Some are complaining today that they won’t get coverage equal to that given to “Tea Party” protests, but tomorrow you can bet some of the same people will be complaining that May Day protests by worker’s unions got too much coverage. This bizarre reversal of complaints is likely because the protests in commemoration of the ” international worker’s day” are turning out to feature the same violence that critics keep looking for in vain from the “Tea Party”. (In the United States, the “international worker’s day” protests are conjoined with protests over Arizona’s new immigration policy, but the selection of the date and the identity of the groups participating shows that this is a confluence of interests within the same overall movement rather than two separate movements.)
The real problem here, of course, is not the entirely predictable partisan spin. The real problem is the stubborn refusal of most worker’s groups all over the world to wake up to the fact that it is simply impossible to financially sustain huge and open-to-all social-welfare programs at the same time economies all over the world contract beneath the collapse of decades worth of public and private debt accumulation. And the longer and harder they fight it, the worse the problem gets, as the unrest escalates law enforcement costs on their governments at the same time it paralyzes those governments politically. The dark political vaudeville show that plagues Greece next is coming soon to Spain and Ireland, with stops in Britain and even the U.S. possible after that.
What is becoming ever more clear is that much of the government workers’ union movement that parades in the name of “social justice” is actually quite selective in who it wants “justice” for. When the bill comes due and the pressure is on, government workers’ hands reliably shoot into the air demanding exemption from any tax increases, job cutbacks, or even reductions in the rate of salary growth. But the more that worker’s groups succeed in protecting their parochial interests at everyone else’s expense, the more the “Tea Party” kind of groups that they hate grow ever more powerful, angry, and intractable. Those demanding “social justice” in ways that are unreasonable and unsustainable are themselves in part to blame for the creation of the backlash movements that they fear and detest. And when they add on endless name-calling, exaggeration, and misrepresentation as well, extreme polarization and over-reaction is, at a minimum, predictable.
The combination of a global economic crisis, an intractable global workers’ movement, and the rapid emergence of a broad backlash featuring strong extremist elements has happened before. The result was the rise of fascism in Europe and an unprecedented global war. The “Tea Party” movement right now is no where near the violent proto-fascist caricature that critics say it is. But the path to that transformation is not implausible if the political and media elites continue to disparage and ignore their real underlying complaints about unsustainable debts and entitlements. And we’re going to need more than cheap name-calling to cut the cycle short this time around.