“Globalization” Is Coming Home: With Eyes Focused On Wall Street, Major Protest Plans Grow In Europe

“Globalization” Is Coming Home: With Eyes Focused On Wall Street, Major Protest Plans Grow In Europe

It’s almost bedtime here in London, but Facebook is up and at it. Almost every post that appears in my news feed is about #occupywallstreet, and old and new friends have been contacting me all week asking if I will be at my home town Baltimore’s own version, which began on Tuesday.

But I am still in Europe, finishing a two-month tour of 12 European countries, many of which are alive with talk about what’s happening in New York.

An old friend I haven’t spoken with in ten years has friend-requested me with a message wondering if I have any advice for her to “plug back in” to activism. Another friend has posted an update from a 1,000-strong “Occupy Philly” planning meeting in Philadelphia.

A friend from Sweden has asked what my thoughts are on the Wall Street protest, and a friend in Italy has messaged me to let me know about the October 15 call. “It’s spreading”, she says.

Indeed, with protest camps now growing across the United States, a major call for similar gatherings to take place starting October 15 is gaining strength across Europe and in other parts of the world.

The call, first initiated by the Indignados, the name adopted by the movement that arose in May 15 across Spain and brought hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets against austerity measures and budget cuts, is online at http://15october.net.

As the calls spreads, over a hundred Indignados have just arrived after a 2 1/2 month-long march from Spain to setup camp outside of the EU summit in Brussels.

“Anti-Globalization” Comes Home

Exactly ten years ago, a “European Summer” saw massive protests in Gothenburg, Barcelona, Salzburg, and Genoa, against “neoliberalism”, the corporate economic system behind what is commonly called “globalization.” Emphasizing the privatization of public services and resources and the removal of environmental and human rights regulations deemed “barriers to trade”, neoliberal globalization has been widely recognized for exacerbating the gulf between rich and poor on a global scale.

The 2001 protests were the largest and most brutal events in the Global North of what was dubbed by the media as the “anti-globalization” movement, which first caught the public’s eyes in the Global North in Seattle at the end of 1999 when the World Trade Organization’s summit was shut-down by 50,000 people.

The European Summer would see three protesters shot by the police in Gothenburg, and in Genoa, 21 year-old Carlo Giuliani would be shot twice in the face and then run over by a police truck, killing him instantly.

The echoes of these events can still be heard throughout Europe, especially among those who experienced the traumatic police repression or served jail time over their role in the events. A few weeks ago I saw a beautiful stencil memorial to Carlo in a hallway of one of Austria’s last political squats, just one reminder that the political memory of these uprisings is very much part of the fabric of the European autonomous left.

But there’s a much louder echo being heard in Europe right now, the echo of corporate-globalization itself. And like last decade, a rage that has built up over many years is beginning to emerge in the form of a mass, loosely coordinated social movement.

In Europe, young and old alike have been facing the dissolution of what have long been considered staples of western European countries; England’s health care system is on the privatization block; the right to squat abandoned houses is being stripped in England and The Netherlands; the International Monetary Fund has tightened its grip on Greece, Ireland, and Portugal with increasing austerity measures, and tuition rates for students across the continent are rising dramatically.

Alongside these economic conditions, increasingly militarized immigration restrictions into what has been dubbed “Fortress Europe” stand as a drastic reminder that money and products, but not people, travel freely into and out of neoliberal economies.

In short, “globalization” is coming home to the countries that helped create it. The rich economies of the global north, which long relied on the exploitation of southern peoples and economies, are coming under the same restrictions they once imposed on the rest of the world.

Though many poor people in these countries have long suffered from domestic exploitation, this wave of budgets cuts threatens to expose new, harsher realities for both the poor and middle-classes.

This is where this movement comes from; from Tunis to Wisconsin and back over to Barcelona, similar economic shifts caused by integration into the “global economy” have brought millions into the streets because the economic situations facing them are threatening to put millions more into poverty.

Ryan Harvey is a Baltimore-based independent journalist and grassroots historian. His writings are posted at his blog, Even If Your Voice Shakes . He is also an organizer with the Civilian-Soldier Alliance and a member of the Riot-Folk musician collective.