In 2011 the world witnessed a surge of protests largely concentrated in Middle Eastern countries suffering from widespread hunger, poverty, unemployment and political corruption. As I noted in an op-ed at that time, though the uprisings may have differences in specific characteristics and regional contexts, they are linked to a wider movement against neoliberalism and likely to continue as long as such policies remained in place. Unfortunately, implementation of neoliberal policies including resource privatization, deregulation, regressive taxation, bailouts and austerity cuts remain the primary agenda of the transnational ruling class. Supporters of neoliberalism would like us to believe their philosophy promotes political freedom and prosperity and it does, for a relatively small percentage of the population. For the vast majority, neoliberalism tends to have the opposite effect. So it’s no surprise that in June of 2013 a new wave of uprisings has emerged.
On June 1, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in dozens of European cities in Germany, Spain and Portugal because of European Central Bank and IMF loans requiring governments of those countries to enact austerity cuts to rein in debt.
Brazil experienced a wave of massive protests triggered by bus fare increases that went into effect on June 1, a tipping point for longstanding social tensions stemming from mass poverty, economic inequity, political corruption, lack of social services and regressive taxation.
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Massive protests began in Istanbul on May 28 when occupiers trying to prevent the demolition of a public square to make space for a mall were brutally evicted. Subsequent strikes and demonstrations were staged across Turkey and by allies in other countries throughout the month of June addressing a range of concerns including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, police violence, and privatization of public land and resources.
On June 28, tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi clashed with each other and police. 2 people were killed and at least 90 people were injured, but even larger demonstrations are expected to occur on June 30, the one year anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration. Opposition to Morsi stems from ongoing social, economic, and political problems that many hoped would be solved with the ouster of the Mubarak regime. In preparation for the June 30 actions, the U.S. has deployed 400 riot control soldiers to Egypt while John Kerry recently announced the continuation of $1.3 billion in annual military aid despite the Egyptian government’s documented police violence, human rights violations and secret military tribunals for civilians.
Besides being reactions to destructive neoliberal policies, another shared factor connecting uprisings around the world is the increasing accessibility and effective use of evolving communications technologies. Not only do they allow for more rapid and widespread sharing of information for organizing actions, as a source for unfiltered history and news it gives people a deeper understanding of political and economic power and its abuse. This would inevitably build distrust and resentment towards governments and transnational corporations. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the story dominating U.S. corporate news in June was the hunt for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Rather than speculate about where Snowden is, whether he’s a criminal or what his motives were, as corporate media obsessively does, a more important question to ask is: why does the National Security Agency through Project PRISM need to wiretap the world? Such an operation would be more effective at acquiring political/economic leverage, suppressing investigative reporting and preventing the types of social movements occurring around the world from spreading to the U.S. than fighting terrorism. Then again, why wouldn’t a corrupt establishment with zero accountability denounce anything opposing it as “terrorism”?