A global ‘revolution’ is on and is spreading. What started as an attempt to occupy Wall Street offices, the headquarters of American capitalism, by a few hundred people a few months ago has spread throughout America and now gone global. According to The Economist the movement had two weeks ago had mushroomed in over 900 cities in around 80 countries.
The protests have been non-violent in most cities accept for a few clashes with the police such as when the New York police (NYPD) arrested hundreds of protestors blocking Brooklyn Bridge a and last week clashes with the police in Oakland.The previous week in Rome violence broke out with protestors on the march looted a supermarket, defiled a church and set fire to buildings.
Revolution with no leaders
It is a unique revolution the likes of which has not taken place before. It has no leaders apart for a few spokespersons, no specified objective but is seething with rage and anger against the rich elite in the West. Their cry is: “W are the 99 per cent and the other’s one per cent.”
The movement appears to be centered in Zuccati Park New York, close to Wall Street where working groups meet and take decisions by consensus in most cities where they have set up camps their stay seems to be ‘indefinite.’ It’s an ‘internet powered’ movement.
Political analysts and economists have yet to come to grips with the movement. Marxists of yore who suffered to see the collapse of communism two decades ago, would now be delighted to see the prediction of their of their prophets – Marx, Engels and Lenin – ‘Capitalism will find their own grave diggers,’ come true. Whether capitalism is dead and will be buried soon appears to be a long way off but certainly it is facing a global crisis to which there seems to be no answers.
No hope for the future
When Western nations were blossoming under capitalism occasional protests of leftists, particularly the youth were dismissed by the establishment as a manifestation of the lunatic fringe. No longer can it is dismissed for the millions of protestors are justifiably seething with anger. They a re unemployed, their savings wiped out, there is no hope for them in the foreseeable future under the present set up. Not only the young but even those in middle age and the elderly are affected.
In America 17.1 percent of those below 25 are out of work. In the European Union youth unemployment averages 20.9 per cent, in Spain it is a staggering 46.2 percent while only in Germany, Austria and Netherlands youth unemployment is below ten per cent. The middle aged prospects are salary reductions and diminished pensions while for the elderly inflation are corroding into their savings.
Governments facing economic crises have been compelled to resort to austerity measures to reduce budget deficits. This involves making drastic inroads into their incomes while others are thrown out of their jobs and changes in their lifestyles forced upon them such as in Greece. The Greek protestors have been demonstrating on the streets for months and clashing violently with the police. Studies have shown that there is a corresponding rise in political instability with imposition of austerity measures. The recent London riots, according to some political analysts could be the result of economic stagnation and the imposition of austerity measures which created a social division. An Italian study has shown that ‘episodes of political instability occur twice often as when spending cuts reach five per cent of the GDP as when expenditure rises.’
The Greek debt crisis is not only threatening political stability in the country but also has threatened to spread ‘financial contagion’ not only in the European Union but even to America. Such are the deleterious consequences of globalization, it has been pointed out. On Thursday (27) faced with the Greek debt contagion spreading into the economies of the European Union, Europe’s heads of state such as Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy, officials of the European Central Bank and the IMF head, Christine Lagarde after a marathon session decided finally in giving Greece a massive ‘hair cut’ by writing off Euro 100 billion (50 per cent of Greek debt) .Funds are to be transferred to Athens at the beginning of next year. Financial speculators expected European stock markets to recover immediately with this decision.
The seething anger of New York protestors is evident from comments in one of their bogs, the Daily Activist.
It says that only those with amnesia would not recollect that the entire financial crash was caused by the reckless gambling by Wall Street, banks and hedge funds. It was not home buyers who created enormous demands for high risk mortgages, to poll, to securitize and to turn to Ponzi like gambling structures. Millions of such toxic assets polluted the financial system and when the bubble they introduced burst the system crashed causing millions to lose their jobs in a matter of months. Wall Street created the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Twenty nine million people are out of job or forced to do part time jobs
Wall Street representatives in Washington want to focus on cutting public employment, public services to address the debt crisis created by Wall Street itself. The super rich are paying lower taxes while the government pleads poverty when asked to create a massive jobs programme. In 1995 the wealthiest families paid 90 per cent of income tax while today the effective rate is only 16 per cent.
A point of interest is the comment on insider traders like Raj Rajaratnam. Rajaratnam along with other inside trader Bernie Maddox and 40 others have been jailed but ‘none of these scoundrels as immoral as they may be had much to do with the financial crash.’
The important issue is which direction that this leaderless movement which says that they are basing their strategy on the Arab Spring will take. They want to be following the principles of non violence but some of them have said that if they need be they would resort to violence.
Perhaps the ‘revolution’ would come to end only when the global financial crisis ends but if not what will the passive millions on the streets the world do?