By Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His Twitter feed is:
The youth in Spain are very very angry, with unemployment at Depression-levels of roughly 21%, and they are rocking the nation with protests. What is less clear is how this plays out. The echoes of Wisconsin are obvious.
Protesters have set up an infirmary, a computer tent and a “guerrilla garden” of vegetables with the help of donations from supporters. The tents and tarps were still in place on Monday morning. But the crowd was smaller and analysts said the momentum of the movement will be hard to maintain.
“The big problem is that (the movement) has no path into formal politics. There is no party legitimately speaking on their behalf… no Green party as in other European countries which would back them,” said David Bach, Professor of Strategy and Economic Environment at IE Business School in Madrid.
The elite consensus is basically the same in both countries. There are differences, I suppose; in Spain, protesters eat vegetables, while in American, protesters eat pizza.
Domestic actors representing popular interests are in a bind. American labor officials are frustrated but impotent, with a few officials claiming that they will no longer give money to Democrats. I find this hard to believe; in the latest nationally consequential special Congressional election, labor mostly backed neoliberal Democrat Janice Hahn. For whatever reason, organized leaders running large amounts of capital and/or official in charge of representing labor simply cannot break away from the elite consensus. We saw this during the bipartisan consensus in favor of TARP, and in fact now, every single Democratic successor to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker voted for TARP.
The embers of breakdown are everywhere. In China, the company that makes iPads and iPhones has installed suicide nets to keep its employees from killing themselves in an especially embarrassing manner. But you can’t really force exploding buildings to do what you want, if what you want is more iPads to sell.
This increasing rigidity of the global economic order is frightening, and dangerous. It is the consequence of the new normal, Spanish and Wisconsin-colored flames licking up at the system be damned. One day, these protests won’t be leaderless, rudderless, and directionless. Perhaps the popular energy on that date will be channeled through an electoral system, perhaps not. Perhaps figures like New York AG Eric Schneiderman represent a new generation of leaders bent on restructuring our cultural obligations into a social contract that is stable and somewhat just.
One day a chunk of the elites will break away from this consensus, as the system experiences a breakdown that is so severe it threatens the interests of a powerful constituency group. For now, we will be watching the embers.