Monday, December 12, 2011

Ayse Berktay

There is still no word of Ayse Berktay's release from prison in Turkey. Guardian online has just published this article by her friend, Ayça Çubukçu.

"There is a growing disjuncture between those who promote modern-day Turkey as a democracy and those who experience Turkey as a land of arbitrary detentions, political repression and military destruction.

In the past two years, the Turkish state has imprisoned thousands of its citizens under the sweeping rubric of counter-terrorism operations. The recent wave of arbitrary detentions known as the KCK operations has cast such a wide net that participation in a single protest or petition could constitute evidence of an intention to commit terrorism – if not directly, then certainly by association.

Today, even relatively privileged academic colleagues in Turkey face the prospect of sharing the fate of Professor Büşra Ersanlı of Marmara University, whose detention in October 2011 as an alleged terrorist was proudly defended by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development party (AKP).

Professor Ersanlı's imprisonment has received considerable attention in Turkey and beyond, prompting petitions, protests, and academic initiatives by her colleagues and others concerned with the deteriorating prospects of democratic politics in Turkey. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch have issued statements condemning Ersanlı's arrest as "part of a crackdown on people engaged in legal political activity with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party".

A political scientist by training, Professor Ersanlı is one among thousands of Peace and Democracy party (BDP) members – including elected parliamentarians, mayors, students and intellectuals – who have been imprisoned on account of their activism in support of the rights of Kurdish citizens in Turkey.

Some "progressive" commentators insist that Turkey, compared to many other states, at least in the Middle East, is an example of a successful democracy. Just observe, they suggest, the booming economy in the midst of a global recession, the popular wedding of "moderate Islam" and "secular" parliamentary politics and the emergence of an independent Turkish foreign policy critical of Israel and supportive of democratic forces in the Arab spring.

But is this the most that the peoples of Turkey, the Middle East and the world could hope for? Why should contemporary Turkey constitute the limit of our political imagination? Why should a state that parades its "development" through drones it purchases from the US, a state that imprisons professors, journalists, translators, lawyers, workers, and students and treats as terrorists the members of a political party representing millions of citizens – why should such a state be one to promote or follow?

Last summer, at a cafe near Istanbul's Taksim Square, I met a dear friend, Ayşe Berktay, a renowned translator, researcher and global peace and justice activist. Having not seen each other for months, we chatted as usual for a few hours about our families, lives and politics.

I am not sure when, if ever, Ayşe and I will meet at a cafe again. She is now imprisoned for an unknown period of time.

My colleague Professor Büşra Ersanlı and dear friend Ayşe Berktay are only two women among many other members and supporters of the BDP who were imprisoned as suspected terrorists in October. Another wave of arbitrary detentions followed in November, and yet others will certainly come. Whether one chooses to call them "ordinary citizens" or "activists", increasingly, politically engaged people in Turkey are expecting that strangely familiar, five o'clock in the morning knock on their doors.

This is only one reason why the widening gap between those who promote contemporary Turkey as an example to be followed by the democratic forces of the Arab spring, and those who experience the Republic of Turkey as a threatening agent of political repression, is increasingly troublesome.

At this historical moment, when daring political energies and creative imaginations are at work worldwide – from Tahrir to Taksim Square, from Damascus to Diyarbakir – we can demand much more than the example officially offered by Turkey. To do otherwise would risk betraying not only the future of democratic politics in Turkey and beyond, but all those who have already paid dearly for that future through the imprisonments, deaths, wounds and disappearances they have endured, even welcomed, during long periods of military rule and parliamentary politics alike."

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Friday, December 9, 2011

In Place of Austerity

Public sector workers must work together to prevent privatisation

Dexter Whitfield calls on public managers to ally themselves with those opposed to privatisation, in order to protect democratic, flexible public services
Guardian Professional, Thursday 8th December 2011

The financial crisis has created opportunities to accelerate the privatisation and marketisation of public services - but the policies of transformation are designed to destablise services and deconstruct democracy.

We must draw on the lessons learned in opposing marketisation and privatisation over the past three decades to promote action strategies that can stop, slow down and/or mitigate the negative consequences of neoliberal policies.

Public managers committed to radically improving in-house provision will be important allies. More systematic trade union and community intervention in transformation and procurement is required, to organise new strategies, to forge strong alliances, to combine industrial and community action, and to advance alternative policies.

The financial consequences of market failure continue to take centre stage with drastic consequences for economies, services, jobs and living standards. However, neoliberal transformation of public services and the welfare state is accelerating apace, masked in part by the debt crisis ...

Full article available from The Guardian

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Global Auction of Public Assets by Dexter Whitfield

Reviewed by Hugo Radice, University of Leeds, UK for Capital & Class

Ten years ago, Dexter Whitfield's Public Services or Corporate Welfare? gave us the first detailed critique of the growing use of private resources to 'finance' public infrastructure projects. With Global Auction, he provides a comprehensive account of just how far and wide these forms of privatisation have now spread. A movement that seemingly began as a technical innovation in project financing now threatens to transfer the design and implementation of infrastructure projects entirely from public to private hands, with taxpayers and service users footing the bill. If this continues, the consequence will be to dramatically restrict the scope of democratic decision-making in this vital part of the economy, while simultaneously redistributing income from the poor to the rich. And as with so many innovations in the history of capitalism, successive UK governments have been the most enthusiastic pioneers and promoters of this process.

Whitfield shows how high levels of public debt, a major argument for 'private' finance, can be tackled by such measures as reducing tax avoidance, sensible use charging and cutting military spending. He then outlines a positive programme of change, based on a return to close and globally coordinated regulation of the financial services sector, the revitalisation of public management, and better techniques of project evaluation. This would require an extensive worldwide campaign by public service users, community and civil society groups and trade unions ... This book is an excellent guide to this largely invisible part of the neoliberal revolution, providing us with the detailed understanding that we so urgently need if we are to combat it effectively."

(Read the full review at Spokesman Books)

Global Auction of Public Assets: Public Sector Alternatives to the Infrastructure Market and Public Private Partnerships by Dexter Whitfield is available in paperback and as an eBook from Spokesman Books.

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