Bloc de l'equip docent de l'assignatura HISTÒRIA POLÍTICA I SOCIAL CONTEMPORÀNIA, Facultat de Comunicació Blanquerna, Universitat Ramon Llull

diumenge, 18 de desembre de 2011

Josep Fontana: "Alemanya ha aconseguit dominar de nou Europa"

El 20-N Josep Fontana va fer 80 anys. I el primer que diu quan ens rep a la Universitat Pompeu Fabra és que només n'hi queda un per poder donar classe, entre ironies sobre les seves neurones. Al legislador li convindria submergir-se en les gairebé mil pàgines, prescindint de les 200 de bibliografia, dePor el bien del imperio. Una historia del mundo desde 1945(Pasado & Presente). És una obra monumental. I segueix treballant-hi. La història continua.

ARIADNA TRILLAS | Actualitzada el 17/12/2011 00:00

La història és un seguit de guerres?

De temps de pau n'hi ha molt pocs. Se suposa que ara estem en pau, però hi ha un munt de guerres obertes. El món hauria de ser com somiaven els anarquistes, tothom feliç, però no hem trobat com fer-ho realitat. Perquè l'ésser humà està dominat per irracionalitats, prejudicis, pors.

La por és un gran fil conductor.

És un element clau que explica la història. Per exemple, la por que senten els que tenen alguna cosa dels que no tenen res, pensen que els assaltaran i els hi prendran. És facilíssim vendre por de l'okupa, del delinqüent, de l'aturat. El vot massiu del PP és això, el " Virgencita, que me quede como estoy ".

Hi ha dolents. Però hi ha bons?

La història no és de bons i dolents, te l'agafis pel costat que te l'agafis. Tots dos bàndols tenien bones intencions en certs aspectes, i tots dos feien servir mètodes que duen al desastre.

És un indignat superdocumentat?

Un indignat és algú que, de cop, descobreix que el món no és la situació feliç en què creia que vivia i s'indigna. Si ets lúcid, entens bé que el món no va bé i que cal pensar com millorar-lo. Jo m'he format amb Gramsci: el pessimisme de la intel·ligència i l'optimisme de la voluntat. L'acció col·lectiva és l'únic que canvia les coses.

Les desigualtats mai no havien estat tan grans. Hi ha massa inacció?

Ningú no sap ben bé com sortir de la crisi. L'esquerra està desconcertada. I una part majoritària es distingeix de la dreta per la retòrica i poc més. O bé hi ha joves que s'apunten a velles fórmules radicals impossibles d'imposar. Sempre es pot gastar una mica menys, però l'austeritat ens acabarà portant cap a la pobresa, el desemparament, l'extinció.

Ha quallat que calen sacrificis. Creu que expliquem bé la crisi?

S'ha imposat la visió del curt termini, que la crisi és temporal. Però ja des dels 70 s'estan activant mecanismes que estan fent créixer les desigualtats, amenacen els drets socials, redueixen els salaris reals i ens porten a acceptar que els recursos per fer front a l'endeutament dels estats surtin només de la gent amb menys capacitat i que a les persones amb més capacitat se'ls abaixin els impostos. Se suposa que aleshores destinaran els diners a promoure feina i progrés, però mai no ho han fet. La factura l'hem de pagar entre tots.

El 2008 es va perdre la gran ocasió? Greenspan va acceptar que anava errat: el sistema no s'autoregula.

Tot això també respon a la idea que la crisi era temporal. Calia véncer-la i després tot tornaria a ser normal. Però el procés en què s'inscriu la crisi es va iniciar als 70 amb Carter, el va continuar Reagan i després Clinton, amb l'abolició de la vella llei que des dels anys 30 impedia que els bancs de dipòsits especulessin amb els fons. També es va deixar en plena llibertat d'actuació els derivats. Es va permetre l'especulació.

Però el 2008 va ressuscitar Keynes, encara que només un any.

Els governs és cert que van mobilitzar molts diners, però la majoria van anar a salvar la banca, i pocs a estimular l'economia i a donar feina. Com diuen premis Nobel com Stiglitz o Krugman, l'important no és tant el deute com l'atur.

Estem en un terreny abonat per als totalitarismes o dic una tonteria?

No fan cap falta. Els totalitarismes sempre surten quan hi ha una amenaça revolucionària, davant la qual es respon amb mà dura, o amb mà dura i certa capacitat d'engrescament, com el feixisme.

Per què diu que la por a la revolució va desactivar-se el 1968?

Simplificant, el Maig del 68 va començar a mostrar els límits de la revolta. Es va veure que assaltar l'estat des dels carrers de París era impossible, els altres tenien policia i exèrcit. I a l'altre costat, igual: la Primavera de Praga es va esclafar, no es volien tolerar les llibertats. Però a partir dels 70 va quedar la llavor de la por. En la defensa dels drets dels consumidors, per exemple.

És cert que els militars dels EUA van voler fer servir la bomba nuclear?

Sí. En el moment de Kennedy i els míssils cubans. Kennedy va cometre molts errors, però per sort va fer la reflexió que no valia la pena provocar res que pogués costar 7.200 morts. Hi ha l'anècdota del militar que va dir que si en una guerra total quedessin dos americans i un rus ja haurien guanyat. Per sort, al món actual la capacitat dels militars per influir de manera decisiva en política ha minvat.

Una altra cosa bona, va: l'augment de la consciència pel canvi climàtic.

Els plantejaments ecològics són un fruit dels 60, com la situació de la dona en les societats occidentals, o els canvis en la discriminació racial. Però la consciència ecologista no serveix de res. Perquè no arriba a influir políticament. Miri el Canadà.

Parla de penetració del poder polític de l'empresa als EUA. I aquí?

Deunidó. Quin poder polític real té La Caixa a Catalunya?

Ni idea.

Doncs ha de reflexionar sobre La Caixa i la política catalana. De la seva capacitat de penetració n'estic bastant convençut. I li asseguro que mai no en sortirà cap anàlisi desfavorable. I no deu ser una excepció. I el BBVA? I el Santander?

I la penetració de la religió?

Eisenhower; Truman; Bush, que és un convers... El pes dels grups cristians més integristes ha tingut conseqüències sinistres als EUA. I ja veurem què ens passa a nosaltres, tot i que el PP, encara que hagi estat utilitzant la religió contra el PSOE, és massa intel·ligent per no deixar-se entabanar. El problema per a Rajoy és l'economia. Només pot escoltar instruccions de Berlín.

Alemanya mana molt.

Alemanya ha aconseguit dominar de nou Europa, s'assembla molt al que somniaven abans. Però en pagarem l'autèntica factura nosaltres.

Els EUA veien la mà de Moscou arreu. Error conscient o paranoia?

Es van negar a entendre els nacionalismes. Per exemple, que els nord-vietnamites poguessin ser nacionalistes. Veien Moscou movent-ho tot. Era un error. Tenien por del fantasma de l'altre costat, quan era més dèbil del que semblava. I els russos, igual. Quan a Reagan li van dir que els russos tenien por que els EUA els ataquessin, va respondre, sorprès: "Per què? Què tenen que ens pugui interessar?" L'altre error dels dos bàndols era la teoria del dòmino: no podem deixar que un país caigui, perquè corromprà la resta.

Àsia condemna Occident a l'ocàs?

A l'Àsia és on hi ha els motors del creixement econòmic mundial, però els del poder polític encara no hi són. Ara veiem un problema de rivalitat entre els EUA i la Xina pel control del Pacífic Sud que pot comportar seriosos problemes. Els EUA encara diuen: hi ha una zona potencialment molt rica en recursos naturals, que cal treure del seu abast. Queda molta història per escriure en el terreny de la Guerra Freda, que en aquest camp encara és tan viva com el 1950. Els americans tenen projectes militars sobre com fer una guerra per controlar què porten els vaixells, per aïllar la Xina!

Quants llibres ha llegit per fer el seu? 200 planes de bibliografia...

No ho sé, però el que és segur és que el que m'he hagut de gastar en llibres no ho compensaré mai amb els drets d'autor. He treballat amb un text escrit que anava millorant i allargant, i amb materials agrupats. I encara estic recollint material, com si l'hagués de tornar a escriure.

Què li agrada tant, de la història?

Amb Jaume Vicens Vives compartíem un lema, el tinc aquí penjat en un tros de carta: "La història serveix per entendre el món on vivim, i pots fer feina per al país treballant-la".

Quan es va desencantar del PSUC?

Vaig militar en un partit que tenia una capacitat popular extraordinària, que era capaç de fer moure la gent als barris, que els diumenges sortien a vendre la premsa. Era una cosa oberta. Després es va matar des de dalt. A partir d'un cert moment, vaig decidir que no estava disposat a sotmetre'm, que ningú controlés el que pogués opinar o pensar. Però tinc el cor a l'esquerra i la sang, roja. Seguiré votant a l'esquerra, o a la CUP si acaba tenint consciència col·lectiva per presentar-se arreu.

L'estat plurinacional que defensava ha fracassat...

Caldria fer una educació col·lectiva tan gran per vèncer els prejudicis que no veig com podríem fer-la. La dreta utilitza l'argument anticatalà perquè sap que és un argument eficaç. El que hi ha hagut ha estat un cert desplegament d'autonomisme administratiu, amb tolerància per a determinades coses però amb molt poca capacitat de comprensió.

L'alternativa és la independència?

Qui és independent, ara? Rajoy és gaire independent?

Hi ha estats, però.

Malauradament no és un objectiu a curt termini, entre altres coses perquè a Berlín tampoc no ens ho deixarien fer. La pròxima cosa que voldria fer és una reflexió sobre la identitat dels catalans. És un tema complicat i difícil.

http://www.ara.cat/ara_premium/ara_tu/JOSEP_FONTANA-Alemanya-aconseguit-dominar-Europa_0_610739013.html

divendres, 9 de desembre de 2011

RESEARCH METHODS FOR HISTORY


This is the first guide to the sources, techniques, and concepts needed for effective historical research studies.

Each chapter introduces a different research method. These range from the well established, such as archival research, to the less widely known, such as Geographical Information Systems, and recent trends, such as textual analysis and material culture studies. The contributors explain how each method can be applied to different historical subjects and periods.

Case studies range from life stories written and spoken by migrants and soldiers to the "second wave" of women's history, including examples from Eastern Europe.

The book covers 13 different methods spanning all periods, from the medieval to the modern.

Provides a lively critical survey of methods for historical research at all levels While historians have become increasingly sensitive to social and cultural theory since the 1980s, the actual methods by which research is carried out in History have been largely taken for granted. Research Methods for History encourages those researching the past to think creatively about the wide range of methods currently in use, to understand how these methods are used and what historical insights they can provide. The book covers sources and methods that are well-established in History, such as archival research, together with those that are less widely known. The themes of the different chapters have been selected to reflect recent trends in the subject. Even with more established methods, however, the aim is to present new insights and perspectives and to open researchers' minds to new methodological possibilities. Key features International scope Encourages methodological comparison across time-periods Encourages historians at all levels to think critically and creatively Transferable methodological skills useful for Geography, Archaeology and Cultural Studies

Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgements 1. Introduction: Why Bother with Method? Simon Gunn and Lucy Faire Part 1: The Essentials 2. Working With/In the Archives Michelle T. King 3. Approaching Visual Materials Ludmilla Jordanova 4. Material Culture Alan Mayne 5. Landscape and Place Jo Guldi Part 2: Researching Individuals and Groups 6. Collective Biography Krista Cowman 7. Life Stories and Historical Analysis Alistair Thomson Part 3: Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis 8. GIS, Spatial Technologies and Digital Mapping Keith Lilley 9. Document to Database and Spreadsheet R.J. Morris Part 4: Deciphering Meanings 10. Reading Language as an Historical Source Julie-Marie Strange 11. Analysing Behaviour as Performance Simon Gunn Part 5: Rethinking Categories 12. Ethics and Historical Research William Gallois 13. Time, Temporality and History Prashant Kidambi Notes on Contributors Index

Simon Gunn is Professor of Urban History in the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester. He has taught and studied research methods in Historical Studies for a number of years. His publications include History and Cultural Theory (Longman, 2006) and The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class (MUP, 2000). He is joint editor of the Cambridge University Press journal, Urban History and co-editor with James Vernon of The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain (University of California Press, 2010). Lucy Faire is Honorary Fellow in the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester. She specialises in the history of home and leisure. She is the co-author with Mark Jancovich of The Place of the Audience: Cultural Geographies of Film Consumption (BFI, 2003).

Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (30 Nov 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0748642048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0748642045


dissabte, 12 de novembre de 2011

Dealing with the enemy

History of diplomacy


Nov 12th 2011

George Kennan invented the American post-war policy of “containment” of the Soviet Union. His biography, 30 years in the making, fills in the detail


George F. Kennan: An American Life. By John Lewis Gaddis. Penguin Press; 784 pages; $39.95 and £30. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

THREE decades ago George Kennan— former American ambassador to Moscow, multilingual diplomat and conceptualiser of “containment”, the heart of his country’s foreign policy towards the Soviet Union—agreed to allow an American cold-war historian, John Lewis Gaddis, to serve as his biographer. Kennan had decamped from public service to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton more than 20 years earlier and was already 78 years old. When he began giving Mr Gaddis interviews and stacks of personal papers in 1981, their understanding was that the biography would appear in the presumably not-too-distant future after the elder man’s passing.

Decades of interviews later, Mr Gaddis, who is now 70, had become accustomed to his students “speculating sombrely about which of us might go first”. Even Kennan felt sorry for “poor John”; in 2003 he lamented the “serious burden” of his own “unnatural longevity”. It was only in 2005, when death finally claimed Kennan at the age of 101, that Mr Gaddis could begin thinking about publishing this long-awaited biography.

The extraordinary length of the book’s gestation meant that much changed between conception and publication. Had it appeared in the mid-1980s, the context would have been cold-war stalemate; in the early 1990s, celebration; a decade ago in 2001, concern about terrorism. Because “George F. Kennan: An American Life” finally arrives in the uneasy year of 2011, its context is economic misery and questions about the future of American dominance in international affairs.

Mr Gaddis is unequivocal on this topic. He told the New York Times in 2004 that “American imperial power…has been a remarkable force for good, for democracy, for prosperity.” He has also expressed his admiration for the former presidents, Ronald Reagan and George Bush junior, and their versions of “grand strategy”, a topic he now teaches at Yale University. All of these developments have naturally given rise to much speculation. Could Mr Gaddis, who admits that he speaks no foreign languages, get on top of the mountain of material and do credit to such an international polymath? Would his own views emerge along with Kennan’s? The 784-page answer to both these questions is yes.

Mr Gaddis has mastered the sources that came his way over the decades. The resulting biography is engaging and lucid. The first half of the book almost has the sweep of a novel. Readers join Kennan in Germany as the Nazis rise; in Norway in 1931 as the awkward young man meets the parents of his fiancée, to whom he would remain married for 73 years; in the Soviet Union in 1933 as he establishes the first American embassy; in Czechoslovakia as Adolf Hitler arrives and the world descends into another war; and back in Moscow again in 1945 when he receives skin-crawling personal compliments from Joseph Stalin on his Russian language skills. The chapter detailing Kennan’s breakthrough—achieved by redesigning American foreign policy at a stroke, via his 5,000-word “Long Telegram” from Moscow to Washington, DC, in 1946—is particularly gripping. As he himself put it: “My reputation was made. My voice now carried.”

Before this, Kennan was a promising young officer in the American foreign service; after it, he joined the top ranks of American strategists. His arguments convinced the Truman administration that efforts to continue wartime co-operation with Russia were fruitless. America should recognise the Soviet Union as a new kind of enemy, one seeking to destroy “our traditional way of life”. Rather than fighting a conventional war, America would need to contain Soviet hostility firmly and consistently over the long term. As America resisted Moscow more and more, Kennan felt it was crucial that his country maintain the “health and vigour of our own society” and not become a garrison state.

After the “Long Telegram”, Kennan returned to Washington and founded the State Department’s influential Policy Planning Staff. But, according to Mr Gaddis, his prestige had peaked by 1948. After that, Kennan became increasingly sidelined for opposing what he judged to be excessive militarisation of his containment strategy. Yet he continued to condemn overly militarised policies for the rest of his life.

Kennan took particular offence at the attitude of the Reagan administration, which he viewed as “simply childish, inexcusably childish, unworthy of people charged with the responsibility for conducting the affairs of a great power in an endangered world.” Nor did the end of the cold war change his mind. In 1992 Kennan made a point of stating that “nobody ‘won’ the cold war”. It had been a long, costly tragedy, “fuelled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and strength of the other side.”

Mr Gaddis disagrees. He closes his study by condemning Kennan for having “blinded” himself to the fact that, in Mr Gaddis’s opinion, Reagan brought Kennan’s “strategy to its successful conclusion”. If Kennan were alive, he would probably still disagree, and not without reason. If the elder man’s concern for the costs of bellicose foreign policy, rather than the younger man’s enthusiasm for imperial exercise of American power, had dominated the last decade, it would have made for a sounder grand strategy. In ways that this biography seems not entirely to appreciate, Kennan’s far-sighted opposition to American over-militarisation makes his personal career history less gripping than his legacy.

dilluns, 7 de novembre de 2011

Reykjavik: Turning Point of the Cold War

by Ty Cobb

October 20, 2011 3:30 pm

Twenty-five years ago this month President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, at a summit that appears, in retrospect, to truly be the “turning point in the Cold War.” To many observers, and those of us at the talks, the protracted and animated negotiations seemed initially to have ended in failure, as the two leaders left the conference without an agreement and with dour expressions on their faces.

The road to Reykjavik actually began with proposals made by Reagan in 1981 to eliminate all intermediate range ballistic missiles (the so-called Zero Option) and in 1982 to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads by at least one-third. This was a significant departure from arms control thinking, which had previously focused only on limiting future growth of these systems.

Until Reykjavik, Soviet leaders dismissed these ideas as one sided and insincere, and rejected them. Yet Gorbachev came to Reykjavik with his own dramatic proposals, including a 50% reduction in strategic offensive arms, complete elimination of all intermediate range (INF) missiles, and a non withdrawl from the 1972 ABM treaty for 10 years.

While the Soviet leader had initially suggested only a mini summit in preparation for more detailed negotiations in 1987, the Soviets came prepared with these far-reaching and detailed proposals on arms control. President Reagan embraced the negotiations with enthusiasm, delighted to see Moscow’s willingness to consider many of our most ambitious suggestions.

The negotiations were complex, animated and highly substantive, and Gorbachev proved to be intelligent, knowledgeable and facile. Reagan held firm in his principles. No more unverifiable treaties (“Trust but Verify” he loved to say in Russian), no more agreements codifying Soviet superiority in arms on the European continent, no more tolerating Moscow’s refusal to grant its citizens basic human rights, and – perhaps most importantly to the President – no more reliance on offensive nuclear missiles to provide for our security. Gorbachev hung firm on many key points, I think hoping that the President would “understand” that an agreement on Moscow’s terms would ensure the President emerged from the Summit as a popular and respected world leader and peacemaker.

The Soviets were clearly prepared to agree to major reductions in strategic forces, intermediate range weapons, and warheads. Gorbachev even showed a willingness, however strained, to discuss our positions on regional and human rights issues. But, the one point he needed to lock in was an agreement that the U.S. would confine its research and testing on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to the laboratory.

We did not fully appreciate at the time that Gorbachev, unlike his predecessors, was cognizant of the depths that the Soviet economy had fallen. Most importantly, he apparently had come to the conclusion that should the United States seriously embark on its “Star Wars” plans, what was at stake was more than a space defense program. Gorbachev believed that should the USA seriously pursue SDI it represented the possibility that America would bring together its technological prowess and economic superiority in a manner that would consign the USSR, to use the Marxist term, “to the trash heap of history”.

Some have said that the reason so many Soviet concessions were made was because Reagan used SDI as a “bargaining chip”. Maybe so. However, the reason SDI succeeded so well was precisely because the President believed in the program so passionately. It was a great bargaining tool because the President did not believe it was a “bargaining chip”.

The final session that stretched into the night was a scene of high drama. Gorbachev offered to eliminate all strategic forces, not just ballistic missiles. Reagan then countered that it would be fine with him if they could agree to eliminate all nuclear weapons. They almost had an agreement. The sticking point fell to the area that most concerned the Soviets – confining Reagan’s SDI to the laboratory.

This the President could not agree to. As the two leaders walked to the door with dour looks on their faces, Gorbachev asked the President, “What more could we have done?” Reagan, asking Gorbachev how he could “turn down a historic opportunity because of a single word”, simply said to the General Secretary, “You could have said yes.

Despite the apparent failure at Reykjavik the two parties resumed negotiations and the following year signed the INF treaty at the Washington Summit, totally eliminating the intermediate range missiles. By 1991 the two sides agreed on a START treaty that cut the US and Soviet nuclear arsenals by 80% over the next decade.

Mikhail Gorbachev wrote this week that while the Reykjavik Summit failed to “achieve our highest aspirations”, the Summit served as “the major turning point in the quest for a safer and secure world.” Years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was asked what precipitated the USSR’s demise. Without hesitation, he answered, “Oh, its Reykjavik.”

/////////////

Aside from the huge policy implications of the Reykjavik Summit, let me share a few anecdotes and side notes:

I served as the Executive Secretary for the Geneva and Reykjavik Summits, which essentially meant I was in charge of coordinating the briefing sessions and preparatory papers. Nothing glamorous. However, having found out about the proposed Summit that would occur in Iceland in less than two weeks, I immediately requested that we have the President’s full attention for a series of briefings on key issues. Well, that led to a tumultuous intra-White House fight, as the Political Directorate was more concerned with having the popular President on the campaign trail since the 1986 mid-term elections were coming up. In one of the exchanges I said to the political team that there was no way we could permit the President to be out on the campaign trail now. One responded to me that on the schedule were “two stops in Nevada, on behalf of your buddy, Jim Santini”, running for the Senate. “Oh”, I said, “Guess that would be ok!”

When I went home I told my wife Suellen that we would be heading for Reykjavik for a “mini-Summit” in 10 days, but were not going to have but a few prep sessions with the President. “Mini-Summit?” she responded with a doubtful look. “Gorby got his clocked cleaned in Geneva”, she said, “Do you really think he is just coming for a handshake?”

Hmmm. She was right. When the Soviet delegation arrived it was clear that they had a full team that was thoroughly ready to pursue a very ambitious agenda. And, by the way, contrary to the agreements that no wives would join the leaders, Raisa Gorbacheva stepped off the plane. Bad sign. Nancy did not come to the Summit and President Reagan did not function as well without her. As the Summit became more substantive and contentious, we could tell that Reagan really missed having Nancy there with him.

The Icelanders were kind to provide a small venue for the talks—the supposedly haunted Hofdi House—but it was really tiny. As the talks proceeded and became more detailed, Soviet and American negotiators found themselves huddled almost together in the cramped quarters’ basement, all sharing only one bathroom!

The American team imposed a blackout on contacting “higher HQ” during the talks. This put BG John Moellering, who was the JCS representative there, in a most difficult spot. He was a relative neophyte to the arms control arena and had been in that postion only a few days, but he was astute enough to recognize that major decisions were being reached without the advice and comments of the Joint Chiefs. At one crucial point, weighing the potential wrath of violating the secrecy ban against the obvious need to keep his superiors informed, he asked me what I thought he should do…..What would you have advised him? I think John retired as a one-star! The Chiefs were NOT happy campers.

When we came back from Reykjavik, our European allies were up in arms—what were we thinking trading away their security—the GLCM and Pershing missiles especially—without consultations! Alas, weren’t these the same Europeans who had been beating us down for years with birch rods for our inflexibility on arms control issues? Mitterrand and Kohl, especially, but yes, Maggie, too. Loved it.

A final point—until Reykjavik many outside observers were unaware of President Reagan’s strong opposition to nuclear weapons and his desire to rid the earth of these horribly destructive weapons. Now they knew it, but those around the President had often heard him just ask, “Well, Cap…or Bud…or George…why can’t we just agree to abolish ALL nuclear weapons”. All of his advisors—and that included George Shultz at the time, despite his more recent declarations in favor of a nuclear-free world—would recoil and say something like, “Well, Mr. President, we agree in principle, but given Soviet conventional force advantages, we cannot at this time consider giving up our reliability on nuclear weapons to repel Soviet aggression”. The President would nod, “Well, ok, I won’t push it”. But you knew he would and he certainly did at Reykjavik!

http://harvardnsj.com/2011/10/2689/

G-20 Is at Its Best When the Stakes Are Highest

By ESWAR PRASAD


ITHACA, NEW YORK — With the global economy on the ropes and gasping for oxygen, the world’s eyes will be on the leaders of the Group of 20 countries as they gather in Cannes for their economic summit meeting. The challenges they face are enormous.

The G-20 moved to center stage two years ago, when the global financial system faced a meltdown. This group was in fact formed much earlier, in 1999, as a forum for finance ministers to jointly tackle the aftermath of the 1997-98 East Asian financial crisis. Given the increasing economic might and influence of emerging markets, a balanced group comprising the main advanced and emerging market economies is certainly more relevant than the hitherto high-profile Group of 7 advanced economies.

G-20 countries produce about 90 percent of global economic output, generate four-fifths of world trade and account for two-thirds of the world’s population. All countries have an equal “vote,” although the group does not have any formal powers and works largely by consensus and moral suasion.

Despite its economic heft, during the first decade of its existence the G-20 barely registered on the public’s radar and created few ripples in international policy circles. The onset of the global financial crisis changed all of that.

Faced with a calamity, the G-20 rose to the occasion, turning itself from a talking shop into a group that acted in concert to keep the global financial system from collapsing. Whether or not countries were coordinating their policies or just protecting their national interests is beside the point. In the midst of the crisis, it certainly inspired some confidence to see world leaders working together to pump government stimulus into their economies, prop up their financial systems and add to the firefighting capacity of institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

Once again, with the European debt crisis threatening the fragile global recovery, the G-20 is leading the charge to bolster the world economy and stabilize financial systems. Indeed, the group seems to work best when the world economy is approaching the brink of disaster, which naturally creates a sense of common purpose and shared interests.

Other than battling crises, the group has become the de facto agenda-setting body for global economic and financial policies. This broader role has generated existential questions for the G-20, not just about its effectiveness but also its legitimacy and role in the international monetary system.

The G-20 certainly serves as a useful forum for coordinating policy actions when the interests of its members are congruent — when their backs are all against the wall. But the group seems less effective at resolving conflicts among its members or helping to overcome domestic political gridlock that is hindering effective policy making in some of them.

Rifts within the group tend to become exposed in calmer times, making it harder for the G-20 to take a more coordinated approach to longer-term objectives like unified financial regulatory standards and reform of the international monetary system. For instance, at the Seoul summit meeting a year ago, currency wars broke out into the open, drowning out talk of strengthening the global financial safety net. The United States accused China of using unfair exchange rate and trade policies, while China and some emerging markets blamed loose U.S. monetary policy for worsening inflation and asset market bubbles in their economies.

This points to a fundamental problem. The G-20 has little leverage over the policies of its members, especially the larger economies. When one country’s economies policies may have adverse consequences for the rest of the world, the group is reduced to finger-pointing and acrimony. Moreover, the group has no instruments to nudge its members to confront hard domestic choices, which allows problems to fester and threaten both domestic and global financial stability. Recently, the G-20 has been limited to jawboning Europe to face up to harsh realities and take decisive action to tackle the spiraling debt crisis that has ripple effects far beyond Europe’s borders.

All of this suggests that, belying its immense potential, the G-20 may be better equipped to cope with the aftermath of crises rather than forestall them. Indeed, since the group works mostly by consensus, a small coalition can block longer-term policy actions favored even by a majority of the group. Coalitions within the group are fluid and issue-specific, but they tend to be more effective at blocking rather than advancing consensus on specific policy issues.

The G-20’s broader legitimacy is also open to question. The group has assigned to itself the role of formulating policies on matters ranging from financial regulation to combating climate change. Shouldn’t the G-20 be broadened and made more inclusive rather than let this small self-selected group, which excludes the majority of countries, make decisions on behalf of the world?

While the G-20 is by no means a perfectly representative group, making it more inclusive and representative could bolster its legitimacy but destroy its effectiveness. Its smaller size allows it to be nimbler than institutions like the United Nations and the I.M.F. It is relatively new, not burdened by a complex bureaucratic structure, and includes the key players on the global economic stage, giving each of them an equal voice.

Given its membership and flexible structure, the G-20 can be a potent force that promotes economic welfare by improving domestic and global macroeconomic and financial stability. This calls for visionary leadership from these countries and an understanding that there is a commonality of long-term interests that needs to be recognized and acted upon, rather than being sidetracked by short-term policy conflicts.

G-20 leaders must rise above the temptation to put narrow domestic interests and political expediency above long-term benefits to the global economic system. Otherwise, the enormous potential of the G-20 in preventing rather than just coping with crises will go unrealized. The choice is clear.

Eswar S. Prasad is a professor of economics at Cornell University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/03/business/global/g-20-is-at-its-best-when-the-stakes-are-highest.html?_r=1

diumenge, 21 d’agost de 2011

The K.G.B.’s Bathhouse Plot

August 20, 2011
By VICTOR SEBESTYEN


Victor Sebestyen is a Hungarian-born journalist and the author of “Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.

London

THE plot was hatched at a bathhouse in downtown Moscow. At midmorning on Saturday, Aug. 17, 1991, the head of the K.G.B., Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, summoned five senior Soviet officials for a highly secretive meeting that he told them would be vital for the future of the U.S.S.R.

Wrapped in towels in the steam room, and later while cooling down over vodka and Scotch, the half-dozen die-hard Communist apparatchiks outlined a plan to overthrow the Soviet government. For the Soviet spymaster, the prime minister, defense minister and the other paunchy, half-naked co-conspirators, the stakes could not have been higher. And they had to act quickly.

The country was in a shambles, and the chaos of democracy and nationalism threatened to destroy it entirely, the K.G.B. chief warned. The Baltic states had already moved toward independence and something had to be done to silence Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, the noisy, newly elected president of the Russian republic, whose belligerent, man-of-the-people style made him by far the most popular politician in the country, mainly because of his attacks on the privileges of the Communist Party elite.

Likewise, the coup plotters insisted, the weak and spineless Soviet president and party boss, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, had to go. He had proposed signing a new treaty that would turn the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics into a looser federation of autonomous states, most of which intended to turn their backs on socialism. The treaty would mean the end of the U.S.S.R., and that could not be tolerated.

A plan was hastily formulated. One group of conspirators flew to Crimea, where Mr. Gorbachev was on vacation, with the goal of forcing him to abandon the treaty or resign. If he refused, a regiment of K.G.B. troops would hold him captive indefinitely at his seaside villa. The others would stay in Moscow, ready to take over the levers of power and use force to assert their authority if challenged.

A list was drawn up of the names of 200 people who would be immediately arrested, the first of whom was Yeltsin. The Lefortovo prison in Moscow was emptied in preparation for new prisoners, and 250,000 pairs of handcuffs were ordered to be sent to Moscow from a factory in Pskov.

Not one of the conspirators counseled caution or seemed to consider the law of unintended consequences: within a few days their ill-prepared coup attempt would bring forward all that they feared most. Their “patriotic action” would once and for all remove their beloved U.S.S.R. from the map.

The coup was a fiasco from the start. Mr. Gorbachev refused to resign or to shun the treaty. At dawn on Aug. 19, Muscovites woke to the announcement on radio and TV that an Emergency Committee had been formed to govern the country. Then, for several hours, the state-controlled airwaves went dead — except for a continuous loop of “Swan Lake” that played for hours. Most Muscovites were unaffected by the coup; their principal memories of it are the sound of Tchaikovsky.

The drama was confined to one small area — around the White House in Moscow, home of Russia’s Parliament — and lasted a few hours. The bungling putschists failed to arrest any of their targets or to control communications, and soldiers refused to fire on the crowds outside the White House.

To his own amazement, Yeltsin was not apprehended at the start of the operation. Indeed, the central image of the August coup is of a brave and vigorous Yeltsin climbing onto a tank to make a defiant statement denouncing the plotters. And he retained a telephone line enabling him to coordinate his support. This stirring scene was foolishly allowed to be shown on TV that evening, turning the obscure Yeltsin into a figure of world significance overnight.

The joke swiftly went around Moscow that you knew Communism must be through in Russia when the Bolsheviks couldn’t even mount a proper coup. At a news conference that evening, the nominal head of the Emergency Committee, the Soviet vice president, Gennadi I. Yanayev, was seen in public for the first time. A gray 53-year-old bureaucrat with nicotine-stained fingers and a shiny suit, he was visibly drunk. When he told the lie that Mr. Gorbachev was ill, his hands shook and his hairpiece began to slip.

For all the tragedy and farce of those three August days, the world has plenty for which to thank the incompetent conspirators who hastened the fall of an empire. Less than a week after the coup fizzled, two of its leaders killed themselves, the others were in jail and the Communist Party they sought to save was banned. Yeltsin, the party’s principal assassin, was the most powerful man in the country.

For a generation, the failure of Soviet Communism had been evident for all to see. The great experiment that once bred idealism ended in food lines and prison camps. Marx believed that man could be made perfect; Communists found that people had an irritating way of refusing to be perfected.

Yet despite the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, hardly anyone in the summer of 1991 predicted that the U.S.S.R. itself would fall apart by the end of the year. It might have limped on for decades, as the Ottoman Empire did in the late 19th century, dying slowly amid civil wars. Yet the second most powerful country in the world simply withered away, not in the classical Marxist sense, but it literally ceased to exist. And the manner of its going was one of the best things. The Soviet people destroyed the Soviet Union, not outsiders, and not through violent conflict.

BUT what followed has not been a democratic idyll. Despite the putsch’s failure, some Soviet residue remains — a “coup culture” that breeds a winner-take-all view of politics. In Russia today, there is no concept of a loyal opposition, no separation of powers, no mass participation in political life and a news media that is far from free.

There was a fleeting opportunity for liberal democracy and genuine free markets to emerge in Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed. But Yeltsin did little to develop civil society, the rule of law, the emergence of viable political parties or a modernized economy after the failed 1991 coup. A few people became very rich, adopting methods reminiscent of, but even more ruthless than, the 19th-century robber barons in the United States. But a middle class with a stake in how the country is run barely exists.

Yeltsin’s corrupt cronyism encouraged a gangster capitalism from which Russia is still suffering. But the few years that he and Mr. Gorbachev led the country together seem today a halcyon period for freedom in Russia.

Yeltsin’s handpicked successor, Vladimir V. Putin, reversed the few fledgling democratic reforms that had been made, turning Russia into a country that merely goes through the motions of democracy every few years while power remains concentrated in the same hands. Mr. Putin replaced a one-party state with a one-clique state of people around him — a pattern replicated elsewhere in the former Soviet Union — financed almost entirely by booming oil and gas revenues.

Today, he is one of the few to lament the Soviet Union’s passing. Mr. Putin, who in 1991 was a middle-ranking intelligence officer in St. Petersburg, left the K.G.B. during the coup. To him the collapse of the U.S.S.R. was “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

But for the millions who had to endure life under the Soviet yoke — born in bloodshed and kept alive for decades through intimidation — its end was long overdue.

Still, 20 years later, as Mr. Putin’s continuing influence and popularity attest, the traditional Russian ideal of a strongman in the Kremlin remains. And depressing as it is, if dire economic times come again, a coup d’état still seems as likely a way as any for political change to occur in Russia or many former Soviet states. The Bolsheviks may have disappeared for good when Yeltsin climbed atop a tank in August 1991, but the legacy of authoritarian rule lingers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/opinion/sunday/the-soviet-coup-that-failed.html

dijous, 4 d’agost de 2011

The G-20: a pathway to effective multilateralism?

Chaillot Paper - No125 - 21 April 2011

by Juha Jokela

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Summary:


The emergence of the G-20 as the primary forum of world economic cooperation is one of the most significant developments in global governance in the twenty-first century. It is linked to the ongoing transformation of the world order as well as the recognised need to find global solutions to problems which are progressively acquiring global dimensions. Against this background, the emergence of the G-20 has been seen as providing further evidence of the increasingly multipolar order and signalling the end of the West’s domination of the world economy and politics. On the other hand, it has been viewed as a response to the increasing interdependence forged by globalisation. Relatedly, its development has been associated with a poorly functioning global governance system.

While the future of the G-20 is still unknown, an analysis of its evolution is useful to assess its importance and impact for global governance and multilateralism. To do that, this chapter will analyse the major steps of its development. It will set the scene for discussion by briefly analysing the development of ‘G-summitry’ in the post-war era. It will then outline and analyse the formation of the G-20 at ministerial and central bank chief executive level in 1999 as well as the group’s functioning prior to the leaders’ level summit in 2008. Finally, it will discuss the process which led to the establishment of the leaders’ level G-20.

The chapter concludes with three key observations. First the establishment of the G-20 at leaders’ level did not come out of the blue. Rather, it resulted from a rather lengthy process, reflecting the transformation of the world economic and political order. Second, the debate over its membership suggests significant political considerations related to the group’s representativeness and legitimacy. This is hardly surprising. However, this chapter’s analysis envisages that the composition of the membership was accompanied by far more extensive political debate than is commonly supposed. Third, while the group is clearly informal in character and is not officially linked with the formal global governance institutions, the linkage was explicitly discussed and indeed highlighted by the G-7 and membership candidate deputies during the formative period. Moreover, options to link it directly with the Bretton Woods system were on the table in 1999. The decision to establish the group at the leaders’ level has further consolidated its standing and the future of the group is currently the subject of lively debate.

dimecres, 20 de juliol de 2011

Guns and Butter? Regime Competition and the Welfare State during the Cold War

Research Article

WORLD POLITICS

VOL 63-02 (2011)

Guns and Butter? Regime Competition and the Welfare State during the Cold War

Herbert Obingera1 and Carina Schmitta2*

a1 University of Bremen's Center for Social Policy Research, Email: hobinger@zes.uni-bremen.de

a2 University of Bremen, Email: carina.schmitt@sfb579.uni-bremen.de

Abstract

Scholars from a number of disciplines have argued that the massive expansion of the welfare state in the postwar period was at least in some part a byproduct of the cold war and the associated political competition between two rival regime blocs. However, the question of whether regime competition fuelled welfare-state growth has never been subject to systematic examination. Applying spatial econometrics, this article offers the first empirical test of this argument. The authors' findings support the notion that regime competition stimulated the expansion of the welfare state on both sides of the Iron Curtain in the postwar period

Herbert Obinger is a professor of comparative public and social policy at the University of Bremen's Center for Social Policy Research. He is coeditor of the Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State (2010) and coauthor ofTransformations of the Welfare State: Small States, Big Lessons (2010).

Carina Schmitt is research fellow in political science at the Collaborative Research Center Transformations of the State (TranState) at the University of Bremen. Her current research focuses on comparative public policy and quantitative comparative methods. Schmitt has published on civic engagement in Latin America and on convergence of oecd welfare states.

dilluns, 18 de juliol de 2011

COMRADES, episodi 1

L'HOME SENSE CARA, de Markus WOLF


A part de ser un document d’excepció, aquest llibre és també una història amb tots els ingredients d’una novel·la d’espies. L’única diferència és que, en aquest cas, tot és verídic.

En deien l’«home sense cara», una figura envoltada de tant de secret que van haver de passar gairebé vint anys abans que l’espionatge de l’oest no es fes una idea de quin aspecte tenia.

Enviava agents que es feien passar per refugiats a l’altra banda de la frontera de la República Democràtica Alemanya i els hi tenia esperant en silenci, «adormits», mentre prosperaven dins dels estaments de govern de la República Federal d’Alemanya i de l’OTAN.

Va aconseguir infiltrar-se fins a tal punt en el govern federal que Günter Guillaume, un dels seus agents, va arribar a col·laborar personalment amb Willy Brandt. Enviava espies per seduir dones que tenien accés a secrets. Va ser l’adversari més perillós per a l’oest en la guerra secreta per la informació. És Markus Wolf, el millor mestre d’espies d’aquest segle i una llegenda misteriosa de la Guerra Freda.

*extret del bloc de P. CARDÚS

DISSOLUTION de Charles S. Maier

ISBN: 0-691-00746-2ISBN13: 978-0-691-00746-5Author: Charles S. Maier

Description

The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany

Against the backdrop of one of the great transformations of our century, the sudden and unexpected fall of communism as a ruling system, Charles Maier recounts the history and demise of East Germany. Dissolution is his poignant, analytically provocative account of the decline and fall of the late German Democratic Republic.

This book explains the powerful causes for the disintegration of German communism as it constructs the complex history of the GDR. Maier looks at the turning points in East Germany's forty-year history and at the mix of coercion and consent by which the regime functioned. He analyzes the GDR as it evolved from the purges of the 1950s to the peace movements and emerging youth culture of the 1980s, and then turns his attention to charges of Stasi collaboration that surfaced after 1989. In the context of describing the larger collapse of communism, Maier analyzes German elements that had counterparts throughout the Soviet bloc, including its systemic and eventually terminal economic crisis, corruption and privilege in the SED, the influence of the Stasi and the plight of intellectuals and writers, and the slow loss of confidence on the part of the ruling elite. He then discusses the mass protests and proliferation of dissident groups in 1989, the collapse of the ruling party, and the troubled aftermath of unification.

Dissolution is the first book that spans the communist collapse and the ensuing process of unification, and that draws on newly available archival documents from the last phases of the GDR, including Stasi reports, transcripts of Politburo and Central Committee debates, and papers from the Economic Planning Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the office files of key party officials. This book is further bolstered by Maier's extensive knowledge of European history and the Cold War, his personal observations and conversations with East Germans during the country's dramatic transition, and memoirs and other eyewitness accounts published during the four-decade history of the GDR.

About the Author

Charles S. Maier, born Feb. 23, 1939, in New York City, received his A.B. degree summa cum laude from Harvard University in June 1960, studied on a Henry Fellowship at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and completed his Ph.D. in history at Harvard in December 1966. He taught history and social studies at Harvard from February 1967 until 1975, then became visiting professor of history at the University of Bielefeld in spring l976, associate professor and professor of history at Duke University, 1976-81; and since l981 he has been in turn professor of history, Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies, and Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University.

He served as chair of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies from 1993 to 1997 and as Director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, 1994-2001, and again in autumn 2006, and served as an interim chair of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies during 2007-2008.


Outside the university he served as member 1999-2004 and chair (2000-2003) of the Selection Committee for the Berlin Prize Fellowships, American Academy in Berlin; he has served as a member and then as chair of the jury for selecting Rome Prize fellows in modern Italian studies at the American Academy in Rome in 2008 and 2009. He also served as a member of the German American Academic Council (DAAK/GAAC), 1998-2000; as chair of the U.S. Committee for the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies of the Social Science Research Council, 1992-1997; and as member (1977-85) and chair (1978-81) of the Joint Committee on Western Europe of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies.


Maier has held an Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize, 2002-03, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 1984-85, and a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship in 1977-78. He was was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991, and awarded the Commander’s Cross of the German Federal Republic (Grosse Bundesverdienstkreuz) in 1999. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


His books include Among Empires: American Ascendancy and its Predecessors (Harvard University Press, 2006); Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany (Princeton University Press; 1997) translated into German and Italian; The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity (Harvard University Press, 1988, and 1997), and translated into German; In Search of Stability: Explorations in Historical Political Economy (Cambridge University Press, 1987); and Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the Decade after World War I (Princeton University Press, 1975, and 1988) and translated into Italian and Spanish. Among other volumes, he has edited The Cold War in Europe: Era of a Divided Continent (Marcus Wiener, 1991 and 1996); The Marshall Plan and Germany (Oxford: Berg Press Limited, 1991 and German version in 1992; Changing Boundaries of the Political: Essays on the Evolving Balance between State and Society, Public and Private in Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1987); and he is the author of numerous articles and chapters. He is currently working on a history of the idea of territory, that is of politically organized space, since the sixteenth century.


He is married to Pauline Rubbelke Maier, professor of history at MIT, and they have three grown children: Andrea (b. 2/11/65), Nicholas (b. 5/30/68), Jessica (b. 9/4/74).