Quote of the day

Addressing the political situation which can be found in the world today — a situation defined by an epoch-marking economic crisis, by popular resistance to the austerity programs allegedly meant to overcome the crisis and by Barack Obama’s dedication to completing the neoconservative imperial political project — Mike Davis wrote:

In great upheavals, analogies fly like shrapnel. The electrifying protests of 2011—the on-going Arab spring, the ‘hot’ Iberian and Hellenic summers, the ‘occupied’ fall in the United States — inevitably have been compared to the anni mirabiles of 1848, 1905, 1968 and 1989. Certainly some fundamental things still apply and classic patterns repeat. Tyrants tremble, chains break and palaces are stormed. Streets become magical laboratories where citizens and comrades are created, and radical ideas acquire sudden telluric power. Iskra becomes Facebook. But will this new comet of protest persist in the winter sky or is it just a brief, dazzling meteor shower? As the fates of previous journées révolutionnaires warn us, spring is the shortest of seasons, especially when the communards fight in the name of a ‘different world’ for which they have no real blueprint or even idealized image.

But perhaps that will come later. For the moment, the survival of the new social movements — the occupiers, the indignados, the small European anti-capitalist parties and the Arab new left — demands that they sink deeper roots in mass resistance to the global economic catastrophe, which in turn presupposes — let’s be honest — that the current temper for ‘horizontality’ can eventually accommodate enough disciplined ‘verticality’ to debate and enact organizing strategies. It’s a frighteningly long road just to reach the starting points of earlier attempts to build a new world. But a new generation has at least bravely initiated the journey.

Solidarity and self-organization, as Davis notes, provide the antidote to the dead weight of the neoliberal past. A revolution may be defined as an attempt to begin the world anew, to demolish posterity’s monuments and to debunk its idols. Surprisingly, the world today appears to be, Davis suggests, on the cusp of making such an effort. Antisystemic social and political entities have appeared in many places. They have pushed tyrants from power, made a few Eurocrats nervous and forced some of America’s politicians to acknowledge popular distress. Davis goes on to locate one system-wide source of an antisystemic solidarity:

The campus rebellions of 1968 in Europe and the us were spiritually and politically fuelled by the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, guerrilla insurgencies in Latin America, the Cultural Revolution in China and the ghetto uprisings in the United States. Similarly the indignados of the last year have drawn primordial strength from the examples of Tunis and Cairo. (The several million children and grandchildren of Arab immigrants to southern Europe make this connection intimately vivid and militant.) As a result, passionate 20-year-olds now occupy squares on both shores of Braudel’s fundamental Mediterranean. In 1968, however, few of the white youth protesting in Europe (with the important exception of Northern Ireland) and the United States shared the existential realities of their counterparts in countries of the South. Even if deeply alienated, most could look forward to turning college degrees into affluent middle-class careers. Today, in contrast, many of the protesters in New York, Barcelona and Athens face prospects dramatically worse than those of their parents and closer to those of their counterparts in Casablanca and Alexandria. (Some of the occupiers of Zuccotti Park, if they had graduated ten years earlier, might have walked straight into $100,000 salaries at a hedge fund or investment bank. Today they work at Starbucks.)

Globally, young adult unemployment is at record levels, according to the ilo — between 25 and 50 per cent in most of the countries with youth-led protests. Moreover, in the North African crucible of the Arab revolution, a college degree is inversely related to likelihood of employment. In other countries as well, family investment in education, when incurred debt is considered, is paying negative dividends. At the same time, access to higher education has become more restricted, most dramatically in the us, uk and Chile.

Behold — a growing and youthful lumpenproletariat, a sometimes well-educated group with little to lose. Their history, much like the death of the American empire, has yet to made.

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