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Category Archives: economics

TAPpeti volanti e manganelli

Londra 

Nonostante il blog sia inattivo, mi preme scrivere un attimo di TAP, soprattutto dopo l’indegno articolo de Linkiesta: Tragicomico Sud: la protesta insensata contro il gasdotto in Puglia.

Potrei-ma-non-voglio sottolineare che Francesco Cancellato, autore del pezzo e direttore de Linkiesta, sia quanto di più distante ci sia rispetto a chi in Puglia, sulle sponde dell’Adriatico e alla foce del gasdotto ci vive. Lombardo che scrive che una protesta in Puglia è da “tragicomico sud”, autore di pezzi che ammiccano all’Azerbaigian (anche se solo tangenzialmente) e “vidimatore” di altri pezzi che ammiccano all’Azerbaigian.

Anche io sono fisicamente distante dalla Puglia e dal movimento contro il gasdotto, ma a differenza del Cancellato, qualcosina di energia e di politica internazionale ho studiato.

Qui mi limito ad elencare una lista dei problemi che ho trovato nell’articolo e un’altra lista di problemi proprio del gasdotto.

La Grammatica

Parliamone, di un corridoio lungo 878 chilometri, di cui 550 in Grecia, 215 in Albania, 105 sotto il mare Adriatico e 8 – sottolineiamolo, servirà: otto – in Italia, dalla spiaggia di San Foca sino al confine del comune di Melendugno, in Salento, dove si connetterà con la rete dei gasdotti italiani, che già oggi, con i suoi 13mila chilometri di lunghezza lineare – sottolineiamo pure questo: tredicimila.

Not a sentence. Non ha la caratteristica di una frase, direbbero i miei amici anglofoni (e i miei insegnanti di italiano).

Miracoli dei congressi di partito, oggi pare aver cambiato idea.

Idem come sopra.

Parliamo pure dei 3 milioni di euro che pioveranno nelle casse del comune di Melendugno durante tutti gli anni dei lavori, che si protrarranno per qualche anno.

Qui non è chiaro se i contributi arriveranno ogni anno o se i 3 milioni siano complessivi.

Oltre la grammatica: la supponenza

Per smettere di fare dell’Italia […] la barzelletta d’Europa. E del Mezzogiorno, la tragedia d’Italia.

La maggior parte delle opere incompiute sono (state) finanziate da fondi statali, cioè qualcuno ci mangia. Una sostanziale parte sono anche fondi europei non/mal spesi che sono ritornati a Bruxelles. TAP con questo non c’entra nulla. Se chi protesta viene ascoltato, l’opera si farà e verrà portata a termine.

Nota a margine: oggi il Mezzogiorno è la tragedia d’Italia, ma non mi pare che i giornali italiani abbiano parlato di quei fannulloni mangiapaneatradimento del nordovest quando si protestava la TAV. L’insulto gratuito al Mezzogiorno è forse l’aspetto che più di tutti de-legittima l’articolo di Cancellato.

Il NIMBY

Qualcuno ha già scritto che non si tratta di NIMBY, non è campanilismo di quarta serie, ma attenzione per l’ambiente. Molti pugliesi vogliono che TAP si faccia, solo non dentro una riserva naturale. Altri pugliesi non la vogliono per ragioni di NIMBY, altri per motivi politici, ma perché buttare tutto in un calderone “tragicomico”?

Il contributo di TAP al fabbisogno italiano/europeo

L’Italia consuma tra 65 e 75 miliardi di metri cubi di gas all’anno. Il 90% di questi è importato dall’estero. Il 51% del gas importato viene dalla Russia attraverso gasdotti di epoca sovietica che attraversano (e riforniscono) mezza Europa. L’Europa consumava oltre 500 miliardi di metri cubi di gas all’anno fino al 2013, adesso si attesta a circa 470 miliardi. Di questi l’Europa importa circa il 70%. La Russia, che non ha mai tagliato i rifornimenti (se non all’Ucraina) continua a esportare gas come sempre e si prepara a dover pagare anche qualche penale per aver imposto un prezzo troppo caro un lustro fa. Circa il 40% dei volumi di gas importati in Europa arrivano dalla Russia.

TAP, sponsorizzato in lungo e in largo quale risposta alla dipendenza dalla Russia, porterà sulle spiagge pugliesi ben 10 miliardi di metri cubi di gas. Il 2.5% del consumo annuale europeo. Trattasi di niente. Se fossimo dalla parte dell’ambiente, chiederemmo alla Russia o all’Algeria o alla Norvegia di fornire ulteriori 10 miliardi di metri cubi senza costruire altre infrastrutture. O meglio, se veramente fossimo dalla parte dell’ambiente, troveremmo il modo di consumare il 2.5% in meno di energia.

E poi, Cancellà, risparmiaci i dati sui gasdotti che non subiscono incidenti al di sopra di un certo millimetraggio. Vai a vedere i danni ambientali che incidenti (che ovviamente sballano le statistiche) che coinvolgono il gas naturale hanno causato in tutti gli angoli del pianeta.

La politica internazionale del gasdotto inutile

Il Dipartimento di Stato americano e Bruxelles hanno spinto così tanto per il famigerato Southern Gas Corridor come risposta all’egemonia energetica Russa che si sono trovati con nulla in mano. Il maestoso progetto Nabucco si è trasformato in TANAP (16 miliardi di metri cubi dall’Azerbaigian alla Turchia) + TAP (10 miliardi di metri cubi dalla Turchia all’Italia attraverso la Grecia e l’Albania). Dalle enormi ambizioni alla striminzita realtà.

Trans_Adriatic_Pipeline

Per usare un titolo che quelli in giacca e cravatta responsabili di quest’inutile infrastruttura capiranno: “Ghiaccio su pene

Ma perché si spinge così tanto? Perché conviene. TAP è un consorzio di compagnie registrato a Baar, in Svizzera, dove molte entità offshore fanno il bello e il cattivo tempo senza pubblicamente dichiarare i loro bilanci. Oltre a BP, l’altro principale shareholder è SOCAR, la compagnia di bandiera azera. E c’è pure Snam, quindi ci sono interessi italiani con i quali Cancellato avrebbe dovuto fare i conti: non è “solo un investimento straniero che stiamo rifiutando”.

Ma stiamo in Azerbaigian, lungamente criticato per l’oppressione delle libertà e dei diritti umani, dove giornalisti e attivisti vengono arrestati ogni giorno, letteralmente. Ma vabbè anche Putin è cattivo e quindi non importa la qualità del regime per scegliere i fornitori di gas. Dalla chimica alla metafora, il gas puzza ancora meno del denaro.

I problemi sono di trasparenza: l’Azerbaigian è stato di recente espulso dall’EITI, un’iniziativa transnazionale per assicurare che certi standard amministrativi, ambientali e finanziari siano rispettati dalle compagnie che si occupano dell’estrazione e della vendita di materiali del sottosuolo, tra cui ovviamente il gas. Secondo l’EITI, l’Azerbaigian non rispettava gli standard. La Banca Europea per la Ricostruzione e lo Sviluppo l’anno scorso aveva lanciato un monito: se l’Azerbaigian non migliora gli standard di trasparenza, il prestito promesso per TANAP+TAP potrebbe saltare.

I manganelli

Dopo aver visto la polizia entrare con forza in una biblioteca universitaria a Bologna e dare mazzate qua e là pensavo di aver visto abbastanza per quest’anno. E invece no. Il Comitato NO TAP ha protestato a San Foca nel sito dove TAP sta conducendo i lavori preliminari di scavo e di espianto di ulivi ed è stato caricato più volte, nonostante la protesta fosse incredibilmente pacifica. Un pacifismo quasi esagerato, visto che c’erano ulivi su camion che venivano portati via come automobili su un carroattrezzi.

Ebbene, chi sta difendendo cosa? La polizia (e il governo che ce l’ha mandata) in tenuta anti-sommossa non difende il territorio, ma una compagnia di dubbia trasparenza che vuole costruire un gasdotto di dubbia importanza nel bel mezzo di una riserva naturale.

Chi, a distanza, difende il “progresso” senza capire le ramificazioni politiche, sociali e ambientali è “tragicomico”. Oppure, ma non vorrei essere maligno, è a libro paga di un dittatore.

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On Gazprom, the Kremlin and Foreign Policy Decision-Making in Russia

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

Today an article that I co-wrote with a colleague and friend of mine was published in the 25th volume of Irish Slavonic Studies (full issue in .pdf), the academic journal of the Irish Association for Russian, Central and East European Studies. In May 2012 I flew to Cork, Ireland to give a presentation of the preliminary findings of the paper Ludovico Grandi and I had written over the previous Christmas and Easter vacation (because that’s how researchers employ their free time). I am grateful to the wonderful and eclectic Irish Association, which gave us the possibility, even as young researchers, to publish on their journal, but most of all to participate in their annual conferences, that enriched my knowledge, extended my network, and helped me amend some fallacies from my work. For the 2012 edition in Cork I wrote a blog post and a report, I couldn’t do the same for this year’s conference in Dublin, which was equally outstanding.

It’s a rather descriptive piece, that lacks a deeper analysis of the meanders of Russian foreign policy and the influence that National Corporations have upon the decision-making processes, but a) the lack of space and time; and b) our overarching purpose prevented us from a more profound research. In reality, I had captured some of the technicalities of the influence of energy issues in Russian foreign policy already in 2011 with my thesis/book (which will soon be available free of charge). Moreover, our effort mainly aimed to poke academic research in the troubled grounds of complexity.

It has been far too easy for academics, as well as journalists and experts, to sweep everything under the carpet and apply a blanket judgement on “Russia” as an “energy superpower”. This raw point of departure fails to take into account the variety of actors and interests involved in the decision-making process that shapes foreign policy. With this paper we point out the dynamics between the Kremlin and the National Champions of Gazprom and Rosneft’.

Our main argument is that there are periods of concentration of interests, i.e. the interest of the two state-owned energy companies and that of their owner coincide, when Russian foreign policy is spelled with one voice, also using the much advertised “energy weapon”. However, and counter to a substantial branch of the literature, we observed that in periods of competing interests, decision-making in Russian foreign policy is contested by the various actors, as in the case with TNK-BP until the summer of 2012. Timing is important when you bring up an example: Russian actors have acted in concert since the confusion that led up to the heated summer of 2012 and now display a more cohesive stance towards the case that we analyzed. This fact, however, does not weaken much our argument, since we wished to depict precisely the periods of “concentration” and “competition” that influence the decision-making in Russian foreign policy.

So here we are. Clicking on the picture below, you can read the .pdf version of the article. And yes, the picture below shows you that the article before ours was written by Peter J. S. Duncan, one of the guiding stars in our research path.

iarcees25

gràcies per res, esplorazioni nell’Artico!

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

Come dicevo nello scorso post, tra le tante avventure che mi tengono impegnato oggi, c’è stata un’intervista con un magazine catalano sul presente e futuro dell’Artico. Il bravo giornalista Jaume Vinyas mi ha chiamato e mi ha fatto alcune, interessanti domande, per un articolo sul portale ExtraMurs.cat.

Ne è venuto fuori un articolo molto interessante e ben bilanciato, tra questioni economiche, energetiche e ambientali, con interviste condotte anche con i collaboratori di Greenpeace. Io ho fatto la “voce della Russia e delle multinazionali dell’energia”, perché va bene sperare, ma se “i capi” dicono sì, si va avanti.

“La Russia non ha la tecnologia sufficiente e per tanto ha bisogno di accordi con compagnie multinazionali” – le compagnie coinvolte “si assumeranno tutti i rischi necessari” – “L’Artico è molto importante per la Russia perché sulla terra ferma i giacimenti sono vecchi e in declino, e pertanto si esauriscono” – “La Russia è uno dei Paesi meno avanzati in termini di tecnologia per (il monitoraggio e la prevenzione dei) versamenti, “oil spills”, e dunque uno di quelli che inquina di più“.

Questi sono i virgolettati. In generale dico che con l’apertura di spiragli economici, questo assicurerà il lancio di nuovi progetti, che contribuiranno, in parallelo con le nuove rotte marine, al riscaldamento globale, eliminando progressivamente le barriere (di nuovo, economiche) che avevano impedito le esplorazioni nell’Artico in passato.

Un cane che si morde la coda, insomma. E poi muore, perché se andiamo avanti così, rompiamo l’unico frigorifero che abbiamo sulla Terra.

#VotAntonio

Glasgow, UK 

Da troppo tempo non utilizzo il blog. Continuo a ricevere visite, il che è piacevole, ma ogni tanto sento il bisogno di scrivere, ma purtroppo il tempo manca. Ecco un post in italiano su una questione insignificante: le primarie del centrosinistra.

Le primarie del centrosinistra sono un evento insignificante perché nessuno dei candidati rappresenta un’idea, ma solo un volto (ci stiamo avvicinando all’America e alla sua depoliticizzazione). Un evento insignificante perché avvengono in un momento storico che ci ricorda che esistono cose più importanti a cui pensare: la stretta di Monti & co. sulla gola degli italiani e la guerra in Palestina. Chiunque sarà “eletto” non si preoccuperà minimamente di contrastare le politiche neoliberiste della Bocconi e di Bruxelles o le politiche razziste e neoimperialiste di Israele e NATO. Dunque perché preoccuparsene?

Io ho dedicato due ore della mia vita a guardare con attenzione il dibattito su Sky (su youtube, che è più facile). L’ho fatto perché da fuori, a più di 2.000 km da casa, è importante capire cosa succede. Allo stesso modo, ho seguito le elezioni siciliane, sulle quali non ho scritto, ma ho pensato molto.

Nel merito, sui candidati alle primarie del centrosinistra ho alcune idee:

Non so perché Tabacci sia nel centrosinistra. Capisco il motivo per il quale egli sia per il centrosinistra (in modo da attrarre i più aperti tra i democristiani, azione in cui compete con Nichi).

Bersani mi è sembrato stanco, superbo e senza idee; è l’unico che è espressione di un partito (Nichi è il demiurgo del suo) e fa trasparire molto bene tutte le contraddizioni di un partito morto nell’Ottobre 2007.

Renzi è un rottamatore sia di vecchiume, sia di ideologia, sia di politica. Votare Renzi significa spegnere il cervello, tradurre tutto in inglese e tedesco e uniformarci a Bruxelles e Washington.

La Puppato è quella che mi ha convinto più di tutti. Pragmatica, amministratrice, senza peli sulla lingua.

Purtroppo, le primarie sono l’elezione di un leader, di una faccia per i poster, non un dibattito sulle politiche e sulle idee. Non voterò, perché non voto in condizioni di democrazia limitata (accesso alla scheda, regole) o in condizioni di ideologia limitata (se quello “più a sinistra” è un catto-comunista, non posso scegliere il mio rappresentante!).

Tuttavia consiglio un voto “inutile” alla Puppato oppure un voto “utile” a Vendola (e mannaggia a Veltroni che ha inventato questi termini).

Marketing Academic Achievements

Oakland, CA

Roughly one year after the publication of my MA thesis as a book, I received in the mail a special package, containing the first peer-reviewed and fully-recognized publication of academic relevance I have ever written. This one sounds more like the first real step into the academic world.

The book, although cherished by parents, relatives, and friends, was crafted by me, with the dear help of my mentor and my partner. The paper published by European Perspectives weeks ago was the outcome of my first international conference as a protagonist and the first peer-review process. One question keeps me confused: what should authors do to emerge from the crowd and make their voices heard in the midst of a world where publishing (and self-publishing) has become easier and easier?

My youngest cousin was born on 11/11/2011. The doctors planned the date for the cesarean section for that unique day. However, I was already set to go to London for my first international conference as a speaker, the presentation ready and a first draft of the paper completed. I was disappointed to miss such a happy family event, but everybody had a full understanding as I was going to set a milestone as well. Small, lively, and intense, the One-Day Energy Workshop organized by Diana Bozhilova and Tom Hashimoto was a great success and featured young scholars from all over the world. Two emerging experts in energy politics, Diana and Tom arranged everything to be smooth and effective at the Bulgarian Embassy where the meeting was held. From the final applause onwards, we knew we had to work hard to finish our work, include the suggestions received, and send it to an academic journal. The plural used for the following part relates to the fact that this publication was co-authored with colleague, friend, and dreamer Elvira Oliva. November passed and the January deadline approached. Rushing through our many occupations (Elvira actually has a structured, real one!), we send in the paper, get a very thorough peer-review, and edit it accordingly. Finally, the paper is ready, shifted to another journal, and published. Granted, we could have done a better job with the graphs and with some of the content, but this effort, which lasted almost one year, generated our best achievement so far.

The process of academic publication is fairly long. You have to make sure your writing is impeccable, clear, and inequivocal. You have to take care of style, subdivision, quoting and referencing, and spelling rules. Once this process is complete – and of course, the content must be outstanding, original, and intriguing – you get slashed on something you had not previously taken into consideration. Ah, the beauty of many eyes and brains! Collectively, the whole work is perfected and solidified. Freshly out of the printer and freshly linked online, this paper conveyed the sensation of being a delicious cookie.

Back and Front of the European Perspectives journal

On another note, I just received the yearly statement for my book which has sold eleven copies. Not enough for generating royalty payments (I would have needed at least double the amount), but enough for boosting my morale even further about the recognition of my efforts. Eleven brave individuals have emptied their Amazon cart with my – rather expensive, unfortunately – book in it. Soon, after I complete my editing and I add a section on China, Russia, and Central Asian energy, I will be able to publish it for free on the website of the research center I am working with (PECOB). Free means more access and more opportunities for intellectual dialogue. As I complete my first year of relationship with my publisher, I would not repeat the experience if I were to publish another book. Mainly because the book was placed at a very high cost on the market and, although not asking for anything in return, the publisher gave me back less than I had dreamt of. [Incidentally, I think the book would have sold way more copies were it put at 1/4 of its current cost. Probably more than 4 times as much copies would have been sold. Making still zero returns for me, probably higher profits for the publisher, but chiefly, making the book available to more readers! – Here I am teaching marketing…]

The question, the main puzzle keeps standing. How should academic publications be advertised, promoted? I go around on Facebook, Google, Academia.edu, Twitter, and other social media, I published several articles online which linked to my work. I started a blog also with the purpose of promoting my writings. I received a few rewarding reviews that allowed me to improve my understanding of my own work and my mistakes in it. However, I feel that the work of this young researcher has been left out from some circles in which I was eager to participate. What sould I have done? What should I do in the future? Carpet-bomb academics, libraries, and journalists with emails about the new cookie? Have promotional events (although I hate “events” and that would accrue a significant cost and therefore push me towards the need of sales)? Circulate free copies of the manuscript? I did a mix of all of the above, minus the event, and I would like my eclectic audience to suggest what marketing strategies should I have undertaken and how much “poking around” is enough.

Italy and India: Petty, Not Pretty

Giarre, Italy

I’m writing this in English because I don’t like Italy on this issue.

The use of “we” is sarcastic, whereas the use of “I” is serious.

So close in the alphabetical list of countries, so far apart with all the rest. Generalization: Italians know nothing about India and Indians know nothing about Italy. Sure, Slumdog Millionaire and Bollywood are known in the Mediterranean peninsula, as much as pizza and La Dolce Vita are in the South Asian peninsula. However, the first I came across people from India, or with a strong Indian family background, was not that long ago, when I first arrived in California. Then I realized that I was precisely like the Italians I just criticized: ignorant. First, I could not locate anything on a blank map of the Indian sub-continent. Second, I knew nothing about the culture, the food, the music, and the customs. So I reacted, as usual, by stretching open my eyes and ears as much as possible in order to listen and understand more about this whole world unknown to me.

While mine was a voluntary learning experience – that, to be fair, I did not take too far – the Italian public nowadays is being forced into learning toponyms, watching archival footage of a faraway land, and staring at mute speeches of Indian politicians. The journalist’s voice runs over the video report spelling out the same names and information over and over, because there is nothing else to talk about than a legal dispute between an Italian tanker and an Indian fishing boat.

The Events, Briefly

Two members of the Italian army were arrested with the accusation of having killed two Indian fishermen on February 15. The Italian’s side defense is as follows: The Italian tanker sent warnings to the approaching boat, which did not respond. So, for fear of being attacked by pirates, as it had been happening frequently, from the Italian cargo a few warning shots were directed in the whereabouts of the boat, without actually hitting the boat (they were “warning” shots, after all!). Moreover, the Italian side argues that the whole incident took place in international waters, i.e. outside the limits where Indian jurisdiction would be competent for dealing with the case.

The Indian side counters all these affirmations. The arrest had a clear charge, murder. The Italian soldiers are held in prison and will face a trial because they are accused of having killed two Indian fishermen without warning in Indian waters. According to this version, there’s little to be done for the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has been traveling to India and sending countless envoys to save Italy’s face in the case.

Then there’s another possible explanation: The Italian tanker intercepted a pirate ship and fired against it, either hitting the innocent fishing boat or just provoking a deroute to the pirates who then shot on the fishermen. Italian journalist have declined the possible war of religion (the fishermen were Catholic) and the monstruous alien’s explanation. Personally, I am very thankful for the latter responsible stand.

What We Won’t Hear (As Much) In Italy

The Financial Times reports that today, February 27th, a file was opened by Indian authorities on alleged irregularities from Finmeccanica, a defense industry giant company. Italy and its government have high stakes in Finmeccanica and if the helicopter deal worth $560 million is to be voided, it would be a harsh blow at this evergreen Italian business. Italy has gained the favor of  many dictators and some military-thirsty countries by providing with cutting-edge defense tools.In 2010, Finmeccanica won a bid over Sikorsky, a US firm, for the supply of helicopters.

State-controlled Finmeccanica has gone through dire times lately, when its chairman and his wife (who chaired a subsidiary company) were induced to resign over allegations of corruption and nepotism. Further clouds to its reputation would surely obscure its market position in India and force “shrimp steps” away from a fast-growing and interesting country. Factoring out the whole (petty) discussion about nuclear weapons, the Italian attitude looks like the one that induced the pulling out from Iran, which will prove unfortunate and myopic in the upcoming years.

Face It, Our Country Is Petty

Italians: we are one percent of the world’s population and we feel that Ancient Rome, Dante, and our culinary and filming abilities will save us from the world’s oblivion of our existence. India is unknown to Italians (and the West altogether, if I may) although it represents a big chunk of the earth and about a quarter of the population. By no means I regard a society so stratified, so reliant on religion, so divided as a “democracy”, be such term intended in its “Western” meaning or in its original one. However, India is taking giant steps towards the economic leadership of the world. Not so different from China in its “let them do politics, we’ll make money”-approach, it is going to be a clear protagonist of this century.

Conversely, Italy might just watch its own sunset with this skirmish. The traditional, twentieth century power, and former colonizer succumbs in a few diplomatic quarrels to the emerging power and still doesn’t know what to do about it. While going through the desert of power demise, Italy found itself naked, without a camel or a guide. This is a clear sign that Italy’s say in the global community has lost the power that Rome had struggled to regain after World War II. Let’s go learn about the real subjects of tomorrow’s world order, instead of sitting in grey-haired Western political clubs.

Su Pei Monti

Giarre, Italy

Questa è la traduzione del post di qualche giorno fa sulla crisi. Proverò a rispettare fedelmente le mie parole, onde evitare di scrivere altro e creare confusione. Quindi, chi ha già letto “Ain’t No Monti High Enough” è esonerato dal rileggere. Tuttavia, incoraggio i commenti, visto che prevedo di scrivere ancora sulla crisi politica in risposta alla crisi economica. Ho cominciato il mio intervento precedente con un gioco di parole su una canzone di Marvin Gaye e Tammi Terrell. Per il presente scritto, ho scelto un verso di un mottetto degli alpini, visto che la crisi sembra sempre più una vetta da scalare e che “Monti” è il cognome perfetto per mille giochi di parole.

Questo è un articolo sulla crisi. Ne parlo dalla prospettiva di un non-esperto, perché non credo che, a meno di essere riuscito a sopravvivere a un terremoto o a un naufragio, nessuno possa ergersi a “esperto in gestione di crisi”. Siamo tutti novizi, specialmente quando i grandi accademici ci avvertono che questa crisi somiglia a quella del 1929. Nessuno di noi era lì allora, almeno in posizione di “gestire” la crisi. E se ci fosse qualche superuomo in grado di contraddirmi, probabilmente la sua senilità non gli permette di essere lucido abbastanza da comprendere l’oggi. Stiamo tutti tirando a indovinare.

Cominciamo. Il supercapitalismo del nuovo millennio sta cercando nuovi modi di affrontare le proprie contraddizioni. Ma non più ritornando alle politiche keynesiane che, insieme al nazionalismo prima e alla divisione ideologica durante la guerra fredda, hanno tenuto il sistema in piedi.

Senza più partiti socialdemocratici ai governi dei Paesi europei, ci sono poche possibilità che le riforme necessarie alla sopravvivenza del capitalismo siano portate a termine. La socialdemocrazia infatti ha tenuto alto il vessillo del capitalismo attraverso politiche espansive che hanno ridotto la distanza tra le classi sociali, senza però mostrare interesse verso il principio di uguaglianza – quando lo fecero era per conquistare i voti a sinistra – e progressivamente abbandonando l’idea della lotta proletaria – avevano anche bisogno dei voti del centro, dopotutto. L’onda conservatrice degli inizi degli anni 2000 è stata seguita da una dura crisi economica e da tornate elettorali sempre più conservatrici. La bassa partecipazione al voto testimonia che i delusi lasciano del tutto il circo elettorale.  La socialdemocrazia, d’altro canto, è in crisi: non riesce a rialzarsi dalla sconfitta e a presentarsi come l’alternativa. A mio parere, questo succede a causa del fenomeno della perdita di memoria, che si ripete ciclicamente tra i movimenti sociali. A questo non c’è soluzione. Non bisogna sperare che un Partito Democratico o un Partito Socialdemocratico venga a risolvere i problemi in una maniera diversa da quella standard e capitalista.

La bonanza finanziaria fittizia di cui hanno profittato le banche è passata sotto il naso degli Stati. Tutto quel denaro virtuale ha gonfiato la bolla che è scoppiata qualche anno fa, provocando un cieco e irregolare effetto domino. In pochissime parole, gli Stati non sono riusciti a regolare il mercato che gli stava usurpando la sovranità. Quando un’istituzione finanziaria possiede il debito privato e pubblico e finanzia le campagne elettorali, ci sono poche possibilità di scampo per i politici all’inchinarsi e all’obbedire alle banche che chiedono la deregolamentazione sulle operazioni finanziarie. Allo stesso tempo, un altro tipo di istituzione finanziaria è entrata in gioco, protagonista di un capitalismo senza fair play: l’agenzia di rating. Il quartier generale è generalmente a Londra, oppure a New York, la squadra è formata da pupilli delle scuole di business (MBA) e da economisti assetati di STATA. Il ruolo dell’agenzia di rating è di dare un voto al debito degli Stati. A causa della crisi, queste agenzie hanno cominciato a declassare i rating degli Stati, conseguentemente esponendo molte economie nazionali a problemi sempre maggiori (mancata ricezione di investimenti e impossibilità di ripagare il debito). Con queste economie al collasso, l’Europa, l’America e alcune altre realtà oltre gli Urali hanno sofferto la peggiore crisi degli ultimi 50-80 anni.

Le banche che soppiantano gli Stati, i derivati che aggirano le leggi e il comportamento incerto delle vecchie potenze verso quelle emergenti hanno portato a un’evidente deficit democratico nel mondo occidentale. Non credo che la “democrazia”, nella sua accezione attuale, sia un concetto occidentale, ma credo che il deficit si verifichi proprio nel concetto occidentale di democrazia. La “politica attraverso le elezioni” ha perso la propria importanza e il suo fascino verso il pubblico. Solamente nel 2011 siamo stati testimoni di molteplici esempi di “movimento-anti“: gli indignados spagnoli, la Primavera Araba, il movimento Occupy americano e le rivolte in Grecia. Milioni di persone sono state mobilitate dalle proprie sensazioni, che gli indicavano che qualcosa non andasse nel modo in cui la società è governata. Queste persone non vogliono ripetere questa esperienza (vedi i Forconi) e guardano ai politici e ai potenti come tutti uguali. Sì, questa è la crisi più profonda della democrazia nel mondo occidentale dal momento della sua creazione – da notare che anche il concetto di “occidentale” è artificiale e quindi modificabile – e non sembra che la classe dirigente sia cosciente della minaccia che dovrà affrontare.

La soluzione che l’Occidente propone è austerità: “Stringete la cinghia, gente, bisogna tenere in piedi il capitalismo e questa volta il 99% di voi dovrà pagare in contanti”. Come se fosse normale pensare che il capitalismo sia la soluzione di tutti i problemi. Certo, quando funziona, quando prende le adeguate misure per contrastare crisi gli eccessi, verso l’alto e verso il basso, il capitalismo è simpatico alla stragrande maggioranza del pubblico. Ma è nei momenti di crisi che le persone cominciano a metterlo in discussione. Se ne parla perfino. Si riconosce come entità, non come assioma, come sta accadendo oggi, udite udite, negli USA.

Credo che si possa percorrere un’altra via. Non c’è bisogno di vendere la Grecia, la Spagna e la Sicilia per migliorare la valutazione finanziaria dell’Europa. Dopo tutto, ogni Stato è sovrano. Nonostante ciò, non sembra che ci siano alternative al vocabolario naturale della classe dirigente capitalista. Le azioni politiche di Monti per l’Italia – allo stesso modo di quelle dell’altro governo “tecnico” in Grecia – sono viste come un male necessario. Lo spirito di sopravvivenza proprio del capitalismo è penetrato nell’anima dell’uomo e ne è pure diventato la missione. C’è bisogno che le persone si alzino in piedi e dimostrino che le azioni si possono intraprendere anche al di fuori della scatola capitalista, che per molti è diventata una gabbia. Per questa ragione, mi schiero contro i Partiti Socialdemocratici o cosiddetti Socialisti che si inchinano al dio onnipotente del denaro e della finanza invece che perseguire gli ideali che furono fondamento della loro nascita.

Ain’t No Monti High Enough

Giarre, Italy

This article is about the crisis. Addressed from a non-expert perspective, because I don’t think anyone who hasn’t survived an earthquake or a shipwreck should have a say in this as an “expert in crisis management”. We’re all newbies, especially when old academics tell us this is comparable to the 1929 economic meltdown. None of us was there then, at least in managerial positions. If some superman is out there to prove me wrong, he’s probably too old and senile to understand what goes on today. We’re all guessing. Sarà presto tradotto in italiano.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell insisted that love would overcome every kind of obstacle. At least for the three minutes they sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough“. Tammi died prematurely and her friend Marvin had to face the rough truth of the unsurmountable barrier of death. Styx and Acheron are indeed “rivers wide enough”. The “too-big-to-fail” economic paradigm of the last few years has displayed the same gay optimism of Gaye&Terrell. The only difference is that it gave false hopes to investors, small portfolio owners, and passer-by citizens. Not to teenagers at a concert. The new millennium’s ubercapitalism is trying new ways of dealing with its contradictions, no longer retorting to welfare and keynesian policies, which, together with nationalism first and the ideological divide of the Cold War later, have kept the system alive.

With no social-democratic parties left at the governments throughout Europe, there’s little chance that the reforms needed for the survival of capitalism will be carried forward. Social-democracy, in fact, has held high the banner of capitalism through expansive policies that shrank the gap between classes, although never standing for equality – when they did, they needed votes from the left – and progressively abandoning the idea of proletarian struggle – they also needed votes from the center. The conservative wave of the early-to-mid 2000s has been followed by a harsh economic crisis and by more conservative rounds of elections. The lower and lower turnout shows that those who disagree tend to abandon the electoral circus as well. Social-democracy, however, is in crisis: it cannot manage to recover from the defeat and present itself as the alternative. In my opinion, this happens because of the loss of memory that the social movements experience cyclically. There is no solution to this. One must not hope that a Democratic Party or a Social-democratic Party would come in and solve problems in a way that escapes capitalist dynamics.

Monti "The Savior"

States have overlooked the financial bonanza that was rampaging under their noses, when banks gained high revenues on the fictitious money they lent out. All that virtual money inflated the bubble that exploded a few years ago with an irregular and blind domino effect. In fewer words, states failed to regulate a market that was overtaking their sovereignty. When a financial institution owns private debt, public debt, and finances campaigns, there is little chance for statesmen to avoid bowing and nodding to every de-regulation request by banks. Meanwhile, another kind of financial organization stepped in and played dirtier capitalism, rating agencies. Based either in London or in New York and composed by formations of MBA graduates and STATA-thirsty economists, rating agencies have graded states’ debt for decades. However, due to the crisis, they started to selectively downgrade states’ ratings and putting their economy in jeopardy. With crumbling economies, European, American, and selected countries east of the Urals suffered the worst social and political crisis of the past 50 years.

Banks overriding states, financial derivatives circumventing the law, and the uncertain behavior of former powers towards the rise of new ones led to a blatant democratic deficit in the Western world. And, while I do not think that “democracy” is something standard and invented by the West, in this case, I consider a lack of democracy “Western style”. Electoral politics have lost their importance and appeal to the public. Only in 2011 we saw all sorts of anti activities, from indignados in Spain to the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement in the US to riots in Greece. Millions of people mobilized by the feeling that there’s something wrong with the way society is run and that are not willing to pose in yet another electoral snapshot. Those who campaigned for a party last year, now are unwilling to do it again (cfr. the Forconi in Sicily) and see “all politicians and powerful men as the same“. This is the deepest democratic crisis the Western world has undergone since its creation – yes, the concept of “West” is man-made, therefore susceptible of change – and it seems that the ruling class is not aware of the danger it faces.

The solution that the West is proposing is austerity: “Tighten your belts, folks, we have to keep capitalism alive and this time the 99% of you is going to pay for it in cash.” As if it was the normality to think about capitalism as the solution of all problems. Sure, when it works, when measures are taken to fight highs that are too high and lows that are too low, capitalism is nice to most of people. But it’s in time of crisis that people start putting it into question, or even talk about its existence, as is now happening in the US. I say that there could be another way. There is little need to sell out Greece, Sicily, and Spain to solve Europe’s financial ratings. After all, every state is sovereign. Yet, there seems to be no alternative to the natural discourse of the capitalist ruling class and Monti’s provisions for Italy – just like the other “technical” government in power in Greece – are seen as a necessary evil. The spirit of self-subsistence of capitalism has subtly pervaded the souls of the ordinary people and has become their mission. There’s much need for people to stand up and show that things can be done out of the capitalist box, which for many has become a cage. For this reason, I stand against Social Democratic and so-called Socialist parties that bow to the almighty god of money and finance instead of pursuing the ideals that originated them.

Acephalous Violence is Beheaded again in Kazakhstan

I have been writing this article over the course of a week. Partially because of my phisical move from San Francisco (my last activity at the Java Café on Ocean Avenue) to Oakland (the first effort in a house that keeps getting busier with much needed stuff). But also because the unraveling of the events shows how illusive is the first set of news that pops up from the papers. I guess Gutenberg was not happy of the first sheet that came out of his press. And he didn’t even write the Bible! Nowadays, instead, we read freshly-puked articles from mainstream media as if they were the Bible. Why not getting a new perspective, or just imagine there is another one?

San Francisco and Oakland (on the move), California

(a) The Logo for the Celebrations

Kazakhstan has been independent from the late Soviet Union for 20 years now. It has become the friendliest post-Soviet economy for the West and has actively participated in many international organizations. In the past couple of years, it has diversified its hydrocarbon export routes and has developed a great international reputation in the energy sector (including nuclear). Power is firmly in the hands of Nursultan Nazarbayev and his extended family since 1987 and nobody questions it. There is a caste system that dates back to the pre-Imperial Russia period and only thanks to a presidential push, the Kazakh language is spreading within all sectors of society – although the diplomatic community speaks Russian. From the West, the view of this immense country  is filtered through dollar-shaped lenses and dazed by the smell of oil. Only the facility of filing taxes, just a touch away from your mobile phone [1], and the convenient investment environment for foreign firms have drawn attention.

Welcome to the Nineties

Kazakhstan is the country where Chevron could lead a consortium of firms for the exploitation of the “giant” oilfield in Tengiz (see green pin on the map below), the contract being signed i 1993, just over a year after independence, with negotiations starting already in 1988. Later in the Nineties, TengizChevrOil was the leading force pushing for th first privately-owned pipeline project in the post-Soviet space, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which saw the light in 2001, linking Tengiz with the Russian port of Novorossiisk. The OECD was fast in labeling Kazakhstan among the fastest transitioning countries, allowing presence of western firms and holding seemingly “contested” elections. However, Nazarbayev knew that a full-fledged laissez faire approach would have pleased the West and risen tension among its neighbors, chiefly Russia, headed by Nazarbayev’s personal adversary, Boris Yeltsin.

(b) December 16, 2011 – An Arc de triomphe replica is unveiled in Astana.

When Kozyrev the “Westernizer” left Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make room for Primakov, Nazarbayev understood that the time was ripe for a clear sign of detachment from the giant neighbor. When Moscow unveiled that the presence of many Russian citizens – who were provided passports during the first half of the Nineties – could become an anchor for revanchist programs, [2] Nazarbayev acted decidedly and in 1997 moved the capital city from Almaty (Alma Ata) to Aqmola, in the Aqmolinsk province [3], renamed Astana, “capital”, for the occasion. The northbound move was a clear sign of Kazakhstan’s unwillingness for any attempt of annexation, not just an emulation of Ataturk’s abandonment of Istanbul and its spiritual charge, in favor of the more secular Ankara.

The 1998 crisis that hit the Russian Federation mitigated the revanchist threat on Kazakhstan. Western development programs were at pace and easily shaped the institutional friendliness of a country in much need for customers to buy its immense energy endowment.

2000s: The Party is Over and Mixed Emotions Arise

Around the turn of the century, while Putin was rising to power in Russia, an exploration off the Kazakh Caspian coasts prospected the existence of a relevant oil basin. Kashagan became the new Tengiz and foreign firms jumped on their boats and poured money in for winning the bid to administer the project. The western excitement, however, was to be countered by a novel strong stance by Kazakh authorities in terms of natural resources ownership. In 2002, the various state-owned agencies that were assigned with energy-related tasks fused into a single body, KazMunaiGaz, chaired by Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev [for a recent update, see below]. This move created an energy ogre that became the main interlocutor for foreign firms to secure contracts in the Kazakh territory. Moreover, in 2005 Kazakhstan scrapped the Production Sharing Agreement legislation and became more hostile to foreign intervention, especially in the energy realm.

Meanwhile, the Parliament put forward the proposition to grant Nazarbayev lifetime presidency. Nursultan Abishevich’s NUR-OTAN party was in control of the national assembly, of the polls, of every election, and it had already suggested that the capital were renamed Nursultan, but the president himself called for a de-personalization of Kazakh politics, to counterbalance the Turkmen example. As though it wasn’t plain and clear that there was only a few, related individuals in charge of the fate of the country.

OSCE finally admitted that electoral results with 90% or more of all casted votes in favor of just one party or one person were not to be labeled “free and fair”. However, its retaliation was to defer by two years its gift to Astana: the Vienna-based organization honored Nazarbayev with the first post-Soviet chairmanship in 2010.

Oil Workers: When Were We Socialist?

(c) The Coat-of-Arms of the Kazakh SSR

Socialism was superimposed in the lands of post-Tsarist Russia as a natural consequence of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. However, a few countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia had seized the opportunity of the fall of the Romanov dinasty and created their own independent sovereign states. These were “taken back” by St. Petersburg shortly after and to their administration, the Politburo often assigned native Russian cadres. Without attachment to the population and in direct contact with the central organization of the USSR, the local secretaries were in charge of administering the division of labor within the Union, which became stricter and faster-paced with Stalin’s plans, especially around the period of the Second World War. While Khrushschyov was rising to power, Leonid Brezhnev, the future Party Secretary, was assigned the highest post in Kazakhstan. The Khrushchevian “Virgin Land policy” accompanied by Brezhnev’s corrupt practices initiated a whirlwind mechanism that brought in a strong re-personalization of local politics in Central Asia and a rigid and corruption-ridden economic structure. Dinmukhamed Kunayev became the uncontested leader of the Kazakh Communist Party for decades upon Brezhnev’s departure to Moscow.

The fundamental question here is where to find Socialism, with capital “S”, within the experience of Soviet Kazakhstan. How and when did Kazakh workers emancipate themselves from the alienation typical of industrial economic relations?

To such a question posed by my Socialist imaginary interlocutor, I would respond in historical terms. Kazakhstan has been dominated by “hordes”, nomad dinasties descending from Mongol tribes that were charged, throughout history of different degrees of prestige. Upon annexation to the Russian Empire, tribal politics faded away, given the little of emphasis posed on it by Russian governors. Tribal politics however, managed to survive the neutral “Soviet” and “Kazakhstani” periods when the law did not treat citizens differently according to the horde they belonged to. In fact, today, even without a formal legal framework, a much stronger caste system permeates the Kazakh society.

Kazakh has also been the “storage compartment” for chemical, spatial, and nuclear industries, which constantly called for skilled Soviet labor, – besides Russians, many Ukranians and Germans settled in the northern regions, especially near the Baikonur cosmodrome – and for dissidents from the Caucasus, who, shortsightedly, hailed as liberators the Nazi army during the battle in Stalingrad and were sent to labor camps in the Kazakh steppes. St. Petersburg and Moscow have in turn operated as the deus ex-machina of the fate of the land of the Kazakhs, especially in terms of the working class.

When Marx was writing about his solution of the contradictions of capitalism, he had in mind English factory workers, not nomad peasants and foreign skilled workers installed in a man-made industrial complex. Lenin could not have forseen this either, notwithstanding his comprehensive study of the peasant question, because he came from a very European environment. What is here to be argued about what came to be “the Kazakh working class” is that it has never seen an original institution and the atomization of the country has led to a very stable country united under the flag of the main party NUR-OTAN and the figure of Nazarbayev, who was able to build a widespread cult for his persona and to become the dear leader of Kazakhstan.

(d) NUR-OTAN – Nazarbayev’s Party

The workers have had little chances to organize and to grow an understanding of their condition, especially in the oilfields. There, skilled workers earn from three to four times as much as the national average wage and are often protected by the immense structure of multinational corporations, who act as benevolent giants, as long as they can extract oil without hassle. The difficulties in building a class conscience has brought to a imperceptible movement against the violation of human rights and liberties that this one-man regime carries out every day, not least the very right to protest. One fact is certain: there has never been any hint of Socialism in Kazakhstan.

To draw a similitude, independent Kazakhstan at 15-20 can be compared to the People’s Republic of China at 50-60. There, dissent with the established power framework is causing riots and protests that are unknown to the media and of which there probably is no record. However, the protest is acephalous: a political direction of the struggle is lacking, and what is hailed as “democratic opposition” in the West is generally driven by wealthy businessmen that only maintain the objective of overthrowing the established power to replace the political figures with more friendly allies. [4] Meanwhile, there are widespread corruption and nepotism tackling workers’ rights with a clear distinction between local manpower and foreign skilled contractors – which has enhanced social unrest within the working class (see below).

In the Press and in Academia

On the day that marked Kazakhstan’s 20 year anniversary of the independence from the Soviet Union, clashes between workers and the police erupted in Zhanaozen, an oil town on the eastern shore of the Caspian sea (see yellow pin on the map below). At least 14 people are reported killed in the incidents, many more were injured and over 70 were arrested. The official source of information in Kazakhstan, KazInform has also pointed out that 46 sites were “looted and burned” during the mass protests, including one house pertaining to the director of the operating company UzhenMunaiGaz.

(e) PressTV.ir – An Image from the Protest

One of the President’s Aides told the press that “All citizens of Kazakhstan condemn the events in Zhanaozen”, seizing the role of people’s spokesman. The Federation of Trade Unions, in cahoots with the structure of power, released a declaration condemning the incidents and assuring that none of their affiliates took part in “inconstitutional and illegal actions”. Kazakh authorities labeled protesters with the much worn Russian term хулиган, “hooligan”, often used to address naughty children, and established a three-week long state of emergency in the town. It must be noted that, during the clashes, state authorities acted with with an extraordinary firm fist against the spread of violence. Notably, “Kazakh telecommunications firm Kazakhtelecom turned off social media site Twitter, while phone service in Zhanaozen was reported to be unpredictable.”

(f) The Riot in Tengiz

Protests had arised in 2004 in the Caspian oilfield of Tengiz, and later in 2006, when oil workers from Kazakh origin came to clash with Turkish workers, all employed by the TengizChevroil consortium. This ethno-international confrontation was not a single case in Kazakh-Turkish relations [5]. Hardly just a personal quarrel, it is a sign of the careless approach to labor issues when multinational ventures are assigned energy projects in countries with lax legislation on workers’ rights. It is unsurprising then that in Nazarbayev’s latest condemnation of the Zhanaozen protests, he referenced the oralmany, ethnic Kazakhs from other countries, and asked them to “be grateful to the state.” [6] It is clear that more than an Arab Spring- or terrorist-inspired uprising, the government is trying to play the card of Kazakh authenticity in order to placate the spirits in the country.

Western and the Russian-based media, for different reasons, aim at the same objective. Kazakhstan is a good partner only when it is 100% stable. The first sign of instability triggers very harsh language, acrobatic comparisons, and evergreen allegations. The US Department of State did not hurry, but resolved to condemn the violence three days after, although with much more caution than the OSCE. RIA Novosti titled that the clashes could be a product of the Arab Spring, however fortunately the article itself was a much more clever read. European and American newspapers throw the “terrorism” buzzword in order to make up for their lack of understanding of such a remote region in their readers’ minds.

Thanks to a native scholar, Adil Nurmakov, we learn who financed the organization of the protest from behind the scenes. Mukhtar Ablyazov is a businessman that co-founded an opposition party in 2001, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, and was then arrested in 2002 and sat through a very political trial. Authorities released him after three months of prison upon the promise-obligation that Ablyazov would not be involved in politics anymore (the DCK was dissolved in 2005). The newspaper Respublika and the TV station K+ are directly linked to him and were the only source of information for the Zhanaozen events. How impartial this source could be is for the reader to judge. Be it possible to draw a middle line between governmental news agencies and not-so-democratic opposition, we would live in a logical, almost mathematical world. Alas, we cannot and our judgement must remain devoid of any quick resolution.

[UPDATE] To further blur the picture that many consider perfectly clear in the past few days Nazarbayev has decidedly beheaded the giant holding Samruk-Kazyna, which controls KazMunaiGaz and was chaired by his son-in-law Kulibayev. Dinara Nazarbayeva (or Kulibayeva, depending to the occasion), one of the most influential Central Asian women according to RFE-RL, must be very disappointed seeing her husband and future leader of the country being sacked just like two KMG board members after the Zhanaozen riots. The president perhaps thought that by giving a clear signal of holding the bridle, the raged horses rampaging the streets of western Kazakhstan would be hindered from more action.

The Headless Chicken Keeps on Running

Something holds true however. There is increasing unrest in many countries where capitalism has failed to concede enough protections to those that are being exploited. Capitalism has learned the lesson of crisis management and, due to the apt use of Cold War rhetorics, it has survived the most dire crises throughout the XX century. Nonetheless, debates within business, academic, and political circles seem to prove that capitalism has forgotten the lesson. The hurriedly defined “Arab Spring” [7], the “OccupyWallSt” movement, the white collar protests in Moscow illuminated by the LED light of twittering smartphones, and the Zhanaozen clashes are all offsprings of the same uneasy sentiment. An unconscious class is rising up against the financial system, the great protagonist of the post-Berlin wall era. An economy alienated by itself, where money is generated by money, has provoked a mass discontent vis-a-vis political structures that are unable to sustain themselves through election and welfare.

Where will this bring us to? A graphic similitude can be individuated between the protests and chickens that keep scurrying even after having had their heads cut off. This everlasting period of crisis hinders our ability to stop and think, gather together and design a better world. When you are striving for your daily share of bread or rice, it becomes very hard to reason on of the best way to end inequalities and reach a happy life among happy people. And, what’s worse, there is no room for confrontation and discussion in the highest form. It becomes very hard to share ideas on what to do and how to organize in order to transform will into action. Therefore, we witness confused and disconnected protests that the media is trying to tie back together but in fact have each a peculiar root. Should we finally realize that it is not the single issue but the whole system that is rotten and needs a revolution – in the scientific definition of the term – then we could finally understand that the path to follow has always been in front of our, shortsighted eyes.

Notes

[1] From a private conversation with a Kazakh diplomatic officer in Washington DC, March 2011.

[2] See  writings by Aleksandr Solzhenitsin (! – yes, the one known and praised in the West for writing “Gulag Archipelago”), Sergei Karaganov, Andranik Migranian, and Igor Ivanov.

[3] Interestingly, Aqmola means “white tombstone” in Kazakh and was renamed Tselinograd during the Soviet occupation. After regaining the original Kazakh name, Nazarbayev thought it would be nicer to change the name of the prospective capital in something more pleasant than marble-for-graves. This is where the name Astana, directly translating into “capital”, was drawn from. Too bad that, as it always happens in such complex, bureaucracy-ridden states, the name of the province could not be changed. Just like today’s St. Petersburg, Russia’s western jewel mounted in the Leningrad region, Astana lies in the Aqmolinsk province. The permanence of old jurisdiction names led to an awkward consequence for the “capital” of Kazakhstan, which sits in the “white tombstone”.

[4] See the cases of Khodorkovsky in Russia and Tymoshenko in Ukraine.

[5] See Saulesh Yessenova, her article on Central Asia – Caucasus Analyst “Worker Riot at the Tengiz Oilfield: Who Is To Blame?”, February 21, 2007 and her chapter “Tengiz Crude: A View from Below” in Boris Najman, Richard Pomfret, and Gael Raballand (Eds.), The Economics and Politics of Oil in the Caspian Basin: The Redistribution of Oil Revenues in Azarbaijan and Central Asia, Routledge, London, 2008.

[6] Source: Twitter account of Nate Schenkkan, @nateschenkkan

[7] Don’t read this article, please. It is a juvenile ethnocentric attempt at individuating an “Arab Spring” offspring in such undefined and incoherent protests in Kazakhstan.

Photo Credits:

(a) (d) KazInform

(b) kjfnjy album on Tumblr.com

(c) Wikipedia

(e) PressTV.ir

(f) http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/2006/10/pictures-from-fridays-unrest-at-tengiz.html

A few thoughts on violence

When violence ensues as a means for voicing people’s opinions, the State has to fight back. Why is violence an unacceptable instrument? I am 99%, agree with 99% of what the protest is lamenting, but am not sure of the 1% of the questions they’re leaving out. As a non-violent person, I have to come to terms with violence, its roots, its meaning, and its consequences.

Giarre, Italy

In the past week we’ve been witnessing widespread violence during some of the demonstrations that are uniting the “Ninety-Nine Percent” against the wrongdoings of the capitalist society. To be explicit, Italy and Greece have shown the fiercest episodes of violence. In the United States, violent police repression has not met any violent reaction from the camping crowd.

What is the picture of the current situation globally? The 99% is protesting against the crisis that the capitalist financial groups have contributed to create. They are also blaming governments who have proven unable to take a single step in favor of the many in these times of hardship. There’s little in the 99% program as far as solutions are concerned. That’s because the 99% is everyone, and not even common sense gets to be that common. Tax the rich, free the market, help national companies, liberalize the markets, lower taxes (and so on) are incompatible demands. The positive sides of the protest are: the capacity to respect each other’s opinions and the acknowledgement that people have indeed a say in politics.

Politicians have tried jumping on the bandwagon of the protest, in order to gain support for the next elections. However, the movement has politely (sometimes roughly) asked them to let the 99% speak, excluding them from the proportion. This can be an interesting point for debate. How can one claim to be practicing “perfect and pure democracy” when the 1% is deliberately excluded? Representative democracies constantly exclude one minority or the other, but this movement calls for cornering one tiny slice of society and denying them the widely-chanted democratic values.

Politicians have looked down on the movement because of its lack of organization and structure. Without a clear hierarchy, it is more difficult to synthetize the thoughts of the 99% in a program to come out of the crisis. Without a chief and a board, responsibilities are unclear, control is harder, and predictability is zero.

These past two paragraphs lead to my first conclusion. The State and the parties are acting in a very conservative, quasi-fascist manner because they have not understood the movement. Also, they don’t want to admit that this crisis is their fault and that the system they’ve been part of is corrupt (not just money-wise, but its mechanism has proven disruptive for our social life). So police is violent, violent groups (otherwise easily targeted) are left free to rampage cities such as Rome and Athens, yes, the nests of what we now call “Western democracy”, and the media spreads terror lexicon on our faces.

But, is violence not the right answer? No. According to the State, parties,the 99% protesters – according to everybody – violence has to be censored, rejected, condemned, hated, incarcerated; it needs special police forces, special laws, special articles on the newspapers. Even “special reporters” have used their skills with their mobile phones to record and denounce the violent hooligans at the rallies. The novelty here is that these “special reporters” are not journalists, they are from the crowd. They are citizens, the 99%, the average person. The new kind of civil war is conducted on YouTube, and there’s three sides in it: the 98.9%, the 0.1%, and the 1%. Thanks to the fact that we make up these figures, it will always round up to 100%. The last time I was confronted with this kind of “social police”, I was reading George Orwell, Nataliya Ginzburg, Boris Pasternak. I hope such kind of society is not what the 99% movement stands for.

OK, so violence is not the right answer for who is in power or who votes for them. So why is that the democratic institutions are responding so violently? Is it just to abide to the weberian precept that the State should own the monopoly over the use of force? No. The State is trying to reinforce and protect itself, to become compelling for the many. It is only by becoming the paragon of any societal interaction that the State can continue living. And not having a grip on violence weakens the structure. Without being apologetic of violence as a way to foster dialogue – it is not – I think violence should be regarded as one way to express social discontent. For this reason, I think and I hope, the Italian 99% movement has not taken a bold stance against violent groups.

It is crucial for those who would rather like to build a new society based on equality and freedom of expression to deal with violence. Just denying it or rejecting it won’t make the discussion go further.

 

These are my serious thoughts on violence, in the next days I’ll outline my silly plans to solve violence among people and finally reach a human condition.