Law and Subversion - W. Kaleck's Blog on ZEIT ONLINE
Hiatus for this blog – but no rest in the fight against tyranny
It was one of my more hopeful moments when I began this blog in April 2014 with the following words:
We make use of the law, speak the language of law and use the mechanisms of law to help bring about much needed change all around the world.
And now, two years later? It’s Apocalypse Now, according to a headline in the current edition of German weekly Spiegel. If indeed we are facing the apocalypse, even if it is only imagined, the reactions have been swift: governments declaring states of emergency (France, Turkey), sometimes dressing it up in legal justifications, other times not even bothering to make claims to legality. Meanwhile there are calls for – and some moves towards – the abolition of rights for (delete as appropriate) criminals, terrorists, enemies of the state, Muslims, non-believers, homosexuals and refugees.
There’s a lot that could be said to challenge the various harbingers of doom and those whose uncertainty they seek to placate: that the world wasn’t that much better five, twenty or thirty years ago. That ideas like torture (from Donald Trump), military interventions with German involvement (from Bild columnist Julian Reichelt) and the expansion of the security state (from Linke party chairperson Sahra Wagenknecht), the kind of ideas that gained traction after 9/11, have proven to be not just inefficient but counterproductive, as shown perhaps most clearly by the situation in Iraq following the illegal invasion in 2003.
A moment of silence and reflection might be warranted in the face of all this hollow rhetoric. As it happens it will be quiet on this blog for a while, as I will be taking a break from it until the end of the year. Before this hiatus I think it’s a good time to emphasize that the law, at least insofar as it sets out our human and civil rights, can have some persuasive force and influence in the current debates. The world would undoubtedly be a better place if more attention was paid to the core message of all human rights declarations, namely that every person is the bearer of a range of universal rights. Furthermore we need to realize that while all these fundamental rights have already been set out on paper somewhere, we must at all times keep fighting – against pushback from the powerful – to make them a reality.
Then we can start with the practical work of solidarity, for those affected by repression in Erdoğan’s Turkey and for those suffering due to war, torture and displacement, and thus contribute to societies that are safe for all.
Paying greater attention to the law won’t be enough on its own; the law is not that powerful. But it is a good place to start. Adherence to basic legal guarantees is crucial if we are to bring about long-term solutions for foreign, security and migration policy and a society firmly rooted in the rule of law and real democracy.