Category Archives: Uproar

Syriza and Podemos – steps on the road

First Syriza in Greece and now Podemos in Spain. Citizens take to the streets for serious efforts to exchange the neoliberal political paradigm for a policy obviously aimed at relieving ordinary people’s grievances. The only thing one likes to ask is: what took them so long?

The answer is not too far fetched. It’s obvious that austerity measures can be pushed quite extensively in time and in suffering before people walk out in protest. Bourgeoisie politics protecting the banks and supporting the rich relies on a middle class, also hurt but not as bad as those below them, but nonetheless defending what they got by sticking to those above. And the enormous propaganda machine to beat is overwhelming.

For us who were young in the 1960s the developments in Greece and Spain evoke memories, and thus also hope for a change of direction. We know from experience that a lot can be achieved. During the 60s the traditional masters of mankind where on the defensive. In Sweden the basis was laid and laws enacted for much improved workers rights, for publicly driven child care to facilitate women’s liberation, for upgrading workers protection, for strengthening job security and for many other progressive measures. NGOs engaged in numerous different topics were growing like mushrooms and it was a vibrant atmosphere of freedom and hope for the future.

Well, the real masters didn’t wear their swords in vain. They made use of their economic power and stroke back, successfully. The period of remarkable liberation was cut rather short. As a Swedish poet and newspaper man said when the defeat seemed inevitable: now it all depends on how the left deals with its disappointment.

Well, the left didn’t deal with anything; they were overpowered by neoliberal forces mobilized among politicians, economic “scientists”, journalists and other pillars of society prepared to fight for the only ones that really profited from it all: the minuscule percentage of the rich that really owned a lot, and ended up owning almost everything. But: not all the gains were lost, the ground level was raised.

Setbacks also this time shouldn’t discourage anyone. The underlying progression is there; the human brain will in the long run prohibit unreasonable developments. We need only to look back and compare our time with any other human era to find evidence for such a trend. But with every battle new territory is gained, and the important thing is to not lose all of it in the next counterattack.

There Is No Alternative: reason will prevail!

Swedish “Pravda” avoiding important truths

The Swedish media flagship Dagens Nyheter gives us daily illustrations of some of the main thesis in Herman & Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. DN’s selection of news to publish is thoroughly conscious and consistently carried through. The purpose is apparently to keep people focused on the “right” issues (in both senses).

A demonstration against the government by a few hundred people in Moscow makes a front page headline, as does riots in eastern China and other popular manifestations directed at the correct targets. For nearly two months now DN has almost daily covered the demonstrations for democracy in Hong Kong (quite well motivated in my opinion), but during that time “forgotten” about most other instances of unrest not fitting the proper political agenda.

It could be a hazardous tactic to consciously conceal important events in that manner. Today we have access to media of all kinds on the Internet, and it may be apparent for a growing number of people that our “free media” is just as biased as state monopoly media in a non-democratic country might be.

Some recent riots haven’t appeared at all on DN’s web edition as far as I have observed (some may have been awarded half a dozen lines in the paper edition, I don’t know). US readers may think that no newspaper can be more mainstream than New York Times, but that paper is an enlightened wonder compared to DN. So instead of paying a fortune to get a provincial and biased paper in the mailbox each morning, one has access to international papers on the Internet free or almost free.

Here are some important protests and manifestations that I had to go to rt.com to read about:

Kiev October 14
A mass nationalist protest near the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev has turned violent, with 15 policemen wounded and at least 50 rioters arrested. Radicals are demanding “war veteran” status for armed nationalist rebels who fought for the Nazis in WWII.

On Tuesday afternoon, an estimated 8,000 far-right activists gathered at the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) as MPs considered a bill that would recognize members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as war veterans. Frustrated by parliament’s decision, protesters then attacked police with rocks, firecrackers, and chains.

Violent clashes outside parliament forced Speaker Aleksandr Turchinov to cancel the Rada session halfway through. Because of the “provocative actions by young people,” parliamentarians failed to consider a number of bills.

Recognition of the UPA – which has been accused of war crimes including the killings of Jews and Poles in Ukraine – and its leaders, Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich, remains a controversial issue in modern Ukraine. The country is divided between those who consider them national heroes and others who strongly oppose their cause – including WWII veterans. Tuesday marked the anniversary of the UPA, which also triggered rallies in several of Ukraine’s major cities – including Lvov, Kharkov, and Odessa.

France November 1
Riot police clashed with protesters rallying against police brutality in several French cities after the death of an ecology activist, apparently caused by a police stun grenade. At least 100 protesters were arrested and 9 people injured over the weekend.

Following the death of 21-year-old ecology protester Rémi Fraisse, rallies took place in Nantes, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux and Avignon on Saturday, as well as in Paris on Sunday.

In eastern Paris, 66 protesters were arrested as local media reported attacks on police and possession of unauthorized weapons. A crowd of protesters also staged a peaceful sit-in front of the Eiffel Tower.

The Nantes and Toulouse demos turned particularly violent, with masked and hooded protesters throwing projectiles and tearing down street signs. Security forces retaliated by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowds.

At least nine people – including four police officers – were injured in the confrontations, and 34 arrested, according to the interior ministry. Demonstrators hurled acid-filled bottles and stones at security forces, wounding an officer, Henri-Michel Comet, the regional governor, told Reuters.

Brussels November 6
Violent clashes broke out in Belgium as more than 100,000 protesters marched in Brussels against the government’s austerity measures. Police deployed water cannon as dockworkers, metalworkers and students took to the streets.

The violence flared up at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest, with tear gas deployed as some radical demonstrators hurled objects at riot police and launched attacks with the barriers against the officials. Some set off colored smoke flares. At least 14 people were taken to hospital following the violence, according to national daily HLN.be.

The Belgian government which assumed power just a month ago has caused unrest with promises to raise the retirement age, cancel a wage rise in line with inflation and cut health and social security benefits – moves that undermine the country’s welfare state.

“The signal is clear. People are angry, livid. This government’s policies are totally unbalanced,” ACV union chief Marc Leemans told Reuters.

More protests are planned, including weekly regional strikes from November 24 and a national strike for December 15. The mass-action is also seeing a work slowdown which is having a detrimental effect on public institutions such as schools and post offices, as well as the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge.

Berlin November 9
Clashes and arrests marred the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, as several hundred left-wing activists met far-rights in the city center. The latter were rallying in commemoration of the 1938 Kristallnacht Nazi attacks against Jews.

On Sunday, left-wing activists held a non-sanctioned demonstration near the capital’s Alexanderplatz train station against the fall of the Berlin Wall, while most Berliners were commemorating the 25th anniversary of the event.

Meanwhile, nationalist activists gathered for a demonstration to commemorate the attacks of the Kristallnacht – or the “Night of Broken Glass” – when in 1938 the Nazi authorities launched a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria. Police made several arrests in attempts to disperse the crowd. Following the clashes police switched to riot gear.

Mexico November 10
Protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero have torched the ruling party’s regional headquarters as part of their demonstrations to achieve justice for the 43 missing students who disappeared in September.

The attack on the regional headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) building in Chilpancingo is the latest violent protest to explode in Mexico over the incident. In a separate incident, protesters also blocked the airport in the city of Acapulco. The protests at the airport began on Monday with thousands of demonstrators blocking its entrance for three hours.

Tuesday’s protests come just three days after demonstrators attempted to storm the National Palace in Mexico City, setting the doors on fire after failing to get inside. They were eventually driven away by police, though there were a number of arrests and injuries.

Warsaw November 11
At least 276 people were arrested and just under 50 injured after clashes broke out in Warsaw. Polish nationalists took to the streets to mark the nation’s National Independence Day, throwing flares and stones at officers, who responded with water cannon.

Tens of thousands marched through the Polish capital Tuesday with many carrying the national flag, while flares and firecrackers were also let off. The march was attended by extremist nationalist groups, such as the Radical Camp and the All-Polish Youth.

For the fourth consecutive year the procession turned violent, with a group breaking away as they crossed a bridge over the Vistula river and reached the eastern bank, near the Polish national football stadium. According to Reuters, they tore up paving slabs and benches from a nearby bus station and started to throw them at police, who were dressed in riot gear.

Law enforcement officers responded by approaching the rioters and using a water cannon truck to push the marches back onto the bridge in the direction they had come. Some outlets report rubber bullets and tear gas was deployed. Up to 23 police officers and 24 protesters were wounded in the clashes, while at least 276 people were detained, according to TASS.

Italy November 14
Egg-throwing, red paint and police batons marked a fresh heating-up of countrywide protests over impending social reforms in Italy, as the striking political left was joined by other members of society in major cities.

Transportation chaos and injuries occurred in some of the country’s major commercial and cultural hubs – from Rome and Milan, through to Naples, Padua, Turin, Bergamo, Genoa, Pisa and Palermo.

The rallies are the latest in a series of protests over Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reforms – most notably the Jobs Act, which gives employers much more freedom to hire and fire employees. They are infuriating an increasingly large number of people amid an atmosphere of joblessness. There is also spillover into other complaints, including those directed at immigrants.

The largest gatherings took place in Milan, where riot police were attacked with flares, before charging the crowds with batons.

The proposed government reforms have been drawing hundreds of thousands of Italians onto the streets since October. They are taking place amid a decline in large industrial firms and dwindling public services. The reforms are expected to pass parliament by the end of the year.

Athens November 17
About a dozen people have reportedly been injured in clashes with riot police outside the US embassy in Athens following mass protests marking the 1973 revolt against the US-backed military junta, in which 40,000 people took part.

Over 70 arrests from various parts of Athens were made after clashes broke out following the mass march, according to social media sources. Police fired tear gas at groups of youths who hurled stones and plastic bottles while burning US and EU flags.

The clashes came just after 40,000 students, workers, and pensioners marched from parliament to the US embassy. The protesters – who accuse the US of backing the 1967-74 military dictatorship – shouted “EU, IMF out!” while marching. The demonstration takes place every year, with activists marching to denounce the alleged role that US intelligence agents played in the military dictatorship’s rise to power.

London November 19
Thousands of students are marching on the UK parliament on Wednesday in the biggest student action in four years. The protest, called by the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts, is demanding an end to budget cuts and to restore free education.

Contingents of students have arrived in the capital from at least 40 UK towns and cities. Further nationwide days of action have been announced throughout December

The first Tiananmen happened in South Korea, and is completely out of history

These days we may solemnize the memory of the dead in a massacre on students and other young people who had gathered in thousands to demonstrate for democracy and freedom in a harsh dictatorship. To crush this demonstration the authorities called in military troops, which carried out their orders with brute violence, killing hundreds of young people who just fought for their human rights.

The official death toll is said to be around 200, while other observers have it to be upwards of 2,000. One prominent leader behind the uproar was caught and sentenced to death. Other participants were hunted for years and had to live as outlaws hidden from attention. A remarkable novel was written describing the life in a police state for hunted students.

I’m not referring to June 4, 1989 and Tiananmen Square, but to May 18, 1980 and Gwangju in South Korea, both horrible atrocities with remarkable similarities, and with a single even more remarkable divergence. What differs between them is of course that the Chinese slaughter is well known and one we can read about everywhere these days. The South Korean counterpart is probably completely forgotten if it even was noticed at all in the West when it occurred.

In 1980 the South Korean butcher in charge was Chun Doo-hwan who had seized power through a military coup the year before. The politician who received a death sentence was Kim Dae-jung, though saved due to international pressure and allowed to leave for the US in 1982. When South Korea eventually became a democratic state Chun in turn was sentenced to death for his liquidations of adversaries. This was in 1996 and now Kim Dae-jung was the one who saved his old enemy from death. Chun is still alive, but Kim regrettably dead.

The author I mentioned is Hwang Sok-yong, and his novel The Old Garden. Hwang was imprisoned the first time in 1964 for political reasons, and then again in 1989 for visiting a writer’s conference in North Korea. He served five years of his seven years sentence when he was pardoned by the newly elected president Kim Dae-jung.

Our main daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, provides subscriber access to its archive ten years back. The keyword “Tiananmen Square” (“Himmelska fridens torg” in Swedish) results in 350 hits in that archive, all of them certainly about the 1989 massacre. “Gwangju” (“Kwangju” in Sw.) provides only one hit, and that’s an illuminating hit in itself. The city is mentioned in passing in a recent article about the current president Park Geun-hye, daughter of another dictator and butcher, Park Chung-hee. Obviously the journalist was ignorant of the importance of the conservative president holding a speech in Gwangju, something of highest significance for South Koreans.

Instrumental to silencing of the massacre in western media may have been the US involvement, not just in its strong support for the dictator Chun, but also allegedly in directly authorizing deployment of Korean troops in the operations.

Though Gwangju is the incident totally forgotten or even non-existent in our world, it’s not uncommon to describe Tiananmen as the concealed occurrence. Yesterday DN had an article written by an expert on China, under the headline “Here’s why the world chose to forget the victims in Beijing”. As from mind reading New York Times today has an op-ed entitled “Tiananmen, Forgotten”. If DN’s reminding us about the Chinese massacre almost once a week during the last decade is the same as “forget”, there’s obviously call for a redefinition of the word.

For all reasons it’s only natural that our propagandistic media has concealed the Gwangju massacre. In South Korea, on the other hand, the incident played a pivotal role for a development which eventually transformed the country into a democratic state. Thus May 18 now has been declared an official memorial day and annual ceremonies are held on this day at the Mangwol-dong cemetery in Gwangju, where victim’s bodies were buried. In 2011 UNESCO included the uprising in Gwangju in the World Memory Register (something for DN and others to remember).

It’s a good thing that we keep the atrocities on Tiananmen Square in memory, and act in every way we can to prevent similar horrors to happen in the future. But it’s a shame that we for political reasons conceal factually identical, but with proportionate measurements vastly more horrendous mass killings in the smaller country South Korea.

The stupefying partisanship that our media excels in eliminates every trace of credibility for them as judges of world events. Still they act as if they were the only reliable judges on all issues in the world. Breathtaking!