18 March 2015
Blockupy in Frankfurt: cowards, no; nihilists, maybe
Here's an antidote to "liberal nihilism:" thousands of people demonstrated against the opening of the new European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, and hundreds were arrested after clashing with police. They call themselves "Blockupy" in rhyming homage to the Occupy movement of a few years ago in the U.S. -- one of the few exceptions Steve Fraser cites to the Age of Acquiescence he describes in the book of that name. The doings in Frankfurt at first glance look a bit more like the Battle of Seattle than anything Occupy did. Blockupy is described as "far left" by this English-language newsite from Germany, while Reuters describes today's protest as "anti-capitalist." Blockupy objects specifically to the alleged trumping of national/popular sovereignty by a "Troika" of entities, including the central bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, that subjects countries like Greece to austerity on the pretext of "debt that can never be repaid." Organizers of today's demonstration regret violence by protesters but blame the Troika's policies for enraging people. Since Blockupy is a coalition of groups, it's easy for leaders or individual factions to blame a "violent minority" for excesses, though I don't know if the usual "black bloc" suspects have been blamed yet. In any event, the demonstration is significant in its own right as a model for Americans who are neither acquiescent or nihilist toward the prevailing economic order. If the ECB president is representative, the austerity movement in Europe is as unsympathetic and unforgiven as its American counterpart. Countries like Greece have only themselves to blame for the "difficult period of adjustment" they must go through now, the official said in response to the protests, while protesters who think Europe is doing too little for Greece are wrong. You'd think the Greeks, however corrupt or incompetent their leaders actually were, had broken some immutable natural law. To deny that premise might make one a nihilist in certain eyes, but we're really seeing the struggle of one set of values against another, not the sort of negation of all values that some dread. Still, I'm sure many American observers would dismiss these Blockupy demonstrators as lazy losers, but I wonder how many would dare say it to their faces after today.