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Pandemic politics, oligarchic times and the idiotic subject of 'freedom' – Open Democracy



For, paraphrasing Immanuel Kant, no dignity can possibly exist without a public realm, but only price and servitude; if you cannot afford it, bad luck, because you will be left to die. Nor should you think yourself fortunate if, through a ‘charitable’ donation, those who consider themselves masters and the fat cats pretend to save your life, because you are to live – if you happen to save yourself – with your servitude intensified and they with their domination recognised.

Why is the Right, i.e. the political forces which represent and defend the bourgeoisie, and the oligarchic strata with an even greater determination, so nervous and agitated (e.g. in Spain), and why is it so shaky and zigzagging after having boasted to subdue, or at least bully, the world (as is the case in the UK)?

The reason is that the Right has bumped into a real problem, namely, that the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly dissipated the smokescreens which usually pervade normal times, and has forced practically everybody to see and live in their own flesh the deathly consequences of the criminal politics the same Right has carried out against public health and public services, especially over the last ten years.

Furthermore, the pandemic compels almost everyone to truly realise, at least for a moment, about the absolutely vital importance of the public realm (including public services), that is, of that which belongs to everyone, in exactly the same measure and without exception – indeed being self-constituted and not granted (by whom?), it is the nemesis of any kind of concession or donation. In other words, the existence and the very meaning of the public realm lie precisely in the guarantee it provides that no one, either individual or institution, will arrogate the power to grant or deny any portion of what is common – that common which constitutes us as society – to anyone.

This is the crucial point: the flash that reveals the unquestionable value of the public realm. It is also the best moment to underscore the fact that capitalism is not in crisis – the world is, a world whose tragic fate seems to be that it can’t be imagined otherwise than as a capitalist world. Indeed, the world may be falling apart, but capitalism continues to be ‘open’ for business as usual, and profiteering and profiting more than usual.

We cannot pretend to be surprised, let alone shocked, to see that ‘hedge funds [are] “raking in billions” during coronavirus crisis’, or that the ‘private firm running UK PPE stockpile was sold in middle of pandemic’, or that hedge funds and Brexit supporter ‘hedgies’ determine crucial aspects of the means to control the pandemic, and so on and on and on – no surprise then, although I do reckon the unavoidable half-smile breaking through our faces when those servants of domination whose business is to defend capitalist practices regardless offer us headlines like this, ‘hedge fund kings betting against our firms’, as though there could be an ‘our’ for capitalism other than in the well-known forms of exclusionary, classist, racist, misogynist – in brief, criminal – ‘our’.

It is the capitalist bourgeoisie, or rather oligarchy, which, despite the appearances (‘America’s super-rich see their wealth rise by $282 billion in three weeks of pandemic’), has a cold, although a considerably annoying and potentially dangerous one should that possibility hinted at by the pandemic become articulated into a clear political disjunction between, on one side, the public realm and the mutual solidarity, fraternity and sorority that constitute it, and, on the other, alms or ‘charitable’ donations and all they imply in terms of domination, brutal inequalities and foolish individualism.

This is a real contradiction, for a public realm, that is to say, the existence of a central aspect of social life which is ruled by principles and values, is the very nemesis of capitalism and what the capitalist logic does not tolerate. We will see in a moment that it is also what the capitalist oligarchies, chief carriers of that logic, are bent on destroying and appropriating, including at the level of an incipient global public realm to fight against the pandemic, as this shows: ‘push against global patent pool for Covid-19 drugs’.

It remains to be seen whether the massive popular support for the NHS as a public health system, and more generally for public services, will be articulated into an effective political force able to reclaim the public realm and institute some basic principles of collective life. What is certain is that this can hardly happen if there is no clarity about the current political conjuncture and orientation about how to act in it.

This article is a contribution to that labour of clarification and orientation, and this precisely in a moment when the Right and its lethal wealth defence industry are working hard to cover up, obscure, obfuscate and disorient. The task that emancipatory (or progressive, if you want) political forces have to confront requires them not only to sustain the flash revealing the decisive import of the public realm, but make people see the absolutely imperative necessity of taking a further step, the decisive one, and defend it actively as the most precious treasure of collective life, at least of a dignified collective life, in the Kantian sense of dignity, as reads the epigraph at the beginning of this article.

The alternative is clear: Either the public realm, or ‘charitable’ donations

This is the only alternative, there is no other. But it can be said in different ways: Either dignity, or ‘charity’. And also: Either freedom, or servitude. We have to take sides, indeed everyone will take sides, whether we want it or not, for not taking sides amounts to taking the side of the powers in place, that is, of domination, and therefore of servitude. It goes without saying that the oligarchy and the political forces at its service have their side clear, in truth they do not need to take it because they are already there, they have always been there.

In other words: the Right needs not even think about this because it acts by instinct: the instinct of the owner who becomes at once convinced that possessing wealth and money is an automatic qualification for human excellence and for domination – indeed, they go to enormous lengths to have this recognised, to the point of calling ‘freedom’ the blatant assertion of the flurry of whims, appetites and desires that wealth unleashes, but this is obviously a big misnomer for something whose proper and only name is oligarchic instinct. This instinct is a full-fledged subjective disposition which, as Marx shows in his analyses of class struggles in times almost as thickly oligarchic as ours, is not a mere effect of the structure of the world but is itself a powerful maker of the world. The latest historical articulation of that instinct, the one suitable for capitalism and the capitalist oligarchy, was provided by the doctrine called with a certain exaggeration ‘liberal’ – for liberal it is, but only with capital, so we have here a second, closely related, misnomer.

Now, of the two sides of the ‘liberal’ doctrine, let us start with the ‘donations’ because they may be deceptive, while the appropriations, which we will address in a moment, are in principle straightforward. Of course, all oligarchs are ‘liberals’. Contrary to what we often hear, there are no bad (e.g. ‘libertarian’) and good (‘liberal’) oligarchs, they are all of the same kind and the differences between them are only of degree. The central importance of ‘charitable’ donations to maintain domination can be gathered by the bustle we are observing during the lockdown, with several ‘donations’ announced urbi et orbi practically on a daily basis, and news outlets describing all the details (who, how much, to whom) and providing large lists of ‘donors’, there are even billionaire trackers.

Of course, ‘billionaires very theatrically donate a fraction of what they used to give back in taxes, making sure to generate maximum publicity for their actions’. This is certainly true. And yet, important as this may be, the point is not about how much the oligarchs ‘donate’, or about how loudly they blow (or rather have others blow) their own trumpet, nor is it about how generous they are, and this not only because poor people – as is well-known – donate infinitely more than the rich in relation to what they have, but because generosity is totally at odds with the logic on which ‘voluntary’ and ‘charitable’ donations are inscribed – but to explain that logic in all its lethal simplicity, something that is rarely done, we need to return to Adam Smith, the father of the modern ‘liberal’ regime.

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In defense of office politics – Smartbrief



(Image credit: Pexels)

“Office politics” often gets a bad rap. It’s thought of as the domain of catty gossip, shady backroom deals or sycophantic compliments reminiscent of the movies “Office Space” or “9 to 5.”

Thankfully, in real-life, office politics is often much tamer — and also unavoidable for anyone with the ambition to advance.

Why? Because, at its core, office politics is about relationships with colleagues and decision-makers. And nurturing those relationships can go a long way toward advancing your career goals.

What is office politics?

While politics is often derided as purely a popularity contest, there are actually two components — being popular and getting things done.

Let’s think about “real” politics for a moment. You can be very good at getting things done, but if you’re unpopular, you’re not going to be elected in the first place. On the other hand, if you get elected because you’re popular, but fail to accomplish anything, you’ll probably find yourself voted out in the next election.

In office politics, exactly as in “real” politics, you can often get small things done without the support of others. But the more impactful your goals, the more you need to get other people on board to make them happen.

Liked + Trusted + Respected = Influence

To have influence, colleagues need to like you, trust you and respect you.

If you’re not liked, well, that’s pretty much curtains for influencing decisions, unless you’re already the boss. It’s worth noting that to be liked, you must first be known.

If you’re liked, but not respected, you might be involved the discussion, but your view won’t carry any weight. We could call this “Charlie Brown syndrome” after the classic Peanuts character.

If you’re respected but not trusted (think of a well-qualified politician whose agenda you dislike), you may be consulted on an issue but colleagues may have misgivings about your motives.

To influence behavior and decisions in the office requires all three. Liked + Trusted + Respected = Influence.

Can office politics drive value?

Everything we do at CareerPoint is based on our philosophy that career success is driven by the value you create for your employer.

We talk about value creation by referencing eight drivers of value. You could think of these as the atomic elements of employee value. It’s a framework you could use to analyze almost anything in relation to HR or career advancement. Why? Because anything that affects your value as an employee influences both the success of your career and the success of your company.

What we know as “office politics” touches on several of these value drivers, but let’s focus on just two: Relationships and positioning.

Nurturing relationships

Of all the categories of relationships that drive value for a company, none are more significant than customer relationships. If customers like, respect and trust you, they are more likely to highly value your services, keep buying them and recommend them to others. They’re also likely to be patient with you when things go awry, as things inevitably do.

The value of customer relationships can be tremendous and long-lasting. In a law firm, a single relationship can be worth tens of millions of dollars. Relationships are so important that when a partner moves from one firm to another, they often take the relationships with them. In fact, it’s hard to think of an industry where good customer relationships can’t move the dial on company success.

This means good customer relationships are a source of influence for employees. If customers highly regard you, the business won’t want to lose you and ought to value your opinion. If, on the other hand, no customer would notice or care if you left, your influence on decisions and events will be more limited.

Positioning yourself for advancement

The value driver most closely aligned with office politics is the one we’ve named Positioning. It’s all about navigating office politics to position yourself for advancement. After all, you could be the hardest working and most valuable employee in the business but fail to secure advancement if you don’t understand the politics.

The best way to think about this is to imagine a meeting of your company’s management team. Your potential promotion is being discussed. What do you want everyone to say and do?

Obviously, you want everyone to say that you are the best choice for the role. But will they?

There’s nothing you can do at this moment. It’s too late to influence any further.

In some ways, the discussion is a culmination of everything you’ve said and done since you’ve joined the company. The decision will be made largely on how the participants feel about you and the idea of you in a new, more influential role.

This is no idle abstraction. This is exactly how most advancement decisions are made. If you want to advance, the advocacy of every person around the table is what you’re solving for in the game of office politics.

5 tips for becoming an effective office politician

Here are five quick tips you can use to help build trust, respect and likeability in your workplace.

  1. Get involved with projects and initiatives outside of your team and department whenever possible. This will help you begin to widen your network.
  2. Avoid overusing email with new connections. It’s impossible to establish a relationship over email. Use the phone or arrange a quick Zoom/Teams/Webex meeting.
  3. Aim to impress every single new person you work with, both inside and outside the organization. First impressions count and impressing people is often easier than you think.  Just be reliable, responsive and helpful. Do things faster or better than they expect.
  4. You don’t build influence by being a weathervane who simply goes along with everything, but you don’t build influence by opposing everything, either. The middle course is to articulate your position clearly, call the pros and cons as you see them, accept that others will see it differently and get on board with decisions you don’t agree with.
  5. Do favors for people when it helps them without expecting anything in return. If you are generous by nature, you will build a network of influence and appreciation, and you’ll be seen as a team player. This network will help you get things done down the line.

Remember, no matter how much you hate it, office politics is a part of office life we all have to contend with. Instead of avoiding it, put your best foot forward, take smart risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.

To find out how CareerPoint can help you and your team navigate office politics and create the win/win relationships you need to succeed, visit CareerPoint’s website today.

Originally from the west coast of Scotland, Steve McIntosh is a recovering accountant (ICAEW), HR professional (GPHR) and MBA (University of Oxford). After starting his career with global accounting firm KPMG in 1998, Steve founded offshore financial services recruitment firm CML in 2004, which he led as CEO for 16 years.

In 2020, he founded, the virtual coaching platform that helps companies and their people get ahead of the curve. With customers and coaches in more than 30 countries around the world, CareerPoint is well on its way to achieving its twofold mission to help a million young people advance in their careers and level the playing field for underrepresented groups.

McIntosh is a “zealous convert” to the value of HR as a driver of business value and the author of “The Employee Value Curve: the unifying theory of HR and career advancement helping companies and their people succeed together.“

If you liked this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free email newsletters on HR and leadership. They’re among SmartBrief’s more than 250 industry-focused newsletters.

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Czechc Republic: President grants 103 citizens permission to join the Ukrainian military



Prague, Czech Republic- As the war between Ukraine and Russia rages on, the Czech Republic has now become the latest country to offer military support to Ukraine.

According to the Czech Republic Presidency, President Milos Zeman has granted 103 citizens a special exemption, allowing them to join the Ukrainian military.

Some 400 volunteers had applied for a waiver with the goal of fighting for Ukraine against Russia.

The country requires special permission signed by the President and the Prime Minister to serve in a foreign military force. Otherwise, they face prosecution at home and potentially a five-year prison term.

In addition, the Defense Ministry then reviews each case individually in cooperation with the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry before forwarding the paperwork to the President’s Office for approval.

At the same time, the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a US$39.8 billion package of military and other assistance to Ukraine.

“Ukrainian people are fighting the fight for their democracy, and in doing so, for ours as well. With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won,” said House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

The package is expected to provide US$6 billion for weaponry, intelligence support, training and other defence assistance to Ukrainian forces, as well as US$8.7 billion to replenish American equipment sent to the country. It will also allocate US$3.9 billion for European Command operations, including intelligence support and hardship pay for troops in the region.

In addition, Legislation also set aside US$13.9 billion for the State Department, with the bulk going toward the Economic Support Fund to help Ukraine’s government continue to function, another US$4.4 billion for emergency food assistance in Ukraine and around the world as well as US$900 million to assist Ukrainian refugees, including housing, English language, trauma and support services.

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Braid: Twin battles of Alberta in hockey and politics set for Wednesday – Calgary Herald



There’s no certainty at all that the political fight ends Wednesday, even if Jason Kenney wins a majority

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Premier Jason Kenney’s backers sincerely hope their Battle of Alberta ends the very night the monumental Flames-Oilers version begins.

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Kenney will hold an event at Spruce Meadows for supporters, with media also attending, starting late afternoon Wednesday. The results from a vote on his leadership are expected by about 6 p.m.

“We’re anticipating a very exciting and intense evening with the eyes of the entire province glued to a bitterly contested battle, the result of which will reverberate across Alberta maybe for years to come,” says key Kenney campaigner Brock Harrison.

“Oh, and we’re also going to finally see the result of our leadership review.”

The count will come from Cynthia Moore, the UCP president, and chief returning officer Rick Orman.

Shortly after that, the Flames and the Oilers face off at the Saddledome for Game 1 of the second round of Stanley Cup playoff action.

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  1. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces construction of a major highway project in Leduc, Alberta on Thursday, May 12, 2022

    Whether Kenney wins or loses on May 18, the UCP is still headed for a showdown

  2. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to United Conservative Party members at the party's special general meeting in Red Deer on April 9, 2022.

    Braid: The tiny, tightly controlled event that launched the Kenney leadership vote

Harrison says, “Although our results won’t be known until the early evening, we will absolutely make sure we’re all wrapped up in good time for people to settle in and watch the game.”

The unforgivable political sin for the next two weeks would be to interfere with the real Battle of Alberta.

In hockey, unlike politics, conflict is right out there on the ice. There’s a serious chance of sportsmanship breaking out, and we know it will be over by May 30 at the latest, with one team clearly the winner.

There’s no certainty at all that the political fight ends Wednesday, even if Kenney wins a majority and can technically stay on as party leader and premier.

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Brian Jean speaks to the media after being sworn in as an MLA on April 7.
Brian Jean speaks to the media after being sworn in as an MLA on April 7. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

Many of his opponents are in no mood to fall into line. New UCP member Brian Jean may not accept the result.

Other caucus members like Peter Guthrie, Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer are unlikely to reconcile with Kenney, even if he has a substantial majority.

The premier is being advised to purge the whole group from caucus, sending them to sit as Independents with already expelled members Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes.

Kenney may not follow that advice right away. Some effort at conciliation is possible.

But after all that’s been said and done in recent months — the anti-Kenney letters and comments from his own MLAs — it’s hard to imagine a sudden burst of goodwill popping up with the spring tulips.

And there’s a chance that the premier doesn’t get a majority and must resign; or that his majority is so small he would still be under extreme pressure to quit.

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One curiosity is that the political result, unlike the hockey series, is already decided and has been since May 11.

That was the cutoff date for returned mail-in ballots to reach the auditor, Deloitte Canada in Edmonton. No ballots received later were allowed.

This return mail has been examined for voter verification but the actual ballots remain in their sealed envelopes. They will be opened and counted starting the morning of May 18 — this Wednesday.

Suspicion that envelopes were improperly handled may actually have been amplified by the party’s running livestream of voter ID verification. The sight of people repeatedly opening envelopes and discarding some paper seemed mysterious.

But even Kenney opponents who did some of the work (they were allowed by the party) say there’s no way the verification could have been gamed.

Once voter ID was established, the ballot envelopes were packed into clear plastic boxes, each sealed with a unique code.

When the votes are counted Wednesday, dozens of people will be present including scrutineers from hostile UCP riding associations.

That doesn’t answer questions about membership sales, some of which are now being investigated by Elections Alberta. In today’s political climate, there’s always doubt.

That’s one reason the hockey series is so welcome. At least we’ll be absolutely sure who won.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

Twitter: @DonBraid

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