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Nigeria union chiefs urge general strike amid fuel protests

Laura Smith-Spark and Stephanie Busari, CNN
Nigeria’s main trade union groups called Wednesday for a general strike and mass rallies beginning next week if a controversial government decision to take away fuel subsidies is not reversed.

Angry protests took place Tuesday after gas prices more than doubled following the subsidies’ removal Sunday.

… Union leaders say Nigerian workers are already experiencing unnecessary hardship as a result of the move, which they say is also affecting the cost of transport, food, medicine, rent and school fees.

The government says it believes the removal of fuel subsidies will have a positive impact on the country’s economy. It argues the money saved will be used to invest elsewhere, such as in refineries.

Despite being one of Africa’s largest oil producers, Nigeria — a country of 167 million people — has no functioning refineries and has to import fuel.
(4 January 2012)

Global unrest: how the revolution went viral

Paul Mason, Guardian
The past 18 months have seen extraordinary outpourings of discontent. But what links them? In this extract from his new book, Paul Mason examines how technology has been at the heart of the global unrest, and finds parallels less with 1968, and more with 1914

… there is something in the air that defies historical parallels: something new to do with technology, behaviour and popular culture. As well as a flowering of collective action in defence of democracy, and a resurgence of the struggles of the poor and oppressed, what’s going on is also about the expanded power of the individual.

For the first time in decades, people are using methods of protest that do not seem archaic or at odds with the contemporary world; the protesters seem more in tune with modernity than the methods of their rulers. Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris calls what we’re seeing the “movement without a name”: a trend, a direction, an idea-virus, a meme, a source of energy that can be traced through a large number of spaces and projects. It is also a way of thinking and acting: an agility, an adaptability, a refusal to accept the world as it is, a refusal to get stuck into fixed patterns of thought. Why is it happening now? Ultimately, the explanation lies in three big social changes: in the demographics of revolt, in technology and in human behaviour itself.

At the centre of all the protest movements is a new sociological type: the graduate with no future. In North Africa there is a demographic bulge of young people, including graduates and students, who are unable to get a decent job – or indeed any job.
(3 January 2012)
Suggested by EB contributor Jim Barton.

Hungary set for protests over constitution

Helen Pidd, Guardian
Thousands of people were expected to protest in Budapest on Monday night after the government made sweeping changes to the Hungarian constitution that opposition figures say are an attack on democracy.

The demonstration near the city’s opera house comes amid rising anger with the ruling Fidesz party, which critics – including the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – fear is eroding individual liberties and media freedom while undermining the independence of the judiciary and other state institutions.

Across town, outside the headquarters of the state broadcaster MTV, journalists have been on hunger strike since 9 December, protesting at what they say is gross interference in their work by pro-government editors. They were outraged after a former chief justice was airbrushed out of a state television broadcast, evoking the dark days of media manipulation during the Soviet era
(2 January 2012)

Stephen Cohen: Russian Protests and the Soviet Union’s Afterlife

The Nation

On the heels of the twenty year anniversary of the breakup of the Soviet Union, allegations of widespread fraud in the recent elections that gave Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party a parliamentary majority have galvanized massive street protests in opposition to the Russian political establishment. Stephen F. Cohen, professor of Russian studies at New York University and Nation contributing editor joined Democracy Now! on Friday to discuss the significance of the Russian protests and popular reaction to the parliamentary elections.

“The significance of the protests is obscured and skewed by the American media narrative,” says Cohen. “The reason that the people that control the financial oligarchy of Russia don’t want free elections, is they know that … the people would vote for candidates pledging to confiscate their property,” which was privatized in the 1990s, he adds. He notes “these elections were not free and fair, but they were the freest and fairest and 15 years,” and that members of the country’s middle class make up the bulk of the protesters. Cohen also argues the American media has failed to report on the resurgence of the Communist Party, supported mainly by working class voters in Russia’s vast provinces, which could challenge Putin in the 2012 presidential race and force a run-off election.

His latest article, “The Soviet Union’s Afterlife,” appears in the January 9/16 issue of The Nation.
(30 December 2011)