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Waiting for the Spark

Article by Ralph Nader.
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What could start a popular resurgence in this country against the abuses of concentrated, avaricious corporatism? Imagine the arrogance of passing on to already cheated working people and the jobless enormous corporate losses? This is achieved through government bailouts and tax escapes.

History teaches us that the spark usually is smaller than expected and of a nature that is wholly unpredictable or even unimaginable. But if the dry tinder is all around, as many deprivations and polls reveal, the spark, no matter how small, can turn into a raging inferno.

The Boston Tea Party lit up the American Revolution. Storming the hated Bastille (prison) by impoverished Parisians launched the French Revolution. More recently, in December 1997, an Israeli military vehicle rammed a civilian van in the West Bank killing seven occupants and igniting the first Intifada.

Last December, a young fruit vendor, abused by thieving police in a small Tunisian town, immolated himself in the local square. Seen by millions on Facebook, this self-sacrifice launched the Tunisian and Egyptian overthrow of their long-time dictators. Later, in Syria, after police arrested 13 youngsters in a southern border town for anti-government graffiti the place erupted in riots and rallies that are spreading to other cities.

A few weeks ago, many progressives and quite a few pundits believed that the recurrent, ever larger February-March rallies in Madison, Wisconsin by workers, students and others against the Governors’ and the Legislature’s attack on public employee unions and social services, following earlier blatant corporate welfare enactments, would be the long-awaited spark.

The Madison eruption spread briefly to Ohio and Indiana where Republican officials were moving in the same direction, punishing workers and families while leaving the corporate and wealthy to count their mounting privileges. There, the crowds were neither as large nor as frequent. In all these states, the Republicans got most of what they wanted, albeit with a possible, future political price to be paid. The rallies have subsided, not even culminating—as some organizers hoped—in a gigantic march on Washington, D.C.

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