, a province that is considered a Xhosa stronghold.

The emotional and conceptual space for tradition and culture within South Africa allows for those in powerful cultural positions to hold much sway. These leaders are often among the loudest anti-rights voices, and their role in the backlash must also be investigated.

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Cryptocurrencies: with inequality rising, citizens seek out alternative economy solutions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 10:25pm in

Cryptocurrencies are able
to help recipients of foreign aid by allowing them the opportunity to exchange
peer-to-peer, rather than having to transact through bureaucrats. Español

Credit: By Guillaume Paumier (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.The year 2017
will go down as a particularly tough one for ordinary citizens, particularly in
the global South. A sharp rise in government restrictions on fundamental
freedoms across regions, as well as in levels of inequality, played a big part
in that negative review.

According to a
recent Oxfam report, 1% of the world’s richest elites now own 82% of the world’s wealth,
with a dollar billionaire having been created every two days in 2017.

But we are witnessing people actively fighting back against a system that largely favours the
super-rich at the expense of everyone else. According to the CIVICUS Monitor,
an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in every country, there
were at least 42 reports of activism leading to positive developments for civic space in 2017.

However, it’s
not only activists challenging the status quo. Also ordinary citizens are doing
so by turning to innovations that promote alternative economies — such as
‘sharing economy’ platforms and cryptocurrencies, for example – to enable them
to function in countries where repression is commonplace and only the rich can
transact.

Sharing
economy, sharing rewards

In addition to
global enterprises like Uber and Airbnb, that are growing more rapidly in developed
countries, sharing economy platforms are also being adapted to meet the needs
of citizens in developing societies – particularly those in which the right to
speak out openly, assemble peacefully, and organise around issues is not
respected.

In these
nations, sharing economy platforms often act as hybrid marketplace models
involving both paid-for and gifted services shared across a particular network
and free of state intervention.

Comunidas, a platform launched by
CIVICUS’ Innovation for Change – Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) program offers a catalog of
services for LAC civil society organizations willing to be exchanged by the
organizations that make up the community.

In this context,
Comunidas and similar models are able
to address the demand for services among LAC Civil Society Organisations – and
their lack of funding to access them – by tapping into a highly skilled
marketplace willing to donate or exchange pro-bono services.

Crypto-power
to the people

Powered by Blockchain
technology
, cryptocurrencies have
also had success in developing countries. Because of the immutable nature of Blockchain,
cryptocurrencies are able to help recipients of foreign aid by allowing them
the opportunity to exchange peer-to-peer, rather than having to transact
through bureaucrats, which in many cases would leave them exposed to extortion,
bribery, and other forms of corruption.

Cryptocurrencies
also operate on a global marketplace, effectively combating the inflation that
many living in lower-income countries may face and that renders their national currencies
useless. BitPesa, M-Pesa, and MicroMoney are actively
being used in African and Asian countries to send cryptocurrencies both
domestically and internationally.

In fact, even
the UN is experimenting with sending the cryptocurrency Ethereum to 10,000 refugees
in Jordan because it can be exchanged via mobile phone.

Cryptocurrencies
and sharing economy models are not perfect, nor are they the only solutions for
civil society, which can already be seen fighting back in 2018. Ensuring that sharing actually takes place among groups and
individuals that lack the time and manpower to deliver services is a challenge
for many sharing economy platforms.

Similarly, the
volatility of the marketplace along with the lack of understanding of how
cryptocurrencies work, represent drawbacks for cryptocurrencies and those who
trade them.

Yet as
billionaires dominate headlines and the 1% of the global population make
critical decisions in Davos that affect everyone else, it is important to note
that alternatives for citizens, activists, and organizations exist. 

Due to the
high mobile penetration rates, even among developing countries, such
alternatives are easier to access now than ever. 

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Cryptocurrencies: with inequality rising, citizens seek out alternative economy solutions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 10:25pm in

Cryptocurrencies are able
to help recipients of foreign aid by allowing them the opportunity to exchange
peer-to-peer, rather than having to transact through bureaucrats. Español

Credit: By Guillaume Paumier (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.The year 2017
will go down as a particularly tough one for ordinary citizens, particularly in
the global South. A sharp rise in government restrictions on fundamental
freedoms across regions, as well as in levels of inequality, played a big part
in that negative review.

According to a
recent Oxfam report, 1% of the world’s richest elites now own 82% of the world’s wealth,
with a dollar billionaire having been created every two days in 2017.

But we are witnessing people actively fighting back against a system that largely favours the
super-rich at the expense of everyone else. According to the CIVICUS Monitor,
an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in every country, there
were at least 42 reports of activism leading to positive developments for civic space in 2017.

However, it’s
not only activists challenging the status quo. Also ordinary citizens are doing
so by turning to innovations that promote alternative economies — such as
‘sharing economy’ platforms and cryptocurrencies, for example – to enable them
to function in countries where repression is commonplace and only the rich can
transact.

Sharing
economy, sharing rewards

In addition to
global enterprises like Uber and Airbnb, that are growing more rapidly in developed
countries, sharing economy platforms are also being adapted to meet the needs
of citizens in developing societies – particularly those in which the right to
speak out openly, assemble peacefully, and organise around issues is not
respected.

In these
nations, sharing economy platforms often act as hybrid marketplace models
involving both paid-for and gifted services shared across a particular network
and free of state intervention.

Comunidas, a platform launched by
CIVICUS’ Innovation for Change – Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) program offers a catalog of
services for LAC civil society organizations willing to be exchanged by the
organizations that make up the community.

In this context,
Comunidas and similar models are able
to address the demand for services among LAC Civil Society Organisations – and
their lack of funding to access them – by tapping into a highly skilled
marketplace willing to donate or exchange pro-bono services.

Crypto-power
to the people

Powered by Blockchain
technology
, cryptocurrencies have
also had success in developing countries. Because of the immutable nature of Blockchain,
cryptocurrencies are able to help recipients of foreign aid by allowing them
the opportunity to exchange peer-to-peer, rather than having to transact
through bureaucrats, which in many cases would leave them exposed to extortion,
bribery, and other forms of corruption.

Cryptocurrencies
also operate on a global marketplace, effectively combating the inflation that
many living in lower-income countries may face and that renders their national currencies
useless. BitPesa, M-Pesa, and MicroMoney are actively
being used in African and Asian countries to send cryptocurrencies both
domestically and internationally.

In fact, even
the UN is experimenting with sending the cryptocurrency Ethereum to 10,000 refugees
in Jordan because it can be exchanged via mobile phone.

Cryptocurrencies
and sharing economy models are not perfect, nor are they the only solutions for
civil society, which can already be seen fighting back in 2018. Ensuring that sharing actually takes place among groups and
individuals that lack the time and manpower to deliver services is a challenge
for many sharing economy platforms.

Similarly, the
volatility of the marketplace along with the lack of understanding of how
cryptocurrencies work, represent drawbacks for cryptocurrencies and those who
trade them.

Yet as
billionaires dominate headlines and the 1% of the global population make
critical decisions in Davos that affect everyone else, it is important to note
that alternatives for citizens, activists, and organizations exist. 

Due to the
high mobile penetration rates, even among developing countries, such
alternatives are easier to access now than ever. 

Topics: 

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Democracy and government

Economics

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Rights: 

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The myth of the Indian ‘New Middle Class’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 9:56pm in

Families in Modi’s India
are caught in a spiral of working class conditions in jobs pretending to be
middle class, with their requirement for degrees and skills training.

lead lead Alain Berset, president of the Swiss Confederation, shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23, 2018. Xu Jinquan/Press Association. All rights reserved.At the World Economic
Forum in Davos, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed by a big
turnout at the plenary session and introduced by WEF
founder, Klaus Schwab, as the
leader of a country that is the “bright image of dynamism,
of optimism”
. For his part,
Modi spoke of a vision of shared future that overcomes the fault lines of
inequality, poverty, unemployment, and lack of opportunities.

Ahead of the visit, Modi
encouraged the presentation of India as the centre of attraction for the entire
world. Closely on the heels of Modi’s platforming of India as a rising global
force, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India, ironically
headed by Modi) published a report on severe underemployment in
the country
, the Annual
Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 published findings on the failures of various
programmes for education and vocational training of Indian youth
, and the World Bank released data showing that the richest 1% in India
now own 73% of its wealth
.
In short, not the best prospects for India.

Modi, on the other hand, continues to insist, “If someone opens a 'pakoda' [fried snacks] shop in
front of your office, does that not count as employment? The person's daily
earning of Rs 200 will never come into any books or accounts. The truth is
massive people are being employed.”  PM Modi’s celebration of informal and
precarious work as gainful employment is rightly
being criticised
. But what of the much-touted formal jobs generated as a result of
encouraging foreign direct investment and privatisation post-1990?

Pakoda employment

Unfortunately,
the conditions of pakoda employment – informal, underpaid and precarious
employment – are not limited to selling snacks and chai on the street
side. As much as Modi would like to insist on India’s growth story, these
conditions characterise the majority of employment in the country, including
formal employment in services, the biggest sector of the Indian economy and the
fastest growing service sector in the world.

The numbers that
demonstrate the success of the deregulation of the Indian economy – high GDP
growth rate, increasing per capita income, rapid growth of services – carefully
mask the exploitation and everyday struggles of common people, even those privileged
enough to be employed.

The idea that
privatisation and foreign investment in the market has led to a surge of
employment opportunities for the youth, particularly women, is popular (because if there are any bastions of
women’s empowerment, they’re American multi-nationals, right?!) Perhaps the
popularity of this idea is not so surprising. Dressed smartly in uniforms,
young professional women in the gleaming malls and cafes of Indian cities may
give an impression of upward mobility. But the smiles, the English greetings,
and the lattes cover up conditions that are not so dissimilar from the informal
self-employment that Modi speaks of as gainful employment.

This hidden-away reality
became obvious as I conducted research with young women workers in cafes and
malls in affluent South Delhi in 2017. On an average, these young women earn
Rs.8000 (USD 125) per month; income that their families heavily rely upon for
everyday living expenses. To earn this salary, all of them work overtime, which
they are never compensated for, often seven days a week, rather than their
contractual 6 days a week. And even if calculated for just 25 days of work per
month, their wages do not meet the minimum wage for the state of Delhi.

Trapped

Early in 2017, the ruling
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi increased the minimum wage by approximately one-third to Rs.13,350 (USD 210),
Rs.14,968 (USD 235), and Rs.16,182 (USD 254) for unskilled, semi-skilled, and
skilled workers respectively. Commenting on the employers’ plea against this
move, the Delhi High Court noted – “Is it possible to sustain an individual on Rs
13,000? Average cost of commute for an individual per day is around Rs 100
which comes to Rs 3,000 in a month. Where do you eat? One has to eat. That
would also cost Rs 50 per day. The amount of Rs 13,000 is too little. It's
inadequate.”

These workers’ emotional
labour, which is far from acknowledged, hides their utter physical exhaustion,
which is often made visible on the swollen feet that have to get a night’s rest
before starting all over again the next day. The limits of their earnings are made
manifest in their inability to use the metro because the maximum fare has now
been increased to Rs.60 (USD 1), in the impossibility of getting their degree
certificates because they still haven’t paid the full fees, and in their
negotiations with landlords for leeway in payment of rent on their Rs.5000 (USD
78) per month one-bedroom flats. And these are conditions that these workers
cannot think of escaping since alternatives are few and far in between.

As the Prime Minister’s image
appears on Reliance Jio advertisements
across the country offering low cost data services, young people get
access to smartphones and 4G sims, but not to good quality education, housing,
or infrastructure. Much as we’d like to believe, and the government would like
us to believe, that these one-off purchases are signs of an upwardly mobile new
middle class, reality counters this presumption. They are, rather, families
caught in a spiral of working class conditions in jobs pretending to be middle
class with their requirement for degrees and skills training.

Formal employment

The government’s investment
in employability training for youth is not matched by the creation of secure
and fairly paid work. Many complain about being trained in computers and
English speaking at low-cost government centres or NGOs, only to end up in work
that does not require these skills at all. As one of my research respondents
put it, “They ask for education, BA, MA…but they’re not willing to spend the
money, that’s the government. They put suits and ties on workers but if you ask
them, you find out how bad their financial situations are.”

It is then no surprise
that these young women, as well as men in their families, express a desire for
‘government jobs’, even preparing to sit exams while working seven days a week.
In 2015, 2.5 million
people applied for 600 Class IV government jobs in the state of Uttar Pradesh
. The cry for government jobs may be dismissed as a
historical affliction or just nostalgia but it is actually indicative of the
lack of secure employment that can offer stability. A Class IV government job
(lowest category of permanent employment) would pay twice the salary that my
research respondents currently earn, with nothing to say of access to job
security, provident fund, and pension.

While informal employment
is often considered to be the problem marring India (and rightly so), we also
need to pay more attention to the conditions of formal employment that the
country is generating and hopes to generate more of in the future. It needs to
be reiterated that the underpayment, exploitation, and precariousness that
young women workers have described characterise jobs that are actually on the
better end of the employment situation in the country. These jobs would be
categorised as formal, regular, salaried employment but the experience is far
removed from that categorisation.

As underemployment and
exploitation pervade the vast majority of employment opportunities in the
country, including in emerging gleaming globalised urban spaces, one needs to
ask – what kind of economic and social future are we looking towards? The need
for sustainable, secure, and fairly paid work is urgent. Rather than touting
informal and poorly paid formal work as gainful employment, the government
needs to consider India’s longterm social and economic prospects for the disgruntled
majority of its population.

Employees operate the telephones at the Touch Solutions Ltd call centre in New Delhi. Flickr/©ILO/Benoit Marquet. Some rights reserved.

Country or region: 

India

Topics: 

Civil society

Culture

Democracy and government

Economics

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

The myth of the Indian ‘New Middle Class’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 9:56pm in

Families in Modi’s India
are caught in a spiral of working class conditions in jobs pretending to be
middle class, with their requirement for degrees and skills training.

lead lead Alain Berset, president of the Swiss Confederation, shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23, 2018. Xu Jinquan/Press Association. All rights reserved.At the World Economic
Forum in Davos, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed by a big
turnout at the plenary session and introduced by WEF
founder, Klaus Schwab, as the
leader of a country that is the “bright image of dynamism,
of optimism”
. For his part,
Modi spoke of a vision of shared future that overcomes the fault lines of
inequality, poverty, unemployment, and lack of opportunities.

Ahead of the visit, Modi
encouraged the presentation of India as the centre of attraction for the entire
world. Closely on the heels of Modi’s platforming of India as a rising global
force, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India, ironically
headed by Modi) published a report on severe underemployment in
the country
, the Annual
Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 published findings on the failures of various
programmes for education and vocational training of Indian youth
, and the World Bank released data showing that the richest 1% in India
now own 73% of its wealth
.
In short, not the best prospects for India.

Modi, on the other hand, continues to insist, “If someone opens a 'pakoda' [fried snacks] shop in
front of your office, does that not count as employment? The person's daily
earning of Rs 200 will never come into any books or accounts. The truth is
massive people are being employed.”  PM Modi’s celebration of informal and
precarious work as gainful employment is rightly
being criticised
. But what of the much-touted formal jobs generated as a result of
encouraging foreign direct investment and privatisation post-1990?

Pakoda employment

Unfortunately,
the conditions of pakoda employment – informal, underpaid and precarious
employment – are not limited to selling snacks and chai on the street
side. As much as Modi would like to insist on India’s growth story, these
conditions characterise the majority of employment in the country, including
formal employment in services, the biggest sector of the Indian economy and the
fastest growing service sector in the world.

The numbers that
demonstrate the success of the deregulation of the Indian economy – high GDP
growth rate, increasing per capita income, rapid growth of services – carefully
mask the exploitation and everyday struggles of common people, even those privileged
enough to be employed.

The idea that
privatisation and foreign investment in the market has led to a surge of
employment opportunities for the youth, particularly women, is popular (because if there are any bastions of
women’s empowerment, they’re American multi-nationals, right?!) Perhaps the
popularity of this idea is not so surprising. Dressed smartly in uniforms,
young professional women in the gleaming malls and cafes of Indian cities may
give an impression of upward mobility. But the smiles, the English greetings,
and the lattes cover up conditions that are not so dissimilar from the informal
self-employment that Modi speaks of as gainful employment.

This hidden-away reality
became obvious as I conducted research with young women workers in cafes and
malls in affluent South Delhi in 2017. On an average, these young women earn
Rs.8000 (USD 125) per month; income that their families heavily rely upon for
everyday living expenses. To earn this salary, all of them work overtime, which
they are never compensated for, often seven days a week, rather than their
contractual 6 days a week. And even if calculated for just 25 days of work per
month, their wages do not meet the minimum wage for the state of Delhi.

Trapped

Early in 2017, the ruling
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi increased the minimum wage by approximately one-third to Rs.13,350 (USD 210),
Rs.14,968 (USD 235), and Rs.16,182 (USD 254) for unskilled, semi-skilled, and
skilled workers respectively. Commenting on the employers’ plea against this
move, the Delhi High Court noted – “Is it possible to sustain an individual on Rs
13,000? Average cost of commute for an individual per day is around Rs 100
which comes to Rs 3,000 in a month. Where do you eat? One has to eat. That
would also cost Rs 50 per day. The amount of Rs 13,000 is too little. It's
inadequate.”

These workers’ emotional
labour, which is far from acknowledged, hides their utter physical exhaustion,
which is often made visible on the swollen feet that have to get a night’s rest
before starting all over again the next day. The limits of their earnings are made
manifest in their inability to use the metro because the maximum fare has now
been increased to Rs.60 (USD 1), in the impossibility of getting their degree
certificates because they still haven’t paid the full fees, and in their
negotiations with landlords for leeway in payment of rent on their Rs.5000 (USD
78) per month one-bedroom flats. And these are conditions that these workers
cannot think of escaping since alternatives are few and far in between.

As the Prime Minister’s image
appears on Reliance Jio advertisements
across the country offering low cost data services, young people get
access to smartphones and 4G sims, but not to good quality education, housing,
or infrastructure. Much as we’d like to believe, and the government would like
us to believe, that these one-off purchases are signs of an upwardly mobile new
middle class, reality counters this presumption. They are, rather, families
caught in a spiral of working class conditions in jobs pretending to be middle
class with their requirement for degrees and skills training.

Formal employment

The government’s investment
in employability training for youth is not matched by the creation of secure
and fairly paid work. Many complain about being trained in computers and
English speaking at low-cost government centres or NGOs, only to end up in work
that does not require these skills at all. As one of my research respondents
put it, “They ask for education, BA, MA…but they’re not willing to spend the
money, that’s the government. They put suits and ties on workers but if you ask
them, you find out how bad their financial situations are.”

It is then no surprise
that these young women, as well as men in their families, express a desire for
‘government jobs’, even preparing to sit exams while working seven days a week.
In 2015, 2.5 million
people applied for 600 Class IV government jobs in the state of Uttar Pradesh
. The cry for government jobs may be dismissed as a
historical affliction or just nostalgia but it is actually indicative of the
lack of secure employment that can offer stability. A Class IV government job
(lowest category of permanent employment) would pay twice the salary that my
research respondents currently earn, with nothing to say of access to job
security, provident fund, and pension.

While informal employment
is often considered to be the problem marring India (and rightly so), we also
need to pay more attention to the conditions of formal employment that the
country is generating and hopes to generate more of in the future. It needs to
be reiterated that the underpayment, exploitation, and precariousness that
young women workers have described characterise jobs that are actually on the
better end of the employment situation in the country. These jobs would be
categorised as formal, regular, salaried employment but the experience is far
removed from that categorisation.

As underemployment and
exploitation pervade the vast majority of employment opportunities in the
country, including in emerging gleaming globalised urban spaces, one needs to
ask – what kind of economic and social future are we looking towards? The need
for sustainable, secure, and fairly paid work is urgent. Rather than touting
informal and poorly paid formal work as gainful employment, the government
needs to consider India’s longterm social and economic prospects for the disgruntled
majority of its population.

Employees operate the telephones at the Touch Solutions Ltd call centre in New Delhi. Flickr/©ILO/Benoit Marquet. Some rights reserved.

Country or region: 

India

Topics: 

Civil society

Culture

Democracy and government

Economics

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Join voices against the fascist cult of violence – “Long Live Life! Down with Death!”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 1:45am in

After recent events in Macerata, Italy, we are beginning to realise that we need thousands of daily acts of resistance to banish fascist ideology.

lead February 10, 2018: Thousands of people protest against racism and fascism during a national demonstration in Macerata, Italy. Danilo Balducci/Press Assocation. All rights reservedLast Saturday in
the centre of the Italian city of Macerata, a young man affiliated with the
extreme-right opened fire on Gideon Azeke, Jennifer Otiotio, Mahmadou Touré,
Wilson Kofi, Festus Omagbon and Omar Fadera. They were singled out because of
the colour of their skin and their African origins.

Several days prior
to the attack, several suitcases had been found in Macerata containing the
mutilated body of a young female drug addict, Pamela Mastropietro. The principal
suspects of the grisly murder at present are two Nigerian drug dealers. The
gunman who perpetrated Saturday’s attacks said in his confession that he’d gone
out hunting black people to avenge the young girl’s death, and with the
intention of killing every immigrant selling drugs. The media were quick to
portray the attacks as the acts of a mentally unstable individual or as crimes
of passion, but the environment in which the attacks occurred weakens the case
for either of these explanations.

On the contrary,
rather than avenging the young woman’s murder, the gunman sought to send a
clear message to his compatriots: immigration is a threat to all of us,
particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.

Unfortunately,
this message found itself an eager audience. Leaders of the Italian ‘far-right’,
notably Matteo Salvini and Georgia Meloni, have seized every opportunity to
hammer it home, stating that while the attacks were of course criminal,
ultimate responsibility for them rests with “those who would fill Italy with
migrants.”

Our response must
be to call things by their right names: what happened in Macerata was an act of
fascist terrorism, the most serious attack of its kind since Italy’s “Years of
Lead.”  This act was intended not only to
sow terror among people of colour living in Italy, but also to play on the pervasive
fears that haunt Italian political opinion concerning immigration. Furthermore,
beyond matters of political opinion or party affiliation, the theatricality of
the attacker’s surrender to the police displayed precisely those elements
constituting the essence of an underlying fascist ideology: that is to say,
fascism as an obscene death cult. Why then do Italy’s political leaders seem
unwilling to recognise these facts?

The centre-left’s
failure to recognise the racist and fascist nature of the shootings is nothing
less than the culmination of a series of abdications of responsibility. These
abdications, like self-fulfilling prophecies, have been the logical outcome of
the assumption that Italian public opinion has been won over by a “xenophobic”
or “anti-anti-fascist” common sense. Accordingly, progressive forces in Italy
have tolerated the emergence of what Hannah Arendt called “race-thinking,” which
is now in the process of solidifying into a genuine “racist ideology.”

Immigration tropes

The “immigration
as a social problem” trope has become an established fact across the political
spectrum, with the result that the divide between different political options
has shifted from the question of the problem itself to that of its possible
solutions. Therefore, the various political actors, while not necessarily
engaged in “race-thinking” themselves, have come to adhere to a single
discursive framework in which immigration policy becomes the fundamental
problem.

It does not
matter how much effort is put into statistical evidence proving the falsity of
the idea that “native Europeans” are being invaded and replaced by African
migrants. As Hannah Arendt reminds us, an ideology is not a theoretical
doctrine, but an arm of mass persuasion appealing to the “immediate political
necessities” of men and women, in other words to their lived experience and
desires.

February 10, 2018: Thousands of people protest against racism and fascism during a national demonstration in Macerata, Italy. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.There is no point
in calling for thoughtful reflection and silence, as did the mayor of Macerata,
when, fearing further division and violence, he called for the cancelation of an
antiracist and antifascist rally organised for February 10 in his home town.
Rather than appeasing tensions, the silence the mayor calls for runs the risk
of leaving an open space for the voices of those who sow hatred, because at the
moment, it is those voices who occupy the foreground of public debate.

Silence no solution

It is for this
reason that the struggle against the sort of barbarity we have seen in Macerata
calls not for silence, but for powerful symbols. We must counter the
pseudo-heroic acts of the fascist gunman with thousands of daily acts of
resistance. We must counter the fascist death cult with the phrase used in the Zapatista
communities of Chiapas to welcome visitors who come as friends: “Long live
Life, down with Death!” With this in mind, we of DiEM25 Paris and DiEM25 France
welcome the success of last Saturday’s rally, which, despite all opposition, drew
thousands of committed citizens to Macerata and sparked solidarity
demonstrations all over the world. We invite all who want to stop the race to
barbarism on our continent to seize any occasion to speak up against racism and
fascism, in a spirit of solidarity and constructive disobedience.

Viva la vida y muera la muerte!

Translated by Simeon Gallu DiEM25 Paris

Anti-fascist demonstration in Macerata on February 10, 2019 in response to the assault on immigrants by extremist Luca Traini. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Country or region: 

Italy

EU

Topics: 

Civil society

Conflict

Democracy and government

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Join voices against the fascist cult of violence – “Long Live Life! Down with Death!”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 1:45am in

After recent events in Macerata, Italy, we are beginning to realise that we need thousands of daily acts of resistance to banish fascist ideology.

lead February 10, 2018: Thousands of people protest against racism and fascism during a national demonstration in Macerata, Italy. Danilo Balducci/Press Assocation. All rights reservedLast Saturday in
the centre of the Italian city of Macerata, a young man affiliated with the
extreme-right opened fire on Gideon Azeke, Jennifer Otiotio, Mahmadou Touré,
Wilson Kofi, Festus Omagbon and Omar Fadera. They were singled out because of
the colour of their skin and their African origins.

Several days prior
to the attack, several suitcases had been found in Macerata containing the
mutilated body of a young female drug addict, Pamela Mastropietro. The principal
suspects of the grisly murder at present are two Nigerian drug dealers. The
gunman who perpetrated Saturday’s attacks said in his confession that he’d gone
out hunting black people to avenge the young girl’s death, and with the
intention of killing every immigrant selling drugs. The media were quick to
portray the attacks as the acts of a mentally unstable individual or as crimes
of passion, but the environment in which the attacks occurred weakens the case
for either of these explanations.

On the contrary,
rather than avenging the young woman’s murder, the gunman sought to send a
clear message to his compatriots: immigration is a threat to all of us,
particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.

Unfortunately,
this message found itself an eager audience. Leaders of the Italian ‘far-right’,
notably Matteo Salvini and Georgia Meloni, have seized every opportunity to
hammer it home, stating that while the attacks were of course criminal,
ultimate responsibility for them rests with “those who would fill Italy with
migrants.”

Our response must
be to call things by their right names: what happened in Macerata was an act of
fascist terrorism, the most serious attack of its kind since Italy’s “Years of
Lead.”  This act was intended not only to
sow terror among people of colour living in Italy, but also to play on the pervasive
fears that haunt Italian political opinion concerning immigration. Furthermore,
beyond matters of political opinion or party affiliation, the theatricality of
the attacker’s surrender to the police displayed precisely those elements
constituting the essence of an underlying fascist ideology: that is to say,
fascism as an obscene death cult. Why then do Italy’s political leaders seem
unwilling to recognise these facts?

The centre-left’s
failure to recognise the racist and fascist nature of the shootings is nothing
less than the culmination of a series of abdications of responsibility. These
abdications, like self-fulfilling prophecies, have been the logical outcome of
the assumption that Italian public opinion has been won over by a “xenophobic”
or “anti-anti-fascist” common sense. Accordingly, progressive forces in Italy
have tolerated the emergence of what Hannah Arendt called “race-thinking,” which
is now in the process of solidifying into a genuine “racist ideology.”

Immigration tropes

The “immigration
as a social problem” trope has become an established fact across the political
spectrum, with the result that the divide between different political options
has shifted from the question of the problem itself to that of its possible
solutions. Therefore, the various political actors, while not necessarily
engaged in “race-thinking” themselves, have come to adhere to a single
discursive framework in which immigration policy becomes the fundamental
problem.

It does not
matter how much effort is put into statistical evidence proving the falsity of
the idea that “native Europeans” are being invaded and replaced by African
migrants. As Hannah Arendt reminds us, an ideology is not a theoretical
doctrine, but an arm of mass persuasion appealing to the “immediate political
necessities” of men and women, in other words to their lived experience and
desires.

February 10, 2018: Thousands of people protest against racism and fascism during a national demonstration in Macerata, Italy. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.There is no point
in calling for thoughtful reflection and silence, as did the mayor of Macerata,
when, fearing further division and violence, he called for the cancelation of an
antiracist and antifascist rally organised for February 10 in his home town.
Rather than appeasing tensions, the silence the mayor calls for runs the risk
of leaving an open space for the voices of those who sow hatred, because at the
moment, it is those voices who occupy the foreground of public debate.

Silence no solution

It is for this
reason that the struggle against the sort of barbarity we have seen in Macerata
calls not for silence, but for powerful symbols. We must counter the
pseudo-heroic acts of the fascist gunman with thousands of daily acts of
resistance. We must counter the fascist death cult with the phrase used in the Zapatista
communities of Chiapas to welcome visitors who come as friends: “Long live
Life, down with Death!” With this in mind, we of DiEM25 Paris and DiEM25 France
welcome the success of last Saturday’s rally, which, despite all opposition, drew
thousands of committed citizens to Macerata and sparked solidarity
demonstrations all over the world. We invite all who want to stop the race to
barbarism on our continent to seize any occasion to speak up against racism and
fascism, in a spirit of solidarity and constructive disobedience.

Viva la vida y muera la muerte!

Translated by Simeon Gallu DiEM25 Paris

Anti-fascist demonstration in Macerata on February 10, 2019 in response to the assault on immigrants by extremist Luca Traini. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Country or region: 

Italy

EU

Topics: 

Civil society

Conflict

Democracy and government

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

The Paradox Of Equal Justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 2:00am in

Tags 

Equality, Justice

Almost every day, entertainment, sports, media, political and even some business organizations are jettisoning their top officials and incumbents after reported accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assaults of their subordinates. They’re not waiting for prosecutors, courts or regulators to take action. “Get out now” is the first punishing order. Then the work product of these asserted offenders—whether music, comedy shows, etc.—are often scrubbed, and recipients of political contributions are under pressure to give these sums to charity. In addition a wider arc of resignations by the heads and Boards of Directors, accused of lax monitoring is emerging. The speed of punishment is unprecedented. One day millions of people watched Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and others.

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