Monday, April 20, 2015

A Youthful European Leftist That Millennials in the U.S. Could Emulate!


Catarina Principe exudes the kind of Leftist energy we need in the U.S.

Catarina Principe is an energetic young Leftist from Portugal who exudes the youthful zest for life and energy we desperately need in the U.S. While the crazies in the Rightist Tea Party just celebrated their fifth anniversary - still holding 'Don't Tread on Me' signs they don't fully grasp, the left movement in the U.S. remains dormant after the Occupy movement fizzled out. Maybe we need Catarina to cross the 'pond'  and get things moving here!

What is so special about this twenty-nine year old firebrand? What isn't?   Start with the fact she's been a dedicated leftist since the age of 15 - unheard of in the U.S. where kids of that age are more enmeshed in selfies and twitter than political movements. Principe rose to lead her student union and then organized a protest at her high school against corporate education reforms. She also pushed for the introduction of (real) sexual education classes, not the bilge passed off in the U.S. as such. The girl, in other words, was way ahead of her time and leading the charge - not rotting away in some social media vacuum.

She joined the Left Bloc in 1999, an organization which includes radical elements from across Portugal and which today claims eight parliamentary seats.  (She moved to Germany in 2011, forced out by the same economic collapse that's brought activists like her to the forefront of European politics).

As reported by 'In These Times',  Catarina was recently in Athens to celebrate the election triumph of Syriza (Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás) the acronym for the Greek coalition of the radical left. The ascendance came after years of austerity measures imposed by your typical right wing government - one which could also materialize here in the U.S. if voters are stupid enough to insert a right wing President (like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Rand Paul) into power.

Recall the right wingers had brutally stripped away the pensions of the elderly to bare bones sustenance so they were literally begging on the streets or raiding garbage cans for food. Job cuts increased the misery- as well as shuttering numerous government services, leading to the collapse of health system as well.. All of which provoked violent rioting in the streets and ultimately the triumph of Syriza. 

The Greek people, unlike Americans, basically said 'Enough is enough!'   But it just didn't happen. People, especially the youth, had to get off their butts and basically engage with the political system. No surprise then for the last five to ten years it's been the scene of very intense mobilizations that  have not only introduced an entire generation to politics but also created the social structures that allowed Syriza to grow. No similar organic development occurred here in the U.S. as with Occupy Wall Street. Perhaps because it didn't spread across enough age groups.

In her interview, Catarina makes two points on the difference between failed and successful movements: 1) the ability to coordinate social movements, so different ones don't act at cross purposes, and 2) the ability to engage in grassroots community organizing - extending to trade unions and the rest of society.

There are lessons here if the  Occupy movement is ever revived, and one hopes the youth in the U.S. can emerge as activist, engaged and coherent as the groups (including Podemos) that came together in Greece.

Greece's problems are by no means resolved, but there is at least a better leverage position available now than when the austerity fetishists were in charge and driving a race to the bottom - bargaining with the larger EU for ever more 'bottom' at the expense of the people. As Catarina noted, the same United Left didn't succeed in Spain because of being too invested in the same austerity politics. Just like pregnancy, one can't be "a little committed to austerity".

Americans, take note!

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