Representative Democracy: An Interview with Andrew Feinstein

Representative Democracy: An Interview with Andrew Feinstein

1. Representative democracy is as a candle which, from the first lighting following each election cycle, is continually wasting and burning down, and will by degrees burnout of itself, but may by a thousand accidents by extinguished. The fragility of representative democracy has been cruelly exposed in the last several years the world over thanks in no small degree to, among other things, the deliberate corruption of the electoral processes by disinformation, the rise of the xenophobic Right and the anti-capitalist Left; and now, the testing to breaking point of democratic processes by the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Citizens and politicians alike are reeling – groping in the dark for meaningful answers. I can think of no one better qualified to speak on the current global crisis than Mr Andrew Feinstein of Shadow World Investigations.

Introducing Andrew Feinstein

2. Born to Josef Feinstein and Erika Hemmer in apartheid South Africa in 1964, Andrew was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, the United Kingdom of Great Britain; the University of California at Berkeley, the United States of America; and, the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He was a member of the African National Congress (ANC); an economics advisor to Tokyo Sexwale; was elected as a representative to the South African Parliament’s Lower House in 1997; served on the Finance Committee, and was the official ANC spokesman on the National Assembly’s public accounts committee. During his tenure as a Member of the South African Parliament Andrew gained notoriety for being exceptionally gifted and vocal; for instance taking an ethical stand and arguing for a thorough investigation into the scandalous South African Arms Deal, which, alas, precipitated his resignation from active politics in 2001. He has since written two thought provoking books: ‘After the Party: A Personal and Political Journey Inside the ANC,’ and ‘The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade.’ These books were the stepping stones that led to the formation of his current venture, Shadow World Investigations – of which he is the Executive Director. Shadow World Investigations is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to detailing and exposing the impact of bribery and corruption on democracy, governance and development. We warmly welcome Andrew to our inaugural interview here at The Kamugasa Challenge.

Background to Andrew Feinstein

3.1 TKC: At The Kamugasa Challenge, we are especially keen on inspiring our own and the next generation, with a view of turning day-to-day challenges into coherent and meaningful solutions; focusing on humanity, leadership and citizenship.

3.2 TKC: What was the most important influence in your childhood and, in what way does that influence help you meet your day-to-day challenges in the 21st century?

Andrew Feinstein: There were two very important influences as I was growing up: the one was that my mother, who was from Vienna in Austria, was a Holocaust survivor, who lost 39 members of her family in the death camps. She was one of very few Jews to survive in Vienna itself. She was hidden in a coal cellar for years and when there were raids in the area she would be rolled up in a carpet which was placed up against the wall. When I was young and we spent time in Vienna I would see the bullets still lodged in the steel door to the cellar from when the Nazis tried to shoot the lock out. This brought home to me the ultimate consequences of racism, of hatred of ‘the other.’ The second was obviously the experience of growing up in apartheid South Africa.

3.3 TKC: You grew up in probably the most tumultuous period in South Africa’s history. Cape Town, your childhood home city, was at the centre of this tumultuous period. Turning what was formally the most racially integrated city in the whole of South Africa into THE centre of apartheid, was arguably the most outrageous acts in the history of race relations; most infamous was the purging District Six after it was declared Whites-only region in 1965, by forcefully displacing 60,000 non-white residents. These forces must have had an impact on your household. And if they did, how did they affect you?

Andrew Feinstein: I was fortunate to be ‘white’* in apartheid South Africa, so I grew up with every imaginable advantage and privilege. However, it was always weird to me, from a very young age, to see ‘non-whites being treated differently, elderly ‘black’ men being called ‘boy,’ all doing menial jobs and having to vacate ‘white group areas’ before sunset. I was fortunate in that my parents were politically progressive and we, therefore, had some friends who were not ‘white.’ My mother worked at an illegally non-racial theatre where, still young, I met some incredible people, including a young Dollar Brand who later became the world famous jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. He lived in District Six which you mention above, which I believe was an exuberant non-racial area until it was destroyed and the people forcibly removed to desolate townships on the periphery of the city. My father had been involved with the left-wing anti-racist Congress of Democrats in the fifties and my mother was a member of the Black Sash, a group of ‘white’ women who protested against apartheid. But we never suffered any personal, direct consequences while I was growing up. Once I was at university where I became very involved in politics in the townships surrounding Cape Town, harassment and intimidation became common. But it was very minor by comparison to what was suffered by the majority of South Africans who were not ‘white.’ It was in this time I came into contact with the banned ANC and realised that they were regarded as our country’s real leaders by the majority of people.

3.4 TKC: It has been found that if a great event (good or bad) is to be kept in mind in succeeding ages, there must be some memorial of it. Else men by degrees will forget it, and even come to be dubious as to whether such an event ever happened at all. In the wake of ‘Black Lives Matter’ a movement which has caught the imagination of people the world over, what is your opinion on memorials and statues – in Africa, the Americas, Europe or anywhere in the world?

Andrew Feinstein: I am a great believer in the dictum that ‘those who forget history are destined to repeat it.’ However, I also don’t believe it is appropriate to have grand memorials to people who did heinous and unforgivable things to their fellow human beings, many of whom became rich and powerful through their brutal actions. I don’t believe we need memorials to these people to remember the evil that they did. We keep that alive in the teaching of history, honestly and unvarnished, not just in places of education, but in literature, film, the arts and through passing on from generation to generation the truth about our histories and those who came before us. Memorials should be to people who made the world a better place. I don’t believe slave traders, brutal rulers or people who became wealthy through the suffering of others should be commemorated in any way other than the full exposure of what they did. They should be in our memories in ignominy. We should build memorials to people who make the world a better place, who believe in and respect the equality of every human being.

3.5 TKC: Continuing with the theme of ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it is an open secret that an African life in the eyes of many African leaders is cheap. An incident may be mentioned: On or about the 26 November 2016, the Ugandan Defence Force descended upon an outspoken minor king’s palace – leaving over 100 people dead. And, as if killing them in cold blood was not bad enough, insult was added to injury by having their dead bodies stripped of clothing, leaving them on public display for the whole world to see. To this day, no answers or justice for the victims’ families have been forthcoming. And the world’s reaction? Silence – deafening silence! We know that this sort of thing goes on in other parts of Africa regularly. Is it your opinion that a black African life is less valuable than a single sparrow in this world?  If not, why?

Andrew Feinstein: I don’t know about the incident you refer to, but it is important to note that the ‘cheapness of African lives’ was the driving force behind the slave trade and the brutal colonisation of Africa, and of course other parts of the world. That should in no way give current leaders on the continent the right to treat their people as worthless, to amass inordinate wealth through corruption or to suppress the will of the people often through force. But it is also crucial to understand that much of the corruption in Africa has its source in London, Berlin, Paris, Washington, Moscow or Beijing, which I will expand on below.

Any youthful exuberance and indiscretions?!

4. TKC: Perhaps I am a poor researcher. For my searches have picked up little or no youthful exuberance and indiscretion you have done. And yet, it is a fact of life that many of us who were born and raised on the continent of Africa, own to an indiscretion or two. I myself have owned to a few, which I have documented in my blog-posts.

4.1 TKC: Do you have a youthful indiscretion you wish to share with us?

Andrew Feinstein: Of course, there were many indiscretions. Like most kids I behaved poorly towards some people to whom I showed inadequate respect, I got angry unnecessarily, and I was thoughtless. I suppose growing up in a unique place at a unique time, and having access to extraordinary people in the society and in the ANC.

Andrew Feinstein: the politician, the ANC member of Parliament

5.0 TKC: It must have been a big deal for you to rub shoulders with the giants of South African politics, especially so soon after you were elected to the South African Parliament, Lower House in 1997; for you made a name for yourself as ‘one of the most vocal and talented MPs’ at the time. And your appointment to the chairmanship of the ANC study group on public accounts, including the ANC official spokesman on the National Assembly’s public accounts committee – must have been something of a cherry on top of your political career cake.  However, it all took a sudden turn, an experience you share with us in your explosive memoir, ‘After The Party.’ The book itself is an extraordinary chronicle of events which led to your resignation in 2001 from public life, giving credence to an old English saying that, ‘many a heavy heart rides in a carriage.’

5.1 TKC: Now I am curious: One gets a sense that you were probably naïve about the true character of South African politics when you first joined. Is that sense justified? And if yes, what exactly disabused you of your naivety?

Andrew Feinstein: I started to meet extraordinarily brave people from my late teens when I became politically involved. Some of them became famous, many remained largely unknown, but were committed, courageous and principled. I then worked as a facilitator in the country’s constitutional negotiations that led to our first democratic elections in 1994. In that capacity I rubbed shoulders with remarkable, famous people, including Nelson Mandela and others of that generation of liberation leaders. What was incredible was how impressive many of those leaders were: Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Joe Slovo, to name a few. I feel incredibly privileged to have met them and got to know some of them. I was incredibly proud to be elected to represent the ANC in Parliament. I still feel honoured and privileged to have had the experience of public service at such a crucial time in our country’s history, and nothing that happened subsequently has changed that.

After the first few initial years of democracy, which were largely characterized by unity and the broad national interest, what happened in South Africa post Mandela was that we resorted to politics-as-usual as they are practiced in the rest of the world, where personal ambition, material gain and the ‘politics of the possible’ became the norm. I saw many colleagues who had been principled in the liberation struggle, succumb to corruption, to political opportunism and to selfish self-interest. I was naïve then and I am naïve now, if naivety suggests you believe that the world can be run in a better way. My own political career was irrelevant in that, as the saying goes, every political career ends in failure. What is important are the issues: Truth, honesty and accountability in public life.

5.2 TKC: As a follow-on to the above, what surprising lessons have you learned since those fateful events?

Andrew Feinstein: I suppose I saw with my own eyes how power corrupts. While Mandela and many of his generation remained true to the values and principles that guided the struggle against apartheid, many amongst those who followed did not. I was given the choice of continuing my political career but hiding the truth about the mis-spending of $10 billion of public money. I chose to try and speak truth to power, accepting the end of my formal political career. But interestingly, I think I have been more productively engaged in politics since leaving Parliament.

6.0 TKC: A review of your book which was posted on the Taylor & Francis website reads something like this: “This is an insider’s political memoir by someone closely, too closely for his comfort at times involved in the events he described and analyses. It is a grim account of the shift from Mandela’s all-too-brief period of authority, an authority partly derived from manifest decency and skills as a mediator, to the increasingly blinkered authoritarian style of governance orchestrated by Thabo Mbeki; this amongst other things, condoned widespread corruption.”.

6.1 TKC: Evidently, the ANC is an extremely powerful political force on the South Africa political landscape. What in your view, is the relationship between dominant political parties and democracy – a help or hindrance?

Andrew Feinstein: I’m no expert but my instinct is that dominant political parties can be useful in times of great upheaval, but that they become inhibitors of democracy after a fairly short period of time. South Africa desperately needs a diverse, non-racial spread of parties. Part of the reason it doesn’t have this is that the ANC, a very broad church of ideologies and opinions, incorporates many elements of what could be a broader political landscape. As a consequence voters are deprived of choice.

6.2 TKC: Central to your book is South Africa’s decision to spend a large amount of badly needed money on military hardware that met no definable national security threat. Would you say, that decision was the clearest indication to you that South Africa is destined to go the way of the rest of Africa, that is, corruption in post-apartheid South African politics is just business as usual – like the rest of Africa?

Andrew Feinstein: I think it’s really important to understand how that corruption happens – I don’t regard it as an African problem but a global problem. By way of example, on the South African arms deal that I tried to investigate, BAE Systems, the British company, won the biggest contracts on offer, despite not even being short-listed for them. They did this by paying £115 million in bribes to people centrally involved in deciding what equipment to buy and from whom. The SA Air Force stated publicly that the BAE offering didn’t meet their requirements and they would only accept it if forced to do so by the politicians. These bribes were facilitated and enabled by the British government. Then Prime Minister Tony Blair visited South Africa on three separate occasions to try and win the deal, including hosting a dinner for the key Ministers on the Royal Yacht Britannia. At the same time BAE, with the support of the British government, was paying similar bribes on deals in at least six countries. On one deal alone, in the 1980s, BAE paid £6 billion of bribes! Tony Blair closed down the investigation into that deal. So, it is not just those accepting the bribes who are corrupt, but the bribing companies, as well as the officials and politicians who condone these bribes. It’s important to note that when a bribe is paid in the global arms trade (which accounts for 40% of all corruption in world trade), part of that bribe finds its way back to the corporate executives who allow the bribes, and some of the politicians, political parties and officials who either facilitate the bribes, or turn a blind eye. Corruption will not be stopped by only focusing on those who are corrupted, but needs to deal with those who do the corrupting as well. Ultimately, who is more corrupt: those receiving bribes or those paying out billions in bribes all over the world?

6.3 TKC: In Zimbabwe, major moves are afoot to amend the Zimbabwean Constitution to give the president more executive powers, which are a threat to human rights and keeping international business transactions outside parliamentary scrutiny. What advice do you have for democrats in Zimbabwe?

Andrew Feinstein: Apartheid in South Africa was ultimately defeated by international solidarity and mass protests on the ground. Thabo Mbeki’s refusal to provide anti-retroviral drugs to almost 6 million South Africans living with HIV or AIDS was overturned by mobilising hundreds of thousands of people to protest in SA and internationally, by strategic litigation and by constant local and global media campaigns that eventually forced the ANC to change its policy. This was co-ordinated by an incredible social movement, the Treatment Action Campaign.  Zimbabweans need to organise protests against their corrupt government, international solidarity, legal cases at home and abroad and using the power of traditional and social media. It is dangerous, because of the brutality of the regime. But the powerful will never relinquish power voluntarily – they have to be forced into it by brave and courageous individuals and movements demanding their basic and human rights.

Exile in the United Kingdom

7.0 TKC: Salmon Rushdie in The Satanic Verse writes, “Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled into the air.”

7.1 TKC: I read with a great deal of interest on ‘The New Londoners’ website that, despite moving your family to London permanently in 2001, you have never given up your South African passport, and that you travel to South African quite regularly. Are you an exile who is always looking backwards in the hopes of returning to South Africa in some capacity? And if yes, in what role do you see yourself returning to?

Andrew Feinstein: I regard myself as a global citizen: Cape Town is and always will be home. But I also have a home with my family in London. My work is global, as you note below, but, once my children have finished school and are independent, I hope to spend more time in South Africa. Now and in the future, in SA, the UK and the world, I try and play the role of an active, committed citizen. You don’t need to be an MP, or an investigative writer and campaigner to play a role, you just have to have a commitment to justice, equality and a belief that those who represent us, whose salaries we pay, should be accountable to us, ordinary citizens.

7.2 TKC: But unlike most exiles I know (myself included), you have successfully carved out a role for yourself in England. You are now running Shadow World investigations and have successfully published a book, The Shadow World: Inside a Global Arms Trade. The book is so successful that it was recently turned into a feature documentary by Louverture Films, Shadow World Documentary – winning a score of International Awards. Evidently, exile for you is a way of looking forward. Would you please tell us about your vision for the future?

Andrew Feinstein: The issues of the arms trade – which makes our countries more corrupt, less democratic and, ironically, less safe – are global in nature. From London I am fortunate to be able to work globally for a world in which we spend money on promoting peace, not waging war; on saving our planet, not destroying it through our conflicts and our greed; on building a world in which each person is treated equally, with respect and dignity – something Nelson Mandela displayed every day of his life. I believe a better world is possible where no person has to go hungry, homeless or without health-care; where no person fears for their life when a jet or drone passes overhead or a policeman or soldier walks around the corner; where no person is made to feel less than anyone else because of the colour of their skin, their gender or sexual orientation, their country of origin, the nature of their faith or lack of any faith, the job they do or the size of their income. A world in which each shows respect to all, and in turn is shown respect by all.

8.0. TKC: Apropos your book, The Shadow World, you may be aware that Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced that he is going to close the Department of International Development (DFiD) – merging it with the Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Ms Clare Short, the former Labour Secretary of State for DFiD from 1997 to 2003, wrote a great Opinion piece in the Guardian which was published on 17 June 2020.

8.1 TKC: In that piece, Ms Short retold of a particular incident in which Tony Blair notoriously overruled her and DFiD by insisting that a highly questionable air traffic control deal for Tanzania should go ahead. The deal ended up in court in the US over corruption claims, and nearly 30 million pounds had to be repaid. Can you please comment on the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap DFiD and his decision’s possible impact on Africa in particular?

Andrew Feinstein: The Tanzanian deal was another of BAE’s corrupt deals that I referred to above. Companies that engage in systemic corruption for years on end should not be able to continue in business. Companies should exist only insofar as they contribute to the social good. When they stop doing that, they should not have the legal right to continue to despoil the world. The current British PM, a person who previously described Africans as “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles,” is making this change so that British aid only meets Britain’s direct and immediate self-interests. I believe this to be wrong and problematic. Britain caused huge suffering in the world for hundreds of years, through the slave trade and colonialism, and has a moral obligation to support development and deeper democratisation of all the countries that suffered under it. Undertaking corrupt arms deals, which is what DfID would become a part of, amongst other things, is only perpetuating the suffering it has contributed to.

Representative Democracy: Citizens – duties and obligations

9.0 TKC: The Kamugasa Challenge focuses on humanity, leadership and citizenship. Of the three focuses, citizenship, is in our opinion, of chief importance. For we believe that a citizen has a critical role to play in the democratic processes of any given nation; that is, in how we govern ourselves. However, in the wake of the Major Financial Crisis of 2008; the subsequent austerity that followed; the impact of globalization which has reshaped profoundly our economies; the global migration crisis which in the case of Europe gave rise to astonishing levels of xenophobia; then came Brexit; and, we are now grappling with the unimaginable impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. All these events have exposed the naked truth that a citizen is far from an active participant in his own country’s national affairs. A citizen is, by all accounts, disenfranchised.

9.1 TKC: Given your experience as a former MP in South Africa, how do you see parliament widening or deepening democratic involvement of ordinary citizens – beyond simply voting for their member of Parliament every 4 to 5 years?

Andrew Feinstein: This is the crux of the issue: We all have a responsibility and a duty to be active citizens. Our governments, our Parliaments (where we are lucky enough to have them, albeit often imperfect) should represent us and work in our interests. This is no longer happening in liberal democracies, where the increasing role of money in politics since the late 1970s/early 1980s has created systems that benefit the wealthiest. Our democracies are now ‘the best money can buy.’

9.2 TKC: How do you think the system of ‘representational democracy,’ that is, elected representatives in, say, the House of Commons in the UK or the Lower House in the South African Parliament, can be strengthened by forms of ‘participative democracy’ and deliberative engagement with ordinary citizens?

Andrew Feinstein: I believe that to ensure our democracies actually represents the needs of all in a society, not just wealthiest and powerful, there is a need for fundamental, systemic reform, which might include:

  •  far greater limitations on donations to political parties;
  • making every political donation, direct or indirect, public knowledge, so we know whose interests our representatives are really serving;
  • we should not have professional politicians. Representatives should be restricted to no more than two terms of office;
  • ordinary people should be encouraged to stand for office, and should be guaranteed return to their job after such service;
  • representatives should be allowed no other employment or financial interests for the duration of their tenure; and,
  •  we should look to new and emerging technologies to develop more direct forms of political involvement for all citizens, where it would become compulsory for representatives to get the views of citizens on certain, major issues, and ultimately even have systems where citizens can easily vote on major issues that affect them.

For this to be possible it is necessary to reform the way information is communicated. Currently, traditional media is in the hands of the rich and powerful, who are able to distort information in very damaging ways that serve their own, narrow interests. New media is, in that sense, far more democratic, but has the problem of a lack of verification of the accuracy and veracity of the information distributed. As the author of a book that contains almost 3,000 references (to show the evidence on which every claim is based) I struggle with this and don’t yet know what the solution is.

However, all of this is dependent on each of us taking up the responsibilities of citizenship, of engaging on issues, of demanding accountability from our representatives and, hopefully in the future, of being a part of a much broader form of participatory democracy.

9.3 TKC: And giving a nod to your current work vis-à-vis Shadow World Investigations, can you please identify what it is arms dealers least want citizens to do; that is, with a view that citizens may be empowered to do it?

Andrew Feinstein: The people who trade more arms than anyone else are our political leaders. They use national-security-imposed secrecy to hide corruption, fruitless and wasted spending, and sometimes criminal conduct from us in arms deals. Together with the dubious intermediaries they use, they most fear information about their actual behaviour seeing the light of day. It’s why Tony Blair described his biggest political regret as being the introduction of freedom of information legislation. The first thing we can do is put as much information about corruption, mis-use of office, incompetence in office into the public domain. At my organisation, SWI, we run free investigative methods training courses for committed citizens all over the world – you can sign up for it at https://shadowworldinvestigations.org/contact/. This is so ordinary people can investigate the government at all levels, companies, etc. in their own localities. Then it is important to disseminate this information as widely as possible, and start campaigns – be it petitions, protests, strategic litigation, or combinations of these – to compel those in power to respond. We are doing this with the arms trade in as many parts of the world as we can: the governments and defence companies don’t like, which suggests it is the right thing to do.

10.0 TKC: In the United Kingdom, the Brexit Referendum of 2016 exposed the urgency for citizens’ greater involvement in democratic processes in a meaningful way. It is now widely accepted that a referendum was probably the wrong democratic tool to solve a complex issue of national importance. Even after the 2019 general election, which the Conservative Party won with a stonking mandate of 80, many British citizens today feel they were not given an opportunity to fully participate or even deliberate on an issue, which is so significant, that is whether or not to remain in the European Union.

10.1 TKC: What role, if any, do you see participative and deliberative democracy such as deliberative forums, citizens’ juries, citizens’ assemblies and referenda play in the democratic processes of any country?

Andrew Feinstein: The biggest problem in the Brexit referendum was the constant lying by both sides of the debate and the inability of the media to coherently communicate what was truth and lies. This speaks to the media issue I raised above. I think that on complex topics we should look to a variety of forms of more direct, participatory democracy. As I said above, I also believe that technological advancement is improving our ability to do this. However, the bigger problem is how we stop people lying without consequences, and, thus, how we as citizens can be better able to discern what is truth and lies, in a world in which the most powerful man on the planet lies constantly, and the checks and balances of the political system are unable to do anything about it.

10.2 TKC: When and how can we use these approaches to complement parliamentary representation democracy?

Andrew Feinstein: I think ultimately representative democracy should be replaced by forms of direct, participatory democracy. However, in our current reality, we need to demand greater accountability from our representatives. One way to do this is to demand our representatives meet with us, as citizens, more often, and listen to our needs and concerns, in whatever form might be appropriate depending on local circumstances.

11.0 TKC: Citizens’ juries and assemblies have been used for policy development and to resolve complex issues in the UK and around the world. A randomly selected group of citizens (typically 12 to 18 in respect of a citizens’ jury or 50 to 100 with a special reference to a citizens’ assembly) discussing and debating a given issue over several days or weeks, absorbing relevant information, hearing from ‘expert witness(s),’ and then take a decision which advises members of parliament or can be binding.

Andrew Feinstein: This is an interesting idea, but could be far broader and inclusive, utilising technology. Imagine a system of Zoom-type citizen’s gatherings, from a tiny local level, which are fed ever upwards, ultimately into national and international processes.

11.1 TKC: For which issues or in what circumstances do you think citizens’ juries or citizens’ assemblies would be a valuable complement to the Westminster Parliamentary system of government?

Andrew Feinstein: Currently for a limited number of crucial issues, such as broad budgetary priorities, but ultimately far more broadly for any issues that people want to be heard on.

11.2 TKC: Can you see citizens’ juries or assemblies work in Africa, especially in South Africa?

Andrew Feinstein: Absolutely. Every country, every locality, in Africa, has its unique, distinguishing realities, so a system of that sort would need to take cognisance of that. The wonderful problem in South Africa is that people are so opinionated on political and social issues, that these processes will take a long time. However, this is where we need to harness technology appropriately so that participation doesn’t demand all of everybody’s time.

11.3 TKC: And as a follow-on to the above, what special message do you have for the next generation of African citizens?

Andrew Feinstein: Never forget what the late Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” By becoming active citizens, with strong values and ethics about the sanctity and importance, and equality, of every human life, we can create a better locality, a better country, a better continent, and a better world.

Andrew Feinstein, the family, and the future

12.0 TKC: At a sprightly youthful age of 56 years old, you are an exceedingly young man by modern standards. It is probable that you may have some 30 to 40 years left in you.

12.1 TKC: What next for Andrew Feinstein?

Andrew Feinstein: I have just commenced work on a huge new project, writing another book and making another film, on the conflict in Yemen: documenting who has made money from the horrific suffering of tens of millions of people. At some point I also want to write fiction. But through whatever medium, until my last breath I will continue to work for a better world, free from corruption and greed, free from discrimination and hatred, free from war and climate catastrophe.

12.2 TKC: What do you want your legacy to be, and how do you want to be remembered?

Andrew Feinstein: I hope that my life might contribute, in some tiny way, to the creation of a better world. It is of no relevance whether my miniscule contribution is remembered or not. What is important is that the world becomes a better place for all who live in it. If I am required to have an epitaph, perhaps it will be the words of Victor Serge, a humble, remarkable man who regardless of the circumstances and the threats of the powerful remained, first and foremost a teller of the truth. He said quite simply: “After all, there is such a thing as truth.”

12.3 TKC: Finally, you have a relatively young family. How do you balance work and family demands?

Andrew Feinstein: I am very lucky in that my work is my passion, my life, and I have a family who share that. My wife, who is a Bangladeshi Muslim, works on a variety of social causes, including textile worker safety. And both our children are very socially and politically engaged and active. So our work and family lives are intertwined. And then we have things that relax us all, like watching great films together, listening to music, travelling. And finally, my son and I have a deep, shared passion for football/soccer. Ironically we support our local team, known colloquially as ‘The Gunners’, which was, ironically, founded by workers in an arms factory!


Editor’s Note: * Andrew Feinstein used the racial nomenclature of apartheid South Africa in quote marks to indicate his rejection of this terminology, which is sadly necessary to describe the place at the time.

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