Class war furor amplifies throughout Europe wherein “the trenches are the streets” of major cities that have suffered the most from neoliberal policies as promulgated by the world’s monetary authorities, like the EU-IMF.
Suddenly, the “Syriza Virus” is circulating throughout Europe. The “people” have had enough austerity crammed down their throats. They’re in the streets!
Headlines depict bitterness: “Austerity Anger Sweeps from Greece to Spain as Hundreds of Thousands March Through Madrid in Support of Fledgling Radical Leftist Party,” Daily Mail, January 31, 2015. The “March for Change” converged around Madrid’s Cibeles fountain. People are fed up, tossing their support to a pony-tailed jean-wearing charismatic leader named Pablo Iglesias, the Podemos Party candidate, a 36-year-old political science professor.
The anti-establishment party Podemos (“We Can”) in Spain, formed only one year ago, is already in the lead to win Spain’s general election later this year.
In Greece, the austerity program foisted on the country by world monetary authorities these past few years caused the economy to shrink by 25% and unemployment to rise to 26%. That’s a bailout? It looks more like a knock out punch!
Now, with Greece’s new leftist government Syriza in place, here’s what’s tantalizing for austerity-ridden citizenry around the world, according to The Guardian, within 48 hours of Syriza’s victory: “First the barricades came down outside the Greek parliament. Then it was announced that privatization schemes would be halted and pensions reinstated. And then came the news of the reintroduction of the €751 monthly minimum wage. And all before Greece’s new prime minister, the radical leftwinger Alexis Tsipras, had got his first cabinet meeting under way. After that, ministers announced more measures: the scrapping of fees for prescriptions and hospital visits, the restoration of collective work agreements, the rehiring of workers laid off in the public sector, the granting of citizenship to migrant children born and raised in Greece,” Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s New Young Radicals Sweep Away Age of Austerity, The Guardian, Jan. 28, 2015.
Is it little wonder the streets of Madrid filled with hundreds of thousands within days of Syriza’s success, as a grand exhalation spread across the continent?
It was only a couple of months ago, November 2014, when at least 100,000 workers took to the streets of Brussels to protest Belgian free-market reforms and austerity. The Belgian government claims businesses need more tax breaks to compete in the global market, so it proposes cuts in public services, freezing wages, and an increase in the pension age. So it goes, the people get cuts while businesses get raises.
In Italy, “People have taken to the street in Italy’s capital to protest against government austerity measures,” Global Research, November 2014. Street protestors carry signs stating, “Today is only the beginning.”
The target of this continent-wide discontent is neoliberalism’s self-serving paternalistic policies of privatization, reduced government, and dependence upon the “free market” as the arbiter of socio-economic justice but it’s turning sour because so few attain millions at the direst expense of way too many. Given enough time, people catch on.
Along those lines, neoliberalism has become an “occupying force” throughout the world, to wit: Neoliberalism’s motif consists of (1) assault on the state, in favor of the market, (2) on politics, in favor of economics, and (3) on political parties, in favor of corporations. Singularly, neoliberalism brings in its wake a hard-hearted “corporate state” sans nation/state allegiance, no grounding with the people.
As follows, people take to the streets. They flock to the streets by the hundreds of thousands. It is the French Revolution redux but without the pitchforks, stones, and sticks. King Louis XVI’s head was sacrificed in 1793 in the name of liberté, égalité, fraternité, but, nowadays, liberty, equality, fraternity devolve into “restraint, preferentiality, division.” Without doubt, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (The Social Contract, 1762) “only the people, who are sovereign, have that all-powerful right,” must be turning over in his grave.
Today, the “corporate state” is King Louis XVI. The aristocracy resides in, and travels along the free market’s Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard along side Rich Uncle Pennybags of Monopoly fame, and “monopoly is their game.”
He/she who controls the most property wins. As it happens, free market neoliberalism is all about control, controlling the people, exporting wages to the lowest overseas bidders, moving facilities offshore to avoid governmental regulations, diminishing unions, privatizing state assets, cutting social programs, austerity, austerity, and more austerity whilst privatizing everything in sight. The upshot is lame economic performance as sector after sector of workers are cutback, reduced to rubble. What’s to spend?
For example, in Dublin, new water fees serve as a lightning rod for all of the accumulated anger and discontent of six years of austerity as tens of thousands hit the streets, December 2014, protesting the new water fees, one more example of the raw sensitivity by citizens to neoliberal austerity measures that punish workers, like tinder to fire, large groups of people protest at the slightest signal of new austerity measures.
As well, in Ukraine, November 2014 news photos show long lines of heavily armed police holding up heavy metal medieval-like shields, surrounding and protecting the parliament building as thousands press against the phalanx. The protestors demand the premier stop cutting social benefits, subsidies and price controls on utility rates. Ten percent of public workers will lose jobs and educational spending is to be cut by twenty percent as tuition fees increase, cut the spending but charge the students more.
This class war furor is like a virus that knows no antidote because cuts, cuts, and more cuts, death by a thousand cuts, irritate, exasperate, and enrage workers from Dublin to Athens, all across the continent. In turn, medieval style police forces wearing armor, carrying thick metal shields, wearing bulletproof facemasks and overly armed to the hilt confront their “own.” Yes, they confront their “own.” This tragedy speaks for itself, similar to a Shakespearean tragedy, guaranteed to end, fatally.
Neoliberal socio-politico-economics devastates so many, enriches so few, like a reversion to feudalism, accompanied by armed forces in hand-to-hand combat in the fields, in the streets, nose-to-nose, the most primitive of warfare, and indeed, it is warfare when people in the streets face off against their “own.” Whether bullets are fired or not, it is the simple act of angry masses of people confronting medieval armored police that invokes images of class war furor, even if silent, even if static, like the images captured by news photos for the eons, contorted faces, everyday dress, outstretched arms, individuals pressing against individuals versus phalanxes of identical suits of armor, bereft of the differentiating individualism of their “own.” It’s nightmarish and bone chilling.
These battles in the streets are symptomatic of a maddening desperation to retain that which a few cherish. But, throughout history, bad things happen when the “few” stomp on the necks of their “own.”
World history is replete with the horrendous brutality of battle scenarios whenever the “few” extort, badger, and coerce their “own,” like the American Revolution of 1765-83, the French Revolution of 1789-99, the Revolutions of 1830 aka: the Romantic Nationalist Revolutions, the Revolutions of 1848 aka: the Spring of Nations, and the Arab Spring of 2010, and on it goes, but wherever and whenever, barbarous armed conflict is the final arbiter of gross oppression, partiality, and nepotism, as, and when, politics fail.
Revolutions start in the streets!
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org