The global meltdown of capitalism marches on: the winner in the race to be the first government to be toppled is, surprisingly, Iceland. A normally quiet and complacent country of barely over 300,000 souls, in 2007 Iceland enjoyed the fifth highest per capita income in the world and historically has an unemployment of rate of zero. But as the economic “crisis” expanded in the second half of 2008 the Icelandic currency collapsed, unemployment soared and large swaths of the population found themselves unable to pay off personal debts. The conservative coalition government went to the IMF for a bailout of their financial system and- in typical IMF fashion- the problems rapidly increased for the working class. Demonstrations have ragged across the normally tranquil island nation with protesters making frequent use of eggs and paint as projectiles; for the first time since 1949, the police used tear gas on protesters. Just after Christmas, street demonstrations trapped government officials in their offices as people smashed windows, set-off smoke bombs, and even pelted the Prime Minister’s car with eggs and paint. On January 26 the Prime Minister announced early elections following the resignation of his entire cabinet and the complete collapse of his ruling coalition. The Democratic Socialist who will almost certainly replace him will be the first openly gay Head of State in the world.
I’ve read some debate on radical sites about the age-old “organized resistance versus insurrection” (actually, not some much an age-old debate as a 110 year old debate; before Bakunin’s retirement and Kropotkin’s slip into “propaganda by deed” no one was foolish enough to imagine revolution without an organized movement). On these sites, insurrectionists argue that the street demonstrations in Iceland have toppled the government without the aid of “organization”; while this is true enough on the surface, the counter argument, of course, is that the toppling of the conservative coalition by protests brought about little more than the handing over of power to the organized resistance- in this case the Social Democrats. This isn’t at all revolutionary but rather status quo for parliamentary systems. Had an organized radical body been present, the succession of power wouldn’t necessarily have been the continuation of capitalist control. Insurrection is quite capable of removing those of power from their place, but has a track record of zero when it comes to maintaining the political revolution from that point on.
Meanwhile, a 24 hour general strike across France on Thursday saw over 1 million people take to the streets in over 200 cities and towns. Transportation networks were shut-down (running at around “30%” according to officials) and almost every school was empty. Large demonstrations and labor strikes in France- especially in major cities and especially in the public sector- may seem almost common from afar, but this is actually one of the first “general strike” calls endorsed by most of the major unions (at least eight unions backed the strike) and is not a call for specific workplace action but rather a rejection of the state itself and of the national and global economy. The labor movement in France is actually prone to a great deal of in-fighting, but this time they all banded together and the effects were noticeable. Polls show nearly 80% support across all strata of social-economic segments of the French population for the general strike and continued public “non-cooperation” with the government for it’s handling of the “crisis”. From Al Jazeera English:
“We refuse to pay for the capitalist crisis,” read one banner at a protest in the central city of Lyon.
Another said: “The capitalist economy is sick… let’s let it die”.
A recently formed anti-capitalist political Party has seen its support swell rapidly as the failure of Social Democrats and Socialist Party to protect French workers from the effects of global capitalism deteriorates the quality of life for almost everyone. While it will take a lot to topple the conservative Sarkozi’s government, the “conservative” nature of the (socialist) opposition has lead directly to the proliferation of anti-capitalist and even anti-State opinions- meaning actual revolution is closer at hand and the previously mentioned insurrectionist opinions can suck it. The more organized the radical alternative, the more likely to succeed.
Elsewhere, thousands of worker’s across Great Britain walked off the job Saturday in solidarity with workers’ at the Lindesy Oil Refinery after it was uncovered that 250 Italians were being hired to come and build projects while unemployed Britons were left, well, unemployed. Thing is folks, calls against “protectionism” are designed to bolster the profits of the exploitive companies which desire to hire worker’s in a race to the bottom of wages; we have governments to protect us, period. That in practice this turns into governments protecting only the wealthy is increasingly apparent and unacceptable to millions of people around the world.
In the words of the UK Guardian:
Europe’s time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.