Mass protests have spread around the world as food and gas prices soar

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The intolerable increases in the cost of living unleashed by the US-NATO war against Russia in Ukraine are producing a massive wave of working class protests around the world. Two years into a pandemic that has killed 20 million people and is still raging, the social anger that has been building around kitchen tables and in workshops is now spilling onto the streets. Masses of people of all racial, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds are coming to the same conclusion: life cannot continue in the old fashioned way.

Fifty days after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, demonstrations are taking place on all continents. The demonstrators defy the states of emergency and respond to police repression with increasingly large and intense mobilizations. The initial protests in Peru, Sudan and Sri Lanka not only continue, but are now spreading to heavily populated and more urban countries. In the major imperialist powers, the same governments that plotted the current war crisis are now facing growing strike movements that the union bureaucracies are desperately trying to contain.

A Sri Lankan student shouts slogans demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during an anti-government protest near parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, April 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

In recent days, municipal workers, government workers, oil workers, telecommunications workers and teachers in Iran have walked out to demand massive wage and pension increases. Economist Ibrahim Razzaqi said Chara newspaper that “society is becoming less tolerant of all its problems every day” and that Iran is witnessing “a popular explosion in the face of critical living conditions”.

In Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, large student protests erupted last week over rising cooking oil prices and President Joko Widodo’s recent announcement of his intention to stay in office for another term. Protesters in Jakarta, South Sulawesi, West Java and other areas faced a brutal police crackdown, with one sustaining life-threatening injuries.

In Pakistan, concerns within the ruling class over protests against rising prices are at the heart of the recent parliamentary impeachment of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The diplomat wrote on Thursday that food prices have risen 15% over the past year and that, like Sri Lanka and Peru, “Pakistan is the latest victim of political instability.” The existence of panic in the commodity and financial markets; a global inflationary spiral, rising food prices and an upsurge in protests, especially in emerging markets, show that this process will not be confined to Pakistan or Sri Lanka alone.

In Latin America, a region once considered relatively immune to falling Russian and Ukrainian exports, a mass protest took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last week as a strike by truckers snuffed out the country’s grain exports. El País noted on Thursday that “the conflict in the streets is worsening with the loss of purchasing power of the local currency” as inflation climbed in April to 6.7% compared to March, with inflation of year on year reaching 55%.

A strike by truckers, taxi drivers and bus drivers crippled Honduras last week, to which the government of Xiomara Castro responded by raising fees for working-class passengers.

Social discontent is also growing in the centers of world imperialism. In the United States, where inflation has reached an annual rate of 8%, 30,000 doormen of luxury apartments in New York authorized a strike on Thursday. This powerful sign of opposition comes as the contracts of hundreds of thousands of workers in critical industries are due to expire in the coming weeks.

UK, The Guardian warned in an op-ed last week that the UK “is descending into a social and economic crisis the likes of which its people have not seen in decades. Household fuel bills are expected to hit £2,400 this fall as the price of groceries soar. Inflation in the UK hit 7% last month, the highest rate since 1992.

the Guardian noted: “On one projection, one in three Britons – 23.5 million people – will not be able to afford the cost of living this year.”

In all countries, strikers and demonstrators are fighting for questions of life and death. Global food prices have risen 34% since last year. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is brutal and reckless, but who can believe the crocodile tears of NATO governments and their media propagandists when it is their protracted war that forces billions to face hunger with varying degrees of immediacy?

In impoverished West and East Africa, tens of millions face starvation. In the Middle East and North Africa, already low food supplies will run out within weeks. All of these regions are devastated by the impact of the American wars of the past 30 years. And as the war in Ukraine drags into the spring harvest, crops that would have fed billions of people will now lie fallow. In the coming months, cuts in fertilizer exports from Russia and Belarus will slash global yields of staple crops by up to half.

Last week, the United Nations issued a stark warning about the emerging rise of the global working class. The document, titled “Global impact of the war in Ukraine on the food, energy and financial system”, states that “the war in Ukraine, in all its dimensions, is producing alarming cascading effects on a world economy already tested by COVID. -19 and the climate. change, with particularly dramatic impacts on developing countries.

The UN has warned that 60% of governments in developing countries are so heavily indebted to global banks and corporations that they will be unable to provide subsidies to those affected by rising prices. Another key factor in the explosiveness of recent protests, the UN has acknowledged, is the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the working class, which has produced “great social and economic scars”.

What is emerging now, writes the UN, is a “perfect storm” of social discontent: “In an environment of already high levels of socio-economic stress due to the impacts of COVID-19, rising food prices threaten the ripple effects of social unrest.”

These nervous statements from the main institutions of the capitalist regime show that imperialist governments have failed in their efforts to use war to deflect growing domestic tensions. On the contrary, the escalation of the world war produces social explosions.

The spontaneous eruption of protests across the world is an objective process, produced by the enormous crisis of the global capitalist system. The transformation of this objective process into a conscious movement for socialism is a matter of building the revolutionary leadership, the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The ICFI, its affiliated Socialist Equality parties, Youth and Student International for Social Equality and the International Alliance of Rank and File Committee Workers are holding an online rally on May Day, May Day, international working class solidarity day.

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