Kevin Ovenden’s new book on Syriza

by Mark Perryman

For all of 2015 the world’s eyes have been on Greece. The Syriza government elected in January under the leadership of Alexis Tspiras threatened to shake up the European economic status quo with its radical, anti-austerity politics. When Syriza’s challenge to the EU was put to the Greek people in a referendum the party and its allies won a stunning 61% vote in support of Oxi, No. And then, a few days later, the Greek government under immense pressure from the EU was forced into a climbdown. Next up Syriza called and fought a second General Election in the space of less than a year with the party challenged on its left by a block of the party’s dissident MPs and members who have formed the Popular Unity Party. Against all the odds, and with a reduced turnout, Syriza won that election. An extraordinary nine months in the life of a nation and one thing is certain, the story of Greek resistance is not over yet and will continue to dominate European politics for some considerable time.

Kevin Ovenden has written a thrilling account of the background to Syriza’s rise to become the most important party of the European radical Left, its trials and tribulations in office and the vision Syriza, despite the climbdown. continues to project that another Europe is not only necessary, but possible. Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth is a must-read for all those interested in the prospects for a radical Left, at home and abroad.

Philosophy Football is immensely proud that in an act of practical solidarity we have helped fund Kevin’s unrivalled reportage from Athens in 2015, provided free for radical media across the world. Kevin’s book is in large part the product of his eyewitness account of Greece’s year of change.

Published by Pluto Books the newly revived Left Book Club’s very first book is Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.

The book is available exclusively at £3 Off Just £9.99 in a special edition signed by the author from Philosophy Football

The Syrian conflict and why Putin is playing chess while the West is playing checkers

It is always a treat to listen to a British prime minister issuing diktats to other countries about the fate of their governments, especially a government that for the past four and a half years has been manning the ramparts of civilisation against barbarism.

Perhaps like his view of working people and the poor in Britain, the problem with David Cameron when it comes to foreign policy is that his brain is stuck somewhere in the 19th century. If so he needs to get himself into the 21st century sooner rather than later, because the British Empire is no more and Syria’s government is a matter for the Syrian people to decide and not a British prime minister with delusions of colonial grandeur.

In relation to recent events in Syria, Russia’s decision to provide military support for Syria can only be considered controversial or wrong if you believe that any equivalence exists between ISIS and the Assad government.

The prolongation of the conflict in Syria and suffering of the Syrian people is a direct result of the mendacity and perfidy that informs the West’s stance towards the region. Indeed the lack of any moral clarity, leadership, and competence on the part of Western governments has been nothing short of criminal, with scant evidence of it changing anytime soon. Only in an upside down world could any equivalence be drawn between ISIS in Syria and the Assad government. Yet this is exactly the equivalence that the West continues to make, thus hampering efforts to destroy a movement that is intent on turning the clock back in Syria to the seventh century, embracing inhuman levels of butchery and barbarity in the process.

ISIS is the Khmer Rouge of our time, holding to a similar objective of turning an entire nation into a cultural, human, and physical desert. It revels in its cruelty and bestiality, enslaves and rapes women on a grand scale, and has been allowed to grow to the point where it now constitutes a direct threat to centuries of human progress. Thus we are talking about an organisation that has no programme that can be negotiated with, nothing to offer except carnage and chaos, making its complete and total destruction a non-negotiable condition of saving millions of people from a horrific fate.

In contradistinction to ISIS the Assad government is secular, believes in modernity, and upholds the rights of minorities, both Muslim and non-Muslim. More crucially, regardless of the huge campaign of demonisation that has been unleashed against it in the West, it retains the significant support of a large section of the Syrian people, who understand more than any Western diplomat, politician, or ideologue the nature of the struggle they have been engulfed in these past four and half years.

Yet just as when it came to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, along with Muammar Gaddafi and Libya, we are being bombarded with the inference that Syria consists of one man in the shape of its leader. This narrative is employed to condition and shape domestic public opinion when it comes to currying support for seeing said leader’s removal, even though the empirical evidence of Iraq and Libya’s descent into an abyss of sectarian violence, mayhem, and societal collapse is undeniable in this regard.

Assad’s crime is not that he is a dictator or that he is oppressing his own people, as his detractors would have us believe – else why on earth does the West count among its closest regional allies Saudi Arabia, arguably the most corrupt, venal, and barbaric regime in the world today? The problem with the Assad government in Syria is that it has long been marked for regime change as a pole of resistance to a US hegemonic agenda going back to the Bush administration. It is an agenda currently being driven most vigorously by US allies in the shape of Israel, the aforementioned Saudis, and Turkey in pursuit of their own interests, which are self evidently inimical to stability and any prospect of peace and regional security.

There is no and never has been a fully formed liberal democracy waiting in the wings to take over in Syria, just as there wasn’t in Iraq or Libya when it came to either Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi. But even so, like a blind man groping and lurching around a china shop, the West remains attached to a blinkered strategy that only succeeds in sowing mayhem with each step it takes in pursuit of it.

Russia’s rational and coherent alternative stands in marked contrast. President Putin has been calling for an international coalition to combat terrorism and extremism for some years now and been continually rebuffed. He has also been calling for a diplomatic and political solution to the conflict in Syria, but again those efforts have been continually thwarted by Western leaders whose obduracy is literally killing people, in addition to creating the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the Second World War.

Russia’s refusal to relinquish its support for Syria, despite coming under huge pressure to do so, and instead to increase that support demonstrates commendable principle and courage given the risks involved. It will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the ground, raising the morale of the Syrian Arab Army and the Syrian people, whose courage and tenacity has been extraordinary. Not only have they resisted an invasion of the country by thousands of foreign extremists and jihadists, they have done so in the teeth of massive external pressure from the West throughout.

The barbarians are at the gates and Russia alone is heeding the call to intervene in order to save not just the Syrian government or Syria, but civilisation itself.

Corbynomics and balanced budgets

It has been a stormingly successful two weeks for Jeremy Corbyn, and for the Labour Party. We have seen membership growth, not only more members, but a membership more representative of the broader population, younger and more gender balanced. We have a majority of women in the shadow cabinet for the first time ever, we have seen Jeremy being able to assemble a front bench team reflecting the talents and views across the whole party.

There are certainly challenges ahead. The changes to the leadership election process from the Collins Review saw the number of trade unionists voting in the leadership election decline dramatically to roughly only 3% of the numbers affiliated, and the mandate for the scale of the continued trade union involvement in the party will need reinforcing through further constructive engagement. The good will exists on both sides to achieve this, and the trade unions play a vital mediating role for their party through their connection with millions of working people.

The Collins Review changes also abolished the separate section of the electoral college for the parliamentary party, and much is made of the low levels of support for Corbyn amongst MPs. This point can be exaggerated, Ed Miliband also suffered from lack of support from the PLP, and Corbyn’s position is stronger not weaker than Ed’s, not only due to his overwhelming mandate from the party’s selectorate, but also because Corbyn has the support of John McDonnell as shadow chancellor.

The improvement of Jeremy’s own self assurance and authority has also been extraordinary, compared to his first hesitant performance at the hustings at GMB Congress in Dublin in June. There has never been any doubt about his talent, but Jeremy had been relatively marginalized within the PLP for many years, and just the few months of participating in the leadership contest and now leading the party, has seen him grow into the role.

The appointment of McDonnell as shadow chancellor was vitally important. While there were arguments in favour of a more mainstream figure as a step towards consolidating a coalition of support within the PLP, Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership on the basis of opposing austerity. Only a shadow chancellor who wholeheartedly agreed with that position would be consistent with Corbyn’s mandate.

John McDonnell has also suffered from years of relative marginalization within the PLP, but already he has shown a human and humane manner in dealing with the press, and an assured touch that will only grow and grow. It is worth reminding ourselves of the judgement of Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, that Corbyn’s victory was not a lurch to the left, but due to the surrender of the Labour centre to Conservative snake oil over the deficit:

Consider the contrast with the United States, where deficit scolds dominated Beltway discourse in 2010-2011 but never managed to dictate the terms of political debate, and where mainstream Democrats no longer sound like Republicans-lite. … … the Corbyn upset isn’t about a sudden left turn on the part of Labour supporters. It’s mainly about the strange, sad moral and intellectual collapse of Labour moderates.

It was an assured move for Corbyn and McDonnell to appoint an advisory team of economists, including Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, Danny Blanchflower, and Ann Pettifor. It will also be essential to ensure that economic policy is privately discussed with the trade unions..

McDonnell’s announcement that Labour will seek to run an overall budget surplus in normal times is good politics, and is founded on a solid economic basis that the objective of economic policy will be to secure growth through investment.

To deal with the economic argument first, there has been some debate between the Socialist Economic Bulletin, and economists associated with Ann Petifor’s PRIME. To quote Michael Burke:

There is a debate among anti-austerity economists and supporters of the Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party on balanced budgets and related matters. The debate was prompted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s commitment to eliminating the budget deficit and was sparked into life by this SEB piece, The need to clarify the left on budget deficits- confusions of so-called ‘Keyenesianism’. It was met with this reply from PRIME economics,‘Living within our means’: deficits and the business cycle.

The importance of this debate is to understand that

If a radical, anti-austerity government simply borrows or creates money to fund consumption, it will provide no boost to long-term growth. This is merely a stimulus to spending or consumption. This may be needed when consumption has fallen dramatically but cannot be a feature of a medium-term economic policy. If on the other hand, the same government borrows to invest in the productive capacity of the economy then the economy is capable of sustainable expansion. This in turn can lead to economic growth and the growth in consumption. Therefore such a government or economic policy framework, which we can call Corbynomics, should aim at increasing the level of borrowing for investment and aim at eliminating borrowing for consumption in favour of borrowing for investment.

Unfortunately, a commonplace fallacy has arisen to conflate government investment and government spending on consumption as a single category as a contribution to GDP. As John Ross observes:

Both economic economic theory and practical results show that in a capitalist economy, not necessarily an economy such as China’s, there is greater resistance to government spending on investment than on consumption – as state investment involves an incursion into the means of production, which in a capitalist economy by definition must be predominantly privately owned. This theoretical point is confirmed by the fact that state expenditure on consumption has historically risen as a proportion of GDP in most capitalist economies since the economic period following World War II while state expenditure on investment has in general fallen in the same period.

The result is that if government runs a deficit through borrowing to fund consumption, then this can result in non-invested private savings being transferred into consumption, therefore decreasing not increasing the overall investment rate in the economy, and therefore effectively decreasing not increasing economic growth rate.

In contrast, government action to underpin growth rates gives confidence to private investors, producing a win win cycle.

The political debate since the 1970s has conflated all public spending, whether it is for investment or consumption. This has confused the question as while a long or medium term policy of spending more on consumption than is raised as government income is unsustainable, government investment in the productive economy can be designed to achieve the maximum sustainable rate of overall investment, and therefore sustain economic growth, and boost government income.

Some caution also needs to be considered over the alleged lack of competitiveness of state owned enterprises, and other forms of direct state investment in the productive economy, as historically state investment has been strategic to effectively provide a subsidy to other – privately owned – parts of the economy.

Politically, committing to eliminating the government deficit is a necessary accommodation to prevailing public opinion, with the advantages that this allows Labour to exploit the Conservative government’s own failure to achieve a balanced budget through austerity and the resulting economic contraction, and allows the debate to be recalibrated over the key question of whether we continue with the Tory approach of an economy based upon shopping and speculation, or whether we commit to a policy of building the real productive economy through investment, and improving the skills and training base of the workforce.

Corbyn’s mandate being openly and flagrantly opposed inside his own shadow cabinet

More people have joined Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected the leader of the party than are in the Lib Dems. This amounts to 62,000 new members, adding to the thousands who joined or registered as supporters during the election campaign, which it is worth recalling ended in an emphatic victory for Corbyn, who received almost 60 percent of the first preference votes cast.

You would automatically and logically think, given the size of his mandate, and given that his election has attracted so many new members to the party, that his authority would be unquestioned within the PLP and especially within his own shadow cabinet. At the very least you would imagine it would be respected.

However the opposite has been the case. In fact, since becoming leader, Jeremy Corbyn has found himself being opposed, undermined, and boxed in at every turn in what can only be considered an egregious and disgraceful violation of his mandate and a studied insult to the thousands who campaigned and voted for him.

On the very morning after winning the election, the Labour Party’s new deputy leader, Tom Watson, appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show and articulated his intention of opposing the new leader’s position on NATO and on Trident. For those who may have been asleep these past few months, Jeremy Corbyn made it clear during his leadership campaign that he favours Britain’s withdrawal from NATO and the scrapping of Trident.

Since then we’ve had both Lord Falconer and Hilary Benn publicly voicing their opposiiton to their new leader’s policies, while Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London in 2016, has left nobody in any doubt that he intends to use the office of mayor to mount a Blairite fightback, recently using the Daily Mail as a platform to attack Corbyn in the most withering terms.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this is part of a coordinated and systematic campaign to neuter the new leader and erode his authority, to the point where he will find it impossible to push through any of the policies and implement the vision upon which he was elected. Though it is still very early days in his leadership, if such flagrant and open opposition within the PLP is allowed to continue the prospects for the radical change he outlined will undoubtedly diminish.

A lack of organisation and coherence is the death of any leadership, which is why Corbyn needs as a matter of urgency to come down on those who are intent on undermining his mandate. In this regard he needs to mobilise his base outwith the PLP, the 16,000 who campaigned for him across the country, the over 200,000 who voted for him, and the 62,000 inspired by his message and vision to join Labour since the election. The PLP needs to understand that the membership of the party will not accept such naked disregard for them or their leader.

Unity at any price is a chimera. It is tantamount to the unity of the graveyard. It is unity of purpose that is required, which may well mean a period of protracted internal struggle and strife before it is achieved. But if Labour is to become the party of transformational change promised by Jeremy Corbyn’s election this unity of purpose will have to be achieved.

The right within the Labour Party is clearly determined to ensure that the new leadership passes into history at the earliest opportunity. It is therefore up to the membership to rally round and ensure it does not. If there is to be an internal struggle for the direction and soul of Labour better now than later – and better a good fight than a bad peace.

Jeremy Corbyn has been personally immense over these past few months. The pressure, scrutiny, and expectation he’s had to deal with will undoubtedly have taken its toll. He needs help, he needs allies – most of all he needs to be continually reminded that he does not stand alone, that he has mass support outwith the House of Commons and Labour Party HQ, and that it is their vision not his that is marginal and incompatible with the real world.

The record of the last decade of growing inequality and social injustice at home has been married to the nauseating hypocrisy of a foreign policy that has succeeded in sowing crisis and chaos across the world. This is their record as part of a political establishment whose shake-up is long overdue.

Those members of Labour’s new shadow cabinet who oppose the newly-elected leader should either resign or be sacked. As for Sadiq Khan, he is not the Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2016 – at least not one worthy of support. The real Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2016 is George Galloway.

Cameron’s denial – a topical poem

Cameron’s Denial
#piggate #pmqs

I’m delighted the honourable gentleman
asked me that question. To clarify; the pig
didn’t have its throat slit so it could sexually
gratify me, but had been dead
some time when I placed my little
pink manhood in its stiff, cold jaws. Nor
was I arrested and fined fifty Pounds
for taking without paying for
three pairs of bright red knickers
from Tescos at Leamington Spa.
Nor did I pay good money, with
the Queen’s head on it, for the privilege
of laying half a pound of raw liver
across an elderly
prostitute’s belly. Nor was I any
part of the group who put yams
up Boris’s bottom for a lark.

These are just tales chums
concoct to make one look
excellenter even than one
already knows one is.


Yvette Cooper got it wrong – a people’s QE will work

Noah Tucker

The Morning Star

People’s quantitative easing would see created wealth poured into social housing and infrastructure rather than the coffers of the super-rich, writes NOAH TUCKER

In the closing moments of Thursday’s Sky News debate, the “impassioned” attack by Yvette Cooper on Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal for people’s quantitative easing (PQE) pleased the pundits. But it was Corbyn’s calm rebuttal, in which he called for investment instead of austerity, that won enthusiastic applause and overwhelming positive instant poll ratings.

The audience was right to trust Corbyn rather than Cooper. Her tirade against PQE was replete with fallacies.

Her fundamental assertion against PQE was that the money raised would need to be paid back — and many times over — as implied by her soundbite that PQE is “PFI on steroids.”

But as Richard Murphy, the architect of the policy, points out: “That contradicts the facts. Not a penny of QE money the whole world over, including the £375 billion created by the Bank of England since 2009, has been repaid — nor is there any prospect that it will be.”

I asked Murphy to clarify and he explained: “All money in an economy, as is now accepted, is created by lending. Therefore, when loans are repaid the result is that money is cancelled. Banks in the UK economy traditionally made most money by ever-expanding their loan books. The result was the 2008 crash. QE has, in effect, created the new money which the economy has needed since 2008, as bank lending declined.

“There is nothing magical about QE. The Bank of England lends money to one of its own subsidiaries to create new money, which is used to buy back the government’s own bonds (known as gilts). That has effectively cancelled much of the national debt, and means that all the tales of uncontrollable deficits have been complete nonsense.”

Notably, these gilts bought by the Bank of England are not purchased directly from the Treasury. They are bought second or third-hand in the financial markets, from private-sector institutions which have already purchased the bonds, thus — due to supply and demand — increasing the overall prices of financial assets. The result is obvious: QE has made very rich people, who are the ultimate owners of most financial assets, very much richer.

PQE, in contrast, would not involve purchases in the financial markets but instead would fund construction of social housing, infrastructure and other useful investments.

Nevertheless, the principle by which the money is created would be identical. There are transfers between parts of the state, but there is no outside source from which the money has been borrowed: the state does not owe it to anybody and there is nobody to pay it back to because the state’s own bank (the Bank of England) has made the money for the government’s own use and to its instruction.

Had Cooper not been declaiming in soundbites, she might have said that QE money could eventually be “uncreated” — leaving the state £375bn worse off in current terms. Thus the Bank of England would sell its gilts, and then delete, from its balance sheets, the many billions thus received.

But a decision to do this would be entirely voluntary on the part of the government. And it could only really happen if the state was running a surplus, or something near it, or the right conditions for the sale would not exist. Given that no useful purpose (for any section of society) would be served by such a sale, and the negative consequences that would ensue, the likelihood of this ever happening, as emphasised by Murphy, “is remote in the extreme. No government of any persuasion is ever going to pursue such a policy.”

Berating Corbyn for offering “false promises,” Cooper claimed in Thursday’s debate that “quantitative easing has stopped because the economy is now growing. If you simply keep printing money when an economy is growing it simply increases inflation.”

But QE has not stopped. Since 2012, Britain’s QE programme has been maintained at £375bn, but it remains an active programme. The Bank of England makes a profit from the interest paid on the gilts and so far has earned £50bn, which is remitted back to the government. And each year a proportion of the bonds held by the Bank of England come to maturity, resulting in payouts of around £26bn annually (on average) being received by the bank. Currently, this sum is then injected straight into the financial markets to buy more gilts, keeping the total held by the bank at the overall level of £375bn.

The significance of this for PQE is that expansion of QE above its current level, (although that might be considered desirable) would not be necessary for a considerable sum to be released for public investment. Without any money having to be printed, initial funds of up to £26bn (on average) could be diverted each year from gilt purchases and instead be made available to the National Investment Bank. To put that figure into perspective, to build 100,000 new council homes per year would cost an estimated £14bn annually (without taking into account the reduced housing benefit expenditure).

But could the current QE programme be modestly expanded, thus producing further cash for public investment without causing run away inflation? The $6.5 trillion worth of QE money produced globally has mainly been created alongside economic growth (or per-capita growth in the case of Japan), and without resulting in excessive inflation. Current growth predictions worldwide are having to be reduced following the slowdown in China.

In Britain, the government’s target rate of inflation is 2 per cent on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Yet despite our trumpeted GDP growth — encompassing asset bubbles, rising consumer debt and falling manufacturing output — CPI inflation is currently at 0.1 per cent per annum. There is plenty of scope for a moderate rise in the level of QE without causing raging inflation.

Coincidentally, on the same day as the Sky News debate, Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank announced that the it will consider a further enlargement of its QE programme. This is above its present expansion which is at the rate of €60bn per month, and is increasing the limit on QE bond purchases from 25 per cent to 33 per cent of the national debt for countries in the eurozone.

This will of course not apply to Britain, because our government decides how much QE takes place here. But for comparison, if Britain were to observe an upper limit for QE of 33 per cent of the national debt, that would allow the “printing” of up to £140bn — vastly more than proponents of PQE are suggesting.

Responding to Cooper, Corbyn asked what her proposal was how to fund the public investments which are so needed. Is it PFI? That was of course the previous New Labour solution which has left public authorities with debts of £220bn and rising. For those who accept the narrative of austerity there is no answer to that question — certainly the private sector and the “free” market offer no solutions.

As Murphy points out, the starting point is to look at what is needed to build the country in a way that benefits the people, addresses social problems and supports growth — building social housing, infrastructure and technical innovation. This will have to be driven by the public sector. The money for it can be derived, depending on the economic situation at the time, from a mix including fairer taxation, issuing bonds and PQE.

The importance of Corbyn is not just that he is discussing what means may be used to achieve it, but that he is pointing to what it is that we must achieve.

Aylan Kurdi ends our right to consider ourselves civilised

CN5VtdsUsAAr02TNo words are adequate to describe the heartwrenching picture of Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach. What we can say without any equivocation is that this dead 3 year old Syrian boy symbolises the cruelty and inhumanity that underpins what passes for civilisation in the West.

Denying sanctuary to human beings desperately attempting to escape war and chaos can be described as many things, but justice is not one of them. To those deserving of the hand of friendship we offer the fist of fury. To those crying out for help we turn away. The result is the suffering of children such as Aylan, whose death as a consequence is tantamount to murder.

There is much to be said about the conflict and chaos that has engulfed the Middle East, where the majority of the refugees desperately seeking sanctuary are from. But the idea that we are blameless can only be the product of mendacity or ignorance. We have helped to create and foment crisis and chaos as far back as Iraq and on into Libya and Syria, evidence that we are governed by machine men and women whose conception of politics and the West’s role in the world begins with callous indifference to the human suffering it continually unleashes. Indeed only those who have had their humanity surgically removed could possibly fail to have been moved by the plight of these people on our TV screens over the past few weeks.

A refugee crisis that is now biblical in scope has met thus far with an obdurate refusal by governments across Europe to budge from a refusenik position of denying them refuge. This is no surprise, as aided by a complicit right wing and reactionary media the discourse across the West on immigrants and asylum seekers has plumbed the depths of moral repugnance and disgrace. When they haven’t been dehumanised as ‘economic migrants’ they have been smeared as constituting a ‘swarm’ by the likes of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Vying for the worst of the many examples of this poisonous narrative was the idea promoted by the UK far right anti-immigration party UKIP that Britain only accept members of Syria’s Christian minority as refugees, asserting that Syrian Muslims can go to other countries in the region.

What kind of sick and twisted morality is this? From here we are only a few short steps away from making Muslims among those fleeing put on an armband with a crescent on it in order to separate them from their Christian or non-Muslim counterparts. UKIP’s position moves them beyond the truth that a little knowledge is dangerous to confirm that it is even worse to be crippled with pig ignorance and be afforded a platform from which to continually prove it.

Meanwhile back in the world occupied by people with a heart and a conscience, the outpouring of rage at the image of Aylan Kurdi allows us to hope that his death may not be in vain. The fact that he died along with his mother and brother only adds urgency to our demand that Britain and Europe come together to implement a cohesive humanitarian reponse to this growing humanitarian crisis. Notably, at time of writing cohesion across Europe remains a forlorn hope.

There have been exceptions to the intransigence that has dominated the issue across the EU. Germany and Sweden have managed to salvage something resembling solidarity in Europe. Merkel in particular, in fact, has been immense, helping to create an atmosphere in Germany that has seen thousands of refugees overwhelmed with kindness from welcoming committees upon their arrival at German train and bus stations.

Who would have thought that the German Chancellor, only recently responsible for punishing Greece with austerity, would be the one to shame other EU leaders on their lack of humanity by comparison?

Aylan Kurdi’s death poses the question of what we are prepared to do in response? Are we going to continue to deny these people refuge or are we going to help them? Upon the answer hinges our right to continue to claim the moral high ground against barbarism.

These people are not migrants. They are not even refugees. They are our brothers and sisters, flesh of our flesh, and denying them help at their time of need is a crime. Lying dead on that beach, Aylan reminds us that a child is the most precious thing in our world. Thus, the need to do whatever it takes to protect and nurture them transcends borders, nationality, ethnicity, religion or any other factor. Whether as a nation, society or culture, we are diminished by his death. Worse, we are culpable in the tragic manner of it.

However at this point words of anger and sentiments of grief are not enough to deal with the disaster unfolding. Surveying the contours of a humanitarian crisis that shows no sign of abating, we see that the EU has unraveled in the face of it. Rather than unity it is disunity that defines it – to the point where it is paralysed with inaction, its member states driven not by a common European agenda but by multiple domestic agendas, none of them progressive.

Consequently, it is now up to the United Nations to step into the breach. Urgently required are the resources, organization, and infrastructure necessary to alleviate the suffering taking place and to ensure that these people are properly cared for, prioritizing their wellbeing and dignity as human beings in the process.

Our enemy is not and never has been those seeking refuge from war and conflict. Our enemy is and always will be those who would deny them.