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Posts Tagged ‘indignados’

Le rivolte che scuotono il mondo intero – 2

In Da altri media on 26/06/2013 at 09:15

GLOBAL PROTEST GROWS AS CITIZENS LOSE FAITHS IN POLITCS AND THE STATE

di Peter Beaumont

da The Observer

The demonstrations in Brazil began after a small rise in bus fares triggered mass protests. Within days this had become a nationwide movement whose concerns had spread far beyond fares: more than a million people were on the streets shouting about everything from corruption to the cost of living to the amount of money being spent on the World Cup.

In Turkey, it was a similar story. A protest over the future of a city park in Istanbul – violently disrupted by police – snowballed too into something bigger, a wider-ranging political confrontation with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has scarcely been brought to a close by last weekend’s clearing of Gezi Park.

If the recent scenes have seemed familiar, it is because they shared common features: viral, loosely organised with fractured messages and mostly taking place in urban public locations.

Unlike the protest movement of 1968 or even the end of Soviet influence in eastern Europe in 1989, these are movements with few discernible leaders and often conflicting ideologies. Their points of reference are not even necessarily ideological but take inspiration from other protests, including those of the Arab spring and the Occupy movement. The result has seen a wave of social movements – sometimes short-lived – from Wall Street to Tel Aviv and from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, often engaging younger, better educated and wealthier members of society.

What is striking for those who, like myself, have covered these protests is often how discursive and open-ended they are. People go not necessarily to hear a message but to take over a location and discuss their discontents (even if the stunning consequence can be the fall of an autocratic leader such as Egypt‘s Hosni Mubarak).

If the “new protest” can be summed up, it is not in specifics of the complaints but in a wider idea about organisation encapsulated on a banner spotted in Brazil last week: “We are the social network.”

In Brazil the varied banners underlined the difficulty of easy categorisation as protesters held aloft signs expressing a range of demands from education reforms to free bus fares while denouncing the billions of public dollars spent on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics two years later.

“It’s sort of a Catch-22,” Rodrigues da Cunha, a 63-year-old protester told the Associated Press. “On the one hand we need some sort of leadership, on the other we don’t want this to be compromised by being affiliated with any political party.”

As the Economist pointed out last week, while mass movements in Britain, France, Sweden and Turkey have been inspired by a variety of causes, including falling living standards, authoritarian government and worries about immigration, Brazil does not fit the picture, with youth unemployment at a record low and enjoying the biggest leap in living standards in the country’s history.

So what’s going on? An examination of the global Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a loose correlation between the ranking of a country on the trust scale and the likelihood of protests. The trust barometer is a measure of public confidence in institutions compiled by the US firm Edelman, the world’s largest privately owned PR company.

In 2011, at the time the Occupy movement was being born in Zuccoti Park on Wall Street, the UK and the US were both firmly placed at the bottom of the “distrusters” while Brazil topped the “trusters”. By this year Brazil had dropped 30 points on the table, while Spain and Turkey, which have both seen protests this year, were both in the distrusted category.

Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC2’s Newsnight and author of Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, has argued that a key factor, largely driven by new communication technologies, is that people have not only a better understanding of power but are more aware of its abuse, both economically and politically.

Mason believes we are in the midst of a “revolution caused by the near collapse of free-market capitalism combined with an upswing in technical innovation” – but not everyone is so convinced.

What does ring true, however, is his assertion that a driving force from Tahrir Square to Occupy is a redefinition of notions of both what “freedom” means and its relationship to governments that seem ever more distant. It is significant, too, that many recent protests have taken place in the large cities that have been most transformed by neoliberal policies.

Tali Hatuka, an Israeli urban geographer, whose book on the new forms of protest will be published next year, identifies the mass mobilisations against the Iraq war in 2003 as a turning point in how people protest. Hatuka argues that, while previous large public protests had tended to be focused and narrow in their organisation, the Iraq war protests saw demonstrations in 800 cities globally which encompassed and tolerated a wide variety of outlooks.

“Most recently,” Hatuka wrote in the journal Geopolitics last year, “this spirit has characterised the Arab spring and New York’s Occupy Wall Street, which were protests based on informal leadership and a multitude of voices.”

“Up to the 1990s,” she said last week, “protests tended to be organised around a pyramid structure with a centralised leadership. As much effort went into the planning as into the protest itself. And the [impact on the] day after the protest was as significant as the event itself. Now protest is organised more like a network. It is far more informal, the event itself often being immediate.”

Hatuka cautions against generalising too much – distinguishing between the events of the Arab spring, where mass protests were able to remove regimes, and protests in western democracies. But she does point to how the new form of protest tends to produce fractured and temporary alliances.

“If you compare what we are seeing today with the civil rights movement in the US – even the movements of 1989 – those were much more cohesive. Now the event itself is the message. The question is whether that is enough.”

She suspects it is not, pointing to how present-day activism – from the Iraq war demonstrations onwards – has often failed to deliver concrete results with its impact often fizzling out. Because of this, current forms of protest may be a temporary phenomenon and may be forced to change.

Another key feature of the new protests, argues Saskia Sassen, a sociology professor at Columbia University, New York, is the notion of “occupation” – which has not been confined to the obvious tactics of the Occupy movement. Occupations of different kinds have occurred in Tahrir Square, Cairo, in Gezi Park, Istanbul, and during widespread social protests in Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital, in 2011.

“Occupying is not the same as demonstrating. Many of the [recent] protests made legible the fact that occupying makes novel territory, and thereby a bit of history, using what was previously considered merely ground,” Sassen wrote recently. “Whether in Egypt, the US, or elsewhere, it is important that the aim of the occupiers is not to grab power. They were and are, rather, engaged in the work of citizenship, exposing deep flaws and wrongs in their polity and society.

“This is a very peculiar moment,” Sassen told the Observer. “This form of protest is very amorphous in comparison with the movements that came before.” She argues that one distinguishing factor is that many of the protest movements of the past decade have been defined by the involvement of what she calls “the modest middle class”, who have often been beneficiaries of the systems they are protesting against but whose positions have been eroded by neoliberal economic policies that have seen both distribution of wealth and opportunities captured by a narrowing minority. As people have come to feel more distant from government and economic institutions, a large part of the new mass forms of dissent has come to be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate ideas of “citizenship”.

“Often what people are saying is that you are the state. I’m a citizen. I’ve done my job. You’re not recognising that.”

Sassen’s belief that many of the recent protests are middle-class-driven appeared to be confirmed overtly – in the case of Brazil, at least – by President Dilma Rousseff, when she acknowledged that the new middle classes “want more and have the right to more”.

For an older generation of political theorists, as Sassen admits, not least those from a Marxist background, the current trends have sometimes been puzzling. “I remember talking to [British Marxist historian] Eric Hobsbawm – a dear friend. He asked me: ‘What’s up [with Occupy]?’ I said it is a very interesting movement. But his reply was: ‘If there is no party, then there’s no future.'”

Indeed, it was precisely this concern two years ago that led Malcolm Gladwell – in a controversial essay for the New Yorker, Small change: why the revolution will not be tweeted – to ask a similar question: whether networks of activists modelled on social media and with “weak tie-ins” can sustain themselves in the long run.

“The old pyramid way of organising protests does have its limitations, but so too do the new ways of organising,” says Hatuka. “Often it does not feel very effective in the long run. People will often go for a day or two and these protests are not necessarily offering an ideological alternative.”

La lezione del Brasile

In a sinistra on 24/06/2013 at 08:47

Chi avrebbe mai pensato che milioni di brasiliani potessero protestare contro i Mondiali di calcio? Quel rito unificante, esaltante, inebriante, che per 1 mese tiene in ostaggio il mondo intero (o quasi) e che proprio in Brasile trova la sua forma più virale, la torcida, l’identificazione del paese col calcio. Un calcio brasiliano che i media ci hanno trasmesso sempre come esempio di felicità, spensieratezza, allegria. Ed invece…..

Invece c’è una vita oltre il calcio. Una vita, in Brasile come altrove, in Brasile più che altrove, fatta di fatiche, sofferenze, ingiustizie. Ed allora i brasiliani hanno cominciato a dire basta, hanno cominciato ad andare in piazza, a dire che ci vuole più sanità, più educazione e meno stadi. Che le priorità del paese sono altre.

Tra tutti i movimenti di protesta di questi anni, quello brasiliano è quello più dichiaramente di classe, con rivendicazioni molto concrete – più welfare, una vita migliore per i tanti poveri del paese. E non c’è dubbio che la chiarezza degli obiettivi aiuta sempre la forza dei movimenti. Lo stesso ad esempio non si può dire per i vari indignados o occupy, che protestano contro il capitalismo rapace che ha portato alla crisi ma non riescono a coinvolgere i milioni di disoccupati, giovani, poveri perchè non riescono a presentare una piattaforma di lotta concreta.

Ma le lotte brasiliane sono anche la conferma che ci troviamo ormai davanti ad un movimento mondiale, che parte fondamentalmente dallo stesso tipo di protesta. L’obiettivo, un pò ovunque, è il capitalismo che mina le radici della democrazia. Un capitalismo oligarchico in cui le ragioni del mercato vengono sempre prima dei bisogni del popolo, possono essere gli interessi dei ricchi brasiliani o dei costruttori turchi o dei banchieri inglesi, poco cambia. Si tratta di un generale risveglio della sinistra mondiale, che mette le maschere di Guy Fawkes e di V per Vendetta invece delle bandiere rosse di una volta, ma che fondamentalmente chiede quello che si chiedeva negli anni 60 e negli anni 70: vogliamo essere protagonisti, vogliamo una politica più democratica, una economia più giusta. Lo dice in maniera ancora incoerente, disorganizzata, improvvisata, non istituzionale. Una forza nei primi momenti della protesta, una debolezza quando c’è da raccogliere i frutti politici della protesta. Ma una forza globale, con cui bisognerà cominciare a fare i conti.

Dalla Turchia al Brasile è una protesta globale per un mondo migliore

In Da altri media on 21/06/2013 at 22:58

Ormai si tratta di una protesta globale, le piazze di ormai tutti i continenti ardono della rabbia di una nuova generazione che è stanca di sentirsi dire cosa devono fare, è stanca di piegare la testa, è stanca che la propria voce non sia mai ascoltata mentre solo gli interessi dell’oligarchia vengono presi in considerazione. E’ vero a Gezi Park dove i cittadini vogliono che non sia solo Erdogan a decidere in favore di una folle speculazione edilizia, è vero a San Paolo dove non si accetta che per pagare gli stadi dei calciatori miliardari si alzino i biglietti degli autobus – o si brucino le risorse che sarebbero meglio servite per costruire ospedali. E’ vero a Sofia, dove la gente non ne può più di una classe politica corrotta, come lo era per gli Indignados spagnoli e per tutti i movimenti di Occupy. L’ideologia mercatista che ha soppiantato nei fatti, se non ancora nelle modalità, la democrazia, è sul banco degli imputati.

SHARED SYMBOLISM OF GLOBAL YOUTH UNREST

di Paul Mason

da BBC News

The language and the time zone changes but, from Turkey and Bulgaria to Brazil, the symbolism of protest is increasingly the same.

The Guy Fawkes masks, the erection of tent camps, the gas masks and helmets improvised in response to the use of tear gas as a means of collective punishment. The handwritten signs – scrawled in defiance of the state’s power and the uniformity of the old, collective protests of yesteryear.

And the youthfulness of the core protesters.

In Gezi Park, Istanbul, before it was cleared by police, I saw school-age teenagers turn up regularly, each afternoon in small groups, colonise what was left of the lawn and start their homework.

The pictures coming out of Sao Paulo tell a similar story.

Bypassing the state

In both cities, people born in a post-ideological era are using what symbols they can to tell a story of being modern, urban and discontented: the national flag and the shirt of the local football team are memes common to both Istanbul and Sao Paulo.

But what is driving the discontent?

When I covered the unrest in Britain and southern Europe in 2011, the answer was clear. A whole generation of young people has seen economic promises cancelled: they will work probably until their late sixties, come out of university with lifetime-crippling debts.

And, as American students famously complained in 2009, the jobs they get when they leave university are often the same jobs they did, part-time, when they were at university. I’ve met qualified civil engineers in Greece whose job was waiting table; the fact that I met them on a riot tells you all you need to know.

With the Arab Spring, it seemed different – from the outside: these were fast-growing economies – in Libya’s case spectacularly fast. But here you hit something that makes this wave of unrest unique: this is the first generation whose lives, and psychology, have been shaped by ready access to information technology and social media.

We know what this does: it makes state propaganda, censorship and a government-aligned mainstream media very easy to bypass. Egyptian state TV totally lost credibility during the first days of the uprisings against President Hosni Mubarak. This month, when Turkish TV stations tried to pull the same kind of non-reporting of unrest, they were bombarded with complaints.

“But,” one politics professor told me, “most of the complaints were from people aged over 35. The youth don’t watch TV, and in any case they have never believed what’s on the news.”

Social media makes it possible to organise protests fast, to react to repression fast, and to wage a quite successful propaganda war that makes the mainstream media and the spin machines of governments look foolish.

At the same time, it encourages a relatively “horizontal” structure to the protests themselves. Taksim Square in Istanbul was rare for having a 60-strong organising group; the protests in Sao Paulo have followed the more general pattern of several organising groups and an amorphous network of people who simply choose themselves where to turn up, what to write on their banners, and what to do.

As I arrived in Istanbul, some of my contacts in financial markets were mystified: why are they protesting when it is one of the fastest growing places on earth?

Get down to street level and the answer was clear. In the first place, many of the young educated people I spoke to complained that “the wealth is going to the corrupt elite”; many pointed out that despite being doctors, civil engineers, dotcom types etc, they could not afford a place to live.

‘Perfectly ordinary people’

But then there was the bigger grievance: they felt the religious conservative government of the AK Party was impinging on their freedom. One Turkish fashion writer – no natural revolutionary – complained of “a growing, insidious hostility to the modern”.

And they saw the heavy police action against the original tent camp in Gezi Park – an environmental protest – as a symbol of this unfreedom.

In Sao Paulo, the grievances are more clearly social: “Fewer stadiums, more hospitals”, reads one banner. The rising price of transport, combined with the government’s determination to prioritise infrastructure and sports stadia, are what this has come to be about.

But again, last week, it was an allegedly disproportionate police action – the arrest of a journalist for carrying vinegar (to dull the sting of tear gas), the shooting of four journalists with rubber bullets – which led to escalation.

In each case, the effects of police action are magnified by the ability of protesters to send images of brutality around the world immediately. And as a veteran of reporting more than 30 years’ worth of “non-lethal” law enforcement, my impression is that the use of CS, baton rounds, water cannon is pushing police procedures all over the world towards “near lethal” levels that are increasingly unacceptable to protesters who go on the streets with no violent intent.

Though smaller by comparison, the Bulgarian protests that on Wednesday removed a controversial head of state security speak to the issues that unite those taking to the streets in many countries: it is not about poverty, say protesters, it is about corruption, the sham nature of democracy, clique politics and an elite prepared to grab the lion’s share of the wealth generated by economic development.

In short, just as in 1989, when we found that people in East Europe preferred individual freedom to communism, today capitalism is becoming identified with the rule of unaccountable elites, lack of effective democratic accountability, and repressive policing.

And what the events of the last three years have shown is that perfectly ordinary people, with no ideological axe to grind, have found the means to resist it.