Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | May 27, 2013

The English Defence League: Going Back to its Roots?

Over the last 12 months, Hilary Pilkington has been conducting (overt) ethnographic research with a number of divisions of the English Defence League under the auspices of the MYPLACE project. As part of this research she attended a national demonstration in Newcastle on 25 May organised by the EDL well before the brutal killing of serving soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London just a few days earlier (22nd May). She describes here the experience of being at that demonstration at what may prove to be a significant moment in the movement’s short history.

Readers should bear in mind that the researcher’s work is ongoing and this blog does not seek to either summarize her findings or reflect her own political position. It attempts simply to describe the day’s events from the perspective of being a non-EDL member on the ‘inside’ of an EDL march.

When one of the leaders of the EDL, a Luton lad, declares that the North East is the ‘heart and soul of the country’, the firmament seems strangely insecure. On a rare hot bank holiday Saturday, indeed the ground was shifting in Newcastle’s city centre to the marching feet of around two thousand people. The songs and chants that formed the soundtrack to the march were familiar: ‘Keep St George in my heart, keep me English…’, ‘English till I die, I’m English till I die’ as well as, when counter demonstrators were in touching distance, some of the more aggressive taunts that ‘You’re not English any more’ and ‘Allah, Allah, who the f… is Allah?’. But the surface similarities belie some real differences between this demonstration and the ten or so national and regional demonstrations I have attended over the year.

The demonstrators were not only more numerous – over the last few months national demonstrations have attracted a few hundred not a few thousand while many regional demonstrations have seen less than a hundred turn out – but also more diverse. The majority were local people, not escorted into the city by the police in coaches from the south, not logo-ed up in black hoodies and other EDL paraphernalia; some carried, or draped themselves in, makeshift EDL flags with ‘EDL’ written in pen on regular St George’s flags. They were also younger than at many demonstrations; two unaccompanied boys no more than 10 or 11 years old stood close to the makeshift stage (a bench in a pedestrian part of a central shopping area) listening attentively to the speeches. There was also a high presence of serving or ex-service personnel.

There was too a very different dynamic to this demonstration. Previous events have hit their emotional peak often en route or at muster points, as old friends meet and rebond, or during clashes with police or counterdemonstrators as adrenalin runs high. Speeches, when they have come, have been sometimes barely audible, largely predictable and frequently disrupted by demonstrators peeling off to join skirmishes with police or counter demonstrators. Not this time. This time the march was heading somewhere. This was confirmed by Tommy Robinson in the first of the afternoon’s speeches when he admitted that the movement had ‘swayed from our course over the last four years’, but that the events of the week had ‘brought it back together’. Today, it seemed, the EDL was heading home.

The EDL emerged in 2009 in response to street protests by the Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun to British troop homecoming celebrations in Luton. The murder of Lee Rigby as he walked through the streets of London – not only its fact but also its manner (see: http://news.sky.com/story/1094380/woolwich-soldier-dead-after-terror-attack) – had, Tommy Robinson said, brought the movement back to its roots in resisting expressions of disrespect for British service personnel and suggestions that they were a ‘legitimate target’ of violence. In the course of his speech a serving member of the armed forces climbed onto the roof of the Landrover carrying the speaker system just behind the ‘stage’ and held aloft first a Union Jack flag with ‘Support Our Toops’ and then a St George’s flag with ‘R.I.P Lee Rigby’ printed on it to much applause and chants of ‘hero, hero’.

Kevin Carroll followed up in his speech with some concrete policy suggestions, calling on the government to make it a criminal offence to insult or assault British forces service personnel. The government, indeed, came in for significant criticism; Tommy Robinson questioned how the events of the week had led David Cameron to the conclusion that ‘Muslims are the victims of terrorism’ and ended his speech by spelling out the message to the Prime Minister that when this many people come out on the street, it constitutes a ‘cry for help’ to the government to ‘sort out this mess, because we are living it’.

Of course the EDL is a highly diverse movement and includes people from many different political backgrounds and with differing agendas. This became evident when, after a speech in which Tommy Robinson was at pains to distance the movement from labels of extremism and racism, the microphone was taken by a third person on stage (who was not introduced and was not visible from my position) whose apparent policy advice to the government was to ‘send the black c…. home’. The microphone was passed back swiftly to the EDL leader who re-emphasised the need to differentiate between Islam – which he declared to be ‘an ideology’ and ‘Muslims’ (who are, he said, ‘the first victims of Islam’). It was, he went on, ‘honourable’ to oppose Sharia law and ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ but not to shout abuse at individual Muslims.

A further distinctive element to the demonstration in Newcastle was the apparent lack of desire for aggro with police or counterdemonstrators that is so often a bone of internal contention in the movement. This may have been in response to the leaders’ calls to make sure that the recent rise in popularity of the movement (the national page had quadrupled its number of ‘likes’ to over 100,000 in the two days after the murder of Lee Rigby while local divisions reported membership tripling in the same time) by engaging in needless petty violence that would be widely reported in the media. But those calls are routine at every demonstration, as are the thanks extended to the police; Northumbria police did indeed handle both the EDL and the ‘Newcastle Unites’ counter-demonstration nearby, exceptionally well and with relatively few numbers. My own observation, however, suggests that this loss of appetite for a fight came from below. The resolve of the crowd was tested in particular when, during a minute’s silence held in memory of Lee Rigby, the chants from the adjacent counter-demonstration of ‘Nazi scum off our streets’ could be heard clearly. There was no retaliation, during or after the silence. Later, as the group with whom I had travelled returned to the coach, police lines were thin affording ample opportunity to break through and cause trouble. Nobody did. Indeed at one point, seeing some lads confronting police, one of the young members of the group shouted over to them to ‘leave it’. Media reports following the demonstration reported 24 arrests (not distinguishing from which demonstration they came or the number of arrests that were violence-related) and some minor skirmishes with police.

Finally, and although it may well get forgotten in subsequent accounts which will be dominated by the connection of this demonstration to the death of Lee Rigby, the final speech given at the demonstration was by the 19 year old leader of the LGBT division of the EDL. To much applause, he gave an eloquent speech about the importance of the division, which had existed for three years, in challenging representations of the movement as ‘homophobic fascists’ and the failure of what he called the ‘far left’ to be consistent with their claim to oppose homophobia wherever they find it.

The EDL has called a demonstration in London to march on Downing Street on Monday 27th May.

Soldier at EDL demonstration, Newcastle

Soldier at EDL demonstration, Newcastle

EDL Demo, Newcastle

EDL Demo, Newcastle

The introduction of amendments to NGO legislation according to which non-governmental organisations receiving any financing from abroad should be recorded as ‘foreign agents’, which forms the legal basis for this mass investigation, was highlighted in an earlier blog (November 2012). Here, Elena Omelchenko, who is leader of the Russian MYPLACE research team, reports on latest developments.

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

Region, Ul’ianovsk State University received a visit from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

After announcing their intention to visit only by a telephone call the previous day, five people from the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor’s Office requested that, before their arrival, all documents connected with the Centre’s research activity (or rather that financed by foreign funding agencies) should be prepared for inspection. They also requested that all academic publications (reports, books and articles) containing research results be made available.

 

In February of this year, ‘Region’ celebrated its 18th birthday. Over the period of its existence, it has conducted more than 100 basic and applied research projects on aspects of the everyday life and cultural practices of Russian youth. It has published 16 books, created an inter-regional network of youth researchers and organised more than 30 academic events such as workshops, seminars, conferences and summer schools. Information about its activity, including both news and analysis, is fully available to read on the official sites of Region and associated structures (Centre for Youth Studies, HSE, St Petersburg).

 

The legal status of ‘Region’ is that of a state structure not an NGO – it is founded by Ul’ianovsk State University. Nonetheless ‘Region’ was included in the pool of organisations being subject to a mass investigation of NGOs across Russia.* Trying to discuss this legal nuance with the visiting investigators proved pointless. Just as pointless, probably, as trying to understand how this, country and those that govern it, could introduce this ‘Who wants to become a foreign agent?’ initiative on such a mass scale and in such a threateningly directive way. Of course, we, and many others in our community, know who, why and for what purpose it has been initiated… But this knowledge does not help come to terms with the reality of what is happening. Why have those who are supposed to defend civic initiatives and support the development of normal, professionally beneficial academic activity, ended up on the other side of the barricades? What law has been violated? What offence committed? Where have we overstepped the mark? The fact that research structures, which receive no budget, should generate income themselves, that grant applications are a routine practice, that the results of research are always open information (after all this is the point of our work and life) – all this, it seemed, was axiomatic, common ground. The parochial thinking behind questions such as ‘Why would foreign funding agencies pay ‘us’ for this? There must be some hidden meaning or objective’, it seemed, had died out years ago. But alas, it seems   from some things there is no escape.

 

The political coercion to ‘self-interrogation’ as a foreign agent and the public discussion of the ‘facts’ about the receipt of western money and grants has become part of public discourse; it has taken up almost prime position and has become a popular subject of debate on talk shows and televised political battles and a source of juicy gossip and dubious interest in the details of the personal lives of ‘academic and activist enemies of the people’ in conversations on public transport and in public places. The propaganda is working, the ideological machine is in full swing! The voices of others – those not in agreement, insulted, surprised, frightened, shocked, and all those who just don’t understand, are not heard and are not even of interest.

Precisely what they aim to expose or what repentance is sought is not clear. State TV channels and the pages of the state media are once again shaping public attitudes to the scientific and research milieu as ‘sold out, dangerous and opportunistic’ and leave no space to counter this narrative. Not only do they get fat on western money, it is said, but they don’t even want to admit it in public.

 

The actual content of the studies – neither research reports nor individual publications – were of any interest to the investigators. They were there to fulfil an order – to find political activity by any means. The process is aggravated by the fact that the context of the ‘political’ is not defined. Most likely it consists of everything that looks insulting, critical, questioning or, somehow ‘incorrect’ to that circle of people who, of course, know what the Russian people need. And of course the motif of the ‘dubious intelligentsia’, ‘parasites’, ‘agents and stooges’ perniciously influenced by the, by definition, depraved West, has always enjoyed great popularity. It is initiated from above whilst at the same time legitimating the popular search for enemies; periodically it takes a tangible form in exposés, denunciations and even pogroms. We want, nevertheless, to believe that the latter won’t happen to us. We want, nevertheless, to believe that the academic community (in our case the sociological community) will be strong and determined enough to unite and defend its right to independence of judgement, findings and critical views on social reality. The birthmark of a servile science or, more accurately, of a servile ideological instrument, need not be a fatal diagnosis and even the fear of closure will not force people to return to the 80s or even 90s of the last century. Although you can of course scare them.

 

The only consolation in all of this is that we have found ourselves in good company. And although we are not an NGO, in this instance that is not important – just as it is not important for the investigators either…

 

The most negative aspect is the constant and persistent formation of an atmosphere of fear and anxiety in the country. When you know neither the reason nor the motive, when you have no recourse to the rule of law, when the indeterminacy of the decisions and conclusions of ‘those who invented it all’ exceed all limits, then reason and rationality appear to be redundant. Big Brother increasingly resembles an extra-terrestrial being with whom, by definition, a conversation is impossible and whose actions are so unpredictable that at a certain moment all fear evaporates. We should not, and do not want to, be afraid forever. Dignity – personal, professional, institutional – is still more precious than the most terrible fear.

 

Elena Omel’chenko

Director, Centre for Youth Studies, Higher EconomicsSchool, St Petersburg

29 April 2013

 

 

*Translator’s note: the introduction of amendments to NGO legislation according to which non-governmental organisations receiving any financing from abroad should be recorded as ‘foreign agents’, which  forms the legal basis for this mass investigation, was highlighted in an earlier blog (November 2012): https://myplacefp7.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/sociology-under-threat-or-who-is-on-the-lookout-for-new-enemies-of-russia-and-why/

The MYPLACE project has just completed its first major public deliverable: “Country based reports on historical discourse production as manifested in sites of memory.” These reports are available here.

Here the MYPLACE team at Panteion University of Social Sciences in Athens summarise the Greek report.

Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI)  is the public institution we collaborated with in order to study the discourses regarding Greece’s difficult past. The ASKI is a non-profit organization and is interwoven with historical research, developed by a group of historians,

ASKI, The visitor’s room

ASKI, The visitor’s room

political scientists and former politicians. The ASKI inherited a huge stock of party records (5,000,000 pages). Of particular interest is the archive of the Communist Party (1940-1974), because this was an archive that for many years was not open to the researchers and because the communist party was illegal until 1974. Also, there are collections for other political parties and institutions, youth, trade and social organizations, associations of resistance, political prisoners, student associations, active in Greece and abroad during the dictatorship, women, and many personal collections of individuals. Special collections are home to the illegal partisan press, leaflets, and posters.

ASKI - the archives

ASKI – the archives

Book fair

The book fair

The book fair

We conducted five focus groups and five interviews with experts, all of which took place in ASKI. In the focus groups participated 24 young boys and girls (13 girls and 11 boys) aged between 17 and 25 years old all of them living in the region of Athens. All the focus groups were conducted from February to June 2012. The participants were university students, school students, university students who were also part-time employees, unemployed.

     Additionally, we used some photographs and documents from the archive of the ASKI from the two of the main traumatic periods, the civil war and the military junta and the uprising of the Polytechnic School. What was really interesting was that many young people could not identify the places and the time of the events in the photos we show them and this of course is related to the lack of the historical knowledge. (See some of these photos below).

block of 6 pictures

The first and most clear outcome is that the Civil War (1946-1949) is the most traumatic historical period of the Greek history, along with the period of the German occupation (1941-1944) which in that sense is two times traumatic, because it leads to the Civil War. On the other hand the military junta of 1967-1974 is less traumatic or to be more exact following our respondents’ replies it is dramatic, since no one characterized this time as traumatic. Greece blog lack of discourse quoteThe Civil War divides society into two main parties and influences social structures dividing entire villages and even families. During the dictatorship there is a sense that people are united against a common enemy and somehow there is an overcome of the Civil War mainly through the celebrations about the uprising of the Polytechnic School (November 1973). As far as the people who took part in this struggle against the military regime are concerned, young people today maintain an ambivalent stance and opinion. Even though they admire them, maybe because they see themselves in them, and they consider their fight as positive and idealistic, they are also very critical against them from the moment many of them turned to people of power and ruled Greece for more than thirty years as MP’s and Ministers. That means that the generation of the Polytechnic School as is called is demystified from the moment it comes to power and is accused of what now is taking place in Greece, with the current social, political and financial crisis. In that sense the present is influencing the way young people see the past and some of them take the present as an obstacle in their effort to know and understand their past in a way is very difficult to learn your past in all detail.

  Greece blog Golden Dawn quote  Another crucial remark is about oblivion and forgetting. It is true that in the public domain the main trend was to forget and avoid discuss issues related to the Civil War. This is quite evident in schools where silence over this period is dominant and young people as they massively underlined do not learn many things about that traumatic time. They are mainly taught about Greece’s glorious past, e.g. Ancient Greece, Alexander the Great and the Revolution of 1821 against the Turks, but little if nothing concerning the Civil War. In that sense they do not learn about difficult and traumatic historical moments of the Greek history, i.e. ideologically charged, which are actually concealed and hidden. Not to mention that according to them history is taken as a class of low importance. What we can understand is that this kind of forgetting is selective and conscious and is an outcome of a political and ideological stance.

    However, apart from this official and mainstream discourse there are also alternative narrations which are basically found in social media and the internet, in movies and in books. Furthermore, family narrations also contribute into that direction. All these, can of course form a kind of collective memory through the production of knowledge, but young people are very discontented with this lack of public discourse regarding the traumatic moments of our history. The oral testimony within the family is of profound importance, because it contributes to formation of young people’s identity. The wounds, which on several occasions were real (injuries in the prisons, tortures, etc.), activate the excitement and emotion. The identification with narrow faces of family environment enhances the tragic impact. But there is a difference of opinion, and often the question arises: how objective is the oral storytelling? The same question arises with regard to the written history, since as supporting the young of our focus groups “history is written by the victors”.

    The last remark is related with the connection between past and present. First of all, as we mentioned above young people are criticizing the generation of the Polytechnic School through the present and the current events of the Greece blog history written by victors quotecrisis. Obviously, they are not thinking clear and are influenced by the contemporary social conditions, which are used as disfiguring glasses in order to interpret the past. The past is also influencing the present through the rise of ultra-extremism in Greece and more precisely of the neo-Nazi group ‘Golden Dawn’. It is not the place here to analyze its emergence, but via their social and political presence the ‘hidden’ trauma of the Civil War is back again or maybe as a new trauma. These people are systematically opposed to the Left and they organize commemoration festivals not only about ancient Greek victories, but also about the victory of the Civil War, or to be more exact about remembering the Left’s defeat. Their public discourse is absolutely dividing (e.g., we against all others) and they seem to seek this kind of clash and division. What is interesting, though, is that young people are quite attractive by them and the form of their organization, they seem to neglect the fact that they are pro-Nazi and this is also related to the fact that young people do not seem to know what Nazism was, because this is another missing part of the school system, which is either not taught or not given the proper attention. As a consequence, past and present are interrelated and past influences the present and vice versa. Memory seems to be a substantial element in the quest of both the individual and the collective identity within the anxiety, the confusion and the needs of the present, because at the end history is totally related with the present and is influenced by it in the way it collects, classifies and put together the events of the past.

[The research leading to these findings has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013] [FP7/2007-2011]) under Grant Agreement number FP7-266831).]

The MYPLACE project has just completed its first major public deliverable: “Country based reports on historical discourse production as manifested in sites of memory.” These reports are available here.

Here Dr Anton Popov and Martin Price (University of Warwick) summarises some key features of the UK report.

In the UK, Work Package 2  research activities have been carried out mainly in Coventry (although some fieldwork was conducted also in Nuneaton) in collaboration with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum  (hereafter, the Herbert). The aim of our research is to access young people’s memories of a particular period of British history within the context of the contemporary social, cultural and political processes that characterise present day Britain.

The period identified for the WP2 research is the 1970s-80s: a period in British history of radical transformations in the social, political and economic life of the country and one associated in the public mind with Margaret Thatcher. Against the background of economic recession, the Conservative government attempted a restructuring of industry that led to the closure of many factories, plants and collieries. Its individual-centred ideology, neo-liberal in its core, underpinned a raft of policies that aimed to roll back the state and envisaged ‘individuals’ rather than ‘society’ as the target of policy.

Given the selection of Coventry and Nuneaton as the fieldwork locations for the UK, the Herbert is an important access point to both the historical memories of the period in question and to young people who have engaged with these historical narratives through their involvement in the museum’s activities.

Tile Hill Social Club in Coventry, once a source of pride for one generation, now vandalised by another.

Tile Hill Social Club in Coventry, once a source of pride for one generation, now vandalised by another.

The fieldwork for this part of the MYPLACE research was carried out from October 2011 until November 2012, and included observations at museum exhibits, as well as focus groups with young people, and expert interviews with museum staff.

In our approach to young people’s memories of the 1970s and 1980s – a period that is identified as a ‘difficult’ or ‘problematic’ period of recent British history – we adopt an understanding of social memory as a dynamic process; as a socially constructed phenomenon, which is an aspect of the present and, therefore, different from history, which is preoccupied with the past.

Both Coventry and Nuneaton underwent substantial economic and socio-demographic changes as a result of de-industrialisation and re-structuring of local economies during the 1970s-80s. Historians of Coventry’s car industry describe the city at this time as ‘a microcosm of de-industrialisation’ when between 1975 and 1982 the fifteen largest firms in the city shed a total of around 55000 jobs. Over the decade up to 1981 Coventry’s population fell while unemployment rose.

UK d2_1 blog quote miners strikeThe focus on the late 1970s to early 1980s has particular resonance at the current time of economic recession and thus offers great promise for the understanding of generational transmission of historical memory. However, current historical narratives related to this period tend to be structured around few key events – the miners’ strike of 1984, race riots (Bristol, Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side) in 1981-82, and the Falklands War of 1982, – while other aspects of political activism (such as CND and the Green movement) as well as the growth in popularity of radical right parties like the National Front are less prominent in the public narratives through which this period is represented and historical memories are constructed.

Working-class lives in de-industrialised society are commonly portrayed as being characterised by fragmentation of community relationships, poverty, violence, growing crime and substance abuse, and poor health. At the same time, the industrial past of British cities is often remembered nostalgically, not only by older generations of working class people but by society in general. Nostalgia can tell us more about the present than the past (cf. Mah, 2010: 402). As people experience living through the socio-economic transformations of post-industrial society they continue to express their present concerns through socio-cultural idioms rooted in the past.

Poster for the "Everyday People" exhibit at the Herbert Museum

Poster for the “Everyday People” exhibit at the Herbert Museum

Although the historical narratives of de-industrialisation and ‘urban decline’ are represented in the Herbert they are rather marginal to the main focus of the museum on other aspects of Coventry’s social history. The very approach to history dominant in the museum, focusing on communities and the lives of ‘ordinary people’, is arguably rooted in a left-wing opposition to Thatcherism’s assault on ‘society’.

Young people’s interpretation and internalisations of historical narratives through which  the 1970s-80s are represented in the Herbert museum demonstrates that, as for many in the UK,  for them that period continues to  exert a lasting legacy which might be defined as providing ‘living memories of urban decline’. Memories of de-industrialisation in industrial centres such as Coventry continue to be lived by an increasingly marginalised working-class population. These memories are ‘living memories’ for many in Coventry partly because the closure of the manufacturing industries which provided the majority of work places in Coventry and the surrounding area had started in the late 1970s and continued throughout the 1990s up until the present day, when the future of the last car-manufacturing plant remaining in the city is uncertain. These living memories of de-industrialisation have translated into a feeling of the ‘depressing present’ expressed by many of our participants.

UK d2_1 blog quote activism nostalgiaThe living memories of deindustrialisation are expressed by young people in their interviews through the discourse of ‘urban decline’ when they focus on the social deprivation epitomised by the ‘council estates’. In their interviews they reproduce the stereotypical and stigmatising view of estate residents as ‘underprivileged’ and lacking ‘respect’ for the ‘community’. At the same time, the ‘community’ is talked about in nostalgic terms of social solidarity and ‘respect’ and ‘security’. In their reflections on the ‘difficult past’ young people express their frustration and dissatisfaction with the present when they talk about lack of future prospects in the de-industrialised towns and cities of West Midlands. Ironically, they sometimes tend to idealise that period, even if they acknowledge that it was ‘difficult’. For example they ascribe more meaning and effectiveness to protest movements from the past than to contemporary online activism or violent clashes that took place during recent student protests and riots in August 2011. These nostalgic memories are a result of memory-work and they represent young people’s concerns with a contemporary society that they describe as unfair, unequal, and restrictive. Our analysis demonstrates how misremembering and forgetting on the part of younger and older generations contributes to the ‘community nostalgia’ narratives.

UK d2_1 blog quote bloody thatcherThe living memories of de-industrialisation and urban decline have to be examined, however, in relation to other dominant historical and social discourses. Thus the Coventry Blitz (during WWII) has been mentioned as the ready-made response to the question about events in the local history which might be defined as ‘difficult’ or ‘problematic’. Memories of the Blitz play an important constitutive role for Coventry people as a ‘mnemonic community’ providing them with common ground for the forging of a well-established historical narrative. The discourse of multicultural Britain shaped during the years of the New Labour government has impacted on how young people see urban culture. It also has to be taken into consideration when we analyse how memories of racial tensions in the past (the race riots of the 1980s, for example) and the multicultural environment of contemporary British cities are interpreted by young people.

Last but not least, our research demonstrates the important role which popular culture and family play in what and how young people remember or forget about the period in question. Young people often mention classic British films as a source of information about particular events associated with the 1970s-80s (e.g. the miners’ strike) or music styles from that time (for example, punk, 2-Tone, heavy metal); although they are not always aware of the social context within which they occurred. The older generation of family members are also often mentioned not only as the source of memory narratives but also as influential figures in terms of socialisation in cultural practices (e.g. particular musical preferences) or political culture and social attitudes (socialism, mistrust towards the police, anti-racist or xenophobic ideas). In contrast, our research to date has not identified any significant role for school and college curricula in developing young people’s perceptions of the period of the 1970s and 1980s.

[The research leading to these findings has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013] [FP7/2007-2011]) under Grant Agreement number FP7-266831).]

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | April 19, 2013

Croatia vs. Serbia 2013: It’s more than a football match

MYPLACE research team at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Croatia on the social implications of the recent football match between Croatia and Serbia.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

Croatia Serbia

The region of the former Yugoslavia is an especially appropriate example of tragic social processes. Yugoslavia ‘died’ in bloody wars (1991-1999). During the wars 130 000 people died, several hundred thousands were injured and more than one million became refugees. Because of the war crimes, the United Nations formed the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Den Haag. The Homeland War in Croatia (1991-1995), especially the siege and destruction of the city of Vukovar in 1991 and military operation ‘Storm’ in 1995, play a significant role in the construction of the identity of contemporary Croatian ‘ultras’. Moreover, the ultras movement participates in the production of discourse on social memory, commemorating those events each year within and outside football stadiums.

Not long after the war in Croatia there were various international sports events which included football matches between the national teams and clubs of Croatia and Serbia (at the time Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, that is, Serbia and Montenegro). Only football brought about such a national tension in both countries, which previously had not existed to that extent. First such matches were played in 1997 in the Champions League qualifications between Dinamo (Zagreb) and Partizan (Belgrade) (5-0, 0-1) (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBa_pX5p-lA). However, the matches Croatia – Yugoslavia (2-2, 0-0) in Belgrade and Zagreb in 1999 for a place in the European Championships 2000 raised the national tension on even higher level (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLa6F0KgwZ0). Visiting fans were banned from attending both matches, but despite this, security was heavy. Nationalist rhetoric, even hate speeches overwhelmed the media and stadiums. The atmosphere on the grandstands was such that it was hardly comparable to the biggest football rivalries in the world, such as those between England and Germany or Argentina and Brazil.

CroatSerb blog quote PMSince last autumn the sports sections of the Croatian media have published hundreds or thousands of features on the match between Croatia and Serbia scheduled for 22 March 2013. Emotions and atmosphere on both sides have been varying in the past few months from bold predictions of who will win to envious respect for the opponent. As the date of the game drew closer, the rhetoric of football players, coaches and sports and political officials became friendlier and served to create a sporting and fair play atmosphere. This is especially true for the Croatian manager Igor Štimac and Serbian Siniša Mihajlović. It was most of all an enormous surprise for all those who were acquainted with the situation on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The first war conflicts occurring in 1991 started at the end of the last season of the Yugoslavia football championship. The first victims fell in the isolated riots which happened before the summer of 1991, but sports league competitions had somehow, in a very hostile atmosphere come to an end until then. The physical encounter between Štimac and Mihajlović, at the time football players, and their exclusion from the Yugoslav Cup’s finals match (Red Star Belgrade – Hajduk 0-1) is often shown in the media features on the beginning of the final break-up of Yugoslavia in the late spring of 1991 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn8q9geNOcA). The fight between these two football players in the finals of a football cup eventually reached mythic proportions. Moreover, the relationship of these two teammates of the Yugoslavia national U-21 selection turned into mutual hatred. However, this drastically changed in the middle of 2012 when it became obvious that the pair would meet again on the hot seats during the qualification matches for the World Cup Brazil 2014. The managers of both national teams were on the head of a file of the national team players, coaches, former players and journalists; each one of them giving conciliatory and fair play statements and appealing to fans for a respectful support. (The match announcement on RTS (Belgrade): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihDufFPM_8c)

CroatSerb blog quote SukerA few days before the game the UEFA delegation visited Zagreb and they had a meeting with the representatives of the Croatian Football Federation, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Science, Education and Sports because of a ‘high risk’ game that would be played. It was decided again that the match Croatia – Serbia, as in 1999, would be played without visiting fans. A press conference was held the day before the match in the Government of the Republic of Croatia in which Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, president of the Croatian Football Federation Davor Šuker and manager Igor Štimac announced the match that would be played the next day. “It is important that we prove ourselves to be a responsible host. To be a Croat does not mean to be against someone. I am glad that manager Štimac and president Šuker made reasonable and civilized statements. The atmosphere is unhealthy and it is not easy. We must prove that we are a responsible host and a civilized country” Prime Minister Zoran Milanović stressed on that occasion. “Football is connecting, we will do everything we can to prevent any incident from happening. When we played and when we were on the football pitch, we knew what to do and how to do it. As players we wanted our fans to be our 12th player. We hope that the fans will be dignified and make us proud” Davor Šuker declared. On the day of the match the President of the Republic of Croatia Ivo Josipović hosted Davor Šuker, the president of the Croatian Football Federation and Tomislav Karadžić, the president of the Football Association of Serbia, and afterwards they gave a press conference.

Before the match between Croatia and Serbia in the Maksimir Stadium the Croatian President Ivo Josipović hosted the presidents of the football associations, Davor Šuker and Tomislav Karadžić. (photo:cropix)

Before the match between Croatia and Serbia in the Maksimir Stadium the Croatian President Ivo Josipović hosted the presidents of the football associations, Davor Šuker and Tomislav Karadžić. (photo:cropix)

“I am sure that the players will be exceedingly excited and enjoy on the pitch. However, I must emphasise that there is no quality event without a good audience. Today is a day of a great challenge, and not only a sports challenge, but also a challenge for the audience. I expect and I am sure that our fans will adjust themselves to the standards we are used to” Josipović said and once more called for easing the tensions. “Violence, vulgarity and insulting the opponents are not welcome on the pitch and our audience will, I’m sure, show that too” the president added and revealed that he would watch the game together with the former Serbian president Boris Tadić; but in his residence, not in the stadium. The president of the Serbian football association Tomislav Karadžić thanked for the hospitality and appraised the current collaboration between the heads of the Croatian and Serbian football excellent. “I would like that there are in all other areas of social life relations and relationships between people who also work and are in charge of serious jobs because that is both an obligation and opportunity for neighbours to live well and cooperate, and each day improve their relations.”

Despite of the conciliatory rhetoric of the heads of political and football institutions, the media heated up the atmosphere by writing about ‘raised tensions’ and numerous meanings of the match. ‘The historic match’ was one of typical headlines. The media played a typical ‘double game’. On the one hand, they were charging the atmosphere with bombastic headlines and on the other calling for respectful fans’ support, implying that ‘we’ are different from ‘others’ and that we need to show ‘that we are civilised, especially now that we are joining the EU’. The thing that could not be found in the media is a story about the relation between the hard core fans, that is, the ultras movement on the one side and official football institutions, including the national team, on the other. The media were reluctant to disclose the facts about the ultras supporters boycotting the matches of the football national team for months, nor was it announced that they would, on this occasion, for the match against Serbia, break the boycott. Some of them marched to the stadium along the streets of Zagreb in ‘corteo’. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i26INtH7vNQ)

The tickets for the match were hard to get because there were much more interested buyers than tickets (the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb has a seating capacity of 35 000), but the ultras got a certain number of tickets anyway, around 400 for each bigger fan group. The members of the ‘Always faithful’, a fan club of the Croatian national team, got the biggest number of tickets, although the majority of their members does not make the core of the famous ultras groups such as Torcida or Bad Blue Boys. At the stadium, ultras supporters were placed on the smallest grandstand ‘South’, which is the furthest from the pitch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNgEhJdMEqM). Of course, ultras did not care about the warnings of the political and football elite given to them before the game. Insulting the opponents is a part of a ritual to them, no matter which game is played. Therefore it was expected on this occasion that, since Serbia presented a synonym for a ‘wartime enemy’, they would insist on the slogans that are officially unwelcome and unacceptable. Except in one or two situations, the rest of the stadium did not respond to (and often did not even hear) the chanting coming from the stand South. Aside from one or two chants such as ‘Kill a Serb’, we could appraise most of the fans on the match correct, being within a common framework when it comes to football. Croatian fans sang Croatian songs and cheered for their football players, mostly by shouting the famous chant ‘To battle, to battle for your people’. Establishment has succeeded in its intent – most football fans on the remaining three stands of the Maksimir stadium listened to the advice that dominated the media before the match and the few ultras supporters ended up desolate in their way of expression.

To ensure that everything would be fine, the police was taking away flags and banners with problematic content, arresting before the game fans who sang Ustaša songs, and when a group of ultras supporters tried to hang a banner saying ‘Kill a Serb’ during the second half-time, the police acted fast and used force and batons to take the banner away from them. We can conclude that this match was after all significantly less tense in comparison to the one in 1999. Unlike the match that ended in a tie in 1999, this time Croatia won 2-0 on home soil. It was not the same at the stands either; the difference between the ‘main stream’ supporters, politicians and journalists on the one side and the hard core ultras on the other side was obvious. The first ones used political and media communication to give an impression of being politically correct toward ethnic minorities before joining the EU, and the ultras members showed that they are consistent in their perception of the Serbs as ‘wartime enemies’, in spite of the media and institutions.

Croatian Myplace team

Alexandra Hashem-Wangler, MYPLACE team member at University of Bremen, summarises recent discussions in the German media on ‘Rightist tendencies’.

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

Recently, a strong dicourse about the danger of right-wing attitudes and the necessity to counteract this tendency has become visible in German media. This discourse embraces not only the general fears with regard to the people’s savings in the banks, their Euro-scepticism and a newly founded  anti-Euro party, but also adresses the (young) people’s sensitivity and awareness about rightist propaganda and points to possibilities of protesting against right-wing movements. In the following, we present three cases where the dicourse evolves both on national and on local level.

Euroscepticism in Germany

The Cyprus bailout, the fear that a lavy on bank savers could also happen in Germany – the consequences of these worries become apparent in Germany’s political party landscape, as well. The Euro-opponents now have a new political party called “Alternative für Deutschland”. The official foundation of this party will take place in April 2013, but there is already a considerable move towards this new political alternative.  The key demands are the abolishment of the Euro currency and a Europe with souvereign states instead, the removal of Brussel’s bureaucracy, and a reorganization of the immigration law. Critical voices are being raised which point out that the party is clearly right-populist – the more because some of its sponsors and inofficial members have been engaged in rightist political programs in recent years (such as the initiative Pro Köln). The popularity of the party will turn out in September 2013 during the parlamentary elections. Till June 2013 the party needs at least 2000 signatures from each federal state in order to be accepted to the elections. Up to now, there are no visible reactions on the part of young people in Germany – neither on Facebook in general, nor in our WP7 cases. However, since our WP7 group members have repetitively mentioned their scepticism towards the long-established political parties and have been more positive with regard to the new Pirates Party, it remains to be seen how they will react to this new occurrence – the more because in our interviews there have been critical voices against the Euroean austerity.

The German Music Award “Echo” and boycotts against a right-affiliated rock band

There is another discussion about rightist influences that affects especially young people in Germany.During the last days there has been a vivid political debate about the nominees for the German music award “ECHO” taking place on 21st March 2013. The nomination of the Austrian rock band “Frei.Wild” has met heavy objections because of its right-oriented musicians.

The Protest was initiated by the German band “Kraftklub”, which was nominated in the same category as “Frei.Wild” (the category is „Rock/Alternative National“). The pop-band “Mia” followed and both bands refused their nomination in order not to be nominated in the same category as the right-oriented band. Also the rock-band “Die Ärzte” protested against the decision of the organizators – who claimed that the nominations base exclusively on sales figures. The participation boycott of the bands has been proclaimed via Facebook and has instantly triggered a wave of shares on the profiles of our WP7 cases as well as among other young people’s profiles.

As a consequence, the executive board removed “Frei.Wild” from the nominees’ list. This success has been welcomed by our WP7 groups and has been considered as a positive example for active engagement.  It also shows how far pop culture is able to motivate people for engagement or even just to make them aware of the hidden propaganda and their personal possibilities to engage against rightist movements.

 

The beating up of a young German man by a migrant and the resulting rightist propaganda

A third case that has been distributed on Facebook by our WP7 group “Footballfans against Discrimination” refers to right-wing propaganda. Last week there was a deadly incident in a village near Bremen. Getting off the train at the station of the village at night, a fight between young men with immigrant background was observed by another young German man. When he intervened in order to de-escalte the situation, the other men started to attack him and beat him up so strongly that he died later on in hospital. The village community organized a commemoration service for the public and more than 200 persons attended this ceremony. However, even before the local media have written anything about it, the WP7 group “Footballfans against Discrimination” have already shared posts on Facebook warning that the commemoration service might be used by right-wing organizations for their propaganda against migrants (because the offender had a Turkish background). The group members who initially wanted to join the commemoration service were adviced to think twice in order not to confront the Nazis there. Later it became clear that the right-wingers planed a separate solemn vigil, which however has been forbidden by the police. In the end, the commemoration has been disturbed by some right-wingers who started to fight against the police. The case gained nation-wide attention – not only because of the brutality of the incident, but also because of the rightist missuse of the case.

There have been several discussions about delinquency of migrants in Germany. The statistics and the eminent problem have barely been openly discussed in the public discourse. It has always remained a tabooed topic and turned out as a grey zone for rightist argumentations.

 

In sum, these three incidents illustrate how omnipresent the discussions about right-populism are in Germany. The here presented discussions occure parallely to the nation-wide and parliamentary disputed question whether the right-wing party NPD (Nationale Partei Deutschland) should be banned or not. It shows that young people are confronted with the past in their everyday lives, even in pop culture. It also shows that there are plenty of cases where political legacy can be connected to present day life. Contrary to these examples, our WP2 focus group interviews have shown that young people from WP2 were not able to spin a dircet connection between the difficult past and the present. As we have put forward in our WP2 report, they merely have stated general conclusions that politicians should always be aware of what happened in the past – however without naming any concrete examples. Here, however, we see how sensitive and active young people from the respective WP7 cases can be – especially if the underlying topic matches their interests and sphere of engagement.

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | February 16, 2013

No to Euro! in Latvia

MYPLACE researcher Liga Rudzite from our Latvian team on the recent protests against new legislation to move towards the replacement of the Latvian Lat with the Euro.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

On 31st of January the Parliament of Latvia – Saeima – voted on the Law on Euro that will regulate the process of introduction of Euro replacing the current currency of the country – Lat. On the morning of the vote the Members of Saeima were met by a protest action organized in front of the Parliament building by an NGO “Antiglobalsists” gathering around 70 people expressing their discontent with the vote they were about to cast.
 
At the end of 2012 the Prime minister of Latvia Valdis Dombrovskis suggested that Latvia is now ready to introduce Euro and this should happen from the 1st of January 2014. This caused public debates on whether Latvia is ready for that and whether the population of Latvia would support the decision.
Several NGO’s gathered together at the beginning if this year to start a campaign against Euro in Latvia – “Euro – No!”. The main activities of the campaign so far included initiating discussions in news portals, voicing opinions wherever possible, sending out information and inviting people to join the cause via chain e-mails and letters, and on social networks. An open letter was also written to the Prime minister and the Parliament asking them to postpone the introduction of Euro and to organize a referendum on the question.
 
Even though joining the Eurozone was part of the Agreement on joining European Union, thus also a part of the referendum for joining the EU, campaigners say that this question should be voted on in a separate referendum, as not all countries of EU have joined the Eurozone and only 48% of the population voted for joining the EU anyway.
 
Campaigners have also started an initiative on an online participation platform manabalss.lv (my voice) to make Government return to the question of Euro and postpone the change of currency. So far this initiative has collected just over 7000 signatures out of 10000 necessary for the motion to go to Government. Public polls show that about 57% of the population are against the introduction of Euro in 2014.
 
In order to keep Lat as the national currency activists of “Euro – No!” campaign have established an NGO “Latvia for Lat!” planning to gather and involve all people and organizations that are against introduction of Euro and to organize a referendum on the question. The protest action was the first visible public activity of the NGO and it was followed by a conference “Why we do not need Euro? Why should we keep Lat?”  and a press conference on the activities of the NGO and the campaign.
 
Invitations to join the protest action were spread through social networks and the official message from the official organizers “Antiglobalists” said that “On this day the members of Parliament are planning to destroy the national currency Lat, and similar to the 1940 to adopt currency that we will have no control over. This time it will be Euro instead of Rubles.” 
 
As mentioned before about 70 people took part in the protest action. The action slogans called for saying no to Euro and getting rid of slaves of Brussels, as well as stated that “We will have only those rights that we will be able to fight and win for!” and “The more we will protest, the better we will live!”
 
Even though the Parliament managed to pass the law with a slight majority of votes (52 in favor, 40 against), “Euro – No!” campaigners seem to be organizing a protest movement that should be taken seriously by the Government.
 
And here is a YouTube video from the protest:
 
Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | February 11, 2013

Book Review: Are Hungarians getting well in Slovakia?

Originally published in the Slovak Journal of Political Sciences, a review of the recently publication by MYPLACE Slovakia research team leader at UCM v Trnave, Professor Ladislav Macháček.

Review by Karol Šebík first published: Slovak Journal of Political Sciences, Volume 13, 2013, No. 1 65

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

MACHÁČEK, Ladislav: Ako sa máte Maďari na Slovensku? (Are Hungarians getting
well in Slovakia?)

Trnava : University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, 2011, 80 p. ISBN
978-80-8105-264-4

The author – professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, the University of SS. Cyril and
Methodius in Trnava, presents a specific approach to the analysis of
Slovak-Hungarian relations in his publication. The relations between the Slovak
majority and the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia are usually the subject
of many sociological researches in the Slovak population. The publication Ako
sa máte Maďari na Slovensku? (Are Hungarians getting well in Slovakia?) is
based on the research project Enria EAST, which analyzes opinions, attitudes,
values and expectations from the representative sample of the Hungarian
minority, but not exclusively in national issues.

The first chapter entitled Historical and sociological contexts of minority
issue in Slovakia leans on the results of the 2001 census, according to which
the Hungarians represent about 10 % of the population of the Slovak Republic.
Most Hungarians live very closely to the Hungarian border in southern Slovakia
and exceed 10 % of the local population in five counties (kraj). The author
agrees with Marcela Gbúrová that the Hungarian minority in Slovakia is not only
the most numerous but also most developed civil and cultural minority. The
election results of the parties representing the Hungarian minority are the
proof of this forwardness. The Hungarian minority was organised politically in
the SMK-MKP that was a member of the ruling coalition of the Slovak Republic
(1998 – 2006) and consistently acquires approximately 15 % of the parliamentary
seats in the National Council of the Slovak Republic. The Hungarian minority
has a strong participation in the regional self-governments and has a majority
position in the municipal councils in many towns and villages. Thus, it is
interesting that no candidate for Chairman of the autonomous region from the
political parties of the Hungarian minority won the election. The author
emphasizes that major society is sensitive to the decisions of municipal
self-governments in cases of limiting the cultural rights of the Slovak
minority in cities with a Hungarian majority (e.g.: the acceptance of placing a
statue of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in the Komarno city center).

A description of the Enri EAST research project is an integral part of the
introductory chapter. The project should render new data about the Hungarian
minority in Slovakia. The research profile provides a possibility not only for
a comparison with other researches carried out in Slovakia in the recent years
(Krivý, V.; Mészárosová-Lamplová, Z.; Homišinová, M.), but also for comparing
the conditions for the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, and for the Slovak
minority in Hungary. The Enria EAST project provides an opportunity to clarify
the effect of state policy in the field of cultural development of national
minorities in those countries.

The second chapter is entitled The role of ethnicity in collective (social)
identity. The concept of identity should be strictly construed in situational
contexts. The identity of an ordinary citizen is multi-layered, and layers
internally do not interact with each other. This socio-constructivist
conception of identity is held by the authors of the research, and the
respondents made use of three options. Out of 801 respondents in Slovakia, 174
respondents chose “important” for the identity in the first place category of
“national identity”, 145 respondents chose this option in the second round of
selection, and 107 respondents did so in the third round. The ethnic dimension
of identity is considered as the most important by 17.7% of the Hungarian
respondents in Slovakia. Other important identity dimensions are gender
(14.9%), age (11.4%), the municipality in which they live (12.3%), employment
(9%), the Slovak citizenship (7%), and Europeanism (4.7%). Other components
(social class and party affiliation) occupy a negligible position. For the
Slovak citizens with Hungarian ethnicity, nationality is of a significant, but
only complementary importance in the field of role-status identities.

The comparison of the Slovaks in Hungary, the Hungarians in Ukraine, and the
Hungarians in Slovakia demonstrates that countries and their national
minorities are really different in those segments of their own identity they
regard as important. The Slovak Hungarians more often than the other minorities
derive their identity from the town or city in which they live. In particular,
the demonstration of civic loyalty of a minority to the state is the most
important for the Slovaks living in Hungary (14 – 17%) if compared with the
Hungarians in Slovakia (6 – 9 %), but particularly with the Hungarians in
Ukraine (1.2 to 3.8 %). In Ukraine, the citizens of the Hungarian minority
mainly emphasize their confessional identity that is different (Orthodox) from
the majority population. The third chapter presents an identification construct
of the Enri EAST project which was created by combining two indicators: the
“national identity” and the “citizenship.” The respondents
in Slovakia made use of four options for the self-categorization and most
members of the ethnic minorities were identified with the characteristic
“I am a Hungarian living in Slovakia” (68 %). Two groups of a relatively
same size chose the identity “I am a Hungarian” (16 %) or “I am
Slovak with Hungarian origins” (13 %). Only a few individuals indicated
that they are Slovaks (1 %).

The research results hypothesize that “adaptation” or
“acceptance” of coexistence with the majority society does not
automatically mean a “cultural assimilation” or the loss of
“ethnic identity”. According to the author, „…the willingness of
the Slovak Hungarians to prove certain “civic loyalty” to the state
framework of its existence, which is balanced by adequate possibilities of
cultural development, confirms the hypothesis“ (p. 26). The examples obtained
by a qualitative method of individual depth interviews clearly show the fact
that respondents identify “citizenship” and “nationality”
as two separate but interdependent entities.

The identity type “I am a Hungarian living in Slovakia” is the core
identity for the Slovak citizens with Hungarian nationality and it is indicated
by slightly higher pride in this form of identity compared to the others. This
form is experienced more intensely, up to 44.2% of the respondents are very
proud of being “Hungarians living in Slovakia.” This chapter also
analyses what it means to be a “true Hungarian”. The respondents take
into consideration speaking fluently the Hungarian language (72.5%) as well as
feeling like Hungarians (69.2%) to be the most important factors. The Hungarian
ancestry (38.5%) is much less important than the first categories, and other
factors, such as religion or to be born or live in Hungary, are even less
important.

According to the research results, the opportunity to develop identity through
own cultural customs and traditions by communication with friends (66.7%) and
reading newspapers and magazines (53.2%) in the Hungarian language have the
greatest importance for the respondents. The language is thus perceived as a
symbol of minority identity and also as an instrument of its conservation and
development. The results also indicate that the Hungarian language is the only
language spoken in families and households (75.4%). In many families,
communication among its members is commonly carried out in both the Slovak and
Hungarian languages (21%), and there is only a small number of families
speaking exclusively in the Slovak language (3.4%).

A preference of the Slovak and Hungarian communication channels for obtaining
new information about the latest development in society was also one of the
project´s partial objectives. Surprisingly, while Slovak newspapers and those
dedicated to the Hungarian minority in Slovakia are more popular than the
original Hungarian periodicals, the Hungarian television is watched about 20%
more often than the Slovak one. Moreover, there is a considerably very low
interest in watching the programs designed for the Hungarian minority
broadcasted by the Slovak Television, which is regularly watched by only 3.5%
of the respondents. The situation in radio broadcasting is different: the
Hungarian radios dominate in the radio popularity, followed by the Slovak
Radio, and specialized programs for the Hungarian minority in the Slovak Radio
are listened by the smallest group of respondents.In Slovakia, the dispute over
the state and minority languages has been in the centre of political and public
debates for many years. The research results indicate a relatively positive
development of the Slovak language usage as well as an attitude of the
Hungarian minority towards its usage in the daily communication. According to
the author, Hedviga Malinova´s case has served to aggravate national tensions
for a very long time. Therefore, the research questions dedicated to the
perception of the social inequalities and disparities, conflicts and
discrimination are still up to date. Do the respondents consider them as a
source for social conflicts? The nationality tension between the Slovak
majority and the Hungarian one is perceived by the respondents as the third
most acute (11.7%). According to the project, the tension between the Roma
minority and the Slovak citizens (35.8%), and that between the rich and the
poor (23%) are more acute. The relations between different religious groups are
problematic only for a small group of respondents (7%). Thus, the antagonism
between different nationalities in Slovakia is not considered as the most critical
and important aspect in the society common life.

The seventh chapter deals with the personal and institutional trust in Slovak
society. The issues related to discrimination show that the Slovak Hungarians
have experience with discrimination not only owing to their nationality
(12.9%), but they were also discriminated because of their age (9.1%), gender
(4.6%) or even, in exceptional cases, of their religion (1.4%). On average, one
of the 10 Slovak Hungarians has experienced discrimination because of her/his
nationality. Some cases of ethnic discrimination are illustrated in the
examples of the in-depth interviews with the respondents.

In general sociological surveys, trust to social institutions and groups of
people of a different race or ethnicity is monitored continuously. The
phenomenon “trust between people in general” is essential for the
distinction from “trust” for persons of other nationality which is
usually monitored in a given community and given time. The Slovak Hungarians
can be characterized by relatively high “trust in people” (61.5%).
Average trust in the Slovaks reaches 64.4%. It is obvious that trust in the
Hungarians living in Slovakia (77.5%) and those living in Hungary (71.8%) is
higher.

In principle, trust opinion polls illustrate that the Slovaks show relatively
low trust not only in the executive power (government) or legislative
(parliament), but mainly in politicians and political parties. The citizens of
the Hungarian minority show the greatest skepticism for the government (66.5%)
and parliament (65.6%), followed by the judicial system (59.2%) and police
(55.6%). The best position among the respondents was obtained by media
(mistrust manifested only by 49.5% of the respondents). All public opinion
surveys in Slovakia also confirm that the Hungarian minority has relatively
high civic and political participation especially in comparison with the
majority population. The research focused on the specification of this overall
trend. In the Hungarian minority, mild interest in politics (35 – 40%)
dominates over strong interest and political apathy. In this case, the Slovak
Hungarians concern themselves less frequently and less intensely with politics
of Hungary than with that of Slovakia. The focus on the area of problems that
are directly related to the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia is the
dominant part of this interest. There is an increasing share of the respondents
with high and intense interest (from 12.2% to 20.8%) in this field.

The research informatively deals with the participation of the respondents in
the latest two elections: the parliamentary elections in 2006 and the European
ones in 2009. In both cases, it was confirmed that the participation of the
Slovak citizens of the Hungarian nationality had been higher than the general
average Slovak turnout. The respondents chose the SMK – the Hungarian Coalition
Party the most often. But not all members of the Hungarian minority voted for
the Hungarian political parties. Both the SDKÚ and SMER-SD received a
relatively large share of votes from the Hungarian minority.

In Slovakia, the process of integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic
institutions was relatively problematic after 1993. But the Hungarian citizens
express their positive attitudes not only to the EU as a specific institution
(50.7%), but also to the positive evaluation of the benefits that the EU
membership has brought for Slovakia (58.1%). The position of minorities is
associated with this aspect, too. According to the respondents, the level of
“recognition of the Hungarian culture” is the same after Slovakia’s
accession to the EU as before (52.6%). Similarly, the citizens with the
Hungarian nationality reflect the case “application of the minority voice
in politics” (45.6%). Deteriorating and improving conditions for the
cultural development of the Hungarian minority or deterioration of the ability
to exercise minority claims in politics are perceived by approximately the same
proportion of the respondents (16% – 23%). The Slovak citizens with Hungarian
nationality, as well as the citizens of the old EU member states, show some
concerns for the consequences or the side effects of the integration process.
It is noteworthy that the critical concern is not connected with the
integration and “ethnic” issues, but mainly with the personal and
family safety and social security.

The final chapter is devoted to generational aspects in the transformation
processes of ethnic minority identity and specific communication and
information channels used by generations, to the Hungarian identity and its
generational dimensions and to the civic and political participation of the
Hungarian minority in Slovakia. In principle, the younger generation does not
associate the integration process with the concerns of lossing its ethnic identity.
But the older generation does. Although the publication contains a conclusion
at its end, the last chapter excellently summarizes the main results of the
research and the attitudes and opinions of the Hungarian minority in a wide
range of issues, not only the national ones.

The reviewed publication specifies some areas that have been discussed in the
above mentioned sociological researches, but also provides new answers to the
questions which have not been asked till today. At this point it should be
noted that chapters in this publication are mostly attractively and suitably
supplemented by testimonies of the respondents. It increases the attractiveness
for readers from the non-academic community, for instance from the civil
society. At the same time, testimonies of the Hungarian minority prove that the
radical nationalist and civil disloyal opinions are definitely not a majority
position among the Hungarians living in Slovakia. The materials published in
the annex (pp. 77-78) show that the Slovak massmedia are tendenciously biased
to present the research results. Especially the ability and usage of the Slovak
language by the Hungarian minority serve to attract the media attention.

The political and scientific contribution of the reviewed publication consist
in the whole complex of data clarifying the fact that the nationalist radical
political party SMK did not receive a such number of votes in the 2010 and 2012
parliamentary elections as the MOST-HID which accentuated national
understanding and civic cooperation.

The publication has a potential to provide useful and interesting information
for both the Slovak or Hungarian civic spheres that can transform it into a
better understanding of other cultures and increasing the overall tolerance of
our society.

MYPLACE Policy and Impact leads Mick Carpenter (University of Warwick) and Marti Taru (Tallinn University), together with Project Manager Martin Price (University of Warwick) on the economic crisis, its impact on youth and what MYPLACE might do to help our understanding of the issues affecting youth in 21st Century Europe.

This blog is based on a paper written by Mick Carpenter and Marti Taru and presented at the ESA mid-term Youth and Generations Network conference, September 2012.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

In this article we seek to identify emerging policy themes and issues that are arising from the early stages of the MYPLACE project. This research covers fourteen countries including England, Germany, a range of post-socialist countries, and the southern European flank of Portugal, Spain and Greece. It is examining young people’s[1] civic and political participation, including the extent to which it has been shaped by past histories of ‘populism’ and totalitarianism, and the receptivity of young people to radical ‘right’ and ‘left’ Block quotes 2political movements. Drawing out the policy implications for national governments and European wide institutions from the project’s extensive empirical research is a central aim. We are jointly leads for ‘Work Package 8’ (http://www.fp7-myplace.eu/workpackages.php)  with the responsibility for ensuring that these concerns are addressed from the outset of the project. This paper therefore provides an opportunity to highlight issues with colleagues on a complex, multi-researcher project, as well as with a wider research community. Thus while it draws from project documents and emerging research, the views and analyses put forward here are our own.

The first and central question we will consider is whether what we are seeing across European societies at the current moment is a distinct ‘youth crisis’ with its own features and therefore primarily resolvable by discrete youth policy and youth work’ measures, or whether there is more a general systemic crisis that is affecting youth, but whose remedies might lie more in wider policy actions than youth policy and youth work alone, important though these may still be.

Block quotes 1In this particular blog we will focus especially on the youth unemployment issue that is affecting many European countries to varying degrees. We will ask what are the cross national and more localised patterns and drivers of youth unemployment, and how significant is it as a factor shaping or even explaining the 3 D’s of youth disengagement, discontent and disturbance? Our inclination, and the initial scoping research of our project, indicates that it is a major factor, though we also would not want to over-emphasize its importance. There is much that influences young people’s engagement in civic and political action that cannot be traced to youth unemployment, and where it is clearly a factor it should not be deployed in over-deterministic ways.

 

We believe that ‘something’ is undoubtedly changing, and admit that this might be a rather obvious conclusion. Whereas social scientists until recently sought to comment on exaggerated and misplaced claims that youth as a whole were disengaged and primarily apolitical (e.g. Manning, 2010), over the past year or so more young people have undoubtedly been  politically and  publicly active.  This has included ‘issue movements’ involving  action (as in the UK)  in relation to specific concerns, such as higher university tuition fees and end to pre-University financial support.  These patterns of action can be seen elsewhere, for example higher education was a driver of young people’s political protests in Greece, before austerity politics started to reshape action. What we then saw, through movements such as Occupy and the ‘squares’ movements of southern Europe, or campaigns around democracy in Russia and other post-socialist countries were more general ‘system’ focused movements, in which young people played a prominent part. There have also been disturbances in urban centres such as the widespread riots in British cities in 2011, and those in France in 2005, in which young people, especially the most socially excluded have participated. There is therefore undoubtedly a shift to more ‘radical’ and ‘populist’ aspirations and actions, in which youth and young adults are prominent.

 

The populist right was rising in significance, becoming part of the political ‘mainstream’ before the current crisis, especially in northern Europe and Scandinavia, and this needs explanation (e.g. Hainsworth, 2008; Marsdal, 2008). However, the growing intensity of economic pressures, and the failure of European Union institutions to respond effectively them, and issues of underlying political alienation from ‘rigid’ political systems, is undoubtedly helping to nourish it (Baier, 2011). The Internet has provided an effective means for propagating what Bartlett et al (2012) call ‘digital populism’.  There is thus increasing polarity in the political system. What MYPLACE seeks to do is to understand such phenomenon by placing them holistically within the total profile of youth consciousness and action, rather than simply focusing on the most publicly visible aspects identified above. It also puts emphasis on understanding the international, cross-national dimensions and influences, and placing contemporary youth action in the context of ‘historical memory’. Higher education reform spurred young people’s action in Chile too, for example. Undoubtedly the Tahrir Square movement and Arab Spring had an impact on European movements. Occupy and similar movements have also been influenced crucially by the failure of traditional forms of political action such as demonstrations to effect change, not least the huge global demonstrations in 2005 that failed to prevent military intervention in Iraq. The ‘squares’ movement arguably has a longer genealogy stretching at least to Tiananmen Square actions of 1989, but not necessarily, as this example illustrates with an enhanced record of success. The actions of Pussy Riot in Russia, while of course echoing the UK musical movements of the 1970s, also draw (through it) on ‘situationist’ traditions and the spirit of May ’68 in France, as well as social theorists such as Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. Without adopting a technologically determinist stance, it is clear that the internet has facilitated the global networking of both the radical ‘left’ and ‘right’. On the left the recent historical landmarks are the ‘anticapitalist’ Seattle protests of 1999, which were in fact a continuation of previous protests, but out of which a more organised though still disparate counter-system movements evolved.  Thus the current wave of protest and disturbance does not come out of thin air. While they are responses to current developments such as the economic crises and austerity that have beset global capitalism since 2008, they have deeper antecedents and do not involve entirely newly invented political repertoires.

 Block quotes 3

Early MYPLACE working papers in the form of National Youth Policy Regime Reports prepared by each project partner across 14 European countries supports the hypothesis that youth unemployment tends to be one, albeit significant, aspect in broader social and political developments rather than a wholly independent variable.  There is considerable variation in the significant of the unemployment issue in different European countries. Youth (un)employment has different history and varying contexts, and also has divergent consequences in different countries. Without positing a crude deterministic relationship between recession, educational opportunities and access to decent employment, it is clear that these factors are drivers or ‘generative mechanisms’ of the ‘3 Ds’ of disengagement, discontent and disturbance.  A review of  the effects of the crisis on youth by Marcus and Gavrilovic (2010) makes the point that economic development depends crucially on a combination of good education and decent employment opportunities, and where these are not available this can undermine economic productivity and fuel unrest.  They also point out that one of the chief obstacles to tackling these issues is the low level of political influence enjoyed by young people. In other words, a combination of economic vulnerability and political disempowerment are significant factors impacting differentially on young people at a time of crisis. Arguably it thereby also contributes to a greater likelihood of young people pursuing avenues of influence outside the political mainstream – through radical or populist movements.

 

There is evidence that economic conditions are important influence young people’s political consciousness and protest, not in a mechanical or simple ‘cause and effect’ way, but rather interacting in complex ways with other factors. We must understand the values and discursive meanings attached to these factors by young people themselves and also how they fit into the overall patterns of life in which they are involved. Thus MYPLACE is seeking to explore this further in its various qualitative and quantitative research strands.

 

The evidence on poverty and unemployment linking the development of ‘NEETs’ (those not in education, employment or training) to crime, disorder and riots is disputed by those like the English Prime Minister, David Cameron who prefer to see them as examples of ‘pure criminality’ rather than systemically generated. However, the research by EFILWC (2012) [http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2011/72/en/1/EF1172EN.pdf], uses the 2008 European Values Survey (EVS) to explore the extent of their disaffection and found that young people in the NEET category

“…are likely to have built up a lack of trust in institutions, as they may perceive that authorities lack the ability to solve their problems. A large share of ‘politically disillusioned’ young people can contribute to undermine the legitimacy of the democratic systems in societies (EFLWIC, 2012: 6-7) [2]

Since the economic collapse, there are more reasons to lack trust in political and economic elites, and the institutions they oversee. Again it is important to look at how the current crisis ‘builds’ on the past.

 

Our early work cautions against seeing all forms of radical action by youth outside, or in challenge to, the mainstream as similarly ‘populist’; whether of the right and left. In some senses what is perceived as loss of ‘trust’ might better be seen as efforts towards democratic renewal or ‘positive’ disengagement to change and renew the political and economic system. Seen in this way, the Arab Spring, the squares movement in southern Europe, Occupy in the UK and North America, are not simply responses to the immediate situation but have longer antecedents. It similarly cautions against viewing the new forms of internet action as a wholly new departure changing the nature of political mobilisations and action. This is a part of a broader trend in which young people play a prominent role, but not only in ‘youth movements’.  

 

Rather than focus solely on young people themselves and measures to tackle the immediate crisis, we argue for a contextual historical analysis linked a broader policy agenda. Policies targeted at youth are often called ‘youth policies’. However we think there needs to be more emphasis on a broader range of policies that may not be particularly targeted at youth but have implications or effects on them. We suggest that ‘radical’ or so-called ‘populist’ action can have a  system renewing rather than threatening potential, by  indicating pathologies within the political and economic system that need correction, rather than just forms of action that need to be combatted. Similarly, responses to economic crisis perhaps call for more than simply efforts to integrate young people within existing systems of politics and economics that have been shaped by three decades of neoliberal governance.  Thus contrary to ‘repressive’ and ‘integrationist’ approaches that are often based on deficit models of young people, we would propose ‘responsive’ forms of action that involve self-reflexivity by political elites, and seek at least to meet young people ‘half way’, viewing radical actions as not due to personal deficits and even potentially having positive features. Or as former French President Francois Mitterand put it:

“If young people are not always right, the society which ignores and knocks them is always wrong (cited EFILWC, 2012: 1).”

 

Rather than simply develop isolated youth policy analyses we therefore suggest need to  focus more on the implications of  general theories for young people, and how these can be contextualised by research in the youth policy field.

 

One of the issues we think needs addressing is the extent to which the current economic crisis and austerity has in fact brought materialist politics back into the frame, through an emerging ‘politics of austerity’ involving young people.  Rather than just focusing on values, this would necessitate examining the extent to which ‘structural’ changes are affecting young people. One possible approach to this is through Standing’s (2011) analysis of ‘the precariat’ which focuses on the way that neoliberal globalization is undermining the labour market position of increasing numbers of workers, and eroding supportive public services, with potentially ‘dangerous’ political consequences, which he recognizes are likely to impact most on those (young people) entering the labour market, rather than (older people) already in it. Another is the fact that it is not just the precarious so-called NEETs that are being affected by these changes, and becoming restive, but also disaffected graduates whose opportunities have been narrowed and life pathways disrupted, as Paul Mason (2013) points out.

 

Of course, political action cannot crudely be derived from structural analysis. However we think this is important because it might counter some of the theories recently advanced which focus excessively on (admittedly significant) intergenerational effects as political causal mechanisms rather than political economic consequences of the global economic crisis. Therefore structural analysis might, to the extent that it might influence young people, and lead to  responsiveness from older people and from formal political elites and institutions, shape a ‘politics of solidarity’ involving an alliance against neoliberalism or ‘politics of division’ across the generations. The danger of theories of the ‘clash of generation’ (e.g. Friedman, 2011; Howker and Malik, 2010) which blame the current crisis primarily on the selfishness of the ‘baby boomers’ is that it fails to identify the embedded structural economic and social forces that helped to generate the crisis – just as the ‘clash of civilizations’  theory (Huntington, 1996) helps to promote the very Islamic and ‘western’ tensions it purports to analyse, and similarly problematically asserts the primacy of the cultural over the political-economic.

 

The above forms a background to an analysis which we have started into youth policy responses in MYPLACE countries, based on early reflections on MYPLACE partners’ Youth Policy Regime Reports which we are currently analysing. We are seeking to analyse national policies for youth within a mainstream social policy context rather than a ‘partial’ youth policy framework, an exercise which so far has not been fully undertaken. As well as charting the national level we are charting the pan-European effects and also the reshaping of European level economic and social policy, and the youth/young people’s dimension within that. We certainly hope that the results of our research will help to influence these emerging policy agendas and national and European levels, and in this paper we have sought to scope out a range of significant issues relevant to this these tasks. Preliminary analysis of our youth policy regime reports indicate that the link between youth unemployment and political attitudes and activities is far from deterministic. It varies significantly across countries, and with countries by class, gender, ‘race’ and other inequalities, which indicates that wider social factors play important role. We see that youth reactions can involved ‘political’ but also ‘personal’ agency, or a combination of both. In Latvia and Portugal, for example, which have very different welfare models and history, young people have increasingly adopted a personal ‘exit’ rather than a political ‘voice’ strategy by choosing to leave the country in search of a better life elsewhere. In Greece and Russia youth political activism is high but it occurs because of different factors – economic crisis and welfare retrenchment in Greece and protest against political oppression and authoritarianism in Russia.

 

Overviews from different countries across Europe – East and West, South and North, – thus suggest that we must look for a more nuances link between employment, unemployment and youth activism. Focusing mainly on education and employability is not likely to lead to a significant increase in social development and well-being, neither on its own will it increase young people’s sense of security. Our policy responses must therefore be more holistic and responsive to the messages of youth action. Rather than seeking simply to     integrate young people into the existing mainstream, serious thought needs to be given as to whether it is the mainstream itself that needs changing.   

 

References

Åslund, A., Gurievand, S. and Kuchins, A. (eds) (2010) Russia after the Global Economic Crisis, Washington, D.C.: Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Baier, W. (2011) ‘Right-wing populism in Europe’, Transform! European Journal for Alternative Thinking and Political Dialogue, Issue 9 http://www.transform-network.net/en/journal/issue-082011.html – accessed 25/08/12.

Bartlett, J., Birdwell, L. and Littler, M.k (2012) The New Face of Digital Populism, London: Demos, http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Demos_OSIPOP_Book-web_03.pdf – accessed 25/08/12.

Bell, D. and Blanchflower, D. (2010) Young people and recession: a lost generation? London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, http://www.cepr.org/meets/wkcn/9/979/papers/Bell_%20Blanchflower.pdf – accessed 26/08/12.

Dalton, R. J. (2005) ‘The social transformation of trust in government’, International Review of Sociology, 15 (1), 133-54.

Davis, M. (2006) Planet of slums, London: Verso.

Dietrich, H. (2012) Youth unemployment in Europe: Theoretical considerations and empirical findings, Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stifftung, http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id/ipa/09227.pdf – accessed 27/08/12.

Elder, M. (2012) ‘Pussy riot trial: “We are representatives of our generation”’, The Guardian, 17 August, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/17/pussy-riot-trial-representatives-generation?intcmp=239 – accessed 24/08/12.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2010) Life in Transition: After the Crisis, London: EBRD http://www.ebrd.com/downloads/research/surveys/LiTS2e_web.pdf – accessed 25/08/12.  

European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012) Young people and NEETs in Europe: First findings, Dublin: EFILWC, http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2011/72/en/1/EF1172EN.pdf – accessed 26/8/12.

Eurostat (2012) Unemployment statistics, Brussels: European Commission, http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics – accessed 26/08/12. 

Eurydice/Eurostat (2012) Key data on education in Europe 2012, Brussels: European Commission, http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/key_data_series/134EN.pdf  – accessed 26/08/12.

Friedman, T. L. (2011) ‘The clash of generations’, New York Times, 16 July, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17friedman.html – accessed 28/8/12.

Freire, P. (1972) The pedagogy of the oppressed, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Hainsworth, P. (2008) The extreme right in Western Europe, London and New York: Routledge.

Hart, R. (1992) Children’s participation: From tokenism to citizenship, Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/childrens_participation.pdf – accessed 27/08/12.

Harvey, D. (2012) Rebel cities: From the right to the city to the urban revolution, London and New York: Verso.

Henn, M. and Foard, N. (2012) ‘Young people, political participation and trust in Britain’, Parliamentary Affairs, 65 (1), 47-67.

Howker, E. And Malik, S. (2010) Jilted generation: How Britain has bankrupted its youth, London: Icon Books.

Huntington, S. P. (1996) The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Inglehart, R. (1997) Modernization and postmodernization: Cultural, economic and political change in 43 societies, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Inzaurralde, B. (2012) ‘Why French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is attracting youth’ Christian Science Monitor, April 11, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0411/Why-French-far-right-candidate-Marine-Le-Pen-is-attracting-youth  – accessed 24/08/12.

International Labour Office (2012) Global employment trends for youth 2012, Geneva: ILO.

Lucassen, G. and Lubbers, M. (2012) ‘Who fears what? Explaining far-right-wing preference in Europe by distinguishing perceived cultural and economic ethnic threats’, Comparative Political Studies, 45(5), 547-74. 

Marcus, R. and Gavrilovic, M. (2010) The impacts of the economic crisis on youth: review of evidence, London: Overseas Development Institute, http://www.dfid.gov.uk/r4d/PDF/Outputs/Mis_SPC/60828_Youth-Evidence-Review-Final.pdf  – accessed 26/08/12.

Marsdal, M. (2008) ‘Underdog politics’, Red Pepper, June,  http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Underdog-politics/ – accessed 25/08/12.

Mason, P. (2012) Why it’s all kicking off everywhere: The new global revolutions, London and New York: Verso.

Mason, P (2013) Why It’s Still Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, London: Verso.

Manning, N. (2010) ‘Tensions in young people’s conceptualisation and practice of politics’, Sociological Research Online, 15 (4) 11, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/15/4/11.html – accessed 24/08/12.

Norris, P. (2002) Democratic phoenix: reinventing political activism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Higgins, N. (2010) The impact of the economic and financial crisis on youth employment: Measures for labour market recovery in the European Union, Canada and the United States, Geneva: International Labour Office, Employment Working Paper No. 70, http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_154365.pdf – accessed 26/08/12.

Pilkington, H., Garifzianova, A. and Omel’chenko, E. (2010) Russia’s skinheads: Exploring and rethinking subcultural lives, London and New York: Routledge.

Roger, C. B. (2010) ‘The truth about public trust in government’, 13 August, http://www.opendemocracy.net/charles-barclay-roger/truth-about-public-trust-in-government – accessed 27/08/12.

Sakellariou, A. et al (2012) ‘Greek society between neo-Nazism, racism and austerity’, MYPLACE Blog. 23 August, (written by the MYPLACE Greek partners at Panteion University Athens) https://myplacefp7.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/343/ – accessed 25/08/12.

Standing, G. (2011) The precariat: The new dangerous class, London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Turgot, P. (2009) ‘The economic crisis hits Eastern Europe’, Time, 25 February  http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1881715,00.html– accessed 25/08/12.

Roger, Charles Barclay (2010) ‘The truth about public trust in government’, Open Democracy, 13 August, http://www.opendemocracy.net/charles-barclay-roger/truth-about-public-trust-in-government – accessed 26/08/12.

 


[1] In this paper we use this term loosely to encompass youth and young adults, broadly in the 15-25 age range.

[2] Since these are the ‘first findings’ of the research, we do not yet know enough about methods deployed to fully assess this way of accessing the views of ’NEETs’ compared to other young people. 

MYPLACE research team at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Croatia on a recent survey conducted by the team, looking in particular at what the results show in relation to young people.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

Since one of the main goals of MYPLACE is to understand the social participation of young people and the meaning they attach to it, understanding attitudes young people have towards nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) seems particularly important. NGOs represent an important form of active citizenship that contributes to the development of democracy. By getting involved in the work of NGOs young people learn to advocate for the interests of the group they belong to or for the interests of the wider society, and thereby develop an important form of political culture.

 

In this post we will provide some of the key findings of the recent national representative survey (N=1004) regarding the visibility and public perception of NGO in Croatia conducted by Croatian MYPLACE partner institution Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences[1]. In addition, we will stress similarities and differences in visibility and public perception of NGOs with regard to age, in order to see if young people differ from middle and older age groups with regard to their relationship toward NGOs and perception of their role in society. Also, we will compare some of the results with the results of the previous research (phone surveys) conducted by Ivo Pilar Institute of social sciences in 2006 and 2007, as well as, face to face survey conducted in 2005.  Although research within My Place is conducted on the age group of 16-25, due to an extremely small percentage (6.2%) of young people in this age range in a survey sample, we will show the results for young people aged 18-30 years.

 

 

 

Visibility of NGOs

 

More than eight tenths of Croatian citizens (86%) are familiar with the expression NGO, while about six tenths (64%) know the meaning of the term and slightly more than two tenths have only heard of the term but do not know the meaning. Similarly, about six tenths of citizens know a concrete or common name for at least one NGO. Familiarity with the term NGO and its meaning is less prevalent among older citizens, citizens with a lower level of education and a lower income, citizens who are retired or unemployed, citizens from villages with a small or medium degree of urbanization, among citizens for whom religion is important and whose political orientation is either right or central. Of all the socio-demographic characteristics analyzed, the greatest differences in the knowledge of specific NGOs are associated with the level of education.

Distribution of results according to age (Graph 1) shows that people younger than 30 years as well as those in the age range from 30-60 are more familiar with the expression NGO than people older than 60. These results can be explained with socio-political context in which the oldest age cluster grew up.

Graph 1

Graph 1

 

Slightly less than four tenths of citizens (37%) know at least one person who is an active NGO member which presents a significant increase compared to data collected in 2007 (23%). Knowing people who are active NGO members is more prevalent among younger and middle-aged citizens, men, citizens who are not retired, among better educated citizens, among citizens with a higher income and among citizens from villages with a medium degree of urbanization.

A significantly higher percentage of young and middle age group knows someone who is an active member of an NGO. From the Graph 2 we can see that the degree of acquaintance of people who are members of NGOs is similar in percentage in the youngest age group and the middle age group.

 
Graph 2

Graph 2

 

Membership in NGOs

 About two tenths of citizens (19%) consider themselves as members of NGOs, while one tenth (10%) consider themselves as active volunteers. In comparison to findings from 2007 the prevalence of NGO membership has doubled. Membership in NGOs is more characteristic for citizens with a higher level of education and for men than women, while it is less prevalent in the group of citizens with the lowest income. Again, from the Graph 3 below we can see that there are no big differences in the NGO membership in different age groups.

Graph 3

Graph 3

 

Despite positive attitudes toward NGOs and emphasis on positive contributions that NGOs have on society 80% of young people is not involved in the work of NGOs. Volunteers dominate among the active members (13,1%), followed by the inactive members (5,5%), while less than 1% of young people are paid for their work in the NGOs (Graph 13). 

Slightly less than half of citizens (48%) express willingness for involvement in NGO activities (in ideal circumstances). Comparison with the field survey data set from 2005 revealed an increase in citizen’s willingness to become involved in NGO activities (from 36% to 48%). Willingness to become involved is more prevalent among younger citizens, citizens who are not retired, citizens with higher levels of education and higher income and citizens who have a left political orientation.

 
Graph 4

Graph 4

 
From the Graph 4 we can see that nearly 60% of young people said they would get actively involved in NGOs if someone from the NGOs directly invited them to join them in their work. These results send a clear message to NGOs on the need for approaching youth and inviting them to get involved in their work.
 

Attitudes toward NGOs

A positive general attitude about NGOs and their activities is characteristic for slightly more than seven tenths of Croatian citizens (76%), about two tenths of citizens express a neutral attitude (22%), while the proportion of citizens with a general negative attitude is negligible. These results are equal to those obtained in a telephone survey in 2007. A positive general attitude towards NGOs is more characteristic for younger citizens, employed persons, and citizens from villages with a medium and high level of urbanization.

 

The majority of Croatian citizens expressed positive opinions about NGOs on measures of specific attitudes, although to a lesser extent than in the case of a general attitude. Namely, slightly less than six tenths of citizens agree that NGOs have an important role in highlighting and solving problems in society (59%), that NGOs are now much more effective in their work than 5 years ago (59%) and that NGOs greatly improve the conditions and quality of life in the community (57%). In addition, slightly more than five tenths of citizens agree that the government should encourage the activities of NGOs through tax cuts (51%), and through direct funding (55%). In addition to these positive opinions, a section of the public have some sceptical opinions about NGOs. Generally speaking, more positive specific attitudes towards NGOs are more characteristic for younger and middle-aged citizens, citizens from villages with a middle and high level of urbanization and among citizens who have a left or central political orientation, while citizens from the group with the lowest average monthly income express a neutral attitude more often.

For example, young and middle-aged citizens believe that NGOs are more effective in their work today than five years ago. Slightly less than two thirds of young and middle-aged people agreed with this statement as opposed to less than half of elderly citizens (Graph 5).

 
Graph 5

Graph 5

 

Generally, the public is more satisfied with NGOs’ contributions to raising citizen’s awareness about their rights, to improving the quality of life in general, to the development of civil society and democracy, than with contributions to solving life’s problems, the participation of citizens in decision-making processes and in shaping policy in areas that affect daily lives. Up to five tenths of citizens evaluate these individual contributions of NGOs as moderate or extreme. At the same time, half or more citizens believe that NGOs contribute to solving life’s problems, to citizen’s participation in decision-making processes and in shaping policy in areas that affect everyday life to a little extent or not at all. Comparison with findings from the 2007 survey revealed an increase in the perceived contribution of NGOs to improving the quality of life in general, and a decrease in the perceived NGO contribution to the development of civil society and democracy. All encompassed specific NGO contributions are more frequently evaluated as moderate or extreme by younger and better educated citizens and in some cases by higher income citizens, citizens from villages with a greater level of urbanization and citizens who have a left political orientation.

Specifically, 63,7% of the population aged 18-30 says that NGOs strongly or moderately contribute to raising people’s awareness of their rights (Graph 6). Slightly more than 50% of young people also say that NGOs strongly or moderately contribute to improving the quality of life in general (Graph 7), development of democracy (Graph 8) and civil society (Graph 9) in Croatia and solving the life problems of people or certain social groups (Graph 10).

Besides highlighting the positive contributions of NGOs for the society, 57% of young people believe that NGOs have little or no contributions on shaping policies that affect the daily lives (Graph 11), while 53% believe that NGOs do not contribute or contribute a little to citizen’s participation in decision making processes (Graph 12).

 
Graph 6

Graph 6

 
Graph 7

Graph 7

 
Graph 8

Graph 8

 
Graph 9

Graph 9

 
Graph 10

Graph 10

 
Graph 11

Graph 11

 
Graph 12

Graph 12

 

Estimation of a potential impact of a person as an individual and as a member of NGO on a decisions made on different levels

 

About six tenths of citizens think that NGOs generally have little or no impact at a local and national level (62% and 56%, respectively), while more than eight tenths of citizens consider that NGOs at both levels should have a greater impact on local and national level (85% and 84%, respectively). Comparison of these findings with results from 2007 revealed an increase in the proportion of citizens who consider that NGOs at both levels should have a greater impact (and a decrease in the proportion of citizens who do not know how to estimate the size of NGOs’ current impact). The share of citizens who consider current NGOs’ impact at the local level as medium or large is higher among better educated citizens, while the share of citizens who consider current NGOs’ impact as medium or large at the national level is higher among younger and middle age citizens. The share of citizens who think that NGO impact should be large or moderate are higher among citizens who have a left or central political orientation (for NGOs’ impact at the local level) and among women and citizens from villages with greater levels of urbanization (for NGOs’ impact at the national level).

 

Croatian citizens are consistent in their assessment that as individuals they cannot influence the decisions affecting the local community, the region, and especially Croatia as a whole, Europe or global international processes and phenomena (from 51% to 80%).

At the same time, about four tenths of citizens consider that as members of NGOs they may somewhat or greatly influence decisions affecting local communities, less than three tenths think as such for the level of the region, less than two tenths of citizens think that for the level of Croatia as a whole and about a tenth think that for decisions affecting entire Europe and global international processes.

Comparison with 2007 data revealed an increase in the proportion of citizens who believe that as individuals they cannot influence decisions affecting Croatia as a whole (from 64% in 2007 to 73% this year), as well as an increase in the proportion of citizens who believe that as NGO members they cannot influence decisions affecting the local, regional and especially the national level.

Results regarding youngest age group show similar pattern. Young people believe that they can have larger influence as NGO members than as individuals on the decisions in their local community, region of Croatia in which they live, the decisions made ​​at the level of the entire Croatia and all over Europe, and even in decisions affecting the global international phenomena and processes (Graph 13).

 
Graph 13

Graph 13

Differences according to age show that people in the youngest age group and people in the age range from 31-59, unlike the ones older than 60, believe that as a members of NGOs they can influence decisions affecting the local community, region of Croatia where they live and the global international processes and phenomena. Differences according to age were not shown on a estimation of impact of a person as an individual.

Conclusion

 Presented results show that the youngest age group (18-30) and the middle age group (31-59) differ from the oldest age group (older than 60) in the visibility of NGOs, membership in NGOs, attitudes toward NGOs, and in the estimation of impact of a person as a NGO member on a decisions on a different levels.

Youngest and middle aged citizens are more familiar with the expression NGO, are more likely to know someone who is an active member of an NGO, are more willing to get involved in the work of NGOs, have more positive general attitudes and some specific attitudes toward NGOs, and believe that as a members of NGOs they can influence decisions made on a different levels.         Despite the affinity of the youngest age group towards NGOs, more than 80% of young people are not members of NGOs, less than 1% is paid for their work in NGOs, and the rest are volunteers or non-active members. Also, young people show the biggest willingness to get involved in the work of NGOs in comparison to other age groups, but unfortunately they do not differ from other citizens in their level of individual political efficacy –confidence in their ability to participate in politics.

 


[1] The Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences conducted the survey within the project “Visibility and public perception of CSO” for the SIPU International AB – TACSO office in Croatia. Telephone survey was carried out between the April and May of 2012 on a national representative sample of Croatian citizens. Full research report summary is available on http://www.tacso.org/doc/cro_newsletter_7_2012_en.pdf

 

 

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