Sunday, 2 October 2011


US protesters in New York remain vigilant against Wall Street capitalism that the two-party system guards while pretending to uphold the welfare of citizens. That the police arrested 700 New Yorkers that swarmed on Brooklyn Bridge to protest the existing political economy and social order is a warning sign, for such protests could and will spread across the entire country if the trend of downward social mobility continues
so that government can strengthen corporate welfare. And if social unrest permeates the US as the citadel of capitalism, the rest of the world that is more radical for the most part would follow.

The situation is more alarming across Europe from Portugal and Greece to Iceland and Bulgaria where there is a tidal wave of social unrest that should concern the political class and financial elites on whose behalf the government conducts policy. Some of these protests the mainstream media covers, others it ignores or it gives them a nuanced spin to make them appear as the exception rather then the rule. The situation appears to be worse in Greece than in any other nation, but actually Spain and Portugal are not far behind. Massive labor protests took place in Greece and across Europe in September 2011 and more will be staged in the weeks and months ahead as the people do not see light at the end of the IMF-EU austerity tunnel.

That more than 100,000 people marched in Brussels outside the EU building is a sign that workers and the middle class in northern Europe is not reacting to austerity, formal or informal, any differently than Greeks, Spaniards or Portugese. Europeans expect higher unemployment for the next few years, perhaps for the balance of the decade, lower wages/salaries, higher taxes, and higher living costs. The future of the current college generation does not look good, and that is a telling commentary on bourgeois society as it exists in 2011.

Clearly, Greek workers and middle class has it much worse off than their French counterparts whose country is not facing the possibility of some form of bankruptcy. However, the EU economy is so tightly integrated that all full and associate EU members will suffer from the downward trend, dragging down the already volatile world economy. Not just in Greece, but across Europe everyone knows that the future means fewer public sector jobs, lower wages, lower benefits, higher taxes and higher retirement age with lower compensation. Perhaps such pessimism drove a 41-year-old man to take his  cement-mixer truck and write the words "toxic bank" at the gate of the Irish parliament in Dublin. The act of the Irish truck driver represents a widespread sentiment across Europe, namely that the entire parliamentary system has failed to deliver on the social contract, so people have the right to protest and bring down the system.

In the next months, Europe and the US will continue to experience high levels of social unrest. Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Serbia, Romania, Poland, Ireland and France are all expected to have massive strikes and demonstrations in the upcoming weeks. When 4,500 Lufthansa pilots go on strike, and more labor strikes are planned by the largest unions representing manufacturing and service workers, can the rest of Europe be safe from widespread social unrest? 

Why are the Germans striking, considering their country is a surplus one and has positive GDP growth? The answer is for the same reasons as the rest of the European and US workers and middle class, namely, wage cuts and higher cost of living for millions of workers. One solution for the conservatives and right wing is to invoke nationalism and have workers of one nation blame workers of the other for the problems that politicians and bankers of all nations have caused. I suspect that the right-wing is having a field day across the entire Western World amid this crisis that presents an opening for them to attract new followers. This too is a threat to the parliamentary system, much more so than many believe precisely because the right-wing of today is very smooth and able to camouflage its policies by employing traditional conservative rhetoric.

The threat by strikes and demonstrations is not to employers, but to the political economy and the social order. People have lost faith in the system that promised a share of the wealth that workers and middle class produced would revert back to those producing it, instead of having it appropriated by the state that uses it to strengthen finance capital. How long will people tolerate downward mobility in the name of 'democracy' and pluralism before more hit the streets and demand a new social order?

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