A World Political Party: The Time Has Come

Heikki Patomäki

Shared problems require shared action. The world economy and deepening global risks bind us together, but we lack the collective global agency required to address them. A sustainable global future will be impossible without a fundamental shift from the dominant national mythos to a global worldview, and the concomitant creation of institutions with transformative political agency. A world political party would be well-suited to bring about such a shift. Although such a party will not materialize overnight, it can emerge from the chrysalis of activism and experimentation already forming on the world stage.
The transnational Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) is a compelling experiment in this vein, providing useful lessons for a world political party proper. Although the challenges to forming a transformative world party are profound, the risks of inaction are grave – and the rewards of success momentous.

Party Time
We now understand how small our planet has become. The local and global have become profoundly intertwined as our daily activities depend on the workings of the world economy. Common risks, like ecological crises and weapons of mass destruction, tie all our fates together.

Despite such interconnectedness, people’s everyday experiences still differ greatly. For example, consider the contrasts between a day in the life of a high school teacher in Finland, a textile worker in China, a CEO of a multinational corporation in Brazil, and a janitor in Kenya—a case study in lateral and vertical diversity. Their lives’ possibilities are interwoven and shaped by the global economy, but in sharply divergent ways. Shared problems require shared action. But to achieve collective agency on the global level, disparate individuals must learn to see themselves (and their daily lives) as fundamentally connected to one another through common global structures, processes, and challenges. Such collective learning has the potential to politicize the world economy and the institutions that govern it. Rather than being treated as immutable, these institutions can and must become the subject of political contestation. Both radically reforming existing institutions and building new ones must be on the agenda. Seeing the world system as malleable goes hand in hand with the quest for globalized political agency, for advancing transformative visions of “another world.”

The roots of the contemporary quest go back to the formation of transnational political associations in the nineteenth century with the burgeoning peace and labor movements. A century later, in the 1960s and 1970s, new movements for gender and racial equality, nuclear disarmament, and environmental justice sparked global organizing and activism. In the 1980s, economic globalization became an era-defining issue. Then, as the walls of the Cold War came tumbling down and the Internet eroded barriers to communication, the concept of global civil society took hold. To this day, civil society carries the banner of transformative hope, expressed through pursuit of peace, justice, democracy, economic well-being, and ecological sustainability.

The growing organization and influence of global civil society can be seen in the human rights movement. For example, an international criminal court was
first proposed in 1872 in response to the atrocities of the Franco-Prussian War. However, the NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court (ICC), which featured prominent human rights organizations, was not founded until 1995. By the time the Rome Statute was adopted in July 1998, more than 800 organizations had joined the campaign; in the early 2000s, the number was more than one thousand. The ultimate creation of the ICC, though noteworthy, was an achievement tempered by the nonparticipation of China, Russia, and the US, among others, and by accusations, especially by African states, that the court has been guilty of applying double standards. Read more

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How To Explain Hare Hunting To A Dead German Artist

Joseph Sassoon Semah, My Beloved Country – That Did Not Love Me, rug and black oil paint, 100X70 cm, 1977 Photography: Ilya Rabinovich  – Courtesy of Joseph Sassoon Semah

Joseph Sassoon Semah, a Baghdad-born artist who now lives and works in Amsterdam, is about to embark on an extensive multi-site project, in Amsterdam, Jerusalem, and Baghdad. Berlin-based poet and author Mati Shemoelof talks with him about his years living as an artist in Israel versus being a Babylonian Jew and an artist in Europe. They discuss Judaism, diaspora, exclusion, and acts of concealment and building.

The artist Joseph Sassoon Semah has never before given an interview to an art publication in Israel. The Israeli art world has not adequately recognized his work. Although he showed in several important institutions in Israel and worked with key curators, it was negligible compared with the scope of his oeuvre, especially following his move from Israel to Europe. What would have happened had he stayed in Israel? Was he stumped by his diasporic state or was he ahead of his time in dealing with the Jewish component of his art? It is not merely an objective issue to be measured by the number of exhibitions, but rather the artist’s subjective sense of his position in the art field. I gather from Semah that he has remained on the outside, beyond the walls of Jerusalem. In Europe, too, and especially in the Netherlands, his work is not widely known yet. This interview stems from my own interest in Semah’s identity (we are both of a Jewish Iraqi descent) and his work, but also as an intra-European process of an artistic, inter-generational analysis attempting to formulate the role of Jewish culture in Europe.

Semah was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1948. His grandfather, Hacham Sassoon Kadoorie, was the chief rabbi of Baghdad’s Jewish community until his passing in 1971, even after they had all emigrated. In 1950, Semah and his family were uprooted from Iraq, and they moved to Israel. He grew up in Tel Aviv. Traumatized by his military service in the 1967 and 1973 wars, he chose exile and has been living in the Netherlands since 1981. The grandfather’s continued residence in Baghdad, along with some 20,000 more Jews, brings to mind Semah’s own position in Amsterdam (his grandfather did not immigrate to Israel, and Semah emigrated from Israel – both had chosen a diasporic existence as a Jewish minority under a Muslim/Christian majority), where he now lives with his partner, Linda Bouws. She runs the institute they co-founded, Metropool – Studio Meritis MaKOM: International Art Projects. My grandmother, Rachel Kazaz, had also been among the displaced Baghdadi Jews. My acquaintance with the pain and the uprooting enabled me to write about the mysterious affair that drove the Jews of Iraq to abandon their property, their culture, and their way of life within just a year; the affair that involved bombing Jewish centers in Baghdad, including the synagogue of Semah’s grandfather. [i] Read more

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Allegories of Wildness ~ The Name, Fame And Fate Of The Nambikwara ~ Three Nambikwara Ethnohistories Of Sociocultural And Linguistic Change And Continuity ~ Contents

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A ‘primitive wild people’ that only Rondon could ‘pacify’, that was the reputation of wildness of these ‘savages’ around 1910. Not only that, Rondon also renamed them as the “Nambiquara” and hence, a few years later, this people acquiered its first fame in Brazil with a new name. Actually, colonial expansion and war had been part of their history since the seventeenth century. The crossing of the enormous Nambikwara territories by the telegraph line constructed by Rondon’s Mission produced, as far as known, the first real pacific contact. For those local groups most affected it proved as disastrous as all ‘first contacts’ without any preparation and substantial medical assistance. When Lévi-Strauss travelled through the region the so-called civilization had receded again. His research was very severely hampered by the historical consequences and by the fact the Indians still retained their political autonomy. Yet he has remarked they were the most interesting people he met and regarded this journey as his initiation in anthropological fieldwork. Tristes Tropiques made this people famous to a very large public and fixed another particular image of the Nambikwara. And then, in the seventies and eighties of the last century, the final assault took place by their being “before the bulldozer” (as written by the best known Nambikwara expert David Price). Only after a demographic catastrophy, permanent encirclement and great losses of territory, several Nambikwara local groups coalesced and emerged as peoples while many other local groups perished in this genocide. In effect, the so-called Nambikwara never were ‘one people’. This study explores the ethnohistory of the name, fame and fate of three of these peoples — the Latundê, Sabanê and Sararé — and dedicates some special attention to language loss and maintenance.

© Edwin Reesink, 2010, 2019 – Cover picture: Mísia Lins Reesink – Illustrations: Edgar Roquette-Pinto
© Rozenberg Quarterly 2010, 2019 – Amsterdam – ISBN 978 90 3610 173 8

Contents

Prologue
Part One – Name
Chapter I – Documentary ethnohistory: the convolutions of the right to territory
Chapter II – Latundê ethnohistory and their contemporary situation

Part Two – Fame
Chapter I – The string of events
Chapter II – Converging histories: Rondon, myth, ideology and petty domination

Part Three – Fate
Chapter I – Refractions of wildness: the choreography of war
Chapter 2 – The cartography of war and peace: worlds in collision

A final summation
Bibliography

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Allegories Of Wildness ~ Prologue

“It is singular to come so far and to see so infinitely little” [i].

The above passage is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s diary, which he kept during his sea voyage to Polynesia. The principle behind this quote has some general truth that holds for all voyages. Upon seeing the Polynesian islands, Stevenson was enchanted not just by the landscape, but by the inhabitants as well. He treated the Polynesians with respect and kept an open mind despite their strange practices. Although he denounced cannibalism when he visited the altar on which the native Marquesan people sacrificed prisoners for their own consumption, Stevenson claimed to have felt “infinitely distant”, as “in the cold perspective and dry light of history.” In part because of Western diseases and in part because of the cultural values of European conquerors, the Marquesans gradually abandoned their ceremonies, many of which the colonial government considered repugnant and savage. Stevenson deplored the consequences of contact, a term that the literature uses to describe the interaction between indigenous peoples and outsiders, and went so far as to demonstrate his respect for the imposing cannibal chief. Stevenson even questioned the moral basis for the European rejection of cannibalism; after all, he notes, the slaughter and eating of animals would cause a similar revulsion amongst Buddhists. Stevenson’s strong egalitarian views are evident in his suggestion that “(…) to cut a man’s flesh after he is dead is far less hateful than to oppress him while he lives.”

These observations serve as a reminder of a deplorable and all-to-popular story of the effects of colonialist expansion on all indigenous peoples. Unsurprisingly, the history of Brazil’s Nambikwara is not unique. “History” always engulfs these people and in so doing destroys not only sociocultural and political autonomy, but often much of the population. The name “Nambikwara” evokes such battles, some of which are quite well known. First, there are the ‘indomitable warriors’ that Rondon succeeded in pacifying, despite their initial rejection of civilization and contact. The model of making contact with wild tribes that Rondon established endures even now. Second, there is Lévi-Strauss’ field study as described in Tristes Tropiques, a work that made the Nambikwara one of the most famous tribal peoples in the world. The lasting impact of this book is clear, it continues to be cited in a variety of scientific and non-scientific books and papers. Lastly, there is the prime example of victims of so-called development forcefully promoted by the Brazilian government. Such “progress” typically manifests as road construction and the interference of bureaucratic agencies in a certain region. Many of these projects involve financing from the World Bank. David Price exposes the negative impact of such national and international organizations. He notes a near complete lack of consideration and respect for those “before the bulldozer” suffering the regional consequences of globalization (Price 1977a; 1989). Such peoples, and, in particular, the Nambikwara, were about to be pushed aside in favor of a different civilization. Rondon was a man who believed that he represented this society benevolently. He remarks often on the compassion and kindness of the Nambikwara civilization. Lévi-Strauss, by comparison, wanted to avoid discussing it, even as he treaded through the devastation caused by contact with the Nambikwara. Price (1977) denounced continued contact as being strongly detrimental to the surviving members of what was once a large group of peoples, known for their strength and heartiness.

The goal of this work is to explore relevant aspects of the history and the modern sociocultural situation of three Indian peoples, the Latundê, Sabanê, and Sararé [ii] . The fact that these names are not well known demonstrate the unique fame associated with the Nambikwara. This project involves three case studies of individuals and peoples. Of particular interest are specific historical narrations about contact, the individual pasts of the Indians along with their contemporary situation and their unique modes of interaction with Brazilian society. Note that all three peoples are related not only to one another, but to variety of other peoples and groups. For simplicity, I refer to all these people as members of the Nambikwara language family. A considerable amount of dialects and languages make up this language family. Read more

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Here’s What A Green New Deal Looks Like In Practice

Robert Pollin – Photo: UMass Amherst

With the climate change challenge growing more acute with every passing year, the need for the adoption of a new political economy that would tackle effectively both the environmental and the egalitarian concerns of progressive people worldwide grows exponentially. Yet, there is still a lot of disagreement on the left as to the nature of the corresponding political economy model. One segment of the left calls for the complete overthrow of capitalism as a means of dealing with climate change and the growing levels of economic inequality in the era of global neoliberalism, while another one argues against growth in general. In the interview below, Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, explains some issues raised by each of these positions, and how to move toward solutions grounded in a fuller understanding of economic development.

C.J. Polychroniou: Bob, let’s start with the “degrowth” argument for securing climate stabilization and realizing egalitarian aims. What’s wrong with this political economy model in an age of catastrophic climatic conditions brought about through 250 or so years of capitalist expansion via the use of fossil fuel energy sources?

Robert Pollin: Degrowth proponents have made valuable contributions in addressing many of the untenable features of economic growth. I agree with degrowth proponents that economic growth in general produces a wide range of negative environmental effects. I also agree that a significant share of what is produced and consumed in the current global capitalist economy is wasteful, especially most of what high-income people throughout the world consume. It is also obvious that economic growth per se makes no reference to the distribution of the benefits of growth and, more generally, offers no critique of capitalism as a mode of production.

But on the specific issue of climate change, degrowth does not provide anything close to a viable stabilization framework — that is, to stabilize the global mean temperature at a level that will prevent severe negative ecological feedback effects, such as increasing frequency of droughts and floods. Consider some very simple arithmetic. According to its most recent October 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now concludes that a viable climate stabilization program will necessitate limiting the global mean temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius as of 2100. This in turn will require global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions falling by about 45 percent as of 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Let’s focus for the moment on the 2030 target of a 45 percent CO2 emissions contraction. Following a degrowth agenda, let’s assume that global GDP [gross domestic product] contracts by 10 percent between now and 2030. That would entail a reduction of globalGDP four times greater than during the 2007–09 financial crisis and Great Recession. In terms of CO2 emissions, the net effect of this 10 percent GDP contraction, considered on its own, would be to push emissions down by precisely 10 percent. It would not come close to hitting the IPCC target of a 45 percent CO2 reduction. At the same time, this 10 percent global GDP contraction would result in huge job losses and declines in living standards for working people and the poor. Global unemployment rose by over 30 million during the Great Recession. I have not seen any degrowth proponent present a convincing argument as to how we could avoid a calamitous rise in mass unemployment if GDP were to fall four times as much as during 2007–09. Read more

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TED ~ 10 Talks To Celebrate Black History Month

Insightful talks that offer fresh, thoughtful perspectives on Black identity.

https://www.ted.com/10_great_talks_to_celebrate

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ Contents & Introduction: Consternation

Contents 
Consternation
1. The world in which we live is too complex
2. We have to bring trade under democratic control
3. Curb globalisation: a dialogue between the veritable left and the simplifying right
4. Peace in our time?
5. A president with messy moral standards

Bitter tears, bon courage
About the author & Acknowledgement & Literature

Consternation

After November 8, 2016, I have occasionally thought that the governments of civilised nations should recall their ambassadors from the United States, for consultation as it is called; I’d rather say for consideration. Thus far that recall did of course not happen, but consideration is more than ever necessary. After one year it is abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s government has not left relations within the us and the rest of the world untouched.

Obviously, us citizens must set their own course, but as residents of all corners of the world we have to consider what this Trump is doing. Let me mention in this essay a few points that we have to think about. What can we still expect, what have we already seen, how did that affect us, and how can we respond appropriately?

A warning is called for, and it comes from Luigi Zingales – as his name suggests an Italian, who is a professor in the United States. Make the comparison with Berlusconi, he suggests, and deduce lessons from that. ‘Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.’ (New York Times, 22.11.16)

The purpose of this essay is not to fall into that trap. The election of Trump forces us, more than anything else, to consider some fundamental issues. At the same time we should not be afraid to formulate ambitious solutions. It is still possible to build a civilised, human, just and ecologically sustainable world. We need radical proposals for that, which I would like to present here in five – in principle separately readable – chapters. Read more

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ The World In Which We Live Is Too Complex

It is beyond any doubt: for many citizens life in the second decade of the twenty-first century is difficult. Many are burdened with debt. In the United States and, for example, in Spain, residents can be evicted from their homes at any time. The chance that people will find a decently paid job is decreasing. Long-term unemployment is rather rule than exception. Industries are disappearing. Many suburbs need proper maintenance, but it’s not happening, and the police there will not always be seen as your best friend. Worst of all perhaps is that the social safety nets, which have helped people through difficult times in their lives, are becoming increasingly wide-meshed. You often are on your own, in an environment in which you suspect – or are convinced – that immigrants are driving you out of the housing and job market, and have easier access to social services. The neighbourhood in which you live has less social cohesion than before, and mutual trust is gone. Daily life has almost no certainties anymore.

Of course we do not know this precisely, but the shaming of the political elite that is the order of the day may have something to do with this. After all, is it not the responsibility of politics to provide citizens with a safe and secure existence?
When we think about this, some paradoxes stand out. First of all, there is hardly any anger directed at the business establishment. The leaders of big companies always claim to be the true leaders of the free world, but if something goes wrong in society – and that is really the case now – they are not held responsible. Secondly, by confronting the political elites angry citizens make it abundantly clear that they expect a lot of care from the government. Despite decades of neoliberalism – which advocated the perishing of the state – for many citizens the state still seems to be the entity that needs to keep society in order.

And the third paradox is that citizens have chosen time and again for political leaders who, according to the principles of neoliberalism, have denied the state the financial and organisational means of realising something for individual citizens and the society as a whole. At the same time the state should look after jobs and pensions, affordable health care, safety and everything that gives life perspective. In the absence of resources and competence, states, and thus politicians, can not provide all these things under neoliberal regimes. Nevertheless, the state is expected to deliver protection and social security to its citizens. After all, markets can only flourish if the state is strong enough to make life liveable for its citizens.

The relative impotence of the state to provide citizens with security in their lives is in stark contrast with the power that big companies have acquired over the course of several decades. These are companies that have grown into transnational corporations. Their structure is usually so complex that it is hardly understood what they do – anywhere in the world – and what the consequences might be. They can regard any form of regulation as being irrelevant to them and even prevent these rules from being implemented, including by lobbying at a large scale, wherever appropriate. Such transnational corporations act as collaborative entities that secure their interests on a worldwide scale. Read more

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