Archive | February 2012

Portuguese Parody Viral Song into a Protest of Austerity:

The Brazilian song “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” in recent months has exploded into one those songs that defy all language barriers, a song ending up on the football pitch, basketball court, and settings in between. You would have to be living under a rock to have missed it. After listening to it, you might be grateful to that rock:

“Wow, Wow
like this you’ll kill me
Oh, if I catch you,
Oh, oh if I catch you

Delicious, delicious
like this you’ll kill me
Oh, if I catch you,
Oh, oh if I catch you

Saturday at the party
The crowd started dancing
And the most beautiful girl passed by
I grabbed courage and started to speak

Wow, Wow
like this you’ll kill me
Oh, if I catch you,
Oh, oh if I catch you

Delicious, delicious
like this you’ll kill me
Oh, if I catch you,
Oh, oh if I catch you”

Granted, not the best lyrics ever assembled, but the parody by Portuguese protesting the Troika (IMF, European Commission, European Central Bank) got a little bit closer with their parody:

Troika, Troika,
Like this you’ll kill me
oh, I am to pay
oh, oh I am to pay

Debt, debt
like this you’ll kill me
oh, I am to pay
oh, oh I am to pay

Saturday in the parliament
the Troika started commanding
and passed a law most beautiful
and without blame I started paying

Troika, Troika,
Like this you’ll kill me
oh, I am to pay
oh, oh I am to pay

Angela [Merkel], Angela,
Like this you’ll kill me
oh, I am to pay
oh, oh I am to pay

Saturday in the parliament
Everyone starting cutting [the budget],
and passed a law most beautiful
and without guitly a started paying

Angela [Merkel}, Angela,
Like this you’ll kill me
oh, I am to pay
oh, oh I am to pay

Debt, debt
like this you’ll kill me
oh, I am to pay
oh, oh I am to pay

Spain’s New Right-Wing Government Collides with the Indignados

We’re but a few months into the reign of the recently elected People’s Party government that is fully subscribed to European Union pact of austerity. This past weekend over a million came out to protest the worsening of labor conditions that the right-wing government trumpets as labor reform. While this outpouring of opposition from a country ravaged by the economic crisis attracted some international media attention, a showdown in Valencia has escalated and tapped into the energy and frustration of demonstrations led by youths last summer.

As reported in El Pais, what was originally a few dozen students protesting cuts at one school in Valencia has now turned into nation wide protests following indiscriminate assaults by police on students:

From this excessive force, a “Valencian Spring” has taken hold, a protest title dominating social media and increasingly Spanish print media. More significant however is the mobilization across Spain’s various autonomous communities. In Madrid, Barcelona, Grenada, CordobaSeville and cities in between, thousands have descended of headquarters of the conservative party to condemn the violence and education cuts. This wave of solidarity matches the resolve of students in Valencia who’ve carried out three straight days of large protests demanding the resignations of the guilty officials, insisting they’ll return each day to the streets until this small measure of justice is achieved.

Facing this austerity drive guarded by phalanxes of armored riot police, it is easy to forget this country has an unemployment rate higher than Greece. The austerity program is further surrendering a future that already last summer was acknowledged by youths as a concept auctioned off for the exclusive enjoyment of the wealthy. What youths in Spain have is a life suspended between adulthood and years of education meant to prep them for that adulthood.

There’s a sense dispossession to the outrage, a sense grounded in reality as college graduates find themselves living at home with no job or working for free while trying to place one foot through the door of paid employment. This is a potent sense of dispossession across Europe. It is all the more potent in Spain where a government is now telling youths that the solution to their unemployment is to better advantage employers. This won’t bring Spain’s political class anything but misery. Huge numbers of Spanish youths broke from the neoliberal consensus last summer and they won’t be lured back by its most hardline and right-wing elements. Instead, they’re calling for resignations. As the Valencian Spring plays out, they’ll also be looking for what will replace these politicians defending their education cuts with police batons.

Stopping The Iran War After Failing To Stop The Iraq War

Since the Iraq War failed to quench the appetite for armed conflict held by some in Washington, there’s been a steady drumbeat of increasing frequency for war with Iran. We receive the weekly updates that Iran is however many months away from a nuclear weapon. Oddly, Iran has been months away from a nuclear weapon for several years now. When that fails, nameless officials warn of Iran developing missiles to put the U.S. within range. For these officials, this capacity itself would constitute a direct threat, a measure if used consistently means the U.S. has actively threatened every inch of the world with nuclear annihilation for some five decades.

The assumptive arguments about Iran’s nuclear intentions aside, the pre-war buildup differs from Iraq. With Iraq, there were crucial dates for opponents of the war to rally around. Millions protested to put pressure on the United Nations and successfully prevented the UNSC from legalizing the naked aggression against Iraq. Bush even gave Saddam a deadline before the U.S. would commence war, a period people used to mobilize additional protests, protests that ultimately failed to dislodge the country from its war trajectory as the staggering death toll from Iraq will forever remind us.

The build up to a war with Iran offers no such benefits to the anti-war movement. Netanyahu won’t make an appeal for war at the UN, a moment that would provide the chance for tens of thousands of protesters to urge world leaders to maintain and enhance peace. We can also be sure that Iran will not be given a last minute warning before the warplanes transverse the skies between Israel and Iran’s nuclear facilities.

We’re confronted with a war more dangerous than Iraq but without the obvious timing and location for the anti-war movement to mobilize. If war does breakout, we’ll likely find out without advance notice; only having it confirmed one morning, all of us waking up to news of an Israeli strike that drags the region and the U.S. into open war. We’d be left to campaign for a ceasefire after the destruction on Iran has been unleashed, nuclear fallout included. Opposing this next war demands a permanent vigilance, a challenge requiring exhausting and escalating effort.

This challenge demands a new dynamism to the anti-war movement much devoid of energy because of complacency since Obama’s election in 2008. The anti-war movement needs the disregard of protest norms adopted by the occupy movement. Millions marched against the Iraq War through pre-planned routes on inter-spaced days of action. To stop a war with Iran, the same or greater numbers are needed, but they must act to prevent the war, not just appeal to a peace embracing sanity our leaders don’t possess.

Preventing a war can’t be achieved by marches on the UN or White House alone. If it is achievable, it’ll be by occupying media institutions content to scare the public into war, media institutions disregarding ethical standards, let alone journalistic standards. They are the facilitators of war who have never found a conflict they disapproved of. We will also be required to physically wage peace by obstructing the war machine with sit-ins, strikes, and blockades of private companies out to profit from war.

This is all aspiration, but it’s important for a generation that has been repeatedly exiled back into apathy by governments that  consider protests a public nuisance rather than the failsafe against the worst policy measure: war by choice. We must remind ourselves how we prevented the Iraq War from being legalized. Now, with enhanced tactics, we’ll move to prevent the war on Iran from being realized. When squares are occupied, schools are closed, &  infrastructure is stalled, they won’t be able to dissuade others from joining us by suggesting we have no demands. We demand peace, and like the economic justice Occupy is striving for, we’ll enforce it on our own.

Greece’s Revolt Won’t Be Confined Within Its Borders

By the tens of thousands they descended on parliament in an intervention by the public against the politics of theft practiced by the Greek government and demanded by foreign creditors. They filled subway trains and sides streets in route to Syntagma Square. They even filled the square itself until the three lines of riot police (always a sign of bad politics in motion) unleashed tear gas for hours, but still the crowds refused to disperse.

The outpouring of indignation was but one convulsion of a Greek patient subject to the madness and inhumanity of the neo-liberal laboratory. It was a convulsion shared across Greece, from the south on the island of Crete, to the north in the city of Thessaloniki. Out of depths of disinterest held by Greek lawmakers, they passed the latest round of savage cuts by a nearly 2/3s margin, ensuring further suffering and further insurrection by a people living through the controlled demolition of their livelihoods.

Those doing this destruction have no intention of letting the carnage be contained. They have the opposite intention. With Greek politicians gutting the wages and living standards of Greek workers, so too must Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish politicians prove their own devotion to the Troika by marching their citizens into the same abyss. But their fanaticism will be their undoing. Having slashed wages in half, the Troika has made Greece unlivable for its residents. When a government makes a country unlivable, its people will respond by making the country ungovernable. This rule won’t be unique to Greece.

With the prospect of wages being slashes in half as they have been in Greece, what other reasons are needed for Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese to fill the squares and paralyze the streets with their magnitude in numbers? “What the parliament does, the street can undo” isn’t just slogan. The streets can be a rival institution to parliaments dominated by members who confuse their seats for a popular mandate to rule on behalf of the bankers. No such mandate has been given. The need for the streets to restrain parliament becomes all the more urgent for countries like Italy and Greece where democracy has been suspended for unelected technocrats serving as prime minister.

The protests on Sunday demonstrate to me that Greeks have nearly assembled the streets to rival parliament. The youths and unions who have been fighting all along are increasingly being joined by the middle class and business owners. This critical mass of Greeks will soon embark on the task of undoing the damage dealt by their Troika government.

Just as the tide of austerity starts in Greece and washes over Italy and the Iberian peninsula, so must a Greek revolt ignite its way West. If people in Spain, Portugal and Italy delay this task of dismantling Troika rule, it only gives them more damage to later undo. This is damage that can be avoided by joining the battle being fought by Greeks today instead of leaving the battle to be fought later, and in isolation, by each country.

Last summer, Greeks took to Syntagma Square, joining the struggle of tens of thousands of Spaniards in Puerta del Sol. Now, Puerta del Sol and all squares beyond and in-between must reinforce the crowds who have assembled in Syntagma. The Troika officials and their henchmen in parliaments must be exiled from power. It’s the same demand from Buenos Aires over ten years ago: “Que se vayan todos – They all must go!”

Greek Insurrection of February 12th in Video

I need another day or two to comprehend the consequences of the austerity violence waged yet again on the people of #Greece. Until then, I’ve compiled clips by location & roughly ordered them chronologically:

Athens – famous Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis insists on protesting as police attack the crowds indiscriminately:

Athens:

Crete – Protesters occupy a private tv station:

Athens:

Athens:

Thessaloniki:

Patras:

Thessaloniki:

Volos:

Athens:

Thessaloniki – late into the night, police stalk a peaceful march and then start attacking without provocation:

The People of Portugal Demand Their Spring Arrive Early

From across Portugal they descended on Lisbon. From four staging areas in Lisbon they descended on Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square) to convert it into, as the organizers put it, Terreiro do Povo (Square of the People). Their success in this objective can’t be denied:

The CGTP (union confederation aligned with the Communist Party) estimated the crowds at some 300,000 persons, a staggering turnout amounting to 3% of the country’s population. The response is a decisive one following months of dehumanizing austerity that demotes workers to mere levers to be further pressed with total disregard to the sustainability of heightened exploitation. For those who aren’t given a place in this country ruled by international creditors, they can always emigrate as prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho coldly suggested.

It has been a long, cold winter of austerity in Portugal. For its chief victims made homeless by the impoverishment legislated by the government, they have felt this chill with far more effect than most. All the while, people in Portugal can see what has happened to the Greeks who were first made to enter this laboratory of neoliberalism. One of the signs I saw carried in Lisbon was “The Greek recipe is ruins – fight the Troika government”. It is with good reason the Troika government in Portugal should be fought. The Greeks are desperate to escape with what social services and standard of living they have left, but the politicians and creditors still insist on more sacrifices, more layoffs, more wage cuts, more impoverishment.

It is then not without reason the people have filled streets and squares in Lisbon. It is known that 2012 will be a painful year. Unemployment stands at around 13% in Portugal. Why wait till the end of 2012, when it’s at 15%, 18%, maybe even higher, to begin the task of expelling the IMF and its agents of austerity? Why delay the spring and allow the winter of austerity to victimize an ever increasing number of persons? There is no reason to wait, but every reason to mobilize.

Before Saturday’s demonstration was complete, we were assured of another mobilization called by the CGTP for the 29th of this month. The same diverse crowds of workers, youths, pensioners, families, and students must again converge as they did in “Terreiro do Povo” and form the common resistance so imperative at this crucial moment. It is a common resistance that won’t tolerate politicians, creditors and bosses finding the next set of victims, nor is it a resistance that will abandon those already made victims.

But Portugal cannot completely thaw on its own.  IMF, European Union officials and the Franco loving government in Madrid are already targeting labor laws to increase the already precarious state of Spanish workers. Italian workers are enduring the same assault. There’s risk is in each country in its own moment rising and failing to dislodge the forces of austerity. The Greeks have made several valiant but ultimately failed attempts to expel the Troika’s regime.

The same convergence across Portuguese society seen in Terreiro do Povo must also be replicated across the austerity afflicted people of Europe. The Portuguese have demanded their spring come early, and with extraordinary effort could secure its arrival, but it would be a short lived spring for Portugal if those in Madrid, Rome and Athens don’t reinforce it with springs of their own.

– – –

I’m just going to post a few more videos out of the demonstration in Lisbon. The struggle continues when the people are on the streets!

Tensions in Bahrain Come to a Boil as Uprising Anniversary Nears

I came across this stunning video out of Bahrain, purportedly showing a faction of regime opponents effectively besieging a compound belonging to security forces:

This follows weeks of protests, attacks by security forces, and mass funerals for demonstrators who’ve been killed. With the anniversary of the peaceful uprising last February just days away, the regime is restricting access to the country, preventing Western journalists and even Al Jazeera from drawing attention to calls for democracy unheeded by those clinging to power.

Without a doubt, supporters of the regime will seize on the video I posted above as evidence of a violent plot within the country -advocates of despotism long disregarded originality. But the stones and molotov cocktails now being thrown by a segment of regime opponents can’t be equated with the violence of the regime, let alone used as justification for regime violence. The regime has full responsibility for security forces they employ, thereby having the ability to discipline and fire. Yet, security forces continue to inflict regular brutality on citizens. The broad opposition, however, has no such mechanisms or uniformity as the regime. After dozens of deaths at the hands of security forces, broken promises to reform and end abuses, the path to avoid greater unrest in Bahrain is by transitioning to democracy. This is a reality the regime will seek to obscure with a media blackout and more clouds of teargas.