The uprisings in Thailand, Belarus, and Nigeria are part of a wave of mass revolts and strikes that have swept the world since the Great Recession and the global slump that followed it. The Arab Spring kicked this all off in 2011 with revolutionary upheavals throughout the Middle East and North Africa including ones in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria.
Similar struggles triggered by their own conditions and inspired by the Arab Spring emerged in other parts of the world from Occupy in the U.S. to the wave of strikes in Greece against austerity and the Maple Spring in Quebec. More recently, another round of strikes and uprisings have exploded in Sudan, Algeria, Chile, Lebanon, Iraq, Colombia, France, and Hong Kong to name just a few.
There have also been transnational political strikes. The Climate Strike expressed the mass popular desire for a just transition to an ecologically sustainable system with mass protests in cities throughout the world. And the International Women’s Strike shut down whole countries from Spain to Argentina and Chile, and most recently Poland where women have staged mass protests throughout the country in defense of abortion rights.
The recent revolts in Thailand, Belarus, and Nigeria are the latest expression of this global, episodic re-emergence of mass popular struggle. Each has its own distinct and national dynamic, issues, and demands. And they stand at pivotal conjunctures where victory or defeat hangs in the balance.
The movement in Thailand is fighting against a military dictatorship that rules through a managed democracy sacralized by the country’s monarchy. Activists are demanding the resignation of the current government, the re-writing of the military undemocratic constitution, and the reform of the monarchy.
In Belarus, mass protests have erupted against Alexander Lukashenko, the president who has ruled the country for 26 years. Lukashenko stole the recent election triggering protests and strikes demanding new elections in the face of brutal repression by the country’s police forces.
The Nigerian struggle exploded against relentless and political police brutality carried out by the country’s deadly Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). What began as protests against SARS has morphed into a movement against Nigeria’s profound inequality, and calls for the resignation of the President.
While distinct, the uprisings since the Great Recession share some common features. They have all been characterized by mass actions of people drawn from a downwardly mobile middle class, working class, and peasantry taking to the streets and in some cases shutting down production in support of demands for democracy, equality, systemic reforms, and in some cases political revolution.
In every case, activists have had to face state repression at the hands of the police and sometimes the military. As Siarhei Biareishyk points out in this webinar, we are thus witnessing an international rising against police brutality from Minneapolis to Minsk.
In most of these, trade unions and the Left have not played a leading role. As a result, activists have not had the ability to project a coherent alternative to the ruling parties and regimes or their official opposition.
Where those forces have existed, like in Tunisia and Greece, they have faced the challenge of delivering reform from with a capitalist state, or in the case of Greece betraying the struggle that brought them to power. Therefore, they have not been able to make a breakthrough to win political and social transformation.
Finally, in some key cases like Hong Kong, Syria, Libya, and Belarus, where regimes are opponents of US imperialism or are backed by imperials rivals of the U.S., like China and Russia, the international Left has been faced with the question of how to combine opposition to anti-imperialism with international solidarity. Internationalism from Below (IFB) came together to foster a current on the Left that opposes all imperialisms, supports all popular uprisings for democracy, and builds solidarity with their left-wing and progressive forces.
IFB will be organizing more webinars to facilitate dialog and discussion on the international Left about how to organize transnational solidarity among the explosive struggle for political and social revolution.
Lek Patchanee is a member of the Socialist Workers Thailand Group, a labor rights activist, researcher and journalist in Bangkok.
Baba Aye is the co-convenor of the Coalition for Revolution, a leading member of the Socialist Workers and Youth League, and a trade unionist in Nigeria.
Siarhei Biareishyk is an activist from Belarus and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Moderator Lala Peñaranda is an activist from Colombia, labor organizer with Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED), and member of the International Committee of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
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Internationalism From Below is an organizing project of a network of socialist activists that seeks to build transnational solidarity with and between movements for social justice and democracy.