Friday, January 28, 2011

Spring Time of The Peoples-- Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen... Is England Next?


The title refers to something that happened in 1848, even before McCain was born. It can be described as series of political upheavals-- or revolutions-- that began in France and spread throughout Europe, including Italy, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, Romania, Hungary and then on to Brazil. Russia's relative stability while the rest of Europe was burning is usually attributed to the revolutionary groups' inability to communicate with each other, the czar having shut down Facebook and Twitter, just the way Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt. Alexis de Tocqueville, in Recollections: "society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror."

Fast forward over 160 years and we find that Tunisians have just kicked out their dictator and has issued an arrest warrant to have Interpol bring him back to stand trial. The current Spring Time of The Peoples has now spread-- with a vengeance-- to Egypt and Yemen. Someone in Syria must have read about how effective the czar was in 1848 and has already preempted on-line preparations by shutting down the Internet.

Wikipedia makes the point that the Revolution of 1848 missed Great Britain because the middle classes there "had been pacified by general enfranchisement in the Reform Act 1832; the consequent agitations, violence, and petitions of the Chartist movement came to a head with their peaceful petition to Parliament of 1848. The repeal of the protectionist agricultural tariffs-- called the "Corn Laws"-- (in 1846) had defused some proletarian fervour there." This time England may not be so lightly spared. Instead of nurturing-- or even just placating-- a growing middle class, the British elites are shrinking it and pushing it to the brink. Remember this clip from the U.K. elections that brought in a Conservative government. Well, it's all coming true:

And British working families are stirring out of their lethargy.
Union leaders warned today of a growing mood of militancy over the government's "gamble" on the economy if the coalition refuses to change course.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, described mounting industrial unrest among normally moderate rank-and-file members across the public and private sectors who are "very angry" at the government's economic plan.

Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union, ramped up the pressure as he warned that there was "no question" that unions would mount co-ordinated action to protect workers' living standards.

But Boris Johnson, the Conservative London mayor, signalled today that the government is planning to hit back by tightening laws against what he described as "vexatious strikes" by workers employed in essential public services.

Kenny issued a broadside against the coalition government as it made clear its intention to stick to its plan of multibillion spending cuts, and rejected calls for a change of economic course in the face of shocking figures that showed the economy contracted by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010.

The figures, which raise fears of high unemployment and inflation with stagnant growth, mark the first serious challenge to the coalition's political and economic direction.

In an attempt to reassure volatile markets, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, urged the cabinet to stand firm and warned of many shocks to the economy before it settled down to a consistent pattern of growth.

But Kenny said today that the government's strategy was a "gamble" without a "plan B" to adapt to the situation. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are seeing, frankly, from areas of our membership, areas that have traditionally been very, very moderate and quiet, we are seeing calls for industrial action ballots.

"We are seeing people very angry about the fact that there doesn't seem to be a balance of justice in this. They do not see that there is a strategy that says we are going to win this fight."

He said people wanted to see that the government could adapt to the situation. "There's a growing level of concern that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. It's all bad news," he added.

Kenny said that people who have not had a pay rise for two or three years wanted to see King do more about the "rampant, greedy nature" of the banking industry in the country.

"This is a really important point for people in this country," he said.

Yes... this one too. Do we have unions still?

And what about our own government? American firms may be complicit in the weapons being turned on the Egyptian people and in Mubarak's order to shut down the Internet, but... what about our government? At what point do "we" side with the Egyptian people against the tyrant? Robert Naiman, with a little help from Mohamed ElBaradei, tackled the question very well over at Daily Kos this morning:
If Western leaders, who have backed the dictator Mubarak for 30 years, cannot stand before the Egyptian people today and say unequivocally, "we support your right of national self-determination," when can they do it?

That's the question that Egyptian democracy leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has put before Western leaders today.

Speaking to the Guardian in Cairo, before the planned protests today, ElBaradei stepped up his calls for Western leaders to explicitly condemn Mubarak, who, as the Guardian noted, has been a close ally of the US:

"The international community must understand we are being denied every human right day by day," he said. "Egypt today is one big prison. If the international community does not speak out it will have a lot of implications. We are fighting for universal values here. If the west is not going to speak out now, then when?"

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At 2:12 PM, Blogger TartanSeer said...

Or 'Britain'?
Perhaps inadvertently, you have hit the nail on the head - the new springtime is budding in one of Europe's oldest country's, Scotland, a nation awakening after 300 years of English/Brit rule.
Soar Alba.

At 1:32 AM, Blogger Richard T said...

In the UK there is an added sense of rancour that the bankers have again paid themselves disporportionate bonuses which have effectively immunised them from the consequences of an economic collapse that they had the largest hand in causing. When we're lectured by rich prats like Gideon Osborne and David cameron about being all in this together - aye right; when you get Mervyn King (Banker in chief) telling us that we're all to see our living standards diminsh - except the bankers of course; add in the quite excellent direct action groups against tax avoiders which have huge popular support and police violence against the demonstrator, the elite emight just get the explosion they deserve.

Of course, I'm with TartanSeer in wanting to see my country break free.


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