The year of revolt

2011 will be remembered as a year when resistance broke out around the world – Published on Socialist Worker.org, December 16, 2011.

… And in the U.S., young people formed the heart of Occupy Wall Street and its sister occupations in cities around the U.S. Finally, after three years of an economic crash and an excruciatingly weak recovery, long-term unemployment, declining wages and cuts in social spending, people took to the streets in the U.S. to say: “Enough!”  

Organized labor, which has been disoriented, both by President Barack Obama’s failure to deliver and the ferocity of the employers’ offensive, made common cause with the Occupy movement in important ways, mounting some of the largest labor protests in decades across the U.S.

The media pundits and corporate apologists who sneered at the Occupy movement for its supposed lack of demands missed a rather obvious point: It’s the system, stupid. That’s why Occupy went global – and why the struggle will continue.

***

UNDERPINNING THE global rebellion is a multifaceted crisis.

The economic crash of 2008 laid bare the long-term trends of rising inequality and class polarization, even in countries where the economy had been expanding. The resulting social crisis – a spike in unemployment and poverty worldwide and austerity almost everywhere – has led to an international crisis of political legitimacy, too.

While politicians in Europe and the U.S. have avoided the fate of their Middle Eastern cronies, the crisis has taken its toll through plummeting approval ratings and the downfall of governments in Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Greece. And now the worsening debt crisis in Europe threatens the world with another downward spiral in the global economy that will only intensify the political crisis.

The response of the world’s ruling classes has been to further restrict an already narrow political space.

Greece and Italy are now run by “technocratic” governments who answer to bankers and European Union bureaucrats rather than voters. The U.S. has its own version of this trend, with the state of Michigan using new legislation to install emergency financial managers to push aside elected officials in budget-strapped municipalities and tear up union contracts.

And in Washington, politicians tried to impose austerity with an end run around the U.S. Constitution, empowering a “supercommittee” to draft budget-cutting measures that couldn’t have been amended.

If you don’t like it, then our rulers have a message for you: Get ready for a nightstick in the ribs or a blast of the pepper spray at point-blank range. With the crackdown on Occupy encampments across the U.S. – ordered in almost every case by Democratic Party mayors – the scenes of riot cops battling workers on the streets of Cairo and Athens no longer seem remote.

When all this is taken into account, the question becomes not why did 2011 become a year of revolt, but why didn’t it take place sooner? In the U.S., a major reason is that the left is only just starting to reemerge from decades of retreat and defeat, and the unions represent only around 12 percent of workers. But it should be recalled that in the early years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, struggles were isolated and often defeated before the big labor upsurge of 1936 and 1937.

The same has been true for today’s small-D depression. The shock is wearing off, and the reality is setting in: Corporate America and its counterparts in Europe and most of the rest of the world are determined to impose a deep and permanent cut in working class living standards.

But in 2011, we gave our response loud and clear: We’re not going to take it – and we’re going to fight back … (full long text).

Links:

The most unforgettable person I’ve ever met in my life, on Splitered Sunrise, by blog owner, August 28, 2011;

Publication: Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time, on amazon;

Toni Cliff in the Marxists’ Internet Archive;

Tony Cliff on en.wikipedia;

Socialist Workers Party (UK) SWP on en.wikipedia;

Socialist Worker: the name of several socialist/communist newspapers, on wikipedia;

Socialist Worker.org;

L’UNFPA décidée à lutter contre les mutilations génitales féminines, publié Publié dans Agence Ivoirienne de Presse AIP, le 17 Decembre 2011;

The UNFPAS-report: state of world population 2011, launched october 26, 2011;

Saying No: 16 Days Against Gender Violence, on UNFPA, 02 December 2011.

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