Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 30 Demonstration - The Israeli Middle Class takes the streets

It's definitely getting interesting over here. The march and demonstration on Saturday's night was the biggest till now. Other demonstrations and rallies took place in all the main cities. The newspapers say 150K people were present. It is 2% of the Israeli population!

This time we could feel for the first time a significant presence of right wing people. They were there before, but this time is was very notable. As one of them told me - an executive in a software company: "at the beginning I thought it is an issue led by leftists in order to overthrow the right wing government. Now I understand it's a matter of all the people. You see, he continued - I would like an American economy - low taxes - but if I'm paying taxes so high here, I'd like at least to get the benefits of a welfare state".

Every Israeli was educated that the aim of our society is to do things differently, to be a just societey, to put the education in the center, to respect the old and poor. It seems now that the general conscience has awaken and it is pointing a finger towards the government - toward the system.

The leaders of this movement keep voicing vague demands, though obviously very costy: free education, free health care, accessible housing, abolition of outsourcing for low income salaries, better payment for teachers, policemen, fire-fighters, social workers, stopping the brutal privatization (for an instance of the education system) and turning back the wheel of stripping of the state's responsibility for social issues and entrusting it to private civil society associations.

What I am missing now, is the understanding of the people in the street that while they come to the government with material demands  they keep playing the game of money in which the government and the finances ministry bureaucrats are much better. On the other hand, the global system is capitalist, if the government will accept all the changes our economy will not probably gain points in the international market.

So, what is needed is a values' shift. A true commitment of government and citizens to make a  change. A change of values, of what's important, of commitment in our own behavior and thinking to bring the change.

The government in a democracy like ours is after all a mirror view of the public.

[gallery orderby="rand"]





Doubts in UK and USA: Two articles worth reading and contemplating

Food for thought. Not everything is comparable world wide, but it is certainly cheering  me up that people think, doubt and analyze.

UK, The Telegraph: I'm starting to think that the Left might actually be right

USA, The Wall Street Journal: Why Americans Are So Angry



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why in English

We got several comments asking why are we writing in English, which is neither Jaun's nor mine mother tounge.

Well, that's a simple one. English is the current lingua franca and we'd like this evolving discussion to be available to as many people as possible. We believe the left has left people all over the world, and this is our way to communicate worldwide and try to break these boundaries.

We are still sad that this may make the texts unavailable to some Spanish and Hebrew speakers, but currently we don't have the resources to maintain this humble blog in more than one language.



The manifestations in Israel go on

The manifestation last Saturday was amazing. It's the first time ever that organizations of all different types combined effort.Yet, it was still a strong manifestation only in Tel Aviv and the organizations were center-left (from greens to communists).

The past week was amazing. It started with various protest movements joining forces: the tents people manifesting all over the country for the cost of life, the physicians, the students, the diary products cost protest, the fuel cost protest and political movements who made their best to assist without getting in the light spots.

The government made a great offer to the students organizations trying to neutralize them and maneuver them out of the manifestations. The physicians were threatened by a court decision, but they didn't turn back and threatened back with a collective resignation.

The government is pushing forward a move to privatize more public lands, promising this will ease the housing problem and bring down the prices. I knew immediately this was a manipulation - this obviously will make the rich people richer, will allow selling them more lands without any restrictions, because of the 'urgency' and eventually will further damage the general public interest. I was astonished by the fact that 'the street' understood it perfectly, and only the prime  minister and his greasers kept repeating their twisted version.

The central trade union stepped up to support the manifestations, and it's leader promised that he is not taking over the manifestations but joining it and will use all its power to help complying with the cry: "The people want social justice!"

Nobody is sure where is this heading. The change requested by the people is very big. Actually, people are asking for a welfare country, while in the past 20 years Israel has decisively moved to a ultra capitalist economy, leaving behind a shredded society.  The right wing masses are still a bit reluctant to join because of the government propaganda. If they would just come once and see with their own eyes and see that the people in the tents represent the whole Israeli society they'll change their mind and understand once and for all that this government is lying.

Today, we expect big manifestations in all the major cities: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and others.  I will report once I'm back home.

No housing!




Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not everything is about money

In our previous post we suspected that Marx may have been right and people would hit the streets only, when the cause regards their direct economical interest.

However, we also noted that many people many times, do not mobilize even when it is in their direct economical interest. For that we can assume a few reasons:

  1. They are lazy or the economical pain isn't strong enough

  2. They do not analyze correctly what's their economical interest

  3. They do not identify with the groups that are trying to represent their interests

  4. Or...their interest isn't just material-economical. They are after something additional or there are interests that subdues material considerations.

What is left and what is right

The common understanding of what's left and what's right is the European one. Leftists are expected to be tending to liberalism, dovish and support welfare-state/socialism while rightists are expected to be tending to religion/tradition or conservatism, hawkish and capitalism.

Well... sorry to be the one to tell you this: the world is a bit more complicated.

The 20th century exhibited leftists who were terrorists more than liberals, rightist who were more populists than capitalists, as well as other numerous variations.

So, when we will be discussing the left and right in a certain realm or country, it must be understood in its respective context. If you'd like us to elaborate on something, please post a comment under the related post.

In the context of our previous post, when the government in Israel is trying to denounce something or someone as leftist, it means to point out dovish ideas mainly in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The Israeli left is commonly correlated with its affluent middle class and old elites holding social-democrat views, while the right is correlated with the popular and conservative masses and religious public. Leftist economical ideas were set aside by both right and left main parties while small parties in both left and right hold fractions of leftist economical ideas.

Argentine, is a different example. There are 2 main parties. One which would be a classical European left party, liberal-social democrat, but it is tainted as an upper-middle class only bastion. On the other hand, there is a populist party which has factions which brutally privatized the whole country when they ruled and other factions which are anti-American, anti-capitalist and affiliated to the left side of the South American political map (Chavez, Castro, etc.)

There are many other examples, but that's enough to illustrate our point.

When the middle class can't pay for its rent

In the past week, the Israeli public arena was rocked by a series of manifestations initially focused on the soaring rent costs. All started when the house owners of a young Tel Aviv professional decided to raise the rent, she  gave up the apartment, took a tent and with some friends placed it in the middle of one of the most posh boulevards. Day by day the tents kept duplicating as more and more people joined. Later, tents were set up also in other cities. They are still there and tonight a huge manifestation is planned.

The government and its supporters were quick to denounce them as leftists and spoilt youngsters who insist on living in the expensive center of Tel Aviv. From personal knowledge I can tell you that some of the guys there are definitely leftists, but many others including some of the leaders are right wing people, politically speaking. Anyway, as more people from outside of Tel Aviv joined the manifestations and set up tents in other cities, it started taking a clear shape of  a middle-lower class movement.

The Israeli middle class used to be pretty wide. There were little poor people. But the last 20, and mainly 10 years of brutal capitalism have made many of the young middle class frustrated. They acquired professions, they worked hard, but they are paying ever raising rents and buying an apartment is a distant dream. The costs of food, electricity, education, health and more or less everything else went up while salaries didn't.

The prevalent call within the tents' people is "the system doesn't work".

This post isn't meant to detail my opinion on the manifestation itself. I'd like to discuss here what bothers me most - is it only money that makes people go out and take the streets?

Till it was for money no one took the streets. When poorer people manifested, the middle class didn't join them.

This means, that even if the remedy was wrong, Marx was right about the root cause of everything - material/money.

Now, this doesn't explain why these manifestations, the biggest seen in years, still don't magnetize the masses. These masses which suffer from the same pains, don't join. Is it because they believe that they'll be able to beat the system and make it work for them? Is it because most of them already have a house and a mortgage and they are afraid that the value of their property will drop if the protesters will succeed?  So, is it all about the money after all?

Just to be honest with ourselves, we should consider that it is also because they are lazy or because they don't believe anything can be changed.

There is a chance that all of the above is correct. However, on top of it, it seems that the masses won't move unless they can see a clear alternative for which to manifest. The manifestations in Egypt succeeded, because their leaders were bold enough to mark one man, Mubarak. The risk was huge, because this left all Mubarak's supporters at home - but once they had a critical mass, nothing mattered anymore. The manifestations in Spain did absolutely the reverse, they went wide and unfocused.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Spanish "Revolution" and the "Arab Spring"

When the "Arab Spring" and the "Spanish Revolution" broke out in the Spring of 2011 I was skeptic and Juan was slightly optimistic. I claimed that there is no organization and leaders behind the Spanish manifestations and that I fear there may be non-democratic agendas who'll take over the Arab manifestations...Juan insisted in believing in the human spirit. It was a odd situation - our postures are commonly reverse.

From a distance of months, we cannot yet have a clear view over this historical events. The process isn't over yet.

What we know is that the youth in the Arab countries is still taking on the streets. Though, I believe that if what we fear will occur and some of the regimes that will eventually take over will be theocratic, it won't be a "Game Over" move.  Maybe, the masses will have to face a reality in which non-liberal religion practices do not provide them with solutions and nothing even near to their dreams...Maybe, this is the only path for humans. We always find it hard to learn from other societies' experience. Most of you have never felt the heat of the middle eastern summer, which comes after the spring. It's hot, very hot. I hope I am wrong and it'll get straight to the a mild and friendly winter.

The Spanish 'Revolution' was subdued by its own participants. It was prematurely killed by lack of  large scale organization, leadership and the taking over of extremists voices who left no place for  practical steps and for the masses to join in. There are still some neighborhood level committees, but I won't count of anything come out of it. Above all, we see here an example of the strength and elasticity of a liberal enough society and democratic enough political system. I think Juan will be able to share more about it.

Well, at least I had a good moment of laugh during the "Spanish Revolution" , when we got a peek at what will happen when geeks will take over.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="543" caption="Credits to @acampadasol"]When geeks take on the street [/caption]

You can enjoy the original version here. Monty Python - The Spanish Inquisition!