Saturday, 25 June 2011


The popular protests that erupted in spring 2011 in Spain and then spread to dozens of cities throughout Europe have not managed to discourage any government from pursuing neo-liberal, anti-social, anti-labor policies intended to transfer massive income from the bottom and middle sectors of society to the upper income groups.

The situation is the same in Italy and France, in Spain and Portugal as it is in Greece that is in the eye of the austerity storm. Not that anything has changed in Portugal where masses of protesters have been occupying city squares any more than it has in Greece which is on the verge of a social revolution. In all cases, the protests are mostly peaceful to the degree that bourgeois journalists and politicians admiringly refer to them as Gandhian. They represent a broad spectrum of the population, and the catalyst is the indignation with the institutional structures that parade as democratic but are in essence authoritarian and serve a small percentage of people.

With each passing day, conditions deteriorate for the majority in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, and Italy, and to a lesser extent the rest of Europe. Given that the political parties (center, center-left and conservative) have not heeded the cries of the indignant across the periphery and core of Europe, what does this say about the effectiveness of the mass protest movement and its prospects in the next months to a year?

First, it is impossible for any mass movement to succeed in the absence of a coherent ideology. Ideological identity is lacking in the European indignant mass movement. When everyone from right wing to left wing elements expresses an 'anti-parliamentary system' position, the question is whether such a movement will become progressive to serve the majority of the population that cries out for true social, economic, and political democracy, or whether some right wing populist demagogue will use the movement to swing it toward supporting a 'Fascist-type' movement.

Second, what the mass protesters agree on?
1. They agree that the existing 'liberal democracy' and its institutions no longer serve the majority and it is not democracy. On the contrary, institutions work to the detriment of the majority and the word 'democracy' has become a farce.
2. They agree that the political parties that alternate in government - from conservative to center or center-left - serve the exact same institutional interests, to the detriment of the people.
3. They agree that their lives and those of their children are reverting back a few decades, instead of moving forward.
4. They agree that while the economic crisis was created by finance capital, the government is asking them to pay the price by lowering their living standards.
5. They agree that the government is staying in power by using police methods against protesters, but what happens when the police have their salaries cut and they identify with the indignant; and what happens when the armed forces follow the police? Without the police and armed forces behind it, the state will collapse.

Third, the indignant protesters enjoy at least two-thirds of popular support. However, that is not a measure of anything concrete.
1. The 'indignant movements' lack political identity as much as they lack an ideology.
2. They lack a road map for going the next step in proposing an alternative to the existing institutions.
3. They lack a road map of how they will arrive at their goal.
4. On the one hand, the European indignant mass protests are grass roots movements and may reflect true democracy. On the other hand, the danger that they dissolve is very high because they are heterogeneous. The only catalyst so far is what the protesters oppose, but what happens if/when they announce what they propose as an alternative? The grass roots nature of the movement has allowed right wing populist elements to take advantage of it, but is that the goal of the indignant masses?

The dangers to EU by the 'Indignant Movements':
1. The indignant movements will grow, but in what direction and what form, and what splinter groups may arise from them is an unknown at this juncture. They may hold together in Spain, but not in Greece, they may unite into a single movement in Portugal but split into two polar opposing factions in Spain. They may become part of a larger mass movement that includes trade unions in France, but erupt into spontaneous violent revolt in Greece once the new stabilization measures are announced as part of the second round of IMF-EU borrowing. The unknown poses a threat to EU economic stability, therefore a real possibility of a new recession in 2012.
2. Contrary to Marx and Engels who believed that revolution must necessarily come in the most advance countries, history has demonstrated that revolution comes from dependent economies with weak state structures. Therefore, EU periphery seems likely to experience social turbulence more likely than northwest Europe.  
3. It is entirely possible that it will not be the indignant movements of Spain, Portugal or Greece that will lead Europe into massive changes owing to pressures from below, but Italy whose public debt and banking system will require well over one trillion euros to stabilize.
4. The success of the indignant movements across Europe, especially in southern Europe, have already eroded the sense of legitimacy that people associate with government and mainstream institutions. The continued erosion of public confidence, and sense of legitimacy that people attribute to their governments and institutions poses a serious threat to a number of European nations. The result may be that political leaders and media in each country try to use nationalism as a means to regain legitimacy and point to 'foreign enemies'.

 5. If indeed the world economy lapses into a double-dip recession in 2012, and if in that cycle China is unable to soften the blow of contraction that the world economy will suffer, the prospect of revolution and perhaps a reaction from ultra-right wing elements in establishing authoritarian/police state regimes is very real.

6. Unconventional form of warfare - terrorism -  is one other danger that is very likely arising from the ashes of the 'indignant movement' if it fails to have a progressive impact on the political arena.  We may very well see a rise of 1970s-style organizations in Europe if society continues along a road to polarization owing to downward social mobility.

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