Are anarchist protests harbingers of fascism?greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
Perhaps some of you noticed that last week thousands of young anarchists, protestors, radicals, and assorted malcontents gathered in Prague to protest the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund. According to the Prague Independent Media Center, at one point protesters manged to break into the lobby of the building in which the delegates were meeting and for a few painful moments actually confronted the delgates, who were staring at them with horror from a balcony. The police quickly dispersed the protesters (from the "Yellow Group" -- apparently Italians, Spainards, etc.) from the building.
Interestingly, had this been 1911, it seems conceivable that bonafide anarchists might have actually assaulted the delegates. Who knows?
In any case, it strikes me that no one seems very interested or troubled about what occurred in Prague or Seattle amongst "our youth of today." Most of them are protesting peacefully. But several are also donning handkerchiefs and gas masks, throwing rocks at police, breaking into buildings, smashing windows, and shutting down global meetings. On a large scale.
After seeing only a few fleeting images of Prague on the nightly news, a couple of thoughts crossed my mind that I wanted to throw out for discussion.
1. The major media has steadfastly ignored the protests in Philadelphia, L.A., and Prague. The media obviously wishes to keep the "success" of the Prague protests quiet (the IMF meeting closed early, as did the WTO meeting in Seattle). Why do you suppose the Prague protests were bypassed by the mainstream media? (Note: I don't have cable TV, so if the Prague protests were covered extensively on cable, it would be interesting to hear from someone who watched it how they were treated.)
2. If you had to sum up what you thought was the overriding principle behind the protesters' motivation and mentality, how would you do so? In other words, what, in a nutshell, do you think these protests are about?
3. Protests are occurring so frequently and on such a large scale that they seem to represent a genuine "zeitgeist" -- simultaneous occurrences of contemporary phemonmena, or the "spirit of the time." Do you suppose this zeitgeist will mushroom, or is it merely a flash in the pan?
4. If protests grow increasingly frequent, with the levels of violence witnessed in Prague escalating, will this lead inevitably to a fascist response on the part of governments? Civil rights and legal groups have already chronicled and condemned the overdeveloped militarism displayed in Seattle, LA, etc. They have also pointed out that basic constitutional rights were thrown over for the sake of controlling largely peaceful crowds, at least in America.
What are the implications of increasingly violent protests, increasingly militant and heavily militarized police response, and suspension and violation of civil constitutional rights to maintain public order?
5. Before WWI broke out, there were throughout Europe several mass protests of workers and anarchists. Do you suppose contemporary mass uprisings might also serve as a harbinger of some new political or historical epoch? Or, do contemporaneously occurring mass protests invariably point to some brewing global conflict or warfare yet to occur?
-- Celia Thaxter (email@example.com), October 01, 2000
Will it lead to fascism? It has already.
PRAGUE - September 28 -- In addition to the mass denial of the legal rights, individuals have faced extreme brutality in Czech Jails. Paul Rosenthal from Seattle Washington who was released this morning from the Olsanska jail in Prague after forty hours states, "What is happening inside the Czech jails is more than frightening. People have no rights, they are being beaten severely, they are disappearing. Women are being forced to strip in front of male guards and perform exercises. People with serious medical problems have been denied help." The following are accounts confirmed by people that have been released from jail: Women have been strip searched by male officers and have been forced to perform physical exercises for their enjoyment. Many individuals are being denied water, food, and sleep; some are able to get food only if they pay guards, women and fascists are more likely to get water. Many people released have reported that before reaching police stations, officers took individuals to isolated areas and beat them severely. Two Norwegians that went to a police station on Prisparni Street near Vlatavska to report a stolen mobile phone witnessed behind briefly opened doors that a number of people were handcuffed to the wall and being beaten severely. This has also been confirmed by many reports from released persons that in the processing rooms groups of 40 to 60 people were asked to spread-eagle while they were beaten, heads were knocked back, legs were kicked in, and numbers of men had their groins twisted or punched. Additionally people handcuffed were tossed down stairs. There is one report that 22 people were crammed into a 4 square meter cell. 30 People were detained at the Olsanska jail in an outdoor courtyard overnight with no blankets or food. They were later moved to Balkova near Pilsen. Two Germans that were detained in Lupacova, Praha 3 on Wednesday for approximately eight hours were held with an Israeli, an American, a German, and an Italian. The Israeli had been beaten severely, had difficulty walking, a black eye, and likely had a broken rib. He has been denied medical attention. People with diabetes were not fed, people that needed medication were not given it, the British Embassy had to intervene to get medication into the jail. A Norwegian woman held in jail with 30 other women witnessed a German woman with a badly injured leg where medics were denied. Right to legal representation and advice, right to interpreters, right to food and water, right to basic medical attention, and the right to a phone call have all been ignored on a widespread scale. Czechs and Israelis are being beaten more drastically and are being detained longer. Many internationals are being moved from local stations to Balkova near Pilsen, which has one of the worst human rights records in the Czech Republic.
-- Keck (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 01, 2000.
Some of the protesters might say that the facism already exists, and that is what they are protesting. The way the government responds to their protests just proves their point, is what they would say.
-- (email@example.com), October 02, 2000.
1. The media hardly ignored the protests. In Washington, there were local protests that got extensive coverage in additon to the protests in Prague.
2. That's the problem I have with these protests. There is no overriding principle. It seems that everyone who has any kind of cause is welcome.
3. I hope it is a flash in the pan.
4. The crowds have hardly been peaceful. In Washington, they verbally assaulted people walking down the street, blocked traffic, and lit bonfires in stolen dumpsters. That was mild compared to Seattle. I wouldn't call blocking traffic and harassing people non-violent.
5. These protests are organized, loosely, but organized. There is no mass popular movement supporting them. Most of the organizers are seasoned anti-capitalists, many are anarchists.
-- Buddy (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 02, 2000.
If you go beyond the idea of whether the protesters are "legitimate" in their aims and claims, do you think the protests signal some kind of radical change on the world horizon in the way government or countries will operate? (I realize this is a speculative question.)
These protests are unusual in that there is admittedly no overriding "umbrella" philosophy. They aren't just about Vietnam or nuclear weapons. They encompass a wide assortment of disparate, complex issues.
If you think about it, it may be to the protesters' credit that they have refused an overriding ideology. Their only commitment as a whole seems to be to operate as independently of the media as possible, and to make decisions in a strictly egalitarian fashion. They have resolutely refused to accept any one leader or any one agenda. Further, they are made up of a melange of nationalities, certainly a novel historical phenomenon.
I wonder if we don't place too high a value on consistency anyway. People like to point fingers at Al Gore, for example, and accuse him of "inconsistency," but I'd prefer to have a president whose mind is fluid and flexible enough to change position and see all options than a presidential mind that sticks to one agenda only because to deviate would brand him as "inconsistent." Whenever a politician is enamored of an ideology, I am suspicious.
Back to the protests. Even if we agreed that the aims of protesters were loose and ill-focused, does it appear at all ominous that they are occurring more frequently and in larger numbers? I'm simply wondering if these protets correlate to other historical events that were preceded by mass uprisings.
-- Celia Thaxter (email@example.com), October 02, 2000.
Your final paragraph mirrors some of my own thoughts. I also find it regretful that most Americans' understanding of the World wars seems to be at the level of 'we won'. Period.
-- flora (***@__._), October 02, 2000.
Hard to say--
I think you're right. I think that the youthful protesters see a fascism there that we cannot or will not see. Although after studying the documents that came out of Seattle, I think I see it more clearly. Several constitutional rights were blatently violated. But that's another story.
I want to give these youthful protesters the benefit of the doubt, despite the violent and meaningless eruptions of a minority of "anarchists." Why do I want to trust these youths? Mostly because of an essay I read recently by Randolph Bourne, which convinced me that youth will always be ascendent over the middle aged in visionary power. (All the young protesters should read Bourne.) He wrote:
There is no scorn as fierce as that of youth for the inertia of older men. The lack of adjustment to the ideas of youth's elders and betters, one of the permanent tragedies of life, is certainly the most sensational aspect of youth. That the inertia of the older people is wisdom, and not impotence, is a theory that you will never induce youth to believe for an instant. The stupidity and cruelties of their management of the world fill youth with an intolerant rage....
Old men cherish a fond delusion that there is something mystically valuable in mere quanity of experience. Now the fact is, of course, that it is the young people who have all the really valuable experience. It is they who have constantly to face new situations, to react constantly to new aspects of life, who are getting the whole beauty and terror and cruelty of the world in its fresh and undiluted purity. It is only the interpretation of this first collision with life that is worth anything. For the weakness of experience is that it so soon gets sterotyped; without new situations and crises it becomes so conventional as to be practically unconscious. Very few people get any really new experience after they are twenty-five, unless there is a real change of environment. Most older men live only in the experience of their youthful years....
Therefore, it is perhaps unfair to say that the older generation rules the world. Youth rules the world, but only when it is no longer young. It is a tarnished, travestied youth that is in the saddle in the person of middle age. Old age lives in the delusion that it has improved and rationalized its youthful ideas by experience and stored- up wisdom, when all it has done is to damage them more or less--- usually more. And the tragedy of life is that the world is run by these damaged ideals. That is why our ideas are always a generation behind our acutal social conditions. Press, pulpit, and bar teem with the radicalisms of thirty years ago. The dead hand of opinions formed in their college days clutches our leaders and directs their acitvities in this new and strangely altered physical and spiritual environment. Hence grievous friction, maladjustment, social war. And the faster society moves, the more terrific is the divergence between what is actually going on and what public opinion thinks is actually going on. It is only the young who are actually contemporaneous; they interpret what they see freshly and without prejudice; their vision is always the truest, and their interpretation always the justest.
Youth does not simply repeat the errors and delusions of the past, as the elder generation with a tolerant cynicism likes to think; it is ever laying the foundations for the future. What it thinks so wildly now will be orthodox gospel thirty years hence. The ideas of the young are the living, the potential ideas; those of the old, the dying or the already dead. This is why it behooves youth to be not less radical, but even more radical, than it would naturally be.
("Youth," Atlantic Monthly, April 1912)
-- Celia Thaxter (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 02, 2000.
Right flora. What are the causes that lead to war? How are wars prevented? What are the protests telling us about where the world may be headed?
Thus far we have seen a lack of response on the part of those who could do the most to address the protesters' issues -- those running for office, those in political office, those corporations who do multinational business, big media outlets, etc.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that Ralph Nader's huge crowds (10,000 in Portland, 12,000 in Minnesota, 10,000 in Seattle, 12,000 in Boston) seem to mimic the protests in composition (mostly younger, somewhat educated, somewhat affluent). Yet the percentage of voters that support Nader nationally is only about 4 percent. Can 4 percent of the population have any real effect on the way politics is conducted?
I think it can, if only in show of force and intensity of purpose. Nader can boast the most passionate following, the most loyal and the most outspoken in this race. Likewise, though the protesters may only constitute a small minority, their claims are loud and persistent enough to disrupt trade meetings and civil society, though not in any lasting way.
I'm looking at the energy underneath these protests, trying to figure out what is driving these people and to what lengths they will go to to make their points. The response of police to their actions is growing ever more brutal, militarized, and controlled. I think the way these protesters are being treated by the police and within jails deserves the closest scrutiny if we care about protecting our civil freedoms.
-- Celia Thaxter (email@example.com), October 02, 2000.