Europeans rebel (especially the young). How about us?

by Rich Rubenstein on January 4, 2011 · 0 comments

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A few commentators have noted the stormy protests triggered in Europe by government moves to increase university tuitions (the UK), decrease pensions (France), and cut social services in the wake of the world recession (Greece, Ireland, Spain).  What about us?  Why do we allow the same corporate and political bigwigs who drove the global economy off a cliff to force workers, students, elderly people and others to pay the costs of the crisis?

The answer, I think, has to do with class consciousness.  Ever since WW II, Americans have been told that social classes are a fiction cooked up by left-wing ideologues, and their socio-economic destiny is in their own hands.  By contrast, student (and non-student) protests are taking place in Europe because folks there know that the myth of classlessness is a lie.  They aren’t simply protesting tuition hikes or pension cuts or austerity measures but the basic unfairness of a system that forces poor people, workers, and the lower middle class to pay for system failures while the rich and powerful get richer and stronger.

But let’s not make heroes of the Europeans either. Their protests tend to fizzle out because they are not yet linked to a mass-based political organization with a clear, convincing vision of a post-capitalist alternative.  European socialism is to socialism as Wonder Bread is to real bread.  It may turn out that we Americans have what Lenin once called “the advantages of backwardness.” When we discover (perhaps with the unwitting help of the Tea Party) that we are the victims of an upper-class mugging, we will create the organization that we need. Meanwhile, let’s start developing a realistic plan to replace the decrepit profit system with something far, far better.

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