Saturday, March 17, 2007

Middle Classes of the World, Unite!

It would be nice to see the middle classes in the US protest when they get screwed. The war in Iraq has as of this minute cost about $410 billion. See the counter at the National Priorities Project, which points out that this amount is the equivalent of almost 20 million scholarships to college for four years. The human but also the social and monetary waste is literally crazy. Happy Fourth Anniversary of the start of the Iraq invasion. This is the war that no level of protest OR of human rights violations, mayhem, or strategic failure has affected. How do we make it stop?

Those middle-class protesters in the picture are lawyers and their supporters in Pakistan. The shot was taken March 14th, when lawyers took to the street to protest after Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, fired his chief justice. Salman Masood reported to the New York Times that "Hundreds of lawyers gathered outside the Supreme Court to give Chief Justice Chaudhry a hero’s welcome. Wearing black arm and head bands, lawyers and activists chanted slogans — 'Go, Musharraf, go!' and 'A regime of bullet and baton will not do' — in the face of a heavy contingent of police officers. The Chief Justice had been suspended on the basis of secret charges.

The suspended Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, had clashed with Musharraf in the past, particularly on the issue of "forced disappearances," unlawful detentions of people by the government's security forces. Chaudhry was liked to have presided over a challenge to the legality of Musharraf's occupation of the presidency. More recently, Masood writes, "Chief Justice Chaudhry had considerably embarrassed the government by overturning the much-publicized privatization of a steel mill, which tainted Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz for approving the underpriced sale of a major national asset."

Governmental lawlessness, the routine disappearing of dissidents, crony-driven privatization, the crushing of an independent judiciary - they all violate the basic tenets of the "open society" that capitalist markets are supposed to guarantee. Elites who want capitalism should help their restive middle-classes to defeat this kind of tyranny. If they don't, middle-class movements will more widely equate capitalism with tyranny, just as many of their working-class predecessors did.

1 comment:

Chris Newfield said...

The protests continue. Today the BBC World Service reports that "Police in Pakistan have fired teargas and used batons to disperse hundreds of lawyers in Lahore rallying against the suspension of the country's top judge."