First we had the Arab Spring then the European Summer. The American Autumn manifested itself in the Occupy Wall St. Movement.
Welcome the Russian Winter.
Saturday nearly 35,000 young, mostly university-educated protesters, the new Russian middle class, gathered in Moscow in peaceful demonstration. Reportedly, a police presence on the order of 50,000 greeted them. But still they came and marched to voice opposition to Russia’s recent election results. Vladimir Putin’s party won the parliamentary election after multiple reports of election fraud and ballot box stuffing. For instance, in Chechnya [hardly a place of Putin-love] the party pulled 94% of the vote. Putin has announced his plans to run in Russia’s March presidential elections to the dismay of many citizens, who charge that fraud and corruption run rampant throughout the country’s political system.
Demonstrators, donning white ribbons, marched in various cities around the country to say: Enough is enough.
Dismissed by the official Russian press, the white ribbon demonstrators were ignored by state television, which focused on small, flag-waving pro-Putin groups. How did the word get out? Social media—Facebook and twitter.
In an attempt to disrupt the protests, Russian authorities circulated rumors that young men present at the rallies could be stopped by police and conscripted into the army. Health officials reportedly warned citizens to stay home for fear of contracting a virulent flu or Sars. Twitter feeds were jammed and robo-calls flooded phone lines with messages of state propaganda.
Sound vaguely familiar?
How much press is OWS getting today with its West coast port demonstrations? How many words have been spent denigrating protesters as un-American losers, slackers, even dangerous criminals? Let’s not forget the MSM’s reluctance to cover OWS, the strange lack of network film footage during police actions, particularly as the encampments were dismantled. Twitter feeds jammed, cameras turned off.
Still, the world is watching. The world is pushing back. Everywhere.
For the past few weeks, as the protests in Tunisia spread to Egypt and then to several other countries, I’ve been reminded of the worldwide political uprisings that took place back in 1968, “the year that rocked the world.” Now that we are even seeing Americans protesting in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus, Ohio, I wonder: could it happen again?
In case you weren’t around in 1968 or your memory is fuzzy, the Guardian published a summary of some of the events of that unbelievable year back in 2008. Sean O’Hagen describes how in May 1968, Paris
…was paralysed after weeks of student riots followed by a sudden general strike. France’s journey from ‘serenity’ to near revolution in the first few weeks of May is the defining event of ‘1968’, a year in which mass protest erupted across the globe, from Paris to Prague, Mexico City to Madrid, Chicago to London.
These rebellions were not planned in advance, nor did the rebels share an ideology or goal. The one cause many had in common was opposition to America’s war in Vietnam but they were driven above all by a youthful desire to rebel against all that was outmoded, rigid and authoritarian. At times, they gained a momentum that took even the protagonists by surprise. Such was the case in Paris, which is still regarded as the most mythic near-revolutionary moment of that tumultuous year, but also in Mexico City, Berlin and Rome.
In these cases, what began as a relatively small and contained protest against a university administration – a protest by the young and impatient against the old and unbending – burgeoned into a mass movement against the government. In other countries – like Spain, where the Fascist General Franco was still in power, and Brazil, where a military dictatorship was in place – the protests were directed from the start against the state. In Warsaw and Prague, the freedom movements rose up briefly against the monolithic communist ideology of the USSR. And in America, capitalism was the ultimate enemy, and Vietnam the prime catalyst.
Those protests, along with revolutions in music, art, fashion, and mores truly changed the world. Could it be happening again? Have we really reached a tipping point?
I thought I’d just put up some links to the important events that have taken place today in the many ongoing protests. You can add your own links in the comments (if anyone else is still awake).
More below the fold….