Updates on social movements today:
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#anger and popular protest
#art of the occupy movement
#ecology & social justice movement
#Labour Party – a social movement only? (Owen Jones)
the ‘new’ anti-globalisation movement:
#John Harris on 2011 - compared to 1968?
Podemos and other groups #Owen Jones
#social media and political protest
Priyamvada Gopal piece (G 010811) argues that while the anger of the Norwegian gunman was one kind, another – and justifiable – is being shown in the public reaction to Murdoch and co. And while Niall Ferguson dismisses popular protests as ‘global temper tantrums’ – now even Charles Moore is saying:
“I’m starting to think the left might actually be right… The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work harder, in conditions that grow ever more insecure, to enrich the few.”
See Guardian pieces for article by Jonathan Jones (21.11.11) and illustrations of posters:
Piece by Patrick Kingsley: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/may/26/stokes-croft-protest-tesco-rioting?INTCMP=SRCH
Also see the Deterritorial Support Group: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/15/ikea-anarchists-derritorial-support-group?INTCMP=SRCH – I particularly like ‘THE POST-POLITICAL = THE MOST POLITICAL’ ... Posters at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2011/dec/15/deterritorial-support-group-posters (and links to other relevant articles here).
Note article, G2 21.07.11 on Avaaz (Patrick Kingsley) and ‘clicktivism’… http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism
Note also Neal Lawson (Compass) and Andrew Simms (NEF) on
the idea of a citizen jury… G 01.08.11 See www.compassonline.org.uk We are in
the midst of a ‘crisis of elites’ – corporate, media and political (and
financial!!!) – and
Ecology and social justice: – article by Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest (Viking Press 2007) in Ecologist magazine July/August 2007: estimated that there are possibly one or two million organisations around the globe fighting for ecological sustainability and social justice (including indigenous rights). This is not a ‘movement’ since it has no manifesto and no overriding authority. It arises from the bottom up. Is it an organic, instinctive reaction to a global threat? This is the largest social movement in history – no one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye. The movement (as distinct from events it creates viz. demonstrations, marches) is not visible. It has at its core two principles: the Golden Rule and the sacredness of life. It is unified by ideas not ideologies (the latter justify and dictate, while ideas question and liberate).
It functions like an immune system (im munis = ready to serve, BTWs) achieving balance, mediating (not just fighting off) and depending on its diversity to maintain resilience. Connectivity allows constituent groups to focus on specific actions etc. It achieves incremental success, and works by consensus, operating within informal structures. The web, etc, have created perfect conditions for this to flourish.
Ensuring the future of life on earth is an ‘infinite game’ (James Carse).
Note also the rise of the far right – Russell Shorto,
Observer Mag 26.06.11 profiles Marine le Pen. Interesting is how she combines
anti-immigrant stance with economic populism (e.g. hostility to bankers etc – a
‘critique of capitalism’?) and national patriotism. She opposes Sarkozy’s
interventions in Libya etc, and sees the
See also Swiss People’s Party, Northern League (
And recent book: New British Fascism: Rise of the
On whether we have learned from Nazism etc: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/16/hitlers-world-may-not-be-so-far-away Timothy Snyder: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Bodley Head 2015)
Labour Party: a social movement only? Owen Jones again:
Has interesting points on social class of LP members: around half belong to AB,
which is only 22% of the population; 21% of membership is working class, which
comprises 47% of the population. Nearly half live in
2012 is 200th anniversary of the Luddites; textile workers in the Midlands and North of England smashed machinery they considered was ‘hurtful to Commonality’. The uprising was put down by troops, at the cost of 50 lives. The view that they were ‘anti-progress’ was invented in the 1950s (from article in Freedom March 2012). A group in Huddersfield is celebrating the anniversary on 28th April. See: www.luddites200.org.uk and Facebook at: events/295701293828114
The new anti-globalisation movement:
John Harris: on historical parallels between 2011 and previous revolutionary movements: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/15/global-protests-2011-change-the-world
Mason, Paul: Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: the new global revolution (Verso £9.99, 2013). Extract: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/05/arab-spring-global-revolution Argues that there has been a change in consciousness since ‘it all kicked off’ in 2011. Ends with a warning that (i) the movement may have to get involved in what it despises – the politics of power, compromise etc and (ii) if there is a parallel with the 1930s then we must watch out for the rise of a fascist reaction or response...
Further extracts: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/31/where-revolution-goes-from-here and http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/03/how-the-revolution-went-viral
Review in New Statesman (George Eaton) summarises: several phenomena that have changed everything: the rise of social media, the ‘graduate with no future’ and the collapse of the neo-liberal consensus... and comments that Mason has no time for social democracy and reformism (even though there have been achievements here, and more so than by Occupy), and is in danger of treating the movement as an end in itself. Still, it’s an ‘exuberant’ account.
Occupy: (Source: The Guardian, unless otherwise stated)
Pleased to see that students at Glasgow University have occupied a building – the former Hetherington Research Club despite an eviction attempt involving 80 officers, a helicopter, 28 vehicles and a dog squad! Their methods seem very much the same as the old ‘60s ‘teach-in’ occupations (repeated in the ‘70s with the first anti-cuts demonstrations). Article by Jack Ferguson and Natalia Bain, Guardian 25th march 2011 (below a cynical piece by Simon Jenkins – demos don’t change anything.
Oct 2011, Madeleine Bunting argues that ‘space’ is the theme that runs through much of what the protesters say – the current system is unsustainable, undemocratic and unjust – the movement wants to create space to think of alternatives. Cities are designed to facilitate working, transport and shopping – with as little human interaction as possible. Occupy seeks space for human interaction, conviviality, participation, and to free space for the imagination.
Dec 2011, Richard Price in Freedom argues the danger with the 99% vs 1% slogan is that the 1% are seen as an elite, not as an inevitable outcome of the capitalist system. ‘Capitalism is not a conspiracy’ – see http://rififibloomington.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/99~problems. Another danger is that the ‘conspiracy’ approach ties in with zany ideas like those of David Icke, or with anti-Semitism (Jews are part of the problem) – also that the occupiers are white middle-class males, and BEM and women are excluded. See: http://globalcomment.com/2011/how-occupys-non-power-structure-enables-sexism
Feb 2012, Gary Younge argues
the movement has not disappeared – e.g. an intervention by Organising for
Occupation O4O - during an auction of foreclosed homes at
Polle show more Americans support OWS than oppose it and 77% of Americans believe there is too much power in the hands of a small group of rich people.
Feb 2012, Naomi Colvin and George Barda: ‘Minds are changed when common sense shifts on to the side of the erstwhile heretic (not by singular actions, however singular)’ (Conor Gearty). The success or otherwise of the movement will be judged by what happens next: will banks be regulated, will we avoid an environmental catastrophe? One achievement has been the shift in perceptions of ‘workfare’. UK Uncut, Move Your Money, Anonymous – shows the diversity. ‘If you identify with the aims of this movement, then it is yours.’
Despite the potential for exchange of information of e.g. Twitter, late capitalism has a great deal of power in negating any recognition of possibilities beyond itself – see Mark Fisher: Capitalist Realism. Key is to break down the psychological barriers to action – the movement’s shared sense of responsibility towards each other is the basis.
(This piece was written after the eviction of the
9th May 2012: Katherine Ainger: the indignados always recognised the struggle was political as well as economic, demanding a fundamental renewal of democratic politics by participatory democracy. Demands include:
- not one more euro to rescue the banks,
- quality education and health
- dignified and guaranteed housing.
In Spain youth unemployment is over 50%, university fees have doubled, and Bankia is about to receive up to $10 billion of public money. Police have used rubber bullets during a strike, new laws have been brought in to restrict protest. Response on Twitter: #HolaDictatura...
They also demand a popular audit of Spain’s national debt – most of which is private debt, and a universal basic rent. They have published Manual of Economic Disobedience, and over 200 time banks (see Corporate Social Responsibility - Chapter 8: Inequalities and Imagining Other - Alternatives) have been established.
Katherine Ainger is co-editor of We Are Everywhere: the irresistible rise of global anti-capitalism.
Podemos and other movements/alternative parties - Owen Jones: on hope for the left
Social media and political protest:
Adam Price, former Plaid Cymru MP and fellow at Harvard Kennedy School (G 14.02.12) argues Twitter response to proposal by cancer charity Susan G Komen to de-fund the abortion advice service Planned Parenthood led to a reversal (half-a-million a day tweets were sent, 80 to 1 against the decision) - also a factor was a YouTube video by a cancer survivor; the internet bills Sop and Pipa were killed off in January; Bank of America called off a plan to charge for debit-card usage etc. The American left learned its emotional intelligence in the culture wars of the 70s and 80s – opposing Bush et al. Importance of ‘framing’... [check]. Prof Marshall Ganz dropped out of Harvard to organise migrant workers in 1965. All this has inspired grassroots movements. Would-be influential individuals need: story of Self (why they need to act), of Us (how this stance etc relates to the audience), and of Now (what needs to be done). Ed Miliband could learn from this!
The American left is where the old world of community organising and the new world of social media meet.
Whereas in Europe the left is ‘in freefall’... http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/13/reenergised-us-left-dismal-european-counterparts?INTCMP=SRCH
Katherine Ainger: We Are Everywhere: the irresistible rise of global anti-capitalism.
Robin Cohen, Shirin Rae, Global Social Movements – Athlone Press 2000
Mark Fisher: Capitalist Realism.
David Graeber: The Democracy Project: a history, a crisis, a movement, Allen lane 2013 (£14.99) – reviewed by John Kampfner, Observer 31.03.13:
Paul Mason: Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: the new global revolution (Verso £9.99, 2013).
Timothy Snyder: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Bodley Head 2015)