Foreign Affairs

Not the Backward-Glancing Comrade

Not the Backward-Glancing Comrade

On Ece Temelkuran

Temelkuran, a generation removed from Gürbılek, represents something else: not the backward-glancing comrade but the daughter of one, born in 1973, raised in Izmir by a social-democrat father and Maoist mother. It’d be hard to think of a more consummate figure of what a true Turkish “new left” would look like: democratic socialist, feminist, with books on the legacies of the Armenian genocide, on the Arab Spring, on the Latin American pink tide (untranslated), chapters and articles on Kurdish politics, nearly three million Twitter followers and a vast, sui generis facility with the media. A New Left Review essay one day—a TED talk the next.

Italy’s Christian Colony

Italy’s Christian Colony

The Lega and the myth of the Celtic origins of northern Italy

At one of his final campaign events in Milan, in a crowded Piazza del Duomo, Salvini brought out a rosary and copies of the Italian Constitution and the Gospels. These were his closing remarks: “I undertake and swear to be loyal to my people, to 60 million Italians, to serve them with honesty and courage. I swear to apply the Italian Constitution, unknown to many, and I swear to do so respecting the teachings contained in these sacred Gospels . . . Let’s go govern and take back our splendid country!” The stunt was rebuked by various Catholic officials, including the archbishop of Milan. In news articles and blogs, people debated whether the act was a blasphemous use of Christian symbolism. Salvini was called a “living oxymoron” and some observers issued the familiar injunction that Christ was a Middle Eastern migrant. Even the extreme fundamentalist Mario Adinolfi wanted to impress upon Salvini that the Gospels and rosary were not ampoules.

The Left's Missing Foreign Policy

The Left's Missing Foreign Policy

On the pressing need, fifteen years after the Iraq invasion, for a non-imperial vision of the US and the world.

Today, on right and left, that past cold war consensus has cracked. While Trump doubts whether there is much of an ethical distinction between the US and Russia, activists on the left have no trouble rejecting both capitalism and empire. What is desperately needed now is a fully developed non-imperial articulation of American foreign policy—one that could challenge the Democratic Party establishment in the same way that Sanders’s call for “Medicare for All” has done.

The Battle of Mythologies

The Battle of Mythologies

Padmaavat, protest, Bollywood, and Indian national narrative

The Padmaavat protests are remarkable chiefly for the scale of their success. All kinds of groups have protested Bollywood for offending their religious or cultural sensibilities—many for good reason—but its most faithful enemies have always have been Hindu fascists. They have hated and feared the spell the movies cast over Hindi-speaking India, because no other enterprise, save electoral democracy itself, has had more spectacular success in creating a national—and a nationalist—imagination. For its part, the movie business has always been extremely faithful to its duty as the keeper of an Indian dream. When the nation broke away from the British empire in 1947, the roaring business of Bombay commercial cinema was held together by two things: the business acumen of Partition refugees, and an undivided language—the blend of Hindi and Urdu kept alive by progressive writers and actors.

Sordid, Predictable, Doomed

Sordid, Predictable, Doomed

Italian election preview

Today’s demented circus, a reality show whose rivals compete for the title of most insensate and most nihilistic, is the result of a crisis more than twenty-five years in the making. At the start of the 1990s, when Italy was preparing to enter the eurozone, the downturn in productivity was already evident, the backwardness of the economic system as undeniable as the total corruption of our political class. The crisis of 2008 and the semi-recent collapse of Europe’s core were only the icing on a rotten cake.

The Party Had Been Perfectly Correct on Every Issue

The Party Had Been Perfectly Correct on Every Issue

The end of the Zuma years

The global scandal of Donald Trump, like Zuma highly promiscuous and a figure of the grotesque and the laughable, has yielded much useful reflection on democracy, including the fact that the problem of love in politics is more complicated than it had seemed. The unattractiveness of Zuma and Trump is inscribed in everything from their ungainly physical presence to their ugly habits of casual lying and worse. Zuma’s rise was hindered neither by his having driven a wife to suicide nor by the charge of having raped the daughter of one of his close friends. The ruling party’s Women’s League demonstrated outside his friend’s daughter’s rape trial under a singular banner—“Burn the Bitch”—and, by some stroke of fortune, the victim’s house was indeed burnt down and she was forced into exile: one of the many occasions on which sections of the public have made clear their identification with the abuser. He bankrupted the country while reducing his party to a criminal enterprise. Yet he had no apparent charisma on Robben Island where, during the ten years of his imprisonment, he received not a single visitor.

The Logic of Power

The Logic of Power

Evo Morales’s new allies are political alliances, and they lack the revolutionary fervor of his old ones.

Support from social movements and unions that propelled Morales into office has undergone a series of exorcisms and adjustments that have eroded the foundation of the MAS. Some social movement leaders have been brought into the party, effectively weakening their organizations’ dissenting roles.Morales has drummed up new allies in traditional bastions of dissent, particularly in the country’s east, known as the Media Luna, where some of the most racist chants against him originated and where a violent autonomy movement at the beginning of his term nearly split the country in two. But Morales’s new allies are political alliances, and they lack the revolutionary fervor of his old ones. Aside from his staunchest supporters, in the Chapare, in some highland rural indigenous communities and among certain groups like the Bartolina Sisa peasant women’s federation, there is a general sense of listlessness that has, in the wake of the November court decision, curdled into sporadic protest.

Unsatisfactory Closure

Unsatisfactory Closure

After Jacob Zuma

Cyril Ramaphosa’s triumph makes for unsatisfactory closure, given his long silence as Zuma’s deputy, and the holdovers elected along with him to run the ruling party, not to say the dual centers of power in the party and the presidency which will likely persist until the 2019 general election. Ramaphosa lacks (or seems to lack) the psychological strangeness of his predecessors, Zuma and before him Thabo Mbeki, who were often in the grip of destructive and self-destructive political passions. He nevertheless embodies the contradictions of the society, being at once the most successful trade unionist on the continent and, as a mining executive, the face most associated with the police killing of mineworkers at Marikana on August 16, 2012.

Pirates and Traders

Pirates and Traders

A sack of oat flour was mysteriously displayed on the front desk.

The traffic in Lagos is famously bad. The local driving culture dictates tailgating, honking, flashing of brights, left turns into oncoming traffic, passing on the right, and shouting (but no cursing or lewd gestures—not in such a religious country). It isn’t rare to see a car casually reversing down an on-ramp, a motorcycle scattering pedestrians on a sidewalk, or a truck inching over a highway median to make an improbable u-turn.