Solidarity during the austere age

Aditya Chakrabortty, writing for the Guardian, considered Sweden’s recent and surprising troubles:

More than 20 cars torched in one night. School classrooms gutted by fire. Fifty far-right extremists chasing immigrants around a suburb.

You probably haven’t seen much about it in the papers, but for the past week Sweden has been racked by rioting. The violence began in a suburb of Stockholm, Husby, and spread around the capital’s edge before other cities went up in flames. Police have been pelted with stones; neighbourhoods have turned into no-go areas, even for ambulances. Such prolonged unrest is remarkable for Stockholm, as those few reporters sent to cover it have observed. Naturally enough, each article has wound up asking: why here?

It’s a good question. Don’t surveys repeatedly show Sweden as one of the happiest countries (certainly a damn sight cheerier than Britain)? Isn’t it famous for its equality, its warm welcome to immigrants? Whatever happened to Stockholm, capital of progressivism, the Mecca towards which Guardianistas face for their daily five minutes of mindfulness?

We all know the cliches, but the reality is they no longer fit the country so well. Whether it’s on the wealth gap, or welfare, or public services, Sweden is less “Swedish” than it has ever been. As in other continental capitals, the Stockholm version of the “European social model” is an increasingly tattered thing, albeit still appealed to by the political elites and still resonant in the popular culture. But the country seized by turbulence last week is becoming polarised, and is surrendering more of its public services over to private businesses (sometimes with disastrous effects). Those riot-scene correspondents ought not to be asking: why here? A better question, surely, is: if such instability can happen here, what might unfold elsewhere — including Britain?

Rioting has occurred in other OECD countries. Most notably, they took place in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey since the onset of the Great Recession. The United States also produced the peaceful Occupy Movement, which the various governmental bodies suppressed with rioting police forces. The causes of unrest are the same across Europe and in the United States: Growing inequality, social polarization, austerity and, in some instances, economic stagnation. Sweden is a special case, as Chakrabortty avers. Its welfare state was notable for its commitment to collective security and to economic growth. The Swedish economy continues to grow. But the Swedes are slowly jettisoning their commitment to collective security, to solidarity. This is when the authorities need the police to keep order. This is when the democratic class struggle becomes class warfare.

The FBI considered the Occupy Movement a terrorist threat

From a PCJF news release:

FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

In other words, according to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the Executive Director of the PCJF:

“These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

It is always good to have allies in high places….

Along with the thugs they authorize….

Recomended: Occupy Sandy Relief | InterOccupy Hub

The Occupy Movement has taken up the cause of providing disaster relief to the individuals and communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Individuals interested in helping or individuals seeking help can look for such at this site:

Occupy Sandy Relief | InterOccupy Hub.

Capital as theft

Failure?

Recently, political conformists in the United States celebrated the diminished presence of the Occupy Movement. To be sure, the lack of standing, active occupations — mostly due to the repression of such by America’s local militarized police forces — promoted a sense of relief among the conformists. The system worked! The Occupation failed; America remains intact; the natural aristocrats are still in charge. And their relief makes sense (to them) since the Occupy Movement was the first significant social challenge to America’s capitalist democracy and the austerity-minded political culture which emerged after the Recession of 2008. It is, after all, to this capitalist democracy that the conformists wish to conform. Failure, irrelevance ludicrousness of the Occupy Movement — these are the beliefs about the movement that pass muster among the corporate media.

Yet, we ought to ask, “Did the Occupy Movement fail?” The obvious answer: No! As Michael Niman points out:

The [corporate] media always held the Occupy movement to high standards, demanding nothing short of revolution, then calling the movement a failure when it failed to transform society in its first few months. But the pundits could only envision their own notion of revolution — replacing one set of leaders with another, all within the confines of our two-party system. Occupy, however, never aspired to being an electoral party or player, like the Tea Party, which, once organized, was co-opted by corporate interests in a matter of minutes. Occupy instead wanted to transform the debate — to shift the zeitgeist. To a punditocracy reduced to quantifying electoral battles as horse races, reporting on electoral tactics rather than substance, Occupy made no sense.

The Occupy Movement was and is a social movement, not an embryonic political party or new faction within the Democratic Party. Its goal: Radical change. Revolutions are instances of radical change. They are also improbable events just as radical change is improbable. It is because such change is improbable that demanding it from the Occupy Movement is tantamount to creating a pretext for judging the Movement a failure. Yet popular dissatisfaction remains intact, has real world motives and therefore must be considered a politically relevant variable in any analysis of America’s capitalist democracy that wants to be both sober and supported by evidence. The expression of this popular dissatisfaction only awaits an occasion which calls its name.

V.J. Prashad interview on the Occupy Movement’s first anniversary

Scott Walker defeated his opponents in the Wisconsin recall election

His was a landslide victory. Walker’s victory affirmed the party-duopoly which governs the United States because both candidates were system politicians in good standing, both accepted managed democracy as legitimate. Democracy ‘won’: the system ‘worked.’

Walker’s victory is an unqualified disaster for the left, at least for any left committed to popular participation, democratic accountability and equality. It does not matter a jot that Walker had enormous financial resources to use in this election, pace those who claim otherwise (see, for instance, this and this). He did not buy votes. The election was not decided by the work of a Republican Party Sturmabteilung. What matters is Walker was a nationally known political reactionary and who had the backing of the reactionary faction of the nation’s economic elite and oligarchs, and who used these resources to muster the popular support he needed to defeat all of his opponents in what appears to have been a fairly contested election. Walker had to be defeated in order for the left in America to deliver on the promises generated by the Wisconsin Uprising and by the Occupy Movement. Anything less than a Walker defeat in this recall election meant a general and decisive defeat of the political left.

How important was this election? In my estimation, the Wisconsin recall election was so important that Walker’s latest victory may well stand alongside Reagan’s destruction of PATCO, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, Bush v. Gore, passage of the Patriot Act, the 2004 electoral affirmation of the Bush regime and the Iraq Occupation as well as Barack Obama’s steadfast affirmation of the security-surveillance state as recent landmark moments in the dissolution of America’s democracy.

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