The Revolutions of 2011

Much of this blog is satirical, tongue in cheek and whimsical in nature, and yet I like to imbue all of my posts with some inner and somewhat serious philosophical truth. Sometimes however, as silly as I am, I like to make a serious and fundamental point about something that is occurring in the world, in a straightforward and hopefully succinct manner.

Corporate America

This is one of those times. I recently watched The Baader Meinhof Complex, an award winning film by Uli Edel about the Red Army Faction, a left-wing terrorist group that carved a bloody swathe across Germany in a series of brutal politcally motivated attacks from 1970 to 1998. Watching that movie has made me think a lot. Whilst it made dead certain to me the absolute moral repugnancy of much of their actions, which included bombings, assassinations and sieges, the movement that this extreme and in many cases misguided group sprang out of inspired me.

From the early sixties up until quite recently, perhaps the fall of the Soviet Union in the 90s, there seemed to be a strong, consistent anti-capitalist, anti-materialist protest movement that existed and was active across the world. It was primarily motivated by, but not excluded to, students, trade unionists and the broader left. In my opinion this was a great and noble thing. Here was a movement that went against the values of a burgeoning, and rapidly sprawling superficial society obsessed the material. That resisted the urges to merely consume, work and die, that despised the dead end 9-til-5 job, and bemoaned the yawning gap left by the waning religions, replaced in futility and desperation with material wealth and superficial greed. They called for community rather than individualism. They resisted.

A key example, perhaps the strongest, most pure illustration of the ideals expressed above was May 1968. In mid-1968 France was shut down. The students occupied the universities, citizens put up barricades in the streets and two thirds of French workers went on an independent and general wildcat strike. Here was a movement inspired by the counterculture, against conservative values, with whiffs of the surreal Situationists and hostile to the bureacratic establishment. They were neither pro-West nor pro-East, they opposed not only the church and the conservative parties, but also the main leftist organisations, including the communists, and prominent trade unions. There were independent, idealistic and proud, but went out, perhaps mercifully with a whimper rather than a bang.

Street Barricades in Paris 1968

But this was not only restricted to France. All across the world people protested against imperialism, inequality and consumerism, trends which seemed to spread from the West across the so-called Iron Curtain and other un-alligned states. From 1960 to 1980 the world, especially the West, was dominated by social unrest which stemmed primarily from these grievances. But now that movement seems to have faded. People seem contented with their latest gadgets, their gourmet foods, alcohol and designer clothes. Neoliberalism and the free market, fused to a varying degree with leftist tainted ideals to appease and quieten the masses, seem to have taken the fore. The resistance looks dead or castrated compared to the days of our parents and their parents, and I occasionally look back upon the world in that time, and ask myself if I was indeed born in the right decade.

But then something like the Arab Spring happens. Something like the current protests in Wall Street and before that, the union protests in Wisconsin, the anti-cut movements in London and Greece and Spain and across Western Europe. When I see my fellow youth, indeed, when I see the people of the world from all walks of life coming together in an effort to change this ridiculous society and broken immoral system I am heartened. I’m sure I don’t identify with every protester out there, from the Egyptian Islamist to the Anarchist from Greece, but the fact that people aren’t simply going to sit around in slothful apathy and take this shit is definitely heartening. The people if united, organised and motivated can achieve great things. Be inspired and fight for your freedom.

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7 thoughts on “The Revolutions of 2011

  1. I dearly hope this is gonna lead to tangible change and the creation of a solid political alternative. Hard to tell right now…

  2. Good morning greatlakessocialist: You might be nearer right than the alternatives on a lot of that. I suppose my opinions on the subject are mitigated by being wrong so frequently as I’ve travelled around the sun these 68 times. I thought things, [smiling at my youthful folly] would come to a head back when Krushchev ordered us out of Berlin in 1961, though at that time my reaction was to join the Army. 1965 – 1974 I thought it would happen for all manner of reasons. Stood in front of a lot of angry mobs and threw a lot of rocks at cops, etc, and watched it all dissassemble when the Vietnam War ended. When pre-Y2K came along I bought it lock stock and banana peel.

    Which leaves me with a huge respect for the potential for things happening not as I thought they would. My old deaf ear is to the ground and my antennae waving around again, though.

    • Thank you for your perspective, it means a lot given your experience, and I can’t say I get all that many people over a certain age (20s) commenting regularly on this site.

      You’re definitely right. So often all of this bluster and expectation come to nothing, and apparently monumental changes fade away into nothing or be absorbed by counter-revolutions (be they social or political). I guess we can only wait and see, with anxious anticipation, but I have a feeling that big change is coming to the system. Whether it shall be a slow degradation or reform, or a sharp violent shift of paradigms and ideals, one cannot know.

  3. Oh ! I see that an entire year of guiding you towards the wisdom, righteousness & moral dignity of a right wing free market approach to solving the worlds (communist caused) ills, has not succeeded. I note your propensity for advocating violence & the supposed glories of failures like Guevara & May ’68. There is a good reason the Rudd Cult of Personality & the Macbeth-like Gillard coup have failed so entirely. If it moves-tax it. If it makes a profit-tax it. If its fun-tax it.
    The last thing the suffering masses at Bungwahl need is to be “freed” into Stalinesque 5 Year Plan. Their hearts & minds can be bought-you know it will work!

    • Et alors! (That is French)

      For a teacher so versed in your particular subjects, and so filled with a sense of wit and humour, how can you fall to such obvious and immoral fallacies! I suspect as Marx once said, that you are like many historians, your interest in the past has turned into a love of the past, and consciously or subconsciously you desire to keep it alive. So I label you a reactionary.

      As for my prospensity for violence, I remember you once comparing yourself to the bloodied Genghis Khan, and I suspect that you have a miniature shrine dedicated to Pinochet at your home, and posters of Reza Shah Pahlavi all over your walls. Liberators like Guevara and the idealistic dream of May ’68 pale in comparison to these outrages. I take it you make to ridicule me by forcing me to defend Rudd, Gillard and Stalin, but I refuse to. They are not socialists and are therefore reprehensible. As for taxes, I am sure you see all taxes as horrible chains of slavery, in your strive for an anarcho-capitalist, fascistic feudalist society with yourself as Emperor. But will you be so idealistic upon your assumption, I some how doubt it.

      Also you know nothing of Bungwahl, save for the fact that they are long-suffering. If they are suffering does that not beg change? Or do you not extend to them the same rights that you yourself take for your own. Once again your hypocrisy, like traditionally prepared cabbage, smells of failure and despair.

      But all the best in your travels, and indoctrination (or at least attempts at such) of another generation of English students.

      • Not a great fan of gulag-prepared cabbage, washed down with glass of bitter envy.
        More fan of a tax-free steak or seafood & a glass of red (ironically).

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