Over the course of this year Europe has been rocked by a wave of protests, occupations and direct actions demanding greater equality and a more participatory democracy. Inspired by the ‘Arab revolutions’ and in response to the deepening economic crisis, this movement began to take form in May, with mass protests by the Indignados in Spain. Since then it has rapidly spread throughout Europe under the banner of ‘Occupy’. With demonstrations in Portugal, peoples assemblies in Amsterdam, riots in Rome, strikes in Greece, direct action against banks in England and occupations all over. Helene Zuber argues in her article for Der Spiel that we are seeing a “fundamental change taking place as a European generation takes to the streets.” This global movement characterised by the politics of people’s assemblies and occupation is referred to using different names in different places, such as the Indignados, Real Democracy Now, M-15 or Occupy movement. It has come to represent the sentiment for change across Europe and the widespread feeling that democracy has lost its way and needs to be reinvented.
The rapid growth of this protest movement is directly related to the economic and political crisis. In England basic services are being cut, in Spain unemployment sits at 21%, Ireland was bailed out by the IMF and corruption is rife in Italy. The Eurozone is now facing the very real possibility of collapse, with many commentators predicting that Greece will have to default and leave the single currency. Economically, the European Union has always been a neo-liberal project, following the free market agenda of privatization, deregulation and cuts to government spending. Yet this project is failing, growth has stopped, debt is growing and the region is being dragged back into recession, in what the guardian describes as “the European economic nightmare”.