Thursday, February 17, 2011
The class struggle in America posted by Richard Seymour
But the unions in Madison, Wisconsin were not buying it, and when it became clear that unions might strike over these measures, Scott Walker threatened to bring in the National Guard. And then? "I am fully prepared for whatever may happen." The protests against Walker's plans have been tremendous. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets. Teachers and students have walked out of school to join the protests. Protesters referenced Tahrir Square. If Egypt can have democracy, some said, why can't we? So they forced their way into the Capitol building and embarked on an amazing occupation:
Now, one doesn't make comparisons thoughtlessly. It would seem hubristic to reference the revolutionary struggles in the Middle East in connection with this. Those struggles, continuing in Egypt and Tunisia, emerging nascently in Saudi Arabia, and manifest in Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and Iran too, are taking place in very different circumstances. But the global crisis that links them is raising the same questions everywhere. It's turning what was a chronic dilapidation and slide in popular living standards into an acute, unbearable crisis for millions. The Right's response to this is to try to rebuild their hegemony by racialising the question - it's all the immigrants and uppity black people and Muslims trying to take over. The litany goes that immigrants take American jobs, black Americans make endless claims on the Treasury and borrow irresponsibly, while Muslims threaten America's core values. And if enough people believe it, they can be incorporated into a neo-nativist, anti-socialist, counter-subversive bloc. That's what the Glenn Becks of this world are for. But sometimes it doesn't work. The attack on Christians in Egypt, countered by immediate Muslim solidarity, didn't stop the revolution. Racism and sectarianism doesn't always work. And sometimes a local struggle resonates far beyond it's immediate boundaries and becomes the stimulus for a wave of wider revolts, especially when it taps into something that is popularly perceived as intolerable and for which the ruling class is held responsible. And given what's happening in US states, I'd suggest keeping an eye on Wisconsin, because this could be the trigger for something beautiful.