Growing Worldwide Movement Resists Rising Economic Inequality and Austerity

Posted May 25, 2016

MP3 Excerpt of a talk by Tariq Ali, a British writer and filmmaker, speaking at the Left Forum conference, recorded and produced by Scott Harris


There’s no doubt that we’re living in a time where there is enormous discontent, if not anger, about the failure of both our political and economic systems here in the U.S. Millions of working people across the country have seen their standard of living steadily decline – and what’s worse, parents see a future where their children will likely have less economic opportunity and security than they did. In short, what we’re seeing is the bubble bursting on the so-called American Dream – and the erosion of the middle class.

This year’s presidential election campaign, with both the unexpected victory of Donald Trump among GOP voters responding to appeals to racism and xenophobia – and the unforeseen enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders’ progressive campaign, reflect the crumbling edifice of the major two-party duopoly. Many Americans, who see the current political system as corrupt and working against their interests, are now eager to support outsiders to shake up the status quo.

In addition to the brief jolt of energy and consciousness raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement here in the U.S. in 2011, uprisings against economic conditions have been cropping up across the world in recent years. While new left movements have organized in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, the anti-immigrant right has also gained support, mainly in response to rising Islamophobia and a flood of refugees arriving from Syria and other conflict zones. Tariq Ali, a British writer and filmmaker, who has written more than two dozen books on world history and politics, recently spoke at New York City’s annual Left Forum conference, where he addressed the topic of “Capitalism and Militarism – At Humanity’s Peril: Organizing Our Power.” Here, we present an excerpt of Ali’s talk where he focused on the growing worldwide movement resisting economic inequality and austerity policies. [Rush transcript]

TARIQ ALI: I am very glad to be here, especially at this time, because though we're talking about the presidential candidates, Sen. (Hillary) Clinton and Donald Trump, what has really been exciting, watching what is going on from afar in the United States, has been these huge mobilizations of young people in favor of a candidate who talks of socialism. (Audience applause.) Now, what I want to tell you is that this movement of young people has brought many more people together than one could have ever imagined. (It's) much larger than any political campaign I remember involving trying to go for it against the mainstream than at any other time in recent American history. The Vietnam/anti-Vietnam war movement didn't create a political side to it, even though Martin Luther King was talking of running as an alternative president, not inside in the Democratic party, but together with Dr. Spock (famed pediatrician and social activist) challenging the Democratic party. That didn't happen; one reason it didn't happen is he was killed. So what we are witnessing is a very interesting radicalization and it's a radicalization of young people which is happening in most countries in Europe today.

Why? Since the 2008 Wall Street crash, many people felt – especially those who have no absolutely idea or no alternative view – that somehow the governors of the world, the rulers of this world, capitalist world would manage to put something new in place that would give some comfort to the poor and to the young who suffer even more on many levels: lack of housing, too much to pay for education, and increasingly in some parts of Europe, health as well. Though we have national health services, they're under very heavy fire, an attack from American health corporations, who are increasingly being given contracts by state-owned health services as part of the neoliberal system.

So in this situation, it was felt that if the elites who rule the world were a bit more rational, they would attempt to put in place something different. Something that's been tried before, it didn't happen. And after a short wait, you had the emergence of new popular movements from the left and you have the emergence of mass movements from the right. This process began in different ways in different countries, but we can now see a pattern, as we can see in the United States, too. And this pattern is as follows. All these movements had one thing in common. They developed from the grassroots. They developed often in one part of the country, either a region. Sicily, in the case of the Five-Star movement; Madrid in the case of the occupation of the squares in Spain, and spread rapidly from there to the rest of the country.

We've been witnessing now, even as I speak, the rise of a new popular movement in France, again a movement which pushes all the established political parties to one side and says, "we don't trust you." All the intellectuals who serve these parties, "We don't trust you. Keep away, move away, and we want to unite with trade unions to fight against the new laws that the French socialist government, so-called, is bringing and putting on to the statute vote to restrict labor rights in France." And this movement comes together at night. Some of them work during the day, others think it's a nice time to do it, to "occupy the night" – "Le Nuit Debout," the Night Rising. And they meet, and increasingly this movement which started is spreading and has spread to other parts of France. There have been clashes with the riot police, etc., etc.

We live in a very strange world. A world of transition in which the system that is in place is not working. Everyone knows it's not working. We know it's not working and those who run the system know it's not working because were it working even a tiny bit, then all these jokers in Wall Street, the bankers who stole money, half of them would be in prison for what they did. (Audience applause.)

Find links to related articles from the Left Forum at and by visiting Tariq Ali’s website at

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