After Brexit And Catalonia, What Will Become Of The EU?

The future of the European Union is surely in doubt.
Brexit and Catalonia are the most glaring recent examples of the irrepressibly dynamic forces of nationalism that continue to exert powerful influence on the human psyche within European communities.

More importantly, the processes that led to the victory of the “Leave” campaign in the June 2016 and the eruption of Catalonia’s cessationist sentiment form part of the disintegrating tendencies under way in today’s global political economy. They add to the growing list of cases illustrating the limits of the idea of a united Europe.
The more likely future of Europe is a neoliberal superstate jointly run by Berlin and Brussels. The European elite has been working hard for a long time now to have power transferred from the national governments to a Brussels-based super bureaucracy, with Berlin acting as the political and economic hegemon.

But there is also an alternative – a United States of Europe (a Europe with total integration and without nation states), which is a widely shared idea within certain European elites. Such a project can succeed only if the norms and values of democracy are applied at a transnational and global level (cosmopolitan democracy).

An imperial superstate
As a citizen of a European neoliberal superstate, your life will be determined by two entities: the Brussels-based bureaucracy and the unelected hegemon, Berlin. They will dictate the policymaking process, while nation states – especially those situated on the periphery of the Union – will be turned into “satellites”.

We have already seen plenty of evidence that the EU is heading that way.
Economic cooperation among European member states has revolved around distinct Machiavellian principles and it is the interests of the strong and influential economic agents and of powerful state actors that drive public policy agenda.
The tradition of political cynicism also defines the actual foreign policy agenda of EU authorities and institutions as evidenced by their double-standard approach towards integration and secession. They opposed Catalonia’s declaration for independence in late October 2017 because they don’t wish to see Spain (an EU member state) split, but provided unanimous support in 2008 to Kosovo’s independence.

As a matter of fact, the European Community (along with Washington) not only failed in the case of former Yugoslavia back in the early 1990s to guarantee the territorial integrity of European state frontiers, in clear violation of the 1975 Helsinki Accords Final Act, but individual European member states actually played a key role in the destruction of the Yugoslavian state.

But no one has ever charged the EU with being a democratic political entity. If anything, it acts as an imperial power by virtue of the very emergence of a neoliberal superstate, at least in regard to economic affairs. The manner in which the bailout programmes for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus were handled during the euro crisis stands out as a glaring example of heavy-handed, anti-democratic tactics. Read more

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Caught Between Scylla And Charybdis: The Effects Of Greece’s Loss Of Sovereignty


For the last several months, Greece’s international creditors – the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – had been at a standoff over debt relief, budget targets and various reforms, including taxes and pensions, thereby delaying the completion of a long overdue bailout review that should have been done in October 2016. The standoff added extra pressures to an economy that has been in recession for eight straight years, and even revived fears of a “Grexit” as bank runs had returned in full steam. In the meantime, the Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras was playing the role of a mere observer in a tug-of-war between two institutions that are in full control of the country’s finances, and merely trying to accommodate the demands of both sides.

Since the start of the current financial and economic crisis in Greece, which goes back to 2008 (although the actual outbreak of the debt crisis occurs in early 2010), the country’s GDP has shrunk by about 26 percent. Unemployment jumped to as high as 28 percent in 2013, and has now stabilized at 23 percent, but more than 42 percent of the population has “dropped below the poverty threshold of 2005.”

This harsh reality is the price the country is paying for its fiscal derailment as a member of a currency union (the euro) and the imposition of three consecutive bailout programs by the EU and the IMF. These bailouts have been accompanied by draconian measures of fiscal consolidation (austerity) and a radical neoliberal agenda which includes sharp cuts in wages, salaries and pensions, liberalization of the labor market and blanket privatization.

From the beginning, the bailout plans were never intended to rescue the Greek economy, but rather to avoid a financial meltdown on the continent, as several European banks had recklessly loaned to the public sector since Greece adopted the euro in 2001. Indeed, virtually all of the funds that have been provided to Greece since 2010 have gone towards the repayment of international loans – first to the European banks, and then to the country’s official creditors – rather than towards the economy.

But let’s return to the present: the standoff between EU and IMF over the “best way” to deal with Greece’s current financial and economic catastrophe, which finally came to an end a couple of weeks ago, with the Greek government agreeing to a new round of austerity measures which amount, essentially, to a fourth memorandum.

Spreading False Hopes About Recovery and Vague Promises About Debt Relief

Having grossly miscalculated the impact of the fiscal policies it proposed on the Greek economy, the IMF has been extremely reluctant to join in the third bailout program (agreed to and signed by the pseudo-leftist Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras), sensing that Greece will never be able to repay its loans. The country is essentially bankrupt, and the prospects for a return to the private credit markets any time soon are not very promising, as there are no signs of recovery on the horizon. At some point, small rates of growth will inevitably be registered solely because of the economy having hit rock bottom, but this is not the case at present.

Still, illusions of a recovery have been the hallmark of both the Syriza government and of the conservative government that preceded it. But this should not be surprising. Spreading false hopes to the citizens of a bankrupt nation that has lost its sovereignty is the last refuge of political scoundrels, of governments and their officials who have opted to become lackeys of the international elite rather than lead their people to resistance and to the overthrow of financial regimes imposing debt bondage.

Indeed, for the last few months, senior-level officials in the Syriza government, such as Minister of Economy and Development Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, were propounding that growth had made a comeback and that the crisis was over before the official statistics for the fourth quarter of 2016 were finally released in early March 2017. However, those figures showed the Greek economy had contracted again by 1.2 percent.
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Hannah Arendt’s Theory of Totalitarianism – Part One

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1949, by which time the world had been confronted with evidence of the Nazi apparatus of terror and destruction. The revelations of the atrocities were met with a high degree of incredulous probing despite a considerable body of evidence and a vast caché of recorded images. The individual capacity for comprehension was overwhelmed, and the nature and extent of these programmes added to the surreal nature of the revelations. In the case of the dedicated death camps of the so-called Aktion Reinhard, comparatively sparse documentation and very low survival rates obscured their significance in the immediate post-war years. The remaining death camps, Majdanek and Auschwitz, were both captured virtually intact. They were thus widely reported, whereas public knowledge of Auschwitz was already widespread in Germany and the Allied countries during the war.[i] In the case of Auschwitz, the evidence was lodged in still largely intact and meticulous archives. Nonetheless it had the effect of throwing into relief the machinery of destruction rather than its anonymous victims, for the extermination system had not only eliminated human biological life but had also systematically expunged cumulative life histories and any trace of prior existence whatsoever, ending with the destruction of almost all traces of the dedicated extermination camps themselves, just prior to the Soviet invasion.

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How Do We Prepare The Next Generation Of Citizens?


“College and career readiness” is the objective American educators are focused on these days, and it’s one both students and their parents will approve. Both want assurance that the cost and rigors of getting into and through college will pay off as a sure ticket to life success. A recent Harvard poll showed achieving this personal success to be the number one concern of today’s youth, and parents are likely glad to know. The broader purposes once associated with higher education have taken a back seat as college increasingly becomes a strict means to an end.

An initiative introduced recently at a premier suburban public high school in the US Northeast seems well aligned with this focus. Taking advantage of now widely available technology, beginning in 9th grade students are required to begin a “digital portfolio project” to “track their accomplishments throughout their high school careers and choose how the world perceives them.” Student reactions are reported to be positive. One spoke of it as an opportunity to set new goals for herself and a good reflection of what she achieves over the next four years. Another said it will be a good tool, especially for college applications. Instituting this future-oriented focus early on will perhaps be useful in helping teens to construct an identity and succeed in communicating it to others who can acknowledge and validate it, rather than postpone this task to the extended adolescence now frequent among twenty-somethings.

Yet absent from this focus is another dimension of preparing for adulthood, one that extends beyond individual success, to collective prosperity. It’s one long regarded as a central aim of education in a democracy – preparation for citizenship. A US election year reminds Americans of its significance. The American president elected this year will likely still be in office when today’s high schoolers begin their adult lives. Is establishing a personal identity and life trajectory enough to prepare them sufficiently for responsible citizenship under this president in their increasingly troubled nation and world?

A cursory look at the current political climate could be seen as reassuring in this regard. Although a segment of the citizenry lament the emphasis of image over ideas, modern media provide us a never before known opportunity to get to know the candidates, up close and personal. Candidates are well aware of their need for a skilled team to project a carefully shaped and managed image – their life story, the experience they bring to the job, and, most important, what kind of person they truly are. Above all, this image must portray them as personable and likeable, appealing to many.

Possibly, then, beginning as a young teen to shape one’s image and even to communicate it effectively in modern digital form is not far off the mark. Many of the teens afforded this opportunity aspire to leadership roles, and they are getting a head start in projecting who they are. They are learning the art and craft of branding and promoting a self.

Another view is that this accomplishment falls short and that we can and must do a good deal more if we wish to prepare our youth as citizens, ready to act in a democratic society that depends on their contribution. More than a few observers today find the level of discourse of the presidential candidates unsatisfying. There is a range, of course, from Trump at one extreme (“Look who I am”) to Sanders (“Here’s what we must do”) at the other. Yet, most of us, given the choice, would prefer all candidates, as a matter of course, to debate ideas rather than merely project images and for citizens to cast their votes based on these ideas.

If so, it is our responsibility to prepare our youth to become citizens who will have the vision and will to transform this preference into a reality. If we want people to think and talk about ideas, and solutions, we need from early on to afford them extended practice in doing so. There is of course a significant segment of the adult population who want their youth to consider only those ideas these adults themselves subscribe to. Yet, in work my colleagues and I have undertaken using modern technology to engage middle- and high-school students in electronic dialogs with peers on controversial social issues, we have found them keen to contemplate such issues at length with multiple partners, culminating in their writing individual “Letters to the Editor” position statements on them. Abortion is a topic they most frequently want to address, among numerous others such as foreign aid and criminal justice. Their initial ideas are often naïve and narrow, but that changes as they confront and respond to others’ ideas and examine evidence that bears on them. Some, for example, propose that instead of testing new drugs on animals, it would be better to use human prisoners since they are guilty and animals are innocent. With deliberation such ideas in time self-correct. Students also gain awareness of issues worth talking about. When we asked young teens in a New York City low-income school what the most important issues were that the new president will have to address, all but a very few mentioned just two, homelessness and stealing.

Although there are signs of change, peer discourse has never found much of a place in the American middle- or high-school curriculum. If students talk at all, it is in response to a teacher’s question, hoping to get the “right” answer. The social studies curriculum would seem the natural place for students to debate issues of current concern to the society they live in, but doing so is largely crowded out by an established curriculum designed to insure students know the history of their country, state, and city and the structure of these respective governments. We know not much of this information sticks. A recent video on Facebook showed American college students clueless when asked who won the civil war (yet all were successful in naming Brad Pitt’s present and former spouse).

Only belatedly, likely at the end of a term with time running out, do curriculum standards propose students be asked to consider the future – how what existed in the past or exists at present might change. New York State curriculum standards for social studies, for example, at the end of its comprehensive guidelines for American history, conclude with a brief section titled, “The US begins a new century.”   The new century, the standards suggest, offers an opportunity for “federal and state governments to reevaluate their roles,” and it is recommended that students contemplate these. The particulars listed under this heading are wide-ranging – “fiscal and monetary policies: 
taxation, regulation, 
deregulation” and “social programs: health, welfare, education.” The topic of reevaluating government’s role is a quite different topic than the descriptive historical topics that precede them in this and similar curriculum guides. “Teaching the future,” rather than only the past, calls for a different kind of intellectual engagement. It demands envisioning and weighing possibilities – what could be, rather than only what is or was.

Little in students’ school experience prepares them to shift gears to engage in this kind of thought, individually or with peers. If we believe it important that 21st century citizens be able and disposed to think in such ways, we must provide the opportunities that will prepare them, whether or not such thinking fits today’s culture.

ArgueDeanna Kuhn is professor of psychology and education at Teachers College Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in developmental psychology. She has been editor of the journal Cognitive Development, editor of the journal Human Development, and co-editor of the last two editions of the Cognition, Perception and Language volume of the Handbook of Child Psychology. She has published widely in psychology and education, in journals ranging from Psychological Review to Harvard Educational Review. She is an author of 4 major books — The development of scientific thinking skills, The skills of argument, Education for thinking, and, most recently, Argue with me: Argument as a path to developing students’ thinking and writing (Routledge, 2016). Her research is devoted to identifying and determining how best to nurture the intellectual skills that will prepare young people for lifelong learning, work, and citizenship.

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Raymond Carver ~ Dreams Are What You Wake Up From

Music: I Can’t Stop Loving You ~ Bobby Vinton

Electric Cereal

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The Rise And Fall Of The “Up To The Mountains And Down To The Countryside” Movement: A Historical Review

The Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside (UMDC) Movement (上山下乡运动) was an important event in the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It changed the fate of a whole generation of Chinese and had far-reaching effects on the history of the PRC. As a nationwide urban-to-rural migration (i.e. the reverse of the urbanization process), it is also unique in human history for its complex origin and the wide scope of its impact (16 million urban youths and nearly every Chinese family), as well as its long duration, tortuous process, and contradictory attributes. However, compared to the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and other political events of the 1960s, the UMDC Movement is rarely known to people who are unfamiliar with Chinese history. Even in the area of Chinese Studies, the UMDC Movement has been misunderstood as a constituent part or a ramification of the Cultural Revolution. This paper reviews the process of the development of the UMDC Movement and analyses the social structural factors in its rise and fall in Chinese history.

From 1967 to 1979, more than 16 million[i] Chinese urban youths were sent to the countryside to engage in agricultural production. This was known as the Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement (上山下乡运动). Those 16 million participants, who were named Zhiqing (educated youth 知青) after this movement, lived and worked in the countryside as ordinary agricultural labourers during their teenage years. In the early 1980s, when most Zhiqing eventually returned to the city, they were immediately faced with the residual issues of the UMDC Movement as well as the challenge of readjusting to urban society.

The UMDC Movement not only changed the fate of a whole generation of Chinese but also had far-reaching effects on the history of the People’s Republic of China. However, in overseas Chinese Studies, much less attention has been given to the UMDC Movement than to the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). For many researchers, the UMDC Movement is a constituent part or a ramification of the Cultural Revolution.[ii] In terms of the relationship between the two historical events, the Zhiqing Office of the State Council announced an official conclusion in 1981:
“First of all, the ‘UMDC’ was a major experiment carried out by the Communist Party fromthe 1950s, based on fundamental realities of the country, which then had a large population, a weak economic foundation, and employment difficulties; it was not the result of the Cultural Revolution. Second, the ‘UMDC’ was aimed primarily at resolving employment problems; during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution, it evolved as a political movement under the ultra-left ideology and resulted in serious mistakes in practice.”[iii] (Gu 1997, pp. 283–285)

As indicated in the above quotation, the UMDC Movement was characterized by its complex origin, tortuous process, and contradictory attributes. Simply associating it with the Cultural Revolution has led to the neglect of these historical facts. Therefore, to clarify the unique and significant position of the UMDC Movement in Chinese history, this paper reviews its rise and fall and further argues that its origin, development, and termination were all rooted in structural and fundamental contradictions of Chinese society, as well as the evolution of these contradictions under different historical circumstances.

Another theme of this chapter is to identify the Zhiqing’s position in the history of the UMDC Movement and in Chinese society. The UMDC Movement created the Zhiqing group – a whole generation of youths who have been allocated “Zhiqing” as their collective identity. Based on the historical review, this chapter argues that the constitution of the Zhiqing group and the connotation of the Zhiqing identity both underwent transformations at different stages of the UMDC Movement.
To summarize, a comprehensive historical review lays the foundation for an advanced understanding of the UMDC Movement and Zhiqing. The following sections present a clear development process, including a pre-movement phase and three distinct stages of the UMDC Movement.

Pre-Movement Phase: 1953–1965
Mobilizing and organizing the Chinese youth to engage in agriculture can be traced back to the 1950s. After 1953, the problems caused by the country’s overheated economy became acute. Large numbers of rural youths rushed into the cities to search for jobs. To alleviate employment pressure in the cities, the state sought to encourage these rural youths to go back to their home villages and engage in agricultural production. Those rural youth were called HuixiangZhiqing to distinguish them from the subsequent Zhiqing – urban youth. Because they were originally from the countryside, their return was regarded as normal and they were not entitled to a resettlement fee or other preferential treatments which were provided to urban youth when they settled down in the countryside. In addition to urban unemployment, another influencing economic factor was the development of agricultural cooperatives. Mao Zedong, the major promoter of rural collectivization, emphasized his opinion that educated young people should move to remote rural areas to make contributions to the nation and achieve personal development.[iv]

Another significant development in the 1950s was youth reclamation teams, which were arranged, organized, and guided directly by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League. The two models used for these teams were the Beijing Youth Voluntary Reclamation Team(北京市青年志愿垦荒队) and the Shanghai Youth Voluntary Reclamation Team (上海市青年志愿垦荒队).[v] Driven by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, youth reclamation teams soon spread throughout the whole country as a new trend. However, they came to an end in 1956 because of economic deficiency and poor management (Ding, 1998, pp.60–68). Moreover, the majority of the urban youths in these reclamation teams failed to adapt to intense farm work and harsh conditions, and they did not settle down in the countryside as they were supposed to (Ding, 1998, p. 60).

The Huixiang Zhiqing and the youth reclamation teams were the predecessors of the Zhiqing. Apart from this successive relationship, the dilemmas they faced in the 1950s continued to influence the UMDC Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequent history has demonstrated that these dilemmas, revealed later as inherent problems of the UMDC Movement, had determined in advance its direction and final results.

Of those dilemmas and problems, the most significant one was the employment issue, which cyclically intensified alongside general economic fluctuations. This was relevant with regard to the contradiction between population growth and development in the economy and education, as well as shortcomings in population, economy, and education policies. The second and consequent problem was that employment pressure and other social problems in the cities were often shifted to the countryside. Lastly, turning educated young people into simple labourers objectively resulted in a waste of human and education resources. Initially, it was hoped that young people would contribute to rural construction by exploiting their knowledge and skills and transforming the rural society with advanced urban culture. However, most urban youths failed to settle down in the countryside. So the ironic fact was that “educated young people were less capable than illiterate peasants” (Ding, 1998, p.63). It is clear now that this was due to the poor production conditions, which stopped these young people from using their advantages. However, in that particular historical period, these young people’s failure and resistance were interpreted ideologically as the weakness and individualism of the bourgeoisie.[vi]

After a few years of try-outs, in 1956, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the state decided to adopt mobilizing youth to the countryside as a conventional method to address the employment issue. This time, the urban youth became the target for mobilization. On 23 January 1956, the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee (中共中央政治局) issued an “Outline of National Agricultural Development from 1956 to 1967 (draft)” (1956 年到 1967 年全国农业发展纲要[草案]). According to Article Thirty of the Outline, graduates of urban secondary and primary schools, except for those who had managed to enter into further studies and those who had found jobs in the cities, should respond to the call and go down to the countryside and up to mountains to join in agricultural production and participate in the great cause of socialist agricultural construction. For the first time, “Down to the Countryside and Up to the Mountains” (下乡上山) appeared in an official document as a set term, though the sequence here was contrary to the later well-known expression, “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” (上山下乡).

In 1958, under the impact of the Great Leap Forward, the implementation of “Down to the Countryside and Up to the Mountains” was halted suddenly. By the end of 1962, the number of idle urban youths had reached 2 million.[vii] Soon, the UMDC work was brought back onto the agenda. In October of 1962, the Agriculture and Forestry Office of the State Council (国务院农林办) held the “Reporting Conference of Resettling Urban Redundant Staff and Young Students in State Farms, Forest Farms, Pastures, and Fisheries (关于国营农林牧渔场安置家居大中城市精简职工和青年学生的汇报会议). Zhou Enlai attended the meeting and delivered a speech. In this speech, he pointed out that resettling the urban population in the countryside was an effective solution to the problem of surplus labour forces in the city. Participants discussed a series of practical issues, including the target and methods of resettlement, expenditure, and resources, as well as corresponding policies, plans, and safeguards. At this meeting, the Leading Group of Resettlement Work of Agriculture and Forestry Office (农林办安置领导小组) was founded, which was the predecessor to the Leading Group Office of Zhiqing UMDC (知识青年上山下乡领导小组办公室). Read more

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