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Foreign, all too foreign

Varlik sees the Gastarbeiter turn 50; Cogito (Turkey) misses coverage of civil disobedience in the Turkish press; Arena predicts the downfall of the euro; Esprit asks what's driving employees over the edge; Mittelweg 36 finds nothing ordinary about ordinary men; Intellectum talks to genocide lawyer William Schabas; La Revue nouvelle says the working class still frightens Europe's conservatives; NZ examines the national form of proletarian content; and Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) reads Gombrowicz to understand the depravities of today's far-Right.

Varlik 10/2011

On 31 October it will be 50 years since the signing of the so-called Recruitment Agreement between Turkey and Germany. The treaty paved the way for a massive flow of migrant workers from Turkey, sustaining the German "economic miracle". Fifty years on, Varlik dedicates a dossier to the Turkish worker in Germany, better known as the Gastarbeiter.

Alongside contributions on and by Turks writing in German and a sardonic piece on the youngest generation of Turkish Germans, writer and translator Yüksel Pazarkaya provides an enlightening recapitulation of the history of the Gastarbeiter, from the Recruitment Agreement to today's heated debate on (non-)integration.

The first arrivals, mostly young men, were relatively well received, he writes. "As the line in Faust went, they were 'foreign people' from 'Turkey, far away'." However, that also meant that they "were 'the others' and, as the title of an editorial in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 1982 – 'Fremde und Allzufremde' – illustrates, they could easily become 'too foreign' in times of economic stagnation."

But even though the negative experiences during various economic crises – above all the oil crisis in 1973 – form an important backdrop to today's hostile climate, the years of German unification have been just as significant. Political and economic attention shifted to eastern Germany and the coexistence of Turks and Germans was forgotten. "Meanwhile, racist groups enjoyed a new freedom: towns like Mölln, Solingen, Hoyerswerda and Rostock became hubs for racist activity. The younger generation, born, raised and institutionally socialized in Germany, began to feel that they were not accepted as part of society. They began to look for new identities, since their German one was not approved."

Germany still suffers the consequences of the exclusion in the 1990s, concludes Pazarkaya. The lack of proper schooling and education has led to a visible split in society and the battle cry of the day is "Adapt or leave!"

Photography: A series of photos by Mehmet Ünal, portraying Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany. (Several of these photos are included in the exhibition "50 Jahre 'Gastarbeiter' aus der Türkei" at the Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin, 20-31 October.)

The full table of contents of Varlik 10/2010

Cogito 67 (2011)

Despite the demilitarization of Turkish politics associated with the rise of the AKP, press censorship continues. While it has become easier to criticize the army, other institutions such as the police and religious groups have become "sacred", according to a survey conducted by media researcher Esra Arsan. Turkish prime minister Erdogan vehemently opposes EU criticism of the intimidation of journalists through tax and other financial means, yet in public speeches invariably slams the press, demanding that media owners bring their columnists into line. The result, writes Arsan in Cogito, is heavy self-censorship.

Asked whether they think censorship and self-censorship are common in Turkey, journalists from newspapers including Hürriyet, Milliyet, Radikal and from TV stations including Hayat TV, CNNTürk and NTV confirm that imprisonment and legal charges indeed have a chilling effect on the media. The result is that public access to necessary information is obstructed. Civil disobedience is one under-reported area: examples cited by journalists are the recent nationwide protests against Internet filtering and the police disruption of the "Great Anatolian March against Hydroelectric Plants" in May 2011.

Kurdish civil disobedience: Abdullah Karatay compiles a history of Kurdish people's struggle for recognition and rights in Turkey since the military coup in 1980. Karatay maintains that, in the long run, Kurdish civil disobedience will prove to have had an effect, and that it is a crucial part of Kurdish politics that has transformed enormously – in a positive sense – during those thirty years.

Post-anarchism: Political philosopher Saul Newman argues that anarchism is the unacknowledged referent for radical politics today, tending as it does to converge around three configurations: politics beyond the state, political organization beyond the party, and political subjectivity beyond class. This points to the exhaustion of Marxism-Leninism, Newman argues, and to the need for new forms of egalitarian and libertarian forms of politics.

Arab revolutions: In Algeria, the uprising is being kept down by political propaganda and police brutality. Ghania Mouffok describes the deep anger of a population that has been living under a state of emergency since 1992, asking whether the street can join with the liberal elite to depose the corrupt and complacent government.

The full table of contents of Cogito 67 (2011)

Arena 5/2011

Sweden is not part of the eurozone and Swedish loans to Greece are limited. Returning from the meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels last Sunday, prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt proudly announced that Swedish taxpayers will not have to chip in "to pay the bill for saving Greece and the European banks".

Yet the eurocrisis affects Europe as a whole, Sweden included. In a themed section entitled "Shaky EUrope", Arena asks what's really going on in the EU. "Will the whole construction crumble?" Yes, says writer and columnist Björn Elmbrant, predicting the downfall of the euro. This will be triggered by "a popular revolt by a European kind of Tea Party movement, consisting of well-off Germans, Dutch and Finns unwilling to pay for the countries in debt. But also by the fact that Greeks, Irish and Portuguese won't accept being forced into a straightjacket of poverty by their patronizing guardians in the north."

However, the EU has a role to play beyond the euro, writes Elmbrant. If the focus was shifted away from how to save the common currency, ideas of how to achieve a truly social Europe could be presented. Instead of a conservative politics of austerity we need "a Marshall plan for Greece, Ireland and Portugal", he concludes. "Everything is cheaper than today's European waste of money."

A European narrative: Literary critic Erik Hammar takes a closer look at European cultural politics. As the crisis deepens, the EU hopes that movies, memory sites and festivals will strengthen European identity. Taking seriously Jacques Delors' warning that "nobody can fall in love with the single market", the Commission is now trying to promote a "European narrative".

Hammar is sceptical. If Swedish cultural policy had been formulated in the same ideologized and pragmatic way as that that of the EU, accusations of elitism, xenophobia and bureaucratic rule would be legion, he writes. The homogenous European "cultural heritage" described in the EU documents and guidelines simply doesn't exist. "Instrumentalizing culture in order to create a European identity might be an understandable strategy, but it's more than worrying when it's being done without debate. And when it's based on an idea of 'classical European values'."

The full table of contents of Arena 5/2011

Esprit 10/2011

In a themed section of Esprit on relations between employees and work, Jean-Paul Bouchet and Patrick Pierron of the French trades union confederation CFDT talk in interview about the predicament of the employee. Commenting in part on the recent reports of suicides at France Telecom and Renault, Bouchet and Pierron believe the causes of employee anxiety to be compartmentalization, decision making that is remote from employees, and the fact that line managers are too busy reporting on production levels to report on staff welfare.

Faced with their own problems, each employee stands alone, helpless, devoid of any credibility. They feel they are losing their grip, that they aren't getting the recognition they deserve; each has doubts about the value of the work that they do. In many cases enforced mobility has isolated employees: they no longer manage to reconcile their family and professional lives. They no longer understand the changes that are taking place in the company; no longer know where they stand in the chain of production.

Individualism: Alain Ehrenberg discusses the view that, at work as elsewhere, individualism has destroyed social cohesion and generated unease, lack of confidence and, above all, stress. Such individualism has been fostered by new management styles; greater autonomy at work having actually engendered more constraints and pressures, not fewer. Ehrenberg maintains that this negative version of individualism – one that he considers peculiarly French – fails to see that modern working methods rely on individuals becoming integrated into structures of interdependence. Yves Lichtenberger, on the other hand, argues that the present situation is experimental, a transition rather than a permanent state and, rather than seeing work as destructive of social cohesion, speaks of its power to create social bonds.

Paedophilia and Catholicism: Catholic priest Stéphane Joulain accounts for the frequency of paedophilia among Catholic clergy by pointing to the power that attaches to the person of the priest ("brother, father and teacher"), the lack of day-to-day accountability of secular clergy, the fact that they may have no one in whom to confide, the complicity of close friends and admirers and the inability of one guilty priest to refuse pardon to another. Celibacy, however, is not mentioned as a major contributory factor.

The full table of contents of Esprit 10/2011

Mittelweg 36 5/2011

The concept of "ordinary men" has been central to explanations of genocidal actions in Holocaust research since the 1970s, writes Christoph Schneider in Mittelweg 36. But what exactly is "ordinary" or "normal"?

Social-psychological experiments usually start from the assumption that human beings are inherently "good", "sane" and "normal": "'Evil', on the other hand, arises in and through social dynamics, which are simulated in experiment. In other words: good people turn evil." In this view, ordinary men exposed to the dynamics of the camp take on the "role" of torturers and murderers, only to return home to their real, stable identities as loving husbands and fathers. Schneider concludes:

The social anthropology of normal men in effect reproduces the ideal that people possess one identity, which is then modulated by factors such as 'roles' or 'situations'. Research into perpetrators needs to distance itself from this conception and play with the notion that subjects perhaps fundamentally have multiple identities available to them. Taking this as a point of departure it is then possible to consider whether such states of hybrid identity might perhaps paradoxically deserve the term 'normal'.

Kristallnacht as performance: Analysing the practices of violence of the Kristallnacht from the perspective of performance theory, Anne Kunze writes that: "Because and insofar as violent acts are performative, it is the violent event that actually creates victims, perpetrators and onlookers. Consequently, the public of the pogrom was not a mere gathering of onlookers or bystanders that because of its passivity was irrelevant to the violence being watched. On the contrary, also those onlookers who did not become co-perpetrators need to be seen as actors in the violent practices. The collective viewing of the 'performance' created community. It is this 'national community', which otherwise often only belonged to Nazi rhetoric, that realized itself in this collective observation of the fires."

The full table of contents of Mittelweg 5/2011

Intellectum 7 (2010)

"When the Yugoslavia Tribunal was set up people said it was an improvement [on Nuremberg] because it was not created by the victors. But everybody knows that it nevertheless had a political agenda because it was created by the Security Council." In Intellectum, Victor Tsilonis interviews William Schabas, renowned expert on human rights law, genocide and the death penalty who has publicly criticized the International Criminal Court for its claim towards impartiality.

Schabas, who proposes a restrictive interpretation of the crime of genocide, opposed the arrest warrant placed on Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir in 2010. Instead, he saw it as a politically motivated decision influenced by the US desire to eliminate an enemy. This position potentially places Schabas alongside "crazy heretics", however he stresses that he doesn't have an argument with the court per se:

What I want is to have us acknowledge that these are political choices and then discuss the political values that animate those choices. [...] I believe pretending that the prosecution of Sudan is not political is a mistake. Of course it is political. Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza? Because of politics.

Crisis discourse: "The current crisis," writes Athena Avgitidou, does not impoverish the paradigm of the free and self-regulated market but constitutes an anomaly which is integrated into it, thus preventing transition to a new paradigm. Economic neoliberalism is once again mythologized, surpassing its historical dimension, relieved of responsibility for the recession and declared the sole efficient economic system to be protected at all costs."

Virtual rebels: Despite ceaseless social networking, the virtual rebel's many hours of online agitation remain largely unproductive. Victor Tsilonis says it's time for some real-time.

The full table of contents of Intellectum 7 (2010)

La Revue nouvelle 10/2011

"David Cameron's proposals all seem to point in the same direction but fail to address the real essence of the problem: the terrible inequalities to be found in British society," writes Benoît Lechat in La Revue nouvelle of the political reaction to the urban riots in the UK. And in an article entitled "multiculturalism on trial", Albert Bastenier accuses "Europe's conservative triumvirate" (Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron) of capitalizing on the twin fears of globalization and of Islam. According to them, he writes, "our democracies have been over-careful to preserve the identities of the newcomers and insufficiently concerned to protect those of the host cultures." Drawing an illuminating parallel between globalization and the industrial revolution, Bastenier writes:

Any discourse about defending our values that believes that globalization could take place without a flow of migrants which would be culturally disturbing for our social order, is as unrealistic as it was to imagine, in the nineteenth century, that development of industrial society could take place without the rural masses marching to join the urban proletariat and causing a radical transformation of the social antagonisms of the time. The discourse of that time held that the working class was a dangerous class.

Tunisian elections: Cécile Laborde considers the atmosphere of conflict generated in Tunisia and other Arab states by the apparent alternatives offered by Islamism – the institution of sharia law, repression of women – and western-inspired political authoritarianism. This supposed duality, she argues, derives from a neo-colonial concept of a clash of civilizations post 9/11: however the choice is not between a western-approved autocracy and an Iran-style theocracy. The conservative political parties in Middle Eastern countries, she claims, have more in common with the US religious Right than they do with the ayatollahs, whilst their opponents' standpoint is that of an inclusive secularism rather than militant atheism.

Georges Brassens: On the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Georges Brassens, Lucien Noullez offers an affectionate assessment of this most engaging of singer-poets. Like one of Brassens's earliest biographers, Alphonse Bonnafé, Noullez attributes much of his appeal to a happy though poverty-stricken childhood.

The full table of contents of La Revue nouvelle 10/2011

Neprikosnovennij Zapas (NZ) 78 (4/2011)

Stalin's 1925 phrase "Proletarian in content, national in form" could have been coined with Belarus in mind, writes Yulia Chernyavskaya in an issue of NZ (Russia) focusing on nationalities policy in the Soviet Union. Belarus' peasant culture and poverty, and the high value placed on equality, adaptability and conformity made the country particularly susceptible to Soviet ideology. Being part of the USSR offered many Belarusians their first chance of social mobility, while being seen as number three in the hierarchy of Soviet nations gave them a sense of pride; after WWII the self-perception as a heroic martyr nation added to this.

Uzbekistan: In Uzbekistan, the deliberate vagueness of Stalin's dictum enabled Soviet ideologues to vary the emphasis on "national form" and "socialist content" as it suited them. Sergei Abashin documents the Soviet use of the traditional Uzbek Mahalla, a community-based urban support network. Resurrected soon after the revolution, they initially served the purely practical purpose of mediating between the local population and Soviet authorities. Gradually, however, their authority expanded to ideological ends, eventually forming a key element of the national ideology of independent Uzbekistan.

Moldova: Charting the gradual incorporation of Romanian Bessarabia into the USSR from 1920 onwards, Igor Kashu argues that the USSR was very much an empire. Discrimination in political and professional appointments as well as linguistic discrimination – the suppression of the Romanian language, renamed "Moldavian", in higher education and public life – demonstrates that it was not only Moscow but also Ukraine that played the role of an imperial centre with regard to Moldova.

André Gide: Calvinist asceticism and emphasis on professional success lay at the root of Gide's initial admiration for the Soviet system, argues Alexander Kustarev. However, the Soviet distinction between "private" and "personal" property was alien to Gide's Calvinism, raising his fear that this path would ultimately lead to the restoration of "class society".

The full table of contents of Neprikosnovennij Zapas (NZ) 78 (4/2011)

Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 10/2011

There is a renewed need to understand the depraved tendencies that are entering our cultural self-understanding and political climate, writes Alexander Carnera in the Norwegian edition of Le Monde diplomatique. These neither appear nor express themselves as totalitarian or fascist. "We are talking about less obvious ways of excluding people from social groups, about ways of speaking about strangers that is gradually becoming acceptable even if it contains directly or indirectly excluding terms."

Carnera discovers a surprising freshness in Witold Gombrowicz's novel Ferdydurke in the present political climate. It reads as biting criticism of totalitarian structures and the psychology of fascism, even before it rears its ugly head in the form of official ideology. In his portrait of 1930s Poland, Gombrowicz explores what he refers to as "the shameful inner world":

Within our own confidential, intimate reality, we feel nothing but inadequacy, immaturity; and then our private ideals collapse, and we create a private mythology for ourselves which is also basically a culture, but a shabby, inferior culture, degraded to the level of our own inadequacy. This world... is composed of the remains of the official banquet; it is as though we were simultaneously at table and under the table.

Drawing 22 July: The comic anthology 22.07 – En bok om dagen som landet vårt aldri glemmer (22.07 – A book about the day our country will never forget) is a compilation of fifty contributions, mostly strips, about the terror attacks on 22 July. "The most striking aspect when leafing through the book is how many use the exact same metaphors," observes Morten Harper. "The strips are full of red roses and the heart-shaped outline of Utøya. Not even the contributions from abroad show much divergence from this approach. [...] It would have been a more read-worthy commemorative book if more of the contributors had allowed themselves – or forced themselves – to come at the subject from another angle."

It is not a book that invites debate, Harper continues, calling it a Norwegian version of the American comic book anthologies published in the aftermath of 9/11. "At the time they were a nice manifestation of the immediate reactions to the attacks, but re-read ten years later it is striking how narrow they are in their reflections and perspectives."

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 10/2011


Published 2011-10-27

Original in English
© Eurozine

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