To the business and governing elite, too much democracy was/is considered a ‘crisis’:
In the years that followed [the massive popular mobilisations of the ’60s and early ’70s] businessmen in Britain and the United States spent huge sums on a campaign to establish new forms of expertise and to persuade the public that their chosen favourites had special talents. Neoliberal economists who had been dismissed as cranks suddenly became the prophets of true freedom and national renewal. Meanwhile, strenuous efforts were made to break up popular coalitions by exploiting and highlighting existing social tensions. Men were set against women, whites against blacks, blue collar patriots against egghead liberal intellectuals and so on.
At the moment, our rulers can only do so much to persuade us that they have special talents and expertise. The financial crisis has made a mockery of their claims to basic competence. This goes largely unmentioned in the media over which they continue to exercise control. But free markets and deregulation no longer seem like a royal road to general prosperity.
But the established powers are having much more luck in setting potential allies against one another. The fault lines in society, the points at which sentiment and identity can be exploited, are different this time. But the game remains the same. So, in the US, mainstream politics organises itself around the disputes over lifestyle and values. The secular are menaced with the bogey of fundamentalism, the God-fearing with death boards and compulsory abortion. Such things make a wonderful alternative to a politics of redistribution and retribution.
On the streets of Moscow in the tens of thousands, the protesters chanted: “We exist!” Taking into account the comments of statesmen, scientists, politicians, military officials, bankers, artists, all the important and attended to figures on this planet, nothing caught the year more strikingly than those two words shouted by massed Russian demonstrators.
“We exist!” Think of it as a simple statement of fact, an implicit demand to be taken seriously (or else), and undoubtedly an expression of wonder, verging on a question: “We exist?”
And who could blame them for shouting it? Or for the wonder? How miraculous it was. Yet another country long immersed in a kind of popular silence suddenly finds voice, and the demonstrators promptly declare themselves not about to leave the stage when the day — and the demonstration — ends. Who guessed beforehand that perhaps 50,000 Muscovites would turn out to protest a rigged electoral process in a suddenly restive country, along with crowds in St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and elsewhere from the south to Siberia?
In Tahrir Square in Cairo, they swore: “This time we’re here to stay!” Everywhere this year, it seemed that they — “we” — were here to stay. In New York City, when forced out of Zuccotti Park by the police, protesters returned carrying signs that said, “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”
And so it seems, globally speaking. Tunis, Cairo, Madrid, Madison, New York, Santiago, Homs. So many cities, towns, places. London, Sana’a, Athens, Oakland, Berlin, Rabat, Boston, Vancouver… it could take your breath away. And as for the places that aren’t yet bubbling — Japan, China, and elsewhere — watch out in 2012 because, let’s face it, “we exist.” [Read]
On the eve of their two-day nationwide strike, Chile’s largest labor confederation, the Central Workers Union (CUT), is finalizing plans for demonstrations, marches and protests with the support of politicians, citizens and more than 80 of Chile’s most important social organizations and unions.
The labor unions’ demands also include improved public health care, more equitable tax reform, better environmental protections and — echoing the demands of the student movement — free state-funded public education.
It’s going to take large popular movements to change this. And that can happen. It’s happened in the past. That’s why freedom and justice have expanded over the centuries. It’s never been gifts; it wasn’t gifts from the rich and powerful. These are things that were won, by the labour movement, by the women’s movement, by the civil rights movement, and by other rights movements. They’re won by popular struggle, then you move forward. But they’re never given as gifts, and they won’t be in the future.
Noam Chomsky (via lilmaj132)
Protesters have clashed violently with police in Chile’s capital to decry President Sebastián Pinera’s policies, as a poll showed him to be the least popular leader in the two decades since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Demonstrators led by students demanding cheaper and better state education blocked roads and lit fires as police used water cannons and tear gas to quell the latest outcry against the conservative billionaire.
More at the link, including video of the protests.