Law’s Catastrophe and the Greatness of Syriza

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Two narratives compete for the truth of today’s global political stage. On the one hand, there’s the narrative of leftist irresponsibility and incorrectness. On the other, an austere narrative of correctness based on the general notion that there’re certain obligations we must fulfil as a matter of necessity. At a more particular level, this second narrative is often accompanied by the assertion that only the right wing can be trusted to play well the game of chess that is global politics and economics. Leftists are fated to err, or else, kick away the chessboard in desperation. According to the first narrative, from Athens to Caracas leftist governments demonstrate their irresponsibility when they make public promises that are impossible to fulfil in the…

For fragments, and not debts, we are

T. Zartaloudis, Athens 2008

t may be the case that one could note the peculiar appearance of the thinking minister. A thinking minister is not suddenly a liberated or a good minister, but at least a minister who thinks and does not just administer or govern; thus maintaining for a number of possibilities previously and thoughtlessly curtailed. What possibilities? Not towards this or that eschatological or even other more modest end but towards good living. A living that cannot be separated from the good, and a good that cannot be separated from the living. For the potentially good minister may have realized, after all, that there is no sovereign master to whom his ministry owes its existence and validation of the good. Then what of the good if there is no…

The Greek Debt ‘Confidence Trick’

Greek Debt 'Confidence Trick'

As William Shakespeare said in Much Ado About Nothing, “Let every eye negotiate for itself And trust no agent.” As so it seems appropriate to cast our ‘eye’ upon the discourses that have defined the current Greek financial crisis from both the left and the right. These discourses have failed to draw the curtain back enough to reveal the true nature of the ‘Oz’ like problem Greece faces today. As Costas Douzinas so aptly stated in his recent article on CLT, Syriza:The Greek Spring: There is no blueprint or textbook and the new government will be tested every step along the way. It is a tall order for a small country and party. But if the Greek spring succeeds — it is a big if — it will mark…

To Question Law, Without Condition

Occupy Central Protestor 2014

Take your time but be quick about it, because you do not know what awaits you (Jacques Derrida).1 The heady days of Occupy Central have passed. The 79 day occupation of the centre of Hong Kong — alongside other sites in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay — dominated life and work for many in the city and became a focus of attention for international media. The movement is now in a period of reflection and consolidation, searching both for new strategies of engagement and, perhaps even, a sense of its soul or animating force. These are more quotidian times, far removed from those exceptional days in August last year. The future of Hong Kong, its path to democracy, its relationship with China, its legal and political institutions,…

Why we should worry about the theoretical foundations of human rights law and practice

Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

Ivor Crewe, the former Essex Vice-​Chancellor, and a political scientist, used to compare contemporary human rights activists to 19th century Christian missionaries, spreading the gospel to less enlightened peoples. There is more than a grain of truth to this ironical jibe, aimed at his colleagues in the Human Rights Centre. Late last year I was invited to make presentations on behalf of the Council of Europe in Bosnia and in Macedonia. I have just been twice to Russia. I am about to go and do human rights work in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and through my EHRAC project I take many cases to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg against Russia and other countries of the Former Soviet…

Syriza’s new contract between Greece and Europe

Alexis Tspiras

On Sunday 8 February 2015, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras explained the government’s policy commitments. Thanks to AnalyzeGreece and GreekReporter, we are happy to publish excerpts from his statement. The new contract between Greece and Europe which will be reflected in a Medium Term Plan for National Reconstruction, respects the Eurozone operating rules, but does not condemn the Greek economy to eternal recession based on absurd and unreal requirements on primary surpluses, which are a different name of austerity. I want to reassure the Parliament and the Greek people we are steadily working towards a viable agreement with our partners. And I am optimistic that we will succeed. Because that agreement is at the same time a signal that Europe remains focused on its democratic principle and tradition of respecting the…

Syriza: The Greek Spring

Syriza Victory

According to an oft-​repeated cliché, the recent Syriza victory has historic significance. Its place in history books as the first elected left government in Europe is assured. But its importance goes further. The Syriza victory is an important marker in three historical periods or concentric cycles that started in 1949, 1968 and 1989. The year 1949 symbolises the beginning of the Cold War. The Greek civil war ended with the defeat of the left. In the long period afterwards, which culminated in the 1967 – 1974 Colonels dictatorship, the people who formed the backbone of resistance to the Nazi occupation were persecuted, exiled and imprisoned. A strong right-​left divide was established with the right dominant and the left accepting its political defeat and retreating…

‘We are not with the State, We are with the Community’

We are not with the State, We are with the Community

All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream. — E. A. Poe1 In an interview that Alexis Tsipras gave to the journalist Stavros Theodorakis in June 2012, we hear Tsipras explaining SYRIZA’s manifesto and saying: ‘We are not with the State, We are with the Community’.2 I had to pause and replay this over and over. I was startled by the distinction Tsipras had made between the State and the Community. On 25 January 2015, the Greek People or more precisely 35.5 % of the people voted SYRIZA into government and Alexis Tsipras became the new Prime Minister.3 I am writing this not as an expert in Greek politics but as somebody touched by the SYRIZA-​led shift in socio-​political discourse and…

SYRIZA Wins: Reflections While the Tide is Turning

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There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t. ∼ Leonard Cohen It is probably uncontroversial to argue that the Greek elections of the 25th January will be remembered as one of the most important in the history of Greece, of the Eurozone and of the post-​1989 Left on an international scale. Indeed, SYRIZA’s 36.3% enabled the party of the radical Left to form a coalition government with the small party of the Independent Greeks (more about this later), which is arguably the first leftist government of the Eurozone and the first government elected post-​2008 in Europe committed to putting an end to austerity. Any discussion about SYRIZA can be of exhaustive length and…

A Right to Breathe

RIght to Breathe

The air is taken away from us; “we cannot breathe”. This is a commentary which draws inspiration from an evocative piece of writing by Jerome Roos which appeared earlier in Reflections on a Revolution. The title of his text, “From New York to Greece, we revolt ‘cus we can’t breathe”, describes how the lack of lack of free air has become a symptomatic challenge for the functioning of democracies worldwide. The iron hands of power seem to tighten themselves around the throats of fragile bodies both close and faraway. At the heart of Roos’ critique are Eric Garner’s now famous last words, which he repeated 11 times before the air was finally forever taken away from him: “I can’t breathe”. The brevity of…

Rewinding the Battle of Algiers in the Shadow of the Attack on Charlie Hebdo

Battle-of-Algiers-Poster

In the classic 1966 film Battle of Algiers, Ali, a young, illiterate, unemployed bricklayer and draft dodger is arrested in Algiers for petty street crimes (he is a card swindler). In jail, Ali meets, unbeknownst to him, a member of the Algerian FLN (National Liberation Front) who recruits him after his release by putting a gun in his hand to see if he will shoot a French policeman in broad daylight. Ali passes the test (though the FLN has him fire blanks) and Battle of Algiers unfolds as a biography of a movement seeking its historic anti-​imperialist mission in the deposition of French rule. We now know that at least two of the dead Muslim men who shot and killed a total of 17 French citizens last week — 12 staff…

“I am Charlie and I guard the Master’s house”

Photograph: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

We condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings. We wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the killings and believe that no justification exists or can ever exist for them. We feel it necessary to make our condemnation explicit because we have found that there is a tendency to read an absence of condemnation into any discussion that does not halt at the point of condemnation. If you do read an absence of condemnation of the killings into this piece, ask yourself if what you truly demand of us, between your declarations of “Je suis Charlie” and your unyielding and uncompromising defence of free speech, is silence on this issue beyond a condemnation of the atrocity and those who enacted it. Charlie Hebdo defended its publication of…

‘Not Afraid’

Image by Marine des Mazery

There is a close relation between satire and secularism as the latter came to emerge in Europe. Secularism, as is well-​known, gained strength historically as a reaction to an era of European inter-​religious violence and massacres. It was not only a desire for the separation of Church and State as the classical formula has it. It was also an attempt to keep religious affect out of politics. This was in the belief that religion, because it was faith rather than reasoned thinking, produced too much of a narcissistic affect: a belief unable to ‘keep its distance’ from what it is believing. It was thought that this narcissism was behind the murderous intensity of religiously driven conflicts. Being able to laugh at yourself literally means being…

‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone’? Modern Ireland, Inauthenticity and the Request to Revise Ireland v UK

Ireland v UK

In 1971 the Hillside Singers, in a song designed to inspire worldwide unity, sang of how they’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony; apparently the inspiration for the song came from the writers’ experiences while delayed at Ireland’s Shannon Airport. Documents recently unearthed by the Irish human rights NGO The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and publicised in the Irish television documentary The Torture Files show that, also in 1971 and in a grotesque parody of the song, the British government had a different understanding of teaching the world to sing in harmony. A 1977 memo to the then Prime Minister James Callaghan from his Home Secretary Merlyn Rees regarding the then ongoing Ireland v UK1 case in the European Court…

Cuba and the Garden State: Assata Shakur, Abolition and the Problem of Pardon

Assata Shakur being led away to trial shackled 1977

My skin is black/​My arms are long/​My hair is woolly/​My back is strong/​Strong enough to take the pain/​inflicted again and again/​What do they call me/​My name is Aunt Sarah/​My name is Aunt Sarah — Nina Simone, “Four Women” The recent announcement by US President Barack Obama to re-​establish diplomatic relations with Cuba has been taken by many as a sign of changing times, as well as Mr Obama’s last-​stitch efforts to regain foreign policy credibility for those on the left. This news has also brought about renewed calls by New Jersey police officials to apprehend Assata Shakur, who has political asylum status in Cuba. Before discussing the renewed talk about apprehending Assata Shakur (or pardoning her for something that she…

Another Merry Week in Greece: A diary in fragmented parts to come

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04.12.2014 | Thanatopolitics is an everyday spectacle The head of the Hellenic Police decides to ban public gatherings for two days (05.12 and 06.12). The formal cause of this decision was the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister in Athens. The Athenians are becoming accustomed to such ban orders. On the 6th of December 2008 a policeman had assassinated a 16 years old boy, Alexis Grigoropoulos. The teenager died in the arms of his friend, Nikos Romanos. Nikos Romanos, an anarchist prisoner is, on this day, on hunger strike, for 25 days, demanding an educational leave from the prison he is held in, in order to be able to attend his University courses. The solidarity movement for his cause strengthens by the day. Romanos, convicted…

Interruption: Five Artefacts of International Law (Part II)

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ANZAC in Egypt: Myths, Memories and Movement in the Monumental Imagining of the First World War Charlotte Peevers* The original Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (‘ANZAC’) Memorial at Port Said, Egypt (destroyed during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and replicated in Albany, WA in 1964 and at ANZAC Parade in Canberra in 1968) embodies the antiquity of architectural remembering and the transience of the ANZAC experience far beyond Australia’s shores. The destruction of the Memorial in 1956 reflects its representation, for Egyptians, as a vestige of Empire and occupation. And here the artefact is depicted in a photograph taken by a soldier occupying Port Said during the Suez Crisis. The very destruction of this original monument provided the rationale for a re-​memorialisation and mythologising…

The First World War Interrupted: Artefacts as International Law’s Archive (Part I)

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Separated from us by the barrier of a century. Inaugurator of a fully mechanised modernity. Eye-​opener for the birth of a new, horrified, global society. Premonition of a future to come. This is the Great War. As one supremely tragic bookend to the ‘long’ nineteenth century, the ‘Great War’ is offered to international lawyers as a turning point — as a hinge between the imperial and the modern (see Berman 1999). The extended moment of memorialisation in which we find ourselves today presents, in our view, a critical opportunity for interrupting the sensibility of this bounded past. ‘Progress’ is the lens through which, conventionally, this imperial past comes to be known as past, and our present becomes modern. Yet, we know that in making sense of the past this conventional…

From the CIA Torture Report to Ferguson and Palestine: Should anyone be prosecuted?

Image by Nidal El-Khairy. Src.

We did not need the CIA Torture Report, released a few days ago, on International Human Rights Day, to know that US officials of the highest ranks, including former President George W. Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were aware of, and condoned, or even authorised, the use of torture on war on terror suspects. Such facts had been known since the publication, for example, of the ICRC Guantanamo torture reports leaked in 2004 and 2007,1 as well as the findings of earlier Senate Committees.2 To know that the torture not only included waterboarding and force-​feeding but also ‘rectal hydration’ and detainees being forced to stand on broken limbs, strengthens the calls for accountability of those ultimately responsible, especially those at the…