Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Toronto: The Beginning Of A Much Needed Revolt

When the New York City cops went in hammer and tongs - or rather, truncheons and pepper spray - to try and drive out the Occupy Wall Street protesters a few weeks back, they probably weren't thinking that they were about to help spark a global movement against capitalism.


Of course, the main reason why something like 1,000 cities around the world had demonstrations in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street today was because capitalism is an international system and its present crisis is also international - as is its response: austerity and immiseration for the majority of the population plus bailouts for the banks, investment houses and corporations that are the cause of the mess we find ourselves in. It is that sentiment that ultimately has driven this extraordinary year of  revolt around the world - from the revolution in Cairo, the jewel in the crown of the ongoing Arab Spring, to the general strikes and upheaval in Greece, Los Indignados in Spain, the near-general strike in Wisconsin and the upcoming public sector general strike in Britain at the end of November. Even the type of event that has provided the spark - occupying public squares in major cities, has been a common thread around the world, from Cairo to Madrid and now to the Occupy movement.

Here in Toronto it looked to me like about 2,000 people came out to march and, later, to occupy St. James  Park at Church & Adelaide in one of Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods. I didn't hear the logic behind the choice but I assume it was meant to be in solidarity with the many homeless people who live in the area, victims of a system that lets the weak and the unlucky drop off the face of the earth. I'm told that as more people came throughout the day to the rally point, with hundreds setting up tents for an extended stay, there were close to 2,000 people in attendance for the general assembly that took place this evening. I haven't yet heard what decisions were made and what the next plans are - I had to leave shortly after the march arrived at the park - but my guess is that this movement is really just getting started.

When the banking crisis really hit the fan in 2008, the speed and severity of it took people by surprise. Ben Bernanke, head of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, went to Washington and demanded a cheque for $700 billion within 48 hours or the financial system would collapse - and he got it with few protests. It has taken since then for it to become clear that our rulers don't have clue one how to stabilize the economy. And it has also become clear that their main answer - even though everyone knows who is responsible for the mess - has been to make working people around the world pay the price. The truth of that grave injustice and incompetence has had time to simmer and sink into popular consciousness. Occupy Wall Street - and Occupy Toronto, et al - is that consciousness beginning to turn into action.

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