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Revolt in Israel - saying no to neoliberalism
mashriq / arabia / iraq | community struggles | feature Tuesday August 09, 2011 01:27 by Ilan Shalif - Anarchists Against the Wall; Matzpen; A-Infos ilan at shalif dot com Tel Aviv
Increases in rents and cottage cheese spark off a popular revolt
In the first demo, two weeks ago, about 30,000 participated in Tel Aviv; in the second, last week, there were nearly 100,000 in Tel Aviv and about 40,000 in the rest of the country. In the third, this Saturday, there were about 250,000 in Tel Aviv - the largest ever in Israel, and about 70,000 all over the country. Who knows how many will come for next Saturday's demos. The call "Revolution!" was second only to "Social justice!"The main demands are: free education from the age of 3 months, a reduction of sales taxes and an increase in the direct taxes that the rich pay; the provision of low-cost housing to buy and rent by stopping State and municipal speculation on public land and by building small apartments and public housing; an overhaul of the public health system which the doctors' union has been demanding for several months; a stop to the precarization of workers using manpower companies; and the recruitment of 500 inspectors to enforce employer legislation regulating work - especially with regard to minimum wages.
Revolt in Israel - saying no to neoliberalism
Class war within neo-liberal capitalism and the rebellion ignited by the Israeli "middle class"The class war between the capitalist class and the working class within the capitalist system is mainly about the cost of the reproduction of working power. The smaller the cost of the reproduction of working power (wages and social services covered in part by taxes levied on capitalists), the larger the part of the fruits of labour that remain as profits (surplus value) in the coffers of the capitalists.
Within the capitalist system the main struggle between the working class and the capitalist-class employers is about the wages that workers get (actual wages, health insurance and pensions mainly) and in a smaller measure about the taxes that workers pay and the quality of social services.
Lately, due to the gradual constriction of the welfare state under neo-liberalism and the recent austerity measures (including taxes) by States to cover the losses of finance capitalists due to the latest crash, the attention of exploited people has shifted from their employers to the State's activity relating to the constriction of social services and "social wages" (healthcare, education, housing, unemployment support and pensions mainly).
We have seen the mounting struggle by the working class following measures to cover the crash losses in Europe - mainly in Greece and Spain. Now, the struggle has exploded in Israel too, though its financial capital has not suffered serious losses as a result of the crash, and the State has not introduced emergency austerity measures... It started because wages and, even more so, the social wage of the "middle class" strata of the working class have gradually been decimated and become unbearable. The success of the ferocious neo-liberalist form of the piggish capitalism consisting of privatization and diminishing public services, has advanced in Israel more than in other developed countries.
The straw that broke the camel's back, leading to the summer revolt was the successful internet-based consumers' revolt two months ago, following an increase in the cost of cottage cheese by the monopolies.
It exploded this month as the cost of rents has increased significantly over the last few months, due to market failure.
Though most of the activists involved have not put it forward as a factor, most people resent the allocation of a huge part of the State's resources to the settler colonialist project and to the non-productive orthodox community.
It started as an internet call for a tent camp to protest the jump in rent prices. It materialized at first as a dozen participants in a tent camp near the national theater building (on Rothschild boulevard). It took just two weeks to expand to include a few hundred tents along the whole length of the boulevard, with thousands of dwellers and with a wider spectrum of grievances, reaching the point of the mobilization of about 2.5% of the Israeli population for the Saturday 30-7-11 demonstration (150,000 out of about 7 million).
The main demands are: free education from the age of 3 months, a reduction of the sales taxes that all pay and an increase in the direct taxes that the rich pay; the provision of low-cost housing (both to buy and rent) by stopping State and municipal speculation on public land and by building small apartments and public housing; an overhaul of the public health system which the MDs union (mostly hospital doctors) have been demanding for several months with their selective strike; a stop to the precarization of workers using manpower companies (already 10% of the workforce); the recruitment of 500 inspectors to enforce employer legislation regulating work - especially with regard to minimum wages.
It has taken 4 weeks since the tent camp was started by a dozen activists to get to the point where the government has agreed to massive changes, but the bargaining may take its time.
(Some bureaucrats are kicking themselves for not destroying the tent camp on the first day or the seccond, before it collected momentum.)
Chatter on the left/right united struggle in the Israeli struggle for social justiceIn and around the present uprising in Israel there has been no shortage of chattering by the ignorant and idiotic... but there has also been plenty of chattering among scholars, all of whom agree that the current uprising is a united front between the right and the left. As proof, they point to the fact that the Kahanist nazi Israeli settlers have joined the tent camp protest in a tactical move.
The struggle in the workplace for wage rises by itself does not challenge the capitalist order, and neither does the current uprising against piggish capitalism and for a return to welfare capitalism in Israel.
The purpose of the struggle for wage rises is for a better distribution of the fruits of labour within the capitalist system, just as the struggle for welfare capitalism is one for the better distribution of the fruits of labour in the capitalist State as a whole.
But in Israel, distribution of the fruits of labour is not just a matter for the local ruling elite/capitalist exploiting class and the working class. In Israel, a large part of the resources are invested in colonialist settlements in the occupied territories, in the army that serves the occupation, and in bribing the orthodox Jewish communities (who are mostly non-Zionist) in order to enlist their support for the continuation of the occupation. Thus, the struggle here is political from day one.
The leftist aspect of the struggle is due to the fact that the struggle against neo-liberalism (like the struggle for wage increases) contributes to the development of anti-capitalism. It is also so among those who previously provided ardent support for investment in Zionist enterprises - such as the Nationalist Right - that increasing numbers from this tendency are refusing to pay so much for any longer. (This is not about black and white, though, but a continuum. Within the Jewish community, there are not many who do not want to pay anything for Zionist enterprises. The rest are along the continuum, between those who are willing to pay almost anything and those willing to pay just a little.)
Many psychological reasons are at work in the minds of those who support the Zionist project but are not willing to pay so much for it any longer, but most of them prefer not to talk about their increasing refusal... For them, it is easier to demand social justice, as if the extreme neo-liberalist model were not essential for recruiting agreement from the top capitalist elite to pay so much for the occupation and settler colonialism.
But even ignoring the degree of willingness to invest in Zionist enterprises still, there is a considerable degree of resistance to the variety of capitalist system present in Israel, which is moving to the right and is nearly as extreme as neo-liberal piggish capitalism in USA.
Thus, the cut-off point between those who support the economic policy of the State and those who oppose it has shifted gradually to the right - even if the "rightists" who join will not admit that it will diminish the funds available for the Zionist project.
Radical activists are disappointed about the "non-political" aspect of the struggle and the absence of a clear refutation of the various aspects of the Zionist project. They do not understand that the politicization of those people who are engaged in social struggle intensifies during the struggle. Just as the "pure" economic struggle in the workplace to raise wages gradually contributes to the rejection of capitalism, so does joining the present struggle within Israel, that is clearly questioning neo-liberalism and demanding change in the allocation of State resources.
The refusal to pay so much for settler colonialism - even if not talked about - will contribute to the questioning and later even a rejection of settler colonialism.
Like in sales psychology, when you refuse to pay for something, the cognitive dissonance will cause a diminishing will to have it. (Like the story about the fox who decided to refrain from sneaking once more into the vineyard through a narrow hole in the fence, claiming that the grapes were sour.)
In the first demo, two weeks ago, about 30,000 participated in Tel Aviv; in the second, last week, there were nearly 100,000 in Tel Aviv and about 40,000 in the rest of the country. In the third, this Saturday, there were about 250,000 in Tel Aviv - the largest ever in Israel, and about 70,000 all over the country. I wonder how many will come for next Saturday's demos. The call "Revolution!" was second only to "Social justice!"
They are afraid. They are really afraid. Miri Regev of the ruling party (Likud) leadership assembled 500 members of the center assembly of the party and demanded (in so many words) the return of the welfare model instead of the present neo-liberalist one the prime minister leads.