Protests of 2019

Tahrir 2019, Tiananmen 1989, and the Second Signpost – THE ...

More people have taken to the streets in the past 12 months than any year since 1989. 2019 surpasses even 2011, the year of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Around the world, demonstrators challenge corruption, unjust laws and political repression. People are tired of the ageing establishments that have failed to tackle problems like climate change or wealth disparity. Protests peaked in October 2019, and in places like Chile and Hong Kong, are ongoing.

Government decrees sparked protests. In Lebanon, it was a tax on Whatsapp calls, in Chile a 4% hike in metro tickets, in India a law that grants citizenship to neighbouring refugees so long as they aren’t Muslim. Hong Kong’s protests started with a bill to extradite criminals to mainland China.

Lebanon Report - October - MEIRSSAmnesty International identifies five common causes:

  • Corruption: Protestors accuse their leaders of misusing public funds and demand their resignation. Egypt (October -), Lebanon (October – ), Chile (October -). Iraq, (October- ) Pakistan (November – ) Colombia (November -).
  • Cost of living: Austerity measures, sanctions and faltering economies have increased day-to-day costs, particularly petrol. Egypt (September), Haiti (November 2018 – ), Ecuador (October), France (November 2018 -), Iran (November – ).
  • Climate justice: Protestors, particularly the young, rally against government and big businesses’ slow response to climate change and environmental ruin, including forest fires. In September 2019, 7.6 million people in 185 countries participated in climate strikes. Worldwide school strikes, Extinction Rebellion (January -). Bolivia (October).
  • Political freedom: Protestors demand true democracy or greater independence in their respective regions. Hong Kong (June -), Sudan (September – ), Catalonia (October), India (October – ). Guinea (October-).

President says sorry but Chile faces more protests, strikeChile is the wealthiest country in South America, yet suffers crippling inequality. Unrest has cost over $3 billion in damage, 26 people dead and over 3,461 injured. In response, the government promised a referendum in April 2020 to replace the current constitution, drafted under Pinochet, with a civilian one. Two-thirds of Chileans support the protests, according to Al-Jazeera.

Hong Kong Protests: Massive Crowds and Police ClashesHong Kong protestors demand universal suffrage and accountability for police brutality. China is trying to bring the autonomous territory closer into its fold, and have it comply with its laws and restrictions. Demonstrations have seized the city every weekend since June and forced its economy to a halt. The protests have cost Hong Kong $950 million in police overtime.

Government responses are more restrained than in the past. They know indiscriminate killing can vilify the state and embolden its critics. In addition to lightning-fast coordination, smartphones and social media let protesters broadcast state brutality for the world to see. Were Beijing to pull a Tiannemen square in Hong Kong, it could not hide it again. Mass arrests and nonlethal weapons like water cannons and rubber bullets make a better strategy. Protests have largely been peaceful; though in some cases have broken out into riots. The most violent crackdowns are in Iran, where the government is hiding bodies.

As Protesters Clog Catalonia, Court Snuffs Out Declaration ...

The protests of 2019 expose a faltering world order. Neoliberalism has reigned supreme since the Cold War and is predicated on economic freedom and limitless growth. Since 2008, however, new wealth has fallen into increasingly fewer hands. According to Oxfam, the world’s richest 26 people own more than the poorest half.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, The Economist, The Guardian, Oxfam, Washington Post

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Falangism is a Catholic brand of fascism once popular in Spain and Lebanon. It emphasises conservative Catholic values, class collaboration, national syndicalism, anticommunism, and authoritarian nationalism. Falange is Spanish for Phalanx, a military formation of tightly packed spearmen favoured by the Spartans and Alexander the Great.

In a Phalanx, each shield overlapped and every row would raise their weapon at a slightly higher degree, creating a near-impenetrable wall of spears. Phalanxes required discipline and trust: each man was only as strong as the man next to him. Falangists seek to emulate that disciplined effectiveness state-wide.

The Falangist economic system is national syndicalism; the revolutionary syndicalism of the labour movement with an authoritarian twist. The idea is that all national industries are organised into syndicates represented at the government level, to work for the national economic good rather than private profit. Tariffs are high, industries are regulated and the government intervenes to prevent recessions. National Syndicalism was envisioned as an alternative to both capitalism and communism, helping weather the Great Depression in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

jose primo de rivera

Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, an idealistic aristocrat and son of the former dictator founded the Falanges Espanola in 1933. Modelling his thought on Italian fascism he advocated syndicalism and land reform but opposed both communism and liberal democracy. Violence and revolutionary reform would regenerate Spain and transform it into an imperial power once more.

When the new republican government executed de Rivera weeks before the Civil War, the Falanges aligned with the Nationalist rebels. Francisco Franco incorporated Falangism into his ‘National Movement’ as an ideological framework but curbed its revolutionary edge to reconcile it with his conservative support base. Falangism’s anti-capitalism was abandoned and, particularly after Franco aligned with the US after WW2, its anti-communism emphasised. Instead of being run by the workers as first intended, the Spanish syndicates were organised from the top down. Franco’s one-party dictatorship lasted from 1937-1975.

pierre gemayel.jpgFalangism was not an exclusively Spanish phenomenon, however. Pierre Gemayel (pictured), a young Lebanese Catholic, attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and was awed by the Nazis’ disciplined spectacle. He subsequently modelled the Kataeb party, or Phalanges, on the fascist parties of Europe, complete with brown-shirted paramilitary and Roman salutes.

In 1958, 18 years after independence, the Phalangists emerged as the leading party of Lebanese Christians. While in power, they developed the country’s infrastructure and tourism, introduced public education and bitterly opposed the  Pan-Arab zeitgeist.

In the Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990, the Phalangists allied with Israel against Hezbollah and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. In 1984 Phalangist militias under Gemayel’s son Bachir, massacred 2,000 Palestinian civilians in Beirut’s Sabra-Shatila refugee camps.

phalangist millitamen

Phalangist Militiamen in the Lebanese Civil War

Losing its primacy after the war, the Kataeb Party resurfaced in the 2005 Cedar Revolution. Though still to the right, the Phalangists have shed their fascist roots, focusing instead on Christian Democracy, Lebanese identity and opposition to Syria and Hezbollah.

Falangist movements sprouted across Latin America in the 30s and 40s too, though without lasting impact.

The Argentinian Tacuara Nationalist Movement, a gang of Falangist guerillas, perpetrated over 30 anti-Semitic hate crimes in the early 60s. In ’63, the Tacuaras robbed a bank of 14 million pesos (753,000 USD in 2017) but were dispersed in the resulting crackdown.

The far-right Bolivian Socialist Falange, meanwhile was the country’s second-largest party from 1954-74. Though weaker, it still stands today.

Primo di Rivera disliked the term fascism, though Franco embraced it wholeheartedly until 1945. Contrary to the Argentine Tacuaras, antisemitism was notably absent in Spanish Falangist thought. The Lebanese Phalanges even included Jews in their ranks. Regardless, Falangism is the only fascist political system to outlive the Second World War.

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