Tuesday, December 20
By Farooque Chowdhury
19 December, 2011
Uprisings, revolts and occupation are keeping their undeniable marks on 2011. In recent times, a year with so much and so wide protests from periphery to world metropolis are rare. In this crises-ridden period, the competition-charged, tumultuous year saw status quo questioned and challenged. In recent times, capitalism with its fundamental contradictions of capital accumulation has never encountered so vigorous and wide social criticism and rejection.
The globe eclipsing status quo has created conditions for protest and uprising, and also trammeled these. With these contradictory acts, status quo has illegitimated itself, and has provided legitimacy to protest and uprising against institutions for coercion and ideological hegemony that capital builds up to dominate public life. As captive of income- and opportunity-inequalities, people in countries are giving tongue to their dissatisfaction with the status quo, its philosophy, policies, politics and economy. As democratic practice, people are dissenting, disapproving and denouncing dominating power’s contempt of life and liberty. People are declining to acquiesce to the destruction of peace on the earth.
People in countries were passing days while corporate personhood was taking control of peoples’ life and bare minimum spaces essential for people’s existence. It was capital’s indifferent campaign to destruct all life on the earth.
The prevailing system with its all its brutality – poverty, unemployment, wars, intervention, and indifferent elites indulging in luxury and speculation – has provided logic to protest in countries. Working people are being deprived of their rights. Narrowed down space for dissent and curtailed rights have ignited revolts. In 2011, people began resisting mainly through nonviolent protest marches and occupation. Internet based social networking has turned into a tool to communicate and propagate. In 2011, with industrial action, by striking valiantly, labor in scores of countries heroically stood in front of capital. In Third, Second and First Worlds, student activism, their protests and marches, occupations of educational institutions and media centers unmasked the dominating system that does not hide its profit motive in the area of public instruction. In 2011, riot and anarchic acts, only a few in numbers and only in a few countries, reflect dire living condition, and encroached democratic space. These are initiatives by an impatient section to ensure jobs, homes, security and freedom from the tyranny of capital.
The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement are two key moments in the worldwide protest process in 2011. These are junctures. In terms of magnitude and force, these two surpassed the Seattle Uprising in 1999, the Prague Anti-globalization Protests in 2000 and the Iraq War Protest in 2003. In terms of significance, these two influenced and will influence societies and politics at regional and world levels.
Tyrants, Empire-allies, caricature characters in politics, financial and political institutions, coercive apparatus, all had to face protests by people from Australia to Middle East, from North Africa to North America, from Wukan, a China village, to the US cities, from a mining giant headquarter to ports and auction house. Tunisia, Italy, Malaysia, Morocco, Russia, Bahrain, Greece, France, the UK, backward, conservative societies and advanced capitalist countries, all came under questioning by its citizens. Madrid, Athens, San Francisco, Paris, Philadelphia, London, Leeds, Los Angeles, and hundreds of cities and towns saw protest marches. Election thievery sparked protests, sometimes violent. In 2011, tens of thousands of “mass incidents”, huge demonstrations and protests, reflected undercurrents in today’s Chinese society. Striking oil workers occupied the main square in Zhanaozen, a Kazakhstan town, for more than six months. In the last days in 2011, police firing on the protesting Kazakh oil workers killed at least 10 people. During the last days of the year, protesting people continue making supreme sacrifices in Egypt, a geostrategically important area, where an alliance between retrogressive forces and imperialism has been completed. In Lens Creek Mountain, West Virginia, USA, people marched more than 50 miles to save ecology and a glorious history.
Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy Movement that began on September 17 with a few thousand protesters in New York to condemn greed and capitalism has become a political expression in the entire US, and broadly, a worldwide approach with broad coalitions. In France, Marseille Chamber of Commerce was occupied. In Kerala, India, a soft drink plant was occupied. And, 2011 saw similar many more.
Within days, the Occupy Movement became a world symbol with the universal slogan “We are the 99%”. Jobless and homeless, union members and priests, nurses, teachers and students stood in protest, peacefully marched down streets, built camps with libraries in parks and city squares, tried to make their stand in the face of forced evictions. But capital’s dictatorial force prevailed. Occupy Movement protesters have been arrested, their camps bulldozed.
Occupy Movement campaigned to move homeless people into buildings foreclosed by banks, stood by labor’s struggle, and has tried to widen its support-base. Defying cold, rain, snow falls and evictions in countries, Occupy Movement protesters are still undaunted, and hope to re-occupy public spaces.
Now, it is Occupy Everywhere. It’s a new discourse and dynamics of political action. It is not an isolated act of protest. Rather, it is now a worldwide process, an expression of revolt against capitalist economy and politics.
Labor, either in unions or defying status quoed union leadership, in countries has joined the waves of uprising, and in countries has determined pace of politics for a period, may be for a short one. Labor worldwide is trying to assert its position. In 2011, labor made strikes at Australian coal mines and walked outs at giant Grasberg mine in Indonesia. Chile’s state-owned copper giant, African gold producers, and scores of mine owners in countries had to face labor action in the year.
At least in a country, a new law banning street protest has been enacted. At least a country now plans to use its political power to detain its citizens for indefinite period. Police reportedly went undercover at an Occupy camp to find out protesters’ intentions. Police spies infiltrated protest groups at least in a country. In countries, public servants, hardly a few thousands in number, are wielding the power to define limits of “democracy” for millions, and in actual sense, billions. The year 2011 once again exposed these truths.
In 2011, by violating fundamental rights of people, and even by violating bourgeois democratic norms, ruling classes in respective societies have quashed its claims to rule, have confirmed its void moral standing, and have provided people the logic to reclaim fundamental features of bourgeois democracy and public spaces. In 2011, ruling machines in countries are breaking its laws the machines are committed to safeguard, and breeding contempt of the laws enacted to secure existing property relations and perpetuate dominance over people. In countries, honesty is an abandoned concept within forces of and institutions for hegemony. So, the logic to reclaim comes from Abraham Lincoln. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln said while debating Stephen Douglas: “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
In 2011, capital’s “holy” alliance is being exposed. States with their inherent inefficiency and incompetence continue to stand as inefficient and incompetent. With their monopoly of coercion states are attaining mistrust of its citizens.
In 2011, main stream media got exposed as a tool of capital. MSM’s acts appeared deep rooted conspiracy, often a conspiracy of silence, to the protesting people. It tried to keep silent on the Occupy Movement. Its “shrewd” tact to ignore people’s struggles ultimately breached its credibility, and to regain credibility, it had to provide information, sometimes disinformation or misinformation.
In 2011, the dominating economy’s incapability is being exposed as it continues to snatch away social safety arrangements, as it fails to provide bare minimum livelihood space to citizens, and as it fails to balance its competing interests. In a continent, dominating capital stands on the brink of falling apart as its powerful parts fail to resolve fatal competition.
In 2011, like past years, states, huge in number, continue to serve their masters – capitals, monopoly finance capital, speculator capital, ecocide capital, war capital. With demagoguery and outright falsehood, with a state of war or a threat of war, with justification to torture and murder, states fomented protests, revolts and occupation in 2011.
Status quo is engaged with full force in stopping peoples’ legitimate claims on economy and politics. In 2011, societies are on the border of bankruptcy, societies are faltering with burden of seemingly endless mal-governance, lumpenocracy, immense corruption and hopelessness. Dominating classes’ historical role has brought the societies to this limit. The dominating classes have initiated the process of destruction of these societies. In countries, people found no other way but protest and revolt in 2011 as speculators and bankers shape economy and trample sovereignty, polluters define limits of livable environment, and tyranny encroach public spaces. All Tyranny depends on deception, hypocrisy, economic and political power, and compels people to resort to revolt. The year, as a reaction, demonstrates force and power of revolt. The year is witnessing unimaginable riches and military might, but finds it imprisoned to the desire to use the power in the interests of absolute minority section in societies. People find them encountering tyranny and oppression in the guise of status quo in 2011.
“No nation”, as James Madison said in Political Observations in 1795, “can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” But, the world is experiencing continual war waged by dominating capital. The year 2011 with pain and tears is going through this war. It is war for resources and cheap labor being waged in lands around the globe, it is war for thievery, it is wars declared and undeclared, and it is age-old war waged by a minority class against the majority classes. Under the endless sky, it is being waged in politics, in diplomacy, in economy, in propaganda, in ideology and education. It is being waged in the squares of the cities, in slums, on waste dumping grounds, with public properties being sold in market, in factories and workshops, in ports and offices, in degraded educational institutions and hospitals without any ribbon of hope, in all public spaces.
In countries, people are now no more wandering, no more having aimless moves in 2011. In countries, people are now striving to transform politics, taking initiatives in politics with limitations imposed by a period and respective societies. Despite the fact, protesting people, revolting people, not individuals, have initiated a process to reclaim their space, their land, to reiterate
This land is your land,
This land is my land
This land is our land.
Dhaka-based freelancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.