jueves, 20 de julio de 2017

Nadie en quien confiar

Curiosos los tiempos que nos tocan vivir; no parece quedar nadie en quien confiar. Ni en los gobiernos, ni en la prensa, ni en el sistema económico, ni en la tecnología, ni en las organizaciones que nacieron del voluntarismo de unos cuantos. De todo esto habla la nota que sigue, escrita por Graham Vanbergen y publicado hoy en el sitio web TruePublica (http://truepublica.org.uk):

Título: The Crisis of Trust in Government and Globalisation

Texto: Trust is in crisis all around the world. The four key institutions of trust in democratic nations in business, government, NGOs, and media has been in decline for years. So much so that the majority of respondents to the Edelmen Trust Barometer (http://www.edelman.com) now believe that the overall system is simply no longer functional and therefore does not work for them. Globalisation is under threat, meanwhile, trust in government has collapsed.


The consequence to such an environment of suspicion is that people’s concerns over globalisation, the pace of innovation, employment prospects, immigration and eroding social values are turned into fear. And fear-factor politics has become endemic. The consequence is evidenced in the rise of political figures such as Donald Trump, the rise of extreme political parties across Europe, the collapse of establishment politics in France, the failure of the Italian referendum, Britain’s unexpected EU referendum result and then the Theresa May election debacle. All these events are inextricably linked because they were all decisions that were fundamentally driven by a lack of trust.

The Barometer revealed nothing less than a malignancy sweeping across democratic nations in the west. Trust in the media is now at an all-time low. Government is now the least trusted institution in half of all 28 nations in the survey. Even trust in business leaders has collapsed globally, plummeting in every country studied – whilst right at the very bottom of the survey results, government leaders retain the title of least credible.

This should really come as no surprise. In the last ten years the scandals rocking democracy have been epic. The global financial crisis that emanated in America, swept around Europe like an uncontrollable fire, austerity its only strategy to resurrect the lifeless corpse of a set of once thriving economies. Bailing out the banking behemoths on Wall Street and the City of London, in Paris, Rome and Athens, all paid for by the less well off is cited in so much anger.

The system is rigged

Financial crimes, mass money laundering tax havens, ponzi schemes, privatisation of state assets, cover-ups, the looting of entire countries, the list goes on and on. But in truth, these are the crimes of the rich and powerful and people know it.

The survey found that 53 percent believe the system is rigged, unfair and has failed them. Worse, only 15 percent believe the system is working at all and another third don’t know if the democratic system they live in works. Just think about that for a moment. Of 28 democracies, only 15 percent of the population believe that their lot is OK.

Tellingly, the survey actually asks the financially well off, the elite, what they think of the very system they are exploiting and they agree the system has failed. In addition, 48 percent of the top quartile in income, 49 percent of the college/university-educated and a majority of the well-informed (51 percent) also agree that the system has actually failed.

To recap, less than one in five of the mass population and only half of the elite think democracy and the institutions that supports it is now functional.

And yet, the gap between the trust held by the informed public and that of the mass population has widened to 15 points, with the biggest disparities in the U.S. (21 points), U.K. (19 points) and France (18 points). The mass population in 20 countries distrusts their institutions, compared to only six for the informed public.

It’s interesting that the establishment have been seriously challenged in all three of those countries with the biggest disparities.

Fear and destabilisation

As you read the 66 page report, and survey findings it becomes apparent what the real state of ‘the system’ really is in. Dire and critical are the words that come to mind.

Fear and destabilisation is driving sentiment. Corruption tops the list, but immigration, globalisation and eroding social values along with the pace of innovation all follow close behind. These fears are well founded and manifest themselves in the most sudden of political change, hence the astonishing results in Italy, America, Britain and France. These are the smoking guns of establishment failure.

The highly publicised emergence of ‘fake news’ has not helped of course. The dramatic rise of social media and huge use by billionaires and corporations to push their message with covert online strategies to manipulate elections and referendums is feeding the fear. Search engines are now providing more news delivery than human editors from the traditional sources of news.

People are now trapped in their own ‘echo chambers’ that only makes matters worse and these same people are now known to reject any notion that they don’t believe in, reinforcing the lack of trust.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer

Proof of this can be seen in one part of the report that confirms that a person like yourself is now just as credible a source of information as is a technical (60 percent) or academic (60 percent) expert, and far more credible than a CEO (37 percent) and government official (29 percent).

People now view media as part of the elite,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “The result is a proclivity for self-referential media and reliance on peers. The lack of trust in media has also given rise to the fake news phenomenon and politicians speaking directly to the masses. Media outlets must take a more local and social approach.”

One should not forget that the mass population make up nearly 90 percent of the global population and half of them live on less than $2.50 a day. Globalisation has not rescued them from poverty.

Faith in government

The mass population mistrust of government is most prevalent across Europe in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, UK, Sweden and Poland. All of these European countries now present systemic political risk to the establishment. The US and Australia are included and surprisingly, so is Canada.

As trust in the British media has fallen 4 places in just one year to seventh from bottom, only just behind, Turkey, Poland and Russia and trust in NGO’s has fallen in 21 of 28 countries (Britain again falls four places to seventh from last), so does trust in everything else.

In all these findings there was the real sense of injustice. Then there was a lack of hope, a lack of confidence and a desire for change and it was government who is predominantly causing this anxiety.

In 2017, 50 percent of the countries in the barometer have reported a complete loss of faith in ‘the system.’ The US ranks 13th from last, the UK 10th last,  Germany 9th, Italy 2nd from last and France last. In contrast, Russia and China rank amongst the highest for faith in their systems.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer

Corruption is now feared by 77 percent of respondents. And 79 percent are fearful about globalisation, 83 percent are concerned about social erosion and 72 percent about immigration. The pace of innovation seriously concerns 68 percent – no doubt this will increase over time with continual reports of the rise of robotics and technology such as artificial intelligence.

As for the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. 54 percent said that the system had failed them and that they were fearful for the future. That fear dropped to 27 percent for those that voted to remain in the EU.

Traditional news and broadcast media are now showing the steepest declines in audience of all mediums. 53 percent of people do not listen at all to people or organisations that they do not agree with, with 59 percent finding the information they want from search engines.

Contrary to what government’s say, 64 percent believe in leakers and whistleblowers, but only 36 percent believe in corporate press releases and company statements.

Globalisation is notable as 50 percent agree it is taking them in the wrong direction with 60 percent fearing; loss of jobs to foreign competitors (60%), immigration (58%), jobs moving to cheaper markets (55%) and automation (54%).

Protectionism leads to nationalism

Here we can see how protectionism is now dominating the political arena. 72 percent in the survey say government should protect their jobs, 69 percent the government should prioritise their own country needs and 50 percent say we should no longer sign trade agreements.

All of the survey findings are leading towards the understanding that there is a fundamental political shift going on right now. Influence and authority that came from the traditional elite supported by the experts and institutions has fully inverted as people start to reject established authority.

The implications of the global trust crisis are deep and wide-ranging,” said Edelman. “It began with the Great Recession of 2008, but like the second and third waves of a tsunami, globalisation and technological change have further weakened people’s trust in global institutions. The consequence is virulent populism and nationalism as the mass population has taken control away from the elites.”

As Edelman eludes to, change is coming from the people because change was made without their consent.

miércoles, 19 de julio de 2017

Habla Raúl

Hace unos días habló Raúl Castro, hermano de Fidel y actual secretario del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Reproducimos a continuación la segunda mitad de ese discurso, en el que se refiere al giro que el presidente estadounidense Donald Trump intenta imponer a la tímida apertura política iniciada por su predecesor en el cargo. El discurso completo puede leerse en CubaDebate (http://www.cubadebate.cu)

Título: Raúl Castro: Seguiremos avanzando en el camino escogido soberanamente por nuestro pueblo 

Epígrafe: Discurso pronunciado por el General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, Primer Secretario del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba y Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, en la clausura del IX Período Ordinario de Sesiones de la VIII Legislatura de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, en el Palacio de Convenciones, el 14 de julio de 2017, “Año 59 de la Revolución”.



"Sobre nuestra política exterior deseo expresar lo siguiente:

El pasado 16 de junio, el presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, anunció la política de su gobierno hacia Cuba, nada novedosa por cierto, pues retoma un discurso y matices del pasado de confrontación, que demostraron su rotundo fracaso a lo largo de 55 años.

Es evidente que el Presidente norteamericano no ha sido bien informado acerca de la historia de Cuba y de las relaciones con Estados Unidos, ni sobre el patriotismo y la dignidad de los cubanos.

La historia no puede ser olvidada, como a veces nos han sugerido hacer. Por más de 200 años, los vínculos entre Cuba y Estados Unidos han estado marcados, de una parte, por las pretensiones del vecino del Norte de dominación sobre nuestro país y, de otra, por la determinación de los cubanos de ser libres, independientes y soberanos.

A lo largo de todo el siglo XIX, invocando las doctrinas y políticas del Destino Manifiesto, Monroe y la Fruta Madura, diferentes gobernantes estadounidenses trataron de apropiarse de Cuba, y a pesar de la heroica lucha de los mambises, lo lograron en 1898, con la intervención engañosa al final de la guerra que por 30 años los cubanos libraron por su independencia, a la que las tropas norteamericanas entraron como aliados y luego se convirtieron en ocupantes: pactaron con España a espaldas de Cuba, ocuparon militarmente el país durante cuatro años, desmovilizaron al Ejército Libertador, disolvieron el Partido Revolucionario Cubano organizado, fundado y dirigido por José Martí e impusieron un apéndice a la Constitución de la naciente República, la Enmienda Platt, que les daba el derecho a intervenir en nuestros asuntos internos y a establecer, entre otras, la Base Naval en Guantánamo, que aún hoy usurpa parte del territorio nacional y cuya devolución seguiremos reclamando.

La condición neocolonial de Cuba, que permitió a Estados Unidos ejercer desde 1899 un dominio total de la vida económica y política de la Isla, frustró, pero no aniquiló, las ansias de libertad e independencia del pueblo cubano. Exactamente 60 años después, el primero de enero de 1959, con el triunfo de la Revolución encabezada por el Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, fuimos definitivamente libres e independientes.

Desde ese momento, el objetivo estratégico de la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba ha sido derrocar a la Revolución. Para ello, a lo largo de más de cinco décadas, recurrió a los más disímiles métodos: guerra económica, ruptura de las relaciones diplomáticas, invasión armada, atentados contra nuestros principales dirigentes, sabotajes, bloqueo naval, creación y apoyo a bandas armadas, terrorismo de Estado, subversión interna, bloqueo económico, político y mediático y aislamiento internacional.

Diez gobiernos pasaron por el poder hasta que el presidente Barack Obama, en su alocución del 17 de diciembre de 2014, sin renunciar al propósito estratégico, tuvo la sensatez de reconocer que el aislamiento no funcionó y que era hora de un nuevo enfoque hacia Cuba.

Nadie puede negar que Estados Unidos, en el intento de aislar a Cuba, finalmente se vio en una situación de profundo aislamiento. La política de hostilidad y bloqueo contra nuestro país se había convertido en un serio obstáculo para sus relaciones con América Latina y el Caribe y era rechazada casi unánimemente por la comunidad internacional; dentro de la sociedad norteamericana se había desarrollado una mayoritaria y creciente oposición a ella, incluyendo a buena parte de la emigración cubana.

En la VI Cumbre de las Américas en Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, en el año 2012, Ecuador se negó a participar sin la asistencia cubana y todas las naciones latinoamericanas y caribeñas manifestaron su repudio al bloqueo y a la exclusión de Cuba de estos eventos. Varios países advirtieron que no habría otra reunión sin Cuba. De esa forma, llegamos en abril de 2015 —tres años después— a la VII Cumbre de Panamá, cuando por primera vez fuimos invitados.

Sobre la base del respeto y la igualdad, en los dos últimos años se restablecieron las relaciones diplomáticas y se lograron avances en la solución de problemas bilaterales pendientes, así como en la cooperación en temas de interés y beneficio mutuo; fue modificada de manera limitada la aplicación de algunos aspectos del bloqueo. Ambos países sentaron las bases para avanzar en la construcción de una relación de nuevo tipo, demostrando que es posible convivir de forma civilizada a pesar de las profundas diferencias existentes.

El presidente Obama terminó su mandato y se mantuvo el bloqueo, la Base Naval en Guantánamo y la política de cambio de régimen.

Los anuncios realizados por el actual Presidente el pasado 16 de junio significan un retroceso en las relaciones bilaterales. Así lo consideran muchas personas y organizaciones en Estados Unidos y en el mundo, que abrumadoramente han expresado un rotundo rechazo a los cambios divulgados. Así también lo expresaron nuestra juventud y las organizaciones estudiantiles, las mujeres, obreros, campesinos, los comités de Defensa de la Revolución, intelectuales y agrupaciones religiosas, en nombre de la inmensa mayoría de los ciudadanos de esta nación.

El gobierno norteamericano ha decidido recrudecer el bloqueo, mediante la imposición de nuevas trabas a su empresariado para comerciar e invertir en Cuba y de restricciones adicionales a sus ciudadanos para viajar a nuestro país, justificando estas medidas con una retórica vieja y hostil, propia de la Guerra Fría, que se escuda en una supuesta preocupación sobre el ejercicio y disfrute por el pueblo cubano de los derechos humanos y la democracia.

Las decisiones del presidente Trump desconocen el apoyo de amplios sectores estadounidenses, incluyendo la mayoría de la emigración cubana, al levantamiento del bloqueo y la normalización de las relaciones y solo satisfacen los intereses de un grupo de origen cubano del sur de Florida, cada vez más aislado y minoritario, que insiste en dañar a Cuba y a su pueblo por haber elegido defender, a cualquier precio, su derecho a ser libre, independiente y soberano.

Reiteramos hoy la denuncia del Gobierno Revolucionario a las medidas de endurecimiento del bloqueo y reafirmamos que cualquier estrategia que pretenda destruir a la Revolución, ya sea mediante la coerción y las presiones o recurriendo a métodos sutiles, fracasará.

De igual forma, rechazamos la manipulación del tema de los derechos humanos contra Cuba, que tiene mucho de qué enorgullecerse por los logros alcanzados y no tiene que recibir lecciones de Estados Unidos ni de nadie (Aplausos).

Deseo repetir, como ya expresé en la Cumbre de la CELAC, celebrada en República Dominicana en enero de este año, que Cuba tiene la voluntad de continuar negociando los asuntos bilaterales pendientes con los Estados Unidos, sobre la base de la igualdad y el respeto a la soberanía y la independencia de nuestro país, y de proseguir el diálogo respetuoso y la cooperación en temas de interés común con el gobierno norteamericano.
Cuba y Estados Unidos pueden cooperar y convivir, respetando las diferencias y promoviendo todo aquello que beneficie a ambos países y pueblos, pero no debe esperarse que para ello Cuba realice concesiones inherentes a su soberanía e independencia y hoy agrego, o que negocie sus principios o acepte condicionamientos de ningún tipo, como no lo hemos hecho nunca en la historia de la Revolución.

Con independencia de lo que el gobierno de Estados Unidos decida hacer o no, seguiremos avanzando en el camino escogido soberanamente por nuestro pueblo.

Vivimos en una coyuntura internacional caracterizada por crecientes amenazas a la paz y la seguridad internacionales, guerras de intervención, peligros para la sobrevivencia de la especie humana y un orden económico internacional injusto y excluyente.

Se conoce que desde el año 2010, Estados Unidos puso en práctica el concepto de “Guerra no convencional” concebido como un conjunto de actividades dirigidas a explotar las vulnerabilidades sicológicas, económicas, militares y políticas de un país adversario en el propósito de promover el desarrollo de un movimiento de resistencia o la insurgencia para coaccionar, alterar o derrocar a su gobierno.

Ello fue ensayado en el norte de África, e incluso en Europa, y ha provocado decenas de miles de muertos, la destrucción de Estados, el desgarramiento de sociedades y el colapso de sus economías.

“Nuestra América”, que se proclamó como Zona de Paz en 2014, enfrenta ahora condiciones adversas.

La República Bolivariana de Venezuela sufre una guerra no convencional —que no empezó ahora, empezó mucho antes— impuesta por el imperialismo y sectores oligárquicos golpistas que ha provocado la violencia en las calles y actos fascistas, como las espantosas escenas difundidas sobre jóvenes quemados vivos.

La intervención extranjera contra la Revolución Bolivariana y Chavista debe cesar. La violencia terrorista y golpista debe ser condenada inequívocamente. Todos debieran sumarse al llamado al diálogo y abstenerse de actos que contradicen las intenciones que se proclaman de manera manipuladora y demagógica.

La Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y su Secretario General, deben cesar en su agresión contra Venezuela y en la manipulación selectiva de la realidad.

Debe respetarse el legítimo derecho de Venezuela a solucionar pacíficamente sus asuntos internos sin ninguna injerencia externa. Solo compete al soberano pueblo venezolano el ejercicio de la autodeterminación y encontrar soluciones por sí mismo.

Reiteramos nuestra solidaridad al pueblo venezolano y a su unión cívico-militar, encabezada por el presidente constitucional, Nicolás Maduro Moros.

La agresión y la violencia golpista contra Venezuela dañan a toda “Nuestra América” y solo benefician los intereses de quienes se empeñan en dividirnos para ejercer su dominación sobre nuestros pueblos, sin que les importe generar conflictos de consecuencias incalculables en esta región, como los que estamos presenciando en diferentes lugares del mundo.

Alertamos hoy que quienes pretenden derrocar por vías inconstitucionales, violentas y golpistas a la Revolución Bolivariana y Chavista asumirán una seria responsabilidad ante la historia.

Al compañero Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, víctima de persecución política y maniobras golpistas, le expresamos nuestra solidaridad ante el intento de impedir su candidatura a elecciones directas, con una inhabilitación judicial. Lula, Dilma Rousseff, el Partido de los Trabajadores y el pueblo brasileño tendrán siempre a Cuba de su lado.

Compañeras y compañeros:

El pasado 14 de junio el Consejo de Estado acordó convocar a elecciones generales, mediante las cuales serán elegidos los delegados a las asambleas municipales y provinciales y los diputados a la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, quienes elegirán al Consejo de Estado y la Presidencia del Parlamento.

Al propio tiempo, fueron constituidas las comisiones electorales que dirigirán el proceso en las diferentes instancias y quedaron conformadas las comisiones de candidatura.

No es ocioso destacar la trascendente importancia política que reviste este proceso electoral, que debe constituir un acto de reafirmación revolucionaria por parte de nuestro pueblo, lo que exige una ardua labor de todas las organizaciones e instituciones.

Estamos seguros, como lo ha demostrado este pueblo en ocasiones anteriores, que las elecciones serán un ejemplo de verdadero ejercicio de democracia, sustentado en la amplia participación popular, la legalidad y transparencia del proceso electoral, en el que no concurren partidos políticos ni se financian campañas, sino que la base para proponer y elegir a los candidatos es el mérito, la capacidad y el compromiso con el pueblo.
Por otro lado y para concluir, compañeras y compañeros, restan apenas 12 días para celebrar el 64 aniversario del asalto a los cuarteles Moncada y Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. En esta ocasión el acto se celebrará en la provincia de Pinar del Río y el orador principal será el Segundo Secretario del Comité Central, compañero José Ramón Machado Ventura (Aplausos).

Al celebrar el Día de la Rebeldía Nacional, por primera vez sin la presencia física del Comandante en Jefe de la Revolución Cubana, Fidel Castro Ruz, propongámonos enfrentar los nuevos retos bajo la guía de su ejemplo, intransigencia revolucionaria y la fe permanente en la victoria.

Muchas gracias." (Ovación)

El Brexit como derrota

Continúa la serie de comentarios sobre la significación del "Brexit" para la Unión Europea en general, y para el Reino Unido en particular. Lo que parecía un tiro de gracia a la comunidad europea parece ser, en realidad, un suicidio británico. Así lo ve Rafael Ramos en la nota que sigue, para el diario catalán La Vanguardia

Título: El ‘Brexit’, ¿el mayor desastre desde Suez?

Subtítulo: Salir de Europa, última manifestación de un imperio que se resiste a morir

Texto: La política exterior británica ha sufrido dos grandes desastres en los últimos 250 años: la pérdida de las colonias americanas y la debacle de Suez. Cada vez son más los políticos, los analistas y los expertos que temen que el Brexit sea el tercero.

Acabe la cosa como acabe –y el deterioro de la economía ya empieza a notarse–, el divorcio de Europa ha abierto una brecha en la sociedad del Reino Unido, enfrentando a la ciudades y al campo, a Londres y al resto del país, al sur próspero y el norte pobre, a quienes tienen títulos universitarios y flexibilidad laboral y a quienes no. Es como una versión política de la falla de San Andrés, la que mueve las placas tectónicas y provoca los terremotos en California. La tradicional división entre izquierdas y derechas, entre el Labour y los conservadores, ya no es suficiente para entender el país. Como en las películas en 3D, para ver la imagen con nitidez hay que ponerse las gafas del Brexit. Proeuropeos y antieuropeos.

El país está partido entre el norte y el sur, el campo y la ciudad, la gente con y sin estudios

Las ventas de coches han bajado un diez por ciento. El endeudamiento de las tarjetas de crédito ha subido en similar proporción. Los sueldos permanecen congelados, mientras la inflación creció el último trimestre a un ritmo del 2,6% anual. El desplome de la libra en los mercados de cambio ha hecho que las vacaciones en el extranjero les cuesten a los británicos un ojo de la cara. La salida del Euratom amenaza con impedir el acceso a medicamentos para tratar el cáncer y bloquear la investigación nuclear. Las empresas congelan sus inversiones. El banco HSBC traslada su sede europea a París; el Barclays, a Dublín. Las aerolíneas venden billetes a partir del 2019 con la advertencia de que, a falta de un acuerdo con la Unión Europea para el uso del espacio aéreo, podrían no ser válidos.

Al celebrarse esta semana en Bruselas la segunda ronda de negociaciones del Brexit, la posición europea es (al menos por el momento) uniforme y clara, pero Gran Bretaña directamente carece de posición, porque el Gobierno y el país continúan tan divididos como el día que se anunció el resultado del referéndum. Y no sólo los tories, sino también el Labour. Cada vez es más evidente que Londres habrá de hacer importantes concesiones, pagar fuertes sumas de dinero y solicitar un largo periodo de transición para evitar el caos, y que buena parte de las promesas que hicieron los partidarios de la ruptura van a ser incumplidas. Pero el objetivo oficial, tanto del Gabinete como de la oposición, sigue siendo mantener el mayor número posible de las ventajas actuales en materia de comercio, con el mínimo coste. Y la táctica, confiar en que se resquebraje la unidad de la UE cuando entren en conflicto los intereses contradictorios de sus distintos miembros, con un empujón desde este lado del Atlántico. Divide y vencerás.

El Brexit es imposible de entender sin la arrogancia y sentido de superioridad ingleses

Cameron y May llevaron al país a su actual dramática tesitura en un inútil intento de neutralizar al ala ultraderechista, escéptica y nacionalista inglesa del partido. Pero los tories, tradicionalmente divididos entre pragmáticos y libertarios, están más fracturados que nunca por el Brexit, y la más mínima rebelión parlamentaria sería suficiente para provocar una moción de censura, la caída del Gobierno, la necesidad de elegir un nuevo líder, y posiblemente elecciones anticipadas. Esto último quieren evitarlo, y sólo por eso continúa provisionalmente Theresa May en Downing Street.

Ahora los pragmáticos, encabezados por el ministro de Economía, David Hammond, y con el respaldo de la City y el empresariado, pretenden suavizar el Brexit lo máximo posible y acordar un periodo largo de transición en el que se vean las auténticas consecuencias de la decisión, si vale o no la pena. Un segundo referéndum sería un campo de minas (con la posible consecuencia de crear una ultraderecha nacionalista en un país donde no la ha habido), pero otro gobierno resultante de otras elecciones podría hipotéticamente tener un mandato para retroceder. Los ideólogos como Boris Johnson y Michael Gove empujan en cambio hacia la ruptura total dando un portazo, en cuanto la UE presente la factura del divorcio.

Con el país a la deriva, algunos expertos hablan del Brexit como el tercer gran desastre de la política exterior británica después de la pérdida de las colonias americanas y Suez. Y por las mismas razones de fondo. El carácter inglés tiene grandes cualidades –tolerancia, sentido del humor y de la responsabilidad, capacidad de sufrimiento, espíritu cívico–, pero también lo que Shakespeare llamaba un error fatal, susceptible de provocar un cambio de fortuna. En Hamlet se trata de la incapacidad para actuar y tomar medidas concretas. En sus descendientes, la arrogancia y la hipocresía, la noción de superioridad, la necesidad irresistible de dar a los demás una lección. De otra manera es imposible entender el Brexit.

El interminable ocaso del imperio británico

Un imperio que se resiste a morir. Una prensa nacionalista de derechas. Una ola de indignación popular con los compromisos de política exterior. Un Gobierno conservador débil. Unas finanzas públicas corroídas por la deuda y una economía de austeridad. Un establishment político que se resiste a que el Reino Unido pase a ser una potencia de segundo orden. Un falso sentido de lo que es el patriotismo. ¿1956 o 2017? Igual que ahora con el Brexit, esa combinación de elementos llevó a Gran Bretaña a la debacle de Suez, cuando se alió con Francia e Israel para invadir el canal en respuesta a la nacionalización decretada por Naser. Sin tener en cuenta, claro, ni a la Unión Soviética, que encontró una oportunidad de denunciar el imperialismo occidental y tapar la invasión de Hungría, ni a Estados Unidos. Un hombre del sistema como Anthony Eden, que se lo tenía demasiado creído (igual que Theresa May antes de las elecciones), leyó mal las señales de Washington y no tardó en encontrarse con el ultimátum de Eisenhower: o aceptaba un alto el fuego y una fuerza de intervención de la ONU o la libra se desplomaba. Igual que un cuarto de siglo después en la guerra de las Malvinas y ahora con el Brexit, la prensa de derechas calificó de “enemigos del pueblo” a quienes se opusieron a la invasión. Pero Londres no tuvo más remedio que bajarse los pantalones y, unos meses después, en enero de 1957, Eden dimitió.

martes, 18 de julio de 2017

Desbande conservador en el Reino Unido

Desde las últimas elecciones viene un tanto áspero el panorama entre los "tories" (conservadores) en el Reino Unido. Se espera que Theresa May (foto) termine las negociaciones del Brexit y cargue con toda la responsabilidad, mientras se suceden las intrigas palaciegas para sucederla. Todo medio caótico, francamente. Es que enfrente se ha plantado un laborista como Jeremy Corbyn que promete (por primera vez en más de veinte años) hacer alguna que otra política de izquierda, y la gente está encantadita con ello. La nota que sigue es de Rafael Ramos para el diario catalán La Vanguardia: 

Título: Guerra civil en los ‘tories’ para suceder a Theresa May

Texto: Los tories son, supuestamente, el partido de la estabilidad, la prudencia, el orden y el sentido común, pero han llevado al Reino Unido al precipicio del Brexit, anteponiendo los egos, las vanidades y las luchas intestinas al interés nacional. En el penoso proceso ha caído David Cameron, y Theresa May ha perdido toda credibilidad. Pero lejos de aprender la lección, los conservadores británicos siguen tropezando con la misma piedra. No dos veces, sino tres, cuatro, las que haga falta.

Como si se tratara de un juego, se dedican a intrigar para dirimir quién es el próximo primer ministro. El espectáculo sería grotesco de no ser por el deterioro que ya se detecta en la calidad de vida de la gente. La inflación sube debido a la depreciación de la libra, mientras los salarios permanecen estancados. Ante la incertidumbre, unas empresas se trasladan a París o Dublín, mientras la inmensa mayoría congela las inversiones. Muchos ciudadanos de la Unión Europea, en vista de la resistencia del Gobierno a reconocer sus actuales derechos, regresan a sus países o se van a otros más amistosos. Los hospitales se quedan sin enfermeras, los terratenientes sin nadie que recoja sus fresas, las familias de clase media sin canguros que cuiden de sus hijos, jardineros que recorten sus rosas, asistentes sociales que atiendan a sus abuelos. Desde exfuncionarios y diplomáticos hasta auditores y think tanks independientes advierten del desastre que se avecina. Pero nadie hace nada.

El Brexit ha aumentado la histórica división entre los libertarios y los pragmáticos

Algunos sí hacen algo, y es juguetear con el poder y prepararse para el día en que Theresa May deje de ser útil en su actual papel de regenta que se lleva las tortas del Brexit, negocia lo innegociable, sostiene a un gobierno tory con el apoyo de los unionistas norirlandeses del partido DUP a los que ha comprado por mil millones de euros, e impide unas nuevas elecciones que tal vez ganaría el socialista Jeremy Corbyn y –desde la perspectiva conservadora– convertiría al Reino Unido en la Venezuela de Europa.

Pero ni siquiera ese temor, refrendado por los sondeos (no del todo fiables), impide que los tres principales aspirantes al trono –David Davis, Boris Johnson y Philip Hammond– sondeen el terreno y se lancen dardos. Mientras tanto, Theresa May luce una triste figura, y ha circulado el rumor de que hasta su propio marido le ha pedido que dimita por dignidad y deje que los pistoleros diluciden su duelo lo antes posible. Pero son los brexiters quienes se empeñan en mantenerla viva, aunque en estado de coma profundo, para impedir que su proyecto se desvanezca.

Por el momento los disparos son de fogueo. Hammond, ministro de Economía y partidario de un Brexit lo más blando posible (dentro de la Asociación Europea de Libre Comercio para conservar el acceso al mercado único y la unión aduanera), ha sido acusado de afirmar en un Consejo de Ministros que los funcionarios están “demasiado bien pagados”, que se benefician de unos paquetes de pensiones de los que carecen sus equivalentes del sector privado y añaden un 10% al valor de su sueldo, y que en realidad “es un trabajo tan fácil que hasta las mujeres pueden hacerlo”. Ni que decir tiene que un comentario tan sexista no ha caído bien.

Hammond juega a ser prudente, frente a los ideólogos Davis y Johnson

Hammond se ha erigido en el timonel de la austeridad, la prudencia fiscal y la reducción del déficit, que era la posición de todos los conservadores hasta que se llevaron el chasco de perder la mayoría absoluta en las elecciones, y echaron la culpa sobre todo a May, pero también a que supuestamente el país está ya harto de apretarse el cinturón y hay que empezar a aflojarlo, que es lo que promete el laborista Corbyn. Con May de cuerpo presente pero ausente por lo demás, cada ministro reclama millones para sanidad, educación, transporte, investigación o proyectos de infraestructuras, como si el grifo del gasto público se hubiera abierto de nuevo. Y es el canciller del Exchequer el que se empeña en mantenerlo cerrado. Lo extraordinario no es que sea criticado por ello, sino que hasta cinco miembros del Gabinete hayan filtrado a la prensa sus comentarios con el fin de hacerle daño.

Paralelamente, David Davis, el ministro del Brexit y el personaje más poderoso del Gobierno, presume de tener aliados suficientes para dar un golpe cuando quiera. Y en una fiesta organizada por la revista de afiliación tory The Spectator, plantó cara a Boris Johnson y le amenazó con darle una patada en las posaderas. Así está el patio.

domingo, 16 de julio de 2017

Turquía mirando al Este

Varias novedades parecen confirmar el giro de Turquía hacia el Este. La más reciente es la adquisición del sistema de defensa antiaérea rusa conocida como S-400, un sistema defensivo antiaéreo de misiles de largo alcance, en una movida que implica relaciones con Rusia de muy largo alcance. Milímetro a milímetro, Turquía se va de la NATO y de la Unión Europea. La nota que sigue es de Peter Korzun para el sitio web Strategic Culture Foundation

Título: NATO Member Turkey Turns to Russia for Air Defense Cooperation

Texto: Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire S-400 – the Russia-made most advanced long-range missile defense system in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already said that Moscow is ready to sell it. According to Russian Presidential Adviser for Military and Technical Cooperation Vladimir Kozhin, Russia’s contract with Turkey has been agreed in general, with financial details still to be ironed out. The system is capable of intercepting all types of modern air weaponry, including fifth-generation warplanes, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles at a maximum range of nearly 250 miles.

According to the preliminary agreement, Ankara is to receive two S-400 missile batteries within the next year, and then produce another two inside Turkey, although the Turkish defense industry has no experience of producing such systems. Not yet.

Unlike NATO’s US-made Patriots temporarily deployed in Turkey some time ago, the Russian S-400 deal has no political strings attached, and could, potentially, boost Turkey’s defense industry bringing Russian-Turkish military cooperation to an unprecedented level. The two nations will work together for many years and the process is likely to encompass other areas of interaction.

Last year, Russia and Turkey signed a declaration on partnership in defense industry. The parties agreed to form a joint military and intelligence mechanism to coordinate their activities in the Middle East. Ankara also seeks procurement deals with Russia in electronic systems, ammunitions and missile technology.

In 2013, Turkey wanted to purchase the HQ-9 long-range air defense system from China but had to scupper the deal in 2015 due to political pressure from NATO allies. Not this time. The pressure is there but Turkey stands tall - it wants the best and the best is S-400. Today, the Turkish government is pursuing a more independent policy while its ties with NATO, the EU and the US are getting increasingly strained.

The deal is a clear shift of Turkey away from NATO and the West. The system won’t be compatible with the rest of the alliance for the purposes of integration. In March, 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, «Being a NATO member does not mean we are not independent. We can have close ties with Russia while performing our responsibilities toward NATO. We find objections on this matter inappropriate».

Turkey has been angered by what it sees as lukewarm condemnation by its Western allies of the abortive July 2016 putsch against President Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara suspected that the West had a role to play. Russia was the first country to be visited by the Turkish president after the failed coup.

The idea of joining the EU has lost its attraction for Ankara as the union is facing a number of problems, including Brexit, the refugee crisis, the surge of far-right movements and the creation of blocs within the bloc while the concepts of «two-speed Europe» and «multi-speed Europe» are seriously considered as alternatives to the EU we know today.

The territorial dispute between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea and Turkey’s support for Northern Cyprus has traditionally spoiled relations between Turkey and NATO. According to the NATO 2016 annual report, Turkey took part in only four of the 18 key NATO exercises held last year. Despite having the fourth-strongest military in the bloc and the second-highest number of military personnel, Turkey’s involvement in NATO's deployments amounts to just 4 percent of the personnel in the mission to train the Afghan security forces, and 7 percent of the Kosovo force.

Turkey has recently blocked some rolling programs with NATO, including political events, civilian projects and military training, in an escalation of its diplomatic dispute with a number of European states. The action encompasses many more areas of NATO’s activities as the programs cover most of Europe, plus many countries in the Middle East and Asia. As its relations with the West sour, Turkey is looking for other partners.

Russia and Turkey lead the management crisis process in Syria. With the Islamic State (IS) retreating everywhere, the time draws nearer when Russia and Turkey will face the question about what to do next. It could be the start of forming a broader alliance.

If the coordination of efforts in Syria is successful, the lucrative prospect in bilateral trade, mutual investment, tourism and the Turkish Steam gas project will provide a powerful impetus to the development of relationship.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the first statement about the possibility of Turkey’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as far back as 2013. In 2016, he repeated it again, saying «Some may criticize me but I express my opinion. For example, I have said ‘why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai 5?» Turkey was granted dialogue partner status in the SCO in 2012. This year, Ankara chairs the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Energy Club. The SCO’s clout is rapidly increasing in the world. The accession would bring economic benefits for Turkey.

Ankara is also showing increasing interest in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). It was invited to join the organization in 2014. Many of the present and potential members of the EAEU are countries with whom Turkey already has close relations in many fields.

Ankara is also getting closer to Beijing. The two countries are closely cooperating to implement China’s the One Belt One Road project. Turkey is again taking the position as a key investment and cooperation partner that will help bridge the East and the West.

Turkey’s gradual shift from the West to Eurasia and other partners is part of a broader process as the West gets weakened, divided and less attractive. The very notion of «Western unity» is fading away. Unsurprisingly, as its relations with the West sour, Turkey is reaching out to other poles of power. The S-400 deal conforms to the trend. 

sábado, 15 de julio de 2017

Biafra, cincuenta años después

Quienes tenemos cierta edad, al decir de J. L. Borges, recordamos todavía las fotos que llegaban de la guerra civil en Biafra hace ya medio siglo. Recordamos las palabras que acompañaban estas imágenes: horror, guerra, hambre; sobre todo, hambre. La nota que sigue es de Fisayo Soyombo para la edición online de Al Jazeera de ayer. El Sr. Soyombo, editor, fue uno de los fundadores del periódico digital nigeriano The Cable.

Título: Is Nigeria on the brink of another civil war?

Subtítulo: On the 50th anniversary of its bloody civil war, Nigeria is struggling to prevent another

Texto: On August 1, 1966, after the collapse of last-ditch attempts by Nigeria's power brokers to prevent the impending civil war, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu said only one thing would make the rebels cease fire: "that the Republic of Nigeria be split into its component parts; and all southerners in the North be repatriated to the South and that Northerners resident in the South be repatriated to the North".

On May 30, 1967, Oxford-educated Ojukwu declared Biafra an independent state in the southeast of the country. On July 6, 1967, civil war broke out in Nigeria, which claimed more than a million lives in just three years.

Fast-forward to June 2017. Irked by renewed secessionist calls from the same Igbo ethnic group, a coalition of northern groups issued a notice, demanding "all Igbo currently residing in any part of Northern Nigeria to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the East are advised likewise".

Although made 51 years apart, those two statements are strikingly similar. Since the first was followed by a war, there is real reason to worry that the second could prompt another.

Last week's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Nigeria's civil war should have been an opportunity for Nigerians to remember the ills of war and to vow not to let it happen again. Instead, the voices of secession raged even louder.

Secessionist movement an indictment of past leadership

The resurrection of the clamour for secession five decades since the civil war is simply the result of serial leadership failure in Nigerian politics. When the war ended in 1970, Yakubu Gowon, then head of state, promised to "build a nation, great in justice, fair trade, and industry". But he and his successors didn't.

Although there is no evidence of efforts to specifically ignore the plight of the Igbo, generations of corrupt and selfish leaders have entered and vacated office with no real plan to rebuild the East from the ruins of war, neither have they done anything for the insurgency-ravaged North-East. They have been filling their pockets with public funds while ignoring a disenchanted youth and growing anger.

Now, the Igbo youth is ready to do anything, including sacrificing their lives, to actualise the dream of an independent Biafra. Some 150 of them already died for this cause between August 2015 and August 2016. The series of military crackdowns on pro-Biafra activists was a grave error by the authorities as it has spawned clusters of bellicose Igbo youth who want to avenge their brothers' deaths. Anyone who has physically met secessionist leader Nnamdi Kanu's apostles, or read their viperous online comments, will admit that quite a number of them are seething with rage that can only be thawed by the highest level of tact from the government.

A referendum on the preferred system of internal governance is crucial, even though recent calls for fiscal federalism have come from politicians who are more interested in cornering the nation's wealth than redistributing it for common good.

 The absence of that kind of tact is arguably the reason for the escalation of the Biafra agitation in the last two years. After all, Kanu, the face of the secessionist movement, was little-known until October 2015 when the Muhammadu Buhari government arrested him and subsequently disobeyed court orders granting him bail.

He was eventually released in April this year, but thanks to that unlawful detention Kanu exchanged his freedom for undeserved martyrdom. Now, what should have been an intelligent campaign for self-determination has been entrusted to a man whose message is primarily driven by emotion and aggression.

'Nigeria's unity is non-negotiable'

The most important question regarding the secession of Biafra is, of course, whether Nigeria's unity is negotiable. President Buhari has said it a few times, and his vice - now acting - president, Yemi Osinbajo has reiterated it: Nigeria's unity is not negotiable. According to them, secession is not and will never be on the negotiation table.

The superficial argument behind this claim is that the Nigerian Constitution is unequivocal in its exclusion of secession when it states in Section 2(1) that "Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria".

But Biafra is not a fresh secessionist movement - it is a 50-year-old idea. And, regardless of the grave shortcomings of its current proponent, a 50-year-old movement cannot be dispelled with a wave of the hand or by locking up the proponent or brandishing the Constitution. The Nigerian government must come up with an agreeable, realistic and practical solution to this problem.

In its ninth section, the same constitution provides for dialogue on the possibility of amending Nigeria's indissolubility. But for this amendment to come into force, not less than two-thirds majority of state and federal legislators must support the move. So, instead of saying an outright "no" to Biafra, Buhari and Osinbajo should remind the secessionists of what they must do: lobby the legislature. Everyone knows the success rate is negligible, if not nil, but good luck to them if they succeed.

A referendum on internal governance

Importantly and urgently, Nigeria needs a referendum. There is palpable public frustration with a governance structure that allocates the lion share of the country's earnings to the federal government while leaving states to scramble for crumbs. A referendum on the preferred system of internal governance is crucial, even though recent calls for fiscal federalism have come from politicians who are more interested in cornering the nation's wealth than redistributing it for common good.

Now is the time to take the decision to the public court. Some may criticise direct democracy as the "tyranny of the majority", but there's no other option for a Nigerian state where the tyranny of the ruling minority is monumental.

Neither history nor currency is on the side of Biafra. Only two secessionist movements have ever succeeded in Africa: Eritrea from Ethiopia after 30 years of war, and South Sudan from Sudan in 2011 after 22 years of war - the latter still as war-torn as the pre-2011 Sudan. Herein lies the lesson for Biafra agitators: Secession from Nigeria will not solve their problems unless accompanied by conscientious leadership.

Nigeria, meanwhile, must go back 50 years to draw its own lessons: These types of agitations can lead to war. If the south-easterners don't want to stay, let them go. Fragmentation is a million times better than the devastation of war.


1) Biafra: Young Nigerians renew calls for independence: https://youtu.be/TdEEa43niws

2) Nigeria cracks down on push for 'Biafra' breakaway state in southeast: https://youtu.be/EuI3q4mv-qg

viernes, 14 de julio de 2017

Obituario: la globalización

Porfis, que alguien le avise a Mauricio que está por cambiar el catecismo. Onda que la lluvia de inversiones, la competitividad, la apertura y demás yerbas ya fue, y lo que viene es otra cosa. Lo viene advirtiendo de a poco hasta la prensa corporativa, nada menos. Un ejemplo entre varios: la nota que sigue es de Nikil Saval para el diario británico The Guardian:

Título: Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world

Subtítulo: It’s not just a populist backlash – many economists who once swore by free trade have changed their minds, too. How had they got it so wrong? 

Texto: The annual January gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos is usually a placid affair: a place for well-heeled participants to exchange notes on global business opportunities, or powder conditions on the local ski slopes, while cradling champagne and canapes. This January, the ultra-rich and the sparkling wine returned, but by all reports the mood was one of anxiety, defensiveness and self-reproach.

The future of economic globalisation, for which the Davos men and women see themselves as caretakers, had been shaken by a series of political earthquakes. “Globalisation” can mean many things, but what lay in particular doubt was the long-advanced project of increasing free trade in goods across borders. The previous summer, Britain had voted to leave the largest trading bloc in the world. In November, the unexpected victory of Donald Trump, who vowed to withdraw from major trade deals, appeared to jeopardise the trading relationships of the world’s richest country. Forthcoming elections in France and Germany suddenly seemed to bear the possibility of anti-globalisation parties garnering better results than ever before. The barbarians weren’t at the gates to the ski-lifts yet – but they weren’t very far.

In a panel titled Governing Globalisation, the economist Dambisa Moyo, otherwise a well-known supporter of free trade, forthrightly asked the audience to accept that “there have been significant losses” from globalisation. “It is not clear to me that we are going to be able to remedy them under the current infrastructure,” she added. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, called for a policy hitherto foreign to the World Economic Forum: “more redistribution”. After years of hedging or discounting the malign effects of free trade, it was time to face facts: globalisation caused job losses and depressed wages, and the usual Davos proposals – such as instructing affected populations to accept the new reality – weren’t going to work. Unless something changed, the political consequences were likely to get worse.

The backlash to globalisation has helped fuel the extraordinary political shifts of the past 18 months. During the close race to become the Democratic party candidate, senator Bernie Sanders relentlessly attacked Hillary Clinton on her support for free trade. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump openly proposed tilting the terms of trade in favour of American industry. “Americanism, not globalism, shall be our creed,” he bellowed at the Republican national convention last July. The vote for Brexit was strongest in the regions of the UK devastated by the flight of manufacturing. At Davos in January, British prime minister Theresa May, the leader of the party of capital and inherited wealth, improbably picked up the theme, warning that, for many, “talk of greater globalisation … means their jobs being outsourced and wages undercut.” Meanwhile, the European far right has been warning against free movement of people as well as goods. Following her qualifying victory in the first round of France’s presidential election, Marine Le Pen warned darkly that “the main thing at stake in this election is the rampant globalisation that is endangering our civilisation.”

It was only a few decades ago that globalisation was held by many, even by some critics, to be an inevitable, unstoppable force. “Rejecting globalisation,” the American journalist George Packer has written, “was like rejecting the sunrise.” Globalisation could take place in services, capital and ideas, making it a notoriously imprecise term; but what it meant most often was making it cheaper to trade across borders – something that seemed to many at the time to be an unquestionable good. In practice, this often meant that industry would move from rich countries, where labour was expensive, to poor countries, where labour was cheaper. People in the rich countries would either have to accept lower wages to compete, or lose their jobs. But no matter what, the goods they formerly produced would now be imported, and be even cheaper. And the unemployed could get new, higher-skilled jobs (if they got the requisite training). Mainstream economists and politicians upheld the consensus about the merits of globalisation, with little concern that there might be political consequences.

Back then, economists could calmly chalk up anti-globalisation sentiment to a marginal group of delusional protesters, or disgruntled stragglers still toiling uselessly in “sunset industries”. These days, as sizable constituencies have voted in country after country for anti-free-trade policies, or candidates that promise to limit them, the old self-assurance is gone. Millions have rejected, with uncertain results, the punishing logic that globalisation could not be stopped. The backlash has swelled a wave of soul-searching among economists, one that had already begun to roll ashore with the financial crisis. How did they fail to foresee the repercussions?

In the heyday of the globalisation consensus, few economists questioned its merits in public. But in 1997, the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik published a slim book that created a stir. Appearing just as the US was about to enter a historic economic boom, Rodrik’s book, Has Globalization Gone Too Far?, sounded an unusual note of alarm.

Rodrik pointed to a series of dramatic recent events that challenged the idea that growing free trade would be peacefully accepted. In 1995, France had adopted a programme of fiscal austerity in order to prepare for entry into the eurozone; trade unions responded with the largest wave of strikes since 1968. In 1996, only five years after the end of the Soviet Union – with Russia’s once-protected markets having been forcibly opened, leading to a sudden decline in living standards – a communist won 40% of the vote in Russia’s presidential elections. That same year, two years after the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), one of the most ambitious multinational deals ever accomplished, a white nationalist running on an “America first” programme of economic protectionism did surprisingly well in the presidential primaries of the Republican party.

What was the pathology of which all of these disturbing events were symptoms? For Rodrik, it was “the process that has come to be called ‘globalisation’”. Since the 1980s, and especially following the collapse of the Soviet Union, lowering barriers to international trade had become the axiom of countries everywhere. Tariffs had to be slashed and regulations spiked. Trade unions, which kept wages high and made it harder to fire people, had to be crushed. Governments vied with each other to make their country more hospitable – more “competitive” – for businesses. That meant making labour cheaper and regulations looser, often in countries that had once tried their hand at socialism, or had spent years protecting “homegrown” industries with tariffs.

These moves were generally applauded by economists. After all, their profession had long embraced the principle of comparative advantage – simply put, the idea countries will trade with each other in order to gain what each lacks, thereby benefiting both. In theory, then, the globalisation of trade in goods and services would benefit consumers in rich countries by giving them access to inexpensive goods produced by cheaper labour in poorer countries, and this demand, in turn, would help grow the economies of those poorer countries.

But the social cost, in Rodrik’s dissenting view, was high – and consistently underestimated by economists. He noted that since the 1970s, lower-skilled European and American workers had endured a major fall in the real value of their wages, which dropped by more than 20%. Workers were suffering more spells of unemployment, more volatility in the hours they were expected to work.

While many economists attributed much of the insecurity to technological change – sophisticated new machines displacing low-skilled workers – Rodrik suggested that the process of globalisation should shoulder more of the blame. It was, in particular, the competition between workers in developing and developed countries that helped drive down wages and job security for workers in developed countries. Over and over, they would be held hostage to the possibility that their business would up and leave, in order to find cheap labour in other parts of the world; they had to accept restraints on their salaries – or else. Opinion polls registered their strong levels of anxiety and insecurity, and the political effects were becoming more visible. Rodrik foresaw that the cost of greater “economic integration” would be greater “social disintegration”. The inevitable result would be a huge political backlash.

As Rodrik would later recall, other economists tended to dismiss his arguments – or fear them. Paul Krugman, who would win the Nobel prize in 2008 for his earlier work in trade theory and economic geography, privately warned Rodrik that his work would give “ammunition to the barbarians”.

It was a tacit acknowledgment that pro-globalisation economists, journalists and politicians had come under growing pressure from a new movement on the left, who were raising concerns very similar to Rodrik’s. Over the course of the 1990s, an unwieldy international coalition had begun to contest the notion that globalisation was good. Called “anti-globalisation” by the media, and the “alter-globalisation” or “global justice” movement by its participants, it tried to draw attention to the devastating effect that free trade policies were having, especially in the developing world, where globalisation was supposed to be having its most beneficial effect. This was a time when figures such as the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had given the topic a glitzy prominence by documenting his time among what he gratingly called “globalutionaries”: chatting amiably with the CEO of Monsanto one day, gawking at lingerie manufacturers in Sri Lanka the next. Activists were intent on showing a much darker picture, revealing how the record of globalisation consisted mostly of farmers pushed off their land and the rampant proliferation of sweatshops. They also implicated the highest world bodies in their critique: the G7, World Bank and IMF. In 1999, the movement reached a high point when a unique coalition of trade unions and environmentalists managed to shut down the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle.

In a state of panic, economists responded with a flood of columns and books that defended the necessity of a more open global market economy, in tones ranging from grandiose to sarcastic. In January 2000, Krugman used his first piece as a New York Times columnist to denounce the “trashing” of the WTO, calling it “a sad irony that the cause that has finally awakened the long-dormant American left is that of – yes! – denying opportunity to third-world workers”.

Where Krugman was derisive, others were solemn, putting the contemporary fight against the “anti-globalisation” left in a continuum of struggles for liberty. “Liberals, social democrats and moderate conservatives are on the same side in the great battles against religious fanatics, obscurantists, extreme environmentalists, fascists, Marxists and, of course, contemporary anti-globalisers,” wrote the Financial Times columnist and former World Bank economist Martin Wolf in his book Why Globalization Works. Language like this lent the fight for globalisation the air of an epochal struggle. More common was the rhetoric of figures such as Friedman, who in his book The World is Flat mocked the “pampered American college kids” who, “wearing their branded clothing, began to get interested in sweatshops as a way of expiating their guilt”.

Arguments against the global justice movement rested on the idea that the ultimate benefits of a more open and integrated economy would outweigh the downsides. “Freer trade is associated with higher growth and … higher growth is associated with reduced poverty,” wrote the Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati in his book In Defense of Globalization. “Hence, growth reduces poverty.” No matter how troubling some of the local effects, the implication went, globalisation promised a greater good.

The fact that proponents of globalisation now felt compelled to spend much of their time defending it indicates how much visibility the global justice movement had achieved by the early 2000s. Still, over time, the movement lost ground, as a policy consensus settled in favour of globalisation. The proponents of globalisation were determined never to let another gathering be interrupted. They stopped meeting in major cities, and security everywhere was tightened. By the time of the invasion of Iraq, the world’s attention had turned from free trade to George Bush and the “war on terror,” leaving the globalisation consensus intact.

Above all, there was a widespread perception that globalisation was working as it was supposed to. The local adverse effects that activists pointed to – sweatshop labour, starving farmers – were increasingly obscured by the staggering GDP numbers and fantastical images of gleaming skylines coming out of China. With some lonely exceptions – such as Rodrik and the former World Bank chief and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz – the pursuit of freer trade became a consensus position for economists, commentators and the vast majority of mainstream politicians, to the point where the benefits of free trade seemed to command blind adherence. In a 2006 TV interview, Thomas Friedman was asked whether there was any free trade deal he would not support. He replied that there wasn’t, admitting, “I wrote a column supporting the Cafta, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, the cracks began to show in the consensus on globalisation, to the point that, today, there may no longer be a consensus. Economists who were once ardent proponents of globalisation have become some of its most prominent critics. Erstwhile supporters now concede, at least in part, that it has produced inequality, unemployment and downward pressure on wages. Nuances and criticisms that economists only used to raise in private seminars are finally coming out in the open.

A few months before the financial crisis hit, Krugman was already confessing to a “guilty conscience”. In the 1990s, he had been very influential in arguing that global trade with poor countries had only a small effect on workers’ wages in rich countries. By 2008, he was having doubts: the data seemed to suggest that the effect was much larger than he had suspected.

In the years that followed, the crash, the crisis of the eurozone and the worldwide drop in the price of oil and other commodities combined to put a huge dent in global trade. Since 2012, the IMF reported in its World Economic Outlook for October 2016, trade was growing at 3% a year – less than half the average of the previous three decades. That month, Martin Wolf argued in a column that globalisation had “lost dynamism”, due to a slackening of the world economy, the “exhaustion” of new markets to exploit and a rise in protectionist policies around the world. In an interview earlier this year, Wolf suggested to me that, though he remained convinced globalisation had not been the decisive factor in rising inequality, he had nonetheless not fully foreseen when he was writing Why Globalization Works how “radical the implications” of worsening inequality “might be for the US, and therefore the world”. Among these implications appears to be a rising distrust of the establishment that is blamed for the inequality. “We have a very big political problem in many of our countries,” he said. “The elites – the policymaking business and financial elites – are increasingly disliked. You need to make policy which brings people to think again that their societies are run in a decent and civilised way.”

That distrust of the establishment has had highly visible political consequences: Farage, Trump, and Le Pen on the right; but also in new parties on the left, such as Spain’s Podemos, and curious populist hybrids, such as Italy’s Five Star Movement. As in 1997, but to an even greater degree, the volatile political scene reflects public anxiety over “the process that has come to be called ‘globalisation’”. If the critics of globalisation could be dismissed before because of their lack of economics training, or ignored because they were in distant countries, or kept out of sight by a wall of police, their sudden political ascendancy in the rich countries of the west cannot be so easily discounted today.

Over the past year, the opinion pages of prestigious newspapers have been filled with belated, rueful comments from the high priests of globalisation – the men who appeared to have defeated the anti-globalisers two decades earlier. Perhaps the most surprising such transformation has been that of Larry Summers. Possessed of a panoply of elite titles – former chief economist of the World Bank, former Treasury secretary, president emeritus of Harvard, former economic adviser to President Barack Obama – Summers was renowned in the 1990s and 2000s for being a blustery proponent of globalisation. For Summers, it seemed, market logic was so inexorable that its dictates prevailed over every social concern. In an infamous World Bank memo from 1991, he held that the cheapest way to dispose of toxic waste in rich countries was to dump it in poor countries, since it was financially cheaper for them to manage it. “The laws of economics, it’s often forgotten, are like the laws of engineering,” he said in a speech that year at a World Bank-IMF meeting in Bangkok. “There’s only one set of laws and they work everywhere. One of the things I’ve learned in my short time at the World Bank is that whenever anybody says, ‘But economics works differently here,’ they’re about to say something dumb.”

Over the last two years, a different, in some ways unrecognizable Larry Summers has been appearing in newspaper editorial pages. More circumspect in tone, this humbler Summers has been arguing that economic opportunities in the developing world are slowing, and that the already rich economies are finding it hard to get out of the crisis. Barring some kind of breakthrough, Summers says, an era of slow growth is here to stay.

In Summers’s recent writings, this sombre conclusion has often been paired with a surprising political goal: advocating for a “responsible nationalism”. Now he argues that politicians must recognise that “the basic responsibility of government is to maximise the welfare of citizens, not to pursue some abstract concept of the global good”.

One curious thing about the pro-globalisation consensus of the 1990s and 2000s, and its collapse in recent years, is how closely the cycle resembles a previous era. Pursuing free trade has always produced displacement and inequality – and political chaos, populism and retrenchment to go with it. Every time the social consequences of free trade are overlooked, political backlash follows. But free trade is only one of many forms that economic integration can take. History seems to suggest, however, that it might be the most destabilising one.

Nearly all economists and scholars of globalisation like to point to the fact that the economy was rather globalised by the early 20th century. As European countries colonised Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, they turned their colonies into suppliers of raw materials for European manufacturers, as well as markets for European goods. Meanwhile, the economies of the colonisers were also becoming free-trade zones for each other. “The opening years of the 20th century were the closest thing the world had ever seen to a free world market for goods, capital and labour,” writes the Harvard professor of government Jeffry Frieden in his standard account, Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the 20th Century. “It would be a hundred years before the world returned to that level of globalisation.”

In addition to military force, what underpinned this convenient arrangement for imperial nations was the gold standard. Under this system, each national currency had an established gold value: the British pound sterling was backed by 113 grains of pure gold; the US dollar by 23.22 grains, and so on. This entailed that exchange rates were also fixed: a British pound was always equal to 4.87 dollars. The stability of exchange rates meant that the cost of doing business across borders was predictable. Just like the eurozone today, you could count on the value of the currency staying the same, so long as the storehouse of gold remained more or less the same.

When there were gold shortages – as there were in the 1870s – the system stopped working. To protect the sanctity of the standard under conditions of stress, central bankers across the Europe and the US tightened access to credit and deflated prices. This left financiers in a decent position, but crushed farmers and the rural poor, for whom falling prices meant starvation. Then as now, economists and mainstream politicians largely overlooked the darker side of the economic picture.

In the US, this fuelled one of the world’s first self-described “populist” revolts, leading to the nomination of William Jennings Bryan as the Democratic party candidate in 1896. At his nominating convention, he gave a famous speech lambasting gold backers: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” Then as now, financial elites and their supporters in the press were horrified. “There has been an upheaval of the political crust,” the Times of London reported, “and strange creatures have come forth.”

Businessmen were so distressed by Bryan that they backed the Republican candidate, William McKinley, who won partly by outspending Bryan five to one. Meanwhile, gold was bolstered by the discovery of new reserves in colonial South Africa. But the gold standard could not survive the first world war and the Great Depression. By the 1930s, unionisation had spread to more industries and there was a growing worldwide socialist movement. Protecting gold would mean mass unemployment and social unrest. Britain went off the gold standard in 1931, while Franklin Roosevelt took the US off it in 1933; France and several other countries would follow in 1936.

The prioritisation of finance and trade over the welfare of people had come momentarily to an end. But this wasn’t the end of the global economic system.

The trade system that followed was global, too, with high levels of trade – but it took place on terms that often allowed developing countries to protect their industries. Because, from the perspective of free traders, protectionism is always seen as bad, the success of this postwar system has been largely under-recognised.

Over the course of the 1930s and 40s, liberals – John Maynard Keynes among them – who had previously regarded departures from free trade as “an imbecility and an outrage” began to lose their religion. “The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war, is not a success,” Keynes found himself writing in 1933. “It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous – and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it.” He claimed sympathies “with those who would minimise, rather than with those who would maximise, economic entanglement among nations,” and argued that goods “be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible”.

The international systems that chastened figures such as Keynes helped produce in the next few years – especially the Bretton Woods agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) – set the terms under which the new wave of globalisation would take place.

The key to the system’s viability, in Rodrik’s view, was its flexibility – something absent from contemporary globalisation, with its one-size-fits-all model of capitalism. Bretton Woods stabilised exchange rates by pegging the dollar loosely to gold, and other currencies to the dollar. Gatt consisted of rules governing free trade – negotiated by participating countries in a series of multinational “rounds” – that left many areas of the world economy, such as agriculture, untouched or unaddressed. “Gatt’s purpose was never to maximise free trade,” Rodrik writes. “It was to achieve the maximum amount of trade compatible with different nations doing their own thing. In that respect, the institution proved spectacularly successful.

Partly because Gatt was not always dogmatic about free trade, it allowed most countries to figure out their own economic objectives, within a somewhat international ambit. When nations contravened the agreement’s terms on specific areas of national interest, they found that it “contained loopholes wide enough for an elephant to pass”, in Rodrik’s words. If a nation wanted to protect its steel industry, for example, it could claim “injury” under the rules of Gatt and raise tariffs to discourage steel imports: “an abomination from the standpoint of free trade”. These were useful for countries that were recovering from the war and needed to build up their own industries via tariffs – duties imposed on particular imports. Meanwhile, from 1948 to 1990, world trade grew at an annual average of nearly 7% – faster than the post-communist years, which we think of as the high point of globalisation. “If there was a golden era of globalisation,” Rodrik has written, “this was it.”

Gatt, however, failed to cover many of the countries in the developing world. These countries eventually created their own system, the United Nations conference on trade and development (UNCTAD). Under this rubric, many countries – especially in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia – adopted a policy of protecting homegrown industries by replacing imports with domestically produced goods. It worked poorly in some places – India and Argentina, for example, where the trade barriers were too high, resulting in factories that cost more to set up than the value of the goods they produced – but remarkably well in others, such as east Asia, much of Latin America and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where homegrown industries did spring up. Though many later economists and commentators would dismiss the achievements of this model, it theoretically fit Larry Summers’s recent rubric on globalisation: “the basic responsibility of government is to maximise the welfare of citizens, not to pursue some abstract concept of the global good.”

The critical turning point – away from this system of trade balanced against national protections – came in the 1980s. Flagging growth and high inflation in the west, along with growing competition from Japan, opened the way for a political transformation. The elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were seminal, putting free-market radicals in charge of two of the world’s five biggest economies and ushering in an era of “hyperglobalisation”. In the new political climate, economies with large public sectors and strong governments within the global capitalist system were no longer seen as aids to the system’s functioning, but impediments to it.

Not only did these ideologies take hold in the US and the UK; they seized international institutions as well. Gatt renamed itself as the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the new rules the body negotiated began to cut more deeply into national policies. Its international trade rules sometimes undermined national legislation. The WTO’s appellate court intervened relentlessly in member nations’ tax, environmental and regulatory policies, including those of the United States: the US’s fuel emissions standards were judged to discriminate against imported gasoline, and its ban on imported shrimp caught without turtle-excluding devices was overturned. If national health and safety regulations were stricter than WTO rules necessitated, they could only remain in place if they were shown to have “scientific justification”.

The purest version of hyperglobalisation was tried out in Latin America in the 1980s. Known as the “Washington consensus”, this model usually involved loans from the IMF that were contingent on those countries lowering trade barriers and privatising many of their nationally held industries. Well into the 1990s, economists were proclaiming the indisputable benefits of openness. In an influential 1995 paper, Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner wrote: “We find no cases to support the frequent worry that a country might open and yet fail to grow.”

But the Washington consensus was bad for business: most countries did worse than before. Growth faltered, and citizens across Latin America revolted against attempted privatisations of water and gas. In Argentina, which followed the Washington consensus to the letter, a grave crisis resulted in 2002, precipitating an economic collapse and massive street protests that forced out the government that had pursued privatising reforms. Argentina’s revolt presaged a left-populist upsurge across the continent: from 1999 to 2007, leftwing leaders and parties took power in Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, all of them campaigning against the Washington consensus on globalisation. These revolts were a preview of the backlash of today.

Rodrik – perhaps the contemporary economist whose views have been most amply vindicated by recent events – was himself a beneficiary of protectionism in Turkey. His father’s ballpoint pen company was sheltered under tariffs, and achieved enough success to allow Rodrik to attend Harvard in the 1970s as an undergraduate. This personal understanding of the mixed nature of economic success may be one of the reasons why his work runs against the broad consensus of mainstream economics writing on globalisation.

I never felt that my ideas were out of the mainstream,” Rodrik told me recently. Instead, it was that the mainstream had lost touch with the diversity of opinions and methods that already existed within economics. “The economics profession is strange in that the more you move away from the seminar room to the public domain, the more the nuances get lost, especially on issues of trade.” He lamented the fact that while, in the classroom, the models of trade discuss losers and winners, and, as a result, the necessity of policies of redistribution, in practice, an “arrogance and hubris” had led many economists to ignore these implications. “Rather than speaking truth to power, so to speak, many economists became cheerleaders for globalisation.”

In his 2011 book The Globalization Paradox, Rodrik concluded that “we cannot simultaneously pursue democracy, national determination, and economic globalisation.” The results of the 2016 elections and referendums provide ample testimony of the justness of the thesis, with millions voting to push back, for better or for worse, against the campaigns and institutions that promised more globalisation. “I’m not at all surprised by the backlash,” Rodrik told me. “Really, nobody should have been surprised.”

But what, in any case, would “more globalisation” look like? For the same economists and writers who have started to rethink their commitments to greater integration, it doesn’t mean quite what it did in the early 2000s. It’s not only the discourse that’s changed: globalisation itself has changed, developing into a more chaotic and unequal system than many economists predicted. The benefits of globalisation have been largely concentrated in a handful of Asian countries. And even in those countries, the good times may be running out.

Statistics from Global Inequality, a 2016 book by the development economist Branko Milanović, indicate that in relative terms the greatest benefits of globalisation have accrued to a rising “emerging middle class”, based preponderantly in China. But the cons are there, too: in absolute terms, the largest gains have gone to what is commonly called “the 1%” – half of whom are based in the US. Economist Richard Baldwin has shown in his recent book, The Great Convergence, that nearly all of the gains from globalisation have been concentrated in six countries.

Barring some political catastrophe, in which rightwing populism continued to gain, and in which globalisation would be the least of our problems – Wolf admitted that he was “not at all sure” that this could be ruled out – globalisation was always going to slow; in fact, it already has. One reason, says Wolf, was that “a very, very large proportion of the gains from globalisation – by no means all – have been exploited. We have a more open world economy to trade than we’ve ever had before.” Citing The Great Convergence, Wolf noted that supply chains have already expanded, and that future developments, such as automation and the use of robots, looked to undermine the promise of a growing industrial workforce. Today, the political priorities were less about trade and more about the challenge of retraining workers, as technology renders old jobs obsolete and transforms the world of work.

Rodrik, too, believes that globalisation, whether reduced or increased, is unlikely to produce the kind of economic effects it once did. For him, this slowdown has something to do with what he calls “premature deindustrialisation”. In the past, the simplest model of globalisation suggested that rich countries would gradually become “service economies”, while emerging economies picked up the industrial burden. Yet recent statistics show the world as a whole is deindustrialising. Countries that one would have expected to have more industrial potential are going through the stages of automation more quickly than previously developed countries did, and thereby failing to develop the broad industrial workforce seen as a key to shared prosperity.

For both Rodrik and Wolf, the political reaction to globalisation bore possibilities of deep uncertainty. “I really have found it very difficult to decide whether what we’re living through is a blip, or a fundamental and profound transformation of the world – at least as significant as that one brought about the first world war and the Russian revolution,” Wolf told me. He cited his agreement with economists such as Summers that shifting away from the earlier emphasis on globalisation had now become a political priority; that to pursue still greater liberalisation was like showing “a red rag to a bull” in terms of what it might do to the already compromised political stability of the western world.

Rodrik pointed to a belated emphasis, both among political figures and economists, on the necessity of compensating those displaced by globalisation with retraining and more robust welfare states. But pro-free-traders had a history of cutting compensation: Bill Clinton passed Nafta, but failed to expand safety nets. “The issue is that the people are rightly not trusting the centrists who are now promising compensation,” Rodrik said. “One reason that Hillary Clinton didn’t get any traction with those people is that she didn’t have any credibility.”

Rodrik felt that economics commentary failed to register the gravity of the situation: that there were increasingly few avenues for global growth, and that much of the damage done by globalisation – economic and political – is irreversible. “There is a sense that we’re at a turning point,” he said. “There’s a lot more thinking about what can be done. There’s a renewed emphasis on compensation – which, you know, I think has come rather late.”