Posts Tagged ‘turchia’

Il fallimento della Rivoluzione egiziana e la strada verso il cambiamento

In Da altri media on 08/07/2013 at 22:35


Cominciare una rivoluzione è difficile. Anche più difficile continuarla. E difficilissimo è vincerla. Ma è solo dopo, quando avremo vinto, che cominceranno le vere difficoltà. (La Battaglia d’Algieri)

Questo insegnamento dovrebbe rimanere nella mente di tutti i movimenti che scuotono questo inizio di secolo, dall’Egitto alla Turchia, dal Brasile alla vecchia Europa. Milioni di persone stanno prendendo le vie della protesta, le strade sono piene, paesi in via di sviluppo e paesi ricchi, o ex ricchi, sono scossi da rivolte, dimostrazioni, onde di cambiamento. Nuova borghesia, giovani senza lavoro, poveri e meno poveri spesso uniti nella richiesta di maggiore democrazia, di uno stato meno sordo, di una economia più inclusiva. Non si accetta più che altri decidano per il nostro destino.
Tutte dimostrazioni all’insegna dello spontaneismo, con un’agenda politica tutt’altro che chiara e contraddistinte dall’assenza di grandi organizzazioni di massa. In qualche maniera questo ha rappresentato un vantaggio per la protesta, almeno nella sua fase iniziale. In quasi tutto il mondo la fiducia nelle organizzazioni politiche, di tutti i tipi, è in netto calo, e la mancanza o la marginalizzazione di partiti ha favorito  la formazione di una alleanza di cittadini molto più larga di quel che si sarebbe altrimenti potuta ottenere.
Allo stesso tempo però, senza una vera organizzazione, diventa difficile avere un vero impatto, una vera capacità di cambiamento. Lo vediamo in questi giorni in Egitto, dove la cacciata di Mubarak ha portato ad un periodo di grande instabilità e alla recente caduta del Presidente eletto Morsi. Ma la storia è ricca di rivoluzioni fallite, dal 18 Brumaio in avanti. In questo articolo dal Guardian di Seumas Milne – come anche nel più lungo e analitico pezzo di Malcolm Gladwell sul New Yorker – si spiega con cura come le rivoluzioni degli ultimi anni abbiano molto in comune con altre del passato, e come, a dispetto di tutta l’eccitazione per i social media e lo spontaneismo, si debba imparare dalla storia per poter durare nel tempo e cambiare veramente il mondo.



di Seumas Milne

da Guardian

Two years after the Arab uprisings fuelled a wave of protests and occupations across the world, mass demonstrations have returned to their crucible in Egypt. Just as millions braved brutal repression in 2011 to topple the western-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, millions have now taken to the streets of Egyptian cities to demand the ousting of the country’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

As in 2011, the opposition is a middle-class-dominated alliance of left and right. But this time the Islamists are on the other side while supporters of the Mubarak regime are in the thick of it. The police, who beat and killed protesters two years ago, this week stood aside as demonstrators torched Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood offices. And the army, which backed the dictatorship until the last moment before forming a junta in 2011, has now thrown its weight behind the opposition.

Whether its ultimatum to the president turns into a full-blown coup or a managed change of government, the army – lavishly funded and trained by the US government and in control of extensive commercial interests – is back in the saddle. And many self-proclaimed revolutionaries who previously denounced Morsi for kowtowing to the military are now cheering it on. On past experience, they’ll come to regret it.

The protesters have no shortage of grievances against Morsi’s year-old government, of course: from the dire state of the economy, constitutional Islamisation and institutional power grabs to its failure to break with Mubarak’s neoliberal policies and appeasement of US and Israeli power.

But the reality is, however incompetent Morsi’s administration, many key levers of power – from the judiciary and police to the military and media – are effectively still in the hands of the old regime elites. They openly regard the Muslim Brotherhood as illegitimate interlopers, whose leaders should be returned to prison as soon as possible.

Yet these are the people now in alliance with opposition forces who genuinely want to see Egypt’s revolution brought at least to a democratic conclusion. If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are forced from office, it’s hard to see such people breaking with neoliberal orthodoxy or asserting national independence, as most Egyptians want. Instead, the likelihood is that the Islamists, also with mass support, will resist being denied their democratic mandate, plunging Egypt into deeper conflict.

Egypt’s latest eruption has immediately followed mass protests in Turkey and Brazil (as well as smaller upheavals in Bulgaria and Indonesia). None has mirrored the all-out struggle for power in Egypt, even if some demonstrators in Turkey called for the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to go. But there are significant echoes that highlight both the power and weakness of such flash demonstrations of popular anger.

In the case of Turkey, what began as a protest against the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park mushroomed into mass demonstrations against Erdoğan, ‘s increasingly assertive Islamist administration, bringing together Turkish and Kurdish nationalists, liberals and leftists, socialists and free-marketeers. The breadth was a strength, but the disparate nature of the protesters’ demands is likely to weaken its political impact.

In Brazil, mass demonstrations against bus and train fare increases turned into wider protests about poor public services and the exorbitant cost of next year’s World Cup. As in Turkey and Egypt, middle-class and politically footloose youth were at the forefront, and political parties were discouraged from taking part, while rightwing groups and media tried to steer the agenda from inequality to tax cuts and corruption.

Brazil’s centre-left government has lifted millions out of poverty, and the protests have been driven by rising expectations. But unlike elsewhere in Latin America, the Lula government never broke with neoliberal orthodoxy or attacked the interests of the rich elite. His successor, Dilma Rousseff – who responded to the protests by pledging huge investments in transport, health and education and a referendum on political reform – now has the chance to change that.

Despite their differences, all three movements have striking common features. They combine widely divergent political groups and contradictory demands, along with the depoliticised, and lack a coherent organisational base. That can be an advantage for single-issue campaigns, but can lead to short-lived shallowness if the aims are more ambitious – which has arguably been the fate of the Occupy movement.

All of them have, of course, been heavily influenced and shaped by social media and the spontaneous networks they foster. But there are plenty of historical precedents for such people power protests – and important lessons about why they are often derailed or lead to very different outcomes from those their protagonists hoped for.

The most obvious are the European revolutions of 1848, which were also led by middle-class reformers and offered the promise of a democratic spring, but had as good as collapsed within a year. The tumultuous Paris upheaval of May 1968 was followed by the electoral victory of the French right. Those who marched for democratic socialism in east Berlin in 1989 ended up with mass privatisation and unemployment. The western-sponsored colour revolutions of the last decade used protesters as a stage army for the transfer of power to favoured oligarchs and elites. The indignados movement against austerity in Spain was powerless to prevent the return of the right and a plunge into even deeper austerity.

In the era of neoliberalism, when the ruling elite has hollowed out democracy and ensured that whoever you vote for you get the same, politically inchoate protest movements are bound to flourish. They have crucial strengths: they can change moods, ditch policies and topple governments. But without socially rooted organisation and clear political agendas, they can flare and fizzle, or be vulnerable to hijacking or diversion by more entrenched and powerful forces.

That also goes for revolutions – and is what appears to be happening in Egypt. Many activists regard traditional political parties and movements as redundant in the internet age. But that’s an argument for new forms of political and social organisation. Without it, the elites will keep control – however spectacular the protests.


La frattura tra mercato e democrazia

In Editoriali on 01/07/2013 at 01:17

di Nicola Melloni

da Liberazione


Il rapporto di JP Morgan che prende di mira le Costituzioni Europee troppo democratiche ed antifasciste e troppo basate su sistemi politici ed economici del secolo scorso è stato ben descritto dal Fatto Quotidiano ed ampiamento commentato su Repubblica da Barbara Spinelli e su Liberazione da Dino Greco. Mi pare però che ci sia un elemento mancante in questi ragionamenti, e cioè che JP Morgan ha sostanzialmente ragione. Attenzione! Non sto dicendo che la via indicata dalla banca d’affari sia quella giusta, tutt’altro. Ma il rapporto dice a chiare lettere che nel dopo-crisi questo tipo di mercato è irriconciliabile con la democrazia come l’abbiamo conosciuta negli ultimi 60 anni circa.
Facciamo un rapido excursus storico per capire come si è evoluto nel tempo il rapporto tra democrazia e mercato, per renderci conto in che situazione ci troviamo ora. Tenendo ben presente che democrazia e mercato non sono due soggetti totalmente scissi uno dall’altro, ma sono invece due elementi in continua interazione, che si spingono, si uniscono ed a volte si respingono vicendevolmente. La loro unione, o scissione, è quella che ha creato i moderni sistemi politici occidentali. Il capitalismo si è sviluppato in un contesto non democratico, quando non proprio autoritario, in società inique in cui il diritto di voto era concesso solo ai ricchi ed in sistemi economici in cui l’accumulazione del capitale era l’unica variabile di rilievo. E con un regime internazionale imperniato intorno al libero scambio ed al gold standard, un sistema che risolveva gli squilibri economici con disoccupazione di massa e recessioni. Le cose cambiarono dopo la prima ed in particolare dopo la seconda guerra mondiale. Il trauma del conflitto, del fascismo, la minaccia socialista portarono ad una trasformazione fondamentale: le dinamiche interne – occupazione, crescita – divennero tutto d’un tratto, e per la prima volta, più importanti di quelle internazionali – cioè equilibrio dei conti. In parole povere, il nuovo sistema democratico portava ad un nuovo contratto sociale basato su redistribuzione del reddito dal capitale al lavoro, restrizione alla libertà movimento dei capitali, diritti non solo politici ma sociali. Un aumento dei diritti di cittadinanza, una diminuzione delle cosiddette “libertà” del mercato. D’altronde la democrazia, una novità del XX secolo, ha bisogno di voti e i voti si ottengono soprattutto con lavoro, reddito, qualità della vita.
Come ben sappiamo, però, a fine anni 70 le cose cambiarono nuovamente, il nuovo corso della globalizzazione neo-liberista riportò al libero movimento dei capitali, all’accumulazione dei profitti, allo schiacciamento dei salari. Nuovamente il pendolo si spostava a favore del capitale e contro il lavoro, in un trend, in maniera minore o maggiore, presente in tutto il mondo occidentale. Che non portò a drastici cambiamenti del sistema politico, capace di convivere con un capitalismo rampante soprattutto grazie al sistema del debito. Debito che cominciò ad esplodere proprio dagli anni 80 in avanti. Debito pubblico in Europa, debito privato nei paesi anglosassoni, perché in qualche maniera bisognava garantire degli standard di vita decenti agli elettori. Ma la crisi del 2007 ha portato alla fine di questo sistema, di questo tentativo di far convivere il capitalismo mondializzato con la democrazia nazionale. Come spiegato in maniera accurata da Dani Rodrik nel suo saggio sui limiti della globalizzazione, i mercati liberi e senza regole non sono compatibili con la democrazia e con la sopravvivenza dello stato nazionale. Ed è qui che entra in campo il rapporto di JP Morgan. Escludendo la soluzione utopica di un governo (democratico) mondiale, le soluzioni sono due: o un freno ai mercati e dunque alle opportunità di profitto e accumulazione del capitale; o un inesorabile riduzione dei contenuti democratici nei Paesi occidentali, e non solo. Che è in fondo quello che stiamo vivendo oggi nell’Unione Europea dove si è deciso che le crisi si curano a colpi di tagli di welfare, disoccupazione e diminuzione dei salari, esattamente come nel vecchio Gold Standard. Ma che è anche il modello di quei paesi come Brasile o Turchia dove la democrazia elettorale esiste, ma dove il governo prende decisioni sempre e comunque in favore dei grandi interessi economici. E che dunque, nonostante la diminuzione della povertà e il miglioramento delle condizioni di vita, scatenano rivolte popolari che nessuno aveva previsto e che chiedono un ruolo centrale per la democrazia e un freno al potere del capitale e del governo che lo rappresenta.
Insomma, siamo ad un bivio cruciale. La crisi ha sentenziato che il modello del capitalismo a debito, della democrazia finanziaria non è sostenibile. Il capitale ha riorganizzato in fretta i suoi interessi, la politica europea ha legato le mani agli Stati col fiscal compact e sta imponendo una colossale ristrutturazione dei rapporti economici, a cui seguirà inevitabilmente una riscrittura del dettato politico-costituzionale, esattamente come chiedono le grandi banche d’affari, ormai portavoce della nuova “razza padrona”. Non vi sono dubbi che un’organizzazione istituzionale di tipo Novecentesco non sia compatibile con disoccupazione di massa, salari bassi, peggioramento drastico delle condizioni di vita – quelle stesse condizioni che portarono a guerra e dittature nella prima metà del secolo scorso.
L’alternativa è una riscossa democratica, del tipo di quelle che seguirono al disastro economico-politico-militare della Grande Crisi e della Guerra. Quella che portò al Welfare State britannico, alle Costituzioni democratiche europee, agli accordi di Bretton Woods che contenevano il mercato nelle maglie della democrazia e, dunque, del bene comune.
Come sempre si tratta dell’eterno conflitto lavoro contro capitale: salario contro profitto, oligarchia contro democrazia, ineguaglianza contro welfare, queste sono le scelte strutturali cui ci troviamo davanti. Le banche, i governi conservatori, i tecnocrati hanno già scelto il loro modello, mentre gran parte della sinistra europea brancola nel buio, incapace di comprendere i grandi problemi del post-crisi. Col rischio di svegliarsi un giorno nel mondo della post-democrazia.

Le rivolte che scuotono il mondo intero – 2

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


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.”

Le rivolte che scuotono il mondo intero-1

In Da altri media on 24/06/2013 at 08:46

Da oggi pubblichiamo una serie di articoli – divisi in più post e più giornate per comodità di lettura – che ci spiegano le cause delle rivolte che stanno ormai scoppiando ovunque. Rivolte diverse nelle motivazioni e spesso anche nei modi, con ceti sociali non sempre simili, con situaizoni economiche assai diverse, dalla crisi del capitalismo occidentale alle ineguaglianze dei BRICS, da paesi come la Grecia dove i servizi pubblici vengono tagliati, ad altri come il Brasile dove gli standard di vita sono in netto miglioramento. Una protesta politica ma senza partito, una protesta che è naturalmente di sinistra ma senza una ideologia, una protesta che ha a volte obiettivi e bersagli concreti ed a volte ci parla solo di un disagio continuo.


di Paul Mason

da The Indipendent

Tear gas cannot stop it. Not even when fired point blank into the faces of protesters. State censorship is powerless against it. The bloodless prose of the official media cannot encompass it. But what is it? What is the force that put a million people on the streets of Brazil on Thursday, turned Turkey’s major cities into battlefields and – even now – bubbles under from Sofia to Sarajevo?

The answer is in the detail: the self-shot videos, the jokes scrawled on handwritten signs, the ever-morphing hashtags on Twitter and the Guy Fawkes masks. Brazil’s protests may have started over the equivalent of a 5p rise in bus fares, but the chants and placards in Rio speak to something different: “We’ve come from Facebook”, “We are the social network”, and in English: “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are changing Brazil”.

The bus-fare protest in Sao Paulo involved, at first, maybe a few thousand young activists. There was CS gas, burning barricades, some Molotovs and riot shields, but never enough to stop the traffic, which flowed, surreally, past it all. When police arrested 60 people, including a prominent journalist, for possessing vinegar (to dull the sting of tear gas), it became the “Salad Revolution”. Then, last weekend, tens of thousands turned into hundreds of thousands, and the protests spread to every major town.

It’s clear, now, what it’s about. Brazil’s economic rise has been spectacular – but as in most of the so-called Bric countries it has involved increased inequality, exacerbated corruption and the prioritisation of infrastructure over public services. “Less stadiums, more hospitals,” reads one plaintive placard. The fact that the whole process was fronted by the relatively liberal and pro-poor Workers’ Party led, for a time, to acquiescence. The government sold the idea that hosting the World Cup, clearing some of the slums and pacifying the rest with heavy policing, together with a new transport system in the major cities, would complete Brazil’s emergence as a developed country.

But the World Cup is draining money from public services; the cost of the urban transport system is squeezing the lower middle class. And blatant corruption enrages a generation of people who can see it all reported on social media, even if the mainstream TV ignores it.

If this were just one explosion it would be signal enough that the economic model for the so-called emerging markets – rapid development at the cost of rising inequality – is running out of democratic headroom. But the same social forces were on the streets of Istanbul. The same grievances forced the Bulgarian government to sack its recently appointed and seemingly professionally unqualified state security chief on Wednesday.

In Turkey’s Taksim Square, as the tear gas drifted, roaming around with a microphone was a bit like being at a graduate careers fair. What do you do, I would ask. They would be always young, often female, and in perfect English reel off their professions from beneath their balaclavas: doctor, lawyer, marketing exec, shipping, architect, designer.

This too is one of the fastest developing countries on earth. And here too there was a mixture of economic grievance and concern about freedom. Some complained that, despite the growth, all the wealth was being creamed off by a corrupt elite. At the same time, the ruling AK Party, with its religious base, was seen as encouraging what the Turkish fashion writer Idil Tabanca has called “a growing unspoken air of animosity toward the modern”.

And everywhere there is protest – from Taksim and the Maracana Stadium to the Greek riots and Spanish indignados of two years ago – there is “non-lethal” policing that seems designed to turn passive bank clerks into bandanna-wearing radicals. It is striking that in both Brazil and Turkey, excessive force against peaceful demonstrators was the moment that turned a local protest into a globally significant revolt.

But the grievances, in the end, tell only half the story. It is the demographics, the technology and the zeitgeist that make the wave of current protests seem historic. Look first at the symbolism: the V for Vendetta mask is everywhere now – but it originated as the signifier of the Anonymous hacker movement. The hand-scrawled placard signifies a revolt not just against the state but against the old forms of hierarchical protest, where everybody chanted the same thing and followed leaders. In every tent camp protest I have ever been in, it is clear that the unspoken intention is to create a miniature utopia.

Velocity of information matters as much as action itself. It is striking how badly the incumbent elites in each case totally lose the information war. Whether it’s Greece, Turkey, Egypt or Brazil the unspoken truth is it is hard to gain a voice in the official media unless you are part of the in-group. This creates the mindset that drove Egyptian TV to ignore Tahrir, and Turkish TV to replace 24-hour news with cookery programmes as the fighting raged outside their studios. But it doesn’t work. People have instant access not just to the words, stills and videos coming from the streets, but to publish it themselves. As a result, when crisis hits, the volume of “peer to peer” communication – your iPhone to my Android, my tweet to your uploaded video – overwhelms any volume of information a state TV channel can put out. And when it comes to the content of the “memes” through which this generation communicates, the protesters and their allies find suddenly that everything they are saying to each other makes sense, and that everything the elite tries to say becomes risible nonsense.

In each case – from Egypt, through Greece, Spain and the Russian election protests – the revolt was already there, simmering in cyberspace. And in each case, the ultimate grievance was the difference between how life could be for the educated young, and how it actually is. They want a liberal, more equal capitalism, with more livable cities, and more personal freedom. But who will provide it?

Each time the movement subsides, the old generation’s commentators declare it dead, overhyped, romanticised in the heat of the moment. But the protests keep coming back. In 1989, we learned that people prefer individual freedom to communism. Today, in many countries, it is capitalism that is associated with cronyism, repressive force and elite politics, and until that changes, this Human Spring looks likely to continue.

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.


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.