For about two to three years in the past, in general, and in this October, in particular, people from several countries have poured into streets. There is a kind of similarity in the forms of protests and the slogans chanted on the streets. There is no any organizational mechanism that connects these protests but the slogans and demands that have been raised from the streets resemble to a great extent. In this article, the author has attempted to study the inner causes that instigated people’s resistance, the similarity in their demands and the solution to those problems.
The most intensive and extensive people’s resistance at present has been in Chile, a South American nation. Right after the Chilean Government hiked metro fare from 800 Peso to 830 Peso for the peak hours, the students initiated fare disobedience movement demanding to revoke the decision. However, it did not remain within students but extended to workers, officials and the broad masses. On October 18, more than a million people poured into the street in Santiago, Chile. The country trapped in a chaos, which continues even today.
Stating people a powerful enemy, the government declared emergency in Chile and deployed military to suppress people’s resistance. But, it did nothing more than fuelling the fire further. The movement spread all across Chile. Later, in view of pressure from the streets, the government became obliged to revoke the fare hike decision. Not only this, the president Sebastian Pinero openly apologized before the masses, dissolved the cabinet, annulled emergency and also declared to increase wage, pension, social security and health benefits. Nevertheless, it has not appeased the protesters; the people and army are fighting in the streets. Till now, about two dozens of protesters have been killed, hundreds have been injured and more than a thousand protesters have been arrested. There is no indication that people’s participation is going to decline.
On the other, with the increase of people’s participation, people’s demands are piling up one after another. Slogans like the president must resign, the old constitution must be annulled and the new one should come into effect, a policy that narrows down the gap between rich and poor must be adopted, employment must be guaranteed etc. are reverberating in the streets. And more demands continue to come. In view of the uncertainties the movement can create, the president declared that both of the summits – APEC Summit scheduled for 16th of November and Summit on Climate Change scheduled for December – cannot be held in Chile. It shows the severity of the deteriorating security situation there. But, none can say now how will the people’s protest end.
Let us briefly talk about the politico-economic backdrop of this movement. After the then Chilean military officer Pinochet, a puppet of US imperialism, deposed through a coup d’état the people-elected left government led by Salvador Allende on 11 September 1973 and captured power, Chile remained under military rule for a few years. Following this, the military government adopted entire political and economic policies under the direct involvement of US imperialism. In the meantime, parliamentary elections were held, the governments changed many times but the policies did not. Later in 90s, the government privatized entire national enterprises under the neoliberal policy defined by Washington Consensus. It continues till today.
Chile, which is rich in copper ores, is said to be a prosperous country of South America. However, after the national enterprises were privatized in tune with neo-liberal line, the gap between the rich and poor has been widening in a geometrical proportion. The data shows that more than 36 per cent of urban population is below extreme poverty line. One of the countries in which the economic gap is awfully widening is Chile. According to the data the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has presented the upper 1 per cent elite in Chile has grabbed 26.5 per cent of national wealth whereas the bottom 50 per cent poor earn only 2.1 per cent of the same. Likewise, according to national statistics, the minimum wage in Chile is 3,01,000 Peso (About 402 US Dollars) and half of the workers earn less than 4,00,000 Peso (About 533 US Dollars). The main reason behind people’s anger now in Chile is economic inequality. The hike in metro fare is nothing other than the last straw that breaks a camel’s back.
Ecuador is another country in which people have poured into streets. The protests had begun there after the government withdrew the subsidy given to petroleum products on October 3. The taxi, bus and truck drivers declared strike from October 4 demanding to revoke the government decision. Right after four hours the strike was announced president Moreno declared emergency in the country. From that day onward, people are fighting in the streets against army all over the country including the capital city Quito. In the course of military repression, about a dozen of protesters have been killed and more than a thousand has been arrested. With the rise of people’s protests, the number of deaths, arrestees and the injured ones has been rising.
It is another Latin American country which is overburdened by foreign loan and economic crisis. The government had borrowed 4.2 billion dollars from the IMF this year. People’s rebellion had instigated in Ecuador after the government decided to revoke fuel subsidy, drop workers’ wage by 20 per cent, cut down annual public holidays from 30 to 15 days, decrease pension, health benefits and social securities in the pretext of collecting fund to pay back the debt. The minimum wage has been fixed to be 394 US dollars per month. The riches are accumulating wealth in geometrical proportion and the poor are sliding down and down towards untold misery. The inner content behind people’s protests in Ecuador too is economic inequality between rich and poor, and corruption and mismanagement of national property.
Another country, in which masses have poured into streets, is Lebanon. After the government declared to tax WhatsApp software, at the rate of 6 dollars per month, about one hundred people in group opposed it. Now that has spread up to the broad masses. The school and college students have swarmed in to streets for the better future they expect. More notable is that the young ladies are in the forefront of street fighting in a Muslim majority country. Given the pressure from people’s protests, Prime Minister Saad Harari declared a 17-point ambitious plan but that did not appease the people. At the last, he resigned. The economic gap between rich and poor is widening and the corruption has no limit. Companies are short of money to pay the wages, worker can anytime be fired and 37 per cent of the youth force is unemployed. Lebanon, of which national debt is more than 150 per cent of GDP, is a country going towards incredible political crisis and economic bankruptcy.
On the other, politicians are getting wealthier and wealthier day by day. In the meantime, President Michel Aoun addressed the nation in which he pledged to narrow down the gap between rich and poor, eradicate corruption and guarantee employment. But, it could not win over the masses. On the contrary, people took to streets. Some of the media even estimated that about 2 million people poured into street in a country, which is inhabited by about 8.1 million. People demand that the reform must start not from the verbal assurances but by checking the bank accounts of corrupt politicians. Army and people are fighting each other in the capital city Beirut and other big cities like Tripoli and Tyre. Bourgeois political leaders, who have turned pawn of the imperialist world order, do not have any clear vision, nor can they have. No one can say now when and how will the people’s protest, which is not guided by any clear-cut political agenda, end up with a result.
Right on October 1st people’s protest erupted all across Iraq against unemployment and rampant corruption. The government has mobilized army to suppress the protest. According to report prepared by UNICEF, let us not talk about the benefit in health and education, half of the families of entire Iraq do not have access to healthful drinking water. Almost forty per cent of children are surviving life and struggle. The gap between rich and poor is widening day by day.
According to Human Right Commission report, the number of death of the protesters has reached 319 and those of wounded ones is, about 15,000. No credible information is available because the internet service has been cut-off. The number of dead and injured persons may be more than this because street fight is escalating. In the name of austerity, the government has been cutting down the worker’s wages, pensions, social security and other facilities. People have poured into street in this situation. There is neither a revolutionary political party to lead the people’s protest, nor any party in the ruling elite can address these problems. After the government proposed a new election, the protesters have intensified struggle, demanding system change. The youths are fighting at the forefront, but what the destination is perhaps nobody knows.
Here we discussed about the mass protests that have developed in various countries in the last October. Apart from these, one of the countries in which protests are going on is France. The protest which takes place in every Saturday has now entered in to 52nd week. Mainly the drivers had started protest against tax hike of the petroleum products. Till now, eleven protesters have died and more than 12,000 people have been arrested. Various newspapers have brought out news that 10,709 cops have been injured and 25 have died. No one can say where this protest will end. The tax hike was only an excuse. It is clear that the objective reason behind the protest is the frustration and anger created by widening gap between rich and poor, extensive unemployment and deteriorating economy.
Apart from this, people have overwhelmed the streets to protest in many countries of the world. They are: Spain, Venezuela, Haiti, Serbia, Sudan, Algeria, Hong Kong, Czech Republics, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt and Syria among others. The protest rallies are, in the main spontaneous, and in some countries reactionary and revisionist parties too are leading. But no matter who is leading the protest people’s participation is increasing. The main objective of this article is to find answers to the questions why people are taking to streets, what is the root cause of the protests, where the common point among those protest struggles is and what is the ultimate solution of these problems.
We saw clearly from the above analysis that although the protests have emerged from different issues but in the ultimate sense the main thrust has been to reduce the gap between rich and poor, guarantee employment and end corruption. At present, be it an imperialist country or the oppressed one, the gap between the rich and poor has been widening and the countries are trapped in economic recession and crisis all across the world. The main reason behind this is the capitalist mode of production, and the neoliberalism has accelerated this process.
The neoliberal system has made the ruling class political leaders the agents that implement the plan and policies of IMF, WB and other monopoly corporate capitalist institutions in their respective countries. In any so-called sovereign country, no government can independently decide in favour of their nation and people in this imperialist era. They facilitate imperialist monetary agencies to earn more profit in the name of economic liberalization and they exploit the nation and people through rampant corruption. Whereas, in the name of austerity measures, they cut down all sorts of social securities and health benefits along with wages and pensions of the people that is pushing them towards further poverty. Thus neoliberal policies have been instrumental to widening economic gap between rich and poor.
Not the Marxist economists only, but the bourgeois economists too have started saying that neoliberalism has failed. A book “Capitalism in the 21st century” written by French bourgeois economist Thomas Pikety has been critical of neoliberalism. It was a best-seller book in 2014. He has concluded that neo-liberalism has practically proved correct Marx’s analysis that the capitalist mode of production widens the economic gap between rich and poor. He has suggested finding alternative to it. In addition to it, a noble prize winner economist, vice chairman of the World Bank and chairman of economic councillor committee of US president Bill Clinton, Professor Joseph E Stieglitz, has said that neoliberalism is dead. Apart from them there are many economists who have been sharp critique of neoliberalism.
In these days, the people’s anger and sparks of rebellion that are spreading elsewhere in the street mainly centred against economic inequality. Some protesters in Chile have said that our question is with the whole political system and its new liberal policies. However, what is important here is that the protest struggles are spontaneous and youths are at the forefront. Unless the protest is led by a revolutionary leadership which is equipped with correct ideological and political line, it does not reach to its correct conclusion. One cannot say how many among the protesters are aware of this reality. When the masses in the streets do not have revolutionary leadership with them and correct alternate programme to replace the old one, the spontaneous protest is bound to take either one of the three possibilities pointed out here. One, any imperialist or a regional power may mislead the people’s protest to fulfil their interest two, a reactionary or revisionist party of the given country may utilise this protest to fulfil their vested political interest and three, the protest may disappears as the waves do along a sea beach. However huge the volume of protesters is, the ultimate result of the movement without any correct destination and leadership is like this. The spontaneous protests may end without any gain but have more possibility of being deceived badly.
But, one important aspect here is that though the protests are spontaneous but they are also creating and training new generation of leadership team. At the forefront of these mass protests the majority is of young students and workers. It is a very positive aspect. If the older generation of communist revolutionaries create environment to help train the non-polluted rebellious youths with Marxist-Leninist-Maoist world outlook and scientific socialist consciousness, the people’s anger towards this rotten system and their participation in the protests clearly show that now the world proletariat may not have to wait long to destroy capitalism and imperialist neoliberalism and thereby open the door for an egalitarian society – the scientific socialism and then communism.
People’s demands, their participation and perseverance in fighting shows that people are angry and frustrated with this system and they want it to change. It means that the objective factor is getting favourable for revolution but the main hindrance is subjective factor that is line and leadership. This wave of protests does not seem to stop, because the inequality between rich and poor has been an instrumental factor that is instigating such protests elsewhere. It is sure we will see more spontaneous protests in the future. It is a new situation. Not only this, it is a new trend the world is going to see.
The business as usual will not make us reach anywhere in this new situation. A new leap mainly on the question of line and leadership is necessary. In order for this, the revolutionary communist parties of the old generation have to work hard to achieve a few things as follows. One, they have to collectively carry out objective analysis of the present world situation on the basis of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist world outlook and to develop a political and military line, particularly the later that properly addresses the new situation; two, they should constitute an international organisation of the communist parties based on MLM; three, they should form an anti-imperialist united front; four, they should engage in revolutionary class struggle in all countries where the parties exist; five, they should help develop revolutionary communist parties where they are not yet formed; six, they should strongly support people’s protests and demands raised in the streets and try to bring them in the fold of anti-imperialist movement and seven, they should thoroughly bare capitalism, imperialism, neoliberalism and revisionism nationally and internationally.
The situation is favourably developing the world over for the revolution to develop. It is positive for the revolutionaries ahead. The old generation of the revolutionary communists have to work hard not only to fulfil the responsibility they are bestowed in but also to prove in practice that their ideological and political grasp is correct for the revolutionary International Communist Movement to develop. It is difficult, but the future of world proletarian revolution is bright.
Nov. 21, 2019