Thursday, December 12, 2013

The peasants are revolting

There seem to be a lot of protests recently. The latest are Thailand, [the] Ukraine, Hong Kong and Argentina. And even in the timid U.S., there was a protest in highly-economically segregated San Francisco against the digital elites and the economic apartheid that has made it virtually impossible for anyone but tech millionaires to thrive.

If you did deeper under the surface, the common thread to all of these is the extreme inequality produced by the emerging international Neofeudal regime. You’ve got a small mass of wealthy winners wanting to defend their privileged way of life and pulling up the drawbridge after them as the new aristocracy, and a mass of peasants with no jobs, bankrupt governments, no social services, and rising prices for everything from food to housing. And to keep this state of affairs, militarized police, mass surveillance and drones are deployed to keep the unruly population in line. Mark my words, you’re going to see a lot more of this. It increasingly looks like the wars of the twenty-first century under corporatized, globalized monopoly capitalism are going to be civil wars between the elites and their own oppressed populations.
The crisis began in response to an amnesty bill that could have led to the return of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, from exile.  The political turmoil of the last few years has tended to circle around Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is currently wanted on corruption charges in his home country. In very broad strokes, Thaksin remains popular among poorer rural voters, who saw him as a populist ally, and despised by the educated, urban middle class, who viewed him as corrupt and authoritarian. Massive 2010 protests by Thaksin’s supporters, known as red shirts, was met with a military crackdown that left 90 people dead. Thaksin opponents, known as yellow shirts, have also launched massive protests in the past. 
Yingluck, elected in 2011 and Thailand’s first female prime minister, was seen by opponents as a proxy for her exiled big brother, and the amnesty bill seemed to fit that narrative. The thing is, after being passed by the lower house, the bill was defeated 141–0 in the Senate last month and the government pledged to drop it. 
Unfortunately, rather than continue to fight Yingluck’s agenda from the senate, leaders of the opposition Democrat Party resigned from their offices to lead anti-government protests seeing to overthrow her and replace the country’s current democratic system with a vaguely-defined “People’s Council.” Several authors have noted that Thailand’s political predicament appears to contradict the longstanding idea in political science that as populations become wealthier and more educated, they will become more democratic. In Thailand, the wealthy, urban middle class are perhaps the least supportive of democracy. It’s not the only place where this seems to be the case. 
Another obstacle facing democracy in Thailand is the country’s strict lese-majeste laws, which can be used as a cudgel to criminalize political dissent. In the current crisis, both sides have accused the other of disrespecting the monarchy ahead of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 86th birthday on Dec. 5.

Thailand’s color-coordinated, class-based politics might also seem to be a product of a growing gulf between haves and have-nots. And indeed, inequality is a serious issue in the country, where the richest 20 percent of Thais possess about 70 percent of the wealth.

An educated elite fearful of democracy because it might enable the rural masses to pass laws preventing their unchecked wealth accumulation? The police called out to fire off tear gas? Does any of this sound familiar? The idea that only “true” democracy can come from the elites being able to choose between “market-based, economically-sound” solutions? Once again, a familiar thread. Socialism for the rich and austerity for the poor? Check. Poor and rural people pitted against educated urban elites? I think we in America know that story very well, except here there poor, rural folk have been co-opted by venal plutocrats into an extreme reactionary movement that exclusively serves the interests of wealthy elites (right-to-work laws, low taxes on wealth, no minimum wages,  lousy healthcare, poor schools, shrunken government budgets, etc.). And, as we've seen, these reactionary movements are openly attempting to sabotage and undermine democracy as much as possible (gerrymandering, voter ID laws, etc.)

However, even in the U.S. you're starting to see the pot boilng over:
"Google scum," read one notice pasted to a light controller at the corner of South Van Ness Street, a major artery for the commuter buses, photographed by local resident George Lipp on Sunday. "Keep catching your bus," read a notice on the other side of the light controller. The commuter-bus situation "has become very symbolic of what's happening to the city in terms of gentrification," said McElroy in a phone interview. "It's creating a system where San Francisco is being flooded with capital, and creating a technology class where other people can't compete." 
Heart of the City is planning a demonstration on Tuesday against a developer that plans to evict residents from rent-controlled apartments, she added. The total number of evictions jumped 25 percent to 1,716 in the 12 months ending in February 2013, according to a report by San Francisco's budget and legislative analyst, despite strong tenant-protection laws. 
San Francisco protests against gentrification and evictions have occurred with growing frequency in recent months. Last month, message service Twitter's IPO sparked a demonstration outside its headquarters.Many residents feel left out of the technology boom and blame it for rising rents.The median rent on a two-bedroom apartment rose 10 percent over the last year to $3,250, more than any other city in the country, according to online real estate company Trulia. Rents in greater New York rose just 2.8 percent

This follows the job-walk-off protests at fast-food franchises and the protests at Wal-marts on the day after Thanksgiving:
Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.
The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility. 
At a time when there's growing national and international attention on economic disparities, advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That comes to about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

Surprisingly to the jet-setting globalized elite, their brave new world of  unimaginable privilege and luxury for the few and low-paying, precarious service jobs for the rest, anesthetized by computer games, lotteries, and factory food soma is not being greeted with adulation the way the architects of modernity thought it would. The world is not going as quietly into Neofeudalism and people are starting to fight back.
Police unrest in Argentina continues to extend; Buenos Aires says it is prepared. The Argentine police unrest in demand for higher wages which started last Monday in Cordoba has rapidly spread to at least eight other provinces and the central government in Buenos Aires is preparing for a major challenge. It has already sent special gendarmerie forces to Santa Fe and Cordoba, on request from the governors.
For more than a year, Ukraine's president flirted with a European Union partnership. But Yanukovich abruptly stopped his talks with the EU on November 21, a signal that he wanted to bring Ukraine closer to the Russia's sphere of influence, not Western Europe's. That didn't please many Ukrainians, who hoped the EU deal would bring the country politically and economically closer to the west and potentially open up more opportunities for workers.
Many protesters see Russian President Vladimir Putin behind Yanukovich's U-turn, and Putin (a former KGB head) has ridiculed the protests as incited by professional militants—a line he's used to justify propping up tyrannical allies before. But beyond Yanukovich's sudden tilt toward Moscow, the ralliers are protesting what they see as a return to Soviet-style repression in Ukraine. A number of investigative journalists have been attacked or killed in recent years, and political dissidents also face imprisonment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.