The Occupy movement in the USA is also something to be noted. It started off earlier with the Spanish youth who were the first to catch on to the Arab fever and occupy the city centres in Barcelona and Madrid. Later the American youth took heart from this and initiated the Occupy Wall Street movement which soon spread to other locations across the world. The fever later spread to Russia also as people came on to the streets to protest against what they felt was a rigged election in their country.
Closer home we had the India Against Corruption movement for the enactment of a strong centralised Ombudsman legislation. Beginning in an obscure way in April it very soon took on mass proportions and garnered very good media support to be able to pressurise the government into bowing to its demands initially. However, the end of the year saw this movement losing steam and not being able to maintain the same level of mobilisation that it had achieved earlier resulting in the Ombudsman legislation ultimately not being enacted. In fact the possibility now is that a weak legislation will finally come through in the new year.
Overall despite all these movements across the world the centralised state system and economy still rule the roost and not much has changed. Even in the Arab countries, political and economic power still remain in the hands of an elite. In Europe and the USA, the substantially unjust financial system and the centralised political governance that backs it remain unscathed and well ensconced.
This obviously brings to the fore the question as to why these mass protests have not been able to bring about any fundamental changes. The answer is that the centralised systems are very powerful and are able to wear out the mass protests which are more or less spontaneous. In the case of the Occupy movement in fact there is a stated aversion to getting organised and structured because of its anarchist fundamentals. In the case of the Arab movements, the leadership that has emerged has plumped for the establishment of bourgeois liberal democracy rather than look for something more radical and democratic.
The case of the IAC movement in India is even more quixotic. Their demand for a strong Ombudsman was well within the liberal democratic framework and voiced because its main protagonists had earlier seen the failure of the Right To Information Act to rein in corruption. However, the belief that a strong Ombudsman Act would be implemented even if it was enacted is a naive one. In fact in India any legislation or policy favouring the poor gets implemented only if there is pressure from the masses and even after that not very well. As things have turned out the political mainstream has refused to enact the strong centralised Ombudsman legislation that the IAC is pushing for. However, the IAC too has lost steam suddenly as it has not been able to muster the kind of mass support that it had earlier and is unable again to pressurise the political establishment to bow to its demands. It would be worthwhile to ponder on the reasons for this subsequent loss of support.
The mass support that had been mobilised by the IAC earlier was a spontaneous one spurred by extensive media coverage and covert support from the Sangh Parivar. Instead of building on this spontaneous mass turnout by putting in place a cadre based organisation built around a coherent programme of action the IAC then went about promoting a personality cult around Anna Hazare and its leading members engaged in frivolous activities like campaigning to make a Congress candidate lose in a peripheral by-election. The core group of the IAC is an amorphous one and soon there came to the surface contradictions between its members with different people talking in different political languages. Moreover, the Sangh Parivar having used the IAC to embarrass the Congress then launched its own anti-corruption campaign and at the same time went about ensuring that a strong Ombudsman legislation did not in fact come about. This time round it has forbidden its cadre from taking part in the IAC campaigns. The media too has now become lukewarm after there was considerable criticism of the way in which it became a party to the IAC campaign rather than being an objective reporter of events. The IAC this time had announced a nationwide "Jail Bharo" campaign and had claimed that more than a lakh people had confirmed that they would court arrest in favour of the Jan Lokpal Bill. The coordinator of the IAC in Mumbai had even gone to the extent of announcing that they would apply to the Guinness's Book of World Records to get them to cover the event! However, all this was going on through the internet and mobile messaging without any hardcore grassroots work. Eventually the expected mass turnout did not materialise and the IAC had to call off its agitational programme.
Thus, what all these mass movements of the year gone by have underlined is the need for long term grassroots mobilisation and the building up of an organisation with a clear ideology and programme of action that can sustain a long drawn campaign against the centralised state system. The campaign has to be a positive one and there has to be democracy within the organisation instead of the present cabalic character of the core group of the IAC. We need to search for new horizons instead of trying to go for easy solutions because there are none.