We are all indignados

18 October 2011

A feeling of unrest is sweeping the world. In recent days and weeks we have seen thousands of citizens from all walks of life gather in cities around the world to peacefully express their demands for fundamental change. This growing movement by indignados, outraged citizens protesting, has been characterised by the diversity of those taking to the streets to march, protest and occupy. The demonstrations have spread to the major financial centres, from the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York to protests in the City of London and at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Thousands have marched in the streets of Santiago, Tokyo and Cairo. These people, behind different causes and demands, are united not by political ideology or allegiance, but have come together to express their anger and frustration at existing economic and political realities which have failed them and their fellow citizens.

Of all the causes advocated by this movement, the one which has most resonated has been the rejection of the current speculatory nature of global financial capitalism, responsible for creating the bubble which burst in 2008, leaving the global economy in chaos and taxpayers to bear the cost. It is unacceptable that those banks which made huge profits from the indebtedness of states and individuals were then able to socialise their losses as we saw in the huge bail-outs of 2008-9, without severe constraints and regulation in the aftermath. To see a return to risk-taking, speculation and profiteering within such a short space of time is an affront to those suffering the policies of austerity felt in the real economy, who are rightly directing their anger at those who became extremely wealthy promoting complex financial schemes. Whilst delivering no tangible benefit to anyone outside of the economic bubble, this behaviour directly precipitated the global financial crisis and its destructive impact on the lives of hundreds of millions around the world, resulting in an ever growing disparity in income and wealth in those economies.

As bankers continue to benefit from state funds and tax loopholes, the effects of cuts are felt, with rises in unemployment, declining salaries and worsening of working conditions. The values and principles of the global social-democratic movement are aligned with those myriad individuals uniting to decry this injustice, and the Socialist International stands today on the side of those who through these demonstrations seek a fair financial system, and will ensure that their demands are heard. It is equally crucial not to allow conservatives and those with an interest in maintaining the status quo to misrepresent their initiatives by spreading fear of anarchy and chaos, but to recognise the common goals with those protesting for which the progressive movement has always stood: more and better jobs, the respect of people before capital, free healthcare and education.

It is now three years since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, during which time the Socialist International has placed much-needed change in world finances at the heart of its agenda. The work of different bodies of our International on these matters in the intervening period has addressed the imbalances and injustices that exist in the current system, and proposed credible, authoritative and realisable responses that address today’s economic order in a socially responsible manner. In line with these long-held positions, the International stands today in solidarity with those participating in a movement inspired by an honest desire to make a difference. After years during which the supposed virtues of an individualist society have been trumpeted by many, it is refreshing to witness on a daily basis the rebirth of the selfless ideals of cooperation and common humanity shown by these activists.

The Socialist International reiterates its call for world leaders to show due consideration for the interests of the majority in taking unified action to counter what is more than ever a global crisis, something that has been lacking to date following the disappointing outcomes of successive G20 summits. A coordinated show of multilateralism by governments to recognise that a more just and prosperous future lies in tackling the short-termism of those driven by personal interest and profit to move to a more durable vision of a global economy which rewards responsibility and not risk would be a step in the right direction. In order to do this, action is needed to implement initiatives such as the global tax on financial transactions for which the SI has been calling for a number of years and which would raise revenue whilst reducing the profitability of the most risky, socially useless transactions.

Further damaging is the powerful role now played by ratings agencies, at a moment when many governments are struggling with the consequences of crippling sovereign debt. For elected administrations to be destabilised by unaccountable bodies is a threat to the very principles of democracy, and the influence of these agencies must diminish.

Our global movement has consistently prioritised a recovery based on sustainable growth in the real economy, and not another speculative bubble liable to burst at any moment. With more and better global governance, reform of markets and institutions and fairer distribution of resources, we can redesign a financial system aligned to the benefit of the many rather than the few, providing greater security, stability and social justice. The challenge is to transform the urgency, determination and resolve of the street into concrete political action. To fulfil this challenge must be the task of our International today.