Analyzing the Global Revolt of 2011: “SPRING CONFRONTS WINTER”

[A speculative, ponderous piece from Mike Davis, the author of Planet of Slums.  While raising the linkages within the crescendo of the still largely-spontaneous global revolts, and raising and attributing profound strategic capabilities to the many semi-organized and largely unprepared players, this internationalist review of the explosive dynamics of the revolts of 2011+ bears scrutiny both as description and as projection of pregnant possibilities. — Frontlines ed.]

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New Left Review 72, November-December 2011 

mike davis, author of Planet of Slums

mike davis, New Left Review editorial

In great upheavals, analogies fly like shrapnel. The electrifying protests of 2011—the on-going Arab spring, the ‘hot’ Iberian and Hellenic summers, the ‘occupied’ fall in the United States—inevitably have been compared to the anni mirabiles of 1848, 1905, 1968 and 1989. Certainly some fundamental things still apply and classic patterns repeat. Tyrants tremble, chains break and palaces are stormed. Streets become magical laboratories where citizens and comrades are created, and radical ideas acquire sudden telluric power. Iskra becomes Facebook. But will this new comet of protest persist in the winter sky or is it just a brief, dazzling meteor shower? As the fates of previous journées révolutionnaires warn us, spring is the shortest of seasons, especially when the communards fight in the name of a ‘different world’ for which they have no real blueprint or even idealized image.

But perhaps that will come later. For the moment, the survival of the new social movements—the occupiers, the indignados, the small European anti-capitalist parties and the Arab new left—demands that they sink deeper roots in mass resistance to the global economic catastrophe, which in turn presupposes—let’s be honest—that the current temper for ‘horizontality’ can eventually accommodate enough disciplined ‘verticality’ to debate and enact organizing strategies. It’s a frighteningly long road just to reach the starting points of earlier attempts to build a new world. But a new generation has at least bravely initiated the journey.

Will a deepening economic crisis, now engulfing much of the world, necessarily speed a global renewal of the Left? The ‘bullet points’ that follow are my speculations. Designed to instigate debate, they’re simply a thinking-out-loud about some of the historical specificities of the 2011 events and the outcomes they could shape in the next few years. The underlying premise is that Act Two of the drama will entail mostly winter scenes, played out against the backdrop of the collapse of export-led economic growth in the bric countries as well as continuing stagnation in Europe and the United States. Continue reading