The number of serious revolts erupting across the globe is growing. Many protests sparked by a specific issue quickly turn into more general challenges to the system.
In Lebanon, huge protests began last week against a plan to make people pay taxes on WhatsApp calls. Within days demonstrators were chanting, “Revolution, revolution.”
In Chile, a plan to raise Metro fares saw big demonstrations and the burning down of stations. It follows years of growing inequality. Protester Constanza Gonzalez said, “People are angry and this had been coming for a long time.”
In Hong Kong, protests that have grown into a pro-democracy movement are into their 20th week.
Other protests recently erupted in Catalonia, Ecuador, Haiti, Iraq and Egypt. In every one there is a sense that people have reached the limit of what they will put up with.
The revolts come a decade after an economic crash that ushered in savage austerity. Wages have been cut, services slashed, pensions ransacked and jobs lost.
We are often told that this system is the most efficient and fair way to run society. But the crash hit the legitimacy of capitalism.
Even the system’s defenders admitted it had failed. And the austerity they claimed would fix things has failed too.
It hasn’t stopped economic crisis—it has just let the rich get richer while we suffer. The obscene inequality between rich and poor has become more obvious to more people. And they don’t trust politicians who have repeatedly failed them.
Britain hasn’t seen anything like the same scale of revolt. But recent Extinction Rebellion actions and protests against Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament give a glimpse of people’s discontent.
In some places, the right has capitalised on this. Right wingers pretend they are resisting an out of touch elite—even those who are part of that elite, such as Donald Trump. But when it seems that no one else cares, they can win support.
We should celebrate the revolts—and do more.
Protest movements face repression from the police, the courts and sometimes armies. Too often, reformist leaders steer movements in directions that stop any real change. There is a battle of ideas, and too often the far right and fascists are gaining.
The global revolt shows the potential of ordinary people to organise and resist.
Protesters who say the problem is the system are right. Capitalism means war, inequality, racism, corruption and climate chaos.
To get rid of it we need movements that won’t compromise with the right, revolutionary organisation and a socialist revolution.