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'Global May' on the launch pad

A year after the Arab Spring found its echo in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, where a massive people’s assembly took control of the famous square, a new “Global May” is scheduled for an international launch tomorrow.

In Madrid, Barcelona and other cities in Spain, the demand for “real democracy now” found a response from hundreds of thousands of people angry with a political system that identified with financial and corporate interests.

The slogan “don’t vote for them”, directed against the major political parties, expressed a contempt for a sham democracy that had degenerated in its brief, 35-year existence since the end of fascism.

Simultaneous new occupations and assemblies are planned tomorrow in dozens of countries in a bid to stimulate the movement that took off last autumn, which saw camps created on Wall Street, outside St Paul’s cathedral and in hundreds of cities worldwide.

An attempt to give the May 12 movement some direction has resulted in an extensive  
statement drawn up collaboratively by people’s assemblies and other networks over some months.

Acknowledged as a “hard and long process, full of compromises”, the statement, to its merit, is offered to “people’s assemblies around the world for discussions, revisions and endorsements”.

A clear concession made to reach consensus is that while the statement identifies the system in general as a problem, it refrains from using the term “capitalism” once in 2,000 words. This weakens its analysis, which tends to rely on moral terms like “greed” for explanations. Nor is there regard in the statement for the global economic crisis that is driving politics everywhere. Nevertheless, the statement is right when it declares:

We are living in a world controlled by forces incapable of giving freedom and dignity to the world’s population (if, indeed, they ever were). A world where we are told ‘there is no alternative’ to the loss of rights achieved through the long, hard struggles of our ancestors…. We condemn the current distribution of economic resources whereby only a tiny minority escape poverty and insecurity. Whereby future generations are condemned to a poisoned legacy thanks to the environmental crimes of the rich and powerful. ‘Democratic’ political systems, where they exist, have been emptied of meaning, put to the service of those few interested in increasing the power of corporations and financial institutions, regardless of the fate of the planet and its inhabitants.

Nor can one disagree with the statement when it says that “the economy must be put to the service of people’s welfare, and to support and serve the environment, not private profit” or that to achieve these objectives, people “must get democratic control over financial institutions, transnational corporations and their lobbies”.

The statement’s insistence that the movement does not “make demands on governments, corporations or members of parliament, which some of us see as illegitimate, unaccountable or corrupt” is commendable. But this is somewhat undermined by a series of demands about taxation, regulation and the reduction of military spending “to a minimum”.

These contradictions undoubtedly reflect debate and discussion about where a movement that includes people’s assemblies, democracy campaigns and occupations, is heading.

Some favour a sustained period of direct actions, and other forms of militancy that are essentially protests about aspects of the status quo. They imply that the existing political and economic system (aka capitalism) can be made to yield and change its ways. There is absolutely no evidence of this happening now or in the future.

Others acknowledge that the system itself is the problem and are willing to discuss how a transition is made from A to whatever B might look like. Ultimately, it’s the age-old question of reform or revolution. That, you can be sure, will loom large over all the actions that we will see from tomorrow.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
11 May 2012

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