Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in parts of Chile’s capital on Wednesday as a two-day national strike began against unpopular President Sebastian Pinera, but mining in the world’s top copper producer was not disrupted.
The strike, called by Chile’s main umbrella labor union CUT and coming on the heels of huge demonstrations by students demanding free education, got off to a slow start and the government said 95 percent of public workers ignored the call.
Protesters have clashed with police in recent weeks as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to rail against conservative billionaire Pinera and demand greater trickle down of wealth spurred by a copper price boom.
Public transportation was running and banks were open. While some miners said they supported the strike, operations at some of the world’s biggest copper mines were not affected. But pockets of protest erupted across the capital and in Chile’s main cities.
Stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in full riot gear who responded with water cannon and tear gas in several Chilean cities, and police said dozens of protesters had been detained.
However, most of the protests were peaceful, with groups banging pots and pans in front of the Santiago municipality in a cacerolazo, a traditional form of protest in Latin America.
“In Cuba I can study for free, but in Chile..?” read one placard held aloft on a pedestrian avenue in downtown Santiago, as protesters waved Chilean red, white and blue flags, danced and blew whistles.
When do we do the same? And notice this story, despite water cannons and tear gas, has not made the news (Google News has only about 165 stories on the topic, none from major US media). The Chileans, at least, understand the “machine” of their economy is broken, needs repairs, and are willing to demand change. Here? Well Steve Jobs resigned, did you hear? Hurricane Irene is threatening the Eastern Seaboard. Oh, and Kimmy (Kardashian) is talking about a second wedding, this time in NYC …
In the Nation, Corey Robin suggests we have yet to provide a deep critique of conservatism and market fundamentalism.
We must confront this ideology head-on: not by temporizing about the riskiness or instability of the free market or by demonstrating that it (or its Republican stewards) cannot deliver growth but by mobilizing the most potent resource of the American vernacular against it. We must develop an argument that the market is a source of constraint and government an instrument of freedom. Without a strong government hand in the economy, men and women are at the mercy of their employer, who has the power to determine not only their wages, benefits and hours but also their lives and those of their families, on and off the job.
We must, in other words, change the argument from the abstractions of the free market to the very real power of the businessman. More than posing an impersonal threat to the deliberations of a democratic polity—as the progressive opposition to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision would have it, or as liberals like Paul Krugman and Hendrik Hertzberg have suggested about the unionbusting in Wisconsin—the businessman imposes concrete and personal constraints on the freedom of individual citizens. What conservatives fear above all else—more than higher taxes or lower profits—is any challenge to that power, any inversion of the obligations of deference and command, any extension of freedom that would curtail their own.
My emphasis. ”It’s long past time,” Robin argues, “for us to start talking and arguing about those first principles, especially the principle of freedom.” I couldn’t agree more.
Austerity-Mania has gripped the entirety of the nation’s political class (read: “rich white people”), and sadly allegedly liberal Maryland is no exception. Despite resisting the Republican Wave of 2010 and handly re-electing a (supposedly) liberal Democrat Governor, Maryland’s proposed 2011 budget is long on cuts in both education and public works, and extremely short of tax increases for the wealthy and corporations.
Fortunately, the resurgence in the labor movement sparked by the action in Wisconsin has also caught on here in Maryland- as many as 15,000 rank and file, leadership and progressive activists took to the streets of Annapolis and demanded that Democrats who ran on their reputation as the party of labor “Keep the Promise” and balance the budget in a way that doesn’t decimate their ranks and the collective future of the state.
Governor O’Malley, always the opportunist, appeared and quickly reminded the collected crowd (some of whom greeted him with jeers) that the Democrats value labor not for their contributions, but for their campaign money and their votes:
“Look we have tough decisions ahead of us,” O’Malley said. “But we are committed to staying at the table, and figuring this out together” with the unions, he said.
Note there were no promises to preserve pensions or find a way to balance the budget without vicious slashing of education funding and public works. While the above link claims that the crowd was disarmed, I was there and I can report that the majority in attendance were not sold. In fact, it was widely reported that union leadership had resolved not to allow politicians to participate and that the Governor’s staff simply “insisted” that O’Malley be allowed to address the crowd.
Regardless, to see a crowd in Annapolis of this size should give progressives hope that despite the platitudes of centrist hucksters like O’Malley and OFA, there is a legitimate and robust progressive movement being born in this nation- one that is not dependent on the Democrats and their agenda of surrender- one that will hopefully turn back the insane tide of austerity and redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans.
On one hand we are faced with a Corporo-Conservative assault on labor unions using their mercenary GOPper legislators in WI and elsewhere.
On the other, a cultural hegemonic front that systematically excludes Progressive views, analysis, and solutions from the mainstream media, elected office, and the history of our nation.
As Merge Left was taking form from the remains of Open Left one idea that percolated up was for us to use this site to organize members to swarm other web-sites and media outlets in a effort to push their coverage toward the left. To show them that the Right Lane is Closed!
This coming Monday morning from 9 – 11 AM (CST) we have an opportunity to swarm Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) during the Midday call-in program. The site is structured to allow non-members to stream the programs in real time and to submit questions via the website or a toll-free phone line. We can do this.
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The data is clear and indisputable.
A very few people control a huge share of the capital available in the world. The personal and/or familial fortunes of these folks are a “ceiling”. This ceiling covers the globe. By my calculation only about 30% of the top 100 are considered residents of the US. Even so, much of the discussion has been focused on the nasty ways that one or two of the US plutocrats use the riches their families have amassed. But David Koch, funder of Koch Heads across the US, only ranks #24. Now, I understand that “all politics is local” and most of us at Merge Left live in the US, so that focus is to be expected. Likewise, the emphasis of most posts on local and state level issues and actions is quite appropriate. Action and organization begin in our hometowns and Merge Left is, in a sense, our virtual hometown. The fact remains that the ceiling, the special place that the greed of the globes oligarchs has pushed them, covers the world.
For a moment, I’d like to refocus on the “floor”, the thing that underlies the ceiling, the place where 99.8% of the world’s population stands, even as we are forced (coerced?) to support the thieving bastards in the ceiling.
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Chris has the details at his new digs, whatever that place is called. There are various actions associated with this as well, particularly if you live in Wisconsin, where signatures will be required.
At this moment at the dawn of 2011 a rare alignment of instabilities is occurring. The analogy surfing through my brainpan is one of dams breaking upstream in many rivers. While each river has filled (and is filling) its “natural” flood plain, these have yet to flow together; to roil in unison. Maybe they will never find the watersheds that would push them toward each other, or maybe the connections between rivers are not found only in water flowing over rocks and dirt. After all, these connections extend through the atmosphere and are found where the climate meets the weather. For that reason, my recent posts have highlighted those of M. Stoller. because I think his analyses are an apt description of a “watershed” in the analogy that I’m currently beating to death. That labor rights and human dignity are the common foundation of the Jasmine Revolutions, the protests in Europe, and the growing movement centered in Wisconsin, USA is clear. The burst of hand-made content by those now posting here was sparked by Travis and it actively feeds forward as I post.
Travis was exactly correct, these are truly stories from the Front Lines. John has started us toward a bit longer event horizon by putting impending elections in the context of on-going events, so we have begun to gain some traction, perhaps. Even as we discuss (im)possible names for The Site to be Named Later, the steadfast dignity of the union members/supporters in WI has clearly gone viral.
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