Global Occupy actions: A victory for the outraged

October 22, 2011
Solidarity from Antarctica on October 15.
Solidarity from Antarctica on October 15.

October 15 was the first time since February 2003, with the huge demonstrations in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, that a call for an international action on a specific date has met with such a response.

In Spain, where the Indignados ("the outraged") movement began in May, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of around 80 different cities, including 200,000 or more in Madrid, from where I am writing.

Actions have taken place on five continents. In more than 80 countries and about 1000 different cities, hundreds of thousands of youth and adults are on the march.

They are protesting against the management of the global economic crisis by governments rushing to bail out the private institutions responsible for the collapse ― and who are taking advantage of it to strengthen neoliberal policies: huge layoffs in public services, slashing social spending, huge privatisations and attacks on social programs, from public pension systems to unemployment benefits and more.

Everywhere, repayment of the public debt is the pretext used to strengthen austerity measures. Everywhere, demonstrators are accusing the banks.

In February 2003, we saw the broadest international mobilisation to try to stop a war. More than 10 million people gathered in countless demonstrations all over the planet.

Since then, the dynamics of the global justice movement born in the 1990s has faded, but never entirely died out.

On October 15, perhaps one million people took to the streets. Nevertheless, it was a huge victory, because it was the first large demonstration carried out in a 24-hour period around the planet against the people responsible for the capitalist crisis, which has created tens of millions of victims.

The economic crisis, which started in the United States in 2007, has spread through Europe since 2008. The debt crisis faced by developing countries has moved to the North.

It is interconnected with the food crisis, which has hit many developing regions since 2007-08. And this isn't to forget the climate crisis, which is above all affecting the peoples of the South.

The systemic crisis is also expressed at an institutional level: the leaders of the Group of Eight countries know they do not have the means to manage the international crisis. Thus, they have convened the Group of 20.

For three years now, it has proven incapable of coming up with valid solutions.

This crisis also involves a crisis of civilisation. The movement raises challenges to consumerism, generalised commoditisation, the failure to take the environmental impacts of economic activities into account, productivism, the search to satisfy private interests at the expense of the public interest, the major powers' systematic recourse to violence and the denial of the basic human rights of peoples, such as the Palestinians.

Often, capitalism is the heart of what is being challenged.

No centralised organisation called this mobilisation. The Indignados movement was born in Spain in May in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian rebellions in the previous months.

It spread to Greece in June and to other European countries. It has crossed the North Atlantic since September.

Of course, a series of radical political organisations and organised social movements support the movement, but are not leading it. Their influence is limited.

It is a broadly spontaneous movement, mostly made up of young people, with an enormous potential to develop that is very disturbing to political leaders, the heads of major corporations and all police forces on the planet.

It could die out as a flash in the pan or be the spark that sets off the fire. Nobody knows.

On October 15, the call to mobilise mostly rallied demonstrators in cities and towns in countries of the North, including the planet's financial centres, which is very promising.

The outraged "Occupy" movements have sparked very creative and emancipatory dynamics.

If you are not yet involved, try to join or launch it if it does not yet exist where you live. Link up and take part in an authentic emancipation.

[Eric Toussaint is president of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) Belgium. Reprinted from US Socialist Worker, translated by Marie Lagatta.]

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