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By Victor Wallis

Professor at Berklee College of Music Boston, MA., managing editor of Socialism and Democracy.

Is there a US Left? More specifically, is there a popular movement for socialism in the United States? And what chance does such a movement have for affecting national policy any time soon?

There are two directly promising signs. One is a national survey conducted in May 2012 which found that, among people under 30, there were slightly more who had a positive view of socialism than had a positive view of capitalism. This is quite remarkable considering the endlessly negative evocations of socialism by politicians and the mass media. The second hopeful sign is the election to the Seattle City Council, in December 2013, of Kshama Sawant, representing a group called Socialist Alternative; she received an absolute majority against an incumbent Democrat (see this website).

Underlying both these developments is a broader public awareness, especially since the economic collapse of 2008, that capitalism cannot satisfy the basic needs of the majority. This awareness is indirect but no less clear. It is manifested in overwhelmingly hostile attitudes toward politicians and, more importantly, toward big corporations. These attitudes became sharply visible during the Occupy movement of 2011. More recent expressions have included nationwide demonstrations and strikes by low-wage workers against fast-food companies and against the mega-store Wal-Mart.

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By Michel Vakaloulis

Source: Socialism and Democracy, USA, N° 60 (Volume 26, no. 3), November, 2012

What are the attitudes and inclinations of today’s young generation of wage-earners toward collective organization, in the context of developed capitalism? I explore this question on the basis of surveys carried out in France and focusing on the stance of young wage-earners (jeunes salariés) toward work, the enterprise, protest movements, and, most recently, politics (1).

The category of young workers has fluid boundaries; there is no homogeneous generational cohort. On the contrary, there are many lines of division, based on education, social origin, and place of residence. One might say that the generational dimension does not exist as such but is crisscrossed by such basic social markers as those of class, ethnic origin, and gender whose impact often takes the form of discrimination. The present discussion, however, will be limited to young wage-earners with at least a high school education (jeunes salariés diplômés), who were the principal subjects of our surveys (2).

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Par Michel Vakaloulis

Power Relations in EuropeLet us straight away point out that the concept of youth is uncertain and even improbable if it is taken to mean a homogenous generational melting pot, ignoring the many fracture lines combined and superimposed on it. In fact, the generational dimension, far from existing in the abstract, is constantly traversed by fundamental social markers such as class origin, ethnic origin or gender, which often re-emerge in the form of discrimination. The political socialisation of young people takes shape in predetermined historic conditions, made up of continuities and breaks, of convergences and divergences. It undergoes multiple trials and extendable temporalities that yield a very different view that young people have of politics, pushing then away from electoral participation and towards commitment to local issues.

There is a second mistake that needs to be put into perspective. This is the tendency often to think of young people as a sector that magnifies or exaggerates the behaviour patterns and values found in the rest of society. It is thought that they transmit, in a heightened way, rather negative tendencies such as individualism, depoliticisation and even conformism.1 Inversely, there is another oversimplified view that the young are spontaneously “in revolt”, avid for civic commitments and spontaneous activism in movements like the “indignados” that are likely to “get things moving”.

Lire la version française.

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One Year after the Greek Uprising of 2008

An International Conference
Panteion University, 9-11 december  2009

Distinctive among all other forms of contentious politics, violent protest or — in derogatory terms— rioting evokes contradictory responses. Relatively easy to initiate (as it bears comparatively little logistic and organisational cost), violence is simultaneously the most visible and sensational variety of collective action as well as the most difficult to sustain. This is hardly a paradox. The literature detects a macro-historical trend towards declining violent forms pari passu with the aggrandisement of state coercive capacity and the emergence of ‘negotiated’ alternatives: brawls, vindictive attacks and rick burnings have been consistently giving way to petitions, peaceful demonstrations and negotiations.

Collective violence, however, persists and as of lately proliferates. The American and British urban riots of the 1990s and early 2000s, the French banlieue outburst of 2005, the Greek youth rebellion of December 2008 are all cases in point.

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The facts are dire enough : the disastrous showings in the first round (an all-time low), then the socialist candidate’s defeat in the second. Has the left simply lost a battle or has it lost an ideological campaign ? Stéphane Rozès (head of the CSA polling institute) and sociologists Laurent Willermz and Michel Vakaloulis debate with L’Humanité on the reasons for the left’s defeat and on its future propects.

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After the events in the banlieues – the urban suburbs of France – last autumn, French youth are in the streets again today. Why?

It isn’t exactly the same type of young person who has taken to the streets. The anti-CPE [1] movement is not a re-enactment of the urban violence of last autumn. There are certainly bridges between the two worlds (“banlieue talk” and styles of clothing and behaviour) and points of actual encounter which are often points of friction (the rioters who have turned things violent, endeavoring to rob the high school demonstrators of their legitimacy, and sometimes even their possessions). (suite…)

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