To survive, we need intersectional solidarity | Workers rights


On Friday, December 1, two protest marches met in central London in what felt like a magical moment. A few thousand striking university professors had just arrived in the British Parliament in Westminster after marching from the Bloomsbury neighborhood, when about a thousand teenagers from the Extinction Rebellion arrived on a parallel street and the two protests joined.

The university strikers stopped and, in solidarity, stood up and applauded when the two protests merged. University professors and teenagers began to walk together for the last 100 meters to Parliament Square.

For the attendees, the merger of the two protests made perfect sense. After all, the forces that undermine higher education in the United Kingdom by boosting the commercialization of British universities are the same that drive the current climate crisis.

They are also responsible for the socio-economic and political turmoil that in recent months has pushed people from all over the world to the streets: from France and the United Kingdom to Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, through India and Hong Kong, to Colombia and Chile.

Clearly, each protest is unique and carries its own set of demands. Complaints may differ, but there are also some very powerful forces that link many of these manifestations. And it is vital that we begin to see these common patterns.

Connecting the dots

As protesters in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Southeast Asia are pushing against austerity, abuse of power by corrupt regimes and growing authoritarianism, it is important to remember that these forces are often connected with the brutal imposition of the neoliberal principles of privatization and deregulation.

In the United Kingdom, 40,000 staff members in 60 universities went on strike from November 25 to December 4 to protest against harmful pension reforms and persistent gender and race wage gaps, so that male colleagues Whites, on average, are paid 15 percent more than their women. counterparts and 9 percent more than colleagues of color. More than 50 percent of the workforce has no permanent contracts, while salaries across the sector have declined by an amazing 17 percent in real terms since 2009.

While inequality and informalization among university staff are part of much broader trends in the workforce that ultimately aim to increase profits for a few at the expense of undermining job security and reducing wages for many, marketing of universities in the United Kingdom began seriously with the introduction of tuition fees in 2009, followed by the adoption of "management models of private and especially public sector corporations."

Institutions that are supposed to cultivate thinking and encourage the search for truth (veritas), now treat students as consumers, teachers as service providers, while the university's management class is pocketed with heavy salaries, which sometimes reach half a million pounds.

Such changes are part of the global processes. Today, the six richest people in the United Kingdom control as much wealth as the poorest 13 million. In the last 10 years, multi-million dollar profits have skyrocketed everywhere as entire populations become disposable and the earth warms.

And the situation is similar in countries around the world.

In Chile, for example, protesters protest against the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions, which can be directly linked to the legacies of the privatization policies of the dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet and the programs introduced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This is also the case in Lebanon, where corrupt politicians have pocketed millions while ravaging the country. The IMF has also participated here, demanding structural adjustments.

In fact, in many countries, people are filling the streets due to the growing fury over the effects of neo-liberal economic and political policies, even if these effects manifest themselves differently and unequally throughout the world. Neoliberal policies are predatory and extractive, which allows a small minority to prosper while the rest of the population suffers.

Neoliberalism has also facilitated the emergence of reactionary, ultra-nationalist and ethnocratic governments that are also deniers of climate change. From Brazil to India and back to the United States, governments are deregulating environmental protections at the same time when the United Nations issues warnings about the impending climate catastrophe and urges nations to urgently transform their economies to reduce gases of greenhouse effect and change to a sustainable system. Energy.

Thus, neoliberalism operates as a kind of nihilistic colonization force, where profits triumph over people, undermining civil society and weakening democratic processes and institutions while promoting the introduction of policies that will engender a climate holocaust.

It is also what links many of the strikes and protests around the world: from the extinction rebellion and the South Western Rail strike in the United Kingdom and the massive strike against pension reforms in France to student strikes at the University Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi, India and Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan and the union strike in Bogotá, Colombia.

Creating intersectional solidarity

The congregation of university strikers along with rebel militants of extinction in Parliament Square should be seen as part of a further increase in mass civil protests that have spread throughout the world, and it is precisely the prospect of establishing connections between different struggles and activists which gives us glimmers of hope.

Given the incredibly powerful forces we face today, it may be more vital than ever that we recognize how the hundreds of daily protests that take place around the world are part of a growing transnational movement that is fighting, each in their separate countries. , against the imminent devastation that will finally be of planetary scale.

However, the next step is to find new ways to create intersectional ties and demonstrate solidarity across national borders. We have witnessed how social networks can facilitate this, such as when Miriam Barghouti, a Palestinian-American writer and student at Birzeit University in the West Bank, sent a message of support. cheep to African-American protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, who were being spent by police with riot gear: "Always make sure you run against the wind / stay calm when you have tear gas, pain will pass, don't rub your eyes! # Ferguson Solidarity. "

But there are many, many other examples on which we can build: from the Native Americans who fly the Palestinian flag at the Oceti Sakowin Standing Rock Camp to our colleagues who march with a sign of solidarity for the students protesting in Lahore.

We need to continue using all the various places at our disposal to learn from each other and deepen this type of alliances. Social networks are clearly key, as they allow us to establish immediate connections between railway workers in the United Kingdom, students in Lahore and feminist activists in India, and can mediate expressions of solidarity and support across different sectors and political boundaries But we must also bear in mind that although cyberactivism can facilitate change, it is by no means sufficient.

Historically, a significant economic and political transformation has only occurred when masses of people have performed in concert within the public sphere and threaten the factual powers. When environmental activists, students, railway workers, caregivers, street cleaners, migrant workers and teachers unite against the forces that destroy the possibility of a decent life for the vast majority of the population, it will be extremely difficult to stop.

While recent events, from Tahir Square in Baghdad to Parliament Square in London, have taught us that even mass protests are no guarantee, these types of civil uprisings are perhaps our best hope. In fact, our future, and any future on this planet, may well depend on them.

University professors on strike in the UK hold a poster in solidarity with students in Lahore, Pakistan, demonstrating the right to form student unions (Courtesy of Catherine Rottenberg / Al Jazeera)

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.