Feature Editorials

Wednesday, 12 October 2011 00:00 Matthew Flisfeder
One of the distinguishing features of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is its apparent lack of central leadership. Not only does the movement seem leaderless; it does not appear to be organized around any clearly defined ‘demands.’ This has been perceived as something quite positive for participants and supporters of the movement, while being the primary point of criticism from opponents, particularly the mainstream media.

Clearly, OWS stands against the unfair balance of wealth distribution in the United States (and around the world, for that matter), the unfair neoliberal politics that have swept the globe over the last four decades, corporate greed (especially in the financial sector), and various forms of systemic violence resulting from structural inequalities built into the capitalist system of exploitation.

But what media pundits are looking for is something that they can represent: something, that is, with a timeline, that defines when the protestors will be ‘satisfied.’ This makes OWS qualitatively different from the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings that took the world stage last winter, popularly touted as the ‘Arab Spring.’
Friday, 18 February 2011 00:00 Dan La Botz

Thousands of workers demonstrated at the state capital in Madison, Wisconsin on February 15 and 16 to protest plans by that state's Republican Governor Scott Walker to take away the state workers' union rights. Walker, cleverly attempted to divide the public workers by excluding police and firefighters from his anti-union law, and the media have worked to divide public employees against private sector workers.

Yet, both firemen and private sector workers showed up at the statehouse to join public workers of all sorts in what has been one of the largest workers' demonstrations in the United States in decades. Only California has seen demonstrations as large as these in recent years.

Many demonstrators, taking a clue from the rebellions against authoritarian and anti-worker governments that are sweeping the Middle East, carried signs saying, “Let's negotiate like they do in Egypt.” While the situation in Wisconsin is hardly comparable to the revolution in the Arab world, what we are witnessing is the beginning of a new American workers' movement. Because this movement is so different than what many expected, it may take us by surprise.

Thursday, 10 February 2011 00:00 Farooq Sulehria

To help explain the thrilling developments in Egypt, Farooq Sulehria interviewed leading Arab scholar-activist Gilbert Achcar on February 4, 2011.

Farooq Sulehria: Do you think that Mubarak's pledge on February 1st not to contest the next election represented a victory for the movement, or was it just a trick to calm down the masses as on the very next day demonstrators in Al-Tahrir Square were brutally attacked by pro-Mubarak forces?

Gilbert Achcar: The Egyptian popular anti-regime uprising reached a first peak on February 1st, prodding Hosni Mubarak to announce concessions in the evening. It was an acknowledgement of the force of the popular protest and a clear retreat on the autocrat's part, coming on top of the announcement of the government's willingness to negotiate with the opposition. These were significant concessions indeed coming from such an authoritarian regime, and a testimony to the importance of the popular mobilization. Mubarak even pledged to speed up ongoing judicial actions against fraud perpetrated during the previous parliamentary elections.

Friday, 04 February 2011 00:00 Mark LeVine

Mark LeVine, professor of History at UC Irvine, managed to catch up with blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy via Skype to get a first-hand account of events unfolding in Egypt.

Mark LeVine: Why did it take a revolution in Tunisia to get Egyptians onto the streets in unprecedented numbers?

Hossam el-Hamalawy: In Egypt we say that Tunis was more or less a catalyst, not an instigator, because the objective conditions for an uprising existed in Egypt, and revolt has been in the air over the past few years. Indeed, we already managed to have 2 mini-intifadas or “mini Tunisias” in 2008. The first was the April 2008 uprising in Mahalla, followed by another one in Borollos, in the north of the country.

Revolutions don't happen out of the blue. It's not because of Tunisia yesterday that we have one in Egypt mechanically the next day. You can't isolate these protests from the last four years of labour strikes in Egypt, or from international events such as the al-Aqsa intifada and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada was especially important because in the 1980s-90s, street activism had been effectively shut down by the government as part of the fight against Islamist insurgents. It only continued to exist inside university campuses or party headquarters. But when the 2000 intifada erupted and Al Jazeera started airing images of it, it inspired our youth to take to the streets, in the same way we've been inspired by Tunisia today.

Thursday, 03 February 2011 00:00 Hicham Safieddine

Arab uprisings are taking place with the historical speed of light. I began writing this piece following the downfall of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali and closed with the imminent downfall of the Egyptian one Hosni Mubarak.

The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are not, as some armchair pundits called the Tunisian one, Jasmine Revolutions. They are ones of bread, bullets, blood, democracy and dignity. State security forces have killed hundreds of people in both countries and wounded thousands. Many more have been arrested.

But the fire of revolt sparked by Muhammad Bouzizi's self-immolation in Tunis last December has now turned into a conflagration of popular upheaval across the Arab world largely led by workers, students, and the unemployed (men and women). Current protests in Egypt have reached a new crescendo.

Other demonstrations in Yemen, Algeria and Jordan are far from turning the tables on their regimes but continue to exert pressure against the status quo. Large disaffected sections of an emaciated middle-class of professionals, public servants, and petit-bourgeois have also jumped on the revolutionary bandwagon.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010 00:00 Oliver Huitson

The “iPod generation” have long been written off as apathetic, pampered wasters; a collection of illiterate Nathan Barleys draining their parents resources. Yet, from the storming of Tory HQ to campus occupations across the country, it is those same youth now leading public resistance to the Coalition's cuts.

The tripling of tuition fees is unquestionably serious, but it represents only a small part of the problems facing Britain's young. An increasing awareness of generational imbalances, inflamed by [Chancellor of the Exchequer] George Osborne's austerity measures, could see student protests snowball into a wider movement of youth discontent.

Generational politics is undoubtedly on the rise. This year has already seen the publication of two books on the subject: David Willett's The Pinch... and the indispensable Jilted Generation by Ed Howker and Shiv Malik.

Though both texts are cautious in directing blame, they set out solid and well sourced arguments for a nation that has lost touch with generational obligations. From housing and PFi to pensions and education, the picture that emerges is one of rampant asset stripping from both past and future. The primary losers, throughout, are young people.



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