Revolt is in the air

Original article, subtitled The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is throwing countries across Europe into turmoil–and spurring struggles unseen in years. Eric Ruder looks at what the future may hold, via

THE FINANCIAL turmoil that began in the summer of 2007 in the U.S. is spreading around the globe with frightening speed and devastating consequences for working people.

The fascinating thing is that working people will be the ones who will be expected to pay for all of the bailouts and stimulus packages. Our friends in the financial industry won’t, of course. Neither will the big multi-national corporations, in the name of global competitiveness. So, it’s the lower, middle and working classes who will bear the brunt of the trillions of dollars being spent in the US and around the world.

Now, the economic disaster is sparking mass protest and revolt on a scale not seen in two decades. Britain’s Guardian newspaper described the new political reality in a January 31 article titled “Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets.” It begins:

France paralyzed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment figure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New figures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.

It’s a snapshot of a single day [January 30] in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of Western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of Central and Eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.

Exactly 20 years ago, in serial revolutionary rejoicing, they ditched communism to put their faith in a capitalism now in crisis and by which they feel betrayed. The result has been the biggest protests across the former communist bloc since the days of people power.

Europe’s time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.

Revolt is in the air. For those who seek a nice compromise, this must be as harrowing as it for the bosses. Imagine hundreds of thousands, if not millions of workers of all stripes marching through the streets of the US. It’s likely to be coming, and it’s already happening in Europe. As the failure of capitalism sinks us further into Depression and probably deflation, it’s only a matter of time for those simmering pressures to come to a boil. Perhaps all it will take is for the workers to look at the $9 trillion which has been shelled out for the bankster frauds and bosses as compared to a piddly less than $800 million for the rest of us.

ON JANUARY 29, a quarter of France’s 5 million public-sector workers honored a general strike call, and up to 2.5 million people joined protests in 200 French cities to express their disgust with austerity measures proposed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

France’s population is roughly 61.5 million. Compare that to the US’s roughly 300 million. A similar sized action would count roughly 15 million Americans in the streets. No wonder we are beginning to see with quotes like this:

“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities … to defend basic domestic order and human security,” the report said, in case of “unforeseen economic collapse,” “pervasive public health emergencies,” and “catastrophic natural and human disasters,” among other possible crises.…

Dennis Bair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence points toward the same end:

The new director of national intelligence told Congress that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States.

The assessment underscored concern inside America’s intelligence agencies not only about the fallout from the economic crisis around the globe, but also about long-term harm to America’s reputation. The crisis that began in American markets has already “increased questioning of U.S. stewardship of the global economy,” the intelligence chief, Dennis Blair, said.

With the Icelandic government having already fallen, and Gordon Brown’s New Labor in serious difficulties in the UK, the political fallout has already started. If there is no improvement in the US’s economy, the Obama administration will probably fall out of favor also. California is broke, New York nearly so, and other states are on the edge. The heat in the pot is ever rising.

While there are several areas where protesting could start in the US, I think there are two which are most likely. The first is the auto industry. The ‘restructuring’ which is being done is going to affect the auto workers quickest, as Chrysler and GM will need to get draconian worker cutbacks in able to get their share of the bailout money. The provisions of the bailout even include a no strike clause. If you’re an auto worker, I’m sure that’s on you mind. Imagine going into the next set of bargaining without the threat of a strike to back up your side of the negotiations. The second are college and university students. Perhaps enough aid will come through to keep the students placid. Perhaps not.

The article covers Europe, for the most part. But Ruder ends with this:

No one knows how long it will take for the riots, strikes and student struggles in Europe to reach this side of the Atlantic on a greater scale. But sooner or later, they will. Our side should start getting ready now.

Ominous, no? Perhaps the bailouts and stimulus package will be enough to stem the tide here in the US. Perhaps not.

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  1. People, get ready.

  2. the new financial capitals of the world.

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