Posts in "world politics"

Jasmine Revolutions, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Francis Fukuyama’s still wrong

Francis Fukuyama argued that the “end of history” was the emergence of liberal democracy – and, of course, capitalism – as the predominant ideological force in the world. According to Fukuyama, the shift to liberalism was inevitable – it was just, quite simply, better than anything else. When he wrote this, in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy was breaking out across the world, and it was indeed ‘liberal’ in many cases.

Some commentators have suggested that the recent uprisings across the Middle East are the ‘proof’ of Fukuyama’s argument that has been, for so long, elusive. This is a suggestion that the popular, people’s movements for democracy show that liberal democracy is still the ultimate stage in human political development, with its focus on the individual and its attendant trappings of capitalism.

With that in mind, I find it absolutely fascinating to read and to hear “market concerns,” or “business worries,” reflected in stock market trading and commodity prices, that these popular uprisings might spread across the region. The markets are afraid that this democratic uprising might spread.

If Fukuyama was right, and if liberal democracy and capitalism is the ultimate stage in human development, that elusive ‘end of history,’ then shouldnt the markets be embracing these uprisings and revolutions?

They’re not, though. For a good reason. The popular uprisings in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, and nascent ones in China and Yemen and in so many other places are taking s different form. These uprisings are based on communities of action, they are leaderless, they feature collective action and mutual aid as ways that they operate. They’re not calling for democracy and the right to freely trade their stock options and derivatives, they’re calling for democracy and human rights.

These popular uprisings show that Fukuyama’s thesis is far from being confirmed – indeed, it’s again being shown to be just as preposterous as it always has been. Liberalism isn’t the end of history. Any number of these regimes that have fallen or will soon fit perfectly well into the liberal mode. The people are demanding something else – something beyond Fukuyama’s “end of history.”

They are demanding – actually, they are going beyond the demand and they are actively creating – their capacity to collectively decide their own futures. Something that liberal democracy and capitalism deny them.

And the markets and the stock traders and the businessmen know this. Which is why they are afraid of these uprisings spreading. Which is why Fukuyama is still wrong. And why the people in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and China and Wisconsin are right.

iranians: “no more pinochets”


If you’re on Twitter (I admit it, I have an account), or on Facebook, or if you’ve watched anything approaching television news in the past few days, you’ll likely have noted that there’s something going down in Iran — especially if you’re on Twitter, where the tag #iranelection has been a trending topic for the past week.

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According to the internets, millions of people have been on the streets in Tehran and around Iran recently protesting — at first, they were protesting what they felt was an unfair and rigged election, where the results of an election in which over 40 million people voted were announced two hours after polls closed — and now they are protesting what appears to be, prima facie, extreme violence and repression on the part of a state and a ‘supreme leader‘ who has demanded that all those in the streets return home and accept the results without complaint.

While I will wholeheartedly and emphatically note that I am not an Iran expert, I will comment on the developments as I have observed them, through the media, through online sources, and through discussing the situation with members of the Iranian community at school.  There’s something big happening, and I think that we all need to pay some serious attention.

One thing that particularly strikes me is the power of the people in the streets.  The protests have been described as “amorphous and leaderless,” with some commentators using this as their indicator of an inevitable doom.  Despite these dire predictions, the protests have not waned.  Despite the orders of the Supreme Leader to accept the election results and stop protesting, millions are in the streets.  Despite the blood on the pavement, they are on the street.

Those in Iran, and many thousands and millions around the world, are watching the developments through updates from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.  While it took some time for the mass media to catch up, they have — and while CNN is continuously waving the fax it received from the Iranian Ministry of Culture prohibiting it from broadcasting from the country — the whole world is watching the protests and the violent repression from the Iranian state.

The people in the streets are chanting as they protest.  At first, it was “where is my vote?” Now it is “No more Pinochets.”  At night it is “Allah-o-akbar” (god is great), shouted from the rooftops.  See a haunting video of this here.  As the Iranians chant and protest, there are plainclothes state militia in the street — the basij — literally hunting them down.  One particularly terrifying video is apparently that of the death of a girl named “Neda” who died in the streets of Tehran after being shot by riot police.  A not-safe-for-work and graphic video is online.

(Parenthetically, in this context, there’s no wonder why anarchists cry “smash the state,” especially the one that’s smashing you.)

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